Category Archives: iPad Apps
Earlier this week, I was contacted by Mona Lisa Sound about their relatively new (January 26, 2017) music notation app, MusicJot. They offered a promo code, which I was happy to accept, and I have had the chance to work with the app a little bit this week.
iOS is fortunate to have so many quality apps, and there are several music notation apps. My long-time favorite is Notion, which has most of the features of a desktop program. In addition, there is Symphony Pro (more like a desktop program), NotateMe (notation by hand), and several other apps such as TouchNotation and iWriteMusic. On the horizon is Komp, another handwriting based notation app. In addition to these apps, both flat.io and Noteflight will work on iOS devices. As a result, MusicJot enters a field that is somewhat already crowded in terms of music notation applications for iOS. As a disclaimer, I am an unpaid beta tester for Notion and Symphony Pro, and I often am in touch with many of the other programs mentioned in the post.
MusicJot is a handwriting-based music notation app that is being developed in part by a musician and arranger who has arranged over 100 string quartets. The development team consists of two programmers. The idea behind MusicJot is to give composers an easy path to entering music, with an eye on the accessibility of StaffPad on Windows Surface devices. MusicJot utilizes the handwriting to notation engine of MyScript, which hails back to the “original” handwriting to notation app (which failed crowd funding) by Think Music Technology. Interestingly, Notion, offers this same functionality (from MyScript) as an In-App Purchase for iOS devices, and the feature is included in the desktop versions as well (generally for Windows Surface owners).
My initial thoughts about MusicJot can be summed up in one statement: the app is still young. It works–you write notes and then click outside of the measure to convert the notes to digital notation. After the notes are entered, you can play or edit what you have written. You can also add notes via touch, as well as change settings such as clef, time signature, key signature and so on. In other words, it has the standard functionality you would expect for a music notation app (missing, however, is ukulele as an instrument, which has become very important to me). Printing is coming soon, but you can export your notation (in my world, in the preferable Music XML format), but for now you have to e-mail the file to yourself (the actual MusicXML export feature saves the file in iTunes, whereas “Open In” would be a far more useful solution). The app opens with animated tutorial pages, and help is available on every page.
Recognition is fine–I have not been unhappy with any handwriting to music notation app. As Notion uses the same handwriting backbone, MusicJot is just as accurate. I have no complaints in this area. And yes, the Apple Pencil is supported, but I do not have a device that can use an Apple Pencil at this time (waiting for the 2nd generation 12.9″ iPad Pro).
The copy and paste features of the app seem to be very well thought out, and if you are editing (and have an Apple Pencil for best results), the ability to drag a sequence of notes (for pitch or length) and the ability to drop an octave after pasting is pretty novel. This just goes to show that every app has excellent features.
I’m not sold on the visual appearance of the app–it is clean (a much less cluttered approach than NotateMe, whose real power is in the PhotoScore In App Purchase anyway), but it also appears–for me–too “basic.” This is why I say that the app is young–it is missing features and its appearance will mature over time. To be honest, as it now exists for use, I would rather see the integration of the new SMuFL font in place of MakeMusic’s font.
All that said, I don’t want to be too harsh, as I am in support of every app that can be used to create and teach music.
For my level of music notation, I need apps that can quickly edit (from a scanned score) or create a chart, and as such entering notes by hand is a inefficient use of note entry for me. I much prefer to use handwriting recognition to add diacritical markings after I have entered notes into a score (this is a great use of Notion‘s handwriting IAP). However, if you only need to write short passages of music or don’t want to learn the intricacies of a notation program, apps like MusicJot, NotateMe, and the upcoming Komp would be an easy way to get music into digital format, particularly without StaffPad on iOS (can they really be selling enough copies of the app to stay on Windows on one family of devices?).
The app is $29.99 until March 16th, and then will go to $49.99. I realize that apps are FAR underpriced on the App Store. Finale is a $650 program (without education discount). The fact that Notion for iOS is $16 is crazy–although you of have to spend $30 for ALL the sounds and another $8 for handwriting. NotateMe is a $40 app, with a $30 PhotoScore scanning In App Purchase. All that said, I’m a little worried that the $50 regular price of MusicJot will not appeal to the basic user who doesn’t want to deal with the intricacies of Notion (which is pretty easy to use). At the same time, developers should charge what they want to charge.
So…keep your eye on this app. If you are intrigued by the app, get it while it is 50% off.
You can learn more about MusicJot. at Mona Lisa Sound’s website (http://monalisasound.com/musicjot.html), what appears on the MyScript website (http://myscript.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/170217-MyScript-Blog-MusicJOT-Case-Study.pdf) and also check out their introductory video (which should appear below):
Note: All the app links in this blog post are referral links. If you buy an app from that link, 7% of the purchase price comes back to me for the referral, out of Apple’s 30%. The developer still receives their full 70% for the value of the app, no matter how you buy the app. So…if you choose to buy an app from a referral link, thank you. My next cup of coffee (or part of a cup of coffee) might be from you!
A big thank you to Chad Felton for bringing this app to my attention…
The world of Music OCR (Optical Character Recognition) has really advanced in the past three years. I have used Music OCR to get music into a digital format for years, with the intent of creating accompaniment files. I suffered for many years with the poor quality of the (formerly) embedded scanning program in Finale, SmartScore (made by Musitek). I don’t want to be mean about it–but if you used SmartScore Lite with Finale, you know what I mean. While the most recent version of SmartScore X2 is greatly improved, some time ago I moved to PhotoScore Ultimate (by Neuratron). The most recent version of Finale (25) removed scanning as an option altogether.
Some time ago, Neuratron introduced a notation program for mobile devices, NotateMe, and eventually embedded PhotoScore functionality in the app (as an in-app purchase). The end result was a $70 (overall) app that often scanned as well (or better) than the full version of PhotoScore Ultimate on a computer, which is a $250 purchase. The most important difference (to me) is that the computer version of PhotoScore can scan a PDF, while the mobile version requires a paper copy to scan.
A couple of other mobile scanning apps have been released, such as an app by Musitek called “NoteReader” (I really can’t recommend it), and a few apps that scanned music and played it back, such as Sheet Music Scanner. I didn’t really see the functionality in scanning music to hear it–I need apps to do more than that. There are also apps like MusicPal and iSeeNotes that don’t offer enough functionality for me to recommend them.
As I have written about in the past, Sheet Music Scanner added the ability to export MusicXML files, and that changed its functionality for me–and opened the door to scanning music for many new people as there is no longer a price barrier. Better yet, Sheet Music Scanner can open an existing PDF. The app can’t recognize everything yet–but it is amazing how well it does for less than $5.
Musitek has released a program called “Music-to-XML” for $99 that scans music and exports it to a MusicXML file. I have not tried this program–I have other programs that do this, and my experiences with Musitek’s products while improved from the past, are less positive than with other products. Unless I am sent a trial version–I will likely not be trying Music-to-MusicXML. If you were going to spend $100, I would likely send you towards the $70 NotateMe/PhotoScore solution for mobile devices.
As I mentioned in the open of this post, Chad e-mailed me and asked if I had seen “What’s My Note?” Basically, this is an app that scans a page of music, and as you touch notes, it plays back your notes. I bought it (only $1 at the current time) and I tried scanning a couple of things. I did not tax the program too heavily, but it accurately scanned and played back notes that I touched. The following video is their promo video from their website:
I’m not overly enthused about the app’s tag line: “A new app for choral musicians who don’t read music well.” That said, I find myself a little more open to this type of music scanning for playback versus Sheet Music Scanner’s original purpose, as you can touch YOUR note and hear YOUR note in context of the larger score.
Some immediate thoughts: The app makes more sense on an iPad (the larger the better) than on a phone, as you have more room to touch (you can “zoom in” on a phone, but then there is a lot of scrolling). The bad part about that is that phones have better cameras than iPads. The app is available for Android, too. I wish the app allowed you to open existing PDFs rather than having to take pictures of everything. I also wish that that it would allow the option of playback so you could sing along with the printed notes as an option (Sheet Music Scanner’s original function). Finally, I wish that you could do something with the recognized music after you had scanned it, such as exporting it.
If you have a mobile device and need the greatest possible accuracy, NotateMe with the PhotoScore IAP is still the way to go for $70. If you want to try mobile scanning with greater success than used to be possible with SmartScore Lite without breaking the bank, buy Sheet Music Scanner. What’s My Note? takes a different approach to scanning, and and there are likely some choral musicians that will benefit from being able to touch their part to hear it. I will keep all three of these applications on my devices.
P.S. This video from “What’s My Note?” is fun (and the song is included with the app):
The last version of GarageBand for iOS brought Chinese Instruments. The latest version adds a new way of browsing instruments, the Alchemy synthesizer, new audio recorder and multi-take recording.
If you use GarageBand for iOS, the update is free, and you should be aware of it! This is particularly true if you have made “how to” videos or slides, and the interface looks differernt!
The news release from Apple appears in two images below:
This may seem a little late, but Muphos’ new iPad app, Christmas Carol Book, is now available in the App Store and it is free for a limited time. The app apparently was hung up in Apple’s approval process because of Copyright concerns, but that has been resolved. The app is a collection of carols (and some other holiday-related music like the Nutcracker and Jingle Bells).
You can download Christmas Carol Book for free for a limited time at this link.
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.
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.