Archive for the ‘sheet music’ Category

This news has already been making the rounds on Twitter and the blogosphere, but I do want to mention it here too.  forScore 5 has been released, here’s the official info:

Note that a bug has been reported for bookmark metadata in forScore 5, so if you use the bookmark feature, they advise waiting for the 5.0.1 release (which is pending Apple approval as of this writing).  I’m in this boat, so I’m going to wait it out.

Before you upgrade, make sure to back up your music library!!!  See my earlier post on how to back up your forScore music library (the instructions are still good for forScore 4).

I do see some features on the list that I’ve been waiting for and that will make my life a whole lot easier.  More to come on my favorite new features in forScore 5.

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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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Related Posts:

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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.]

Related Posts:

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.

Related Posts:

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.

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!)

Related Posts:

[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.

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…)