A project for NZ Music Month...

In 2011 I celebrated NZ Music Month in style by writing 31 microscores in 31 days. It was a huge success, they all got recorded, are hugely popular and I use them almost weekly when talking to students about composition and instrumentation. In 2012, while I was involved in many Music Month events, I didn't have a music composition project and I was pretty disappointed about it.

So in 2013, it's back!

NZ-Music-Month1

What I like about this project is that usually all of my time is spent on other people's music - an absolute joy and honour - but it means I never get any time for my own composition. So NZ Music Month is a great annual opportunity to make sure that I work on my own music and have something worthwhile to show at the end of it.

I have debated for some time exactly what I would do this year - more daily microscores, weekly ensemble pieces, fortnightly larger pieces - or perhaps something slightly different.

I'll go for something slightly different.

For a long time, years in fact, I have wanted an online store to sell my own music - easily and automatically. Aside from works for professionals, I have a lot for students, community and school ensembles - and there is a great market for this. Sure, people can already buy it - through SOUNZ and by emailing me - but that doesn't quite cut it. People should be able to search on the internet, find a piece, discover and experience it, buy it, download it, play it. And I don't want to just export or print a version from the latest Sibelius file, I want to have properly published music - finalised, stylised, done, dusted, complete.

Initially, I thought I would finish a collection of piano music to sell - editing the current four pieces I had and writing four new ones - but I decided that I was still avoiding the most important step of all - to get this online store of music up and running and full of the music that I already have. So, now it's going to happen.

By May 31, my birthday and the final day of NZ Music Month, people from all around the world will be able to buy my published music easily and automatically from this site.

Here are the main things I will need to consider:

  1. What to publish
  2. Editing and publishing
  3. Selling method, charges, etc
  4. Cataloging
  5. Promotion and launch

It's going to be a big month - I've got an Auckland Philharmonia premiere, Auckland Symphony rehearsals, the 48 Hour Film festival, 10 days in Australia, a trip to Hawke's Bay, plenty of music prep, arranging and teaching commitments, and my 30th birthday!

It'll be a big month, but I'm really excited and I look forward to writing several posts along the way - addressing the points above and no doubt discussing the setbacks and triumphs. Stay tuned.

The PDF - a musician's best friend?

In this digital age of computers, devices and the internet, this wonderful thing called a PDF is becoming an asset that we really can't live without. We make them, receive them, explore them and store them - but as musicians, what are the ways in which we can use them and enhance our working environment? adobe_reader_logoThe acronym stands for "portable document format" and that describes them well - no matter what software application you are using, what sort of operating system you are on, or even what device, the PDF will look as it should as a fixed format. Also, it can't be edited, which is great for a whole raft of reasons. They have been around since 1993, but it's only in the last 10 years or so that they have really come to fruition, as we are sharing documents like never before and are using the internet to distribute our material. And because of all this, software is now also making it increasingly easy to export, save and share in this most wonderful format.

When I mention "devices" I am referring to things like the iPhone and iPad, which are of course wonderful standalone, but I often am referring to them an extensions of the computer. PDFs can be seamlessly synced between devices using services like Evernote.com and Dropbox.com, and so access to them out on the road opens up so many more possibilities.

I've categorised some thoughts about how PDFs will benefit three areas of the industry: writing musicians, performing and teaching musicians, and music consumers.

THE WRITING MUSICIAN

As a composer or arranger your ability to distribute your music, and the ease of doing so, is incredibly important. It doesn't matter whether you are on the other side of town or world you can quickly email PDF documents to your performers. All they need is a computer and printer and you know your music will be presented exactly as you wish.

I recently sent music off for a recording sessions in London - I finished and emailed it to them a few hours before it began and had complete confidence it was sitting on the orchestra's music stands exactly how I wanted it.

Professional orchestras have their own preferences when it comes to physical preparation of the music and so they often only accept a PDF master set - with the volume of music that goes across the music librarians desk, it's very efficient to just have the PDFs.

On your website or in your promotional material you might like to present samples and examples of your work, in which case you can easily add watermarks to keep it safe or add extra information.

Very handily, programs like PhotoScore (www.neuratron.com) can scan previously printed music and import it into the Sibelius, the notation software. I do this a lot - where someone may want an arrangement of a certain piece, or a piece needs to be transposed - I don't have to begin with hours of entering the original note by note.

THE PERFORMING AND TEACHING MUSICIAN

As a performer or teacher you generally need to carry large amounts of music around with you. Aside from potentially putting your shoulder out, the ability to call up music quickly in certain environments is very important. Having your music as PDFs on a digital device can mean huge amounts of space saved and the ability to bring up any chart in a matter of seconds.

For music not already existing as PDFs you can of course scan in music and keep all of your current collections. There are wonderful online music databases such as IMSLP.org which contain predominantly scanned royalty-free music.

The use of digital music stands is becoming very common (this is where you view the music on a screen rather than a printed copy), either by the use of dedicated systems or with devices like the iPad. Their use in band and orchestra environments is also becoming more common - they are not just restricted to the high-budget stages of American Idol!

I have written several posts on the topic of digital music stands and using iPads for performing on my website so check those out if you are interested.

THE MUSIC CONSUMER

I don't know about you, but when I purchase sheet music I want it right then and there. So the option to pay less and choose the "download as PDF" button always gets my click. As a person selling that music it is also my preference, as the transaction is completed automatically and there is no need for any packaging and posting - it's just money in the bank.

With this, however, there are potentially problems where your music could be easily distributed further once someone else owns the PDFs, but the argument is that you could always do this via a photocopier anyway - it just takes a few extra steps and may not be quite so pretty.

Even though with choral music is it common to charge per copy required, that really doesn't translate to other music and I don't see that working well for choral music for much longer - it is a little too trusting to ask someone to buy two copies of something rather than just buying it once and printing it twice. Generally now PDF music is licensed to the purchaser and they can do multiple copies as they wish. MusicNotes.com has nice way of indicating this by marking each page with a "Authorised for use by Ryan Youens".

So are PDFs a musician's best friend? Absolutely. With the internet, websites, email and various devices being such an important part of our work, distributing and receiving music is essential and it's essential for it to be done safe and efficiently - with a PDF.

This post was originally published on 17th March 2013 at www.flutefocus.com.

The best of 2012

2012 was a year full of great things, cool things, intriguing things, wonderful things and things to completely knock your socks off. Here's my list of the best (musical and digital) things of 2012. MUSIC BLOGS

Sibelius 7One of the first things I do each day is read all of the blog posts that are waiting eagerly for me in Google Reader. There are three feeds that, without fail, I will read and learn something from every time.

  • Of Note - a Sibelius and Finale blog by the legendary Robert Puff.
  • Sibelius Blog - hints, tricks and interesting stories about Sibelius by Philip Rothman (originally Daniel Spreadbury).
  • Technology in Music Education - if you're a music teacher of some description you'll love hearing about how the latest technologies can be used in music education.

MUSIC BOOKS

behindbarscover I'm usually not a big reader of actual books but there are some that sit pride of place on my shelf, actually, only when they're not sitting open on my desk.

  • Behind Bars by Elaine Gould - my bible of music notation. I'd really love a digital version too!
  • How to Write for Percussion by Samuel Z Solomon - the title sounds very underwhelming, but is a wonderfully comprehensive guide to writing for percussion.
  • Essential Dictionary of Orchestration - mine is looking old and tatty - a good sign! It's an essential reference for instrument ranges, general characteristics, tone quality descriptions, technical pitfalls and more.

MUSIC RESOURCES

SpotifyThe internet is just one big overwhelming resource! There are four in particular that I have used a lot this year and deserve a mention.

  • Spotify - gone are my days of wasting money buying music only for a specific occasion or to only listen to a few times. Now I can access everything, anywhere, for only a small fee.
  • MusicNotes - I've been buying a fair bit of sheet music lately and you can't go past MusicNotes for the best range, quality and easiest website.
  • MacProVideo - a massive range of resources for users of pro audio (and other) software.
  • MusicPrep.com - has wonderful resources for Sibelius and Finale and even links to books on scoring, notation and orchestration.

MUSIC INSPIRATION

YouTubeYou're procrastinating and you find yourself mindlessly surfing the internet - these are probably the places where I would end up.

  • Scoring Sessions - for any orchestral film soundtrack fan this is a wonderful site of photos, news and videos from scoring sessions in Hollywood, London and more.
  • YouTube - most of the world's pro audio software and hardware companies have channels on YouTube. A recent great watch was the Vienna Symphonic Library Artist Videos.
  • TED - amazing talks from amazing people.

MUSIC SOFTWARE

Pro Tools 10Most of my job would be a nightmare, or quite simply not possible, without the help of some wonderful computer software so a much deserved shoutout goes to them.

  • Sibelius 7 - they've had a rough year but a big salute goes to the number one notation software.
  • Logic 9 - the stalwart DAW in my studio, always impressing.
  • Pro Tools 10 - a new acquisition and some great projects done already, clearly some big steps forward since I last used it a few years back.

MUSIC APPS

FiReI rely on my mobile device rather a lot, here's my top three "I could not live without" music apps. I did a full post on musical iOS apps earlier in the year, click here to visit it.

  • FiRe - a professional field recorder wonderfully adequate to do a great recording when out and about.
  • Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music - dealing with music notation and teaching students all the time means I'm always checking this great app.
  • Dr Betotte - a metronome like no other. 5 volume sliders and mute buttons to, tap tempo, halftime feel, adjustable swing feel functions, multi beat mode...

CLOUD SERVICES

EvernoteThe "cloud" is a hot word at the moment and rightly so - there are some fantastic ways how you can have your data anywhere, anytime and on any device.

  • Evernote - probably my most opened app. Most databases, documents, lists and resources are all on Evernote and thanks to the cloud they are all universally accessible.
  • Dropbox - constant backup of my system and access to it anywhere via the iOS app. Also great to email large attachments to clients for download.
  • Xero - my in-the-cloud accounting software. I can write and send invoices, amongst other things, on my iPhone and have access to it at all times.

WEBSITE DEVELOPMENT

mailchimp-logoEvery musician needs an online home and maintaining mine, learning about the finer details and marketing it is a real hobby - three things make it an absolute joy.

  • Wordpress - always makes developing the website a breeze. Special mention goes to Automattic who has produced many of my most loved plugins this year including the breathtakingly-good VaultPress.
  • MailChimp - I have a newsletter, which evidently you can sign up to here(!), and they always impress me with the service they provide.
  • SoundCloud - could easily fit into several categories mentioned in this post, but I'll add it here. I remember the days when it was such a huge deal (and sometimes expense) to embed audio on your website, but now SoundCloud makes it quick and easy and it looks beeeeautiful.

I hope you enjoy checking out some of these. Got any to add? Leave a comment below.

I survived 2012. This is how it was!

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!

3100508059_5c99a0f9e1_zFebruary is the start of the school term and I posted about the preparation work I do for schools.

My typing fingers must have been tired at the end of March - it started with two popular posts, iOS apps for music professionals and Digital music stands vs iPads, following on from, again, two very popular posts I did in 2010.

2012-05-15 APO Open Days 236

Following that were four posts on current projects - "Working on workshops" looked at some teaching workshops I was involved with, "An opportunity to make the floor rumble" talked about my upcoming new work for the Auckland Philharmonia and the Auckland Town Hall Organ. I conducted at the Bay Of Plenty Music School once again and my post, "Bay Of Plenty music school hit Rotorua!", pre-empted my visit there, and finally "Opening up an orchestra" reviewed the first two Auckland Philharmonia Open Days were I ran the "meet the composer" area.

In April I reviewed my time at the Bay Of Plenty Music School in "Making music in Rotorua" and posted photos in "Checking out the pipes" after an inspiring tour of the Auckland Town Hall Organ.

My Confession image May is music month and "A month of New Zealand music" checked out the events me or my music was involved with. It's also 48 Hour Film Festival time and our film this year was "My Confession…".

In June I talked about my involvement with Auckland Symphony's "Night Of The Proms" concerts in "Promenading in the colony" and I posted "Questions for a composer" after answering questions for a student's school assignment.

In July I posted my one word review of each piece from the "Nelson Composers Workshop 2012" where I was very happy to go this year as a mentor.

APO "Tiraki" workshopAugust is KBB Music Festival time and I also posted on the ongoing saga regarding the future of Sibelius in "What the heck is happening with Sibelius!". My piece, Tiraki, started to take shape after another workshop with the Auckland Philharmonia.

September was rather dormant on the blog front but in October I reviewed “What Lurks Among Saints” after being invited by a student I met earlier in the year.

The-Hobbit1In November I had the privilege of "Playing my role in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", and I posted about the experience.

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!".

christmas-musicFinally, 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!

Playing my role in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

In what is a massively important and no doubt successful film for New Zealand, I am delighted to have a small part in creating its musical soundtrack. The-Hobbit1Howard Shore has composed a stunning 105-minute soundtrack for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and there is a New Zealand flavour too with a stunning song by Neil Finn, Plan 9 and David Long, "Song of the Lonely Mountain". Victoria Kelly did the orchestral arrangement and I was very honoured to prepare the music for recording at London's Abbey Road Studios.

In an epic night I received a Logic Pro session and out the other end, via Sibelius, came score and parts transcribed, typeset, edited, proofread and ready to be recorded in London a few hours later by the London Metropolitan Orchestra.

The soundtrack is released on December 11th, visit here to get a sneak peak and a preview of the song. You may have also heard a rendition of it on the red carpet before yesterday's world premiere.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens in cinemas on December 3rd, go see it.

What the heck is happening with Sibelius!

Sibelius 7Back on the 3rd of July, while at the Nelson Composers Workshop, I followed the breaking news that Avid was closing the London Sibelius office. This meant the likes of the legendary Daniel Spreadbury, one of Sibelius' greatest assets, would lose their jobs. Initially, some jumped to the worst conclusions, but Avid was quick to confirm that "the Sibelius brand and product family remains with Avid" via their official statement. But the fact that the people that make Sibelius what it is are losing their jobs was terrible. These are the people that have developed Sibelius through the years, have heard all of our recommendations and frustrations and are a key part of the Sibelius community. So the feeling was for Avid to sell Sibelius back to the founders and the users, like it was before they purchased it in August 2006. The Sibelius founders, Ben and Jonathan Finn, posted on the Sibelius forum that they were:

“...very concerned to hear earlier this month that Avid is terminating the jobs of the Sibelius development team in London and handing the software over to other programmers, apparently to cut costs. As far as we know, Sibelius continues to be extremely successful, so this cost-cutting is a response to financial problems elsewhere in Avid, not with Sibelius itself.

Ever since then we have been quietly trying to do everything we can to change this situation, including twice offering to buy Sibelius back from Avid. However, Avid has declined. While they haven’t given a reason, we assume that Sibelius is a substantial source of profits to them, so they don’t want to sell it to anyone.

We naturally feel very sad about this treatment of our friends and colleagues who have been key to making Sibelius a success, and who have become the world experts in this specialized field. We are also very grateful to the many Sibelius users who have expressed their concern and support; though at this point, it seems unlikely that any protests will change Avid’s mind.”

So, Avid are not very popular. Even if they have good intentions to develop Sibelius further, it is hard to think that it is onwards and upwards with what will be a brand new group of developers. It, sadly, does seem likely they just want to keep hold of Sibelius, as it has proven to be a good money earner, but because of growing resentment towards them and poor development, it will probably die a slow death.

What can you do? Join the petition for Avid to sell Sibelius back to the Finn brothers. You also may like to:

Nelson Composers Workshop 2012

Another Nelson Composers Workshop has come to an end. As always there was a mix of pieces restrained by convention, those off the rails with creative freedom and everything in between. I haven't been since 2006, when I was there as a student, so I was reminded what an inspiring and enjoyable few days it is and how good it is to catch up with composers and performers from around the country.

This year I was lucky enough to be a mentor to two composers, Hannah Bright and James Chih-Lin Tu, who wrote two great pieces. James is studying at Auckland University and Hannah at the NZ School of Music in Wellington - she is also a singer/songwriter, check out her EP here.

Blas Gonzales at the 2012 Nelson Composers Workshop

I also gave a talk during the morning seminars on advanced Sibelius techniques. I know composers of contemporary music can feel limited when using Sibelius to notate their music, so with this talk I introduced some techniques which will hopefully help - like aleatoric writing, creating graphic scores, using colour, contour graphs and woodwind fingerings, and creating custom symbols and noteheads.

During the workshop I made one word summaries of each piece, check them out below:

Grace Carpinter: Calm Glen Downie: Breathy Ben Powell: Suspicious Monique Farry: Unpredictable James Chih-Lin Tu: Diverse

Sudharsan: Relentless Phillipa Ullenberg: Epic Tom Jensen: Intense Xu Tang: Energy

Amos Mann: Exquisite Jun Kagaya: Classic Alex Campbell-Hunt: Fragmented David Taylor: Unique Alex Wolken: Frantic

Blas Gonzales: Moving Louise Webster: Beautiful Hannah Bright: Intriguing Dave Miller: Charming

Callum Blackmore: Colourful Andrew Leathwick: Creapy Andrej Nowicki: Jittery Catherine Sullivan: Dark Xander Perrot: Romantic

Ben Hoadley: Fun Reuben Jelleyman: Awkward Kerian Varaine: Refreshing Alex Taylor: Intriguing

String quartet in action at the 2012 Nelson Composers Workshop

It was such fun I may just have to go back next year, and so should you. Keep an eye out for entry forms appearing here early in 2013.

Opening up an orchestra

Last Sunday we had loads of fun at the first of the Auckland Philharmonia open days for 2012. 20120325 APO Open Day 008

We were at the Bruce Mason Centre in Auckland and you would have found me in the “meet the composer” room. Loads of people came through and some came back three or four times as they had a new idea to add to our "Open Day" composition.

20120325 APO Open Day 010

We talked about what composers do and how our ideas make it to the orchestra’s music stands. Many people had a go on Sibelius and were blown away at what it can do and what we could do with their musical ideas.

THIS SUNDAY we do it all again:

"Meet the APO and hear all the instruments, in a fun family day. Hear us rehearse and perform excerpts from Beethoven's famous Fifth Symphony, join in activities to make simple percussion instruments, listen up close to individual players and hear the 200 strong chorus taking part in Sing with the APO. The orchestra and ensembles of APO musicians perform throughout the afternoon."

TelstraClear Pacific Events Centre, Manukau, free admission. Click here to find out more details.

Come down and say hi, I look forward to seeing you!

Working on workshops

It has been an enjoyable start to the year presenting some workshops around Auckland. "Sibelius in education" - professional development day

On Friday 24th February I had the first session at a professional development day for secondary music teachers. We looked at how to use Sibelius effectively in education and checked out all of the features that are going to help both them and students use the program to its potential. The next two sessions were by Philip Norman, looking at the life and music of Douglas Lilburn and a session on composition titled "Composition can't be taught... but techniques to help it on its way can".

"Sibelius In Education" seminar at Hotel Barrycourt 1 "Sibelius In Education" seminar at Hotel Barrycourt 2

"What's new in Sibelius 7 and education feature supercharge" - Faculty of Education

On Wednesday 15th March I worked with the new music teacher graduates at Auckland University's Faculty of Education. They had learnt Sibelius on version 6 so before they headed out in to the schools we looked at what was new and different in version 7 and also checked out a number of the fantastic education features that makes Sibelius a joy to use in the classroom.

The next composers... - secondary schools

I have also been working at two secondary schools with composition students. Developing their own compositions as well as workshops on string writing and developing an idea through a composition.

"Meet the composer!" - APO Open Day

On a related note, coming up this Sunday is the Auckland Philharmonia Open Day and you'll find me in the "meet the composer" room. Find out what composers do and how our ideas make it to the orchestra's music stands; try out the Sibelius notation software and add your ideas to our "Open Day" composition - see you there!

iOS apps for music professionals

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!

RECORDING

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.

GENERAL TOOLS

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.

REFERENCE

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.

Oxford Dictionary of Music - this well respected resource is a very nice app, essential for those who regularly reference terms and definitions. You may also be interested in the Oxford Companion to Music.

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.

TEACHING

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.

BONUS

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!

Digital music stands vs iPads

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?

Hello, iPad.

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, AirTurnis 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:

You may also be interested in this video of classical violinist Ray Chen talking about his use of the AirTurn and iPad.

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!

Thoughts, experiences and links are most welcome.

2011 through the eyes of a blog

And just like that, another year is gone! Here is a look at my posts for the year. thinking web picThe blogging year started in March with my favourite book arriving, "Behind Bars", which I preordered in 2010. It is definitely the most used book on my shelf! I then talked about two approaching projects:

In April I introduced my new work, "blimp", and reviewed two projects - a song I helped a friend create and my work at the BOP music school:

May was a busy month, so in June I talked about what I had been up to - writing 31 microscores and the premiere of "blimp":

In July I posted the video I worked on with Sideways Productions:

In August and September I covered my involvement in the KBB Music Festival and some composition tutorials that I held in Kerikeri:

October was the kick off of the Rugby World Cup here in New Zealand, I talked about my involvement in the opening ceremony and also made a post about what exactly I do when "preparing music" and why you would need someone like me to do it:

December means Christmas and I posted some Christmas carols that I prepared for my students. I also composed a new "holiday" piece for my Christmas post:

Happy New Year everyone, bring on 2012!