Category Archives: Notion

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.


Updates, updates, updates…(sing to the tune of “Rawhide”

Just a note about a couple of recent updates…both Finale and Notion have been updated in the past 48 hours.  If you have Finale 25 or Notion 6…you will want to download those updates and check out what is new!

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.

Creating Ukulele Fretboard Chords in Notion

On my ukulele website,, I created a post showing how to use Notion to create in-line ukulele fretboard symbols to make a lead sheet.

This is really crossover material, as it involved technology and music education, and some of you may want to add other types of chord symbols in-line to your own lead sheets for students.

You can find the article here:

And for those of you who would like to watch the accompanying video without clicking through:

Using Soundcloud Out of Necessity

One of the huge problems with the iPad for music education is the inability to save music on the iPad music library unless you sync with iTunes. I have written Tim Cook about this multiple times over the years, and will continue to do so every six months or so until things change.

Here's the problem: in our 1:1 iPad situation, iPads are basically never synced with a computer. We sync them with an original profile, and then everything else is done away from the computer, unless the device needs to be reimaged. Everything else a student needs remains in the cloud.

If you can only save audio in the music library by syncing, you cannot save music to the device.

I have been trying to find a way to get audio into a music library so that apps like forScore and unrealBook can access audio files I've created as accompaniment or rehearsal tracks for my choir students. I also wanted to see if I could find a program that would allow students to open an audio file and record a second track over the audio file (authentic assessment), and then export that file to Google Drive (our iPad initiative is also linked to Google Docs). Neither one of these things is possible right now, although Apple could make both of them happen with GarageBand, nearly instantly. If you could import music into GarageBand and then save to your music library (like Photos), that problem would be solved; and if you could import music into GarageBand, you could simply insert another track over that recording.

I am further limited in my search for apps as they need to be free–we have no budget for apps. So although I would love to provide forScore or unrealBook for my 225 students, we have settled on using PiaScore. We're making it work, but I despise the YouTube component in PiaScore, as some of my students use their time in choir watching videos (with no sound) rather than singing.

A number of fellow music education “techies” have suggested Soundcloud as a possibility for my use, and I am reluctantly going that way for rehearsal audio files. I can't find a solution for importing a track from Google Docs, recording a track over that track, and then exporting the entire recording to Google Docs again.

When I taught high school for the past 17 years, I had a caroling ensemble each year, and I eventually developed my own collection of carols, edited by me, that we sang. We stuck to traditional songs (although I did make fun arrangements of a few songs like “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “I'm Getting Nothing for Christmas”) because that is what people want from caroling groups. By the end, each part had its own lead sheet (Sopranos with a soprano only part), as this allowed each song to fit on one page for each singer. I still have all those resources. Caroling groups, particularly extra-curricular groups, are still encouraged in our area. That Minnesota/St. Olaf/Luther/Concordia tradition is extremely strong here.

But now I teach middle school choir, and my students just aren't as vocally and musically developed as my high school students were–and this isn't a shocker. But I decided to start a caroling group for our middle school, and I have fifteen brave souls that I am now teaching two-part carols to. Many of the carols are coming from Joe Ambrosio's “Carols for Choirs,” which are two-part carols (but written in Soprano-Tenor; Alto-Bass configuration), and my colleague Reid Larsen at one of our other middle schools brought my attention to those carols last year. Each of these carols also has a piano accompaniment to support the singers. I hope Joe adds a few more carols in a second set (I need to find him and e-mail the suggestion). I am adding other carols to Joe's songs, creating a set of accompanied SA carols for my singers to learn. We rehearse once a week on Tuesdays after school.

My process is to scan the music in PhotoScore Ultimate, export as a MusicXML, open into Finale, clean up the score, export it as a MusicXML, and to import it into Notion for the iPad. Notion becomes my piano player for rehearsals and works quite nicely (I'm looking forward to future N-Tempo features in Notion). If I want to make a rehearsal track, all I need to do is to adjust some sliders in Notion, and export the audio. If this seems like an involved process, I did about seven carols in less than two hours the other day. PhotoScore does a great job with less complex vocal scores (and it struggles with very complex vocal scores, like any other scanning software).

You can export from Notion to Dropbox, but you can also export to Soundcloud. Exporting is SO easy on the iPad; it is one of the main reasons I love Notion for the iPad.

I installed Soundcloud tonight, and did a test before deciding to move forward. You can open PiaScore, then open SoundCloud, find a recording, and then switch back to PiaScore and use your music with the recording. This isn't as good of a solution as “binding” an accompaniment in forScore or unrealBook to a song–but it works. And it is free. So this is what I will be doing for now. I am also going to e-mail forScore and unrealBook and find out if it would be possible to link to a SoundCloud file (yes, Internet access would be needed). I can't afford copies for all 225 students in my program, but I could find a way to pay for 15 students in my caroling ensemble.

As a closing thought, I am amazed at how quickly Notion uploads to Soundcloud, and I love the acceptance message:

“Yay, that Worked!”

If you want, you can go listen to my first rehearsal scores in Soundcloud…I can't promise these will be available indefinitely, as we have a winter musical ahead and a spring jazz/pops group that will also need rehearsal tracks. But it is a start. Our account goes by “OMS Choirs,” and can be accessed here: