Music Study Apps Part 1- notetracks

NoteTracks Header

When we as musicians sit down to figure out and to study a piece of music there has usually been a bunch of paper, pencil and clicking going on. You hit play and start writing down which section is which, taking notes on where the main theme starts, when the chorus comes in, where to start adding, drums, strings, backup vocal….. and the list goes on and on until you have successfully marked up your paper all over the place in scratches and scrawls that you are lucky to read the next day.

With the advent of technology there are more and more apps available every day to give us a hand in our never ending quest to learn that next tune.

Let’s take a look at the Notetracks Smallnotetracks app which was just released December 5, 2014. The app is currently on an introductory sale of $4.99

This app will help ANYONE who has to listen to a piece of music and analyze it. This app could be used by anyone from elementary age up through college and music professionals as well!

Notetracks 1Upon opening the app you will need to create a new project. Upon entering that project you will need to import your recording from the iTunes library or you can import from DropBox as well. If you are using iTunesMatch, as I am, you will obviously have to make sure you have actually downloaded the track from the cloud first form within iTunes. If you haven’t already downloaded the tune from the cloud first you will see that it is grayed out and you will not be able to select it. You can see that I have this very situation going on in the screenshot to the right.

Once you imported your audio file you are then off to work!

ADDING TEXT, SYMBOLS, and DRAWINGS: You will see the waveform below the timeline and the artwork with a nifty volume slider on the left along with a mute option – more on that later. At the top, in the blue toolbar are your transport controls as you would expect and then the options to start adding Text, Symbols, or Drawings to your project. The obvious choices would be that I am sure you will want to type in the form of the piece – Intro, Verse, Chorus along with where different instruments come in.

Notetrack 2At this point I am sure you will start to experience a few of the frustrations that I found in working with this app. It is easy enough to add in one item – you tap the Tools option in the blue menu bar, select Add Text and a new track of information is added below the waveform. the next step is obvious, tap the +, type in the text and there it is! You can even select which color or size it appears as. THEN…. if you are like me you add a few items and you start to realize that if you want to move things around/change colors or sizes… you MUST make sure to DESELECT the previous item! Otherwise you start to change items you did not want to change! In fact sometimes you move or change items that do not even appear to be selected. Once you have played around with the app for about ten minutes you will get the hang of adding, changing, deleting, and moving items around.

HINT – Again, I can not stress this enough – save yourself some frustration when moving items around! Move the item, edit the color, size and placement THEN TAP IT AGAIN TO DESELECT IT!

A nice feature when wanting to add a number of items at the same spot is that if you drag an item downward the track will expand, as you can see to the left where I have 3-4 things stacked up. Another nifty feature when adding Symbols is that you can simply make sure the correct Symbol is already selected, then tap on the timeline wherever you want to add that symbol – skipping the process of tapping the + and making sure the playhead is in the correct spot. This allows you to add for instance a number of Symbols throughout the entire track all at once.

DRAWINGS: as for adding drawings… this is a nifty feature to have, just don’t expect a large drawing space with lots of tools – think basic and you will not be disappointed.

NAVIGATING and EXTRA TOOLS: About now I am sure you will have decided to see how easy it is to move around in your track. If you want to jump to a specific spot in the waveform, like at the 3 minute mark then simply tap there, even while the track is playing. Of course if the track is playing at the one minute mark and you try scrolling to the five mark, putting the playhead out of view, the screen will frustratingly jump back to the playhead – so simply tap the stop button, move to the spot you want. It would be nice if they gave you a few more seconds before the screen jumped back to center the playhead.

Pinch and expand motions work nicely, allowing you to zoom right in close to see the details or expand all the way to see the entire track at once (which of course is going to make all your notes, symbols and drawings a bit clustered)

In the blue toolbar there are some nice features along with a few annoyances. Let’s take a look at these….

LOOPING and MARKERS – If you tap the infinity icon (the sideways 8) you will get a message that the “Loop markers are not set”. Setting loop markers is easy – simply double tap the waveform where you want the first marker and then double tap where you want the second marker. There is still one more step to getting a loop going though you must press and hold on the loop marker number. This will turn the marker blue (Warning, until you actually lift your finger you will not be able to tell that the marker has become blue because the top stays orange – hopefully the developer fixes this). Long press on two markers and now you have a loop going!

If you tap the Location icon you will be able to edit the markers a bit – you are able to delete them or hide them.

Notetracks 3EQ, PITCH and SPEED OPTIONS – If you tap the Slider icon you will see that you have options for adjusting the Pitch, Speed and EQ of the piece. Quite frankly, as far as I am concerned these are not much help. when you adjust the Pitch for instance, the speed changes. When you adjust the Speed then the pitch changes. If you try to tap the – or + icons on the Pitch options they just simply do nothing. Do be aware that it is simple to mess with these options and then reset them – although unless you read the manual, you will probably never figure it out – simply double tap to return to original settings. I am also very unsure about why the original setting for Speed is not in the center.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS:

It is even possible to add in more than one piece of music into the same project. I am not sure why but that feature is there. When you do add a second piece of music you will want to use that mute button on the album art of the first piece – otherwise you end up listening to two pieces of music at once!

BUGS:

  • Sometimes when undoing and redoing actions things do not actually get undone or redone correctly
  • The playhead centering itself constantly is annoying! In fact – just save yourself a bunch of frustration – make sure the playhead is near where you wish to edit, add, and annotate things at!
  • The Rewind button and the FastForward button do not work at all. This in conjunction with the playhead issue is very frustrating after working your way through a piece of music. The solution is to zoom all the way out, tap the timeline at the beginning OR you can tap the timeline at the far left until you make your way back to the start.

SHARING:

What good is all of this work if you have others to share this with and can not get your information out of your iPad and into their hands?

The Export PDF feature gives you a PDF that you can pass along to others. I have included my simple project – Notetracks_Brule Example. I did not finish this one but just used it as an example for you to check out. You can see that it comes in as one ridiculously long PDF page from left to right. You will have to zoom WAY in but after zooming in this is quite useable!

HINT – When exporting your PDF you MUST make sure to have the track zoomed in enough to be able to read all of them text boxes. NoteTracks DOES NOT do this for you. If you are zoomed out and your boxes are all squished up, the PDF will look exactly the same!

There is also a Copy Text option as well allowing you to take all of your text notes and paste them into an email, text app or whatever. This feature of course would be much more useful if there was a way to figure out where in the timeline each note had been placed.

NoteTracks SharingHINT – PAY ATTENTION HERE PEOPLE – The real gem of sharing is hidden away – again, reading the manual to things pays off boys and girls! When you are at the main screen and you tap on the existing projects option you will then see a list of your projects on your iPad. MAGIC PART – Swipe left and you get to the options to the “Open In” button allowing you to share the project via dropbox, email, AirDrop, other apps and the sort. Check out the screen shot to the right

FINAL THOUGHTS:

This app is NOT meant to learn a piece of music by ear, giving you tools like slowing the tempo of the music down but keeping the pitch intact. See Part Two of my Music Study Apps for a tool for THIS sort!

Notetracks is going to prove to be invaluable when trying to figure out the form of a tune, taking notes while listening to it, and then sharing that information with others! I look forward to where this app will go in the future. There are a few issues with what it offers as is but the features that work are very helpful to any musician who has take notes and annotate a piece of music!

I have to do this sort of annotation constantly with my electronic group as we are performing arrangements of every single piece we perform. Not many people write for our instrumentation. NoteTracks is the perfect fit for us in this sort of situation!

Holderness Media Effects Apps for iPhone Released! (Sale price right now too!)

crystalline_perform_view_iPad_Air_854wOne of the great iOS Music Developers, Holderness Media, has had a suite of effects apps out for iPad for awhile now. The news of the week though is that on Jan 8, 2015, he released four of the apps for iPhone! Now our little iOS friends can take part in the fun alongside the iPad!

This is going to be loads of fun especially since an iPhone6+ has the extra screen space but is still small enough to stick in your pocket! These effects can easily replace a guitarists effects pedals or work alongside of them! (Of course those pedals aren’t going to fit in your pocket very well though!)

stereodesigner_screen_sliders_2048x1536Just look at all the tweak-able controls you get in these apps! X-Y Pads to make fast easy adjustments, then there are the sliders on the next screen that allow even more tweaking, morphing, echoes, swooping and all sorts of fun on the fly! You do not even have to have any idea what you are doing to have fun with controls like these available at your fingertips!

These apps allow you to apply the effects a live input, like a guitar/drum module/keyboard etc… or any app that is AudioBus/InterAppAudio compatible! I’ve included a video at the bottom of this post that will give you a little idea of what is possible with these apps.

It bears mentioning that I fully support Christopher Rice’s (the developer) decision to charge for iPhone versions of these apps. Many people may not like having to pay twice but when you have great developers who love the iOS community and work hard to give us amazing apps, they deserve our financial support! Plus, the are offering amazing deals on the app bundles! Buy the bundle and save a bundle!

Here are the four iPhone apps – Each is $1.99

Echo Pad - HoldernessEcho Pad (This is the only one of the Holderness apps that is actually an universal app. Which means you only have to buy one app that will work on iPad and iPhone)

Crystalline - HoldernessCrystalline mini

Stereo Designer Mini - Holderness MediaStereo Designer Mini

Swoopster Holderness MediaSwoopster Mini

Caramel - Holderness MediaCaramel Mini

Here are the links for the iPad Versions –

Echo Pad - HoldernessEcho Pad  (This is the only one of the Holderness apps that is actually an universal app. Which means you only have to buy one app that will work on iPad and iPhone)

Crystalline - HoldernessCrystalline

Stereo Designer Mini - Holderness MediaStereo Designer

Swoopster Holderness MediaSwoopster

Caramel - Holderness MediaCaramel

Here are links to the bundles –

Holderness Media Bundle – iPhone Bundle ($8.99) – 50% off currently

Holderness Media Bundle – iPad Bundle ($11.99)

 

Caramel YouTube Video – The other apps are kind of self explanatory but Caramel is a much deeper app with some amazing possibilities! Take a Look –

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 wordpress.com (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.

CONCLUSION:
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!

VIDEO:

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.”

 

 

Pocket Studio by XME is Free! A 98 Track Digital Audio Workstation on your iPad…

What’s to think about it’s free! Go get it – Especially if you haven’t bought yourself an app that does the the whole digital audio workstation bit yet!

Plus their BeatPad Small IconBeatPad is on sale for $2.99 (down from $5.99). BeatPad and PocketStudio work hand in hand. Pass your beats you create in BeatPad off to PocketStudio then record your keys, vocal and guitar into PocketStudio. Don’t forget to add some live horns in there too!

Pocket Studio LargePocket Studio by XME here is a list of top features to tempt you even more….

Features: 
• 96 Tracks! YES, NINETY SIX TRACKS! Create as many tracks up to 96 as your iOS device will let you. 
• BeatPad midi plugin: Tap the folder icon/new/track/midi then tap the Midi Track’s input button to select BeatPad. 
• Audiobus
• Record Digital Audio from devices plugged into dock connector 
• Record audio and midi tracks in each session 
• Available reverb and delay effect sends for each track 
• Unlimited Songs 
• Beautiful Design 
• Import Audio from Your Music Library  
• Import audio from email 
• Record audio from thousands of online radio stations 
• Quantize midi tracks to keep notes in sync 
• Tap and hold metronome button to reveal metronome UI 
• Tap and hold Input button to quickly reveal input plugin (BeatPad or Online Radio for example) 
• 118 BeatPad Kits available for download 
• Quick Punch Recording 
• Tap Docs button/NewTrack/Midi then set BeatPad as the input to create BeatPad midi tracks

BeatPad LargeFEATURES 
- Create Custom Kits by sampling microphone audio or Importing audio from email and the web! 
- Share your custom kits with friends! 
- Download Kits made by others from around the world 
- Universal App Installs on iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch! 
- Quantize: Automatic Note Sync keeps you on beat
- Email Your Beats to EVERYONE! 
- Upload Your Beats to SoundCloud, YouTube & Your FaceBook wall 
- Professional Sound Banks used by Real Producers
- 8 Channel Music Sequencing 
- Type and Save Your Lyrics to Each Song 
- Easy to use interface.. 
- Send your song files to friends for collaboration

Capture for iPad Arrives – Drop Dead Simple App to Record With!

Capture LargePresonus released a new app recently that has high potential to make things simpler for us musicians. If you are a music teacher who needs to create accompaniment tracks for your students or if you ever record your performances this app would be an awesome choice. In fact, there are only two items missing from this app that would make it stand at the top of the list of iPad DAW’s – more about those two wish list items at the end.

WHAT CAPTURE IS: The purpose of this app currently is simple – it gives you a super simple way to record with your iPad. Capture gives you a mobile recording studio that you can then take back to the computer and edit further.

WHAT CAPTURE ISN’T: It is NOT a recording app to record from other iPad apps.

The app is called PreSonus Capture and it comes in two flavors – the FREE Version (Capture Duo Small IconPreSonus Capture Duo) and the $9.99 Version (Capture Small IconPresonus Capture). The only difference between the two is how many tracks you can record – free=2 tracks, not free=32 tracks! This pricing structure is a like getting a present at Christmas! – by offering you the free version, PreSonus has just given you a way to get those simple, straightforward recordings you need. For instance, Choir Teachers always need accompaniment tracks, Band Directors always need accompaniment tracks and we would all like to be able to record ourselves playing or singing our music. Now we have a great looking, simple and mobile solution that is free.

The app is very straightforward to use. Start it up, start a new session, select whether or not you want to monitor what you are recording in the headphones, tap the record button and start the music. Take a look….

Capture1 Capture2

One technique they have used for this app is to make it very easy to select the interface you want to use. The app works with the built-in mic and it also works with audio interfaces like the newly released (but not available yet) PreSonus AudioBox iOne or the iTwo or any other MFi iPad interface. I used it with my Line6 SonicPort just fine. Trying to find this interface selection in other apps and on the desktop is always a huge search, even for me!

EDITING AND SETTINGS:
It is also imperative that I was able to adjust my stereo/mono settings. It really annoys me when I record my keyboard and it is not in stereo. With the Capture Duo app it was easy, tap the single dot at the bottom of the input meter which will then become two dots indicating that you are now recording in stereo!

So just to make sure you are clear on what PreSonus is giving you – this means that with the Capture Duo app you can record 2 tracks of STEREO Audio! I can record a stereo piano track and then record another track of stereo drums as well! Nice

Here’s a picture of that….

Capture - Mono to Stereo

Adjusting and editing the audio was very easy. Just do what seems to be the right multi-touch gesture and you are probably going to be in business. Tap to select, double tap to bring up a menu to Cut/Copy/Delete/Duplicate/Split at Cursor or tap then hold for a second then drag the audio to a new location.

WRAP UP:
PreSonus has been very focused with the purpose for this app currently – A mobile recording solution to use in conjunction with other software that is easy to use. If you use it with Studio One it is even easier to work with your recordings because they will transfer wirelessly right into the desktop software!

I believe they hit the mark right on. I can not wait to see where this app is a year from now!

  • This app does not have to be used with Studio One on a desktop. Studio One is free though for Mac and PC both- PAY ATTENTION ALL OF YOU WHO USE THAT OTHER FREE RECORDING APP! Go download Studio One, it’s free!

WISHES:
I’ve got a short video at the end of this post for you to see how easy it is to use this app. First though a couple of observations:

  1. WISH ONE – With that being said, I really wish there were other ways to share your recordings from within Capture – Using the Open In option or to upload to SoundCloud or DropBox or even Box.net.
  2. WISH TWO – The app REALLY, REALLY, REALLY needs to get audioBus integration so we can use it to record other iPad apps! This would open up a HUGE open door! (I suppose InterApp Audio would help too.) There is a huge number of iPad Musicians who are using the iPad and apps as a very real way of making music! What used to have to be done in professional studios, on equipment that cost thousands of dollars, is now being done with apps and an iPad.

Side Note –

  1. If you use one of the new AudioBox Interfaces – the iOne or iTwo you will have to have the interface plugged into the iPad power adaptor.

 

and now a video to demonstrate…

 

 

As always – the links in this post are affiliate links. That means that if I inspire you to purchase any of the apps/music that I link to in this post I receive a small portion of that sales – something like 5% I think. This comes out of Apple’s share and the developer keeps their portion of the sales. It’s just a small way to inspire me to keep writing and sharing my ideas, thoughts and tech finding with you all.

3 iOS Apps That Make it Simple for Recording Your Music

Hokusai Big Icon reSonare Big Icon Take Big Icon

Musicians always have the desire to record our music, be it our own or that music we are listening to around us. They also have longed for a way to quickly capture musical thoughts and ideas that pop into our heads. Usually these ideas pop into our heads at the most inopportune times – on the train on the way to work, at work during lunch break, or maybe waiting in line. How do we capture those ideas quickly with a minimum of fuss?

Have you ever used Apple’s Voice Memos app because it is so straightforward and drop dead simple to use? Then you also were probably left with a desire for that app to offer just a little bit more!

This is going to be a simple and straightforward post about a few apps that are great options to simply record. We are not talking about apps like GarageBand and Cubasis, nope, just apps that let you record quickly and easily. They let you record one or more tracks, do a few basic edits and maybe have a few other “extras” like adding reverb or sharing.

 

App Around The Longest -
Hokusai Small IconHokusai (Free) – (Introduced on August 1, 2011) [Has both iPad and iPhone versions]

Newest App (Geared towards vocalists [or in my opinion, ANYONE] ) –
Take Small IconTake Creative Vocal Recorder (Free) – (Released July 10, 2014) [Only has iPhone app but it will run on an iPad.]

App Directed Towards Instrumentalists -
reSonare Small IconreSonare (Introduced April 15, 2014) [Only has iPhone app but it will run on an iPad.]

 

Hokusai Screen1HOKUSAI:
I love the way Hokusai allows you to interact with the audio on a touch interface. This app allows you to do multitrack recording and also allows you to edit that audio – trim the ends, cut, copy, paste, delete and you even have some filters and special effects! You can transfer the edited audio via USB, DropBox or use the Open In option to send to other apps.

 

 

 

Hokusai Edit Screen

 

 

 

Take Record ShotTAKE CREATIVE VOCAL RECORDER:Take 3 Tracks Shot
Takes the drop-dead simplicity of your voice memos and combines to with features custom tailored to vocalists (Or any musician, in my opinion) Propellerhead has released a wonderful app today that allows you to start recording right away, with the tap of just one button!

But it gives you just a few more options as well. There are three parts per song you can record, allowing for some harmonies or an instrumental track. There is the all important metronome too! This metronome is not Beethoven’s metronome though, it has some fun loops and beats to get you inspired to musical greatness. Then there are even some basic effects controls that let you control the Reverb/Delay added to your recording. This is important because once again we are recording with our iOS mic which records in mono. Propellerhead designed this app to work specifically with that scenario though and engineered the app to maximize the quality of those recordings.

Of course what would an app be these days without ways to share our musical explorations? FaceBook, Twitter and email all are covered here as well as sending through a message.

This is a beautiful looking app and joins a fine family of Propellerhead apps on the app store that you need to check out!

The family includes:

  • Figure ($0.99) – builds some great 3 part music. The tag reads, “Got 3 minutes to make some music?” If you don’t have this yet it’s a ton of fun! The kids love it because it is so easy to get some pretty rocking music out of!
  • Thor Polysonic Synthesizer ($15) – one of the best synth apps out there.
  • ReBirth for iPad ($15) – Legendary software reborn for iOS

 

reSonare iPhone ViewreSONARE:reSonare Musicians
For the “classical” musician to record themselves performing on their instruments. Has pre-sets for different instruments. So if you are recording a flute you would then select the Flute preset for optimal sound vs having the Piano preset selected. Also helps improve the mono recording you get by using the built-in microphone on iOS devices by giving you a stereo widening effect along with EQ and reverb. Gives you a one click step to mastering your mono recording into stereo with pseudo-stereo and specialization techniques. (Read that as – Sounds better than plain old, normal recordings!)

Professional Musicians helped develop the app settings and they also created guidelines for recording each instrument that you can read in the app.

Allows you to share via email, Wi-Fi, iTunes files haring, DropBox and my favorite for students, SoundCloud.

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