Archive for December, 2012

Credit: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Now that my music performance commitments for the holidays and the fall are behind me, I’m coming up for air and for a report on how things went from a technology perspective:

1. Regular choir rehearsals & concerts

The process used by our de facto e-music librarian for scanning and distributing PDF scores has really become quite smooth and streamlined (thanks, Steve!!).  You can read about his scanning workflow in his guest post on my blog.  He makes the scores available for download on a private website in two formats: as a forScore .4sc file for iPad users in the choir (since we are all using forScore) and as a PDF file for non-iPad tablet users.  In the forScore version of the file, Steve packages the scores into a forScore setlist and adds metadata (mainly title and composer) and links (for handling repeats, D.S./D.C. etc.) before he sends them out.  This is a huge boon to us tablet users – our music is already organized when we import it into forScore, and when sight-reading, it only takes us one tap to navigate to the right spot in the score while everyone else is madly flipping paper pages and hunting for the repeat sign or the second ending (I especially love this perk).  I did learn, however, that I personally prefer to keep the printed page numbers in the PDF score rather than cropping them out with the margins to make the music notation display bigger and more readable.  (Ask me in 20 years if I feel the same.)

I was astonished to learn that 20% of our choir has adopted tablets for reading and performing music.  It helps that we are in Silicon Valley, and it also helps that Steve has been a low-key evangelist of sorts and has made the onboarding process very easy.  I like to think that my forScore tutorial series, which I have shared with fellow choristers, has also helped.

Our conductor owns an iPad, but so far he has not conducted from it yet.  I don’t blame him – when you need a musical “roadmap”, it’s not so great when you can only see one shrunken page at a time, and it’s even worse if you need to read anything more complicated than a simple vocal score with piano.  A larger-format iPad would help, or even (if you can afford it) two iPads showing two adjacent pages of the score, but with synchronized page turns (the unrealBook music reader app supports this scenario – wow!).

The iRecorder app for iPad came in handy during one choir rehearsal when we had to learn a traditional African song by ear.  I used my iPad to record a live performance of the song by our guest artists who came to rehearse with us, and then I uploaded and shared the recording with fellow choir members for later review.

2. Working on art songs & arias in voice lessons and coachings

One of my big projects this fall was to get Claude Debussy’s song cycle, Ariettes oubliées, under my belt in its entirety (it’s still in rough form, as my coach will attest).  I bring my iPad with my music on it to lessons and coachings (and a normal binder with paper copies for my pianist, of course).  Despite my complaints in a previous post, I’m facile enough with annotating music on my iPad that I can keep up with the notes I’m being given during a coaching or lesson.  Sometimes I’ll go back through the score later and make things more legible by replacing my messy stylus scrawl with forScore stamp markings.

I prepared my own translations and diction notes, getting the source text from The Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive, looking up word translations and IPA on the French-English dictionary at WordReference.com (they have many other languages too), and referencing information from one of my diction textbooks that I scanned and transferred to my iPad.  I put this information into a Word document which I then added to my Dropbox folder.  From there, I can access it anytime from either my iPad or my Android phone for study.  I usually also convert the document into a PDF so I can import it into my forScore library together with the actual score. What I’d really like to do is to be able to edit the Word document on my iPad with automatic Dropbox sync so I can work on translations, etc. on the go, but my current Office suite editor app, Quickoffice, isn’t up to the task yet.  When I edit my .docx Word file in Quickoffice and sync it to Dropbox, the document sometimes gets temporarily corrupted and become unreadable in Quickoffice.  Fortunately, opening and saving the document on my laptop fixes it.  I really really hope Quickoffice fixes this issue, but for now I only edit my document on my laptop and use my iPad and phone just for reading it without editing.  Finally, I write my translation into the score using forScore’s text annotation feature:

Photo Dec 19, 1 00 26 AM

I went to the university music library and used my iPad camera, makeshift scanning stand, and Scanner Pro app to scan the chapter on Ariettes oubliées from Pierre Bernac’s book, The Interpretation of French Song.  (Side note: When using my iPad scanning setup, it’s a lot faster and easier to scan multiple pages from a smaller book like this, versus the big, bulky Castel libretto books.)  It was really handy to have the book pages with me on my iPad at coachings.  I checked to see if the Bernac is available as an e-book, but no dice – if I want to have the whole enchilada on my iPad, I’ll need to buy a physical book and then scan it myself.  The Bernac also suggests metronome markings for the various songs, and Chris R. from Technology in Music Education reminded me that forScore’s virtual metronome will remember settings for individual songs or forScore bookmarks, so I’ll have to try plugging Bernac’s suggested tempi into forScore as a way to remind myself of the approximate tempo.

I also bought and listened to multiple recordings of songs from Ariettes oubliées on iTunes on my iPad.  I used forScore’s feature for assigning song tracks to scores, which lets me listen to the track while reading the score.  I wish forScore had a way of assigning multiple songs or a playlist to the same score.  That would make it easier for me to do comparative listening of different artists performing the same song.  Also, I purchased piano accompaniment tracks for Ariettes oubliées from Your Accompanist and mp3accompanist.com for practicing when there’s no pianist available.  As for basic learning & note-bashing of the vocal line–my iPad, forScore’s virtual piano, and a pair of headphones let me do that anywhere, and it’s been useful for turning my occasional train commute into productive music-learning time.

I’ve also been using forScore setlists as virtual binders for lessons and coachings – I can quickly swap pieces of music in and out depending on what I want to work on during a particular session.  (I set up “virtual binders” for a lot of other things too – audition rep, concert/recital programs, new musical projects that I’m working on, etc.)

And speaking of teaching studios, those of you who have one might like to check out the online service, Music Teacher’s Helper (description on their website: “Designed by music teachers, for music teachers, to help you manage the business aspects of running a private music teaching studio”).  I recently scheduled a lesson with a teacher who uses it, and it sent me a helpful little automated reminder email before my lesson.  It also does other useful administrative tasks, and I’ve heard other teachers recommend it.

(I have more to share, but it’s time to call it a night…to be continued in part 2…)

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Our chorus is performing Bach’s St. Matthew Passion this coming spring, and I just stumbled on an amazing free online resource to help us prepare:

Berkshire Choral Festival IPA Project

It has text (no translations though), IPA, and spoken audio recordings done by native speakers for the following works:

  • Matthäus-Passion (St. Matthew Passion) – J. S. Bach
  • Die Schöpfung (The Creation) – Haydn
  • Selected movements from various Brahms choral works

Berkshire Choral Festival IPA Project

It covers both the choral and solo movements, in case you’re preparing one or the other or both.

The website also has some general resources on learning IPA.

You’ll need a web browser with Flash support in order to use it.  iPad/iPhone people, this website won’t work on Safari for mobile, but it does work on the Puffin web browser which you can purchase from the App Store here.  In order to hear the audio, you’ll need to go into the Puffin web browser settings first and set “Ignore Mute Switch” to “on” and then turn up the volume on your iOS device:

Puffin web browser settings for audio

Related Posts:

Since I’ve been scanning large scores and aria/song anthologies to add to my digital sheet music library, I was curious as to whether it’s better to scan the whole book into a single PDF file, or break it up into multiple files that each contain one song.  I posed the question to the forScore support team and here’s their response:

forScore was designed for one song per PDF, and the Bookmarks feature was added later as a way of accommodating larger songbooks. While the single large file with bookmarks is a perfectly viable option, you’ll probably have a better experience by splitting the PDF into smaller files. As far as the page turning goes, you shouldn’t see any difference between the two methods since it functions the same either way.

So, they claim that there’s no difference either way in terms of page turn speed.  As for the “better experience” that you get from splitting the book into multiple PDF files, I’m not sure what they meant (and they didn’t send a clarification when I followed up with them about it)…

iCab Mobile

I just learned a way to use your iPad to download and save YouTube videos and then view them offline!  Thanks to @Lorskyfink and Technology in Music Education for this great tip.  I’m really looking forward to downloading videos of performances, master classes, singer video blogs, and solo/choral repertoire that I’m studying, and watch it at my leisure without needing a WiFi/4G connection (and also have all this reference material conveniently accessible anytime).

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Purchase and install iCab Mobile browser on your iPad ($1.99).
  2. Using the iCab Mobile browser, go to the YouTube website and navigate to the video you want to save.
  3. Play the video.  While it is playing, tap and hold on the video until the pop-up menu appears, then select “Download File”.
  4. In the top right browser toolbar, tap the Download icon (circle with down-arrow) to view the status of your download.  (You may press the video’s pause button at this point if you see that your download is proceeding smoothly.)
  5. When download is finished, tap the “Download finished successfully” message and then select “Save Video in Album”
  6. After the save has been completed, you will see the video in your camera roll (a.k.a. Photos app) and can view it at your convenience without an internet connection.  You can organize your downloaded YouTube videos into albums and generally do the same things as you could with any other photos or videos in your camera roll.

If you need more details, @Lorskyfink has a two-minute video tutorial.  If you want to use your iPad to edit videos saved from YouTube or include them in Keynote presentations, there are pointers in @Lorskyfink’s video tutorial and also in this blog post from Technology in Music Education: Converting YouTube to iPad Video.  I think this method for saving videos will work on iPhones too – leave me a comment if I’m mistaken.

Apropos to the season, the first thing I downloaded was this full-length, (non-traditionally) staged performance of Handel’s Messiah (here’s some background on the production).  Worked like a charm and I can’t wait to load up my iPad with more videos.

Related Posts:

I started a new pinboard on Pinterest, Sheet Music on iPads and Tablets.  Just for fun, I’m collecting images of sheet music on iPads/tablets – closeups, action shots, and other interesting images of tablets in use in a musical setting.  I hope it will give people a sense of how music looks when displayed on an iPad/tablet and how it is being used by musicians.  I only have a few images so far, but if you have images you’d like me to consider for the pinboard, post the link in the comments.

Sheet Music on iPads and Tablets - Pinterest

Here’s one recent addition to the pinboard that’s worth calling out – @Lorskyfink‘s photo of the iPad and iPad mini side-by-side with sheet music.  (Thanks, @Lorskyfink, for permission to repost.)

iPad and iPad mini with sheet music

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https://i1.wp.com/thedictionpolice.podbean.com/mf/web/w9q6kx/The_Diction_Police-R-green_250x250.jpg

I’ve been catching up on listening to the latest Diction Police podcast episodes.  I really liked this episode and thought it deserved a special mention:

Episode #65: Special Edition for Young Coaches

For budding coaches, there’s advice on:

  • What skills you need to acquire
  • How to get experience while still in university
  • How to get work
  • The different things that are expected of you in different kinds of rehearsal/audition/performance situations, and the different skills you’ll draw on in each of those settings
  • How to deal with difficult personalities and sticky situations
  • Audition repertoire
  • What singers want and need from you during a coaching

For singers, this podcast provides some insight on how to work with coaches most effectively.  It also helped deepen my appreciation of how much skill, hard work, experience, knowledge, and talent it takes for coaches to do what they do.

Budding choral conductor/pianist types, this podcast might be helpful for you too.  Obviously the repertoire will be different, but there’s a lot of overlap in the skill set – languages, styles, rehearsal skills, people skills, playing open score and/or from a reduction, etc.