Archive for the ‘tablet’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Posts:

magnetic_ipad_case_music_stand

Ever since I saw a commercially-manufactured magnetic iPad case that mounts on metal surfaces (the KICMount), I have been interested in trying to make one myself to use on a music stand.  The iPad would attach to the music stand securely enough that I wouldn’t have to worry about minor bumps and jostles causing the iPad to crash to the ground.  I could also safely pick up the music stand and carry it around while the iPad is on it.

I finally got to try this project  – here are instructions on how I did it.  This project is easily adaptable to other kinds of tablet cases too. (more…)

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):

Photo Sep 15, 10 16 39 AM

The tempo control:

Photo Sep 15, 1 25 28 PM

The instrument selection menu:

Photo Sep 15, 10 15 54 AM

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!

Photo Sep 15, 10 13 32 AM

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.)

Photo Sep 15, 10 09 33 AM

You can create your own playlists:

Photo Sep 15, 10 10 34 AM

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:

Photo Sep 15, 1 49 50 PM

Then tap the “Sweet MIDI” button:

Photo Sep 15, 1 43 45 PM

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:

Photo Sep 15, 1 46 30 PM

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:

Photo Sep 15, 1 47 25 PM

Then tap the “Sweet MIDI” button:

Photo Sep 15, 1 48 46 PM

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.

Photo Sep 15, 3 41 27 PM

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:

Photo Aug 23, 9 22 17 PM

I’ve gotten on the Spotify wagon during the last few months.  People have been telling me about it (e.g. here’s an earlier blog post about one musician who uses it for audition prep).  But I was resistant to installing yet another desktop app and creating yet another online account, and I was also unclear whether it was free or paid.  But recently I’ve been looking for pieces to program for a concert, and I got sick of wading through so many low-quality recordings and performances on YouTube.  (To be sure, there is a lot of excellent stuff on YouTube, but for some kinds of music you can waste a lot of time sorting through poor recordings and coming up empty-handed.)  So I finally checked out Spotify and discovered that their free desktop offering is actually quite compelling – you can access tons of high-quality professional recordings of classical and other music and play songs on-demand.  They also have a paid service for $5-10/month with more features and no ads.

Using Spotify on a mobile device is a little different.  Unlike the desktop app, the Spotify mobile app limits you to Spotify Radio if you have a free account, and you need a paid premium account to select and play songs on-demand through the app.  However, I’m going to show you a method for accessing Spotify on-demand music streaming for free on your iPad.  (This might work for iPhones and Android devices too, I haven’t tried it out.)

First, visit the Spotify website and sign up for a free account.

Then download and install the Photon Browser app from the App Store.  (Ok, this part isn’t free – right now the app runs about $5.)  Open it and tap on the gear icon near the top right to access the browser settings:

Photo Aug 23, 9 16 27 PM

Under “Flash Advanced”, choose a value for the “Bandwidth” setting.  Use a higher value if you have a higher bandwidth connection, and a lower value for lower bandwidth.  If you have video playback problems in Photon Browser, try decreasing the “Bandwidth” setting.  I’ve been using 4 and it works ok for me.  Then scroll down in the browser settings window and find the “User Agent” button:

Photo Aug 23, 9 16 51 PM

Tap the “User Agent” button, select “Chrome”, and tap “Done”:

Photo Aug 23, 9 17 02 PM

Then navigate to https://play.spotify.com in the browser window:

Photo Aug 23, 9 17 44 PM

Click on the login link (at the bottom of the white box) and sign in.  You will be taken to the main Spotify screen, but you’ll get an error message that says “To enjoy Spotify, please install Adobe Flash. It’s free.”  Don’t worry – that’s why we’re using Photon Browser.  Click on the lightning icon near the top right to initiate a Flash browsing session:

Photo Aug 23, 9 18 32 PM (copy)

The main Spotify screen will reload without the error message and you will be able to access your playlists and search for songs and play them.  All for free – no premium subscription required.

Photo Aug 23, 9 19 36 PM

Using Spotify through Photon Browser does have its quirks.  For example, I sometimes have to tap rapidly and repeatedly on a song name in order to get it to start playing.  If this happens to you, just be persistent and keep tapping:

Photo Aug 23, 9 21 46 PM

Also, the main Spotify screen may be easier to view on your iPad in full-screen + landscape mode.  Tap the expander icon near the top right to enter full-screen mode:

Photo Aug 23, 9 21 46 PM (copy)

And here’s how the main Spotify screen looks in landscape mode on the iPad:

Photo Aug 23, 9 22 17 PM

A couple more tips:

  • Anytime Spotify give you a “Please install Adobe Flash” error message, just tap on the lightning icon.
  • In Photon Browser, if you ever get a strange website that doesn’t look like Spotify or any other website you’re attempting to visit, just quit and restart Photon Browser and the flash browsing session.  This happened to me once.

There are still some pretty good reasons to spring for Spotify Premium service on your mobile device, if you prefer:

  • Offline listening – you can download music on-demand and listen to it when you’re offline
  • Much easier to use Spotify mobile app interface than Spotify through Photon Browser
  • With the mobile app, you can listen to Spotify while using other apps (like your score-reading app, e.g. forScore).  I haven’t found any way to do so while using Spotify through Photon Browser – not even this trick works.  (However, Photon Browser does have an interesting split-screen browser feature, which makes me wonder if I could use Spotify in one browser pane while viewing a score in the other browser pane.)
  • Higher-quality audio option
  • No ads

But if you can live with the browser quirks and don’t mind being online in order to play Spotify music on-demand on your mobile device, this is a very useful, convenient, and no-cost way of doing so.

Photon Browser is available for both iOS and Android.  If you try this method out on your iPhone or Android device, let me know how it turns out.

Related Posts:

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.

Related Posts:

I was inspired to compile a list of streaming internet radio stations that are of interest to classical singers, after reading a thread on this topic on Facebook some weeks back.  You can listen to these audio streams on your computer using your web browser; on mobile devices, you can use an app like TuneIn to access most (not all) of these audio streams.  For some channels, e.g. Operavore, the player on their website provides more real-time information about the work, performers, and composer than you get through an app like TuneIn.  Other channels do display that information within the TuneIn interface.

If you have suggestions for streaming audio channels that belong in this list, let me know in the comments section.

VivaLaVoce (WETA, Washington DC)

Description from their website: “VivaLaVoce presents classical vocal music in all its forms, from the Middle Ages to the present, 24 hours per day. Featuring Opera, Choral Music, and Art Song, the station offers something for everyone who loves vocal classical music.”

Operavore (WQXR, New York City)

Click on the “Operavore” tab at the top of their website to listen to the streaming audio.  Description from their website: “Operavore is WQXR’s digital 24/7 audio stream, blog and weekly radio show devoted to Opera. The Operavore blog features breaking news, expert commentary and reviews by writers Fred Plotkin, David Patrick Stearns, Marion Lignana Rosenberg and Amanda Angel. The stream features a continuous, carefully programmed mix of classic and contemporary opera recordings. The show, which launches Jan. 19, 2013, features opera news bulletins from the around the globe, previews of new recordings, and interviews with the players and personalities on the scene.”

MPR Choral Stream (Minnesota Public Radio)

Listen from your web browser, TuneIn, or the MPR Radio App for iPhone.  Description from their website: “We’ve created our 24/7 choral stream for one reason: we love this music. We want to share our favorites and some beautiful surprises with you. What’ll you hear? A big range from Palestrina to Pärt, spirituals to Schubert, and new work by Whitacre, Lauridsen, Paulus, and more wonderful contemporaries. You’ll discover great professional choirs, college choirs, amateur choirs, church choirs… anytime you want!”

radio_opera_logo Rádio Ópera (São Paulo, Brazil)

Description from their website: “Full-length operas 24 hours a day.”

King FM Opera Channel (Seattle, WA)

Description from their website: “All Opera, all the time – only a mouseclick away! Featuring operas 24/7, hosted by Seattle Opera General Director Speight Jenkins.”

King FM Choral Music Channel (Seattle, WA)

Description from their website: “Choral Channel in partnership with Chorus America”

NDR Kultur – Belcanto (NDR, Hamburg, Germany)

Listen to this stream at ndrkulturbelcanto.rad.io.  Description from their website: “NDR Kultur presents the most famous arias from the world of Italian opera. The stars of the international opera stage for an hour draw the listener into the realm of dreams and the ‘dolce vita’.”

http://www.swissradio.ch/menu/discography/klassik/opern/index.htm Swissradio.ch Opera (Switzerland)

Description from their website: “Opera and Operetta: Enjoy with swissradio Opera legendary and rare opera recordings in full length.”

GotRadio – Classical Voices

Description from their website: “Opera and choral music”

ottos_opera_house_logo 1.FM – Otto’s Opera House

Description from their website: “Listen to over 1000 complete and uninterrupted operas from the baroque era to modern days [sic] performances. You will be dazzled by the greatest singers and composers. A great collection of operatic music!”

rd_opera Diveky Radio – Opera (Budapest, Hungary)

Description from their website: “The premier opera recordings from Hungary and around the world”

rd_operetta Diveky Radio – Operetta (Budapest, Hungary)

Description from their website: “Famous operettas from Budapest and Vienna, augmented by well known French and English works”

Radio Caprice (Russia)

Their channels include OperaMass/Chorus/Cantata, and even a station devoted to popera, if that’s your cup of tea.  The TuneIn app was the most straightforward way for me to listen to these channels, since the web page required browser plug-ins that I was unsuccessful in installing.  If you do use the TuneIn app, you’ll need to search on the exact title of the channel in order to find it, due to the large number of Radio Caprice channels, so search for “Radio Caprice Opera” or “Radio Caprice Mass/Chorus/Cantata”.  Speaking of which, the Radio Caprice website lists a huge number of musical genres for which they have channels, 2/3rds of which I have no idea what they are (what is “funeral doom metal”?).

Related Posts: