New version of Notion for iOS

We have been traveling and my access to the Internet has been limited–but I haven’t seen this news posted anywhere, so I wanted to mention that you can–right now— download/buy a version of Notion for iOS which is a universal binary–meaning that it can be used on iPhone and iPad. 

Notion is a big app (in terms of download size 140 MB before sounds)–but it comes with a great selection of sounds, plus a chance to buy more sounds for pennies on the dollar (versus any other computer notation app or even Notion’s computer app).  

Notion is one of my “must buy”‘ apps for iPad–and it now works the iPhone.  There are also a number of interface changes with the app, including a new look and use of iCloud.

I have been a beta tester for Notion, and as such, I could not say anything about the app until it was released. PreSonus remains committed to the Notion products, and the app will continue to be developed. Some early adopters of this version are experiencing some crashing (seen in the App Store reviews)–but I am sure that PreSonus will address those crashes with an update in the very near future. 

On a related note, Symphony Pro, the other true music notation app for iOS is also providing more information about its new version, which is coming soon (target date of September). One of Symphony Pro’s new features will be the ability to use a Bluetooth QWERTY keyboard for shortcuts (to my knowledge, nobody has done that with an iOS music app before, and it makes sense.  I wouldn’t mind seeing some of Notion’s computer program shortcuts included in a similar way). 

Professional Development?

Every now and then, I think about Professional Development (PD) in terms of institutional offerings. This blog is committed to providing PD for music teachers who often receive little topic-specific PD for music or music education technology from their district, and my presentations–whose cost is usually covered out of my own pocket– are also meant to be PD for fellow teachers.  If you have attended a workshop I have taught–PD is at the core of those workshops. 

(I don’t mean to get stuck on that aspect of payment, but I think it is important to note that most conferences require the presenter to pay registration fees to present.  Knowing this can help you further appreciate fellow teachers who present at conferences–whether the sessions are great or not-so-great.)

A recent post by Tim Holt (a technology integration leader in Texas) suggested that we might not need designated PD time as we have in the past

Once again, I find myself not fully agreeing with the suggested concept. My own district has moved to a Ed Camp model of PD, providing time, but not designating topic–allowing teachers to choose their own topics. This is a great model for some teachers, and it saves the district thousands of dollars versus the old method of hiring or training PD facilitators.  

Mr. Holt suggests that teachers should be able to train other teachers (using Twitter and collaborative Word documents as an example). 

I think both of these are good models…but I also think that the “old” model shouldn’t be thrown out, either. If you are adopting a full 1:1, or a common new technology–the old model where the tech is introduced and basic skills are used in creating a product, is still valuable. Ed Camps are great, but should not be the only model used.  I have seen teachers misuse Ed Camp, and Mr. Holt’s example involves skills accessible on nearly any platform that should be available to every teacher (whether they choose to use Twitter or not). 

In music education, even some “basic” technology tools (think music notation) become wickedly advanced in little time.   Sometimes we need a master teacher and a required outcome to learn.  This summer, in my workshop on notation, I asked participants to choose a notation product and to do certain things with it. While they could have done that at home, my statement was, “Feel free to leave, but in my experience, we never set the time aside to actually learn the software–so this is your chance to do it.”  Nearly everyone stayed until the end of the day. 

It is also dangerous to expect teachers to simply learn on their own, without recompensation.  Our district tried that one summer.  Yuck. You are entitled–and wise–to use your summer break to refresh yourself for the next year.   Spend time with your family. Relax. Sleep in (if you don’t have small children). You should not be required to give that time up for PD.   You can choose to do so…but you should not be required to do so.  Paid “required” summer PD is also questionable (but sometimes unavoidable). In such cases, scheduling has to be extremely flexible.  When we opened a technology-rich high school in 2009, we offered SMARTBoard 101 and 102 in different sessions over a number of days, times, and weeks of the summer. 

I like to see a mixture of PD offerings…Ed Camps, teacher sharing time, optional PD experiences, and school-scheduled traditional PD.  Again, many scheduled PD topics may not directly relate to your teaching as a music educator–but some can.  As always, take what you can and use it in your instruction.

Big news about MusicXML today

Other sites are carrying this news today (I recommend reading the Sibelius Blog for its coverage on this issue), but as of today, control of MusicXML has been given from MakeMusic to the Music Notation Control Group. Additionally, control of SMuFL (Standard Music Font Layout) has also been given from Steinberg to the Music Notation Control Group.  The creator of MusicXML (Michael Good), the project manager for SMuFL (Daniel Spreadbury), and the CEO of Noteflight (Joe Berkovitz) remain involved as co-chairs of the committee. 

What this means is that these items will become a standard format not owned by a company but still watched over by a governing group.  It is an interesting move for MakeMusic, although posts by Michael Good have hinted that this day has been coming for a while. 

While this news may not seem very important to music education, the role of MusicXML, which allows the transfer of notation between programs, is greatly important to music education (e.g. bringing something from NotateMe to Notion, or from Sibelius to Finale). Also important is MusicXML’s size compared to native files in many music notation apps. SMuFL’s integration with MusicXML will help to make sure that notation moved from one program to another is even more accurate as all possible characters for music notation (SMuFL) are represented in the MusicXML container. 

In other words, this is a bit of background news that will quietly impact your life as you work with notation apps. As I mentioned at my workshop with the WCME last week, a notation app without MusicXML is not an application that is worth using in the modern era. 

A Review of the PUC+, from Zivix (makers of the JamStik)–with Video!

The PUC+ from Zivix

The PUC+ from Zivix

This review follows a post I made on Monday where I reported that Zivix has released a campaign on Indiegogo for their latest product, the PUC+.

Zivix is best known (so far) for creating the JamStik.  One of the challenges Zivix faced was finding a way to connect the JamStik to an iPad (or Mac) wirelessly.  Although some Bluetooth approaches existed at the time, there was no “standard” for Bluetooth via MIDI on any platform.

MIDI is an old standard (established in 1981) that is a way that a digital instrument can transmit information to a computer or another digital instrument.  While there has been a little tweaking to the standard over the years, the core functionality remains the same.  Put another way, the standard was so well written than another standard has not been needed.  As a result of MIDI’s roots in a day where computers were significantly less capable than an Apple Watch, the standard requires a very small amount of data to be transmitted to work effectively.  This makes MIDI a good computer process to implement and transmit over Bluetooth.

Thankfully, Zivix did not create their own Bluetooth MIDI solution and instead developed a way to make a JamStik into a wi-fi hotspot for the transmission of MIDI data from a JamStik to an iPad or a computer.  In the process, the introduced (and fund-raised) for a device called a PUC, which would act as an intermediary between an existing MIDI five pin device and an iPad or a computer.  In other words, the PUC simply adapted the technology that was being created for the JamStik—and if memory serves, the PUC shipped before the original JamStik.

In the fall of 2014, Apple announced a new Bluetooth MIDI standard over Bluetooth LE (low energy) which is found in late-model iOS devices and Macs (my 2008 MacBook is NOT Bluetooth LE enabled).  And while a few Bluetooth MIDI devices have been introduced since last fall (the mi.1 MIDI adapter, the C. 24 keyboard, and the JamStik+), the music technology industry has not been quick to adapt to the technology.  Apple recently joined the Bluetooth standards committee—and I am willing to bet that Apple’s Bluetooth MIDI feature will soon be available to all other platforms.

Integration of Bluetooth MIDI into existing devices is going to take time (likely the update of existing models or all new models).  Zivix (and a few other smaller companies) were uniquely suited to bring these first devices to market.  Some owners of original JamStiks and PUCs are upset that their devices are not Bluetooth—but that was never offered as part of their respective campaigns, and again, there was no Bluetooth MIDI standard at the time.

Zivix was kind enough to send me a PUC+ for review, and although I recorded a video review on Saturday, iMovie was not working on my iPad, so I was unable to edit the video until last night.  In the video, I connected my Casio PX-350 to the PUC+ for the first time.

The PUC+ really couldn’t be any easier to use—twist off the bottom cover, put in two AA batteries, spin the cover back on, hold down the power button until it turns on, and plug in the MIDI cable from your keyboard.

As I have shown with other Bluetooth MIDI devices:

  • Go to GarageBand
  • Go to settings (in GarageBand), choose “Bluetooth Devices,” select the PUC+ (it will start with a name that says “ZX”)
  • Use GarageBand, or minimize GarageBand and use any other Core MIDI app, such as Notion, Symphony Pro, or more.
  • As long as you have connected the device in GarageBand, and GarageBand is in the background, you can use the PUC+ connected device with any Core MIDI app.

While I have been leading workshops at the Wisconsin Center for Music Education this week, I have used the PUC+ in workshops (attaching it to a keyboard at the center), and I even made a trip to Guitar Center to try the PUC+ with several keyboards.

There are several things to keep in mind:

  • The PUC+ is a single-directional device—you are attaching MIDI OUT to your iPad or computer.  There is no MIDI IN back to your MIDI device.
  • Whereas the other MIDI adapter I have shown in the past—the mi.1—is less expensive, the mi.1 does not physically fit in many keyboards.  As it accepts a MIDI cable, the PUC+ will fit with those keyboards.  The mi.1 also requires a powered MIDI pin from your keyboard—many keyboards do not have this pin.  The PUC+ does not require this powered pin to work–but the MIDI device should still be powered.
  • In general, I have found that unpowered MIDI devices do not work well with either the PUC+ or the mi.1.  This includes my USB AKAI LPK25, an unpowered device that can run off my iPad.
  • Batteries on the PUC+, according to Zivix, last about 7 hours.  You can use a USB brick to the PUC+’s micro USB slot if you don’t want to deal with batteries.
  • Some devices, such as my Casio PX-350, worked via USB MIDI to the PUC+ (you will see this in the video).  I couldn’t get some other devices at Guitar Center to do the same.
  • Remember that Bluetooth MIDI allows you to connect a number of devices to one iPad or computer at once.

My only criticism with the PUC+ is that they include a Y adapter (this adapter is shown in the video) for USB connections.  The PUC+ is large enough that they could have included a full-size female USB port in the back (in addition to the micro USB) for people wishing to use a USB MIDI connection.  At the same time, my guess is that nearly every device with a MIDI USB connection has a traditional MIDI out as well, so perhaps an additional port would have gone unused for a variety of people (I have generally learned to trust the designers of hardware and software, and that they know more than I do—but it is still okay to bring up questions).

Do you need a PUC+?  Possibly.  There are a few keyboards on the market (or coming) that will have Bluetooth MIDI integrated into the keyboard itself—right now, that would be the Miselu C.24 ($279) and the Xkey Air 25 (MSRP $199) or 37(MSRP $299), (hopefully) coming this fall.  So, if you want the collapsable C. 24 (which I love), or want to wait for the XKey models—you won’t need the PUC+.

If you have an existing powered MIDI device, you have two options.  The Quicco Sound mi.1 might work for you—but it physically needs to fit, and the MIDI ports from your keyboard need to carry a powered pin (not all keyboards have this).  And I’m not advertising for the mi.1, but it is available on Amazon for $45.  The PUC+ costs more, but there is a peace of mind that it will fit and work with more keyboards.  A powered “pin” from the keyboard’s MIDI port is not required of the PUC+ (the AA batteries provide its power), but you may need to factor the price of batteries or a USB charger and longer micro USB cable into your price calculations (side note: Zivix may want to offer this as a “side kit” for purchase).  I won’t lie to you—if the mi.1 works with your keyboard, the end performance is the same as the PUC+, but that peace of mind might be worth the price difference.  And although I haven’t discussed this with anyone at Zivix, I would be surprised if they wouldn’t be willing to offer a discount of some kind to schools once the product hits the market.

Right now, you can buy a PUC+ at a discount as a part of the Indiegogo campaign, whereas it will cost $130 after the campaign.  These fundraiser campaigns have been the center of a lot of bad press recently, as many products never make it to market.  Zivix has already put three crowd-sourced items on the market (the JamStik, the PUC, and the JamStik+), and again, for the most part, the PUC+ contains the Bluetooth technology from the JamStik+.  I see no reason why they wouldn’t ship the product on time.  You are very safe sponsoring a product from Zivix (The goal is to ship in September).  I also love the fact that Zivix is a Minnesota company.

In closing—if the PUC+ appeals to you in any way—and if you are a music educator with an iPad or Mac, it should—join the Indiegogo campaign today!

PUC+ on Indiegogo NOW!

The PUC+ (image created by Zivix)

The PUC+ (image created by Zivix)

Zivix, the makers of the JamStik (and new JamStik+) are offering the new PUC+ on Indiegogo now.  The original PUC acted as a wi-fi hotspot, allowing you to connect just about any MIDI device to an iOS device or Mac without cords.  The new PUC+ connects using LE (low energy) Bluetooth.


If you have followed, you know that I am in love with Bluetooth MIDI…it changes the game.

Why would you want the PUC+?  Simply to be able to connect a MIDI device your (recent) iPad or Mac using Bluetooth.  Right now, you can support the PUC+ initiative and get a PUC+ for a great price–making your current MIDI device a Bluetooth MIDI device, without having to buy a new device that is Bluetooth enabled.

I have talked about another device, the mi.1, which is less expensive–but works with a much smaller range of devices.

I was sent a preproduction PUC+ and will be writing about it soon–I have had some issues editing the video that will accompany the review.

Really–if you have an existing MIDI device–or devices–the PUC+ is wonderful (review coming soon) and a great buy (Hint: buy one today).


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