Using An RSS News Reader and Blogs To Give Students Feedback on Assignments


Mr Reader Header

Mr Reader largeI have to say that one of the most used apps on my iPad is my RSS news feed app. It is through my RSS news feeds that I can follow an absurd number of websites, blogs, news updates and almost anything on the web that I am interested in. I used to go visit a small handful of sites every day hoping for the latest exciting news about various topics. That list grew too large and RSS is my answer to saving time!

I have settled on using MrReader Small IconMr. Reader (the best $3.99 you will spend in the app store!) finally after trying out about every one that is out there. To the right you see a screenshot of what that looks like when a student has posted their assignment.

Mr Reader ScreenIf you are note familiar with RSS News Feeds let me explain a bit – IF you have a website that is frequently updated then you simply add the address to that website into your RSS news feed. Then whenever there is an update they will show up in your news feed – no need to go check, no need to check to find no update and it when it does show up you will only see a small portion of the article allowing you to quickly skim over things you are not that interested in!

The really exciting part of using RSS news feeds as a teacher is using them to help me teach better! I now have all my 8th-12th grade students posting assignments to WordPress Blogs. We don’t do anything huge usually but as all students are required to write in ALL classes at our school, the blogs help me fulfill that requirement. More importantly it allows me to give immediate feedback as students do their work all without ever touching a pile of papers!

Mr Reader AnnotatedHere is the process…

1)Students create a blog at (free and easy!) They then email the link to their blog and I copy it, then paste it into the Mr. Reader iPad app. I also give it a better name so I know which blog goes with which student and ALSO assign it to the Student Folder. (I made you a nifty little video below so you can see that process as sometimes it is easier to see these things so go watch the video!)

2)I then give them an assignment like – write a reflection on our last concert/rehearsal/guest clinician.

3)They then write the reflection as a blog post on their own time OUTSIDE of rehearsal! I’ve found that most of my students can do it on their own devices – a huge advantage of using WordPress because their are mobile apps kids can download or the blogs can be accessed through most any device that has a web browser.

4)As soon as they post their blog entry I start seeing them show up in Mr. Reader.

5)I then leave comments giving them feedback about their work. Students can choose to post those comments so anyone can see what I have said or they can choose to keep my comments hidden.

6)Last step – enter grade in school grade book. I hardly ever make these worth a ton of points but if they are not in the grade book students don’t have the incentive to get them done usually.

If you want your students to write more, have a place to turn in compositions (they take picture and upload to their blog) or a place where it is easy to pass on feedback to them then this is a no-brainer! The process of getting students signed up for a WordPress takes one day in the computer lab. The process is simple and even 8th grade kids have no trouble doing this with your help of stepping them through it.

Even without having students writing blogs – I can not imagine not using an RSS News Reader to keep up on the days events! Seriously, this app allows me to work through 180 or more website updates every day. Because of the nature of the RSS feed coming through as a summary, it is so easy to skim over what I need to skip and focus on the important news!


Here is the video I promised…. and as always, if you have questions, please leave me a comment below! (which will then show up in my Mr. Reader news feeds and I will get back to you soon as I can!)

Save Time In Front Of Class With LaunchCenter Pro for iPad

Teachers all understand the importance of saving even a few keystrokes, a few seconds, in front of a class of middle students! The more that technology takes a back seat in a lesson plan the better off we all are. If the tech isn't bringing attention to itself but the students learning is front and center then the tech is in the right place.

That means that we must become very comfortable with the tech we are using, we can not be stumbling and fumbling to make things happen. It also means that any shortcut we can use to get technology working faster and smoother is a good idea.

Launch Center Pro for iPad and iPhone has a simple mission statement that fits the above criteria…. “Launch actions, not just apps!” Think about it…. Why do we launch an app in the first place? We launch apps to do things. That means that once the app launches we then start tapping more buttons to do that “thing”.

I message parents frequently but I usually wait until after class…. What if I could speed that task up and send a message faster? Would I communicate even more?

I like to tweet about exciting learning taking place in class but opening the camera, then taking a picture, then opening Twitter to send the tweet is quite a few steps. What if I could do all of that in one step? Would I spread more news about the learning going on in class?

What about taking attendance…. Open Safari, open bookmarks then finally tap the website for school attendance. How about jumping right there?

Well if those sort of thoughts entice you to rethink your use of tech then you need to take a look at Launch Center Pro… There is the iPad version and then the iPhone version.

Here is the first line from their website…., “It’s like speed dial for everyday tasks. Launch Center Pro saves you time by launching complex actions in a single tap.”



Essential iPad Apps For Marching Band Directors (during the prep for marching season)

Are you a Marching Band Director with an iPad? Well then you are probably working through much of the same preparation as I am. How does my iPad help me in all of this craziness?

In the prep of the drill I have my iPad on the entire time even though I am writing drill in Pyware 3D. On the iPad I use UnRealBook Small IconUnRealBook or ForScore Small IconForScore or possibly even GigBook Small IconGigBook to display my music. I also use the annotation tools in those apps to write on top of my music all of the drill chart pages and instructions. I can not imagine going back to paper music and having to write al of this in, copying the scores, inserting into sheet protectors, using three ring binders and then just waiting for that rain to wreck it all!

If you have an iPad and you are NOT using one of these three apps along with PDF’s for you sheet music you need to go get on this task right now! These apps are some of the apps that have been on my iPad since I bought the first iPad on the day it was released! In fact, as a music teacher, this is THE reason I bought that iPad1! Which of the three should you start with? Pick one…. seriously…

I have a new app that I think is going to be amazing this year – DrillBook Next Small IconDrillBook Next is $9.99 for the Directors version of the app that I just discovered this year. After creating the drill in P3D I then simply export performer coordinate sheets which I then import into DrillBook Next – giving me my entire drill in interactive format on my iPad!

Students can also easily use the app as well – BONUS: they can use it on DrillBook Next Small IconDrillBook Next Reader for iPad ($4.99), DrillBook Next Small IconDrillBook Next Reader for iPod ($2.99) or even Android ($2.99) as well as on a desktop computer (on the computer it’s free, yup, FREE!)

The only thing missing here is being able to watch my drill and have it synced to music. After talking to Scott – the developer – though, I fully understand the copyright issues this would cause with the way access to the drill works.

I have not convinced myself to go iPad on this front while creating and editing my musical notation files yet. I have ordered my Notion5 though for desktop and am committing to digging in and learning Notion this year. I mean, come on! There is a full fledged desktop AND iPad app available for Notion Small Icon Notion! Yes, I could work with NoteFlight but Notions excellent sound have won me over!

Currently my workflow is to create and edit in Sibelius then export to Avid Scorch Small Icon Avid Scorch. I also export PDF files to use in ForScore or UnRealBook. I will say that when I use Scorch I find one extra step is needed to make great use of the size of the iPad. If I just open the full score there is always too much info on the screen. On the desktop I simply focus on select staves and all is well. In fact if you save your Sibelius file with it focused on those select staves then when you email it to yourself and open it in Scorch it will stay focused! My problem is that I want to also have a DrumLine condensed score I can jump back and forth between. Well…. here’s your Sibelius Tip of the week – I wrote this Blog Post back in Aug 2012 and I use it all the time because of dumping scores over to the iPad. This Blog Post will show you how to set up condensed scores so that they are just a tap away, just like you can quickly jump to any other part in the score.

Of course I also have to have a metronome app while arranging music – I find that I have used Tempo Small IconTempo the most of all my metronome apps. It works on my iPad as well as my iPhone. It looks great on both. This is not a metronome designed for the iPhone that I have to use in 2x mode, it was designed for both devices screen sizes.

MUSIC RECORDINGS (of our show):
CLICK TRACK CREATION – For each of my marching show pieces I always add in a click track at least for an intro measure. That way we are not guessing when the recording is going to start as we rehearse. In order to do that GarageBand small iconGarageBand works fine.

MultiTrack DAW small iconMultiTrack DAW or Cubasis small iconCubasis would work too. The process is simple – Import the recording, create another track with drums in it and record a few measures of you tapping along to the recording. Move that audio to the beginning and export the new file.

Remember – These apps would also give you an excellent way to record your groups for evaluation later! UnRealBook and ForScore allow you to record rehearsals (or whatever) while you are viewing your PDF music even!

REHEARSAL with those recordings – One of my essential apps for marching band rehearsal is AnyTune Icon SmallAnyTune Pro+. We use this app constantly all season long so we can rehearse our marching skills to a recording of the show. AnyTune Pro+ allows us to set book marks so we can quickly jump to any place in the song we want. We can slow the music down and we can even loop a section if we want to go through it a few times. In fact, if you are only going to by one app this fall this just might be your best choice!

MUSIC RECORDINGS (of any song):
I of course use my iTunes app and library to play music for the students over AirPlay – AirServer App works wonders for not having to have wires connected!

I have also started using SpotifySpotify. On the iPad it is amazing the music you have available at your fingertips FOR FREE! There is so much educational music on there it astounds me – soloists for all instruments, classical, jazz, brass band, pop and whatever else you want.

I use FileMakerGo Small IconFileMaker on my desktop and iPad all the time. I have created databases in FM that save me a ton of time every year. Want a roster of my class, tap that button. Oh, you want it sorted by instrument? No problem. What about if you want a list of your band sorted by gender but then also broken down by grade level and then sorted by last name? Every year you have to order shoes? Not a problem, here is the list…. same with shirts…. and by the way I grouped the kids names by size of course!

The drawback to FileMaker is that you have to create the database on the desktop FIRST! Then it can all be transferred and worked with on an iPad or iPhone. Of course if you have a friend that has designed a database maybe they would be nice enough to share! But seriously, go buy a database and STOP USING SPREADSHEETS! There are a few very useful sample databases that come with the download of the free iOS FM13 App. The real fun is when you can edit those to make them work in ways to benefit you and your program.

DropBox Small IconDropBox is also an essential place for me to share files with students like music arrangements as they become available or PDF’s of the drill charts (although with DrillBook Next, I think PDF drill charts are going bye-bye!)

We also use DropBox to store all of the registration and medical forms for all the kids. They send it to us, we scan it and upload it to DropBox. From there my entire staff has access to important information. DROPBOX TIP – We will also make sure to download those files to our devices so we can have access when there is no network at camp, on trips or God forbid in the hospital.

I try really hard to keep my blog up to date on wordpress by using Blogsy Small IconBlogsy. Blogsy is heads and tales better then the WordPress App. When my students are blogging I suggest they use the WordPress app because it is free and it does actually work (most of the time).

I also have a band Twitter, FaceBook and YouTube.

The Apple Calendar app is basic as is the Reminders app. The benefit to using those two apps is that I use SIRI to interact with my schedule all the time.

When I actually need to open an app though I use Calendars 5Calendars 5 or Fantastical Small IconFantastical – a huge step up from the other apps!

I also love using GoodTask Small IconGoodTask for my reminders (you know, this might need to be your one MUST buy app for the fall… hmmm….)


This is just a blog post to get started with ideas of how essential tech is in a Band Directors life during Marching Season

Making sure your information has the ability to withstand the trends!

Old TechTechnology comes and goes. That could spell disaster for you! What if you have critical notes/information typed up and stored in a document that you can no longer access because the app you used doesn’t work on the latest version of the operating system? What is you stored all your Professional Development documents in “the cloud” but that cloud doesn’t exist anymore?

Apple Computer is one of “those” companies that is well known for leaving the past behind and doing so without apology! I have so many documents that were created in ClarisWorks and AppleWorks that I have saved over the years. Those documents are useless now. Those apps are what I created all my concert programs in so if I ever wanted to go back and see what we performed in 1999 I am out of luck! Unless of course I could find a paper copy of that program in my file cabinet – gasp….  paper copies and file cabinet drawers?

What about that note taking app you bought into for all your meetings 2 years ago? You know that one that you used all year long, every single meeting, to make sure that you did not forget what you covered. Teachers meetings, professional development, Board of Education Meetings, Band Council meetings, Band Booster meetings and even the sermons on Sunday mornings were all noted down in this app. AND THEN…. a better app came out that looked prettier, synced with DropBox and had a way better way to file and organize all those notes. You left behind that other app and forgot to transfer your notes and then you deleted it three seconds AFTER you remembered you had no way to get those notes back!

What are YOU doing to make sure that your “stuff” is accessible 5, 10, 15 years from now? Do you have a plan?


1)You need to decide what might be needed in the future…. yeah, yeah, I know… but try at least! Here are some ideas;

  • Concert programs
  • Records of who your student leaders/awards winners have been (John P. Sousa, Drum Majors, etc…)
  • How about REALLY important ones – Teacher Evaluations
  • Records of Professional Development
  • Transcripts
  • Meeting Minutes

I’m sure you have a few others.

2)Decide what format you could store these digital copies of information in that will be around for time to come.

  • Microsoft Office has been around for a long time, is it still a safe bet?
  • Apple’s Pages app might be around for a while?

Those are excellent creation apps and we will probably use apps like those to create the documents in the first place. Still though I think you need to think more general for long term archival purposes. I think you might need a copy of copies of the documents. One in the original format and one in a different format like

  • PDF – So very easy to use the Print option on Mac OSX and save a PDF copy of those files. IF you are dealing with paper copies then it is pretty easy to scan them and save them as PDF’s
  • JPEG – Not my first choice for a document but if all I have with me is my iPhone I will simply take a picture of documents these days – the quality is good enough that it at least allows me to look back at it later for reference.

3)Decide where you are going to store these archival documents. This is going to change depending on the document. Whatever the case, I don’t think having them simply on your laptop hard drive is a good idea!

  • Concert Programs/Award Winners/Drum Majors – those type of lists could easily be kept on a website
  • Personal Teaching records – obviously an external hard drive and maybe a cloud service like Box or iCloud. I don’t think DropBox is the best idea here because of the limitations of space, 2GB is NOT a ton of space. Box gives you 50GB frequently for free if you watch for those specials. Under everyday signups you still get 10GB for free.
  • EverNote – this could be a very viable option. I feel like it is not going anywhere anytime soon. It just always seems weird putting a document inside of a note. It seems like an extra thing to deal with.

4)Figure out a way to name your files that you will be able to recall in 5 years. These days it is easy to come up with a descriptive name for the files. Back when we had to use only 8 letters it was worse than Twitter, trying to decipher THOSE 8 character filenames is ridiculous! So go ahead, put a few extra words in there and don’t use abbreviations that you might not remember in 5 years!

You really must plan for the technology and the apps we use today to not be around 5, 10 or 15 years from now. What does that mean for all that information you will need to access in the future? Or maybe it’s not even YOU that wants to have access to that information but maybe it’s the next director who takes over after the guy that replaces you!

Top Tech for my Band Room – Open Peoples Eyes!

Eyes OpenI have a very short list of the most important pieces of technology that I could not do without in my band room rehearsals. (This is above and beyond the technology associated with quality instruments!)

  1. My iPad (This benefits me but also my students. By keeping me more organized it helps me run a much more efficient rehearsal and therefore helps me teach to a higher degree of efficiency. The ways that my iPad helps are too numerous to list!)
  2. Recording capability – We record and evaluate those recordings on a constant basis. They are our check with reality – Many times we think we are doing better than we actually are!
  3. Of course #2 leads to #3 – an awesome sound system – This is a music classroom and should have playback capabilities superior to most other classrooms! (This one time, a principal gave me one of those one speaker, panasonic tape recorders and expected me to be happy!)
  4. Lastly – an overhead projector with a computer that is capable of handling multi-media projects easily, movies, sounds, and pictures! Internet connection is almost becoming essential! I could not believe it when walking into another band room last year that did not have a computer and projector! I had not even thought about that scenario for a long time!


During vacation I thought I would spend more time creating music than I did – I only created one piece of music this past week…. If you are interested take a listen and let me know what you think! The only app I used was NanoStudio – It was very interesting sitting next to my nephew, who now owns 3 iPads, while recording this piece! It was kind of like when I walked into that Band Room without the items listed above last year – He was very surprised at what I was doing and had a ton of questions – Things like – Why are you tapping on your iPad like that? What, that’s a drum kit? Can I listen? You did all that in one app?

It is our job to open people’s eyes to the possibilities available to us and our students – those eyes that need to be opened are our own eyes, our students, our parents and our administration. Even the tech people at our schools need to see what is possible in the music room using iPads and other tech!



Top iPad Apps (for the teacher) In The Band Room

This post will be updating through the next week as I keep track of the apps I use from day to day and through my rehearsals and prep work.

I will clear out all running apps before I go to school and then I will check at lunch to see what is running and create my list. Then I will clear all apps again to see what I use through the afternoon. I will simply repeat this for one week.

I would love to see other Band Directors lists as well – MATT BISHOP – ED FALLS. If you send me your lists I will post them here with your permission for others to share.


  1. ForScore Small IconForScore/ UnRealBook Small IconUnRealBook
  2. iTunes
  3. PlanBook Small IconPlanBook
  4. SkyWard Small IconSkyWard
  5. MobileMouse Small IconMobileMouse
  6. Fingering Small IconFingering for iPad (Thanks Joe Guarr @jguarr)
  7. ClassDojo small iconClassDojo
  8. DropBox Small IconDropBox/ BoxBox
  9. Mail
  10. Calendars 5Calendars5 by Readdle/ GoodTask Small IconGoodTask/ Wunderlist Small IconWunderList/ Remindrs
  11. Feedly Small IconFeedly Reeder / MrReader Small IconMr. Reader
  12. Pocket Small IconPocket
  13. EverNote Small IconEvernote
  14. OneSafe Small IconOneSafe


My list of very important apps I don’t use every single day:

  1. DayBook ProDayBook Pro
  2. FileMakerGo 13 Small IconFileMaker
  3. SmartSeat Small IconSmartSeat

GoodTask: UPDATE after a few days of use

GoodTasksI promised I would update you on how well GoodTask Small IconGoodTask works and some of you had questions about the filters and how they worked.

Here’s what I am finding….

In my To-Do List I like to create yearly reminders of things I need to do at specific times. The problem that I have been running into though in several other apps is that I don’t want to see those items on my list of To-Do’s until it is time to actually do them! Here we are in March and I really do not want to think about Band Camp stuff that is coming up in August and July. Let’s finish this year first right?


I use this app because I can schedule things through SIRI. Yes, I love talking to my phone – even though it doesn’t always get it right, most time it is faster than typing it in when I am in the middle of a class or just finishing a rehearsal and need to make a note (which is frequently!) Here is a screen shot of what I see in that app though…. First problem is there are all those things I have to do in August that I don’t want to see. Second problem is that I have to jump to each individual list, unless the ToDo is actually scheduled as they are here. My Inbox says 0 but as you can see from the counts I certainly have stuff to take care of. So, I like creating ToDo’s with SIRI through the Reminders app but really do not like to view things here!


Wunderlist Small IconWUNDERLIST

Great app but as I like creating ToDo’s with SIRI this one doesn’t fit my bill totally. I use this app ALL the time though because I can share lists with other people who do not have Apple products! My student helpers, my Band Council, my Band Boosters and fellow teachers – we all use it! (By the way you DO know you can share these lists with other Apple users right? See that list “From Dad”? that’s the list I share with my son’s!)

Calendars 5CALENDARS 5 by Readdle

This is the app I use instead of the Apple Calendar app. Simply put it allows me to work faster, create dates quicker and looks great. It also includes a Tasks section (Apple’s Calendar app does not) AND it syncs with Apple’s Reminders. There are a couple issues here though. In the first pic below is one issue – If I select Today I only see ToDo’s that are dated for today or are overdue. I also have idea what Lists have other Todo’s in them because there is not the nifty counter next to the list name as in Apple’s Reminders app. So it becomes a game of peck and seek. Then, in the second pic, you see the other issue – my pet peeve. By selecting the All option I now see all of my ToDo’s neatly sorted by list (kind of nifty) BUT there are those pesky things I must do in August! I could of course hide that list but then what if I forget I hid the list and miss something? I am very forgetful… ask my wife.

Calendars5A  Calendars5B


That brings us to this new app, GoodTask. When I look at the main month view I have set a filter to show Undated Tasks, to Hide Completed Tasks and to Show Calendar Events. Here is what I see then. I see ALL of my Tasks, I see upcoming Events/Meetings, I see the list in plain view of which lists I am currently viewing (which is all of them in this screen shot – compare to the next screen shot where I am only showing the Band Camp List) and most importantly I see a calendar with pretty little dots under the dates that have Tasks on them. What I DO NOT see are tasks that are due way the heck over in August or July!


In this next screen shot I have hidden all lists except my band camp list and I have dragged the calendar down to August. If you notice the dots under the 1st and the 15th that is my indication that something iix due on those days. TIP – Pick colors for your lists that are not close to each other – my Band Camp and Band Lists are very close in color and so I was confused about what was going on the 15th until I turned on the Band List and a task appeared (which also hid all the Band Camp tasks)


If I don’t want to see any more than just one day at a time or if I want to see a week at a time it is a simple tap away.

  • The filters help to customize what is seen in each of the three views – Day, Week, Month.
  • If you want to totally hide lists that are in Apple’s Reminders that is easy to do. I like just leaving them out in plain view so I don’t forget about them.
  • There are two themes available –  a Light and a Dark. The app is set to automatically switch between the two depending on if it is night time or not. Of course if you like,  you  can switch yourself.
  • If you really want to quickly see what Tasks you have already completed it is simple – tap the little arrow in the circle up next to the search feature….
  • WAIT…. there’s a SEARCH? Yup! That way if you want to see when you are supposed to do something in the future it is quickly available. Perform a search and then that Task shows up with the details.


  1. When dragging the calendar it is difficult to keep track of which month I am in. I wish they would have the calendar itself gray out and the name of the month appear as an overlay.
  2. When marking a Task as done – The feedback is horrible! You need to just have faith and wait a split second – then the task dot gets colored in and the task moves to the completed list.
  3. There are a few minor bugs – Like the on/off slider in Calendar Events in the setting menu is funky – it moves around!
  4. I like the sound effects – of course most of the time my sound is turned to silent mode… oh well….

This app might help you take a different look at what you have coming up and what things you need to get done! Now… by the looks of MY ToDo list I’d better get busy – If only the ground outside would thaw out so I could take that brick to school and get THAT off my list!

Places NOT to put your iPad – if you want FindMy iPad tech to work!

Filed iPadSo yesterday I did a really stupid thing… I filed my iPad! Yep, you heard me correctly – I FILED it, right there in with all my file folders and handbooks! Then I closed the drawer and walked away…. bad part was that I did not meant to do this!

So I got home and realized I did not have my iPad. No big deal, I figured I had just left it at the school, which in fact I actually had done. I went an evening with my iPad1 (which was a nice reunion – I miss 64GB’s of space!).

This morning I went to school expecting to find my iPad sitting on my desk or podium – nope, not there! Hmmmm…. well maybe I had left it in the back room while sorting and filing music – nope, not there. Well then maybe I had laid it on the piano while working on uniforms – nope, not there either. Well now I was starting to freak out! I scoured the room looking all over the place – lockers, cabinets, sink, where we rehearse our electronic music ensemble and found nothing. So I fired up iCloud and dove into Find My iPhone – my iPad2 could not be located – now I was REALLY worried. All morning I put it off thinking I must have taken it out of my bag as soon as I got home and laid it someplace weird at the house. So I drove home at lunch, one benefit of living close to school! Only problem was I couldn’t find it there either. Now I started to wonder if it had been stolen – couldn’t imagine that though!

Got back to school and started digging in really weird places – within the next half an hour I found it…. tucked in the file drawer next to my desk. I hardly used the drawer or the stuff in it but I had to write a student up yesterday. I guess I was a bit distracted!


The only thing I can figure is that the metal cabinet kept Find My iPhone from working! I had thought maybe my battery had died but I still had 89% left! As soon as I hit the power button though and pulled it out of the drawer, I heard the alert I had sent to it and also heard it locking itself up because I had also put it into Locked and Stolen mode.


More Black Friday Sales….

ReaddleNow these sales are for those of us who actually have to work, not just make music all day!

Readdle has their apps at 50% off! for 48 hours only!

These are the apps included:


I use PDF Expert all the time as a simple way to view PDF files (not my PDF music though), like when I take the band on a trip, I have every kids medical form with me on my iPad ready to view in an instant. Another very useful feature of PDF Expert is that is allows me, or others, to sign my signature and type on PDF’s. Every entry form and registration that I fill out is done in this app – You should see the principals eyes when I show her what she needs to sign and  then have her do so right on my iPad.

My Calendar app is now Readdle’s Calendars5 – this app is much easier to use than Apple’s calendar and any other calendar app I’ve ever tried – I have it on the home screen of my iPhone and iPad both! The entry method for new events is the way that Apple should have done their app in the first place!

This half price sale is an opportunity for you to own amazing apps that will help you be more productive and allow you more time to get back to making music, or to spend more time with your family! I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving/Hanukkah or at the very least a wonderful thursday!

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?