Category Archives: iPad Accessories

iPad Accessories

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!

A nice forum for PDF Music Readers

I have mentioned this before, but Aron Nelson (creator of unrealBook) has put together a very mice resource for PDF music readers.  He has expanded the forum with a few other tech tips for iPad users as well.

If you haven’t logged into the forum–please consider joining, and asking questions if you have them!

http://music4ipad.aronnelson.com

 

A Stylus for All Devices

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At the introduction of iOS 4 (2010), Steve Jobs said, “If you see a stylus, they blew it.”

Reality isn’t that simple.  If you NEED a stylus to operate a device, you have “blown it.”  That said, there are situations where you need more finite control on a writing surface than just your finger.  Both Samsung (on earlier, non-exploding Note models of phones and tablets) and Microsoft (Surface devices) have capitalized on that ability.  There are times a stylus is wonderful, and in music, we have a lot of those moments.

For example, if your digital music reader can accept written input, a stylus is usually far better than a finger.  Another example is writing notation (or diacritical markings) with NotateMe or Notion in iOS.

Apple understood this–they were not handcuffed by Steve Jobs’ earlier pronouncement about styluses.  When the iPad Pro 12.9″ device came out, the Pencil came along with it–and other than criticism for being glossy and rolling away too easily, it is generally accepted as the finest non-Wacom tool on the market for any stylus device.

If you own an older iPad (as I do), or any other device than an iPad Pro (phones, Android phones, Android Tablets), you cannot use the Apple Pencil.  It does not register on a non-iPad Pro.

I searched for the right stylus for years.  I originally liked the Cosmonaut, a large white-board marker type stylus. I later fell in love with the Maglus, followed by styluses with Fiber Mesh tips, and finally I fell in love the Adonit Jot Pro.  I have an entire drawer full of discarded styluses (styli?).

The problem with Stylus input is that a touch device is looking for the capacitve touch of a finger, with a minimum circular area of 4mm.  A stylus somehow has to mimic a larger area while giving the user a finer “tip” than their own finger.

About a year ago, Adonit introduced the Jot Dash, a pen-like stylus that didn’t need a Bluetooth connection or to have specific apps running Adonit’s developer’s kit for the stylus to work.  It is battery powered, and when turned on, the Jot Dash creates an electrical capacitive touch from a very small pen-like tip.  I have used the Jot Dash since Christmas last year, and it has been the best stylus experience of my 8 years of iOS device use.  It is a $50 stylus, and it doesn’t work as well as Apple’s Pencil ($99)–but it far outperforms any other stylus I have ever owned.

About two weeks ago, Adonit announced two new styluses.  The first is a new version of the Jot Dash, and the other is a thin and flat stylus called the Adonit Snap.  The Snap was immediately appealing for three reasons.  First, the Snap charges with an embedded micro USB connection.  The Jot Dash requires a separate magnetic USB charger–and I have lost track of that charger a number of times.  Second, I liked the shape of the Snap, as it was reminiscent of the Maglus Sylus, which was shaped like a drafting pencil.  A drafting pencil allows you to hold it like pencil or a marker–which was very functional and something that appealed to me.  Third, the Snap has a button that is intended to act as a bluetooth shutter for a cell phone.  As an added benefit beyond those three things, the Snap is roughly $10 cheaper than the Jot Dash and it has an embedded magnetic mount to help hold it to a device.

I ordered a Snap, and the it arrived last week.  After a week of use, I wish the Snap was a little thicker.  It is almost too narrow (and slippery) to hold comfortably.  The dimensions of the Snap are purposeful…it is meant to be a small stylus to carry with a cell phone.  Even so, I would prefer a bit more meat on its bones.  The Snap\ is also shorter than the Jot Dash…and I would have made the Snap just as long.  It isn’t too short for writing…but it could have been just a little longer in terms of feeling more like a writing tool.

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Note the back end of the Snap, which is a micro USB plug.  My only concern about this improvement is dust and debris that may collect in the plug

In use, the Snap functions the same as the Jot Dash.  Something is strange with the iPad Air 2 (my current iPad) where the tip of the Jot Dash or the Adonit Snap draws a diagonal line as “wavy” if you go slow (I do not believe this happens on any other device).

The Snap beats the Jot Dash in that it charges in device with a needed USB adapter…and that fact alone may make it worth the purchase.

So…if you need a stylus and don’t have an iPad Pro…consider either of these two styluses.  The Jot Dash 2 feels better to hold, the Adonit Snap is just more convenient to use without having to worry about the location of a charger.