Archive for the ‘music notation’ Category

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

Last time, we learned how to use the staff paper option in the Penultimate iOS app in order to be able to handwrite on virtual staff paper using an iPad.  In this post, I’ll show you how to import PDF files of music staff paper into your iPad so that you can write on them using the iPad.  Android users, you can easily adapt this method for your Android tablet.  Of course, if you need to do more heavy-duty music notation tasks on the iPad, you’ll probably want to use something like Notion or Noteflight – the methods in this blog post series are more appropriate for doing simple sketches or taking quick notes, or if you just prefer to handwrite your music notation.

Before we begin, a quick follow-up on the Penultimate post: Blog reader Brian reports that you can get free staff paper for Penultimate from ipadpapers.com, rather than buying it from the Penultimate in-app store.  (You can get other kinds of Penultimate papers from ipadpapers.com too, not just staff paper.)

Now on to the main topic.  To get started, you’ll need to install a PDF annotation app on your iPad such as Notability or GoodReader (and there are many other choices out there).  Android users, iAnnotate PDF is a possible option.

First, find a PDF file of staff paper on the web. There are various free sources of PDF staff paper online. Here is a good one with several kinds of staff paper, courtesy of Perry Roland, librarian at the University of Virginia:

You can also make your own custom PDF staff paper at BlankSheetMusic.net.  This website lets you customize the staff paper by selecting number of staves, clef types, key/time signatures, bar line options, portrait or landscape orientation, and colors.  Note that the BlankSheetMusic.net website won’t work on an iPad, so use it on your regular computer and then transfer the resulting PDF file to your iPad using Dropbox or another method.

Since the websites above only generate a single-page PDF that’s printer-friendly, I created a PDF file that has multiple pages so that it’s easier to make your own “notebook” of virtual staff paper.  I also created a version with cropped margins that’s more tablet-friendly.  You can find them here:

If you’re using a PDF from the web, bring up Safari on your iPad and tap on the link to the PDF file to display it in the browser.  Then tap “Open In…” in the top right corner and select the PDF annotation app you want to use:

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(If you’re importing a PDF file from Dropbox, you can use the Dropbox iPad app to navigate to your file and access the “Open In…” menu.)

For example, here is how to import the PDF file into Notability.  Tap on “Notability” in the “Open In…” menu.  Then tap on “Create new note”:

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Next, tap on “Ok” to accept the default page range:

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Your staff paper will be imported into Notability.  You can then use the annotation tools in Notability to write notation:

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Here is a screenshot of me using Notability’s zoom feature and palm guard for better precision and fewer stray marks while I’m writing the notation (I’m also using the Adonit Jot Pro stylus for better precision):

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Note the microphone icon in the upper right corner of the screenshot above.  Notability allows you to record audio and link it to your notes – a feature that may be handy when you’re writing music notation.

Alternatively, here’s how to import the PDF file into GoodReader.  In Safari’s “Open In…” menu, tap on GoodReader.  The file will be imported, and you can use GoodReader’s annotation tools to write in notation:

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The first time you attempt to write on the staff paper, you’ll get this prompt.  I suggest choosing the “Create an annotated copy” option.  That way, you can keep reusing your blank staff paper file in GoodReader to create new documents.

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Like Notability, GoodReader also has a zoom and palm guard feature:

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If you use forScore as your PDF music score reader, you could even import the staff paper directly into forScore and then use forScore’s annotation tools to write in music notation.  That way, your handwritten score goes straight into  forScore’s music library where you can organize it with the rest of your scores.

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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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ThinkMusic Technology’s video about its upcoming music notation app created quite a splash, but now it’s getting some backblow due to assertions on the Sibelius Blog that the video is not a demo of a working app, but rather a simulation created using Sibelius and GoodReader. Related posts on the Sibelius Blog:

Makers of music handwriting app video used Sibelius and GoodReader to create dramatization
A new tablet app that recognizes handwritten music?

As usual, Chris Russell also has some good insights about the situation: Some thoughts regarding that “new” notation app by Think Music…

Frankly, I’m a bit disappointed. ThinkMusic Technology should have given full disclosure in the video that it was a simulation (kind of like those TV ads for phones and tablets that say “simulated display”) – and then asked for our support for their Kickstarter project (if there actually is one). By posting their video without any disclaimers or commentary, they succeeded at getting my attention initially, but now their credibility with me has eroded a bit. My day job experience here in Silicon Valley has taught me that it’s one thing for a tech start-up to come up with a good concept, but actually delivering on that concept is an entirely different matter. In fact I should probably know better than to take such a video at face value – anyone can put together a sexy “concept” video. In addition, it’s a bit sketchy that a company would use a competitor’s product to create marketing material for their own product that doesn’t exist yet.

Nonetheless, gauging from the response, ThinkMusic Technology hit the nail on the head when it comes to the concept itself – we are all drooling for an app that does what’s shown in the video. For my part, I’ll keep tabs on what they’re doing, though perhaps a bit more warily… There’s a good chance that I would support a Kickstarter project too, but first I would do some due diligence on who runs the company, their background and bona fides, and their track record in these sorts of ventures. (Side note: This made me curious about whether Kickstarter has safeguards to prevent project creators from simply absconding with the money, and the answer is, um, not really…so do your homework, people!)

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[UPDATED 1/8/13: This may have been a “concept” video, rather than an actual product demo.  See my follow-up post, Dear ThinkMusic Technology: Nice “concept” video, but can you deliver?]

ThinkMusic Technology will soon release a music notation iPad app that purportedly has handwriting recognition for music notation (and text too, e.g. chord symbols). The announcement has generated a lot of buzz on Twitter.

Chris Russell at Technology for Music Education has already posted a great breakdown of the app preview video on YouTube, plus info from Twitter on what’s known so far about the app. Read his post here: ThinkMusicGroup (thinkmusictechnology.com) Notation App Coming Soon

In the meantime, you can watch the app preview video, sign up for email updates on the ThinkMusic Technology website, or follow them on Twitter or Facebook.

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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