A big day for music technology…

Two major items hit the news today that have the potential to impact our lives as musicians and music educators.

The first is that MusicFirst introduced PracticeFirst, a new system that will allow green note/red note assessment for $6 per student, with additional titles being added for an additional cost (teachers can also provide their own literature, which is what I would do). I haven’t see or used the system (other than some screen shots at http://www.musicfirst.com), so I cannot tell you how the service compares to SmartMusic or Music Prodigy. I can tell you that the pricing does come very close to affordable for even my current situation where student socio-economic factors are an issue. $6 per year, for the same general ability to assess student pitch and rhythm, versus $40 for SmartMusic and $30 for Music Prodigy, is one heck of a deal. Furthermore, PracticeFirst is web-based (meaning any device, potentially including phones), and it is also supposed to assess tone. I still need to see what Weezic will release in this area. I would still love to see a buy-once app that didn’t have to rely on servers, as $6 per student is still nearly $2000 for my program. That is $10,000 over five years, and $20,000 over ten years. That is a significant investment, and SmartMusic and Music Prodigy would be more! Remember, you aren’t getting much content with PracticeFirst, but with advances in scanning, it is easier than ever to scan music, and furthermore, you shouldn’t be assessing full pieces of music…you should be selectively choosing the measures you will assess. For the cost savings over SmartMusic ($11,000 for my program), I can make my own assessments, plus as a choral director, I always had to make my own literature assessments anyway.

Again, we don’t know how PracticeFirst will compare with other programs, but it will be fun to find out.

As a side note, also check out the resources at www.odogy.com for additional green note/red note applications in music. There is a web application called CommunityBand, as well as a Recorder Application, a Music Share Application, and a Duet Maker. All are priced very affordably for music education.

Finally, the handwriting music on a tablet space has really heated up. The Sibelius Blog covered StaffPad, a handwriting app mainly for the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and the Microsoft Surface 3 [The Pro is the better option with the larger 4:3 screen], about two weeks ago. This week, Neuratron announced its pending third version of NotateMe for iOS and Android. Today the Sibelius Blog broke the news about TouchNotation, a new handwriting music app from Kawai (the link is a referral link. If you buy the app from the link, I will relieve a 7% commission from Apple, but the cost is the same, and the company makes the same amount). The app was live in Japan first, and there is a free version available as well. The app is on sale for $7.99 until the end of April, and has various in-app purchases. I have only played with the app for a few moments, but it seems to work well enough, although there doesn’t seem to be a way to add lyrics (not so great for a choir director or general music teacher).

I am intrigued by the entrance of Kawai into the app space. NotateMe remains the app I would recommend on iOS or Android, as it allows for the PhotoScore In-App Purchase, which is worth its weight in gold. And I don’t have a Surface Pro 3 (I would buy myself a new MacBook and an Apple Watch first), so I have not purchased StaffPad (which would not work so well on my Asus T-100 tablet without an active stylus). But it seems that StaffPad has captured the excitement of a number of musicians and executives at Microsoft. I have seen a number of musicians who are buying a Surface Pro 3 just for StaffPad. On a similar note. I know musicians who bought iPads for forScore and unrealBook.

I also hope you didn’t miss the news about the next version of Sibelius (8?) that will also utilize the Surface Pro’s active stylus. It seems that if you are a musician who uses Windows, it is time to buy the Surface Pro 3.

So…that’s the big news today…PracticeFirst, odogy.com, and Touch Notation, as well as mention of StaffPad, NotateMe 3, and Sibelius. Aren’t options wonderful?

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Weezic…Another Tool?

Over the past few weeks, Weezic has come back on my radar. I have known about Weezic for some time, but have not written about it. Weezic, in the past, has been a company that has provided a multi-platform service with “augmented sheet music” that allows you to see the music, transpose the music, see a video of the music, and to assess your playing of that music. Most of the songs are geared towards more advanced players. As a resutl, the service didn't really have much use to me as a high school or middle school music teacher, so I never blogged about it.

Weezic has an upcoming service that suddenly puts them on my interest list–they will allow teachers to be able to upload their own MusicXML files and to have students be assessed to those MusicXML files.

Think: “Low Cost Smart-Music” Weezic has a library of some 1200 songs, but those songs are not the massive library of content that SmartMusic has (and continues to add to).

I know band directors who choose their music based on its availablity of SmartMusic. Unless they are willing to scan their literature (unlikely), Weezic isn't going to be a solution for those band directors.

However, if you are in a low income school (such as my current situation) where students cannot afford $40 per year; or if you are a choir director (as I am) where none of our content is on SmartMusic, Weezic's upcoming education services are very interesting.

The company just won the “best educational software” award from NAMM (Winter NAMM), and was present at TMEA. They did not have a demonstration of the new educational features, which should be rolling out in the next two months.

Don't get me wrong–I have presented sessions on how to use SmartMusic with choir. However, at the time, I was working at a high school with practice rooms. My current school (same district) has no practice rooms, and although we are 1:1, I cannot expect or ask my students to buy subscriptions to SmartMusic (many of my students struggle to buy an $8 t-shirt for choir concerts). So the possibility of a much cheaper alternative is appealing, especially when I have to provide my own content anyway. Again, for directors that use existing content, Weezic may not be the answer. You somehow have to get music into MusicXML (or Finale or Sibelius) format.

I have signed up for an educational account, and will be blogging about the educational features when they come on line!