Music Notation Apps for iPad

So music notation apps have really had some major changes in the past year or two and even the past weeks!

Here is a file I scanned in using PhotoScore on my laptop, edited for musical markings and then I did a few experiments with it so you can see some of your choices… or rather see AND hear.


iPad Music Apps on sale right now! (Updated Again!)

Updated once at 2:47PM EDST – then again at 6:43PM EDST

For those of you wanting to get your feet wet in creating music on your iPads, this is the time to make a few purchases! These apps are currently on sale! Get them now because all of these are amazing and these prices represent a significant drop in cost! These are al apps that cost more than most people spend unless they are actually interested in what is offered. The price point of these apps are, at the same time, considerably cheaper than such an app would cost on a regular computer. Considering that many of these emulate a piece of hardware the difference in price becomes an even greater bargain!

For those who want some great synth sounds:
Animoog Animoog – $4.99 (On sale from $29.99) - If you do not have this app you need to get it NOW!
Animoog Animoog for iPhone – $1.99 (On sale from $9.99)
Filtatron Filtaron $0.99 (On sale from $7.99)
iMini iMini $4.99 (On sale from $9.99)
iSEM Arturia iSEM $4.99 (On sale from $9.99)
Magellan Magellan $6.99 (On sale from $14)
Sunrizer iconSunrizer Synth – $5 (On sale from $10)
Sunrizer iconSunrizer XS - 
Chordion Chordion – $0.99 (On Sale from $3.99)

For those who are interested in DJ app’s
TraktorDJ Traktor DJ – $9.99 (On sale from $19.99)
TraktorDJ Traktor DJ for iPhone – $1.99 (On sale from $4.99)

DAW – Digital Audio Workstation sort of app
MeteorMultitrackRecorder Meteor MultiTrack Recorder- $9.99 (On sale from $19.99) - A great entry price point into the world of iPad DAW apps!
Synergy Synergy Studio $9.99 (On sale from $19.99)
Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 11.38.29 AM BeatMaker2 $4.99 (On sale from $19.99)

For the Guitar players
TabToolkit TabToolkit $0.99 (On sale from $3.99)
Bias BIAS-Amps $14.99 (On sale from $19.99)
JamUpPro JamUp Pro XT $9.99 (On sale from $19.99)
AmpKit AmpKit+ $8.99 (On sale from $19.99)

For the drummer in all of us
ImpaktorImpaktor – $1 – (80% off!)
Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 11.38.29 AM BeatMaker2 $4.99 (On sale from $19.99)

GlitchBreaks GlitchBreaks $2.99 (On sale from $4.99)
iMaschine iMaschine for iPhone $1.99 (On sale from $4.99)

For the Live8 Users
LiveRemoteLiveRemote $6.99 (On sale from $9.99)

For Music Teachers
Moosic Studio iconMoosic Studio -$20 off right now!

NOT iPad/iPhone APPS
Presonus has 50% off their Studio One DAW, Notion4 software app, and Progression 2 software for writing tabs/notation!
Notion has a great iPad version of their notation app that works hand in hand with the desktop version. At this price Notion is a ridiculous low price of $49.50! That is even a lower price than you can cross upgrade for from Sibelius of Finale!

You Have To Go Slow To Go Fast!

Time stops for no one!

Time stops for no one!

That is what I tell my band students all the time. We are gonna have to make some bad sounds in order to sound good. This is what I tell my band students all the time in rehearsals.

This also applies to using tech in the classroom. It takes some serious time invested in getting my iPad setup and ready for use in teaching. The first reason I bought an iPad for, on the first day they were released, was to put all my music on it in PDF format. That way I did not have to lug around folders and folders of scores plus it would also mean I did not have to go searching to find the correct scores in the middle of rehearsal.

So here is the process and why I say it takes time, a lot of time!

  1. Pick the music out
  2. Pull one original of every part out along with the score
  3. Take those down to the copy room and scan them (we call this process “digitizing the music”. I say we because thankfully I have students helpers that help out here.
  4. Once scanned it shows up in my email. I open that attachment and rename it then save it into DropBox. Since Mavericks has been released this process is a tad easier. I double click that attachment and once it opens I can rename the PDf, Tag it (love those tags!), and choose where to save it to right from the top menu bar on the PDF. (If I open that email on my iPad then I use the Open In menu to open that PDF attachment in the DropBox app. That way I can file it and rename the file right away. That also allows me to access the PDF file from any other app on the iPad)
  5. The next step is to open UnReal, GigBook, or ForScore on my iPad. I then access DropBox from ForScore and import the files that I need.
  6. The next step is to make a set list for each band that I conduct and insert all the correct PDF’s into those set lists so that it is easier in rehearsal to find the next song. I could just use the search function but once I have all the songs for all the bands I conduct in the iPad there is a pretty long list of songs. It takes too long to search for a song in the middle of a rehearsal with a group of middle students when they all hold noise makers in their hands!
  7. Once set lists are set up I could stop there and my life would be made easier my just having the sheet music in the digital domain BUT I think there is one other thing we can do! Let’s link a song from out iTunes library to the PDF file so that we can easily play a demonstration recording for our students.
  8. That means we actually have to have a recording of that piece in our iTunes Library! So sometimes I have to go make a recording, go download it from somewhere, or go buy it. Sometimes I use a service like to pull a video from YouTube.
  9. Then once the MP3 is in my iTunes library I can then tap on the link button A)in ForScore (tap on the song title in the top of the screen – at the bottom of the menu that pops up is that link button) B)in UnRealBook you use the music menu at the top of the screen to link a song to the PDF.
  10. HINT – In ForScore you can actually link several MP3′s to a single PDF – so If you are a choir teacher for instance you could have a recording of the soprano part, another recording of the alto part and also a recording of the accompaniment all linked to the PDF of the music. Then if you are not a great piano player you don’t have to try to stumble through the playing of the parts, just play the MP3!

Now, since I teach 4 middle school bands that each play 3-4 pieces for the concerts and 2 high school groups that will play 6-7 pieces each you can start to see why this process takes so long.


Here is the final action to be taken…. Once this is done for each piece the first time you then make sure to make backups of you digitized PDF music and also backups of your iTunes library! This way the next time you perform and rehearse these pieces this entire process will take just moments! It is well worth the time up front because your rehearsals are easier to plan for and carry out as well!

I am very interested in how everyone is using the new “Tags” in Mavericks. I have started using tags more now and started changing the way I name my files. Now instead of putting the composer and arranger in the file name I simply put that info into tags. How are tags changing your workflow?

New Notation App! (Does handwritten music!)

notatemelogoNeuratron had released a new music notation and composition app that will recognize handwritten music! This app is for your smartphone or iPad!

The app is NotateMe (iPad version) (iPhone version) and is currently listed as beta (therefore the version number it is $13.99 as of now. I’m sure that price is going to go up after it matures to version 1.0 though.

I have not had a chance to try this out yet (because I just spent my iTunes money on a new iPad synth) BUT I will try it soon and post back here about how it goes.

Here is the video on Youtube

For those of you who do not recognize the company Neuratron – They have been around for years. Their music scanning software has been able to recognize handwritten music for a while now! So the tech isn’t new, the platform it is being served on now is the new exciting part of this release!

Notion joins the PreSonus Family!

In the mix of school and all the iOS 7 news flying around I just caught this new!

Notion has been purchased by PreSonus! PreSonus assures that they acquired Notion so that they could offer more to their customers! The Notion line of music notation products will continue to be developed!

Creating Music Notation on an iPad

NotionLogoSymphonyProV3Currently there are several music notation apps for the iPad – Notion for iPad and SymphonyPro along with Sonja. My friend did a blog post about Sonja the other night and you should read it here. Then of course there is Noteflight which is not really an app but it runs inside a web browser. The top contenders being Notion and Noteflight.

I have to say that Symphony Pro actually works now (well kind of)! I tried the app again tonight, after several updates lately. The app is now useable at least – in other words it actually launches and when using a MIDI keyboard to input notes the correct notes appear!

Tonight I was inspired by the YouTube video from the MIDImorphosis people inputting music notation from their guitars! I wanted to try with my MIDI keyboard. Both Notion and SymphonyPro worked pretty well! Those were the only two apps I tried and then I needed sleep! I hooked the keyboard up, set the score up, hit record and started playing. I started out simple and then increased the number of notes I was playing. I ended up with a reasonable rendition of what I played. As is the case even on full featured apps like Sibelius and Finale, there is editing that has to be done after inputting notes live with a MIDI keyboard.

The editing is what is going to take anyone a bit of time to figure out what to do on any app. There are still frustrations while editing the scores in both apps – SP had an absurd number of ties show up for no reason. Notion stopped recording even though I wasn’t done yet! Things like that are frustrating but easily dealt with.

My thoughts on the two apps…. a week ago I would have said to stay away from SymphonyPro – Like I said, the app works now though. SymphonyPro has not had a good track record though – lots of bugs and non-working versions released to the public. The app even disappeared from existence a while back and then it was resurrected.  Am I confidant that this app will continue to be developed? No. The benefit, for now, is that this app costs $10 (as of 8-9-2013) and doesn’t take a gigabyte of space on your iPad like Notion does!

Notion on the other hand is going to be around for awhile! Notion has a desktop version as well. Notion takes a ton of space on your iPad because this company has spent considerable time and money recording the London Symphony Orchestra to get the sounds that are incorporated in the app! What does that mean? It means your score is going to sound great! It also means someone is serious about the app! Notion only costs $15 (as of 8-9-2013) but if you are talking about a classroom set of iPad that could add up. OF course at that discussion I might lead you towards NoteFlight which has a free option!

Compared to having to spend the hundreds of dollars to get music notation apps into the hands of my music students a few years ago the possibilities these days are exciting! It’s a no brainer – not to mention a major part of National and State Fine Arts Standards for Music Education!

Anyways… enough ramblings… here is my trial work – proof that this works! I did have to edit almost every single whole note – it was always notated as a shorter value and a rest afterwards. I didn’t do much else though.

SymphonyPro Example

Notion Example

Music Notation Possibilities on an iPad Using MIDImorphosis

Screen Shot 2013-08-08 at 11.41.02 PMAs music teachers we are constantly creating music using notation software (well at least I am).

Tonight I came across a YouTube video that is an excellent example of the possibilities developing on iPad! MIDImorphosis is an app by Secret Base Design that listens to audio coming into the iPad and then turns that audio into MIDI information. That MIDI information can then be used in a multitude of ways – like to create music notation or play a synth app.

I am not a guitar player but I “get this” need! I need the same idea but with my keyboard! Of course being able to enter music into a software app using a MIDI keyboard is a standard feature these days but unless you have had a MIDI convertor for your guitar you have not had many choices! Now with MIDImorphosis you can use a guitar and an iPad along with a couple of apps and have sheet music in just a few steps!

Here is the video – go check this out if you are a guitar player! In the video he is using Progression which is put out by Notion Music


Notion on the iPad for Band Directors (or anyone actually!)

notiononiPadIf you are using an iPad and you also need to use a music notation program, I would hope by now that you are aware of Notion for the iPad. Of course Notion is not JUST for the iPad though. That is actually one of the beautiful things about this app!  You can have it on your laptop and your iPad making it all that more flexible! Another great feature is the price – $99 for the full computer version and $15 for the iPad version. Compare that to other notation software and I think you will agree that it is a bargain! I will start out with a word of warning about the size of this app! It is going to require a large amount of space because of one feature that also makes it stand out it the selection of notation apps available. Notion gives you the ability to compose, edit, and playback scores using real audio samples performed by the London Symphony Orchestra recorded at Abbey Road Studios. That does mean large app sizes! This in it self is enough of a reason for music teachers to never even consider a 16GB iPad – in fact a 32GB is questionable as a teacher!

OK, OK you say – let’s get to the good stuff…..

Here is how I was exploring Notion tonight as a Band Director getting ready for Band Camp:

STEP ONE – First of all I am a Sibelius user ever since version 2. I also use Finale (ever since it came out) but Sibelius is my main choice. So as I prepare for Band Camp I take my parts for the marching show that have been scanned into PDF files and I use PhotoScore to read my PDF files, one part at a time, into Sibelius. The ability in PhotoScore to read from a PDF is a huge benefit. i used to have to have one TIFF file for PhotoScore and then a PDF for my iPad. No longer. It takes me about 10 minutes a part to get from PDF to Sibelius and that includes fixing errors in PhotoScores reading of the PDF. Then I combined all the parts into one score. When I get done the Sibelius parts look just like the ones I bought – dynamics and articulations and everything else.

STEP TWO – Thank goodness that the notation world is buying into Music XML because it really is making life easier and makes sharing this Sibelius score I have created easier these days! I simply exported an XML file of the score from Sibelius and emailed it to myself.

STEP THREE – I grab my iPad, open my mail app, tap on the attachment and select “Open in Notion”

STEP FOUR – Notion opens the XML file and wa la – it’s all there! It’s like magic! The score looks pretty much exactly like it did in Sibelius!

So now I have a very flexible score of my marching show on my iPad. I can edit this score – change parts, whatever I would like to do and even print it from Notion. When listening to the playback of the score it sounds so much better than using Scorch (I will post about Scorch later).

Here are a few tips though that it took me a bit of digging around to figure out….

Let’s look at the score as it showed up -

Imported XML Score

Imported XML Score


The screen acts as yo would expect – you can scroll through, play it, edit it etc.

The next thing I dug into was the settings (the gear icon) and I discovered Continuous View – I like this view on the iPad. It simply is one long scroll from left to right. You can see from the screenshot below that there is a yellowish bar on the left of the screen to indicate that you are in this view.

Notion 2 Continuous View

Now as a Band Director I almost panicked when I could not figure out how to display individual parts but it is there in the settings under view….

Notion 3 View settings


Tap on Dynamic Parts and there is the list I was looking for – allowing me to select any individual part I wish to see by itself.

Notion 4 Parts

Upon selecting the Flute part for instance, this is what you would get….

Notion 5 Flute Part


Now there was one setting I actually had to go in and take care of that for some reason did not come through in the XML import of the score. I had to dig in and select the correct playback instrument for SOME of the parts. Some parts were already done for me – like the flute and clarinet. But the trumpets and trombones were not. Here is a screenshot of that process… Go into the settings, and select SCORE SETUP (Not Parts Settings as I did – that is page layout stuff!)

Notion 6 Setting instruments


simply tap the blue arrow and you get this ability to SWITCH INSTRUMENT for that Part…

Notion 7 Selecting Instrument


The last item I am going to mention is that I found it rather interesting that I had to pay extra for an Alto Sax sound! I know Notion wanted to keep some sounds out of the original download because of file size. Plus not everyone is going to need a mandolin or banjo sound and having to pay extra to get a “section” sound of trumpets makes sense to me as an extra. An Alto Sax, Tenor Sax and Bari Sax sound seems pretty basic to me though! Each sound is .99 cents though so it’s not THAT big of an expense.

I have to pay for an Alto Sax sound?

I have to pay for an Alto Sax sound?


I choose to enter all my music into Sibelius first because I am so fast using that app. I think there are many music teachers out there that fall into this category besides me. Being able to import that XML file is huge! It makes it nice that I do not have to enter everything into Notion on the iPad but I can still end up with a music notation file on my iPad that I can use from there.

REALITY – The real question is this – How much am I going to use this? Well I’m not so sure that I will actually end up doing much editing of the music in Notion for iPad. I absolutely feel that having the Notion file is so much better than using a PDF version of the music! Of course I will have to play around this marching season to compare having the Notion file versus simply using Sorch for iPad (which reads the Sibelius file and displays the notation but will not allow editing of that file. Scorch is simply for viewing and playing back the notation file)

CON – Marching Band Directors are not going to be happy with playback of the drumline! Of course I am not happy on my laptop unless I have Virtual Drumline from TapSpace playing! Thank goodness both Sibelius and Finale now use a few of the sounds from Virtual Drumline in their basic soundsets available for everyone.  BUT the ability for us to now at LEAST view that notation on our iPads is HUGE! (In a much cleaner and more flexible version than PDF) Of course the Drumline parts take much longer to actually enter into Sibelius so you really have to weigh the time against the benefit. It takes me about 5 minutes to pull out the printed drumline parts, walk down the hall to the scanner at school and scan those into PDF format. In the time it takes me to get back to the Band Room I can pull my iPad out and have those PDF’s pulled out of my Mail app and into ForScore or UnRealBook or GigBook. I still question the benefit of taking the time to dump drumline parts into Sibelius for use on my iPad in Scorch or Notion. There is no doubt in my mind about the benefit of putting wind parts in because I also end up creating SmartMusic files and testing the students on their marching music through SmartMusic. (Again using XML as the way to get Sibelius files turned into Finale files to convert to SmartMusic)

I would love to hear from other directors who are using their iPads on the Marching Band field and in music rehearsals for Marching Band! LEave comments below!


This Changes Things! Band Directors take note! (Updated)

If you use an iPad, teach band and use Essential Elements Methods book ….. Then you need to be aware of the updates Hal Leonard has put together!

Check out this link…

The interactive iBooks they have for every instrument is going to change the way I teach!

This is taking the simple scanning of a book I already own to a different level. First of all each piece has the accompaniment right there next to the music. No searching for it in the iTunes library, no loading SmartMusic and then searching for the right song, it is a simple press of the play button! Secondly, finding a song is quick and easy because there is a table of contents that has already been put together for me. I don’t have to go through and bookmark songs in ForScore or UnReal Book. Even if I did do that, can you imagine the mess I would have if I did that for every instrument in the band?

Of course this will be the first year I have SmartMusic on my iPad as well. How that will work out remains to be seen. It for sure will be amazing to be able to put use the Apple TV, an iPad and SmartMusic during rehearsals.

Take a look at this screenshot…. Then go download the samples from the iBook store.

UPDATE – Additional info….. Each book is 377 MB in size except of course the Percussion book which is 566MB.

As of now I do not see a Directors score in the iBook Store.

SymphonyPro has been brought back to life!

SymphonyProV3I was not expecting this but it has happened…. SymphonyPro has released a Version 3!

Now I kind of liked SymphonyPro when it was out before… the app was respectable in size requirements (Which is why I deleted Notion off my 32 GB iPad) and worked all right (I never really used it a ton though because I had Sibelius and I really wanted live MIDI keyboard input with XML support)

This version 3 promises XML plus the MIDI live input recording! So I downloaded the update and got to playing. Here is what I found….

WARNING – I don’t usually post app reviews here that are negative but this is pretty bad. I had to warn people!

The short version is that the app actually DOES indeed record MIDI input from a keyboard hooked up via the Camera Connection Kit. I was pretty happy with the way the rhythms looked too! But the kicker is that the notes are ALL messed up! I play a C and it thinks it’s a B. Now I thought maybe it was the transpose button on the keyboard had gotten pushed so I kept playing a C on the keyboard and tapped the transpose button until the screen said I was playing a C. Then things got real bad…

I play a C Major arpeggio and it transcribes a C minor! I play a C minor arpeggio and Symphony Pro transcribes a C Major!

So then I’m thinking it was the keyboard as I don’t use it real often. So I fired up two other apps to see what happens in those apps. Everything worked exactly as I expected! In fact I had to un-transpose the keyboard to get it back to actually playing a C.

Then I get to thinking that maybe Im having apps interfere with each other so I force quite every app in the iPad dock and try SymphonyPro again. Same story.

If you would like to see this happen for your self go watch my YouTube video….

I don’t have time to test the rest of the app – it was this MIDI live recording that I was so excited about working and that’s all I got to.

Buyer Beware!


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