Archive for the ‘forScore’ Category

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This is Part 1 in a three-part series on virtual music staff paper for your iPad or tablet.  Read Part 2, Virtual music staff paper for your iPad/tablet, method #2: PDF files.

There’s been a lot of hubbub lately about up-and-coming high-tech ways to handwrite music notation into your iPad.  In the meantime, let’s discuss some lower-tech (relatively speaking!) methods for writing on virtual staff paper on your iPad.  Over the next few posts, I’ll cover some different methods for doing this, starting with the note-taking app Penultimate.  Here is my video demo of how to set up Penultimate with staff paper.  Note that this is an iPad-only app and it requires paying a few bucks for the app and the staff paper download.  [UPDATE 3/24/13: In the comments section of this post, blog reader Brian reports that you can get free staff paper for Penultimate from ipadpapers.com.]

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In this video (6:33), violinist David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, shares humorous horror stories about paper sheet music at gigs, and how it spurred him to go digital with his sheet music.  Good info here for those who are weighing the possibility of transitioning to reading music from a tablet and what it’s like:

(I also posted the above video to my Pinterest pinboard, Sheet Music on iPads and Tablets.)

He also has some basic how-to videos on getting started with sheet music on an iPad:

(For more in-depth tutorials, check out my video tutorials on forScore for iPad.)

Lastly, in the videos below, Kim talks about his user experience with the AirTurn Bluetooth page-turning pedal.  Disclosure: the videos are produced by the folks affiliated with AirTurn.  Regardless, Kim gives useful insights from a product review standpoint.

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Credit: techinmusiced.wordpress.com

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!

Credit: doublebassguide.net

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.

Classical Vocal Reprints, the long-time mail-order purveyor of sheet music for vocalists, has expanded into the realm of digital sheet music with the launch of their new website for PDF sheet music downloads.  This is great news for us singers because it puts their huge catalog of high-quality editions of opera, song, oratorio, and other solo vocal literature instantly at our fingertips.  From their website:

We have it all (opera, art songs, specialty numbers, new composers, rare music and old favorites) […] We even carry things that are otherwise out-of-print. As our name implies, we have many hard-to-find titles which we reprint ourselves.

You can browse the composer list at their PDF download store, or search by title, composer, or catalog number.

Some of features of CVR’s catalog and service that deserve special mention:

  • Many songs and song cycles are available in multiple transpositions
  • They carry out-of-print and hard-to-find titles
  • They can do custom scans, custom prints and transpositions (given sufficient lead time)
  • They are a good source for individual arias when you only need one or two of them and don’t want to buy a complete opera score or anthology
  • Custom PDFs – Even if something isn’t in their catalog, you can call/email them and they may be able to create or obtain a PDF and supply it to you
  • Great coverage of the standard vocal literature

I’m trying to convince CVR to sell their PDF sheet music in forScore’s in-app sheet music store, too.  That would be super convienient for us forScore users.  If you’d like to see that happen, drop CVR a line on Facebook or Twitter.

If you are not familiar with CVR, they are an independent sheet music retailer founded in 1987 and based out of Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The owner is Glendower Jones, who is himself a singer and knows all the ins and outs of vocal literature, score editions, and music publishing companies.  Glendower is like the concierge of classical vocal music – he’s the guy who picks up the phone when you call CVR, and he is knowledgeable and happy to advise on score editions, provide custom PDFs or other custom services, and track down and help you get your hands on any possible score you can think of (and CVR also has a retail website for traditional printed sheet music, for items that are only in that format).  Even if a item is not listed on CVR’s website, just call or email Glendower and he can definitely hook you up.  Glendower has supplied sheet music to such luminaries as Joyce DiDonato, Martin Katz, Susan Graham, and Thomas Hampson, but I can attest that he provides fabulous personal service to us mere mortals, too.  He’s advised me about art song editions and publishers, given me discounts and free/reduced shipping charges from time to time, and once offered to send me a Bärenreiter edition at no extra charge when the score I originally requested was on backorder.  I’m quite happy doing business with CVR.

A special plea: Please consider patronizing CVR for your sheet music needs (digital AND printed) and not just the “big-box” online sheet music retailers.  The prices are competitive, and for you choristers, CVR’s printed music division carries choral/oratorio scores too.  The PDF download store is not just CVR’s latest venture, it is also Glendower’s bid to keep his business afloat in a difficult economy and a changing music retail market environment.  Except for those who have been living under a rock, musicians everywhere know that independent sheet music retailers, especially brick-and-mortar stores, have been downsizing or flat out folding left and right, and if CVR goes, it will be a huge blow to the classical vocal community.  CVR is one of the last bastions of personal service in the sheet music retail world.  Glendower has been known to look up a specific measure on a specific page of a specific score to provide information to a customer to help them make the right purchase.  Good luck getting that kind of service from S**** M**** P***.  If you’d like to see that kind of personal service and selection thrive in the 21st century, please support independent businesses like CVR.

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I bought the Belkin YourType Folio + Keyboard for my iPad last month, before leaving for my holiday travels.  So far, I love it.  I’d been wanting a Bluetooth keyboard for my iPad to help out with occasional typing-intensive tasks like email and also (more…)

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. (This is part 2 of a two-part post. Read part 1 here.)

3. Messiah duet + choral gig + more

My duet partner and my pianist colleague and I rehearsed and performed some duets for fall and winter shows, namely, the Barcarolle from Les contes d’Hoffmann and also “He shall feed his flock” from Handel’s Messiah. IMSLP was definitely my friend when it came to downloading sheet music for those pieces. During our rehearsals, I mused on how I might like to get a more compact portable music stand for my iPad. I like the combination of the CrisKenna Xclip2 mount and Mic Stand Concertino plus gooseneck extension, recommended by flutist Sharyn Byer when she was profiled on Going Digital for Musicians:

Credit: AirTurn

Here’s another photo from that blog post that shows a dramatic difference between the space taken up by Sharyn’s music stand, versus her colleague’s more traditional stand. To be fair, though, her colleague probably gets to view more pages of music at a time, and perhaps in a larger size, too!

TheGigEasy mic stand mount for iPad also looks good for my purposes, and a new, thinner, lighter version will be released in January 2013. The iKlip mic stand mount is worth a look too. Honestly, my current portable setup of a wire stand plus my iPad case with its securing strap is not bad, but I wouldn’t mind something with a sturdier build and slimmer profile. I’d feel less worried about knocking it over.

I also had a Messiah chorus gig this past Christmas. Unlike my regular choir, I was the only tablet-wielding singer there. The soprano seated beside me showed a great deal of interest in my iPad sheet music. She was considering a Kindle purchase and was wondering about using it for sheet music. Of course I directed her to this blog so she can check out a few different options 🙂 About the Kindle specifically, I am leery of it for sheet music at this time. A friend once showed me a music score on his Kindle DX e-reader. I liked the screen size and resolution, but we found the page loading and page turns to be slower than on my iPad, and I also thought the music was difficult to see on the non-backlit display. Perhaps the newer Kindle models perform better, though – I haven’t tried them so I don’t know.

Earlier I had asked the conductor for the Messiah performance whether it was ok for me to use my iPad for the music. Fortunately, she was cool with it (not all conductors are, so it’s not a bad idea to ask first). I used my black silicone iPad skin as the “black folder” for holding the music during the performance (same as I do with my regular choir) and no one voiced any concerns. But it did get me to thinking about having an iPad case that looks more like a traditional black choral folder for those times when a music director insists on it, or if I’m doing one of those Victorian period-costume caroling gigs where it would look anachronistic and silly to be obviously holding an iPad. And I’m tired of waiting for MUSICFOLDER.com to design such a case. Blog reader Loren F. recommends the DODOcase for this purpose, and blog reader Dick H. gave some tips on modding the DODOcase for use as a choral folder. However, the price of the DODOcase is a bit steep for me, so I’m probably going to roll my own and make an iPad choral folder out of an inexpensive folio case as a do-it-yourself project – stay tuned for details.

By the way, in the course of doing this Messiah chorus gig, I was informed that you can download PDFs of the choral movements from the Schirmer edition of the Messiah vocal score at this site (although I haven’t verified that all the page numbers, etc. match up with my printed Schirmer score, so caveat downloader). Schirmer is not the most scholarly edition of Messiah ever, but an awful lot of typical local Messiah performances use it, so it can be handy to have. (The Schirmer score on my iPad is one that I scanned previously from the printed score that I own.)

4. Preparing for the St. Matthew Passion

My choir is performing Bach’s St. Matthew Passion this coming spring. I bought a score and had the spine sliced off and then our de facto e-music librarian, Steve, scanned it into a nice slim 7MB PDF file for use with forScore. I ordered a CD of one of the recordings that the conductor recommended (I couldn’t find it as a download or in streaming format) and I also procured a different recording on iTunes. I found some excellent free diction/IPA resources for the St. Matthew Passion online that will be a useful learning aid. I also want to check out SingersBabel to see what diction resources they have for this work. I just got a Belkin YourType Folio + Keyboard for my iPad (more on that later) and I think that its Bluetooth keyboard will come in handy for typing the translation into my score. The Great Books Tutorial website has the text and translation of the St. Matthew Passion in PDF format, laid out nicely for either printing or viewing on a tablet. There are also some interesting background pieces and listening guides online: Bach 101: St. Matthew Passion from the Bach Choir of Bethlehem’s website, an introduction and annotated text/translation from Minnesota Public Radio, and A Visitor’s Guide to the St. Matthew Passion by NPR.

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:

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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…)

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)…

Credit: ImageMagick.org

[My choral colleague, Steve Roth, contributed the guest post below on how he scans and distributes sheet music to the iPad/tablet users in our chorus.  He includes detailed step-by-step instructions – note that you’ll need to have some proficiency with command-line tools in order to use his process.

Listen to Steve – he’s da man!  I scanned and prepped my 264-page vocal score of Handel’s Messiah using some basic compression methods and it ended up at 57 MB (will write that up later).  Steve scanned and prepped a 175-page vocal score of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion – and it came in at under 7 MB.

Steve, many, many thanks to you for sharing your knowledge with us!]

Hi, folks,

Tech4Singers and I sing in the same chorus, and there’s a steadily growing proportion of iPad sheet music users in the chorus (currently about 20%). We all use forScore, which is a superb sheet music reader for the iPad, and as you’ll see below, there’s considerable advantage in having everyone use the same software. I’m the guy who’s (unofficially) responsible for providing the electronic music for all of those singers. Often that involves scanning paper music. Following up on Tech4Singers’ recent request, I thought I’d share here the full details of how I do the scanning. Please note that I make no claims that this is the best way; it’s just one way that works, using tools I’m familiar with.

Before diving into the details, I have to offer a note on legalities. Most paper music is under someone’s copyright, and scanning the music for use on an iPad is in a legal gray zone. Personally, I content myself with following the spirit of the copyright law: I only scan works for which I actually have a paper copy. If the paper copy is borrowed (e.g. from our chorus library), then I only keep the scan for as long as I have the paper copy checked out. And while I don’t attempt to enforce it, I remind my fellow choristers using my scans that they should do the same. I am not claiming that this is compliant with copyright law; I’m not a lawyer and I haven’t found one that will give me a straight answer. But I do assert that it gives due respect to the copyright holders, and that’s good enough for me.

Most sheet music is in one of three formats:

  • 8½ by 11 inches, single sheets
  • 11 by 17 inches, folded (each side of each sheet has two 8½ by 11 pages of music)
  • 10ish by 14ish inches, folded (each side has two 7ish by 10ish pages)

The single sheet music can be handled by pretty much any scanner with a sheet feeder. For the other two formats, though, you need a scanner that can handle large format paper. In this post I’ll discuss handling a 10 by 14 inch folded score, because that’s the most complex case as well as the most common.

Begin by removing any staples or bindings so that you can feed the sheets through the scanner’s sheet feeder. You should also briefly counter-fold them (fold them the opposite way from the way they came) so that they are relatively flat when they go through the sheet feeder; that helps prevent jams. (By the way, yes, a sheet feeder really is a requirement, and so is removing the binding. If you try to put pages on the scanner glass yourself, I guarantee you your pages will not be exactly straight. It’s even worse if you put a bound score on the scanner glass.) [Editor’s note: there are tools that will help you deskew crooked scans – but it’s preferable not to have them be crooked in the first place.]

My scanner settings are 200dpi, black and white. Color (or even gray scale) is not needed for scores, and it makes them vastly bigger (and therefore slower). I have found 200dpi to be a good compromise between size and sharpness, but you could consider using 300dpi for scores with tiny print. It is critical not to let the scanner use any form of lossy compression (like JPEG). Scans should either be uncompressed or should use some lossless compression (PNG, GIF, TIF).

For the rest of the process, you can use any tool that allows you to make batch changes to large numbers of image files at once. My preference, used in the examples below, is the ImageMagick suite.

Step 1 (if necessary, depending on your scanner’s output format): Separate each side of each sheet into a separate image file. (Assuming your source was folded sheets, each image file will have two pages.)

$ convert +adjoin multisheet-file singlesheet-filename-prefix

Step 2: Crop the images to the appropriate width. Measure the width of the double-page sheet and multiple by the resolution of the scan. For our 10×14 example at 200dpi, that would be 2000 pixels. Crop the height of the images to that amount, keeping the width unchanged.

 $ identify file
 $ mogrify -crop widthxheight+0+0 files...

where width is the width of the sheet reported by the identify command and height is the desired height. Note this keeps the top part of the image and discards the bottom; that should be correct for most sheet-fed scanners.

Step 3: Examine each image and rotate them all to the proper orientation. Typically the even-numbered sheets go one way and the odd-numbered sheets go the other. Clockwise rotation is

 $ mogrify -rotate 90 -page +0+0 files...

Counter-clockwise uses negative 90.

Step 4: Measure the height of the sheet, less any margin you want to discard, multiply by the scan resolution, and crop that much out of the middle of the images:

$ mogrify -crop widthxheight+0+offset -page +0+0 files...

where width is the height calculated in step 2 (we’ve rotated it since then); height is the desired height, and offset is the offset needed for that height to be taken from the center of the image, generally half of the difference between current and desired heights (but possibly different if the part you want to keep is off-center).

Step 5: Split the double-page images into single-page images:

$ convert +adjoin -crop widthxheight files... output-file-prefix

where width is half the current image width and height is the (unchanged) current image height. The resulting files will be named with your specified prefix and a numeric suffix. We also need to tell ImageMagick to reset the page bounding box to the image bounding box:

$ mogrify -page +0+0 output-file-prefix*

Step 6: Manually examine the pages and renumber them to correct order. Sorry, it’s tedious, but I haven’t found a good way to avoid it.

Step 7: Create the PDF, using CCITT Group 4 compression (which does a much better job on monochrome, line-art-like images than any other I’ve seen).

$ convert files... output-file.pdf

Step 8: If you’re preparing for use in forScore, add metadata to the PDF so that forScore knows the name and composer of the piece. Use any PDF editing tool for this purpose, setting the “Title” and “Author” metadata respectively. Personally, I use pdftk:

$ pdftk input.pdf dump_data output info-file

[Editor’s note: PDF Info for Windows is another free and slightly more user-friendly tool for doing this.]  Edit the info-file to add key/value pairs for Title and Author.

$ pdftk input.pdf update_info info-file output output.pdf

In our chorus’s case, we’re usually distributing an entire concert’s worth of music at one time, so I take some additional steps to make this easy for our users. I put all of the individual PDFs on a web server and load them into my forScore using its browser. I go through each of them and add any annotations that everyone will want (such as advance markings from the director, or Links for handling repeats).  [Editor’s note: Adding links to the PDF score prior to distribution is an extremely helpful thing for a choral librarian to do.  During a read-through, it saves singers from having to scramble to find the first page of a repeat section, 1st/2nd endings, etc.]  In some cases, for multi-movement works, I’ll make chapters within the PDF file so that it’s easy to jump to a movement. Then I make a forScore “setlist” containing all of the pieces (in the proper order if that’s known), and use forScore’s Dropbox feature to upload the setlist to my Dropbox, turning on the switch that tells it to include the scores as part of the setlist file. The resulting “.4ss” file is a single file our users can install in their forScore and get the entire concert’s scanned music, with annotations. (I occasionally see odd errors with this import, but they go away if forScore is killed and restarted.)

I’m sure there are lots of ways that all of this could be streamlined, and maybe better tools to use for all or part of it. Nevertheless, this is what I’ve been doing, and I hope it will at least give you some ideas.

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