On the Music Tech Teacher Podcast


A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to visit with Katie Wardrobe on her podcast via Skype.  Katie is an Australian music teacher, technology trainer, podcast host (and more) who is the only person I know that has been able to make a full-time job out of helping other music teachers use music technology.  And, may I add, Katie is perfect for the job as she is able to blend instruction, her natural ability to put people at ease, organization, and of course, valuable resources together in one place.  She offers a subscription based community of music educators who benefit from her instruction and resources–and you can check out that community at her website (midnightmusic.com.au).

Our conversation was split into two parts–the first part being about music technology in general, and the second part about ukulele.  The first link went live last week–and I failed to post about that as I have been busy arranging some music for our high school choirs as well as doing some ukulele work.  Now that the second link is out, I figured I would post about both podcast episodes at the same time.

If you haven’t subscribed to Katie’s podcast–you should do so.

You can find the links to our discussion below (to Katie’s Podcast area on the Midnight Music website) or you can find them on Apple Podcasts/Google Play.


Two App Updates (9/10/18)

I just saw that two apps, neither new, have been updated recently. Treble Cat (and Treble Cat HD), a note reading game, has been refreshed in look and style (I assume we’ll see a similar update to Bass Cat and Rhythm Cat in the future).

I also noticed that Music Memos has been updated. Music Memos remains one of the apps that surprises people the most as I present sessions. Music Memos was invented by Apple to replace the need for musicians to use Voice Notes to “jot down” musical ideas (this was quite common). Music Memos takes a musical recording and analyzes the key, tempo, and harmonic structure–and adds bass and drums to the recording. Ever need to make a quick accompaniment for an ensemble? Try Music Memos. You can also export the final project to Garage Band (Mac only…hoping for iOS integration in the future), or you can export audio as an audio file. Yes, you can edit the program’s interpretation of the chords. When I show this app to audiences, there is always a gasp of awe–even with collegiate students. If you haven’t tried Music Memos, do so–and it is FREE…another wonderful gift for musicians and music educators from Apple.

Finale 26 Sneak Peeks Coming Soon

I would be remiss if I did not mention MakeMusic’s announcement from earlier today that they will soon be offering sneak peeks about Finale 26. There is no word (yet) on release date, but it has been quite a while (2016) since Finale 25 was released, and all updates since that time have been free to owners of the software.

Without a doubt, the margin in the music notation industry continues to shrink, as existing programs keep improving, and newer players (e.g. Dorico) keep expanding. We also cannot forget the impact of freeware, specifically MuseScore. Add to that the online editors (Noteflight, and Flat.io) and you have a very crowded space, indeed (and that doesn’t even factor in any of the iOS apps or StaffPad!).

Can the market continue to support three major notation programs, plus “next level programs” (such as Notion) when MuseScore exists? This isn’t a new thought on this blog, but it is more true than ever. And I am still amazed that SmartMusic (Finale’s sister product) has its own web-based notation editor!

MakeMusic is fully aware of the current state of music notation, and they know what is at stake with Finale 26. I expect to see awesome new features, bug fixes, and an overall improved user experience.

Watch the Finale Blog closely for future updates about Finale 26.

Noteflight Marketplace

Noteflight officially announced “Noteflight Marketplace” yesterday. If you’re not familiar with Noteflight, it is one of two web-based music notation programs that work on every device (well, the iPad isn’t always the best experience, but other than that…). Some time ago, Hal Leonard bought the company (this is directly related to the marketplace announcement), and the company has started to push the boundaries in terms of notation, education, and now distribution of music. This is exactly what we need to see in a technology-rich world.

In terms of education, Noteflight introduced Noteflight Learn a couple of years ago. Noteflight Learn is a solution for education that not only gave students access to the notation editor in a COPPA compliant environment, the program also gave students and teachers access to a optional music library (filled with Hal Leonard titles), as well as a way to record audio (e.g. student playing) and share those files with the teacher.

Noteflight’s latest development is the Noteflight Marketplace. While anyone can buy music from the Marketplace, the Marketplace allows anyone age 18 or older with a Noteflight Premium Subscription (which is actually very affordable) the opportunity to publish music. You can publish your own scores (50% commission), publish scores in the public domain (50% commission), or arranged works (10% commission–as long as the copyright holder has a license agreement with Noteflight, and over 1,000,000 songs do have that agreement). And yes, you can import MusicXML files into Noteflight if you have music you would like to sell but it is currently in another program. My guess is that the number of available songs will grow as other publishers see the strengths of this program, and I have a sneaky suspicion that Noteflight would be open to adding publishing partners (I haven’t talked to anyone about it, but it certainly seems as if Noteflight is ready for this). I love the publishing aspect, which seems to be very similar to publishing your own music (without a label) on iTunes, or an iBook on the iBook Store (without a publisher).

When you buy a song from the Noteflight Marketplace, you can print your music (it creates a PDF) and you can buy a license for a larger number of performers at a set fee (this is awesome for choral music). All scores can be purchased for more performers, but it is awesome to see the option for a 50+ purchase (I hope more composers will utilize this!). Any purchase from the Noteflight Marketplace can be adapted for your needs.

In general, anything that has been published by Hal Leonard (not necessarily its subsidiaries or publishing partners) in the recent past seems to be available in the Noteflight Marketplace catalog. One negative but understandable limitation is that you cannot export a song from the Marketplace to another program via MusicXML. I understand that limitation, but if you are more comfortable on Finale, Sibelius, Dorico, or Notion for editing, you will have to learn how to edit in Noteflight; in my case, my main reason for exporting would be to have another program play the music and create audio files for rehearsal/performance.

I did a little searching on the Marketplace and found a lot of available literature, even songs from The Daily Ukulele! I was a little sad to see that “printed” choral octavos seem to be at their regular price–I would have loved to see a discount offered to buyers due to no printing, shipping, storage, or local music store sale. Sadly, I can always buy a printed score at a discount from local music stores. I don’t expect to buy music at the price that a music store would pay, but perhaps pricing in-between would be possible?

Music publishing, copyright, technology, and specifically tablets (e.g. iPad) have been in an uncomfortable position for years. Can you scan your music? Not legally for use in schools. Can you arrange music (e.g. you don’t have tenors)? Not legally. Can you change the key of a song? Not legally. Some of these problems are now solved if you live in the Noteflight world. And with this development, we probably all should be getting involved in Noteflight.

The only challenge for education that I currently see with the program is how to tie a purchase to an institution versus attributing that purchase to an individual. For example, if I buy all of my concert music from Noteflight for large groups, and then leave the school, how does the next teacher get access to those scores? Or can a team of teachers have access to a single score? Or can a district get access to a purchased score so that any school in the district can use the song (up to the purchased group size)? These problems do not need to be solved right away, but certainly are worth thinking about.

And just a word of caution: if you decide to join Noteflight for the Marketplace, don’t buy one score and then use it with a choir of 50 students. Please respect the innovation offered here and do the right thing (I think back to a teacher that was buying five scores off of a digital music service and using that to provide music for their entire ensemble. Sigh).

Additionally, every score on the Noteflight Marketplace has a preview of the song, as well as the ability to hear it (digitally). If you’re searching for new music for 2018-2019, you might want to spend some time on the Noteflight Marketplace, too!

I’m really excited by this development, and it is one step away from my dream scenario where a school could report the number of students in their program (e.g. 350), and pay a set price per student to access for printed music for the year (think Spotify or Apple Music). That’s a natural next step–but it might be years in the making.

Creating Tabs With A Dotted Leader (Great for Concert Programs)

I was in a Twitter conversation the other day, where Paul Shimmons (ipadmusiced.wordpress.com), Robby Burns (robbyburns.com/blog), and I were discussing some things, including my hesitation toward buying a new MacBook. My ten year old MacBook works just fine, but Apple “iWork” documents that I create on my iPad no longer open on my old MacBook.

I use my iPad for 99% of my work with the exception of Finale work and some things in Apple’s own programs (new versions of which do not operate on my old MacBook, although I can run iCloud.com if I need to).

There are some things that Pages on Mac can still to that, to my knowledge, Pages on iOS cannot. One of those comes to creating a concert program, where I use a dotted leader to show the space between song title and composer/arranger.

I thought this would be an excellent video to create, because I am sure that there are music teachers out there who do not know how to do this…it is easy to do, but you simply need to know what to do. Watch the video for the instructions…it is better to watch than to read about.

Some Techinmusiced Blog News

Hello, everyone!

I hope your summer (those of you in the Northern hemisphere) is going well, and in the upper Midwest, we still have a few more weeks of vacation. Nothing is more disturbing than reading, “As summer draws to a close” articles when there is still summer left to be lived! That said, we have relatives in Georgia whose children go back to school next week (they also get out of school quite a few weeks before we do), so some of you will be back to the whiteboard in no time at all.

Yesterday, two things happened with Apple. First, its valuation reaching one trillion dollars, at least for a period of time. Second, they announced that they would be ending the app referral program. Some websites derive all of their income from app recommendations; for others, like techinmusiced.com, there was never any major flow of income from app referrals, but when someone would click a referral link, some money would flow back this direction (7% of the purchase price). It is an odd juxtaposition for a company to hit one trillion in valuation, and then decide to announce the termination of a referral program on the same day.

If you have ever bought an app through a referral code, THANK YOU. Admittedly, this will make blogging quicker, as well as editing my eBook. Amazon still has a referral program, so if I see interesting things, I will definitely use Amazon referral codes–and I always try to announce when I use referral codes.

Regarding finances and techinmusiced.com, as well as the Music Education Technology Podcast, ukestuff.info, and YouTube.com/ukuleletenor, all of my resources have been provided free, with the exception of the eBooks available in the iBook Store and in the Google Play store. Those books are due for an update, which I am working on. However, when I am finished, I will be publishing the book and using it as a reward for Patreon, to anyone that pledges the minimum of $1 a month. At that time, I will be pulling all of my eBooks out of the iBook Store and the Google Play store. Should anyone need multiple copies of the book (e.g. a college class), please contact me and we can work something out. Incidentally, the latest version of Pages finally creates ePub files, so I’ll be taking all three of my existing ePubs (made in iBooks Author) and merging the content into one updated book. And on a positive note, I won’t have to worry about making any referral links (Every cloud has a silver lining).

The idea behind Patreon is persistent support over time, particularly when other modes of support and sponsorship are so “flaky.” At the same time, I don’t want my Patreon to be a place where people have to pay to receive resources–so there is a balance of some kind to be reached, and right now I’m pretty comfortable where I am at.

I recently published my first “reward” via Patreon, the first installment of my video ukulele method. I will be adding more materials over time, and if you are interested in supporting me, please click on the link at the bottom of this post. I have been working on branding a little bit, and when it comes to technology in music education, I’m finding that my mission seems to be the desire to educate music educators about what is available. As we talk about on the MET Podcast, many technology solutions are being treated as “old news,” yet very few people tried or even knew about what those solutions could do. Even the Chromebook, the most recent “fad” in education, seems to be losing steam in terms of educational technology (in fact, the entire field seems to be on a downswing). That said, technology can make your life so much better as a teacher, and it can be used to help your students learn. I’ll keep doing my best to bring that technology forward.

In other news, it has been a pretty quiet summer for me. My oldest son graduated from high school, and our other two boys have been busy with summer activities. My youngest son learned how to ride a bike in a day, as well as how to swim (without sinking). My wife and I were able to take a trip to Memphis, which is an awesome city when it comes to music–and we were also able to sit in on the Memphis Ukulele Flash Mob weekly meeting at Central BBQ. If you play ukulele, and are in Memphis on a Tuesday night, I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve been making a ton of ukulele resources, and am currently building my first cigar box ukulele. Last week, Paul Shimmons (the co-host of the MET Podcast) traveled through Minnesota and we were able to visit in person for a while at the Mall of America. We did not record anything as we did when I was in Grand Rapids two years ago, but we did spend a healthy amount of time at the Apple Store (my 10 year old was there taking an Apple Camp class on movie making with the Clips app).

On a personal technology note, I have been struggling with the idea of buying a new MacBook or not. The MacBook Air and MacBook are both outdated and in need of a refresh; the MacBook Pros without touch bars are known to have keyboard issues, and a new Touchbar MacBook Pro (recently updated) with the configuration I think is smartest for longevity comes in at just over $3000 (including tax). My 2008 MacBook works (in fact, I’m working on a video/post that will show it…check for it that post tonight or tomorrow). I just find myself reluctant to put $3000 into that machine, or $1000 less for something that may be outdated in 4 years. I’d sure like to get another ten years out of a MacBook…

I also broke my iPad Pro screen a second time. I don’t know how it happened this time (one of my boys may actually be at fault–it was “whole” when I went to bed one evening and broken when I used it the next day). I have Apple Care (HIGHLY ENCOURAGED) and decided to buy an Otter Box to protect my iPad. I’ll replace the screen the second time next June, right before the Apple Care expires (they replace the screen or device twice, no questions asked, for $45 each time. This beats a bill of $1000 for a new one).

And the other exciting news is that my school opens a new building this fall. I’ll be sure to write about the technology in the school later this year, as things have changed since the initial planning…and there will be surprises in the fall. The boundaries have changed to accommodate the larger and newer school, so we will have a slightly different clientele. As I teach middle school, we also have another change as we have required music in grades 6-8, and a decision was made last year to let music be a true elective in eighth grade. These changes should have a very positive impact on the school climate, and in all of the “elective” classes.

To everyone as the school year approaches: I wish you the very best. Take care of yourselves. I have some lifestyle changes that I need to make (I’m sure you do, too!), and certainly each day will bring troubles of its own. However, before the joys and challenges of the next school year begin–I hope this is the best year yet, for both you and me!

Technology That Impacted My Life in 2017-2018: AirDrop

If you have followed the blog, or know my story, I grew up as an Anti-Apple technology user. The Video iPod was my conversion point, and if you don’t know the story, I can re-tell that story at another time. My past viewpoints gives me the ability to call out Anti-Apple mindsets when I see them, because I know what they look like and what the arguments are.

Several years ago, perhaps five years ago, our district went all-Apple for teachers, and shortly thereafter adopted iPads 1:1 in a few of our schools. I had been all-Apple (personally) for a number of years, so the switch wasn’t a shock for me–but many teachers struggled moving from Windows to the Mac OS. We refreshed our Macs two years ago, and our iPad schools are still iPad schools (also on their 2nd generation). Other schools in our district have a combination of Chromebooks and iPads for their students (not 1:1), so we have moved off of the all-Apple mentality that existed for a few years, but we certainly remain Apple-friendly.

When it comes to computing as a whole, one of the most frustrating things to deal with is transferring files from one person to another, or from one device to another. If you have a current MacBook, and current iOS devices, you can use AirDrop to transfer files that won’t transfer easily any other way. We also use AirDrop to send photos between my wife and I after we have been on a trip.

Our district has disabled AirDrop for students (as students were AirDropping test questions and work to one another), but I have personally found AirDrop incredibly useful, particularly when I want to transfer a large file such as a video or Keynote presentation.

My Ukulele Video Keynote is upwards of 2.5GB due to embedded videos; and I find it impossible to share that file unless I use AirDrop. I’ll make a point to talk about using video in presentations in another post. This past year, I created Keynote presentations on my iPad Pro, and then used my school-provided MacBook to actually present those presentations at school (so I could use my personal iPad for my own purposes in class).

When you use AirDrop, you need to make sure that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are turned on, and that you have AirDrop set to see “Contacts Only” or “Everyone” if you want to receive a file (these are in the Control Center on iOS). You don’t need to be connected to Wi-Fi or have anything connected via Bluetooth. Having those two services enabled allows the devices to speak to each other, so you can send an item from an iPad to an iPhone or from a Mac to an iPad, or any combination. You can also send files to multiple people that are within 30 feet or so of where you are standing. AirDrop is an incredibly useful tool, and it has made my life better.

If you don’t live in an Apple setting, AirDrop isn’t going to help you very much. There are some options for file transfers between devices, but AirDrop is embedded directly into the operating system of Apple Devices.

If you haven’t used AirDrop, I encourage you to get used to doing so…when people are physically near you, it is a better solution than using other sharing methods (Google Drive, e-mail, etc.).