Archive for the ‘rehearsal’ Category

Sweet MIDI Player is a must-have app for any musician who uses MIDI practice tracks.  It lets you play MIDI files, change their tempo or key, and mute or adjust volume for individual parts (channels) within the MIDI file.

This blog post is about the iPad version of Sweet MIDI Player, but the app is also available for iPhone, Mac, and PC.

There’s a free trial version of Sweet MIDI Player for iOS which lets you try out all of the features, but only plays the first 75% of your MIDI file.  From there, you can purchase an in-app upgrade to the full version.  It’s a worthwhile purchase if you use MIDI practice tracks frequently.

Here’s an overview of the controls for MIDI playback, transposition, and tempo (tap “Mixer” button at the bottom to display this view):

Sweet MIDI Player

The transposition control (+/-24 semitones):

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The tempo control:

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The instrument selection menu:

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Note: If you change the key, tempo, or other settings, Sweet MIDI Player will prompt you and ask if you wish to save the changes.  If you choose “Yes”, it will overwrite your MIDI file with your changes – so if you care about having the original MIDI file, be sure to make a backup copy of it before you use it in Sweet MIDI Player!

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The “Files” view (tap “Files” button at the bottom) displays your library of MIDI files.  When you install the app, it comes with a few sample MIDI files to try out.  (More on how to import your own MIDI files later in this post.)

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You can create your own playlists:

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Here are screenshots of the app settings.  Click any image for a full-size view:

The app also has a help page, accessible from the “Help” button on the lower left.

Sweet MIDI Player also supports background audio, which means that you can start playing a file, switch over to a different app (for example, a PDF score viewing app like forScore), and the the MIDI file will continue to play while you are viewing the score in the other app.

Importing MIDI files into Sweet MIDI Player

There are several methods for importing your MIDI files into Sweet MIDI Player:

  1. Web browser
  2. Dropbox app
  3. Email
  4. iTunes

1. Importing MIDI files using the web browser

Open Safari on your iPad and navigate to a website with links to MIDI files, for example this one.  Tap on the MIDI file download link.  You should be taken to a page like the following.  Tap the “Open In…” button:

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Then tap the “Sweet MIDI” button:

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Once you’re back in the Sweet MIDI Player app, you should see your new file in the “Files” view.

2. Importing MIDI files using the Dropbox app

As of this writing, the Sweet MIDI Player app does not have direct integration with Dropbox, but you can still use the Dropbox app to import MIDI files from your Dropbox account.

On your iPad, open the Dropbox app, navigate to your MIDI file, and tap on it.  It will download and then you’ll see a “Unable to view file” message, but don’t worry.  Tap the “Open in…” icon in the top right, then tap the “Sweet MIDI” button:

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Once you’re back in the Sweet MIDI Player app, you should see your new file in the “Files” view.

3. Importing MIDI files from email

On your iPad, open the email message containing the MIDI file(s).  Tap-and-hold on the MIDI file icon and you will get the screen below.  Tap the “Open in…” button:

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Then tap the “Sweet MIDI” button:

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Once you’re back in the Sweet MIDI Player app, you should see your new file in the “Files” view.

4. Importing MIDI files using iTunes

The help page for the app provides instructions on how to import MIDI files using iTunes.  Personally, I find this method a bit of a hassle, unless I need to import a large number of MIDI files at one time.

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Alternative App: Learn My Part

There’s another app similar to Sweet MIDI Player called Learn My Part.  It’s specifically geared towards choral singers and also has the ability to repeat one section of a MIDI file and to import and view PDF scores.  However, I still prefer Sweet MIDI Player because I find the controls easier to use and I like having the ability to transpose.

What about MP3 accompaniment/practice tracks?

Sweet MIDI Player doesn’t support MP3 files, but there are other apps such as Amazing Slow Downer, Riffmaster Pro, Anytune, Tempo SloMo, and AudioStretch that play MP3 files and allow you to adjust tempo and/or pitch independently.  I plan to cover some of them in future blog posts.

Related Posts:

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.

Related Posts:

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)

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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

Related Posts:

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.

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…)