Category Archives: iPad Apps

iPad Apps

30 Song Videos in 30 Days

As with most music educators, the end of the school year, following the last concert, is an easier time of the year.  Not with classroom management, perhaps, but that was particularly true for me this year.  Instead of trying to find worthwhile activities for the last days, we went back to ukuleles and played through various songs.   This worked tremendously well.

 

Brian Ellison, a middle school Band and general music teacher, recently posted this tweet about using ukuleles…

Ultimately, this is what it is all about.  I have up to 60 students at a time on ukulele…but the involvement is the same.  And the bonus is that KIDS SING ALONG.  Watch the video again if you need to…you will see it.  Robin Giebelhausen (https://soundeducators.org) talks about the power of fooling middle school students into singing.

Some people are even using these songs with adult ukulele jam sessions!

If you are going to use these…I suggest planning ahead, downloading the videos you want (www.keepvid.com, but don’t get fooled by the misleading download options) rather than relying on Wi-Fi in a presentation!

About copyright…YouTube notifies us that songs are under copyright, they cannot be monetized (not the goal anyway), and any advertisements you see generate income for the copyright holder.  Only one song that I created (Faith! From “Sing”) was banned…and another educator created a version which is being allowed.  Who knows.

I have made a few of these videos in the past…and have been trying different approaches in doing so.

Early on, I was trying to make scrolling “sheet music” with accompaniments made with iReal Pro and Notion.  Later, I was using lyric videos from YouTube (see Dr. Reese’s “How To” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2n1Lb9TL9Q).

After our concert, I started making a few new songs and then just kept going.  I made videos of songs that my choirs had sung.  I made videos of songs that came to my attention that were fun (and sometimes challenging).  Eventually, I stopped using lyric videos and made my own Keynotes of lyrics and chords.

I have been working with John Baxter from ukefarm.com to develop some ukulele chord resources for music education.  Coming soon: Chordette for Education which is a program that allows you to use ukulele fonts in documents, keynotes, etc.  You can even do this on an iPad!  One of the fonts features colored strings to match the Aquila KIDS strings.

One of the challenges with ukulele is that many songs were written for ease of playing on a guitar.  E is a great key for Guitar.  It is a crummy key for ukulele.  Therefore, a lot of songs need to be “tweaked” up or down a half step or a whole step to be more accessible on ukulele (more than that, and the original audio really starts to suffer).  Sometimes the original key was OKAY, but a transposed key was more accessible.  In those cases, I started making two versions of a play along.

Pretty soon, I had a bunch of songs going with my format, and if the song was easy, I could make a video in an hour.  I had a new goal…make 30 unique videos (not counting multiple keys) in the month of June…one a day.

The songs have different purposes.  Some are standard ukulele jam songs.  One of the benefits of this approach to teaching ukulele is that you can teach kids with THEIR music.  However, they should also learn some of the standard songs used in ukulele jams so they can play along with players in other places (and in other age groups).  And as I said, some are songs that I like.

I wrapped that project up this evening with my 30th unique song of the month (June 22nd…ahead of schedule).   There are some special things in the last 30 days, such as a GREAT song by the Jive Aces called “Bring Me Sunshine,” jeremy messersmith’s “Everybody Gets a Kitten,” “Another Day of Sun,” me singing on a version of “The More We Get Together,” and tonight a very special video using the Bacon Brother’s recent video of a ukulele song they sang on their tour bus (had to figure out all the chords for the song…and included the original video).  The only dud, in my opinion, is Heart and Soul, but even that is okay…and it is interesting to hear the whole song…not just what kids play on the school piano all the time.  As always, if something isn’t of interest to you, don’t spend much time with it.

So, Ukestuff Play Along Songs (some have been around longer than this month).  The titles are clickable links to each of the songs I have created.  In the future, this PDF will be in the “Videos” page and regularly updated.  This version will remain static to 6/22/2017.

I also started another side project, which was to make an index of ALL the ukulele play along songs in this style…168 of them so far.  I am going to share that index as soon as I share it with the creators first.

What other songs are needed?  Religious and non-religious holiday music play alongs.  And then any other songs that you might want created.  Have a suggestion?  E-mail me.  If there is a YouTube video with the music, please reference that video–and of course, chord charts are useful, too.

I am not setting a goal of another 30 songs in July…but I will make some new videos…and there are some other projects that I want to get to.

Some might ask: aren’t you worn out from the year?  The answer is YES, and I will blog about that later.  That said, doing things like this renew my spirit and cause me to think deeper musically than I generally get a chance to do all year.  I have also had a chance to spend time with my kids, play ukulele at a Veteran’s Home, and participate in some local ukulele jam sessions.

This video will be cross-posted on ukestuff.info

 

 

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.

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:

App Experience: Any Font

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Note: This post will be posted on both techinmusiced and ukestuff.

One of the best aspects of this “non-job” has been the people I have had the opportunity to meet.  I can’t think of a single person in the area of music education technology that I have not immediately liked.   Simply put, the music education technologists that I know are also some of the finest, most intelligent, collegial people I have met.  I learn from them, as I am sure they learn from me–and I enjoy hearing about their lives and getting to know more about them.

This winter, I had the chance to present sessions at the Maryland Music Education Association, mostly thanks to Robby Burns, who has served as the MMEA’s technology chair.  Robby is an incredible teacher and technology user, and has a blog, podcast, and even a book on digital organization (Buy it!  Paper.  Kindle. See his awesome promo video at the bottom of this post).  If we have “specialties,” I would say that Robby is a specialist in secondary band and technology automation.  He looks for ways for technology to simplify his life and to make automatic processes that solve problems, keep things organized (for himself, his program, and his students), and to ultimately create more free time for himself and his family.  When you see Robby’s presentations, hear his podcasts, or read his book or blog, you need to know that like all the music technology experts I have met, he lives what he is teaching.  The knowledge comes from real life experience, and is personally tested.

One of the highlights of my trip to Maryland was spending 30 minutes with Robby (until we were kicked out of the exhibit hall as it closed) simply talking about apps that either of us did not know.  One of those apps was Any Font.

Robby discussed how he loved Any Font, as he was able to use any font on his iOS devices for anything–documents, presentations, whatever.  While I should have been writing down every app he suggested (I only typed out a few–and thus, I am not the expert on digital organization), that conversation is locked in my brain.

I blogged about the new version of Chordette the other day, an app that provides a way to use a font to make ukulele chords–something of great use if you teach ukulele.  However, if you use the fonts embedded with Chordette–they are not going to show up correctly on an iPad (ever get the Keynote message that a font is not available?  Even if the font is no longer used in the presentation?  Any Font is one solution, and there is another that I will add at the end of this post).  I have also been working with the developer of Chordette to make a font set that uses the colors of the Aquila KIDS strings–and would love to use those fonts in my presentations.  Fonts are always better for a smaller document size than an image–which is why a PDF of music created by a software program (e.g. Finale, Sibelius, Notion, Dorico, MuseScore) is always smaller than scanned music (embedding a picture in the PDF).

I haven’t had need of fonts other than the standard fonts embedded in iOS, but Any Font allows me to put the Chordette CGCA ukulele fonts into iOS.  You send a True Type Font (TTF–most are in this format) to Any Font (you can even “Open In” from iCloud Drive or Dropbox, but easiest is Air Drop from a newer Mac to an iOS device), and then select the fonts you want to install on your device.  Any Font sends those fonts as a profile to your device, enabling those fonts for the iOS device to use.  If you delete the profile, the fonts go away.  You can always add a font and take it away later.  Any Font also offers 1,000 additional fonts for $2 as an In-App Purchase–a pretty good deal.  Of course, you can find a great number of fonts on the web for free, including musicological fonts that might be helpful in documents and presentations.

So…if you have ever wanted to use other fonts on your iOS device, or have had issues with Keynote telling you a font wasn’t available, Any Font is a great way to solve both of those issues.

It does make you wonder why Apple hasn’t made it possible to simply add fonts to iOS as you can on a Mac–perhaps this will be resolved in the future.  Until then, I recommend Any Font to you, and want to offer thanks to Robby Burns for bringing this app to my attention.

Final note: Are you getting the “font not available” warning in Keynote, even after making sure all fonts were in the system?  If you don’t want to install the not-used but still considered “missing” font, do this:  Export the Keynote as PowerPoint, import that exported file into Keynote.  Save the file.  Problem solved.

MusicJot: New iOS Music Notation App

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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.

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The app is clean, but is very basic.  It just looks young.  I have a feeling the look will mature in time.

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 MusicJotNotateMe, 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?).

In summary, when I work on notation projects on iOS, I am still going to go to Notion.  You, however, might be quite happy with MusicJot or any of the other notation apps mentioned in this post.

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!