Archive for the ‘blogs’ Category


Since I’m working on my résumé at the moment, I thought I’d do a roundup of basic résumé writing resources for singers. (more…)

Heather Roche / Credit: MBZ festival

Recently I came across a blog post by Heather Roche, a clarinettist living in Germany, who shared some of her experiences with using the iPad for music and performance along with pros/cons.  I wanted to share her informative post along with some of my reactions.

Here’s the original post: why iPad?

From the post:

I’ve been known to use [the AirTurn Bluetooth pedals] when I’m reading a document on the iPad and knitting at the same time, thus dispensing with the need to ever put my knitting down!

Love it!  The AirTurn pedals seem pretty useful for hands-free page-turning of sheet music, but I had never considered their advantages for knitting!

There is also a stand attachment that attaches to a microphone stand, which fits the iPad perfectly (called the Gig Easy). I’ve never used mine, however. First of all, I’d have to carry a microphone stand around with me. Secondly, if I’m playing with an ensemble, it would look very strange if we weren’t all using similar looking music stands.

Credit: The Gig Easy

I’ve had my eye on the Gig Easy stand – I was going to ask for one as a birthday gift until I saw the price.  I’m not sure I can justify it when I already own music stands that will do.  I do wish I had a better way of securing the iPad to my wire stand or my Manhasset stand so I don’t worry about the iPad falling off.  That’s one advantage paper music still has – I can pick up and move the stand with the music still on it, without courting (major) disaster.  I did come up with this ad-hoc method of attaching the iPad to my wire stand – not particularly attractive, but it works.  Maybe the KICMount magnetic iPad case could be used to stick the iPad securely to the desk of a traditional music stand?

Also, I hadn’t considered the aesthetic aspect that Heather mentioned.  I guess you’d just have to persuade your whole ensemble to use tablets 🙂

Credit: The Gig Easy

Credit: Samsung Belgium

Brussels Philharmonic / Credit: Samsung Belgium

Flemish Radio Choir / Credit: Bram Goots

Flemish Radio Choir / Credit: Bram Goots

It has taken some getting used to – the first few concerts I played felt a little more stressful than I would have liked. ForScore went through a phase where it crashed occasionally, which has happened twice in concert, though in hindsight it was no more disastrous or time consuming than some of my sheet music falling off the stand. […]  ForScore crashing during a concert was possibly one of the most frightening moments on stage. Although as I wrote above, it hasn’t happened for months now, so they’ve quite possibly sorted that problem.

Amen to this! I have had forScore crash a few times, but not during a performance.  What I usually do right before a performance or other situation where I need high reliability is to close all of the open apps on my iPad, including forScore, and then re-launch forScore.  I’ve noticed that it does help.  I’ve occasionally run into intolerable bugs on forScore – the worst being the one where annotations from one page would get “stuck” on the screen for all pages.  But it’s been many months since I’ve seen that one, so presumably they fixed it in forScore 5.

A full day of rehearsal with hand werk can drain the battery of my iPad almost completely and an iPad takes all night to charge. It’s not a problem as long as one is prepared, but it’s another thing to get in the habit of thinking about.

I’ve been thinking that for a full day of rehearsals or gigs, I ought to get some kind of external battery/charger for the iPad – the ones that can use either solar power or wall power would be really sweet.

Discussing aspects of working off the iPad with your colleague who uses one will annoy the colleagues who don’t use it to no end. Oops. Sorry, guys.

LOL! So I’m not the only one.

Q. What about other tablets?

A. Unfortunately I don’t really have an answer here…

I’ve heard a few perspectives on other tablets:

I also share my own perspective in “How I chose between an iPad and an Android tablet as a music reader, Parts 1, 2, and 3“.  The quality and availability of music-reading apps is an important consideration when choosing a tablet.  Read the Going Digital for Musicians blog and the Interactive App Recommender for music-reading apps and check out MobileSheets, Chromatik, and neoScores as non-iPad alternatives to forScore or unrealBook.  Regarding other tablets, I’ve also heard people express a desire for a bigger screen than the current iPad models provides, especially for reading full orchestral scores or large-paper-format orchestral parts.  Which leads to the next topic…

Q. Aren’t the notes often too small?

A. There are a few answers to this. Yes, often the notes are much smaller than one would expect or want with paper, but often, the smallness is made up for by the extreme clarity provided by the screen and its backlighting. Secondly, I often edit scores so that they can be more easily read. It doesn’t matter how many pages you have, as page turns are no longer problematic, and even though it takes some time to find the best process for you (I started by making .pdfs with keynote, pasting bits of the score into blank slides until I was done — now I create multiple copies of the same page in ForScore and use the ‘crop’ feature), in the end it’s faster for me than having to cut up a part for performance.

Definitely agreeing with all of the above.  It’s helpful to crop the margins of PDF scores using Briss or PDF Scissors or forScore’s built-in crop tool, because this makes the notes appear larger.  For musician with vision issues who need to take additional measures to improve readability, there’s this: Digital solutions for low-vision musicians [via Going Digital for Musicians]

I look forward to more of Heather’s writings on her use of the iPad as a working musician.  In the meantime, if you’re a musician who’s getting started with a tablet, or curious about what a tablet can do for you, the Going Digital for Musicians blog is a good starting point (it’s really an e-book, so start with the first post).  On my own blog, there’s an archive with several posts about how musicians can use iPads/tablets and a link to my forScore video tutorials.  The posts Using iPads and Tablets for Choir Rehearsal and Performance and Brainstorming iPad choir rehearsal guidelines on Twitter cover rehearsal/performance considerations and “stage ettiquette” when using a tablet, many of which are applicable to other musicians besides choristers.  And just for fun, there’s my Pinterest pinboard with sightings of Sheet Music on iPads and Tablets in the wild.

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Last Thursday I had the pleasure of meeting for coffee with Dan Molkentin, co-founder and co-artistic director of SingersBabel, the subscription-based website with lyric diction resources. He happened to be in town for the Music Library Association conference, so we took the opportunity to get together and talk shop. I knew at once that he was a kindred spirit when our conversation ranged from web technology stacks, media workflows, and website project management, to textual discrepancies in different composers’ setting of the same poems, Italianate vs. German Latin, and whether we should be rolling or vanishing our final R’s in German.

One piece of SingersBabel news that Dan shared was that they will be introducing Russian resources to the website in coming weeks. The resources will include multimedia guides for learning the basic sounds of the language, as well as guides for specific texts and repertoire. Speaking of repertoire, Dan tells me that the repertoire guides on the site will focus on choral works and oratorio, with a bit of art song to boot. (Although I REALLLLY hope – pretty please – that they’ll consider bringing some opera people on board to produce diction resources for the operatic repertoire and Italian. There’s an untapped market there, and even if they just did the arias from those ubiquitous Larsen anthologies, I bet they’d get business from a bunch of vocal performance majors and the like.)

We also talked about the recent SingersBabel website testing program, which I participated in.  One thing that I discovered in the course of testing is that the website has many more resources than I thought; it’s just that they’re hard to find (and the SingersBabel team is working to rectify that).  A sampling of notable resources:

Dan shared some other online music resources with me as well.  One of them, Peachnote, is something I’ve been meaning to check out for a while.  From what I’ve gathered, Peachnote is a provider of a number of interesting music technologies, but one that particularly attracted Dan’s interest was Peachnote’s platform for collaborative online multimedia annotation of music scores.  In plain English, that means that you can use Peachnote’s score viewer to annotate the score with your own text, audio, or video notes and also view annotations that others have added.  Here’s a screen capture of Peachnote’s score viewer with annotations:


Peachnote also makes it possible to embed the score viewer in your own website, and in fact the viewer is already in use over at IMSLP with a number of scores.  For example, you can go to the IMSLP page for Le nozze di Figaro, navigate to the full score for the overture, and click the “View” button:


The Peachnote viewer then displays the score, which someone has annotated with a YouTube video recording of a performance of the overture:


Dan also tipped me off to the Sparks and Wiry Cries blog and e-zine about art song.  (I can’t believe I’ve never stumbled upon this.)  From their masthead: “Our mission is to provide a virtual home for the art song community: performers, students, scholars and fans. We endeavor to provoke thoughtful discussion about the extraordinary art of song.”  One of their contributors is Emily Ezust, creator and maintainer of The Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive, and they have a number of other notable contributors as well.


Lastly, Dan mentioned Medici TV, a French website which offers free live broadcasting of concerts, operas, and ballets along with video on demand from their catalog of concerts and classical music documentaries.


Thank you, Dan, for our engaging and enlightening conversation, and best of luck with the SingersBabel venture!

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Courtesy of Chris Russell at Technology in Music Education, here is an excellent and detailed writeup of how to create all the needed resources to set up iPads for use in running choir sectionals: Using iPads for Choir Sectionals (many links!)

Thanks, Chris!


Just wanted to briefly share a post from Jeff Tillinghast, contributor at the ChoralNet blog. It presents some ideas about how to use tablets in the choir room, depending on whether you have one iPad for the room, a few of them, or one for each singer.

Tablets in the Choir Room – If I Had 1? 5? 50?

It’s a good starting point, although I’m surprised that apps like forScore or unrealBook were not mentioned (or even things like apps that are specific for classroom attendance, for that matter). And unlike Jeff (and speaking only for myself – your mileage may vary) I DO feel entirely ready to replace my scores and folder with my iPad.

Credit: Six Flags

These last couple months, I’ve been thinking a lot about vocal technique. I came across a couple of blog posts that really resonated with me, given where I am right now on that journey.

The first post, “How’s Your Technique?” by guest contributor Mark Watson at the Auditions Plus blog, opens with the following:

In full voice, at a medium-slow tempo, sing a steady, ascending 12- or 16-note scale on “ah.” Breathe, then sing a descending scale. Do not force or go to either extremities of the range. Kid stuff, right? Let’s see.

Watson follows with a aural checklist for evaluating this exercise. Read the post for the full details, but I’ll summarize it here:

      1. Intonation: Was every note in tune?
      2. Stability of tone: Was the vibrato even and matched on every note?
      3. Ease of production: Was every note produced effortlessly and neatly?
      4. Rhythm: Was the rhythm solid and steady?
      5. Evenness of scale: Was every note of equal volume and weight?
      6. Volume: Would all the notes carry in a theater?
      7. Legato: Were all the notes connected cleanly and smoothly?

Just seven items in the list – but it’s incredible how many physical and mental processes have to be developed and then coordinated perfectly in order to achieve these goals.

I need to print out Watson’s blog post and nail it to my practice room door.

The other blog post that caught my attention was by Richard Sparks, guest contributor for the ChoralNet blog, who wrote a post titled “Mindset” about success, failure, and learning. He quotes a story about violinist Nadja Solerno-Sonnenberg’s early technique, which worked well enough to earn her a debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at age 10, but which had limitations that held her back and caused her to be surpassed by her peers when she commenced training at Juilliard. The point of the story was how difficult it was for her psychologically to make the leap from her old technique that was somewhat successful but ultimately limiting, to a new technique that could throw her into a period of awkwardness for an unknown length of time, but which offered the only way forward. Sparks then shares the advice he gives to his conducting graduate students:

All of you are talented and have had some success […] However, to really succeed, especially long-term, you have to be ready to give up past “successful” habits (like Sonnenberg’s way of holding the violin) and go through the struggle of taking away what is comfortable and do something new. This means you will be worse for awhile (a new gesture, new way of rehearsing) and feel awkward and uncomfortable. But unless you’re willing to go through that “failure,” you will cap how much you can grow and how much you can achieve.

This basically sums up what my own learning experience feels like, with respect to vocal technique. A roller-coaster of periods of awkwardness and feeling/seeming worse, followed by breakthroughs where the things that were awkward suddenly click into place and I’m better than I was when I started the cycle. It is not a comfortable style of learning for me, and the awkward periods can last long enough for me to start questioning myself, my path, my teacher, the universe, etc… It is not every singer’s style of learning – others have more of a “slow and steady wins the race” learning modality. And to compound things, once one is performing in any sort of capacity, the process of vocal evolution becomes a very public one, however smooth or bumpy it may be.

I didn’t choose this style of learning, but maybe it chose me. And so maybe I have to just own it. The blog post from ChoralNet doesn’t necessarily make me feel better, but at least it makes me aware that there are others out there who must ride this roller-coaster in order to find the way forward and grow as musicians.

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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I’ve mentioned in several previous posts that the ezPDF Reader app is an option for musicians with Android tablets to be able read – and mark – their PDF scores.  I know more than one musician who has been able to work productively with ezPDF Reader on Android – but I have not tried it myself.  Well, Chris Russell at Technology in Music Education bring us this musician-oriented review of ezPDF Reader, if you want to know what it’s like.  Thanks, Chris!

Read the review: EZ PDF Reader Pro (for Android!)

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Chris Russell at Technology in Music Education has posted some great slides from his recent presentations on the topic of iPads in the choir room. Although music educators were the intended audience, much of the content is useful for musicians of all stripes.

His August 9 post has slides from two sessions. In the session “The iChoir: Are you ready for it?”, the first half makes a case for the iPad as the device of choice in the choral classroom. The second half describes “seventeen ways to integrate an iPad in choral music” and even includes app suggestions for library/apparel/robe management. The second session, “Technology ‘How-To'”, was more of a hands-on session, but the slides have some general tips for getting started with the iPad as well as more specific advice for scanning sheet music and accessory recommendations.

His August 14 post has another pair of slide decks. “70 (85) iPad Apps in 70 Minutes” is a hard-core listing of general and music apps – you’ll want your iPad on hand and opened to the App Store as you follow along with these slides. “Essential iPad Skills for Music Education” covers much of the same material as “Technology ‘How-To'”.

In a recent blog post, Matt Libera at Performing Arts Technology @ UNCG shared his methods for using Adobe Acrobat to optimize scanned PDF scores and also answered my question about support in Acrobat for batch processing (thanks, Matt!).  In addition, his post includes instructions on how to do batch tagging of PDF scores with their composer and genre using Acrobat.

Read the original post: Batch optimizing PDF sheet music in Acrobat

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