Archive for October, 2012

One annoyance of reading scanned music on a tablet with a PDF app is that often the page numbers displayed on the app don’t match the page numbers printed in the score.  The app always starts numbering with page 1, whereas the scanned version of the printed score may have a cover and several pages of front matter before getting to page 1.  This issue occurs in both music-specific apps like forScore and general-purpose PDF reader apps, and it’s a pain to find the right page if, for example, a choral conductor is calling out page numbers during a rehearsal.

The PDF file format has a feature for assigning custom page numbers to pages, which I think could solve this problem.  The feature is known as “logical page numbering,” and this link describes what it is and how to set up custom page numbers for a PDF document in Adobe Acrobat: PDF Files – Getting The Page Numbers Right.  It lets you use lowercase Roman numerals for numbers, start with a page number other than 1, combine different numbering schemes within the same document, and more.  Many PDF e-books already use this feature.

The catch is that, in order to make use of it, the PDF reader software must support the display of logical page numbers.  I was curious about whether forScore does, so I created custom page numbers in one of my scores and then imported it into forScore.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work – forScore still displayed the pages numbers starting with 1.  I tried the same test with two other PDF music apps (unrealBook and MusicReader) and two other general-purpose PDF readers (Adobe Reader and iAnnotate PDF) with the same disappointing results.  In fact, the only PDF reader app for iPad that I’m aware of that supports the display of logical page numbers is GoodReader, as documented in its manual.

I’ve sent a feature request to the forScore support team to ask them to support the display of logical page numbers.  I’ll post an update if I hear back from them about it.

In the meantime, one way to deal with mismatched page numbers is to delete and/or move all of the front matter to the end of the PDF file so that your document really does start with page 1.  You can even do this within forScore by using the Rearrange feature to re-order the pages. [UPDATE 11/9/12: @Lorskyfink contributes another workaround: if the printed page numbers are too high, add enough blank pages to the beginning of the score so that the page numbers displayed by the app match the printed page numbers.]

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When using PDF files in forScore for iPad (or most other iPad PDF reader apps, for that matter), the conventional wisdom is that the larger the PDF file, the slower the performance of the reader app.  Hence, when scanning a score, we choose the lowest possible resolution with acceptable image quality (for me, that’s 300 dpi), opt for black-and-white instead of grayscale or color, and use various PDF processing tools to reduce the file size further.  (In addition to speeding up the PDF performance, the smaller PDF file size also lets us fit more scores in our iPad, Dropbox account, etc.)

However, one nagging question for me has been whether some (not all) of the options in the Adobe Acrobat optimizer tool for shrinking the file actually make the performance worse – specifically, the options for (more…)

For some reason, I’m always tripped up by French words that end in -ent and -aient, which verb forms use those endings, and how the ending is pronounced.  This time around, I couldn’t look it up in my reference books because they were at the print shop getting prepped for scanning.  Luckily, the Wikipedia article on French conjugation is a good cheat sheet for jogging my memory on this point.  It has several examples of verb conjugation, with IPA for each of the forms. [UPDATE 10/25/12: Blog reader Katia also recommends the online Bescherelle as a reference for irregular French verbs, but be sure to include all diacritical marks when entering verbs into their search box.]

Wikipedia: French conjugation

Credit: Wikipedia

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I’d like to get more of my scores, song anthologies, and music textbooks digitized and imported into my iPad.  So last week, I took a box of my scores and books to a local copy shop to have the bindings sliced off, so that I can feed the pages into my sheet-feed scanner.

All print shops have equipment that can slice off book spines, but surprisingly, not all shops are willing to perform this service for you.  I tried FedEx Office as well as a local independent copy shop called copyamerica, and both declined to do this, citing some fishy-sounding excuses about past customer complaints.  Luckily, another independent shop that’s local to me here in Silicon Valley, Copy Factory, was able to do this for me – they charged $15 for this box full of books.

Once I’m done scanning, I will probably take the books back to Copy Factory to re-bind them with a comb binding take the textbooks back to Copy Factory to re-bind them with a coil or comb binding, and hole-punch the scores and put them in a three-ring binder (per pianists’ recommendations in the comment section of this post).  As a bonus, the comb binding or three-ring binder will allow them to lie flat on a piano rack or music stand.

Credit: FedEx Office

If your scores are not too thick and you have the time and patience, you may be able to slice off the bindings yourself.  For a score that’s just a few pages, a guillotine paper cutter from an office supply store works fine, as documented at the Technology in Music Education blog.  For a thicker book, you can grab a razor blade, box cutter, or Exacto knife and have at it, one page at a time.  Admittedly it’s tedious and the cuts are quite a bit messier – I wouldn’t do this with my nice scores; I’ve only done this with low-value items.  But hey, it’s a cheap method and might get the job done when no other means are available.

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Breaking news!!  MobileSheets, the PDF music reader app for Android, has just released version 3.5 with annotation.  As far as I know, this is the first Android PDF app that is specifically for reading sheet music and has support for annotation.

I’ve played with it just a little bit, but so far I see a freehand drawing tool, shapes, text annotations, highlighter, and stamps.

Yes, I know there are a bazillion PDF music readers for iOS and that Android still has lots of catching up to do, but I’m excited to see MobileSheets reach this significant milestone and I’m all for healthy competition and lots of options in the music-reading app/tablet market!

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My news feed from one of the vocal technique blogs I follow, by Gioacchino Li Vigni has been broken in my feed reader for the past couple of weeks, and today I finally tried to figure out why.  It turns out that Mr. Li Vigni has just launched a new website this month,, and his Tenor Talk blog has moved to a new home on the website at  You can subscribe to the blog by email via the form on the bottom right corner of the blog or by entering this link into your feed reader: .  The only thing is that I am not sure that all the informative video/audio clips got moved over from the old blog location to the new one.  I hope the webmaster can restore them because they were really useful for illustrating the discussion in the blog posts.

Ladies and basses/baritones, don’t be fooled – there is actually a lot of food for thought on the Tenor Talk blog for the rest of us regarding vocal technique.  Like any voice teacher, Mr. Li Vigni has his own way of explaining things, but he contributes a lot of knowledge and thoughtful discussion.  In addition, his new website also has a vocal technique discussion forum, and you can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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My technology-enabled, singing-related activity for yesterday was to watch Chorus America‘s Feldenkrais Method for Singers video series, where practitioner Karen Clark gives a basic introduction to Feldenkrais.  I actually have very little familiarity with body work other than one “Yoga for Singers” session I did a few years ago, and I know nothing about Feldenkrais, so I thought I would check it out.  About half of the videos (marked “$”) are behind Chorus America’s subscription paywall so I couldn’t access them, but I watched the rest:


Episode 1 was a lecture-style introduction.  The remainder of the episodes feature Karen working with a student.

With this cursory introduction, I’m still not I sure I totally get what Feldenkrais is about, but I did pick up some body-awareness exercises to try while singing.

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Today I watched this video by Joyce DiDonato on breathing for singing: Breath “Support” (16:14).  My coach had mentioned the video to me because it’s a technical area that I’m actively working on.

I know I have been living under a rock, because I didn’t realize that Ms. DiDonato has a very nice YouTube channel that’s not just about the usual performance/promo clips that you might expect on a famous artist’s YouTube page, but actually has a lot of her own vlogs about the craft and career of singing.  I’m always a bit pleasantly surprised when artists of a certain stature and renown take the time to share their knowledge and insights freely with fans, fellow artists (aspiring and established), and the general public.

Ms. DiDonato has a website with blog, as well as links on Facebook and Twitter (and YouTube, of course).

If you know of any other prominent classical singers whose online presence reaches beyond marketing fluff to the personal and insightful and generous, let me know so I can follow them.  Because, yes, I’ve been living under a rock.

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I’m trying out the Notion app for music notation on the iPad.  I don’t do a ton of music notation in my day-to-day musical life, but I do use it for simple tasks like writing out ornaments and cadenzas for my arias, making instrumental parts for my musical collaborators, and very occasionally for more complex tasks like re-typesetting choral scores.

At the moment, I’m just doing some ornaments and cadenzas, so I need a simple music notation app that I can get going with quickly without getting too bogged down in bells and whistles.  Notion fits the bill so far – here are my initial impressions:

  • It wasn’t too hard to figure out how to set up the score and staves, bring up the keyboard, and start entering notes.
  • Entering new notes was easy, but inserting notes into an existing bar, or changing values of existing notes, was a little tougher to figure out.  I ended up just inserting a new empty measure (by using the bar line tool), putting in the new notes I wanted, then deleting the old measure.  If anyone knows of a better way, please let me know.
  • I like the “Select” button.  It works a lot like highlighting text on an iPad.  You select/highlight a sequence of notes, and then you get a pop-up with options to cut/copy/paste/etc.
  • The two-bar-per-staff formatting limitation is kind of annoying.  It makes a score take up a lot of space, especially if you want to print it out.
  • You can do text underlays for a vocal line.
  • Tie and slur are actually two different buttons under different toolbars, although their icons look somewhat similar!
  • There is a nice basic playback feature.  I had to add a metronome marking to the score to get it to play back at my desired tempo.
  • I really like the feature for emailing the score as a PDF.  With it, I can import my Notion score into forScore, email it to someone, or print out a hard copy and show it to my coach so he can tell me how outré my taste in Baroque ornaments is.  (Just yanking your chain, coach – love ya.)
  • Notion is still a bit buggy – for example, the playback would sometimes play notes I’d already erased.

I’ve heard of the Symphony Pro app as another option for music notation on the iPad – will have to try that one in the future.

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If you work with scores or parts, you need to know about the cool new free tool that is Partifi.

Partifi takes any PDF file of a full score, splits it into parts, and lets you download the parts as PDF files, share parts online, or print them.  Here’s a quick peek at what it can do:

Original PDF full score (from IMSLP): Violin Concerto in E major, RV 269 (A. Vivaldi)

PDF parts generated by Partifi for violin I/II, viola, cello, bass, and solo violin

Not only can it do that, but it has a bunch of bells and whistles that are really well-done:

  • Custom labels for parts
  • Add bar numbers and rehearsal letters
  • Combine multiple parts into one
  • Apply tempo/dynamic markings across all parts
  • Edit the metadata (title, composer, edition) of the PDF files for the parts
  • Manually deskew scanned score pages
  • Download parts in Letter or A4 paper sizes
  • Create and share your own personal library of scores and parts on the Partifi website

There are a few different ways to access Partifi.  You can go to their website and upload a PDF score from your computer or enter an IMSLP score number:

Or, you can access Partifi directly from the IMSLP website:

Hopefully, now that you’ve seen what Partifi can do, you’ll realize what a gift this is to the musical community to make it available for free.  And you might be inspired to support the project with a donation.  Or follow Partifi on Twitter or Facebook to keep up-to-date.

Lastly, here are four two-minute help videos that show how to use Partifi.  Watch them – I was impressed when I saw what’s possible with this tool.

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