If 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 –
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.
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….
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.
Upon selecting the Flute part for instance, this is what you would get….
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!)
simply tap the blue arrow and you get this ability to SWITCH INSTRUMENT for that Part…
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 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!