Category Archives: iPad Accessories

Ten (iOS) Tech Tools to Help a Secondary Music Educator Prepare for a Concert (#1: Hardware Tools)

This is the final post in a series about ten iOS tech tools that can be used to help a secondary music educator prepare for a concert.  This series is based off a series by Amy Burns at mustech.net, who just wrapped up a series on ten tech tools that can be used by an elementary music educator prepare for a concert.  I teach secondary music education in a 1:1 iPad setting, so I have been working through the tools that I use to help me prepare for a concert.  Many of these tools are useful even if you do not work in a 1:1 setting.

For this last post, I think it is worthwhile to mention some hardware tools that I use in a concert.  I will list them as bullet points.  I will not discuss our risers or shell that we use in our gym (we are building a new building, and next year, our concerts will be in an auditorium).

I forgot to take a photo of the layout from our concert on December 14th.  Sorry…this worked REALLY well.  Nobody realizes (you probably do) the time it takes to figure out how to set up for a concert in such a way that it results in a flawless performance.

So, to the hardware:

  • Personal iPad: 12.9” iPad Pro
  • Apple Pencil
  • AirTurn GoStand
  • AirTurn Manos Universal Tablet Holder
  • PageFlip Dragonfly Wireless Page Turner
  • Sony MV1 Video Recorder
  • Photographer’’s Lighting Tripod for MV1
  • Attachment on Tripod to allow for the MV1 camera mount
  • A second iPad on a stand as well, which connects to control the MV1 remotely
  • Two powered speakers (PA system)
  • Extension cords (4) and a power strip.
  • Small Mackie Mixing Board (check out PreSonus’s packages to do a similar thing)
  • Bluetooth Receiver (wall powered). Amazon sells their own branded unit for $20.
  • 1/8” stereo to 1/4 plugs (to plug into mixer)
  • We do not print programs, so I put the program as a PDF in Google Drive, and then make a shortened URL using TinyURL, sending that link to parents a few days before the concert.  Google now allows for revisions, meaning that you update the Google file, and the file retains its same Google URL, meaning that you could theoretically save the most recent concert program to google and make a TinyURL for that file (file name: concertprogram.pdf, TinyURL: http://www.tinyurl.com/yourschoolchoir), and just update it for every concert.  This saves a lot of wasted paper, and gives parents a reason to be on their phones for the right reason during a concert.  If parents want a paper copy, I print them after the concert and mail them…still saving at least $100 and a lot of wasted paper.

I play accompaniments using my ukulele (and in our second concert, with student players, too) and backup tracks that I have created (on Notion, iReal Pro, or GarageBand) directly from forScore, pushing the audio from my iPad to the PA system via Bluetooth.  It works wonderfully.  I also plan on adding an Xvive 2 guitar controller to my ukulele to project it through the system in the spring.  I also leave the iPad controlling the MV1 behind the shell, starting the video before the concert and ending it afterwards.

I also stop at one point in the concert to take a photo of the choirs for our yearbook (using my iPhone 8).  Otherwise, we never get all of the students in one place wearing the right apparel at the same time ever again!

I set up the sound system behind our shell, and control volume right off the iPad.  We have a mic system in the gym for speaking, so I just use that system to address the audience.  In the future, I would like to have students introduce pieces—but in the midst of getting everything else ready, that is something that usually slips by.

If you need any help creating such a system for your school, please, send me an e-mail.  While the initial investment isn’t insignificant…the equipment will last for years.

I hope you have found this series helpful and that there have been a few apps or approaches that will enable you to more successful prepare for your next concert!  Happy New Year!  I hope 2018 is a great year for you, your families, and your programs!

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Flic Smart Button

About a week ago, Newzik sent out a mailing that mentioned the Flic, a Bluetooth button that could be used to turn pages. They offered a discount, and it was relatively inexpensive, so I ordered one (this was not a demo or discounted unit, other than the “normal” Newzik discount code). It arrived today and I have been using it with forScore and Newzik.

The idea of a small button for page turning is a great idea. Some people can’t reach a screen easily from a sitting position, but could mount a small button on their instrument which would allow them to change pages. In some cases, a foot pedal isn’t ideal. The Flic is a small button with the option of a sticky back or a plastic clip–not much smaller than my college ring (which appears to need some repair!).

The Flic came in a small, Apple-like box, packaged in a box that could easily hold five of the devices. There are several versions of the Flic, including dedicated buttons that have a non-replaceable battery, as well as models that have replaceable batteries with limitless functions (programmable via the app). The button can be programmed for all kinds of uses (provided that the app has a relationship with the app). You can also program different functions for a press, couple press, or press and hold.

This all sounds great, but as I use the device, I’m disappointed. First, the Flic app allows you to set up your button (and you have to register an account), but then the app must remain running in the background while you use other features to keep working. In other words, the Flic is a “dumb button” that triggers the app, that then triggers your music reading app. When you are used to instantaneous page turns by hand, AirTurn, PageFlip, or iRig device–the delay caused by the Flic seems too long. I didn’t officially time it, but it seems to be a full second or longer for a page turn…which is two quarter notes at 120 bpm.

Additionally, I have forScore customized for my quad pedal PageFlip Dragonfly. The Flic app only allows a couple of forScore mappings, which do not match with the mappings on my Dragonfly…and in fact, all that is available is forward page turn (right arrow) and backwards page turn (left arrow), leaving no option for the third feature of the Flic (press and hold).

I think if the Flic itself could send out the command, instead of relying on the app, the experience would be better. In my ideal world, the Flic app would store data (it can’t require much memory) on the Flic button, which would then send out the commands on its own. So, the flexibility of the Flic app is powerful–but in function it causes a significant delay–enough to make you worry about each page turn.

As the Flic button also requires features in the app, it cannot trigger events like Keynote slides, which could also be useful.

Ultimately, it is a product to watch, to see if latency can be reduced or a future version created which would contain the programming on-device. It might be ideal for many of its other potential uses. But as it is, I wouldn’t recommend it as a solution for music reading. If you need wireless page turning today, you will still be happier with AirTurn, PageFlip, or iRig devices.


A few days with the new 12.9″ iPad Pro


As I mentioned in a previous post, when Apple announced the new iPad Pro (there is a 10″ version) they also announced the same updates to the 12.9″ model.

I have been putting off the purchase of a new iPad for some time–and it was time to upgrade.  This was facilitated with 0% financing from Apple for 18 months.  

That iPad arrived on Tuesday, and I have been using the iPad Pro in my daily life for the past three days.  I have been reading a lot about the iPad Pro models on all of the technology news outlets.  The general consensus is that the iPad Pro is wonderful, but it costs a lot.  This sounds like typical Apple to me.  That said, my 2008 MacBook (which I am still using) was pretty expensive ($1500 if memory serves), but it is still working for me nearly 9 years later.  

I have been integrating the iPad Pro into my life, and for the most part, what I have to say is this: it is a big iPad that does what iPads do.  I am able to do some more split screen activities as the size better allows for it, and it is wonderful for reading music.  I have now attended two ukulele functions with my iPad Pro, my PageFlip Dragonfly, and my AirTurn GoStand/Manos Mount.  Music reading on a digital device doesn’t get any better (although I would recommend Michelle Mastin’s thoughts on using Samsung Chromebook Plus as a music reader...she prefers the Chromebook–which can run Android Apps–to a Windows Surface!).

My iPad is used as a tool to run my class (everything is organized in Keynote), as well as a music reader.  The primary reason that I wanted the 12.9″ iPad was to read music, so it is doing exactly what I want it to do.  Did I need the latest version of the 12.9″ iPad to read music?  No!  I could buy a used model for that task.  But when buying an iPad or iPhone, I do believe in buying the latest version so as to give it the longest possible shelf life.  

The pencil is a fantastic tool…I love it.  I hope they make the iPhone a pencil-friendly device this fall.  I don’t have an Apple keyboard…I just have the keyboard from a very inexpensive New Trent iPad case (previous model) that I use, and that works for what I need.  My iPad/Tablet stand is from IKEA and cost $3.  I will say that I have spent some time with drawing music into the iPad, and I am amazed at how well Notion’s handwriting works for a $7 in-app purchase.  I don’t see handwriting as a great way to enter a lot of music into an iPad, but if you need to write something quickly and have an iPad Pro–and are not overly familiar with technology–handwriting is an amazing solution.

The limitations of the 12.9″ are its size and weight…which aren’t really limitations.  They are the reality of the device.  The limitations of the iPad Pro are found in the operating system and the available apps.  Don’t get me wrong…and iPad can do more things than a computer used to be able to do.  Apple is addressing the operating system with new iPad features this fall; and chances are that apps will continue to develop as the operating system changes.

For example, I have been doing a lot of work on my MacBook creating ukulele play along videos.  I use these videos in my classes, and they are fun to make.  I also know that some ukulele groups use these videos.  Here is my latest effort: 

I simply can’t do all of the steps to make these videos on an iPad.  Currently, I cannot save a YouTube video from iOS (Even the Workflow App is broken in that regard), I cannot open that video as an audio file and make changes to it, and I cannot use the timeline to make a “Picture-In-Picture” bouncing ball icon to follow chords.  In regards to the initial creation in Keynote, I cannot attach an audio recording to the entire document, record timings, and export as a video file.

In the long run, I CAN do some of this on the iPad, but I cannot do all of it.  I might be able to do some hacked things, such as opening a video in Explain Everything and using the “pointer” to show chords…this last part might be easier, but one of the fun things to do is to make the “bouncing ball” into something that relates to the song.  One of my favorite such icons was using a VW Beetle for the Beatles’ “All My Loving.”

All that said, my new iPad Pro has a much faster processor and a much more advanced graphics processor than my old 2008 MacBook.  It could handle everything that my MacBook could do…but the apps have to allow for it.  Hopefully that will come!

As for the speed on the iPad…the iPad Pro runs everything that I ran before at the same perceptible speed…so I wouldn’t upgrade for that reason.  I would say that if you have an iPad older than the original iPad Air, it is probably time to upgrade.  There are three new iPads…the $329 9.7″ iPad, the new 10″ iPad Pro, and the updated 12.9″ iPad.  You really can’t go wrong with any of them.


A new accessory…PageFlip Dragonfly


I had a delivery waiting for me after school today…a PageFlip Dragonfly.  It is a four-button Bluetooth page turner that is in a very compact package.  Years ago, I had purchased a PageFlip Cicada, a previous model from PageFlip, and have also been given an AirTurn BT-105 (since given away at a music conference to another music teacher) and the AirTurn PED.  I won’t get into specifics, but the companies aren’t a fan of each other, and at the time I was given a BT-105, the AirTurn pedal was a far superior device.

To be honest, my need for a page turner has been limited in past years, but as I now play ukulele most of the time in class, I need to be hands free.  I don’t know why, but for me, the PED often results in a double page turn, which has been devastating in rehearsal and performance.  I updated the PED firmware and changed settings in forScore, but the problem remains.  More about that later.

A few weeks ago, Matt Libera posted about the PageFlip models.  My interest was peaked by the four-pedal design of the Dragonfly (other four pedal solutions are much larger) and Matt’s conclusion that the PageFlip models have matched or exceeded the quality of AirTurn.  I don’t want to get into that discussion, but I did want to see for myself if I could make use do a four pedal system, what the “new” PageFlip models are like, and if my double page turn issue would resolve with a different foot pedal.

My first impressions of the Dragonfly are positive…it is big, but not much larger than my previous Cicada.  PageFlip has moved on from its prior “creaky” physical pedal, and there is something nice about physical on/off buttons, led lights on the pedals, and easy to select function buttons.  I don’t know how this will work in my life…but I will start using it tomorrow.  Now that I never carry a MacBook with me everywhere, I can handle the extra weight of the Dragonfly.  The PED, however, has been so easy to carry everywhere for the past years.

This may sound crazy, but I don’t blame the PED directly for the page turn issue.  The PED has a different type of page turning mechanism, sort of a bump, that I have issues pressing while standing up.  I think I may be hitting a second page turn while trying to press the pedal while standing and playing ukulele.  I think the older BT-105 might be a better solution for my case use–but the Dragonfly also approximates that larger-pedal use, plus adds the additional two buttons.  As a further note, I have the PageFlip set to turn pages forward/backwards with the big pedals, and to move from score to score in the set list with the higher second pedals.

I also have to state that I’m not going to take sides on what the better company is…PageFlip has clearly improved their product, and I use a variety of AirTurn products on a regular basis.  For example, the Go Stand and Manos tablet mount travel with me to every gig.

I will clearly write more about this pedal in the future after getting a chance to use it.  Until then, I refer you to Matt Libera’s recent post (which contains links to other things he has written about pedals).  Also: PageFlip products can be found at PageFlip.com.


2016 in Review, Best of 2016

2016

As we draw near to the end of 2016, everyone is posting their “year in review” summaries.

While 2016 has been a terrible year for many, and while some bad things happened to my family and I in 2016, generally it was a pretty good year, and we end the year counting our many blessings.

The big story of 2016 in educational technology has been the dominance–or the reported dominance of the Chromebook in education.  Chromebooks sessions are the topics people are attending these days, and schools are buying a bunch of them.

If you have Chromebooks, the best solutions are going to cost money in the form of annual subscriptions.  The best Chromebook applications are generally the same applications that have been web-based on Windows and Mac for the past years.  Look at all of the products that are carried by MusicFirst, along with Flat.io, The New SmartMusic, and SoundTrap.

The best device isn’t a device from 2016–it remains the 12.9″ iPad Pro.  We are awaiting a refresh of this model, but the new large iPad is ideal for music educators, particularly when paired with an Apple Pencil and AirPlay wireless mirroring in the classroom.

My favorite educational apps remain those that I use daily: Keynote, PDF Expert, Notion, forScore, unrealBook, Pages, Numbers, NotateMe (with the PhotoScore In-App Purchase) and GarageBand.

The two apps that I would recommend as “apps of the year” would be newcomers to the scene: Newzik and Sheet Music Scanner.  I have not made the shift to Newzik yet, but they are positioned well as a company that can read PDF files OR MusicXML files.  In other words, Newzik is ready for the next generation of digital sheet music.  Sheet Music Scanner is a game changer, as it is a relatively small app that is being aggressively updated, and does an incredible job scanning music (although it doesn’t scan everything).  As I have mentioned previously, if I have to choose one app for app of the year, it would be Sheet Music Scanner. Sheet Music Scanner completes the ability for me to scan, edit, and export music all from my iPad without having to touch my computer.

In terms of hardware, there haven’t been many new products for music education.  I am glad to see the growth (albeit slow) of devices like the CME XKey Air, wonderful bluetooth MIDI keyboards, and the Yamaha bluetooth MIDI adapters.  For bluetooth foot pedals and iPad stands, I would recommend AirTurn…although there are a few products from IK Multimedia.

In terms of full-blown notation programs, it has been a big year with a new product (Dorico), major updates (Finale 25 and Notion 6), and regular updates (Sibelius, StaffPad, and MuseScore).

And in classroom music, we have seen the introduction of Music First, Jr., and well as the continued growth and support from Quaver Music.

As we close out of 2016, I think we are fortunate to have the devices, accessories, and applications that are on the market.  For the most part, there is very little that I want to do with technology that I cannot do with solutions that are on the market.  It hasn’t always been that way.

I hope 2016 has been a good year for you (even if there have been challenges), and I wish you the best in 2017.  Thanks, as always, for stopping by (or subscribing to) and reading this blog.

As always, app links in my blogs are usually referral links that send 7% of the total purchase price (out of Apple’s 30% of the purchase price) to the “referrer.”  The developer receives the full 70% of the revenue from their app–so when you purchase from a referral link, you financially support this blog whose content remains free and not behind a pay wall.  Thank you for using these referral links!