Ten (iOS) Tech Tools to Help a Secondary Music Educator Prepare for a Concert (#1: Hardware Tools)

This is the final post in a series about ten iOS tech tools that can be used to help a secondary music educator prepare for a concert.  This series is based off a series by Amy Burns at mustech.net, who just wrapped up a series on ten tech tools that can be used by an elementary music educator prepare for a concert.  I teach secondary music education in a 1:1 iPad setting, so I have been working through the tools that I use to help me prepare for a concert.  Many of these tools are useful even if you do not work in a 1:1 setting.

For this last post, I think it is worthwhile to mention some hardware tools that I use in a concert.  I will list them as bullet points.  I will not discuss our risers or shell that we use in our gym (we are building a new building, and next year, our concerts will be in an auditorium).

I forgot to take a photo of the layout from our concert on December 14th.  Sorry…this worked REALLY well.  Nobody realizes (you probably do) the time it takes to figure out how to set up for a concert in such a way that it results in a flawless performance.

So, to the hardware:

  • Personal iPad: 12.9” iPad Pro
  • Apple Pencil
  • AirTurn GoStand
  • AirTurn Manos Universal Tablet Holder
  • PageFlip Dragonfly Wireless Page Turner
  • Sony MV1 Video Recorder
  • Photographer’’s Lighting Tripod for MV1
  • Attachment on Tripod to allow for the MV1 camera mount
  • A second iPad on a stand as well, which connects to control the MV1 remotely
  • Two powered speakers (PA system)
  • Extension cords (4) and a power strip.
  • Small Mackie Mixing Board (check out PreSonus’s packages to do a similar thing)
  • Bluetooth Receiver (wall powered). Amazon sells their own branded unit for $20.
  • 1/8” stereo to 1/4 plugs (to plug into mixer)
  • We do not print programs, so I put the program as a PDF in Google Drive, and then make a shortened URL using TinyURL, sending that link to parents a few days before the concert.  Google now allows for revisions, meaning that you update the Google file, and the file retains its same Google URL, meaning that you could theoretically save the most recent concert program to google and make a TinyURL for that file (file name: concertprogram.pdf, TinyURL: http://www.tinyurl.com/yourschoolchoir), and just update it for every concert.  This saves a lot of wasted paper, and gives parents a reason to be on their phones for the right reason during a concert.  If parents want a paper copy, I print them after the concert and mail them…still saving at least $100 and a lot of wasted paper.

I play accompaniments using my ukulele (and in our second concert, with student players, too) and backup tracks that I have created (on Notion, iReal Pro, or GarageBand) directly from forScore, pushing the audio from my iPad to the PA system via Bluetooth.  It works wonderfully.  I also plan on adding an Xvive 2 guitar controller to my ukulele to project it through the system in the spring.  I also leave the iPad controlling the MV1 behind the shell, starting the video before the concert and ending it afterwards.

I also stop at one point in the concert to take a photo of the choirs for our yearbook (using my iPhone 8).  Otherwise, we never get all of the students in one place wearing the right apparel at the same time ever again!

I set up the sound system behind our shell, and control volume right off the iPad.  We have a mic system in the gym for speaking, so I just use that system to address the audience.  In the future, I would like to have students introduce pieces—but in the midst of getting everything else ready, that is something that usually slips by.

If you need any help creating such a system for your school, please, send me an e-mail.  While the initial investment isn’t insignificant…the equipment will last for years.

I hope you have found this series helpful and that there have been a few apps or approaches that will enable you to more successful prepare for your next concert!  Happy New Year!  I hope 2018 is a great year for you, your families, and your programs!


PageFlip Dragonfly: One week of use

I have been using the PageFlip Dragonfly as a page turning device for the last week in class. The Dragonfly is a compact four-pedal hands-free device which I learned about from Matt Libera. I contacted PageFlip, introduced myself, and asked for the ability to buy refurbished model at a discount. PageFlip kindly offered a new model at a discount, knowing that I would be writing a review. I mention this in disclosure, as I know I am predisposed to have a positive opinion of products that are discounted or free (and if you are honest, you would, too).

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have owned several Bluetooth page turning devices, including the PageFlip Cicada, the AirTurn BT-105, the AirTurn PED, and now the PageFlip Dragonfly. I have shown these at conferences, blogged about them, and only used them in occasion. My workflow for the past seven years has been to work from my iPad from a piano, and then in front of a choir. Generally, I turn pages with a single touch (disabling turning by swipe, which I feel is too involved for normal use). On a rare occasion, I have used a pedal in performance, particularly when playing tuba. However…tuba music (at least in an ensemble) has two to three pages and page turns are pretty infrequent. All that changed last year as I incorporated ukulele into my teaching, and as I played with the choirs (while they sang). Suddenly I needed both hands, whereas if I was conducting, I was generally free to turn a page with one hand, particularly with an iPad. My device for the past couple of years has been the AirTurn PED. I like the PED, as it is small, and I also like that it works with Apple’s more advanced Bluetooth capabilities with App Direct support. Where I ran into problems was having two or more pages turn on me with a foot press–which even happened in our concert last spring. After the concert, I updated the firmware and still had issues. I even tried increasing the time between page turns via a pedal on forScore, but I was still flipping more than one page on a regular basis.

As I posted about previously, I don’t think this is a PED issue, I think it is user error with a heavy right foot that may not be letting up on the “page turn bump” in time.  The PED doesn’t use a physical “hinge” to turn pages.

And then Matt’s blog post on the PageFlip models came out in April and I couldn’t ignore the Dragonfly. I was unhappy with my page turning ability with the PED, and the potential of a foot pedal that could advance (or go backwards) a song in addition to a page was enticing. Eventually I contacted PageFlip and the rest is history.

I have now used the PageFlip for a full week of classes, and overall I am pleased with it. Unlike the PED, which uses Apple’s special Bluetooth functionality (note: you can make the PED work without it), the Dragonfly acts as a normal Bluetooth keyboard. Yes, I occasionally ended up with a double page turn–but this happened less often than with the PED. And there were a couple of occasions where I hit the top pedal instead of the lower pedal, progressing a song. What I have found is that it is best for me to use my left foot instead of my right foot to use the device.

I was also surprised to find out that Keynote for iOS, which I use for classes (warm-ups, sight reading, and announcements) functions with the Dragonfly, where the PED in the App Direct mode often does not work in Keynote. For the record, that isn’t the purpose of App Direct…but I want to mention it before anyone goes out and tries to make it happen.  I used the Keynote functionality of the Dragonfly quite a bit this week.  I didn’t previously know that Keynote could be controlled in this way, which is proof that there is always something else to learn.  On a related note, if you have the PED in mode 2, it too can control Keynote.

I like the mechanical switches (power, mode) of the Dragonfly, and I like the LED lighting on the pedals. I miss the compact lightweight features of the PED, but the features of the Dragonfly are worth the sacrifice in size and weight.

In truth, the PED and the Dragonfly are not in the same category of device…the Dragonfly should be compared to AirTurn’s Quad or the IK Multimedia Blueboard. That said, the PED and the Dragonfly are all that I have…and the Dragonfly does pack the most features into the smallest overall footprint of any four button Bluetooth page turning device on the market.  Again, I like the addition of the Pedal LEDs (also on PageFlip’s two pedal model, the Firefly),  as well as the physical buttons.

As a note…you do have to edit forScore’s settings to use the PageFlip, but if needed, you can also customize mode buttons on the PageFlip via a computer (and their program and a USB cable) to add further functions (e.g. Matt Libera suggests using it to enable annotation).  My thought?  If you have an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil (I don’t yet), annotation happens automatically with a lot of programs.  So I have not custom mapped the pedal yet.

I’m pleased with the Dragonfly, and I will keep using it…so, yes, I would recommend it to others. Aron Nelson, developer of unrealBook, says very good things about the Blueboard. And I still think that AirTurn makes excellent devices, too. Isn’t it wonderful to be able to choose between a number of good devices…and even to be able to own some of each?  If you buy a device, remember that it will outlast your current iPad.  The expense of a page turning device should amortize over time.  I have no doubt that my original PageFlip Cicada would still work if I still owned it, as would the BT-105.  My PED has been in use since 2015.

PageFlip website

AirTurn website

IK Multimedia Blueboard website

Previous Posts on Page Turning Devices

A new accessory…PageFlip Dragonfly

I had a delivery waiting for me after school today…a PageFlip Dragonfly.  It is a four-button Bluetooth page turner that is in a very compact package.  Years ago, I had purchased a PageFlip Cicada, a previous model from PageFlip, and have also been given an AirTurn BT-105 (since given away at a music conference to another music teacher) and the AirTurn PED.  I won’t get into specifics, but the companies aren’t a fan of each other, and at the time I was given a BT-105, the AirTurn pedal was a far superior device.

To be honest, my need for a page turner has been limited in past years, but as I now play ukulele most of the time in class, I need to be hands free.  I don’t know why, but for me, the PED often results in a double page turn, which has been devastating in rehearsal and performance.  I updated the PED firmware and changed settings in forScore, but the problem remains.  More about that later.

A few weeks ago, Matt Libera posted about the PageFlip models.  My interest was peaked by the four-pedal design of the Dragonfly (other four pedal solutions are much larger) and Matt’s conclusion that the PageFlip models have matched or exceeded the quality of AirTurn.  I don’t want to get into that discussion, but I did want to see for myself if I could make use do a four pedal system, what the “new” PageFlip models are like, and if my double page turn issue would resolve with a different foot pedal.

My first impressions of the Dragonfly are positive…it is big, but not much larger than my previous Cicada.  PageFlip has moved on from its prior “creaky” physical pedal, and there is something nice about physical on/off buttons, led lights on the pedals, and easy to select function buttons.  I don’t know how this will work in my life…but I will start using it tomorrow.  Now that I never carry a MacBook with me everywhere, I can handle the extra weight of the Dragonfly.  The PED, however, has been so easy to carry everywhere for the past years.

This may sound crazy, but I don’t blame the PED directly for the page turn issue.  The PED has a different type of page turning mechanism, sort of a bump, that I have issues pressing while standing up.  I think I may be hitting a second page turn while trying to press the pedal while standing and playing ukulele.  I think the older BT-105 might be a better solution for my case use–but the Dragonfly also approximates that larger-pedal use, plus adds the additional two buttons.  As a further note, I have the PageFlip set to turn pages forward/backwards with the big pedals, and to move from score to score in the set list with the higher second pedals.

I also have to state that I’m not going to take sides on what the better company is…PageFlip has clearly improved their product, and I use a variety of AirTurn products on a regular basis.  For example, the Go Stand and Manos tablet mount travel with me to every gig.

I will clearly write more about this pedal in the future after getting a chance to use it.  Until then, I refer you to Matt Libera’s recent post (which contains links to other things he has written about pedals).  Also: PageFlip products can be found at PageFlip.com.

PageFlip Pedals

I have been a supporter of AirTurn products for a long time, but I owned a PageFlip Cicada as my first page turner.   I didn’t have any issues with that device OR my AirTurn products (I bring my PED with me everywhere, even if I do not use it very often).

Matt Libera just wrote a fantastic post about all the new PageFlip models, including a discount code. I find myself tempted to buy the Dragonfly model.   Check out Matt’s fantastic post at: