Another Kickstarter Project…a Keyboard by Miselu

The folks at ThinkMusicTechnology posted a tweet about this Kickstarter project today…

I'm intrigued, as this keyboard would take the place of my AKAI LPK25, USB Cable, and iPad USB Camera Connection Kit.

I have never heard of CoreMIDI via Bluetooth 4.0 (I'll have to contact iOS Musician and see what he has to say about that), and although I should not judge anyone based on how they dress, it is hard to take the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) seriously while he is wearing a tank top and hasn't shaved. I don't think you have to wear a suit and tie, but I do think you want to look presentable for such a campaign.

The video on the bottom of the Kickstarter page is much more detailed (comparing the keyboard to other existing keyboards), with a lot of good information about the design, historical size of keyboards, and so on (note, the Vimeo video did not play on my iPad). They have done their homework. You can even join multiple copies of these pianos together to form a bigger keyboard.

So..I'm signing up for another Kickstarter project. It is $99 (shipped in the US) for early backers. Anyone else interested in joining in?


Symphony Pro 3.0 (in context with Notion)

The music notation scenario improved this week, as Xenon Labs resurrected Symphony Pro with a new interface. Symphony Pro was the first serious music notation app on the iPad, coming out in late 2010, just a few short months after the release of the iPad. The first version of Symphony Pro was amazingly solid (I released a video about that app, which has over 30,000 views), but subsequent versions added more functionality and more bugs. Then, without any notice, Xenon Labs ceased development of Symphony Pro and pulled it from the App Store. I was able to contact one of the original developers of Symphony Pro and he confirmed that it was no longer in development.

But it's back–same company, same developers.

Symphony Pro 3.0 offers an improved interface, featuring tabs that hide on the left side of the screen. The left-side interface works well, although I could see issues arising if you are left-handed. I prefer the toolbar on the left and the keyboard on the bottom of the screen, so you can use both hands while entering music. I find this layout preferable to the layout of Notion (another notation app on the iPad) where the toolbar rests on top of the keyboard.

Symphony Pro 3.0 in action, without the keyboard

I have had some issues while using some of these tabs, such as the “dot” for a dotted note. By expanding the “dot” tab, you can choose a single, double, or triple dot for a note. The problem is that it isn't easy to turn off the dot…it requires two entires into the hidden dot tab to do so. It can also be annoying to switch between notes and rests using the hidden toolbars. There is something to be said for having all options (notes & rests) available at all times. I have also had difficulty selecting notes to cut and paste from staff to staff–I have been unable to increase the size of the selected area (there are no handles that I can see to use in Symphony Pro 3.0).

Whereas the old version of Symphony Pro had export features on the notation screen, the new version of Symphony Pro uses a bookshelf (think iBooks) to organize and export documents. The use of the bookshelf makes Symphony Pro feel very much like a “stock” iOS app, but I am concerned about what will happen with iOS 7…I would think that as Apple leaves skeuomorphic design (making apps look like physical objects, such as felt, wood, leather) they will change the look of the bookshelf, too.

The new bookshelf of Symphony Pro 3.0

Xenon Labs has been using Facebook as a key way to discuss its new version of Symphony Pro, and early reports indicate that bugs continue to affect the app. Some users seem to be having issues with the PDF export. Personally, I am having continued issues with MusicXML import and export. My blogging colleague, Paul Shimmons, has reported issues with MIDI input (and I have verified this using Symphony Pro and my Akai LPK25).

Symphony Pro is on sale right now for $4.99, for a limited time. I believe that Xenon Labs will continue to improve their app and to address these bugs. As Symphony Pro points out, there are no “add ons” for their app…everything comes in one bundle, and takes under 400MB of space on your iPad (less space, actually, than Angry Birds)

At the same time, Notion for iPad is available–currently for $14.99 (additional instruments are available as add on purchases)–with a cost of 1.7 GB of space on your iPad. As previously mentioned, the only “negative” about Notion is that the toolbars exist above the piano keyboard, and that notes and rests are also in separate toolbars (like Symphony Pro). But Notion is much more “mature” than Symphony Pro, with a huge update coming in the next two weeks. I did my usual “test” of notation software, trying to enter the same score in both programs. I had a great deal of difficulty working in Symphony Pro, but was quite productive in Notion, particuarly when I started using my Akai LPK 25 USB keyboard to enter notes.

As a matter of recommendation, if you are limited to only buying one app, you should choose Notion; if you can afford Symphony Pro while it is on sale, you should buy both. One thing is for certain: you can do productive work in music notation on your iPad, and doing so is only getting easier as these apps add more features (and work out more bugs).

My resulting score in Notion for iPad


MuseScore records its 5,000,000 download

MuseScore announced their 5 millionth download today on Twitter:

MuseScore is a fully-featured, free, open source music notation product for Windows, Mac and Linux. The program works well, and is rapidly becoming a substitute for Sibelius and Finale for many users, not to mention institutions like schools, colleges, and universities. Development for the 1.x version of Musescore is over, and version 2.0 is well on its way.

Musescore used a graph in their tweet to show the number of downloads over time:

5 million downloads is an astounding number, but even more telling is the number of downloads of the most recent version, MuseScore 1.3 (thank you to MuseScore for sharing these images on Twitter):

Nearly 600,000 downloads of MuseScore 1.3 since January 2013.

Let's put this into perspective. Let's say that 4 out of 5 people that downloaded MuseScore already use Sibelius, Finale, or some other software package. That would leave 60,000 people that downloaded MuseScore in place of a paid music software package. Let's say that all of those users would qualify for academic pricing, which is $240 (not counting shipping) for Sibelius or Finale (contact my friends at, a Minnesota company dealing with technology for music education if you need these programs). That is over 14 million dollars in sales not going to traditional music software packages.

I call that major disruption in an industry. The MuseScore team isn't out to ruin MakeMusic or Avid–they simply want to offer a great open source product. Disruption is occurring nonetheless.

I don't think for a moment that Sibelius, Finale, or any other paid notation program are going away, but those companies will need other focuses to survive in the future. MakeMusic has SmartMusic and other goals (see I cannot speak to the future of Sibelius/Avid, and even the future Steinberg notation product is surrounded by Steinberg's other products.

So, congratulations, MuseScore, on five million downloads, best wishes on the continuing work on version 2.0, and I expect for you to see ten million downloads in short order!

(p.s. An open-source, free, iPad music notation app would be wonderful, too!)