Archive for the ‘sheet music’ Category

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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So one of the things that’s been sucking away at my time for blog-writing these last couple months is that I’ve been organizing and programming a benefit concert.  While hunting for pieces related to the concert themes, it occurred to me to share some of the Google-fu that I use for finding music.  I’m sure these tips are old hat to some of you tech-savvy singers, but others might find them useful.

So, one of my objectives was to find vocal solo or small ensemble pieces from the opera, art song, musical theater, or popular genres on the theme of “gold” or “golden”, since the concert benefits an organization celebrating its golden anniversary season.  I did this by using keyword searches on the following websites:

Several of these sites contain texts in various translations, so I made sure to search for translated versions of my keywords, too.  E.g., in addition to searching for “gold” I would also search for terms “oro”, “d’or”, etc.  (It had to be “d’or” for French since “or” would yield too many search results in English texts!)  Translating the search terms is less necessary for some of the sites, like The Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive and  Aria Database because they have English translations of many texts, so my keyword search for “gold” will still yield songs in other languages.  Other sites like Opernführer might only have the libretto in the original language or in German, for example, so translating the search keywords is a definite help there.

As for search engines – some of the sites above have a very good site search feature, e.g. The Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive and AllMusicals.com, so you can just go directly to their website and enter the keywords into the search form there.  But sometimes a website doesn’t have a site search feature (e.g. OperaGlass), the site search feature is too specialized for a general text search (Aria Database), or the site search does not return results of sufficient quantity or quality.  In this case, you can do a Google search with the following syntax in order to narrow your search results to a particular site – just include “site:” followed by the domain name of the website to search, with no space in-between:

gold site:opera.stanford.edu

google_search_syntax_example

Once I found song texts that fit my programming theme, I was able to track down scores for songs through online sheet music sellers, IMSLP, CPDL, or by using WorldCat to find scores in libraries local to me.

8/26/13 UPDATE 1: Fellow techie singer Katia H. has created a search tool that searches all of the websites mentioned above, in one fell swoop!  It’s over at classicalsongsearch.com – check it out!

8/26/13 UPDATE 2: Glendower Jones contributed this very useful info in the comments for this post:

This is great advice. Many folks may not know of the many massive reference books on vocal repertoire that were written by Sergius Kagen, Noni Espina, Michael Pilkington, Judith Carman, Graham Johnson, Shirley Emmons and Carol Kimball. A very useful reference is Pazdirek, the BBC Song Catalogue and Classical Vocal Music in Print and of course Groves and MGG. I don’t know, but possibly some of these books may now be on Google books.

These are some of the major references but still only a drop in the bucket. Pazdirek, Universal-Handbuch der Musikliteratur was produced in Vienna from 1904-1910 and contained the compilation of practically every music publisher active at the time. This was reprinted in 1967 in the Netherlands and is now free online. Few musicians know of this amazing work. http://archive.org/details/universalhandboo01pazd

Also, in a Facebook comment, Nicholas Perna adds:

As a shameless plug, I can also recommend readers search for Britten’s entire output using The Comprehensive Britten Song Database! www.brittensongdatabase.com

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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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1dollarscan.com sounds like a time-saving and reasonably-priced service for those of us with large libraries of printed music that need to be scanned into a digital format for use on an iPad/tablet or other computer.  For as low as $1 a book, 1dollarscan.com will scan your book and convert it to a PDF file that you can download and use on your computer or mobile device.

AN IMPORTANT NOTE: With this service, your physical books are NOT RETURNED, they are digitized and then DESTROYED!  So don’t use this for your precious tomes with sentimental value where you can’t let go of the physical volume.  Do use it for books that are cheap, used, and/or easily replaceable.  I’m sure this policy of theirs is some kind of CYA for copyright laws.

Some other quick facts to know about this service:

  • Base price is $1 per 100 pages.
  • For an additional cost, there are add-on services such as:
    • Text recognition to make the book searchable (in English, Italian, French, German, Spanish, and other languages)
    • File compression and de-skewing (compression is important when using scores on a mobile device)
    • Express service
    • Accept direct shipments of your book orders from Amazon or other online book/music vendors
    • (Coming soon) Direct upload to your Dropbox
  • Processing time is 2-4 weeks for regular customers, 5-10 business days for Platinum customers (plus round-trip shipping time)
  • Book covers are not scanned (so scan covers yourself beforehand, if you wish).
  • They accept local drop-offs at their San Jose facility in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • They accept orders shipped from inside or outside of the U.S.

The 1dollarscan.com website has a page about how it works, a FAQ, some sample scans, and pricing details.

Review Lagoon has a pretty good review and follow-up report about their experience with the 1dollarscan.com service, and Living Dice also has a review.  There are only a handful of reviews on Yelp about 1dollarscan.com, but all are positive so far.

If you’re shipping a lot of books from the U.S., check out the economical USPS Media Mail rates.

I haven’t yet tried out this service, but I will eventually – follow-up post to come.

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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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This might be useful to you voice students and teachers out there.  I’ve posted before about the Vaccai vocal method book being available on IMSLP, but it didn’t dawn on me until recently that many more vocal methods/studies and related writings are available there.  Here are links to the relevant categories on the IMSLP website:

And here are some items that caught my eye from the pages above:

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Now that I’ve been using forScore 5 for about a week, here’s a little show-and-tell about my favorite new features in this upgrade.  You can click on any of the images for a bigger view.  But first, let’s talk about bugs I’ve encountered in forScore 5.0.1.

Bugs

Not to beat a dead horse, but BACK UP your forScore library (both PDFs and the .4sb score data file) before you upgrade!!!  This saved me when my setlists vanished after the upgrade to version 5.0.1.  I was able to restore them using the forScore backup file I made right before I did the upgrade.

The upgrade did erase most of my settings, and I couldn’t restore those from the backup.  I had to go into the Toolbox menu and re-enter them.  The upgrade erased my custom pens (grrr) but NOT my custom stamps (whew!).

I ran into a issue with the global search tool (the magnifying glass icon) where searching for “Bach” yielded “Offenbach” but not “Johann Sebastian Bach”.  Although searching for “Sebastian” DID return “Johann Sebastian Bach”, oddly enough.

When the tab bar is open, it’s possible for the bottoms of scores to be cut off at the edge of the display.

The most serious issue I noticed, other than setlists & settings being erased, was that during rehearsal last night, there were a few times when forScore froze or kept skipping over multiple pages during a page turn.  I wasn’t able to isolate the exact conditions that caused it to happen, and I had to restart forScore for it to return to normal operation.  That would of course be catastrophic during a performance, so I’m going to report that bug and hope that they can get to the bottom of it very soon.

The jury is still out on the issue that I saw in forScore 4 where annotations would get “stuck” and not update when the page was turned (and it turns outs I’m not the only one who reported that problem).  I haven’t seen it yet in forScore 5, but I’ll wait and see if it happens any more.

Now, on to my favorite features:

Two-Up

You can now view two pages side-by-side in landscape mode.  Tap on the number/circle icon to the left of the title when in landscape mode to toggle between one-page and two-page view.  (The two-page view is rather small to read on the iPad, but may be useful if you have the piece almost memorized and just need a roadmap, or are visually skimming/searching though the piece.  The two-page view is most useful when projecting the iPad to a larger display.)  I posted a video demo of the two-up feature here.

Photo Apr 15, 1 38 49 AM

Quick Peek

Quick Peek shows you a thumbnail preview image of the score.  You can now access it through the score menu (eighth-note icon) and the global search tool (magnifying glass icon).  To access Quick Peek, just tap and hold on the score title (instead of a single tap as you would do to open the score normally).  Notice the plus sign in the bottom right corner of the thumbnail image – tap on it to open the score in a new tab.  (I posted a video tutorial on Quick Peek and Tabs here.)

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Tabbed View

I love this.  You can now have multiple scores open, each in their own tab, and switch between them.  I do think this feature needs additional refinement to make it faster and more convenient to open a score in a new tab and also to switch tabs, but the current version is a step in the right direction.  I posted a video tutorial on how to open scores in tabs here.

Photo Apr 15, 1 39 51 AM

Merge PDFs

Now you can combine multiple PDF files into a single PDF.  Just tap the “Edit” button in the Score menu, select the files to combine, then tap “Merge”.  Very handy, and a nice complement to the existing Rearrange feature that lets you copy/re-order/delete pages in a score.

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Setlist Creation & Placeholders

The setlist editor is now a snazzy two-pane window with the setlist on the left and your score library on the right – just browse and tap on scores to add them to the list.  There is also a handy way to add placeholders to your setlist to represent intermissions, songs performed from memory or by other performers, etc.

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Here’s what it looks like when you’re paging through a setlist and arrive at a placeholder:

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Page Number Offsets

I’ve been desperate for this feature for a long while.  It lets you specify a numerical offset so that the page number displayed by forScore matches the page number printed on your sheet music.  Great for finding your place during group rehearsals, as well as for navigating scores that were excerpted from a larger collection, like an anthology.  Tap the number symbol in the bottom right corner of the metadata window to enter the page number offset.

Also, I’ve heard from inside sources that future versions of forScore will support negative page offsets, with pages before 1 shown as Roman numerals.  This is helpful for aligning the page numbers in scores that have front matter – cover, preface, table of contents – that cause the printed page 1 to appear later in the PDF file.

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Adjustable page breaks for half-page turns

The page break for half-page turns now has a slider so you can adjust where the break occurs on each individual page, see below.

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Automatic margin detection for cropping

forScore’s cropping feature now does automatic margin detection.  As an example, consider this score page with lots of whitespace in the margins:

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If you select the “Crop” option from the Toolbox menu…

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The crop tool automatically expands the page so that the printed content fills most of the screen, then lets you make further adjustments before doing the final crop.  (I still prefer tools like Briss for cropping the margins of my lengthier scores – see my post on PDF bulk margin-cropping tools – but forScore’s enhancement to the cropping tool is certainly useful and practical for scores that don’t have too many pages.)

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To read about the rest of the new features in forScore 5, check out forScore’s official list of new features and the forScore User Guide.

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