Final Projects – Authentic Assessments In The Music Classroom

Final exams….

What if your final exams were such that the students didn’t even feel like they were “exams”? What if they could just simply “be creative” using all the tools given them throughout the school year?

Such was the exam for my high school classes – take Yankee Doodle Dandy and “make it your own”. Use your band instruments and other acoustic instruments you found around you, use a group of 8 people and create an arrangement to perform for the class.

I of course had to get in on the fun. I used my iPad, Cubasis, a couple of 5th graders, one high school student, my conducting podium and of course my euphonium.

I will let you decide what instruments the 5th graders played and what sounds were coming from my podium.

I will say that I used my Line6 SonicPort XV stereo microphone to record all the tracks into Cubasis on the iPad. I did cheat a bit as we were able to lay in some effects that my high school kids couldn’t really make use of as they were performing their arrangements live. Some of the stereo mix you hear is from panning inside of Cubasis after recording because I used the mono setting on the SonicPort but some of the tracks were recorded using the stereo setting – like the percussion.

We ended up with 12 tracks. I did not spend hours and hours on my euph playing. I just played and what happened was what you hear.

Then I exported and used the Wizibel App to create the video along with some nature photos I’ve shoot this spring.

The students ran into the issue of needing more time – we used three days of class. We could have used two weeks. Getting groups of 8 to be productive and all come to agreement on the direction of their arrangement was a huge part of the process.

Me… well my group worked pretty well together. The one 5th graders made me laugh because she enjoyed it so much. She begged me to play our final mix for the rest for the 5th graders the next day.

Anyways… here’s my exam…

iPads Setup/Project Suggestions from Music and Youth Impact Network

It’s always great to see what other programs are doing with iPads and creating music with youth.

The Music Impact Network has had great success in using iPads with youth to create and explore music!

Here are some suggestions from them for iPad setups and uses.

Making Music on iPads

Well I found a bit of time to create some music with my iPad and to explore AudioUnit/GarageBand.

It wasn’t as easy of a process as I’d hoped. I used several AudioUnit apps all inside of GarageBand.

The short story – Ended up getting error messages. In the end the only way to get my track was to use my external handheld recorder to record from the iPad headphone jack and then upload to my computer and then back to my iPad for final mastering. 😦

More on this later… but for now… here is the end product if you’d care to listen to my latest musical wanderings.

Using Notion in place of non-available Musicians!

I have been an extremely busy bee the past couple months working hard on a project here at the school. I’d like to share just a bit.

I’ve learned a ton about using Notion software, by PreSonus, to fill in for musicians that just are not available.

You see we are a small school district with limited funds and limited access to amazing musicians who are able to cover all the possible different instruments we might want to utilize in a particular production. We just are not able to produce an entire orchestra, including harpist!

So I set out to see if it was possible to make do by using the nTempo feature in Notion.

Through a long process of taking the orchestra parts, entering them into the computer, and lots of trial and error I have found that using Notion with nTempo is absolutely a wonderful solution! Not a replacement in ANY WAY shape or form but I’d rather go live WITH these parts then to NOT have the parts!

I do have a few tips to share:

notatemelogo– NotateMe – with PhotoScore – Well worth every penny of the two combined purchases – the full app itself and then the IAP of PhotoScore

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  • Neuratrons NotateMe used in conjunction with the PhotoScore in-app-purchase saved me a TON of time!
  • I’ve found that using my iPhone X with NotateMe’s PhotoScore was WAY faster than using my original iPad Pro 12.9″ (I really wasn’t surprised that it was faster but I WAS surprised at HOW much faster it was!) Hands down, noticeable!
  • Sometimes PhotoScore was NOT the fastest way!
  • PhotoScore does NOT get everything –
    • multi measure repeats are the first obvious item it misses.
    • Another biggie was that sometimes it missed the key signature.
    • Text ALWAYS had to be cleaned up.

Notion LargeNotion – for iOS – Well worth having this on my iOS devices as well as my laptop! Has replaced my previous notation app.


  • PhotoScore was how I started with the strings – Violin 1 & 2, Viola, Cello, String Bass
    • I always had to adjust the Show Attachments Above/Below to Auto.
    • I also had to adjust Set Note Stem Direction to Auto.
  • Step Entry Mode is Pretty stinking fast!
    • Harp parts got entered via step entry mode
    • Many little parts that my High School kids couldn’t play were also entered via step entry –
  • Real Time Recording absolutely needs a quantize feature. Because of the lack of this feature I found it useless.
  • In a huge project like this I actually for the first time in my life lived in Continuous View Mode


  • Found out that entering Lyrics has a bug – it doesn’t always work in Continuous View Mode!
    • Two Solutions
      • One – switch to Pages Across or Pages Down mode
      • Two – Enter Score Layout mode and drag the Part containing lyrics down lower in the score temporarily.


  • For the entire first act I never touched my computer. I scanned all the string parts via my iPhoneX and then edited them all in Notion on my iPad.
  • Then I switched to my computer.
  • I think the computer is possibly a bit faster.
  • I haven’t tried the full score on my iPad again, now that I am about done. I am wondering if the iPad can actually handle playing the full score.

nTempo Screen.png


  • Using nTempo is pretty straight forward.
    • First of all – Not available on iOS – only Desktop/Laptop
    • Add an nTempo Track to your score (it’s under basics)
    • Add the beat that you’d like to tap along to
    • Then hit that little conductor dude (or Shift Return – which is VERY finicky though – sometimes that shortcut works and sometimes not. I really have NOT figured out the trick fully) (See the screen shot above to spot the conductor icon)
    • THEN the MAGIC….
    • start tapping and the music start to play and follows your tapping for tempo!
    • Sometimes it is easier to tap in specific rhythms rather than the beat – for instance why Tapp four quarter notes when everyone is holding a whole note? or why tap quarter notes if everyone is playing quarter note triplets? (as you can see in the screenshot above…. the nTempo part is NOT quarter notes)


  • iCloud sync in Notion is scary good! I never once had to manually transfer files between my iPhone/iPad/Laptop when I had wi-fi available.
  • I was working on the beach during spring break a few times and had to AirDrop files back and forth then


  • I used this app to store references to all the books that I did not want to carry with me.
  • I am actually NOT using my iPad during the show because using the computer AND iPad is a bit much. I actually like the static reliability of having a two page paper score in front of me.
    • That has been a pain though for simple things like quickly finding specific songs. I mean the full score is 202 pages LONG!


As for the sounds coming from Notion – OUTSTANDING – I remember the day I’d have to create a score for the way I wanted things to look and then another for the way I wanted things to sound. With Notion, this is no longer the case! Dynamics, articulations, and the list goes on…. they ALL make the sounds you’d expect! It’s very nice!

With the exception of swing… yeah… that’s a bit iffy still. It kind of works but there are adaptations you have to make. Like when you want one 8th note and then the next two tied.

I’ve ended up putting WAY more parts into the computer than I anticipated because I decided that trying to be the nTempo tapper AND trying to read my paper score was impossible! I really needed to use simply the computer.

Here are the parts I’ve put in that I never thought of before I started this process….

  • Piano Conductor – This is a piano part that actually get turned off in the mixer. It is there because even on a 15″ MacBook Pro screen I can not see all the parts. If I’m conducting I have to know what the heck I’m conducting. It is in effect a condensed score that lives at the top of my screen.
  • The actors cue lines to know how the music lines up with the dialogue.
  • Vocal Parts WITH lyrics – this helps immensely as I do NOT remember lyrics very well. It also helps to separate the vocal line from the instrumental parts.
  • nTempo – I knew I’d have to enter beats. I didn’t really understand the intense pre-thought of how detailed this track would become.
    • It’s WAY easier to just conduct – it comes second nature 🙂 I do wish I had the resources for all live musicians.


You had better have a great sound system to make this work. First of all the sounds in Notion rock but if your speakers are bad… well….

You’ve got to have a good monitoring system so you and the live musicians can hear the track.

and finally…. just like a real live instrument… YOU’D BETTER PRACTICE A TON!

Free Beat Making App – FingerBeats

Well this looks fun… free! For today at least….


A pocket sampler, drum-machine & field recorder designed for ‘on-the-go’ creativity. FingerBeat allows you to capture sounds directly into pads or TapeRecord the entire sessions instantly. Make Loops using the reels then drag-and-drop clips into pads and keep creating!

Making Music on the Beach With Roli and my iPad

I am on Spring Break and our first order of business was to stop at SweetWater Sound to pick up a Songmaker Kit by Roli. All week I’ve been messing around with the SeaBoard Blocks in my free time between running around to the beach and sight seeing. The reason I was so very intrigued with what Roli is doing is that the blocks support MPE. Don’t know what that is? Here is Roger Linn who created the Linnstrument, along with a few other important musical achievements, explaining…

MPE stands for “Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression” and is a new MIDI standard created by us, ROLI, Apple, Moog, Haken Audio, Bitwig and others for communicating over MIDI between MPE controllers (like LinnStrument, Roli Seaboard, Continuum, SoundPlane or Eigenharp) and MPE sound generators (like these).

Plus the Songmaker Kit is portable and Roli finally packaged it with the full version of their software Equator. Actually, the software that comes with the Songmaker Kit is pretty impressive. You get the full version of Equator for your laptop/computer along with other software you see in the screen shot below. You also get almost every sound pack that is available for the iOS Noise app when you buy the Songmaker Kit too!

Their are a few iPad apps that supports MPE- Moog just released their new Model D app which supports MPE along with Animoog and Model 15 which has been out for awhile. GarageBand also supports MPE and also released an app update this week to allow for facial control of parameters using the newest cameras built into our lovely devices like the newest iPads and iPhones. GeoShred also supports MPE because their developers, one of which is Jordan Rudess is an immense supporter of new ways to control and create music. Of course ROLI’s own app, Noise, allows for MPE.

So my first week impressions are that MPE is going to take awhile to get figured out and make full use of. GarageBand and Model D for instance, although supporting MPE do not develop each sound to make the best use of the messages coming from the Songmaker Kit Blocks. On the other hand, Roli has done an awesome job realizing that in order for their product to succeed and MPE to take hold, they must develop software that is designed to take full advantage of the MPE messages coming from the Blocks.

Anyways…. what is Roli’s main thrust? Making music anyplace you are with new tools and capabilities. So what else can I do but make some music and then share it.

This song was all GarageBand using the SeaBoard Block then I ran it through the Audio Mastering App which then allowed me to upload to SoundCloud. Then I had to open Safari, not the SoundCloud app, to edit the info and the cover art. (Come on SoundCloud…. why would you take away such basic capabilities from your app!????)

Anyways… if you are so inclined for some chill musical meanderings to listen to then check it out below… Also – if you have had success with the SeaBoard Blocks and MPE let me know where your music is and what you have found that works really well in the comments. I’d love to connect.

Moog Brings iOS the Minimoog Model D!

Minimoog Model D – $4.99 (Introductory price as of 3/27/2018)

There are so many great iOS music making apps but Moog has always been right there at the top of the greats ever since it released its first app, Animoog!

Now Moog Music has brought us a mobile version of the world’s first portable synthesizer, the Minimoog Model D- ironic considering how much MORE mobile music making gets with this app and our devices we carry now a days.

This app has it all too, well almost – more on that at the end. In fact, it improves on the original by adding four note polyphony, the ability to play chords, a looper, ping-pong delay and a Bender!

Since this is iOS and Moog has amazing developers working for them, the Model D app has support for AUv3, MPE, Ableton Link, Inter-App Audio, Audiobus, Bluetooth LE MIDI controller and will even makes sharing presets and audio recordings over AirDrop and to other iOS apps easy peasey!

If that list seems like someone is speaking a foreign language just take that as a way for me to say that it makes me weak at the knees to realize all that we can do with the app!

MPE is perhaps one of the most exciting items on the list – MPE is what allows controllers like the Roli Blocks so amazing! MPE allows for an amazing level of control over the sound and allows for nuances in your playing that makes for a much more expressive performance! Much like an acoustic instrument would instead of a traditional keyboard. Traditional keyboards have tried to evolve from a simple key press with the mod wheel, aftertouch, polyphonic aftertouch and even adding XY pads. MPE allows for 5 variations when pressing a key or controller…. strike, pressure, glide, slide and lift.

BlueTooth MIDI allows for your controller to connect wirelessly to your iPad! Let me say that one more time – WIRELESSLY WITHOUT DONGLES!

AUv3 allows for multiple instances of Model D inside of supporting apps like GarageBand and Cubasis (which is half price currently too by the way! $25!). Previously we had to record the audio for one track and then reload the app to do the next track. AUv3 is amazing!

Ableton Link keeps multiple apps and devices all in sync! No more feeble attempts at hitting the start button at JUST the right time and hoping things lock up. Now all your apps will lock in tight as can be and stay in sync – your drum app playing the beats, the bass line coming from another app and the lead effects from your buddy on his device will all be in sync!

AirDrop – who HASN’T used AirDrop? Please tell me you don’t have a device that supports it… if your device supports AirDrop and you have multiple devices or friends then you should have used AirDrop to share pictures, documents, videos and now audio recordings from Model D!

Below you will find the intro video but first I’ve got to remind you that four of Moog’s other apps are also on sale…

Duet Display – Anyone Using this?

So I’ve been keeping an eye on the Duet Display app for awhile now.

It looks very interesting AND it is 50% off right now! But I have serious questions as to how useful this would actually be!

For a teacher – how do you use it?

For a musician – how are you using it to extend what is possible with a simple laptop?

For a graphics design person – does the Apple Pencil work well with it or do you NEED the Duet Display Pro?

Any ways… if you are using this I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below….

Duet Display – $10 currently