Category Archives: iPad Apps
I was recently contacted by the developer of a new app in the App Store (released in June) called Note Rush. The app “gameifies” music reading by detecting the sound of an instrument versus the pitch showed on the screen. It is a universal app on both iPhone and iPad.
Note Rush features three skins (ladybug, space, and soccer) and fifteen levels (five for treble clef, five for treble and bass clef, and five for bass clef). The app first asks you to play middle c, which establishes middle c for the instrument. In other words, if you have clarinet, it will SEE c, but play B-flat. This allows the program to painlessly take care of transposing instruments. Then notes come across the screen, and you play those notes. Depending on your speed (the goal is displayed), you earn stars for your effort.
(The three skins of Note Rush)
The app will eventually allow you to set your own parameters for your own levels, and may possibly allow users to share self-created levels with other users.
I pulled out my ukulele, and was able to work successfully through levels 1-3 on the Treble Clef area. I couldn’t go any further, as the 4th level required G below middle C. The program worked perfectly with my ukulele.
The levels are geared towards pianists first, with the intent to move along rather quickly. This may not work with your instrument or how you would want to teach instruments, so the coming ability to create your own levels or to customize the game will be much appreciated. For example, I would want to make levels for ukulele using String 3 (C & D), then String 2 (E, F, an G), then Strings 2 & 3. If you are teaching beginner band, you might want to make different tests for different instruments.
In summary, Note Rush is attractive and innovative in its approach to transposing instruments (you don’t have to choose an instrument). It will truly show its value for music educators in the near future when you are able to design your own challenges. There are other apps that share the ability to assess played pitch versus printed pitch for various instruments with customized settings, such as Staff Wars Live, another app I recommend. However, Staff Wars Live only has one theme, whereas Note Rush has three skins, and Note Rush has the famous “three star” gameification which our students have been trained to crave through popular games such as Angry Birds. The app is currently (September 2016) priced at $3.99, and when customized exercises are available, will be very much worth that price. Just remember that the ability to customize levels is not yet available (again, as of September 2016).
Thank you to Note Rush for a promo code, and as a reminder, when you purchase an app from a referral link, a percentage of the purchase comes back to the author out of Apple’s 30% of the sale price–the developer continues to receive their full portion of the app purchase price.
A few years ago, I attempted to move my presentations away from “60 Apps in 60 Minutes” to sessions that were based on best practice with some of the apps. To my surprise, these sessions were not of interest to many state music education associations–they wanted the “app list” presentations. Even today, I am amazed at how many core apps are still unknown to music educators, even for apps that have been around since the iPad was introduced in 2010.
A few posts ago, I blogged about Newzik, a new app that is both a PDF and MusicXML reader. This is a new idea, and you can see the benefits of the MusicXML format when you work with the app. The fact is that most musicians do not have access to MusicXML files, and have access to PDF files which were hopefully obtained or created legally.
If you have PDF files, there are a handful of PDF readers that I recommend. This includes forScore, unrealBook, and NextPage among others. forScore and unrealBook are the most developed PDF music readers that you will find on any platform (iOS, Mac OS, Windows, Linux, or Android). While there are other solutions on other platforms, iPad users are blessed with the best-in-class options for reading music.
I presented on forScore at NAfME last November (and no, an hour isn’t enough), and recently came across a tool in the notation area I had not seen before…stretchable shapes, such as crescendos and decrescendos. Apparently those have been in forScore since version 7.
I have a pretty good grasp on forScore, and there are still tools in the app that I am learning about it. When I present on the “basic” functions of forScore, it is pretty clear that many music educators have no idea of some of the fantastic featrures offered by forScore, even when they have the app installed on their devices.
This summer, forScore is going to release their 10th version of the software. You can read a detailed report here .
I am impressed by the new audio tools…the ability to speed up or slow down at pitch will be a great tool for musicians. Another audio feature is the ability to easily create looped playback–which would be awesome for drilling sections of music in a rehearsal or sectional. I like forScore’s new ability to insert content from one PDF to another. I am waiting to buy an iPad Pro until the fall, but I look forward to working with forScore with an Apple Pencil. And forScore’s enhanced features for Darkroom (taking pictures of a score to use) and “deskew” from the crop tool will be of great assistance to music educators. This just scratches the surface of forScore 10.
And it will be a free upgrade to owners of forScore, even those people that bought the app six years ago.
I have a suite of music education apps that I use more than other apps. All of these apps have continued to innovate and to add features as apps have matured (as well as the OS and the APIs that give developers more power). If you haven’t looked at some of these apps in a while–take the time to get reacquainted. You might be surprised at what they can do!
Look for forScore 10 later this summer.
- Link to app: https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/app/newzik-smartest-sheet-music/id966963109?mt=8&at=10l9SE
- Link to the Newzik website: http://newzik.com
If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I am in full support of the use of tablets (particularly the iPad) as a music reader–a function that can be used in any discipline of music education, particularly with the introduction of the 12.9″ iPad Pro last November.
My go-to apps haven’t changed since the iPad was introduced in 2010…forScore and unrealBook are the best PDF music readers available on the market. PiaScore has been the best free option (although with too many distractions for middle school students); NextPage has been a great solution for a forScore/unrealBook “lite” version; and Showbie has worked relatively well for me as a music folder for my students (and has made the act of distributing and collecting music 100% easier).
Newzik was an app released this past January, and I cannot remember if they contacted me about their app, or if Paul Shimmons (band director, fellow blogger, and friend) had told me about it. Their latest version of the app came out a few days ago and it is amazing.
Do I still love forScore, unrealBook, NextPage, and Showbie? Of course. Newzik takes a different path towards music reading, and opens up sheet music to MusicXML files and PDF files.
There have been a few programs that use MusicXML files, such as SeeScore, and apps like MusicProdigy (red note/green note) rely on MusicXML files. But to incorporate both PDF and MusicXML is a new idea.
I believe that the primary need for a tablet music reader, beyond showing music, is annotation. Newzik has it…and you can annotate on a PDF or a MusicXML. Writing on a MusicXML is a pretty radical idea, and the only time this becomes a problem is if you want to transpose the MusicXML to another key (it makes you make a copy of the song or delete the annotation). In addition to annotation, you can link multiple files (PDF, MusicXML, audio, etc.) to a single file, organize your files in playlists, and use a wireless page turner. You can also share music with band members (additional cost per month), and 30 scores are included free–more than 30 requires a full purchase ($20).
The transposition feature worked amazingly well from a ukulele song I created in Notion for iOS, uploaded to Dropbox (Notion still doesn’t allow “Open In” like many iOS apps), and then into Newzik. I changed the song from the key of C ro the key of F–and everything switched correctly…lead part and chords. That is the power of MusicXML. I was also able to load a recording of that song that I had created from GarageBand into Newzik. That way, I can play the MusicXML file, or I can play the m4a audio file.
Just imagine if iReal Pro would marry its functionality with Newzik…full generated accompaniments behind the literal sheet music or MusicXML file? Wow.
Newzik is still pretty young, so some key features (for music) are missing, such as dealing with repeat signs, DS/DC/Coda markings, and “hot spots” or “links.” But in the world of digital music, who needs these markings any more?
Furthermore, it is getting easier and easier to get music into MusicXML format (here’s hoping that it will simply be available as such from publishers someday) with apps such as NotateMe (with the PhotoScore IAP), PhotoScore, and SmartScore (Finale is advertising the ability to import directly from a PDF in the next version). There are even some web sites offering free PDF to MusicXML conversion–and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see MuseScore develop its own scanning component (they have everything else, why not that).
Once your score is in MusicXML and accurate, and if you have a program like Newzik that can transpose on the fly, show a single part, play back, zoom in (for smaller screens), and annotate, why would you even want the paper version or PDF version?
The app also shows chords (on a MusicXML file) on a guitar neck or on a keyboard. As a ukulele player, that isn’t super helpful (perhaps ukulele can be added), but it makes Newzik as functional for a rock musician as it does for a member of the New York Choral Society (Loren–shout out!).
Sure, there are things to fix and improvements to come–but this is an app that has been out since January, and it is really worth installing on your iOS device. No, it isn’t going to replace forScore or unrealBook on my device…but it is going to remain on my device, particularly as I create more and more MusicXML files in the future.
If you follow the tech news, you will see nothing but negative news about Apple these days. Stock is currently trading around $90, every product is being called a failure, not innovative enough, or boring. Every eductional article lauds the Chromebook and its success in education.
You might as well tell Apple to close their doors and go home.
While the stock price is not a good thing for investors, the company itself is plugging along. Apple introduced a smaller iPhone (remember when EVERY tech journalist demanded larger phones?) which is still backordered, introduced the small (9.7″) iPad Pro, and refreshed many of their notebook computers, including the controversial 12″ MacBook which in the minds of many tech journalists, has both gone too far (One USB-C Port? Burn down the Apple stores) and not far enough.
And it is a very quiet cycle in new products and apps. Most companies scale up to CES (January) or Winter NAMM (also January), and we are really in the “calm of the storm” before Apples WWDC, where developers will learn what iOS 10 (if that is what it will be named) will bring and start programming for the eventual device releases in the fall. I am waiting to move to the (12″) iPad Pro until the fall. I saw one again last night at Best Buy and continue to be amazed by the sheer size of the device.
In this relatively quiet time of the year, it has been fun to see some apps that were previously web-based (I.e. Chromebook friendly) make it to iOS. One of those apps was SoundTrap. Another is a recent release of a popular music web app called Incredibox. Incredibox was a Flash-based app, so it wouldn’t work on iOS. The iOS app was released at the end of March, and already has had four major updates. It is available for $2.99, and can be bought with educational pricing for $1.49 in groups of 20 or more. I love seeing a previously web-only app make its way to iOS, just as I love seeing iOS apps move to Android and Chromebooks (There is some speculation that Chromebooks will soon run Android apps. We will need to watch that development).
Incredibox is basically a looping app, where a group of guys are on a screen, and they make different looped sounds based upon the articles of clothing that you drag on the figure. On the iOS app, if you don’t like the sound, just drag the clothes off the character.
As a choral and band educator at the secondary level, I struggle trying to integrate looping apps of any kind (including GarageBand) into traditional performance classes. But I do know a lot of educators that like to teach with such apps (e.g. Disco Fingers, GarageBand)–and I know a lot of musicians who love to practice and perform with loops.
What I can tell you is that Incredibox is incredibly fun to play with, and the iOS app works perfectly. If you would like more ideas about how Incredibox can be used in your classroom, I would simply forward you to posts on the subject by Katie Wardrobe (link) and Amy Burns (link). Just remember that you can now purchase Incredibox for iOS, too.
Last week, SoundTrap released an iOS app. There is no secret that a number of web-based services, while in the universal HTML-5 format, do not work well on iPad. Some services require a keyboard, others just don’t work right. Another example is flat.io, which works best on computers and Chromebooks. Flat.io has mentioned that they, too, are developing an iPad app.
SoundTrap is a web-based digital audio workstation, offering an interface similar to GarageBand. Basic functions and loops are free, but subscriptions are required for full functionality. Educational pricing does exist.
If you have an iPad, you might wonder why you would want SoundTrap instead of GarageBand, and unless you are into SoundTrap’s collaborative features (you might be!), there really isn’t much benefit for using SoundTrap. However, if you teach in a BYOD environment or a mixed technology environment (e.g. Chromebooks and iPads available), SoundTrap files can be created on iOS or Chromebook and then opened in the other format.
Like the basic function of SoundTrap, the app is free, and is worth checking out. I have not had time to attach any MIDI devices to SoundTrap, and will have to do that at a later time.
I love this move. It opens SoundTrap to use in 1:1 iPad schools, and it acknowledges the place of the iPad in the world of music technology while still offering solutions on all those other platforms. I wish SoundTrap all the success in the world.