Exciting News – Notion Music Notation App is bumped up to Version 5!

notion 5PreSonus has been busy, busy, busy! Not only did they release a new DAW for iPad called Capture Small Icon Presonus Capture, to use in conjunction with StudioOne but now Notion for the desktop has been updated to version 5!

Notion is PreSonus’s notation app that is truly cross platform – they have a version for Mac, Windows and iPad! Notion is probably your best choice for an all around music notation program because of that reason along with a few other details. Finale and Sibelius both have apps for the iPad that allow you to view notation files on the iPad but those iPad apps do not allow you to create and edit those notation files. IF you have Sibelius or Finale you should absolutely own those iPad apps though! For Sibelius users you should download Avid Scorch Small IconScorch. Finale users should download Finale SongBook Small IconFinale SongBook. They are both free and add an amazing level of access to those music notation files on your iPad!

Back to Notion V5….

HUGE BONUS THAT IS ONLY GOING TO CONTINUE TO GET BETTER:
You can go visit the Notion website to read everything but let me tell you why I believe this is a huge move for PreSonus/Notion. One of the new capabilities in Notion is that is is gaining some of the functionalities of StudioOne along with the look of StudioOne. What does that mean? That means that this nice notation app is gaining full-fledged DAW capabilities! New mixer, new plug-inslike Compressor/Limiter/EQ and by using Re-Wire you can even run a music notation file in Notion right alongside a recording project in StudioOne!

Do not underestimate the importance of this integration!

Another item that caught my eye is that Notion allows you to perform you Notion files live – adjusting tempo and volume to stay with the live performance simply by tapping along on a MIDI keyboard. PLUS Notion allows you to import audio files as a part of the project too! Of course one of the big new features is the ability to work with movies now. Sibelius of course has been able to work with video for quite a while now.

PRICE:
The price of Notion has gone up to $150, it used to be $100. If you have version’s 3 or 4 you can upgrade for $50. Now that $150 is the FULL price not an upgrade!

Compare that to the cost of Sibelius full price being $599 with upgrades costing from $50-$100 depending on which version you are running.

Compared to the cost of Finale full price being $600 with an upgrade costing you $140.

Just which version do you think students are going to be able to afford? Now, to be fair Finale does offer several slimed down versions of Final for $50-$120 and Sibelius offers a slimmed down version for $120. Both of those apps also offer educational pricing too.

Confused yet?

One more reason to like Notion – simple and straightforward and affordable!

WARNING:
These apps are going to cost you some hard drive space on your computer!

Notion – around 8GB
Sibelius – around 36GB
Finale – around 2.5GB

CHOICES: There used to be two main choices for music notation – Sibelius or Finale. Now we have a bunch of options! Some apps run on desktop as well as on iPad. Then we have some other options that are iPad only now. Here’s the run-down.
Notion – Desktop and Notion Small IconiPad version – $
Sibelius – Desktop version with Avid Scorch Small IconScorch (an iPad viewer) – $$
Finale – Desktop version with Finale SongBook Small IconFinale SongBook (an iPad viewer) – $$$
NoteFlight – works on desktop or iPad through a web browser – FREE!
MuseScore – Desktop version (FREE) with an iPad viewer $

SymphonyPro Small IconSymphonyPro – iPad app $
Tabular iOS Small IconTabular – iPad app $
NotateMe Icon SmallNotateMe – iPad app $ (Handwritten music PLUS amazing music scanning plugin – $)
SmartScore NoteReader – iPad app music scanning app (read about it here on Chris Russell’s website – http://techinmusiced.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/smartscore-notereader-is-available-how-does-it-compare/
Sonja Small IconSonja – iPad app free

FINAL VERDICT

If you only own an iPad and want a music notation app – Get Notion IF YOU HAVE SPACE – or SymphonyPro. You can NOT go wrong with either app!

If you want a great music notation app and you own an iPad plus you want to be able to work on notation files from the laptop as well as the iPad…. get Notion.

If you already own Sibelius and are as worried as I am about the future of Sibelius… (Heck, I haven’t even upgraded to version 7 yet let alone 7.5!) Notion is still going to be a great addition to having Sibelius. Especially since all three apps are Music XML compatible so you can transfer files back and forth easily!

Finale users are not worried a bit about the future of Sibelius but again Notion just might be a nice addition, especially the iPad version of Notion!

iMIDIPatchbay app on sale! (HUGE SALE!)

iMIDI PatchBay

iMIDIPatchbay Small IconiMIDIPatchbay is currently on sale for only $10! (That’s is down from the $29.99 it usually sells for and even more reduced from the release price of $49.99!) Plus it is now an universal app which means it will work on both the iPad and the iPhone!

If you have several different  apps on your iPad with great sounds in them and you are interested in using 2 or more apps at the same time then this app is for you!

If you work with keyboards then you probably know what a MIDI controller is. This app turns an keyboard into a master MIDI controller… set up any keyboard to have different splits for instance to have the left end play AniMoog and the right end to play Nave. In fact set up 4 splits! Make it so that your sustain pedal only sustains the sound from AniMoog and not Nave and your expression pedal only affects Nave.

List of features

  • Create split and layer configurations very easily
  • Support for up to 4 master keyboards
  • Send volume and other control changes to your sound devices
  • Send Program Changes to your sound devices
  • Transpose sounds in octave steps
  • Transpose the hole rig in half-tone steps
  • Filter controller data (sustain, pitch bend etc.)
  • Store configurations as songs for later recall
  • Switch songs of iMIDIPatchbay from another app or MIDI device via Program Changes
  • Switch songs while holding down keys or holding e.g. the sustain pedal without getting stuck notes
  • Play all your sounds even if you don’t have all your master keyboards with you: “master switches” allow you to make another master act as a substitute for it (advanced feature!)
  • Create setlists to arrange songs for your performances
  • Link multiple PDFs (e.g. sheet music or notes) from Dropbox to each song
  • Backup settings to Dropbox
  • UI which is optimized for live usage
  • Universal app for iPad and iPhone

If you are not sure how powerful this app is check out YouTube for a few of the videos that are easily found like this one from the developer….

Flipping the Band Room – iPad Apps to Make it Rock!

Explain Everything AppI’ve always been trying to find ways to get students more involved outside of the classroom in creating music. In reading all of the information about “Flipping the Classroom” I’ve been intrigued about how to make this happen within a Band setting. Of course, since we we are working on composing a piece a week for the remainder of the school year there are many details to discuss with the students. Seeings as how I am pushing the kids to compose outside of the class it stands to reason that maybe I could give feedback outside of the class as well! So I figured I may as well try it!

I’ve seen and played with many different to make videos explaining everything (pun intended) I was observing in the students compositions but I finally decided to work with the Explain Everything small iconExplain Everything” app. There were several very important reasons I chose this app..

First of all I fully appreciate the fact that this app does not tie me into some companies attempt to become “The Next Big Thing”. Explain Everything allows me to create my content and upload to where ever I wish – I stay in control of my content!

Secondly I knew that I was going to be importing PDF scans of the students work into the app so this capability was a must. The next part of making use of the PDF’s was that I would be drawing/highlighting/annotating/pointing out details on the PDF’s. I knew that at times I would of course want to simply draw my own material from scratch as well. The app I picked had to be able to handle all of those situations easily.

Thirdly I really like the flexibility Explain Everything gives me to record my own voice, draw, animate and layout materials on an endless canvas.

Fourth I knew that I would have files, pictures, PDF’s and movies scattered all over the place that I would be pulling into these movies. Explain Everything allows me to easily pull in file from my camera roll, iTunes, DropBox, Box, Google Drive, Evernote, SkyDrive and evenWebDave servers!

Lastly was the need to be able to share these movies with my students. The app makes it simple to export my creations to YouTube and a few other places as well (look at the list from where you can pull media in from).

THE PROCESS -

So I set to work to try this out – Here’s what I did. I took a handful of student compositions to the scanner and created PDFs. Those PDF’s then got uploaded to DropBox (This was I can use them other ways as well). Then I opened the Explain Everything app, imported the PDF’s and watched as slides were created for each page of the PDF. Once loaded I set to work erasing students names. Then I started the recording of my voice and writing/annotating over top of their PDF’s. The timeline allowed me to backup and re-do any section I was not happy with. After that process was done I took the project and exported it to my camera roll as a movie. This took a little while – during which I checked my twitter feed and chatted with a new friend in WI who is recording a Turkish Fusion band! How fun right?….. back to the post though…. Once the exported movie was in my camera roll I used iMovie to spruce things up a bit more. I added some background music and a few titles (I could probably have done the titles in Explain Everything but I used iMove. I had to find where each section started to split the movie up in order to add the titles but that did not take very long. Then I uploaded the movie to YouTube from iMovie (Which I could have just simply uploaded the movie from within the Explain Everything app but like I said… I wanted things to be a bit fancier.)

Last step was to link to the movie from my classroom blog. From there the students can watch the video right from the blog post or open it in YouTube – (By the way… If you have an iPad and do not use the YouTube app currently I would really like to know why! The YouTube app is a very slick app! I love the way they allow you to load one video then pull it down to the corner and search other videos while that first one is still playing! I fully appreciate that YouTube now has playlists as well – MANDATORY for classroom viewing of Youtube!)

THE OUTCOME -

A quick, fun way for me to give feedback to the students that they can incorporate into their work WITHOUT taking class time to do so. The feedback I give is nothing confusing so I doubt any student will have questions but if they do then they could ask those question via email, twitter or during class.

Quibbles with EXPLAIN EVERYTHING APP -

I would like to be able to add background music and the titles from within the app – I probably can but just haven’t figured it out yet. Since I knew how to do it easily from within iMovie I chose that route for now.

THE VERDICT -

I will be doing more of these movies and I think you should too! My only wish is that I could put an iPad in every students hands so THEY were the ones creating the videos! Go but the app and get busy having fun creating videos for your students – thats my suggestion -

The apps are of course available on the iTunes Store -
Explain Everything small icon Explain Everything -
iMovie iPad small iconiMovie
YouTube small iconYouTube

THE FINAL PRODUCT -

Almost forgot – Here are the two videos I created….

First one -

Second one -

and now… Bed, because that early morning gym time is not going to be fun as it is!

Great PDF app for teachers in the classroom!

PDF Cabinet 2.0I had been looking for a great app to use in my classroom as a sort of whiteboard app on steroids. My goal was to have a PDF worksheet on my iPad that I could project onto the classroom screen. Then I would be able to have the class see MY worksheet while I wrote on it, writing answers, notes and highlighting specific things I wanted to draw their attention to. THAT was the easy part… I had a few apps that would allow that simple task. The trick came in that I wanted to be able to allow OTHER people to annotate that same PDF that was being displayed on the screen. That way another teacher could help in making notes and we could have students write answers in on their iPad’s but have all of it show up on the screen in front of the classroom all on the same PDF! We would also be able to then save it for future reference!

I found an answer to my wish in the app PDF Cabinet which has now been updated to version 2! It is currently free as well so go get it while it remains free because I paid for the first version and I am sure this version will also go up soon!

The app allows you to annotate as expected, highlight, draw circles, lines, arrows and type text on top of any PDF. There are some nifty features that I did not expect as well…. things like the way you are able to review and skim through your PDF using the sidebar to show all pages or just the annotated ones. I also appreciate the way you manage documents with a simple drag and drop! Why all iPad apps do not allow this is beyond my comprehension. It only makes sense to me – it is a touch interface! Tap the document and drag it to the folder or the trash, simple and sensible!

You are able to sync folders in PDF Cabinet with a folder in DropBox or iCloud. That means that whatever PDF’s are on my iPad are also synced and backed up to the Cloud! I always worry that I will forget which apps have documents stored in them that I would like to have backed up, this syncing feature takes some of the worry away. It also means that I have even easier access to those documents that I have been working with on my iPad. We all know how much fun it is trying to find a cord to actually hook up the iPad to the computer to sync files (does anyone actually do that anymore?)

A couple thoughts about Collaboration….  The collaboration feature allows you to share and annotate along with up to 16 other people. Anyone who joins the collaboration session in the middle of the session also gets sent the previously made annotations.

 

WISHES FOR FURTHER DEVELOPMENT:
I wish the cropping feature would export out to other apps! This would allow me to crop a document using PDF Cabinet 2 and then send it to UnRealBook or even back to DropBox.

 

Chromatik in the Band Room

Chromatik logoNo, no, I am not talking about the chromatic scale! I m talking about the online music website for “learning music together”. Well, that’s what THEY say on their web site! Practice, Share, Record and Collect your music online – those are the highlights of what this site is about.

What Chromatik allows us musicians to do is to put our PDF sheet music online and access it from a web browser. Once that PDF Sheet Music is online then you are able to view and practice with that acting as your sheet music instead of actual paper music. But it does get better than this! As you practice you are also able to record yourself! After recording your self you can share your recordings with other people. Another possibility is that you can create playlists of your PDF Sheet Music and share those playlists with others. So that way we can all work on that music in an online environment and give each other feedback on how we are doing. Here is the link to their information page that just so happens to have a video on it – we all like a little TV right?

Of course, since I am tech minded and always searching for new and different ways to teach and learn music, I am starting to use this web site with my band students. So here starts my journey of sharing about this process online! Look forward to more posts about this resource over the rest of this school year!

First thing I would like to share is the best method I have discovered for uploading my files to the Chromatik web site.

BACKGROUND: All of my Band Music I am digitizing slowly. Each piece we play gets scanned and stored in our digital music library. I end up with two PDF files, one for the score and another for the parts. Each file actually contains the words – “Score” or “Parts” in the filename. This makes it very simple to do a spotlight search, find the appropriate file and make use of that file.

WHAT NOT TO DO: The first things I have discovered that is a horrible, horrible situation is for me to take that PDF file with ALL the band parts and upload that file to Chromatik. when I try to access that PDF (even though it is usually only a 3-4 megabyte file) it is painfully slow to deal with online. I am not sure if it is an issue with the file size or because there are so many pages involved. Either way… don’t do it! I’m sure this situation will only improve over time.

WHAT DOES WORK: I upload each part individually as a separate PDF file. This means that I open the Parts PDF in preview, I am working on a mac here but the process and ideas are the same for windows. Then I select the flute pages and drag them out into the finder to create a new PDF with only the flute part in it. I then do the same for the Clarinet part and so on until I have a new PDF for each instrument. This is a bit of a hassle but in reality it only takes about 5-10 minutes max to drag each part out and re-name it so I know which PDF contains which instrument. Then each PDF gets added to my library in Chromatik.

TRICK: This is the part where you need to pay attention folks! Chromatik does not make it obvious as to the best practice in this process. I did discover though, by accident, that I can have ALL the different instruments show up in my Chromatik library under ONE Piece Name vs every PDF showing up and creating a VERY long list! See the screenshot below… you see that I had uploaded Five Good Natured Variations BEFORE I discovered this process. I had a whole bunch of PDF’s showing up (with the instrument as a part of the title) creating a very long list in my library (I was already DREADING having very many pieces in my library because of this issue – Management was going to be a nightmare!)

Example of each individual PDF vs All PDF's listed under one song title

Example of each individual PDF vs All PDF’s listed under one song title

Then I discovered that all I had to do was give each part the exact same Piece Name as I uploaded them to my library and then Chromatik created a folder for me and listed all the different parts under one Piece Name! This process was a bit hit and miss though – sometimes I had to type in the Piece Name twice to get Chromatik to pick up on the fact that this was a piece that was already in my library. Once Chromatik did pick up on that fact the name of the Author automatically popped into that field. Then I had to pick which part I was uploading. Then all the parts show up in my Library as a drop down menu list under the Piece Title as you see in the above screenshot for Variation Overture.

Here is a screenshot of the uploading process – you can see that I typed in the Piece Title and then Chromatik input the Author Name (that’s why it is a darker grey)

Naming uploads

Naming uploads

There will be more to come as I work through figuring out this web site.

I am fully behind the ideas they are working to implement here. I also realize that this is in the early stages of it’s life. That is why I am willing to overlook some of the annoying issues I have run into. Things like it NOT being obvious of how to upload music and there not being a guide that describes the process. Or the fact that I cannot re-order the playlists, the fact that I have NO idea how they figure out the order in which pieces show up in your music library after you download them and the fact that it is a bit slow at times.

The service is free! Plus is you are a school they will donate a FREE iPad2 if you implement this at your school and get 100 students to sign up! Of course one of the reasons I am using this service is because they also have an iPad app, which is also free.

Rhythm apps for teaching music

There have been several apps that help practice and learn rhythm concepts the past few months.

MyRhythmMyRhythm, from Gregory Burk, is an app that helps you practice your rhythmic skills, co-ordination, listening skills and memory. MyRhythm is full of features that anyone from a non-musically trained person to someone who is is music classes will appreciate. The app does not use traditional musical notation to show rhythms. It simply uses a grid of dots that are filled in, or not, to indicate whether you should be tapping the large pads in time with the groove that is being played.

When you start up the app there three main modes you can go into… 1)Challenge Mode 2)Study Mode and 3)Creative Mode. The screen shot you see to the right is about the same in any of the three modes. In challenge mode you listen to and watch a pattern being played then the little violet and blue dots are all taken away and you have to play back what you just heard. It’s an answer and call mode in other words. In the Study mode the idea is the same except that the violet and blue dots do not go away and you can still see them and you do not get to listen to the rhythm being played first. Then in the creative mode you are able to create your own rhythms. It is in this mode that you can do another time signature besides 4/4. In the other modes all I found were 2 measures of 4/4. Of course no where is there ever any mention of time signatures in this app. There are four levels of difficulty to play around with. No matter which level you are in the timing algorithms being used to decide whether or not you are playing the correct rhythms are very strict! It is not good enough to simply hit that pad “close” to the rhythm! You have to really get into the groove and sub-divide so you are accurate! Mentioning grooves…. there are options to play along with simply a metronome or a very long list of different grooves at different tempos. Gregory did a great job of making sure there was enough variety here to keep you interested and challenged for a long time!

option settings for MyRhythm

option settings for MyRhythm

I like the fact that there are many options in this app…. the different grooves, the call and answer, the creativity section, the ability to change several levels, the choice of what sound you hear when you tap the pads and how easy it is to quickly tap the new rhythm button to try the next rhythm. Even as a band director I like the co-ordination skills this builds even though my kids don’t always need to use two hands to play rhythms in class. I think students will find plenty in this app to keep them interested. There is an iPod/iPhone version of the app as well.

I don’t like that this app only deals with 8th notes. As a music educator I don’t like that music notation is not used and yet at them same time I think there is a place for this type of graphic notation in a music class. Another slight issue I have is that I am pretty skilled at rhythm and I have to work really hard to get all the notes green! Now, maybe this is because I’m not as good as I think I am at rhythm BUT I KNOW what I am going to hear from the kids! No, seriously though, I do believe the app has a little bit of issue “hearing” correctly played rhythms sometimes.

Wish list – I do wish there was a way for my students to keep score of their progress as they work with this app.

green and red dots on MyRhythm

green and red dots on MyRhythm

Creating music with iPads

There have been some outstanding new developments in the world of music for iOS users this past few months!

First has been the actual release of AudioBus for iOS. As they say on the iTunes Store… This is a revolutionary new inter-app audio routing system allowing you to connect your AudioBus compatible apps together with virtual cables. In other words…. I can be playing a synth on my iPad, like Magellan, and record it into my MultiTrack DAW on the same iPad! This opens up very different possibilities of being able to record from a long list of currently compatable apps into other apps on one iPad instead of having to have two devices or using audio copy/paste. Check out their website for currently compatible apps as the list is changing almost daily!

In the late 80‘s I remember spending many hours programming keyboards for the ministry team at college that I was involved in. It was great fun to get inside of a synth patch and make all sorts of tweaks to it to come up with a new patch that was my own. Little did I imagine then, that I would be able to do this on an iPad with a color, touch screen! Check out the list of apps othe AudioBus page. I think there are some outstanding apps there that will make some outstanding music! Imagine if we could get these apps into the hands of our students in a non-traditional music class!

Audulus App

Audulus

Another major development is the development of apps that allow your creativity to fly to new heights! One of those apps that blew me away today is Audiolus. Audulud is a modular synthesis app that is available for the iPad as well as the Mac. This app allows you to create synth sounds from scratch, one step at a time! I can not begin to imagine the possibilities of this app in a music class combined with science concepts being integrated all in one mega fun unit! Your science teacher and you, the music teacher, could have a hay day with this app! You have got to watch the tutorials on their tutorial page! This tutorial in particular floored me when I started to get a grasp on what this app is capable of…. I love how it starts with a demonstration of the outcome and then it takes you back step by step to build the patch starting from absolutely nothing! (Wait…. isn't that the model for a great lesson plan?)

Lastly, I would like to leave you with a couple of great examples of amazing performances from people who are truly creating amazing music using iOS and iPads/iPhones. Both of these groups have active YouTube channels that I would suggest you subscribing to

The first person is Rheyne – Rheyne uses live looping with analog keyboards, USB controllers and iOS devices. The videos on his channel are all performed live! The integration he has between all the apps and devices is stunning! His music is digital and does not attempt to re-create an acoustic instrument performance!

The second group is the DigiEnsemble Berlin – This is a group of professional musicians trying to turn mobile devices into instruments. This group has music of both the electronic nature as well as classical and everything in between. You can see them recreating a classical string ensmeble using iphones and ipads for instance or performing Starlight (from the alternative rock band Muse) and then performing a magical, musical interpretation of Silent Night.

This sort of musical creativity needs to be taught in our schools alongside the traditional Band, Choir and General Music classes. Of course that means new classes need to be created and staffed! The biggest reason we need these sort of classes is that our students would be forced to become the innovators, the ones creating and designing the final product. There are not many programs like these in place yet so the development of this type of course is going to muddy water and the learning process will be messy. Let's wade in and get dirty!

 

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