Category Archives: General Musings

General Musings

Technology in Action: Pano Tuner

Several years ago, my respect for technology in music education experienced a quantum leap.

After a presentation, a person who attended the session e-mailed and asked, “If I had a student with no arms…she could use forScore and a bluetooth pedal to gain independence in choir, couldn’t she?”

The answer, of course, is YES.  

I never thought about this, as I have two arms, and every student in my program–every student I have ever had–has had two arms.

We don’t think about the life changing impact of technology for people with disabilities, until we have to, or someone else brings it to our attention.  An iPad that is just used for watching Netflix could be changing someone else’s life.

At any rate, a deaf person competed on America’s Got Talent a couple of weeks ago. Her name is Mandy Harvey, and various YouTube links show that she has been performing as a singer for the past years, even though she is deaf.  How does she sing on pitch?  She uses a tuner app (Which appears to be Pano Tuner) while she is learning her music, and then memorizes the feeling of that pitch to be able to recreate the music away from the tuner.  I was initially interested in the video because she plays the ukulele (another Kala player).

Incidentally, this is the first time I have seen people ignore the ukulele (e.g. Last year, Grace VanderWaal was the kid with a ukulele).

While Mandy acknowledges in other interviews that she always had a strong sense of pitch–I can’t imagine doing what she is doing.  I shared the video with my students before the end of the year.  I can’t help but think about the challenges she is facing in this industry, and how hard it must be for your entire future career to disappear as an option…yet she continues on.

Most of us would listen to Mandy having no idea she was deaf.  It would have been better for AGT if they would have had her sing and THEN let everyone know she was deaf.

And how wonderful is it that she can continue her singing career, in part, due to an inexpensive tuning app?

We truly live in amazing times.  The AGT video follows:


Migrating to a new iOS device

I have subscribed to Apple’s $9.99 highest-level storage plan for a couple of years, not being convinced of Dropbox’s lasting power (although I love Dropbox), data security (I have had to change my Dropbox password due to a data breach), and of course, improvements with iCloud.  This means that I can store my most valuable data in Apple’s cloud system without worrying about failing drives or even stolen equipment.  My most important documents, my music library (scanned and audio), and photos are all safely in the cloud for $120 a year, and Apple keeps increasing the amount of storage included in that pricing (now 2TB of data).  Apple doesn’t seem to hold audio files or pictures against that total storage…although I do pay $25 a year of Apple Match (it takes all of your music and puts it in the cloud, also allowing you to re-download) and have not yet subscribed to Apple Music, although I think that subscription is coming, too.

With that online storage, I am able to backup my personal devices without any fear of running out of room.  Sadly, the minimal 5GB that Apple allows for every iTunes account does not help much, and you end up buying storage for devices.  I wish there was a way my family could tap into my 2TB of data, as I pay $0.99 for my wife’s devices and really should upgrade to $0.99 for our children’s iPads.  We do use family sharing…but I wish there was family sharing for device backups.

Well, my new iPad Pro arrived yesterday afternoon–the afternoon of my last contract day (students were done on Friday), so receiving the iPad felt like a bonus for surviving the year.  I will blog more about the year later–but I need to distance myself from it for a while before I do so.

What you read about the iPad Pro (12.9″) is true.  It is huge, it is fast, and it has the potential to change your workflow.  This morning, as I did my daily routine of having breakfast, doing devotions, and reading the news, my workflow was modified by having my journaling app (Day One) and my Bible reader of choice (Olive Tree) up at the same time.  I could do this on my iPad Air, but doing so makes the split screen of limited use as space is minimal.  I am learning how to utilize the new screen space, and am really looking forward to reading music on it.  I get my first opportunity to do so this afternoon as a small group of ukulele players are playing for a Veteran’s retirement home–unintentionally on Flag Day (incidentally, happy Flag Day!).

I am figuring out how to integrate the Apple Pencil into my work flow.  I have used a stylus before, but this device changes many interactions with the iPad Pro (and yes, with the latest iPad Pro, there is no perceived lag or latency).  I just wish there was an “eraser” on the end of the Pencil for apps like forScore.

Back to the topic at hand…as my devices are set (in Settings) to back up when “sleeping” and plugged in, I am basically ready to upgrade or migrate at any time.

All I have to do is open a new device, go through the starting menus, tell the new device to restore from a backup, and then Apple restores the data.  Apple doesn’t store the Apps with your backup–those download directly from Apple.  All that downloads from your backup file is app data–which is relatively small (most of the time–there are exceptions, such as video files).  Then, over time, Apple restores all of the apps you had on your device, and for the most part, you are ready to use your new device.  Occasionally you will need to enter a password (such as with WordPress, which I use to blog), but that is a minor inconvenience.

I think a larger task would be the challenge of migrating from iOS to Android or Android to iOS…and even then, the carriers and companies have tools to help you migrate.

If you have been putting off the purchase of a new device because of the challenge of setting it up, and you want to use the existing setup on your current device–simply use iCloud Backup and the migration is pretty painless…it just takes a while to download everything.

One other tip: don’t erase your old device until you know that you have restored everything to your new device (or until you know that you will keep your new device)–just in case. 

I Bought A New Printer…

I have two Hewlett-Packard Apple AirPrint enabled printers at our house.  One I bought for the family, the other I bought to bring to school (out of my own income).  I brought the school printer home last year as students kept printing to it (not understanding or even caring that I was buying the ink and paper out of my own pocket), and we have been using our other printer as we do.

There were two problems: first, I have two young boys (5 and 9) who like to print things, and ink is expensive.  As in ridiculously expensive.  We are at the point where we need to buy another color cartridge for our printer (HP 60), at $25 each, or for $34 for a set of black and color cartidges.  It really adds up.

I was trying to exchange our used cartridges for credit at Office Depot, but it turns out that you can only exchange ten cartridges a month (we had a stockpile of nearly 50) and you have to spend at least $10 a month to get the $2 credit per cartridge.  We had exchanged 30 cartridges before figuring that out (I had to e-mail customer service), so we are no longer participating in that process.  We were hoping to earn a good amount of money towards a new printer–but Office Depot’s policy/strategy makes it impossible to do that.  Having to spend $10 to get $20 back that expires is not a good compromise.

We were intrigued by the promise of the newer Epson EcoTank printers that use refillable ink (very inexpensive on Amazon from other sources) for a printer that doesn’t cost that much more than a new HP printer.  So, as we needed another set of cartidges, it was time to buy a new printer.  I headed to Sam’s Club last week and bought the entry level Epson ET-2650 for just under $290 with tax.

Early reviews criticized print quality and connection to Apple devices–but in our experience so far, the printing looks fine, and it connects perfectly to our network and our devices–no worse than our HP printers.

We can now print in color without thinking of the price to do so.  We can let the boys print things when they want to.  My wife can print things without worrying about running out of ink.  I can print things for school without having to worry about sending them via e-mail to print on school printers (for large orders, I would still send items to our district printing office).  

And I will try to sell the printers, as is (needing ink), on Craigslist this summer for $25 each.   Reastically, it might be a year of printing in our house and the EcoTank will pay for itself (particularly if you factor in the printing we are doing now that we were avoiding before).

I metion the printer on the blog, as you might need a printing solution for your home or office, or you, too, might be tired of the cost of ink cartridges for your printer.  The EcoTank does require filling–but I don’t mind this–and you don’t need to take your empty cartridges to a specialty cartridge store to be refilled, either.  The refill process is pretty painless…certainly easier than the old “fill your own cartridges” I used in previous printers (before manufacturers started putting smart chips on the cartridges that track how many copies they have printed).

Quick Update


A combination of a busy life and very little news has resulted in a rather sparse number of posts in the past months.

Just a few news items for you:

  1. Notion for iOS is on sale for $7.99 right now.  If you don’t have it, buy it.
  2. Sheet Music Scanner was recently updated.  That is another app to purchase if you don’t have it.
  3. Komp was released today…a handwriting-based music notation app.  It is subscription based.
  4. Music Jot (yet another handwriting-based music notation app) recently had a major update.
  5. UberChord was recently updated
  6. Check out Monster Chord (driven by UberChord), which now has ukulele as well

Paul and I will be returning with the Music Education and Technology Podcast very soon, with a number of episodes in the coming months.  To those of you who are teachers, I hope these months of warming weather and mandatory state testing are treating you well!

Finale On Sale!

There is a big April Fool’s Sale happening on Finale right now…if you have not purchased Finale 25 and area previous owner OR looking to crossgrade, you won’t find a better price.  And if you have never purchased Finale…$149 is INSANE (my first version of Finale was $250 back in the early 1990s).  That is significantly lower than even the normal education pricing.  The catch is…you need to act now.  Tell anyone that you know who might be impacted by these very temporary prices.