The New Year means it's time to have a look back over the past year and see, through my blog posts, what has taken shape and what I have to say for myself!
January started with a very well deserved "Shout-out to VaultPress" after they marvellously got my website back up and running after a meltdown!
December was busy with a number of projects. In "Little pieces of Christmas" I talked about a bunch of Christmas arrangements I did for the Auckland Philharmonia and Auckland Symphony orchestras. I also talked about a film I was involved with, called "Sounds Perfect" and its selection into the Tropfest final in “Sounds Perfect” to be in a final". I then prepared music for some very fine New Zealand singers and talked about it in "Preparing for some legends!".
Finally, no year is complete without a "Merry Christmas" post thanking you for all of your support during the year and the compliments of the season.
Another year ticked off the list, another year doing my absolute dream job - let's get ready for an even better 2013!
iOS (iPad and iPhone) apps. They are often enough to quite simply blow your socks off! There is one for pretty much anything, especially with music. In June and September 2010 I wrote two posts titled "iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad apps for the music professional" - be sure to check out those posts here and here. Eighteen months on I think we should see what apps have stood the test of time and what the new ones are on the block.
As with the two posts from 2010, these are apps that (I hope) are genuinely useful to musicians, music teachers and other music professionals. Buckle yourself in, here we go!
FiRe 2 - the industry-leading field recorder was fantastic first time around, and now it is even better. It is not waiting for you to record your first album, but for basically everything else it has you sorted. It now has super easy editing tools, EQ, dynamic effects, dropbox integration and much more. I use it to record ideas, music lessons, workshops with performers, performances - a very fine app.
GarageBand - covers two bases. Firstly, you can record music either by playing on the device or recording from an external source, then even take it to GarageBand or Logic Pro to continue work if you wish. Secondly, you can perform on a variety of instruments (including strings now!) and even jam with your friends via bluetooth. Gone are the days when you would need an app for every instrument.
Dr. Betotte TC - one of the few metronomes powered up for the music professional. Packed with features, including rhythmic divisions that have their own volume sliders, one click halftime feel, options for swing tempo, you can import your own audio samples and it can gradually step up and down. This is one of my absolute favourites.
Stay In Tune - is a wonderfully clean and versatile tuner - fantastic for all general tuning. It has a good range of instrument presets for noisy environments or unfamiliar instruments. I should also mention Cleartune which is incredibly precise - ideal for string or other orchestral instruments.
NumPad - if you only have a laptop or bluetooth keyboard, with this app you can add the keypad on to it. It took me a while to start using it, but it is actually really helpful. There are several keypad view options (to match your main keyboard) and there is no delay when in use. A lifesaver for those who usually use the keypad in Sibelius but then find themselves without it.
Backline Calc - is a musical calculator and in my original post I said it was "perhaps the last app you would think about looking for, but once you have it you’ll realise how handy it is". Perhaps I use it more for fascination rather than actual need but a very clever and interesting app.
Guitar Toolkit - a very popular app for guitarists with some great tools. I want to specifically mention its incredible library of chords, scales and arpeggios (and with alternate tunings) for not just the guitar but also the 7-string and 12-string guitar, 4-string, 5-string and 6-string bass, banjo, mandolin, and ukulele. For someone who is far from being a natural guitarist but who has one, plus a mandolin and ukelele, it's a very well used app.
Karajan® - a very helpful music and ear trainer from beginner to advanced levels. You can learn, practice and test intervals, chords, scales, pitch, tempo (bpm) and key signatures. Audio can be piano, guitar (nylon and steel string), bass and organ, so users can be in their comfort zone. Great for students developing their ear, and I am even partial to an exercise now and then!
Nota for iPhone (Nota for iPad) - where Karajan is for developing the ear, Nota is for developing the mind (theory, musical knowledge...). Explore notes, chords and scales on the piano or the extensive reference library covering articulation, accidentals, breaks, chords, clefs, dynamics, key signatures, lines, notes, note relationships, note durations and rests, repetition and codas and time signatures. I often set the quiz up for students if they are early for a lesson!
MSO Learn - many young musicians are curious about orchestras - what instruments play in them, how they work... MSO (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra) Learn is a beautiful app which lets you explore the orchestra - the different instruments, where everybody sits and the specific music each section and instrument plays. For example, it plays a full orchestral piece and shows the full orchestra, click on the woodwind section and you'll get a layout of woodwind instruments and just they will continue playing, then click on a specific instrument and just hear that instrument and an explanation of it. Such a wonderful resource.
Avid Scorch (iPad only) - no longer do you need to take huge amounts of music around with you, store and read it all on your iPad. Even transpose it or view the score or different parts if you wish. If you're interested in this, check out my recent blog on this topic.
SoundCloud - of course SoundCloud is a dream come true for many of us musicians, with the ability to safely store and share your music online. The latest version of their iOS app is quite special - with excellent functionality and beautiful interface. Have all of your music available for sharing while on the road or use it to push your music out elsewhere on the web.
There we have it - some of my most used and most helpful iOS music apps. Who knows what is coming next!
In May 2010 I wrote a post about digital music stands (or electronic music stands) and what looked like a fantastic new product that very soon would be widely used. 22 months on, the development has been very average and so I thought we should look at where things are at and if other devices such as the iPad are becoming more common and viable for musicians.
In that original post, I mentioned that there were two ways you could go about it: either purchasing the software and the hardware in one device (MusicPad Pro, Same Page Music) or just the software to run on your own monitor or device (MusicReader). I also mentioned the eStand which (now) has both hardware and software options available.
There have been several advancements to all products, in particular to the Same Page Music device which has (sadly, I think) morphed into an overly complex and overwhelming array of features, as can be seen in these two videos: video one, video two.
To me, all of the options mentioned above still seem very unattractive - they don't have user-friendly interfaces or ease and practicality in mind. Have a look at this promo for MusicReader:
You may have picked up on two major flaws. Firstly, the conductor for the wind ensemble had to have his device on an office desk, not a music stand. Secondly, on the floor of most ensemble was an array of cables, power boxes and so on. So, on stage they are not very practical, they take a lot of setup time and are still, generally, bulky.
In an industry where technology is moving incredibly fast, 22 months has not seen much development at all with digital music stands. Why is this?
I don't want to preach Apple just for the sake of preaching Apple, but let's face it, so many musicians have iPads and there is a reason for it. They can have everything in one place, communicate with ensemble members, connect with fans - the list could be huge - and also they can have all of their music in one place. Yes, you can have all of your music stored on digital music stands of course, but you've probably got an iPad already for a multitude of other reasons and view and organise your music on the plane, at a cafe, wherever. On stage, just click the iPad in and you're ready to go - no power to worry about, no cables to trip on - a separate device seems quite unattractive, doesn't it? I think for a musician, the thought of taking another monitor or similar device to read music from would a be real burden.
This, I think, is why those standalone digital music stands that looked so exciting a few years ago, haven't taken off like many of us assumed. As of 31 December 2011 there were over 55 million iPads sold - that's a tough market to try and break.
Using your iPad - there are two types of apps. The first are PDF readers where you can do a lot of editing of the meta data and draw on scores etc, but you can't actually change the music:
MusicReader - I mentioned MusicReader in my original post and it is still a versatile piece of software, as it can be used on Mac and PC too. They have proved themselves over the years and it allows you to draw, highlight and write on a score, but to be honest the interface is pretty rough.
Perform - a nice app with good features for adjusting how the score scrolls. On the pro version, it can listen to where you are and will scroll accordingly. It can also make a video of you performing - if you like that sort of thing!
forScore - has a beautiful interface and nice range of features. It has the forStore where you can download a lot of music or you can even download PDFs from your Dropbox account. Some nice features like thorough editing of the score, a metronome and ability to play an on screen piano.
The second type gives you more flexibility with the music:
Avid Scorch - once your music is in Scorch, you can transpose by interval or key. If you have a score, you can view the actual score or individual parts and change between transposed/concert pitch. You can play it back and use the mixer to adjust levels if desired.
Finale user? - MakeMusic have announced they are bringing out an iPad app in May. Its features seem very similar to Avid Scorch. If you're interested, check out this video posted on their blog a few days ago.
For a daily user of Sibelius and having around 1,000 .sib files, the possibility of growth with these apps is very exciting.
If you are using an iPad, or considering one, these two devices will make you very happy indeed. The first is a product called TheGigEasy which makes it easy to mount your iPad in any environment. Check out this video:
This is a wonderful product, and I think, considering it was named by USA Today as one of the five "Hottest Products" at this year's NAMM Show, indicates how widespread iPad use amongst musicians really is.
You may be wondering about page turns. Well, the second device, AirTurn, is taking away any worries in that area. In fact, it works via bluetooth so works with any iPad, Android, Mac or PC device. Check out the video below:
So, digital music stands, I don't think, are proving themselves as great options for musicians, whether classical or contemporary, amateur or professional - not when tablet computing is moving at such a fast pace. Maybe in another 22 months we can have a look at this topic once again - who knows where we will be then!
It is December 31 and I just wondered "what exactly has happened this year?"
So through the eyes of this blog, let's have a look. We'll start with January and the tail end of our South America trip, along with the workshopping and recording of my music in Brazil.
It is that time of the year again and your family and friends are most probably asking for ideas of what to get you for Christmas.
Here are my top ideas for all composer-musicians:
SoundCloud gift voucher - SoundCloud is one of the most valuable online resources for composers and musicians. To really unleash its power you need to go premium and even better, get someone to gift you a subscription.
Mollard conducting batons - Most composer-musicians will conduct their music, many twilight in conducting further. Mollard batons are absolutely supreme, I have several - they will even engrave your name on it.
Evernote subscription - Every composer-musician has so many ideas to remember and projects to oversee, with Evernote you can now remember everything!! Gift a subscription here.
iTunes voucher - Not only necessary to top up your stock of Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Mahler and Ligeti, you can purchase all of the incredible iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch apps that are made for professional musicians. In fact, check out my two posts on the best pro music apps to get: the first post here and the second post here.
A gift of time - If you don't want to spend money why not give a voucher to say you will do all of their jobs and chores for a weekend (or heck, a week) so they can hibernate and write some very fine music. That is priceless!
I hope there is something there to add to your Christmas list. Let me know your best ideas!
Musician? Got your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad? Well, what are you going to put on it? As a musician, sharing my time between rehearsals, conducting, composing and teaching, I have fine tuned a collection of amazing apps for my iPhone that I find are absolutely essential and I hope will help you save you a lot of money and give you some great tools. Just a note, I've used all of these on an iPhone but they are all available (if not now, will be very soon) on the iPad.
Field Recorder - This is an outstanding digital recorder for the iPhone. One review of it says "Audiofile Engineering's FiRe application is by far the most advanced stereo audio recording application we've seen for the iPhone and iPod Touch, going far beyond the limitations of previous go-to apps...". It is a professional quality recorder and the list of features is huge so check out the link. It has a beautiful interface, the quality of recording is amazing, you can edit in the app and can export as WAVE, AIFF, CAF, AAC, Apple Lossless, AAC, Podcast, Ogg Vorbis and FLAC. So handy for capturing a rehearsal or auditions, taking field recordings and pretty much endless possibilities.
Dr. Betotte TC - There are many metronomes but few powered up for the music professional. Dr. Betotte TC has all the normal features of a normal metronome such as playing any time signature, beat divisions, the ability to save your tempos and settings to a playlist, tap in a tempo - but it has got so much more. For a start all of the rhythmic divisions have their own volume sliders, one click halftime feel, options for swing tempo, you can import your own audio samples and the playlist can auto advance. Some nice other features (which are so easy to access) include an alarm timer that syncs with the metronome and customisable gradual up/down, step up/down and quiet count buttons. These step up/down buttons are so handy for students learning a passage, as it gradually gets faster over time (or however you set it up). What I do like about this metronome is its visual capabilities - it's often really unhelpful just having a "beep, beep" metronome. For learning scores or for reference in rehearsals it is so handy to just have a ticking needle, or a huge "1, 2, 3, 4, ..." being counted on screen. This is by far my metronome of choice.
Stay In Tune - There are a lot of tuners available, a lot of good ones and generally they all have the same features. It's how they deliver the features which makes the difference. Stay In Tune is my favourite - it has a wonderful, clear interface, you can also easily produce tones, calibrate and select specific tunings for different instruments. It is also one of the most accurate and gorgeous I've found.
Backline Calc - It's a musical calculator and perhaps the last app you would think about looking for, but once you have it you'll realise how handy it is. There are six categories and some examples include: Length (sum times, compare tempos, song length, beats to tempo, time to samples), Pitch (MIDI note, frequency and wavelength conversion), Timecode (frames to timecode, convert timecode), Electric (power, voltages), Acoustics (distance to time, sound pressure level, panning) and Files (file size). These are only a few examples - a very handy little app.
Chordmaster by Planet Waves - The most advanced and intelligent guitar chord reference. You can make chords easily with sliders, you can strum them and the overall interface is beautiful. It's also nice to see a popular and well known music accessory company delving into apps.
SoundHound - We all hear a song on TV and want to know what it is and there are several apps who help you out with this, the most popular being Shazam - but these don't go much past the novelty factor of holding the device to a speaker and finding out the song. I like SoundHound as it provides a few more features such as effectively picking up you singing personally, or you can just type the title, album, artist or lyric. Also, in the results, it provides iTunes links, all the lyrics, YouTube videos and the ability to easily share.
Karajan® - Music & Ear Trainer - Karajan is by far the finest ear trainer. It is powerful and very customisable in each of the categories - intervals, chords, scales, pitch and tempo (bpm). It has detailed statistics so is great for students using in lessons or for your own interest. Personally, I use the tempo recognition all the time (great for conducting) and the pitch recognition is handy too. The pro version is entirely worth the money. (iPad screenshot below)
Oxford Dictionary of Music - Yes, your dream has come true. The entire Oxford Dictionary of Music is available on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. It has a wonderful interface, easy search and is regarded as the most up-to-date music dictionary out there. Also good to note that no internet connection is required to use the app. These guys only do dictionary apps so they know what they're doing. This is a must.
Circle Theory - Based around the Circle Of Fifths, this is a handy reference tool. I use it mainly with students using the more straight forward functions like seeing the relationships between notes, key relationships, key signatures, intervals and triads. But I've also used it myself for transposing between keys, checking notes of transposed instruments and as a reference for modes. A great little app.
Virtuoso Piano - Well we have to touch on some instrument apps. I'm sure the first app any musician gets is a piano but many are very basic. My favourite is Virtuoso Piano Pro as you can have multiple keyboards, easily flick between octaves, calibration and record/play features. Another really great app.
Guitar: Play and Share - Without question this is the finest acoustic guitar app. I've been playing around with it a lot lately and it is wonderful. Very clever, very easy to use and the sound quality is fantastic. Loads of features and ways to customise, different guitars - who needs a real one?
I won't mention any more instruments as there are so many good ones (and far more that are rubbish). But if you're interested in these, the video below is a great watch. It is from the Rend Collective Experiment featuring David Crowder and they produce the whole song from iPhone instruments. Awesome.
ProRemote - This is the only app I don't own due to the whopping price tag (NZ$124.99, US$99.99), but it gets my attention and admiration. It is a remote control for ProTools, Ableton Live, Apple Logic or Soundtrack Pro. They say it "is like having four Mackie Control Universal Pro's but better because it is wireless and much less expensive. You get almost $5000 of hardware for the price of ProRemote." Very impressive. (iPad screenshot below)
Well it is an amazing series of products that I hope you will all enjoy checking out and using. I have found them all to be essential with my day to day work, saving so much time and hassle. Please let me know any other feedback, any great apps I have missed or your comments.
I remember seeing digital music stands for the first time a few years ago in a series of concerts in the UK where some DJs collaborated with composers and live musicians. I can't find the link to it now, but basically composers were writing music alongside the DJs and the musicians were playing it in realtime from their digital stands. I remember thinking how great it was, and even now, that weighs up as some pretty adventurous activity!
Yesterday I posted a tweet mentioning my enjoyment at seeing Harry Connick, Jr. and his band using digital music stands on American Idol. This ignited a great response of knowledgeable and intrigued comments. They are not yet being used professionally in this part of the world, and I can't say I've seen one in person, so I thought I'd explore them a little - here are my findings.
There seem to be three companies whose products are being used widely. The first is Music Pad, who it seems are the most popular and are the only (as far as I can see) company who have the whole product (a dedicated 12.1" tablet), not just the software. The Music Pad Pro is their main product - looks fantastic and packed with features.
If you are thinking, "Yeah okay, fair enough, great for a brass player reading a chart, but how about a conductor reading an orchestral score?" Well, you need the Music Pad Maestro.
Ah yes, the possibilities of usage are wonderful to dream about. Let's come back down to reality - for a Music Pad Pro plus carry bag, foot pedal and a few various cables, you could expect to pay around US$800.
A far more cost-effective option is just to purchase the software and you can run it on your own device. What looks to be the supreme product is the Music Reader, which sits at around US$99 for the full professional version. It is Mac and PC compatible and perfect for flat widescreen monitors, tablet and other touch screen PCs and, as of recently, the Music Reader is available on the Apple iPad - where it is a free download.
Another option is the eStand, although very sadly it only runs on PCs. Still not cheap - for the full professional multi-page package, you can expect to pay US$499.
So I am guessing you have many questions about how certain things work - let's try and answer some.
Turning pages - three options: touch the screen, use the foot pedal or use a MIDI trigger.
File format - sibelius, finale, PDF and image file formats.
Annotations - you can still annotate on the score as you would with a pencil on traditional paper.
Portability - well, beats potentially carrying around hundreds of pages of music.
Stand lighting - you won't be needing that anymore.
Syncing - you can sync devices on stage so everyone is on the right track.
Viewing - several options of single to multiple page views and you can "look ahead" with a half page turn.
Page order - you'll never get them out of order again.
Printing - you can print from the programme ... but why would you want to?
Extras? - Yes, there is of course a metronome and tuner.
If you're thinking "is a tuner and metronome the only extra features you can give this?", well that's just what I was thinking. But, the Same Page Music Performance Station has both the sheet music as well as metronome and tuner features ... AND a personal monitor mixer. Yes, you can take charge and adjust your own monitor levels.
See a great video of the Same Page system below:
I look forward to seeing the developments with these products. As a copyist, it's exciting to see the ability to make the score or parts and have it in front of the players in seconds. Even in more relaxed environments such as teaching, its potential is exciting. Maybe this is my excuse to buy an iPad?
Let me know your thoughts, experiences if you've had them or links to any videos with these in action.
There are a few things that, honestly, if I didn't have to help me out day-to-day, I would completely fall apart. Sounds drastic, but the amount of things to be done, managed, scheduled and announced each day is crazy.
Things is mind-blowingly clever - it's my to do list and task management. It's made for the mac so runs seamlessly and of course looks beautiful. You have all of your tasks and projects lined up in the Next list, then each day you can manually filter them through into the Today list, or if you have set a due date or recurring task, it will automatically appear. All tasks are categorised into projects or areas of your business. You can even tag each task to have even more control.
The scheduling of tasks is great. Say you submit a weekly timesheet, have it pop up in your to do list on the day so you don't forget. Do a thorough computer backup once a month? Be reminded. You can select that it reminds you on the day it's due or however many days beforehand. Got your tax return due? Have it remind you two weeks prior so it's done well before due date.
There is also an Inbox, which I love. It's where you throw all your ideas in so you don't forget any, then later you can filter them into where they should be. For example, at the end of a rehearsal I have so many things in my head - music to be copied, extra players needed, absentees and so on. I fire all these into my Inbox, then later that day I will tag these with "conductor", put a due date if necessary and file it away.
How do I efficiently list all these things I need to remember at the rehearsal? Well, Things has an iPhone version. By the time I get home from the rehearsal, all these tasks are sitting on my desktop waiting for action. Likewise, if I'm at home I can list all the jobs I need to do out, and while I'm out, I'll be checking all the tasks off and of course when I arrive home again it's all checked off there too.
When you complete a task it doesn't just disappear either - it goes in to your logbook, so if you ever need to check back for anything, it is there waiting.
These guys have won many Apple and product design awards, it's brilliant. It is rather expensive if you want both versions, Things Mac is NZ$79 and Things iPhone is NZ$13.99 - but worth every cent.
iCal and iCal Duration
Okay, yes yes, iCal is a nice calendar and every Mac has it. But there are a few nice ways to use it and to "pimp it out" for some serious usage.
I work for myself and I like to keep track of all the time I spend on what. Not just each project, but what areas of my work eg: how many hours of conducting I did last month, or how many hours of composing I have scheduled next week. Of course you could do this manually and count up all the hours, but having the ability at a few clicks is very handy.
To ensure it is set up right, I make sure the title of each event is the same eg: "Kristin orchestra rehearsal" or the title of the piece I am writing - each time it is entered. Then in the "notes" field of each task I enter what area of work it is eg: "teacher", "composer".
Then you use the Search feature and put in "composer" or "Kristin orchestra rehearsal", or whatever, and you are given all of those entries. This is where a neat little tool comes in.
iCal Duration is a great piece of Apple Script that is so simple. Once you have done the previous step, select all of the entries you wish to and click the iCal Duration button. In seconds you will have the total hours and minutes of your selection.
This is so handy, and say I was orchestrating a job, I'll just work, work, work and keep good track of the time in iCal, then when it comes to invoicing I just put the job name in to Search and there is the total. Brilliant. Of course, iCal syncs seamlessly to iPhone also.
There is so much to keep on top of these days and it really can be time consuming, far too time consuming, but there are some great tools which allow you to do a lot in very little time and effort.
For Twitter, I was a diehard addict of Tweetie, and I still think they have the most gorgeous iPhone app, but recently I just needed a few more features. I debated between HootSuite and TweetDeck for some time and settled on the latter. HootSuite does have scheduled tweets and inbuilt stats, but has an appalling iPhone app which straight away puts them at the bottom of my pile.
TweetDeck lets you manage twitter, facebook, myspace and linkedin in the one place. You can send updates to all, some or just one place. You can do everything you'd ever need to do on Twitter, your friend feed comes through from facebook and you can "like" or comment, and for myspace and linkedin you have the status updates. You can have columns for almost anything from latest friends so you don't forget any of those follow backs, to keyword searches to keep on top on trends and the area(s) you are working in.
TweetDeck can't feed your blog RSS into tweets or doesn't have the inbuilt stats like HootSuite, but for me who has used twitterfeed (feeds blog to tweets) and bit.ly (shortening and stats) for quite some time, I was quite happy to be able to keep using these services.
TweetDeck also syncs between your iPhone version and desktop version, so all your columns and settings are always up to date. TweetDeck saves me hours of time each day as in a few seconds I can do what I need to do without the hassle.
What are your indispensables?
What are the sites and software that help make your life easier every day? Let me know.