Archive for the ‘performance’ Category

Bright lights reflecting off of an iPad screen. Credit: CNET

Today I attended a choral concert where my companion and I noticed something rather mysterious.  There were these big rectangular reflections on the acoustic shell behind the chorus.  And the reflections would move around in a strange and distracting way.

The reflections seemed too odd and random to be an intentional production element with the lighting.  And I couldn’t see anything on the set pieces or in the stage lighting that would cause reflections or lights like that.

Could it be caused by something in the singers’ attire?  There was nothing in the concert uniforms that would provide an obvious explanation.  Watches or other jewelry, perhaps?  The reflections were rectangular and big, and even the sopranos I know don’t wear jewelry THAT big.  😉

The mystery was solved when my companion pointed out that the reflections disappeared when the singers put down their choir folders and then reappeared when they raised them again.  We deduced that it must be the reflections from the screens of the singers who were using iPads or tablets – of which there were several.  The stage lights were very bright, making the reflections fairly prominent.

Unlike onstage iPad face-glow, I don’t know a good fix for this offhand.  You can get matte anti-glare films for your tablet screen (here’s the one I use) and they certainly help with readability of the screen under stage lights, but I don’t know if they help with this kind of reflection.  But it’s just something to be aware of and to try to avoid – an unexpected side-effect of tablet use onstage, that could add an unintended distraction to your ensemble’s presentation.

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There was a discussion thread on ChoralNet earlier this summer where choral conductors shared some experiences and tips for conducting from an iPad.  Here’s the link: Using an iPad for conducting

This comment was posted by Kristina Butler Houston:

I just conducted my first concert from my iPad. I also used ForScore and imported my music either by using my scanner or, for arrangements I had done myself, printing to a PDF file from Finale.

Ken Ahlberg had a couple of posts that caught my eye:

I have spent the past year using my iPad exclusively for both rehearsal and performances and it has changed my life.

I use ForScore as the app to read the music, but when I paired them with the AirTurn foot pedal when at the piano, and the Jot stylus I am able to run rehearsals with a fluidity and ease that was just a dream a year ago.  My previous habit of using only pencil to mark my music so changes can be erased has been replaced with the option to write in the score in a multitued of colors, as will as a choice of thickness and darkness.  The ability to type directly on the score in a varity of fonts, colors and sizes was an unexpected benefit.  Having limitless highlight choices is extremely handy as well.

The option I was surprised to find but which I have come to use often is the “White Out” feature.  When combined with ForScore’s rearrange feature, it is possible to see all of the music that is to be performed start to finish in one continuous path without the need to jump and skip over or back to sections. I was stunned when I realized how much brainpower I use in just keeping on track, especially when leading a piece filled with repeats, del Signe and Coda sections.  I can now hear so much more of my chorus’ singing when my music is a “stretched out” before me.

Little things like the built in pitch pipe, piano keyboard and the metronome are so very handy.  Just last night, I had the lead of our production come to me asking for help during a break, and I was able to show her the part in question, pull up the piano keyboard and help put her mind at ease all while the cast was making noise as if they were at a cocktail party.  There was so need to climb into the orchestra pit to get to the piano.

There is a learning curve to feel comfortable using the iPad, but very quickly I came to realize that I would never go back to a backpack filled with paper scores, and pitchpipes, and metronomes, and colored pencils, and highlighters, and white out again.

I have been pondering the apparent distrust of the use of the tablet by some, and its seeming purpose to cheat composers out of their livelihood.  I, for one, am anxious for more composers to recognize this is a tool we will continue to use and provide ways for us to simply put the music on our tablets.  [Composer] Michael McGlynn has devised a simple yet effective way to get his music in our hands while maintaining control over the number of legal copies distributed.  I am truly unwilling to check out any unfamiliar composers who resist this way of doing things when there are so many excellent composers who are embracing the multitudes who have made the switch.

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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.

https://twitter.com/Tech4Singers/status/292216345196642304

https://twitter.com/Tech4Singers/status/292216728849641472

https://twitter.com/Tech4Singers/status/292216991656341504

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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Credit: apartmenttherapy.com

A little public service announcement…  Last night I was in the audience of a concert performed by the choir that I’m usually singing in.  Being the denizens of Silicon Valley that we are, there is a significant adoption rate of iPads/tablets for reading music in our choir, over 20%.  We generally perform on-book, and from the house, I could see that several singers had iPad face-glow that was bright enough to be seen from the audience.  It was especially noticeable with singers who wear glasses (because of the bright iPad screen reflecting off of their glasses toward the audience) and those who were standing in poorly-lit areas of the stage.  Personally, it did not bother me so much as an audience member because I’m primarily concerned with how a chorus sounds more than how they look, and–let’s face it–as someone who calls Silicon Valley home, I am quite used to seeing the ghostly glow of a electronic display on everyone’s face, all the time 😉  However, if this aspect of your ensemble’s visual presentation concerns you, do make sure that the tablet users in your group 1) turn down the brightness as much as is comfortable for them, 2) not hold the tablet too close to their face (cause you’re not buried in your music during the performance…right?  Right?) and 3) stick to well-lit areas of the stage if possible.

[UPDATE 5/20/13: Hugh S. and Ellen R. wrote in and reminded me of a fourth tip, which is to reverse the colors of your iPad so you have white print on a black background.  Some music reader apps like OnSong and MobileSheets have this as an app setting (as do many eBook reader apps, incidentally) but for apps like forScore that don’t, you can use the global iPad setting at Settings > General > Accessibility > Vision > White on Black (On) to reverse the display for all apps.

Also, as another musician mentioned to me, there are other performance scenarios where we need to be conscious of the light from our electronic devices and its potential for distraction/disruption – for example, using a tablet while playing in the orchestra for a stage production where there is a blackout at the end of the act.]

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Flemish Radio Choir / Credit: Bram Goots

Flemish Radio Choir / Credit: Bram Goots

Here is a new addition to my Pinterest pinboard about Sheet Music on iPads and Tablets.  The Flemish Radio Choir adopted tablet-based sheet music to rehearse and perform their recent concert, titled “Digital Poem”.  They have Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablets running Android and the neoScores sheet music reader platform.  Here is their news release:

Flemish Radio Choir replaces sheet music by tablet

The news release begins as follows:

The Flemish Radio Choir took a further step in the digitization process launched in November by the Brussels Philharmonic, neoScores and Samsung. For the first time, the entire production trajectory of a musical score will be carried out digitally: from the delivery of the music for practising at home and rehearsals through the concerts to archiving after the end of the performance.

The conductor, Nicolas André, comments:

I am pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to use the digital scores. The work by Dufay leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and thus evolves in the course of the rehearsals. Thanks to the tablets and the neoScores software, I can mark up the score quickly and easily, and can pass these on immediately to all choir members, who in turn can immediately access the updated version.

Here is a two-minute video (in Dutch and French) from tvbrussel showing the Flemish Radio Choir using the tablets in rehearsal. At 1:19 one of the singers demonstrates annotation on the tablet.

Vlaams Radio Koor goes digital (2:06)

vrk_video_thumbnail

And here is a screen capture of a print article (in Dutch) about it (click for larger version):

Credit: Het Belang Van Limburg / neoScores

Credit: Het Belang Van Limburg / neoScores

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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: Samsung Belgium

The Brussels Philharmonic is replacing sheet music with tablets – Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablets, to be precise.  This is the first I’ve heard of a performing arts organization of this size embracing 100% adoption of tablet-based digital sheet music for its musicians.  It will be interesting to see where this leads and how successful the initiative is.

They are using NeoScores as their music reading app.  It’s not yet available to the public, but there’s a demo that works on my desktop web browser but not on my iPad (as of 11/11/12).  You can also sign up for updates.

BBC has a video news segment that shows the orchestra playing from the tablets (and also has a sound bite from the timpani player about trying not to mess up the page turns): Brussels Philharmonic replaces sheet music with tablets

CNET also has an article: Orchestra swaps sheet music for the Galaxy Note 10.1

Samsung has an official press release as well as a photo set on Flickr showing the orchestra using the tablets.  The Brussels Philharmonic has their own official press release too.

Technology in Music Education (where I first got wind of this) has some good commentary about it here: Brussels Philharmonic uses Samsung Galaxy Tablets for Performing  He astutely points out that most of the above video footage and photos of the Brussels Philharmonic is from a staged photo op – not too surprising, given how prominently the Samsung marketing people are featured.  I was fantasizing that the “civilians” seated on stage among the musicians were usability experts from Samsung or NeoScores studying the players’ interactions with the tablets for ways to make them smoother and easier.  But I suppose they’re just Samsung execs.

Here’s another video that doesn’t show much of the tablets, but does show a lot of interesting footage about the whole process of preparing parts for an orchestra:

Brussels Philharmonic Rewrites Music History with GALAXY Note 10.1 (4:10)

 

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