Notion Mobile now working on Chromebooks!

Notion Mobile has been out for some time, and I have avoided writing about it until now. With my “new” (year four already!) elementary music position, my need for traditional notation software is extremely limited to those rare occasions that I am preparing music for my 4th & 5th grade extra-curricular choir, arranging string parts for our high school combined concert in the fall (something I still do, years after leaving my high school position), or when I am arranging things for ukulele (I currently have a collection of Christmas Carol Chord Melody arrangements for Ukulele available on my buymeacoffee page, as well as a series of classic hymn chord melody arrangements underway). Otherwise, my time is spent in video editing software or chord chart applications!

To be honest, I am not sure if any of the active bloggers have fully reviewed Notion Mobile–I have just spent a bit of time looking through Scoring Notes, Robby Burns’ blog (, and Paul Shimmons’ blog (, and while Notion Mobile is mentioned, I don’t see it reviewed.

I’m not yet ready to offer a full review of the app, but there are a couple of major things to address.

First and foremost, if you haven’t heard about Notion Mobile, it is available and is truly multi-platform. It works on iOS, Mac (both Intel and Mac Silicon), Windows, Android, and on Chromebooks that run the Google Play Score. The Chromebook app had not worked for me when Notion Mobile was released, or some time after that, so I did not want to write about the app until it did. Well, I just made a short ukulele chord melody (You Are My Sunshine, which is under copyright, so I cannot post it) on my Chomebook (a Samsung with a touch screen, stylus, and Google Play), and while there were a few things that needed to be worked around…it works. And most importantly, the core functionality of this application is FREE. So, if you have been a “MuseScore is for me, because it is free,” user, you now have another option.

If you are a member of Notion’s Facebook Group, which is NOT run by Notion, there are a large number of iOS users who are very, very unhappy with Notion Mobile and its changes from the original version–to the point that one user jailbroke his iPad to downgrade the OS, to allow himself to reinstall the old version. This, quite simply, is a level of commitment that I am not willing to make to any software, and I am quite happy to try to use a new version of the application and to provide feedback about what isn’t working.

For a long time, my Chromebook couldn’t use Notion. I’m glad I tried again this evening. Sometimes, things don’t work quite right–for example, if I am entering notes for a ukulele chord in tablature/standard notion, and want to change a note in the tool that allows you to enter a chord, the entire existing chord disappears when I attempt to add or change a note of a chord on the fretboard, the chord disappears leaving only that note, and then I have to enter the whole chord again. Can I do that? Sure, but it is an extra three clicks (to create the rest of the chord) that didn’t need to happen.

In addition, as you enter notes, you need to advance to the next note, and the buttons to do that are either on the top of the screen (on the opposite side of the screen from the onscreen fretboard) or the arrows on your keyboard, and if you are right handed and writing with your Apple pencil, getting to either of those locations is not easy (either a reach or moving completely off your screen to get to the lower right of your keyboard). I’ve also had some issues with my Apple Pencil in Notion Mobile, where I am trying to use it as a stylus, but Notion has other functions built into the interaction with the Apple Pencil…it can be problematic to stop using the Pencil and switch to my hand. Sometimes I have to exit the score and reload it to get things like a tie to work.

But these are all issues inherent to an early version of software, particularly software that works across many platforms, and they will be sorted out eventually. The old Notion for iOS had its quirks (as does all software), and the learning curve does remain so much easier than other options on iOS (and other platforms), although not as easy as the past (Q for quarter note).

A couple of final thoughts for Notion Mobile: if you are a teacher hoping to use this with your students–I don’t know if that is possible. It requires a Google Play account, and in our district, that is turned off, as is Google Sharing (Google’s answer to AirPlay). So, as an elementary music educator, I am still looking for answers for simple composition on Chromebook, though thanks to Amy Burns’ posts this winter, I found the Dr. Musik Boomwriter, which can be modified for use with simple instruments and recorder ( We can’t get the latest version of Music Snippet to work in our district, and we can’t use or Noteflight as our students are not allowed to create accounts, and we are not going to fund subscriptions to those services. If you know of any other solutions, please send me an e-mail. I should also mention that I am also blocked as a teacher from the Google Play store on my district Google account.

At any rate, if you have been wanting to try Notion Mobile on Chromebook, and have a Chromebook that runs apps, and an account that lets you install apps, give it a try. And if you have any other platform, Notion Mobile should be installed as a tool for your use, even if you don’t use it on a regular basis.


Handel’s Messiah…and Notion

An image of the original manuscript of The Messiah

When I was directing high school choir, I eventually added an annual goal to sing one movement from Handel’s Messiah with my advanced choir at our Holiday Concert.  I was fortunate in my last few years as a high school director that our district had added a string program, so the school’s orchestra provided accompaniment for that song in our concert (it was a great way to involve everyone).

I know that many groups perform the Messiah this time of year, and would benefit from a digital accompaniment track.

This morning, a PreSonus presentation from ASME 2017 showed up in my feed, and I watched it.  It featured Chris Swaffer, a developer from PreSonus, which makes Notion) and Dr. Ian Cook.  Chris introduced Notion, integration with Studio One, and the live performance capabilities of Notion ; Dr. Cook discussed Persons’ conducting component (great for college programs).  I have interacted with Chris for a long time (I get the opportunity to try Beta updates for Notion), and it was great to actually see him (he’s in the UK, so he doesn’t make many music education conferences here in the USA).

As I was watching the presentation, Chris mentioned that Notion includes a number of resources, including the FULL MESSIAH.  Remember…Notion comes stock with sounds from the London Symphony Orchestra.  You can buy the full expansion pack of sounds (currently $299–which is a bargain compared to other sound packs from other vendors). Otherwise, Notion (on Mac/Win) is $150.  If you are a director needing a rehearsal or performance tool for the Messiah, Notion would instantly pay for itself.

I didn’t know about these included files, and you can find them in your account at  Then follow the links to “Get All Content” and then add the “Notion Score Library” in the “Extra Downloads” area.  This will send you a zipped file of Notion files (all in the Public Domain) that can be edited as necessary.

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In, look at “Get All Content” with Notion 6.

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The Messiah is included in the “Notion Score Library”

About the Messiah…it doesn’t have text in the voice parts, so if you want those, you may have to add them…and it ships with all of Part 1 and Part 2 as separate files.  That said, as it is a Notion document, you can certainly cut and paste a range of the song and paste it into a new document and add text to those voice parts.

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Here’s the full screen view, in “pages across view” of Part 1 of the Messiah, which is included as a extra download when you buy Notion.

Notion’s sounds are great, and are probably worth the initial cost ($150).  Don’t forget that you can add the iOS version as well, with all add-ons, for around $50 total (bargain!), and anything you do on Notion for Mac/Win will show on the iOS version.

However, if you want to use Notion’s excellent stock sounds and run a humanized performance, you can do so with Notion’s live performance features.  I haven’t done that, but I know that Paul Shimmons did so recently, making his own “pit orchestra.”  Read about that here on his website, (link).

And if you are a user of another program, as I am (e.g. Finale), Notion can read MusicXML and export MusicXML, so you could easily to and from Notion.  In other words, you don’t have to leave your current program to add Notion as a tool.  If you have an iOS device, and you are a music educator, Notion should already be one of your tools.

Note: This is NOT a sponsored post by Notion, I just love the program, and yes, I am a beta tester of the product.


Preparing a score for accompaniment files…

It has been a while since I have talked about my process of taking an existing score and preparing it for an accompaniment file or a rehearsal file. I just prepared ten scores for our district’s high school choirs (three high schools) who hold an October joint concert.

Step 1: Obtain the music. It seems obvious, but for my process, you need music IN HAND, not a PDF.

Step 2: Scan each page (each song separately, of course) with NotateMe, using the in-app purchase of PhotoScore. Why NotateMe? It scans nearly as accurately (sometimes more so) than the desktop version, bringing in most lyrics and diacritical markings. Suggestions: scan with a white background, and then use a flash. The better the camera, the better the scan…so think about using a late model iPhone or Android device.

Step 3: Rename the file in NotateMe and export using MusicXML via e-mail to myself. To be honest, my one major gripe of NotateMe is that I just can’t use “Open In” to open the MusicXML file directly into Notion for iOS.

Step 4: Import the MusicXML file into Finale on my MacBook. I actually can edit notes/rhythms easier in Notion (Mac or iOS) than on Finale, but Notion tends to not be so good with lyrics. I like to have the lyrics when I create a choral score…it makes a number of things easier (following a score, going back to edit later, etc.). This is also good if you later plan to export a MusicXML file to a red note/green note program like SmartMusic, PracticeFirst, or MusicProdigy. If I have to arrange something, I use Finale as my primary tool as it has a explode/implode feature. As a tip…voice parts should all have their own line without multiple notes. So, if you have an SSAATTBB score….there should be eight vocal lines, not four. This will save you trouble later!

Step 5: Edit in Finale, or your notation App of choice. If you are a band/orchestra director, you will want to enter percussion parts at some point, as they just don’t scan right.

Step 6: Export at MusicXML file to Notion on Mac. I do most of my note/rhythm editing in Notion, which allows me to swap voices anywhere (not a whole measure) and also shows measures with too many notes. While in Notion, make sure sound assignments are correct. You can name the files correctly and later add a “switch instrument” command to make vocal parts sound like a piano versus a choir “Ah.”

Step 7: Save the file in my Notion folder in iCloud Drive. Notion for iOS uses this folder. So if i have something saved in this folder, it shows up on my list in the Notion for iOS app.

Step 8: Final edits on Notion for iOS (this is a great place, with an Apple Pencil, to add any missing diacritical markings. Make sure tempos are where they should be; create tempos and ritardandos as necessary for proper playback. Why Notion for iOS? The sounds are good, and exporting is incredibly easy. The full sound library is also less expensive on Notion for iOS than any other program (with the exception of MuseScore, of course).

Step 9: Adjust the mixer bar in Notion for iOS to make playback files. For example, bring soprano up above the median line, bring piano below, bring altos, tenors, and basses all the way down. Instant soprano rehearsal track.

Step 10: Export to iCloud Drive as AAC file.

Step 11: Open up iCloud Drive and rename each file (e.g. Song Title Soprano. Otherwise Notion saves them as Title 1, Title 2, Title 3…)

Step 12: Repeat steps 9-11 for each part, as well as a piano only part.

Step 13: Distribute parts as necessary. These can be copied to Google Drive, Dropbox, opened in forScore or unrealBook, and so on.

This sounds like a lot of work, but an average song can have all rehearsal tracks created in a much shorter time than sitting down to play parts. Additionally, you will always have the tracks in the future and that file can always be used again. It is smart to keep the files in multiple organized places, as accidents do happen.

One other note: should you learn that a software program will be discontinued, you should open all of your files (over time) and export them as MusicXML files so as to be able to use them again someday. You could actually do that at the end of your process as Step 14, just to be safe.

Using WAV files in Notion


Several weeks ago, Paul Shimmons ( and I talked to Micah Blouin from PreSonus about the new version of Notion 6 and other offerings from PreSonus for music education on the ME&T Podcast.  Check it out if you haven’t already done so!

One of the things Micah discussed was “pinning” a WAV file audio track to a Notion score, and using their feature called N-Tempo, where you can “tap” a tempo into a score to sync it to the WAV file.  He mentioned that this feature was great for transcriptions.

I recently contacted an artist about the possibility of transcribing a song of theirs so my 8th grade students could sing it in our spring concert.  I received permission today, and since I am still recovering from a bad cold that hit two days ago, I began working on the song.

In Notion, I suggest creating a separate instrument to “pin” the WAV file to, and if you don’t have a WAV file, there are plenty of web-based sites that will convert existing audio to a WAV format.  Just keep in mind that WAV is an uncompressed file format–so a audio recording is easily ten times larger than other popular formats (mp3 or Apple’s m4a).  Then you make a N-Tempo instrument track, and you plan the rhythm you want to tap to.  If you are working with an artist that shifts tempo freely, it can be better to make the N-Tempo track the same as the melody part.  Then you enter Notion’s N-Tempo recording tool (it looks like a joystick) and tap the tempo using any key on the “A” row of your keyboard.  To stop recording, hit space or ESC.

Side note: I have used “tap tempo” in Finale, which requires the space bar.  It took a look in the manual to realize that the space bar was NOT the entry method for Notion.

It helps if your WAV file starts with the downbeat…so use an editor to trim your audio before importing it.

At any rate, using this method made the transcription easy and fast, and I would definitely recommend it to any one.  I will certainly be using it again!

P.S.  “O Hanukkah, O Hanukkah” was NOT the score I was entering today.  I just used it as an example as it is in the Public Domain.