Archive for June, 2012

Front cover of Queen Anna's New World of Words

Credit: Greg Lindahl

Following up on the topic of an earlier post, “Working with music texts, Part 2: Translate the text,” there are times when we need to translate archaic words or spellings that have fallen out of modern usage and are nowadays only encountered in a literary context such as poetry or libretti.  Fortunately, there are quite a few websites, apps, and e-books to help with deciphering these bits of antiquated language. Note that several of them are historic dictionaries in the original language, so depending on your level of fluency, you may want to have a translation reference or tool handy for translating the definitions.




N. B.: I’ve heard that for translating much of the German repertoire, one might have more success using a pre-WWII dictionary that pre-dates the spelling reforms of the mid- to late-20th century.


If you have any digital resources to add to this list, let me know!

This post was inspired, and much of the information gleaned, from this discussion thread in the archives of the New Forum for Classical Singers.  A hat-tip to the folks there who share their expertise.

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Choral warm-up from


Chris Russell over at Technology in Music Education has posted a collection of downloadable choral warm-ups.  Special note for iPad users: As Chris mentions, you can embed the warm-ups into your presentation app (Keynote, for example) in order to mirror them to a TV, projector, or even all of the choristers’ iPads.  By the way,  Chris invites you to contribute your own choral warm-ups, in MusicXML or Finale format.

The Vaccai method books are another resource for vocal technique building that is now available online.  You can download them for free in PDF format at either or IMSLP, in your key of choice.

Wallee Hand Strap

Credit: The Wallee

The Wallee iPad case and hand strap is another addition to the lineup of singer-friendly iPad cases.  Here’s a description from the iPad/Tablet Cases & Holders for Choral Singers pinboard on Pinterest:

The Wallee iPad Case has a lock mechanism on the back that can attach to the adjustable Wallee Hand Strap or any of the desk stands or wall/dashboard mounts made by Wallee.

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Easel  Easel as iPad stand

I wanted a simple and inexpensive iPad stand, and this picture frame easel fit the bill.  I didn’t need a real dock because I don’t dock it very often for video/audio output or iTunes sync, just for charging.  And I sure didn’t want to pay $30 for what is basically a glorified easel.  I like my easel because it is lightweight, inexpensive, folds flat, doesn’t scratch my desk, and unlike Apple’s dock, I can put the iPad on it in either portrait or landscape orientation.  (I made sure to get an easel that raises the iPad enough to leave space at the bottom for the dock cable and plug in portrait mode.)  Cost was about $4 at Michaels craft store.

Nico Castel libretti on bookshelf

Credit: The Juilliard Store

This is part 2 of the Tech tools for working with music texts series.

Step 2: Translate the text

My next step is to translate the text I’m singing. I like to do a word-for-word translation and write it into my score. If I’m short on time, or if I have difficulty translating the text myself, I’ll look for a translation from one of these sources. Some of them have literal translations, some have poetic translations, and some have both.  I generally double-check the translations I find online, as they occasionally contain mistakes.

If I’m doing the translation myself, these are the main tech tools and references I use:

If I got really stuck on a translation problem, another option would be to post the translation work I have done so far on a forum like ChoralNet, the New Forum for Classical Singers, or a language-learning forum and ask the community for help.

As I work, I like to type my translation into the Evernote or Dropbox document I created earlier that contains the original text.  Once my translation is done, I can write it into my score on my iPad with the forScore app’s annotation feature.  I can either use the “Draw” option and write it in freehand with my stylus (zooming in if there’s limited space to write in) or the “Type” option and type it in, adding extra spaces between words so that my word-for-word translation lines up properly with each word of the original text.  I may also write in a paraphrase or poetic translation, in a different color than the literal translation just so my eye can distinguish.  If there’s some pesky, godawful singing translation already printed in the score, I can erase it first using forScore’s “Whiteout Pen” option.

It’s during these kinds of tasks that I really appreciate having a tablet.  I like having the equivalent of a big, heavy bookshelf full of dictionaries and reference books and scores all on this slim little tablet that I can take anywhere. The information is accessible to me at any time and place, so I can work on the translation wherever I happen to be.  With my translation document stored in the cloud using Evernote or Dropbox, I can read it or work on it regardless of whether I have my laptop, iPad, or phone with me.

There are some other kinds of translation tech resources that I haven’t looked into yet but would like to, for example, translation-related iPad apps (myLanguage Translator Pro looks interesting and has good reviews) and also dictionaries/references in app or ebook format that work offline.  But I will have to save that for a future blog post.

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Class 10 microSD card

Credit: Sandisk

While I’m on the topic of slow, crashy PDF scores and tools like Fast PDF Scores to fix them, here’s a tip I picked up from ChoralNet: If you’re reading scores from an Android tablet and they’re stored on an SD card, you might have fewer problems with slow score loading/reading if you use a faster SD card such as a Class 10 card.  Also, you can try an app like SD-Booster to speed up your score loading and reading.

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iPad displaying sheet music

Credit: Center for Instructional Technology, Duke University

A friend of mine will soon launch a beta version of Fast PDF Scores, an online service that optimizes your PDF scores so that you can load and read them faster on your computer or mobile device, and not have the score crash your reader.  Sign up for the beta here.  The website has a sample of an optimized PDF file that you can download and try out.  Here’s the description of Fast PDF Scores from the website:

Do you often find it very slow to load your scanned music scores and turn the pages? Does that make many of your PDF scores unusable for rehearsals and performances?

Fast PDF Scores optimizes any PDF and fixes these problems. Submit your score and quickly get back a much faster version. You’ll be able to easily load and flip through scores that used to crash your favorite desktop or mobile reader.