Category Archives: iPhone/iPod Touch Apps

iPhone/iPod Touch Apps

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:

The Ukulele App On Sale (IAP)

 

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If you play popular music on the ukulele, and you have any exposure to ukulele on YouTube, you know The Ukulele Teacher.  The Ukulele Teacher creates weekly (or more) instruction tutorials on how to play songs of all kinds.  Chances are that students in your music ensembles are watching his videos to learn how to play music they want to learn on the ukulele.  He was recently named a Kala artist.

I adore his work for a number of reasons–but above all others, he is not a fantastic singer-but he sings all the time.  I love that, and I love the message that it sends to kids.  You don’t have to be a high school choir dramatic soprano to enjoy singing and to enjoy making music.

The Ukulele Teacher earns a living a number of ways–some advertising in YouTube, a Patreon account, some limited “gear”, some product placement, and his relatively new iPhone App, which is called The Ukulele App.  It runs on iPad, but has not been made a universal binary to run on all the sides.

The app has a number of functions, including links to all of the Ukulele Teacher’s videos on YouTube, a tuner (more of a pitch generator), and a chord library.  They are going to be adding a number of features to the app this year, and for the month of June, the in-app purchase is only $0.99.  The app itself is free, but this is a cost savings.

I bought the IAP at full price–I want to support what John Atkins (the real name of the Ukulele Teacher) is doing, and I see the app becoming even more useful in time.  If you play ukulele (or want to play ukulele), I recommend the purchase–particularly at the reduce price for June 2017.

This post will be cross-posted on ukestuff.info and techinmusiced.com, and is NOT a paid ad.

Sale on Uberchord Yearly Subscription

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Disclosure: Uberchord sponsored the hosting fees for the first year of our podcast (ME&T Podcast).

Just a quick news item: Uberchord is currently offering a special discount for a yearly subscription to their “Essential Plan,” normally $9.99 per month.  The normal yearly rate will be $99, but they are offering a year subscription for $59.99 (50% the monthly rate for a year, which would be $120).  The special pricing ends June 1, 2017.

If you are interested in learning guitar–or improving your guitar skills (no ukulele–yet), check out Uberchord.   Also: if you already subscribe to Uberchord, it would be a great idea to subscribe for the yearly plan!

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.

Sheet Music Scanner Update

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If you want to scan music on your iOS device (Music Optical Character Recognition), there are only two options worth investigating.  Both represent a minimal commitment versus traditional scanning.

Traditional scanning required a computer, scanner, and specific software in the $250 range.  There are two “major” scanning programs: Neuratron’s PhotoScore (8) and Musitek’s SmartScore X2.  From personal experience, I recommend PhotoScore as the best solution, although SmartScore X2 has improved dramatically.  If you are working with an existing PDF generated by a notation program, you may also want to check out PDFtoMusic Pro, another $250 app, that converts existing PDFs into MusicXML files.

If you have a mobile device, the leader in the category in Neuratron, whose app NotateMe ($40) can be used to write music by hand–but in my opinion, its In App Purchase (IAP) of $30 that adds PhotoScore to NotateMe is a game changer.  In many of my trials, my iPhone scans as accurately as Neuratron’s desktop/notebook program, at 1/3 the overall price.  There is also a free version of NotateMe, called NotateMe Now, which will let you try a single staff, as well as to scan a single staff.  It is also important to mention that NotateMe is also available on Android, and Neuratron really likes the Android platform.

Still, for some users, $70 for an app is too hard to swallow–even it if means a significant reduction in work load.

That is why Sheet Music Scanner took me by surprise when it added the ability to export a MusicXML file.  Sheet Music Scanner is a $4 app that allows you to convert music to be played.  That didn’t really meet any of my needs as a music educator, although I can see how it would be valuable to “amateur” musicians (i.e. musicians without college degrees that had to take years of theory).  This summer, the app added the ability to export data to a number of formats, including MusicXML, and this changed my entire view of the app.  It also turns out that Sheet Music Scanner can scan from photos, or open a stored PDF for scanning.  As of today, Sheet Music Scanner is the only iOS app that can handle recognition of a PDF (NotateMe requires a physical copy to actually take a picture of).

That app was updated today, and now allows for scans of longer documents.  Early on, I tried a 37 page Bach cantata, which crashed.  The program will now handle that document.  Additionally, the app now allows for transposition.  You can change the key on the fly; and furthermore, if you export the transposed song, it will export in that new key, too.  I just tested this on the same cantata–and it worked.  Sure, there are things I need to fix.  I am okay with that.  No matter what program I use, clean-up is required.

Ever have a song that you needed transposed on the spot?  Here’s your solution!

I also love that I can open a document from Dropbox to Sheet Music Scanner to Notion on my iPad.  This is one step closer to a world where a “traditional” computer isn’t needed.

Again, there are things that Sheet Music Scanner does not do yet (e.g. triplets) and may not do (lyrics).  That’s okay.  Most directors that I know want to scan music to do one of three things (they are not avoiding buying music–for people that do that, there is already an existing invention called the photocopier that has been used for the purpose for many years):

  1. Make rehearsal or accompaniment tracks
  2. Re-voice or re-arrange material for students (difficulty, voice change, instrumentation needs)
  3. Create assessments from literature in green note/red note software

If you want to scan with as much accuracy as possible, Neuratron’s products are what you will want to use.  For example, our orchestra teacher needed a bassoon part from a movement of one of Beethoven’s symphonies written for a Bass Clarinet.  With PhotoScore (on my iPhone), I was able to scan that part with a high degree of accuracy, including diacritical markings (accents, staccatos, dynamics), and my editing time was mainly entering multi-measure rests, adjusting some slurs, and adding symbolic crescendo markings.  There were only a few actual notes to correct.  Re-entering the score by hand would have taken hours–I was able to do it in less than 45 minutes with the NotateMe app, Finale, and Notion (I like to mass edit in Finale, and to do final editing with Notion).  This is a very different function than making a set of rehearsal tracks for a choir.

Remember…MakeMusic just removed SmartScore’s scanning out of Finale 25.  You likely need a way to scan music.  And I don’t know about you, but SmartScore lite always resulted in a mess for me.  Here is a $4 solution to replace that program with something that is already better.  Need more accuracy?  Neuratron is available.  I don’t feel bad about endorsing both products–in a world with eight well-known notation programs (Finale, Sibelius, Dorico, Notion, MuseScore, StaffPad, Noteflight, and Flat.io) and many less known programs, there is certainly room for two or three scanning apps.

If you don’t own it yet, Sheet Music Scanner will be a wonderful tool in your app collection, and it would be my “App of the Year” for 2016.  The developer keeps improving the app and $4 is a cup of coffee in today’s world–go download it today.

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!