Want an app to help make reading Sheet Music easier?

Notezilla logoNotezilla – (READ TO THE END FOR UPCOMING FEATURES!)

We provide high quality, interactive sheet music – synced to real recordings.

There it is, the simple idea behind this music app.

The short version of this post is that Notezilla provides a way for us to see beautifully rendered sheet music and at the same time listen to a high quality recording of that music performed by actual musicians. There are a few nifty tools to help us study that sheet music while being able to listen to it.

Let’s see why we need an app like this…

FACTS: we can currently…

  1. LISTEN to RECORDED MUSIC – We already have an amazing amount of recorded music to listen to at our fingertips from top notch, quality performing groups – I have fallen in love with Spotify for this!
  2. SEE SHEET MUSIC – Apps like ForScore, UnRealBook and GigBook allow us to have sheet music on our iPads to perform from.
  3. MANIPULATE and CREATE SHEET MUSIC – We already have some amazing music notation apps like Finale, Sibelius, Notion, SymphonyPro and NoteFlight, to produce and manipulate that sheet music.
  4. LISTEN to and SEE – All of the music notation apps allow us to listen to our pieces of music in one way or another. Notion even allows us to take our music scores we have entered into out devices and listen to them using samples from actual musicians but it is still not the same as an actual ensemble performing that piece of music.

PROBLEMS:

  1. If we are listening to actual, live, performers then the sheet music is pretty static. For instance – ForScore allows me to have the sheet music on my iPad and then link a recording from my iPad iTunes library to that PDF. So now I am looking at the music and I hear a great recording but the two are not linked. Hope you can read the sheet music!
  2. I can use SymphonyPro or Noteflight on my iPad to see sheet music, push the play button and have the sheet music follow along with a recording. What I will hear is actually pretty impressive but it is not the same as an actual performer.
  3. Notion actually uses samples of real performers for their app – this is a huge improvement over the past and gets us closer but again it is not the same as an actual performer.

SOLUTION?

Now we have a new option on the scene. We now have an app that allows us to see sheet music that is synced to a recording of an actual performing group, performing that piece of music! On June 13, 2014 an iPad app called Notezilla was released on the app store to help out! Here is a short section from their web site;

“Notezilla is the first tool out there that successfully brings high quality audio and sheet music together. Our sheet music is synced to real recordings, so users can listen to the recording of a piece while easily studying the underlying sheet music.

This makes for a very interactive experience and can provide a level of understanding previously only available to advanced musicians.”

Wait a minute…. I know, I know…. some of you are already firing up your comments below and typing in one word – SMARTMUSIC. Yup, you know and I know that Notezilla may not be the “first” to do this. Jump to the end to find out what I think about the two apps compared to each other.

CAN I CONTINUE NOW?

Erik and Chris, both musicians, simply wanted a way to make reading sheet music easier. That desire produced Notezilla – first released in the fall of 2013 for the web and then as an iPad app in June of 2014.

What is there currently is pretty straightforward with a couple of pleasant surprises. Take a look at this explanation…

  • Play back buttons – Controls to hide groups of instruments (only on the web currently) – Bookmarks – Zoom – Speed Control

Notezilla Mozart_-_Die_Zauberflöte

It’s simple, straightforwards and easy. It works too! Hit the playback button and that big red line follows the recording and the music scrolls along in realtime. What an amazing listening too in music classes! On the web version you get the ability to hide certain instruments (This ability is coming to the iPad soon!). There is the option to go fullscreen and zoom in or out of the music.

On the web version of the app there is also the ability to create bookmarks. This would allow you to create a way to quickly load up a piece of music right to the specific spot you needed for class. In fact you can even embed these bookmarks into a webpage. Here try it out – Handel’s Messiah at Measure 12

Then there is also the ability to speed up or slow down the music. This of course also slows down the recording, obviously as one of the points of this is to see  the music and hear the music at the same time! You have the option to go in 24% increments. The pitch of the audio stays in the correct key while doing this. Now we can all learn to play Flight of the Bumble Bee at a non-ridiculous speed!

PROBLEMS -

The website/app as is works exactly like it says and it works very well! So what’s the issue?

  1. LIBRARY  - Currently the library of available tunes is small. Chris assures me thought that the goal is to release at least one new piece of music every week. The current library is also focused on public domain pieces, read that as saying – “It’s all classical”. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Chopin, Pachelbel, Boccherine, Greig and then Steve Goldman.
  2. HOW TO USE IN PERFORMING ENSEMBLES – The limits of the library currently limit the app for Bands and Choirs mostly to a listening tool – a really sweet one! Click on that Handel’s Messiah link above again – there it is, right in the middle of class, the vocals/instruments AND Sheet Music!

If the iPad app is going to be used for performance then we need a few things….

  1. While zooming is amazing on the iPad app, it needs to be able to hide instruments or better yet just have an option to show only one selected instrument.
  2. We have to be able to write annotations on the music – let’s face it, who performs/rehearses WITHOUT doing this? It’s a requirement that my students have a pencil on their music stands at all time!
  3. The iPad app needs to be able to be used in portrait mode as well as landscape. If I have my flute part pulled up in this app I would like the option to have an entire page viewed at once.
  4. Scrolling while playing the piece of music needs to be worked on. Currently it is easy to loose track of where you are if you are trying to perform with this app while it is playing and scrolling the music at the same time.

The amazing part is that all four items mentioned above are being worked on right now! Hopefully by August 1st there will be an update! If you have read my blog for very long you have heard me say this before…. iOS developers are AWESOME! They listen to and seek out people who are interested in actually using their apps and then ask for their opinions/suggestions!

WHAT THIS APP ISN’T:
This app isn’t going to give us a way to take OUR music and sync it to OUR recordings.

TO WRAP THIS UP
It is free to explore so go ahead and take a look -There are five pieces of totally free music for you to experience. If you like what you see and hear then for $4.99 you get access to every other piece of music they release. (Oh yeah, remember the mention of SmartMusic above? This is one way Notezilla has a bit of an edge on SmartMusic. A SmartMusic subscription is more then $4.99 and you have to renew every year. Of course SmartMusic offers way more repertoire plus it has the grade book functions that this app does not currently offer.)

Notezilla web address is - http://www.notezilla.io
Notezilla iPad app is here - Notezilla Small IconNotezilla

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One Response to “Want an app to help make reading Sheet Music easier?”

  1. rachelsappreviews Says:

    Reblogged this on Rachel's App Reviews and commented:
    Really well done review! The app looks interesting, but seems to still have bugs that need improving


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