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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s been a lot of hubbub lately about up-and-coming high-tech ways to handwrite music notation into your iPad.  In the meantime, let’s discuss some lower-tech (relatively speaking!) methods for writing on virtual staff paper on your iPad.  Over the next few posts, I’ll cover some different methods for doing this, starting with the note-taking app Penultimate.  Here is my video demo of how to set up Penultimate with staff paper.  Note that this is an iPad-only app and it requires paying a few bucks for the app and the staff paper download.  [UPDATE 3/24/13: In the comments section of this post, blog reader Brian reports that you can get free staff paper for Penultimate from ipadpapers.com.]

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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…)

Today, Chris Russell from Technology in Music Education brings us two posts of note (thanks, Chris!).

The first post relates his chat with Matt Sandler, Co-Founder and CEO of Chromatik, a new music reader app for iPad and browser-based platforms that’s planning to release this fall.  Chris reports that  Chromatik will have a number of features not available from music reader apps currently on the market, such as support for more file formats, internal tracking of page/measure/rehearsal numbers and codas/repeats, built-in music distribution to your ensemble, and the ability to record while simultaneously playing a reference recording (useful for individual/group practice or student assessment).  Chromatik has also attracted $1.1m in funding and some high-profile beta testers, like American Idol.  This music app/platform is worth keeping tabs on – sign up for the beta here.

The second post is a review of some favorite styluses, plus a link to an even longer stylus review list.  A stylus can be very useful for a musician in the digital age.  Apps like forScore allow for annotation stamps and typed-in text annotations, but sometimes you just have to write things in, and if your finger isn’t accurate enough, a stylus can help.  I’m using an Adonit Jot Pro, it’s pretty good so far but it’s my first stylus and I need to spend more time with it to form a solid opinion.  I’ve also heard good things about the iFaraday for smooth, accurate writing.  Palm rejection, or lack thereof, is one of the annoyances about using a stylus on a tablet, and I was tickled to find this solution:

Credit: SmudgeGuard

The top glove is the Hand Glider and the bottom one is the SmudgeGuard.  Or, as other stylus users have done with satisfactory results, you can go the DIY route and cut fingers off of a gardening glove or stretch knit glove.  Personally, I’m waiting until the gloves above are available in Silver Glitter.

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This video playlist is a webcast of a presentation given to the singers of Schola Cantorum on using iPads and tablets for choir rehearsal and performance.  The first part of the presentation is about the practical and logistical considerations of using an iPad/tablet as a singer and in a choral setting.  There is much useful information and Q&A here, including many issues that you might not have thought of if this type of tablet use is new to you.  The last part is (more…)

Here’s how I’ve outfitted my iPad for rehearsals and performance:

Photo of iPad and accessories

  • iPad 3
  • Inexpensive black silicone skin (about $5 on Amazon)
  • Power Support HD Anti-Glare Film (to cut the glare from stage lighting)
  • Adonit Jot Pro stylus
  • forScore PDF music reader app
  • Black iPad hand strap that I made myself
  • Screen cleaning cloth (this one came with my eyeglasses)
  • Red cosmetics bag that I found at the thrift store for $4 – it happens to be iPad-sized and has a nice side pocket for storing the accessories above as well as useful little singer things like throat lozenges and breath mints

Detailed equipment reviews to come…