Music Education & Technology Podcast Update


Paul Shimmons ( and I are currently putting together our second episode of the podcast, and our featured guest is Micah Blouin from PreSonus.

Incidentally, you can now find our Podcast in iTunes (you can search on your phone’s Podcast app):

Also: another reader/listener pointed out that used to have a podcast as well:  Our intent isn’t to compete with that resource, so I wanted to make sure that I listed it here.  You can’t have too many resources when it comes to technology in music education


Note Rush (Audio-Sensing Note Game)

I was recently contacted by the developer of a new app in the App Store (released in June) called Note Rush.  The app “gameifies” music reading by detecting the sound of an instrument versus the pitch showed on the screen.  It is a universal app on both iPhone and iPad.

Note Rush features three skins (ladybug, space, and soccer) and fifteen levels (five for treble clef, five for treble and bass clef, and five for bass clef).  The app first asks you to play middle c, which establishes middle c for the instrument.  In other words, if you have clarinet, it will SEE c, but play B-flat.  This allows the program to painlessly take care of transposing instruments.  Then notes come across the screen, and you play those notes.  Depending on your speed (the goal is displayed), you earn stars for your effort.

(The three skins of Note Rush)

The app will eventually allow you to set your own parameters for your own levels, and may possibly allow users to share self-created levels with other users.

I pulled out my ukulele, and was able to work successfully through levels 1-3 on the Treble Clef area.  I couldn’t go any further, as the 4th level required G below middle C.  The program worked perfectly with my ukulele.


Five levels with three settings, “custom” coming soon

The levels are geared towards pianists first, with the intent to move along rather quickly.  This may not work with your instrument or how you would want to teach instruments, so the coming ability to create your own levels or to customize the game will be much appreciated.  For example, I would want to make levels for ukulele using String 3 (C & D), then String 2 (E, F, an G), then Strings 2 & 3.  If you are teaching beginner band, you might want to make different tests for different instruments.

In summary, Note Rush is attractive and innovative in its approach to transposing instruments (you don’t have to choose an instrument).  It will truly show its value for music educators in the near future when you are able to design your own challenges.  There are other apps that share the ability to assess played pitch versus printed pitch for various instruments with customized settings, such as Staff Wars Live, another app I recommend.  However, Staff Wars Live only has one theme, whereas Note Rush has three skins, and Note Rush has the famous “three star” gameification which our students have been trained to crave through popular games such as Angry Birds.  The app is currently (September 2016) priced at $3.99, and when customized exercises are available, will be very much worth that price.  Just remember that the ability to customize levels is not yet available (again, as of September 2016).

Thank you to Note Rush for a promo code, and as a reminder, when you purchase an app from a referral link, a percentage of the purchase comes back to the author out of Apple’s 30% of the sale price–the developer continues to receive their full portion of the app purchase price.

The Music Education & Technology Podcast

Paul Shimmons ( and I have teamed up to record the first in what we hope is a series of podcasts on technology and music education.  We had intended for this first episode to be an interview with forScore, but due to a number of complications, we were unable to include an interview with the forScore team (hopefully we can make an interview happen in the future).  We had 42 minutes of a podcast already prepared, so we wanted to get this first podcast out there.  For those of you who listen to podcasts, the podcast should also be available in iTunes.

Paul and I would love to spend time with developers and companies that touch the field of music education, and we also hope to bring interviews with other leaders in the music education field.  We would also be open to sponsorship (we would be happy to read an ad) for the costs associated with hosting the podcast.  Feel free to e-mail the podcast e-mail address at metpodcast@ g m a i (no spaces).

The first podcasts establishes our regular format, with discussions about forScore, Finale 25, and Dorico amongst other subjects.

We also want to feature listener questions, so feel free to e-mail us with questions!



Notion 6 is Available Today

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 4.32.14 PM

Earlier today, Presonus introduced Notion 6, its latest version of the Notion music notation program.

Over the past few years, Notion has become a key program for me for a number of reasons:

  • iOS version
  • Excellent sounds
  • Easy audio export (with an embedded DAW)
  • Ease of making ukulele charts with embedded fretboards

Remember: I am a Finale-first user, as I have used Finale for over 20 years.  I will do much of my raw editing in Finale, and then bring the result (via MusicXML) to Notion (either on my Mac or on my iPad–note: the iOS version works on iPhone, too).

I agree with George Hess that Notion is “the fastest, most intuitive program I’ve ever used.

Notion has never balked on my “old” 2008 MacBook, and it has run just about any sort of MIDI connection I throw I at it (I cannot say the same for other programs).  If I had to, I could potentially move to Notion as my single notation solution.

“Big” news items for Notion 6 include a new integration with their DAW, Studio One (ver 3), a new visual interface, and the official statement from the PreSonus website:

Notable improvements include: cross-platform handwriting recognition; new layout control and features for professional score output; drag to respace measures and systems; new instruments from Soundiron; new video window controls for faster scoring to picture; the new Notion Scores library, with over 100 great works; updated Music XML support for seamless transfer with other apps; MP3 export; MIDI over ReWire for improved integration with leading digital audio workstations; and unprecedented side-by-side workflow integration with Studio One Artist or Professional on the same computer or between multiple computers on the same network.

I don’t do that much work with DAWs, so whereas I understand the desire to have DAW integration with ReWire, I don’t personally use that feature.  ReWire compatibility was also included with the new Finale 25.

The upgrade price to Notion 6 is $50; the purchase price of Notion 6 is $149.  Incidentally, if you want the full library of sounds for Notion 6, that is a $299 investment.  That may seem like a lot, but that includes ALL of the sounds, where $299 just gets you going with the deluxe libraries of Finale and Sibelius.  The purchase of Studio One that works with Notion represents another $100 (minimum) investment.

Should you purchase Notion?  If you have an iPad and want to write music, Notion is still the best option, and it works with the Windows/Mac version.  The iPad version, while it does not have all the features of the Windows/Mac version, can display anything that the Windows/Mac version can created.

If you want to work with software that is directly created in connection with a DAW, Notion would seem to be a good bet.

If you do any sort of work exporting audio rehearsal files, or want an easy path into notation, Notion is a good purchase.  If you are a high-level notation user that needs custom control over every aspect of a notated score, Notion isn’t the program for you.

If you are a MuseScore user, it might be worth the purchase of Notion just to hear your scores from a better quality playback option (admittedly, the iPad version shares those sounds, just with a smaller expressive range with a nod to the storage space on a device).  As you know, no software program can compete with the price point of MuseScore.

However, if you are a Finale or Sibelius user, you will need to look at your workflow and decide if another application makes sense for you.  The price of the software is certainly enticing, as the purchase price is that same as an upgrade on similar platforms.

Again, Notion has become a major tool in my toolkit, and I certainly feel safe recommending it to others.  Like every notation product, it isn’t perfect, and they are always working to squash bugs.  But it is a program that I would recommend (just as I do MuseScore and Finale).

Addendum: Apparently Notion for iOS is on sale (thanks, Paul Shimmons) for $8.00!  That’s a must-buy.  You can also read Paul’s thoughts about Notion 6 on his blog at


Reinventing your old MacBook

Back in 2008, I generally stepped away from Windows computers in my home.  Our school district was still Windows-based (at the time), and I eventually bought a small Asus T-100 to use when helping teachers (through the blog) with Windows issues.

As I have mentioned recently, I have to retire the Asus as it is a 32-bit computer and too many programs require 64-bit operation these days.

My MacBook dates back to November 2008.  I originally bought it to make iPhone apps.  I quickly learned that Cocoa, Objective C, and Xcode were things that I would need significant training with to be able to program…and I didn’t have the time as a teacher and parent to learn them (I would still like to, and if I won the lottery, I would want to be an adjunct professor at some college and then a programming student).  My MacBook was $1700 with the included Apple Care (I do recommend it on a MacBook), and it was a tough price to pay.

Eight years later, I am still using that machine.  I have put in a couple of traditional hard drives over the years, had the DVD drive replaced under warranty, and put in the maximum amount of memory.  Until this fall, this MacBook has been supported by Apple OS upgrades, so it is running the latest version of OS X (El Capitan).  Sadly, Apple has announced this will be the last version it can run–it is just too old.  Early in its life, I dropped the MacBook (while in a bag) and there is a good dent in the corner, and there are lots of other scratches on the machine.  But the machine was slow, and it does lack some features that come with newer MacBooks.

All that said, I breathed new life into my MacBook, which will keep me from having to buy a new MacBook (one is coming, but this extends its life further).  First, I was sent the WIDI Bud by CME for a review, and now my old MacBook has BLE MIDI (Bluetooth MIDI).  Second, I bought a SSD Drive from Amazon on Amazon Prime Day–a 480GB Drive for $92.

Let me be clear about this: If you have a MacBook that uses a traditional drive, an SSD drive will make your machine into a completely different device.

On this older MacBook, replacing a hard drive is relatively easy…with newer MacBooks, it is possible, but requires a little more work to do.  You need to have an enclosure for a new drive (take a look at those offered by OWC, or just buy the kit containing drive and enclosure).  Then you install the new drive in the enclosure, connect it to the MacBook, and run a cloning program.  I recommend Carbon Copy Cloner, which has worked for me every time I have cloned my Hard Drive.

When that program is done, you turn off your computer, make sure you ground yourself (avoid static electricity), disassemble your computer, remove the old drive, install the new drive, put everything back together, and start up the computer.

You will be left with a MacBook that is exactly the same, but incredibly faster.

If you have a MacBook Air, you already have an SSD drive.  So do the new MacBooks.

All that said, I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase a used MacBook from 2009 or 2010 (which should still be eligible for Mac OS Sierra) on the cheap, buy a new SSD drive, and walk away with a computer that will last for years.

The real “line in the sand,” however, is 2012.  2012 was the year where MacBooks could communicate via AirDrop with iPads and iPhones, and when BLE was integrated into the device.  So for a machine that will last even longer, look for 2012 or newer.

I’m not sure how much longer I will be using this MacBook.  It still has cosmetic damage and the battery just doesn’t last (it is on its 3rd battery).  But it works with everything that I throw at it, and even programs that used to struggle (e.g. Finale 2014.5), it can run those programs without an issue thanks to a speedy SSD drive.

Of course, if you are terrible with electronics and struggle to use a screwdriver or to run a program on a computer–don’t try to replace your hard drive.  Find someone else that can do it with you or for you.

But if you are a MacBook user whose computer is old and slow…putting in a new drive is a great way to breathe new life into an old purchase.

If you are a Windows user, you’ll need to check forums to see what options exist for your machine.

One other thought: make sure that your SSD drive is TRIM capable, and after your new drive is installed, make sure to turn on TRIM support.  TRIM allows the Mac OS to properly manage the new SSD drive to make sure that data is stored and erased properly for the maximum life of the drive.