Category Archives: iPhone/iPod Touch Apps
iPhone/iPod Touch Apps
For anyone interested in the world of technology in music education as it pertains to ukulele, I was given the opportunity to review the Populele, an acoustic ukulele with an LED fretboard that connects via Bluetooth to a mobile app (iOS or Android). That review is on my ukulele blog (link).
With the appocalypse of iOS 11, many long time apps disappeared. One of those was Cleartune, one of the tuners that has been in the App Store for years. It was a favorite app for many users…and it was gone.
The good news? Bitcount (developer/company) updated it yesterday, and Cleartune is back!
Many thanks to Michael Good, the creator of MusicXML and a VP at MakeMusic for tweeting about this and bringing it to my attention!
The concept of written notation to digital notation, or handwriting recognition for music, has blown up over the past few years. I still remember the very famous video from ThinkMusicTechnology back in 2013 that resulted in a lot of excitement about the possibility:
It was a great idea, but the Kickstarter failed. Since then, there have been a number of handwriting apps…I will see if I can put them into chronological order (and I am sure I am missing some):
- NotateMe (September 2013)
- Touch Notation by Kawai (March 2015)
- StaffPad for Windows Surface Tablets (March 2015)
- Notion for iOS [added as an IAP] (November 2015)
- MusicJot (January 2017)
- Komp Create (April 2017)
- Compoze Leadsheets (September 2017)
I do know of some other notation apps that are bringing handwriting soon.
When I see a new app that is entering an established field (looking back to 2013 in this case), I always ask: “What is unique about the app that makes it unique/easier/better/more powerful to use than other apps?” Hopefully every app has an answer to that (it is something that I like to ask on the podcast) rather than to be an alternative. For example: Finale has always been about the power user. Sibelius has always been about power and easier to learn. Notion has always been about high quality sounds and logical keyboard commands. MuseScore is always improving and Free. Dorico is focused on quality engraving and logical keyboard commands. As you think about notation apps for tablets and phones…what is the specialty of each of these apps?
I have a bias here, and I want to be clear about it: I find it easier to compose, arrange, and edit with a mouse/trackpad, QWERTY keyboard, and MIDI keyboard. I used Finale throughout college, and continue to use it–and I also use Notion on most projects (they both get used), both the desktop and iOS versions.
I find handwriting to be best for writing short sequences of notes (e.g. A sight reading exercise) versus an entire song. I love and adore NotateMe, and would have paid far more for it (it is $70 with the scanning IAP), but I don’t do any editing or writing in NotateMe–I use it for the PhotoScore and export features.
I do find handwriting to be the very best way to add diacritical markings…as these are a pain to add with most desktop/notebook programs, even knowing the shortcuts.
When I watch StaffPad’s videos of people collaborating on a composition to be played moments later via a WebCam connection with StaffPad, I feel the frustration that process would actually take (the first time, it would be fun. The second time…give me Finale or Notion…or MuseScore, or Sibelius, or Dorico…)
So, please be aware of my bias. That said, I realize there are a lot of people–music educators included–whose minds melt with any notation software, and handwritten solutions may be the only solution that works for them.
As a result, we have six solutions for iOS (with more on the way), all that work. The latest of these is Compoze Leadsheets, which is coming from a freemium approach. You get three lead sheets for free’ additional lead sheets cost most, and unlimited lead sheets cost $50. The program works like many others, with some very good integration (so far) of repeats and multiple endings. Other features, including export, are coming in the future…some included with the unlimited version.
My advice? Download it and try it, as you start for free. It works well, and if you haven’t tried handwriting notation, it is worth a shot (no Apple Pencil needed). That said, the program itself isn’t of much benefit to me as I need–from Day 1–the ability to have lyrics and to be able to import or export via MusicXML.
I also struggle with the idea notation apps that are in the $50 range or are subscription based, particularly when there are apps like Notion, where the base app, and all possible in-app purchases are $50 (this gets you a rather extensive sound library AND handwriting in Notion). I’m not against people making money…but $50 apps and subscription models (particularly those without an education version) are a very tough sell for schools.
If you download Compoze Leadsheets, you should also try some of the other handwriting apps, such as NotateMe Now (also free). In 2013-2014, I used NotateMe to have my students compose short compositions in class, and that was a successful unit. There are better solutions in 2017, such as the education versions of web based apps like Noteflight and Flat.io. I am particularly interested in trying Flat.io’s new assignment feature.
I also want to make it very clear that Compoze Leadsheets is BRAND NEW on the App Store–and it should be given some time to mature. As I mentioned, download it, and see what you think. Check in occasionally to see what they add.
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:
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.