I love music notation software. I remember when I was much younger, trying to get my Commodore 64 to produce a satisfactory score with Music Construction Set. The copy it produced looked horrible, but it was so much fun trying.
Since that time, I grew into experimentation with Encore, MusicProse, and eventually many years working with Finale and Sibelius.
I have been reading about the development of Dorico for some time and waited to let the earliest adopters work out some of the kinks, but now it is time for my own experience with this software.
Steinberg provides an unrestricted 30-day trial just for this purpose. I decided to try it on the Mac first. Installation was easy, but the download is rather large at over 9 GB. The Steinberg Download Assistant helps manage the large download in case it would get interrupted, but didn’t have any problems.
I watched a few videos provided for the trial as I waited. These were helpful to get an idea of the new philosophy of computer music notation. From the videos, it didn't seem as if the learning curve would be too steep.
For anyone newer to music notation software, Dorico is a brand new product designed and built from the ground up by a team led by Daniel Spreadbury. Spreadbury led a team that was the brain-trust behind Sibelius, who along with Finale make up the "big two" music notation softwares. Avid Technology purchased Sibelius Software Ltd. In August 2006, and in July 2012, announced plans to divest its consumer businesses closing the London offices and laid off the original development team. Since that time, Avid has recruited some new programmers to continue the development of Sibelius.
Many of the former developers of Sibelius were hired by a software company named Steinberg to begin developing a new music notation software. They announced the project in February 2013 and the name Dorico after an Italian pioneer in music engraving from about 1500 AD, Valerio Dorico was announced in May 2016. The program was released in October of that year.
Why create a new music notation software? Competition spawns creativity and advancement! Some of the best music notation features came from the rivalry of Finale and Sibelius. They made each other better! In addition, a strength of Finale is that it has been around so long, but that becomes a weakness with regards to legacy code and even legacy methods of doing things. Sibelius also comes with the baggage of “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Spreadbury created a great piece of software with Sibelius, but as he said from the initial announcement of this new software that perhaps the most intriguing thing that can be done with a new piece of software is being able to have another chance to change and improve some of those things he wished he would have done differently. The legacies of Finale and Sibelius are what Dorico is built on. Now, we have the opportunity to test this which may be the future of music notation software.
It was a little sad to not hear the inspiring orchestral chords of Sibelius’ 6th Symphony when the program opened as one always did when Sibelius started up, but I guess even good things can be made better. The program seemed to open quickly which is always appreciated.
Tutorials are shown as you progress from screen to screen. They are basic and to the point, but very helpful. I found that I was able to create a short piece very easily. The tools are all right in front, yet not cluttering the screen. I never once had to wonder where something was buried. The playback of my simple clarinet piece sounded as good as Finale and Sibelius' playback and again there were no glitches—something that I ran into occasionally with Sibelius.
In Finale and Sibelius, note entry is dependent on the 10-key number pad. Many computers no longer have this and my new Mac is one where this is missing. I was pleased to see that Dorico is built around the idea that the 10-key pad is unnecessary. One could easily write music without a MIDI keyboard or extended computer keyboard. The number layout is very logical, but is also completely customizable in case you have a better idea. Dorico and Sibelius are both built around the concept of duration before pitch where Finale is built with the idea of pitch before duration. Sibelius gave a courteous nod to Finale by letting pitch before duration be an optional setting so Finale users could easily migrate. In contrast to this, Dorico doesn’t give any acknowledgement to an alternative way and as Spreadbury replied on a message board where a user was asking about this, there are no current plans to add that option. In his words, “We’re duration before pitch people.” I found it relatively easy to adapt, but that will add some to the learning curve of one wanting to migrate from Finale.
One of the things I appreciate most about Sibelius is that it is really designed around the way a musician thinks—notes, articulations, dynamics all entered at the same time whereas I found Finale to be more like desktop publishing software where these “details” are more easily added after the notes. Spreadbury takes this even further with Dorico and in my short time so far, it feels even more like pure composition with a tablet of manuscript paper rather than an elaborate computer desktop publishing system. To me, that inspires creativity!
One can set up a score completely from scratch as I did for my simple clarinet piece, or one can use a template. A negative surprise that I saw when looking through templates was the glaring absence of jazz ensemble templates. I will definitely be reporting more on this in a future blog after some time to look further. I may have missed them. I saw many other ensemble options and was very surprised to not see that immediately.
This is only day one, so I really don’t have much more to say. It has been an enjoyable trial so far, and I think the rest of my thirty days will be a lot of fun as I try to take the program through its paces further and see what it can do. Stay tuned for another blog on this after a week or so!
Music makes a great gift and this is the season to find some sales! This is the deepest discount we've ever offered on CD's. $5 on all CD's except Resting Place which is discounted to $10! This even includes shipping. Pick up the CD's you don't have and purchase some favorites for a friend or relative. Sale ends at the end of day, Monday, November 27th. Share some music this season!!
A moving collection of beautiful melodies--some familiar and some new--performed on piano and synthesizers. Relaxing, refreshing, creative... A blend of classical, jazz, new age, and a style all its own.
Tapestry of Christmas
Jazz, classical, new-age... Just a few words that describe this "tapestry" of the music the Christmas..
Spectrums… Color with varying wavelengths… a palette of creativity all around us… extending beyond the visible… With Spectrums I want to engage the senses in a variety of ways with sounds, colors, styles, feelings and emotions.
A Touch of Gospel
There is nothing like Gospel music to get your toes tappin' and your hands clappin'! Michael Fischer gets the piano keys flying with this mix of energetic favorites and beautiful melodies.
Christmas at Home
Pour yourself a warm cup of cider with cinnamon. Sit in your favorite chair cocooned inside your softest blanket. Then, let your mind run free as you go on a journey of Christmas favorites.
Songs From the Heart
Songs from the heart... Melodies you love and songs that inspire. Music allows us to approach the throne of God and give Him worship. Worship is from the heart. That is what Songs from the Heart is all about.
We often search for peace. Safety from the things we fear most. Sanctuary that calms us and gives us comfort. This is a collection of hymns and favorite melodies that can provide us that peace and sanctuary. Recorded in a live setting in an intimate church sanctuary in the heart of Minneapolis with singer, Angie Gislason.
A piece of my childhood that I remember with great fondness is the music of Vince Guaraldi as the score to the great trilogy of Charlie Brown specials for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Vince Guaraldi is the genius behind that music and while he is best known for Linus and Lucy with all the Peanuts characters dancing, his music has many more dimensions. For November and autumn, here is Autumn Leaves by Vince Guaraldi.
The next stops on our little tour as Pianist With an iPad include two additional programs that I have found very useful. I won’t go into nearly as much of detail on these as both are for more-or-less a niche of iPad musicians, but being in a position where I use both, I want to mention them as you may find one or both useful as well.
The first program I’ll highlight is called Music Stand. Music Stand is part of an amazing suite of online tools for church musicians called Planning Center. If you are a church musician, it is very likely your church already uses Planning Center as it is getting to be rare to find a church that doesn’t. Planning Center began as a service planning tool and has developed over the past decade into a full church management suite. Each module is offered and priced separately, so for churches like mine that use a different product for a church management system, I can still use the Services module for service planning.
I’ve been using Planning Center Services since May of 2009. Music Stand was added as an inexpensive add-on in 2010, but it wasn’t until several years later that I embraced it. Just as I had not embraced the idea of using forScore it took me some time to discover the real benefit of using my iPad for music. In 2010, Music Stand was introduced for iPad only, but it is now available for Android as well. My church subscribes to for the low price of $10 per month and that allows anyone on our team to use it. Smaller churches can get it for as low as $2 per month!
The feature set is very similar to forScore. The big difference is that you don’t add songs to Music Stand, you program them into the service in Planning Center. Then they automatically appear, in order. Each week, you simply load up the service plan. You can also look ahead at future plans or behind to find a song from a past plan. A great feature for church musicians is that notes you add to the score are saved and you’ll see them each time. In addition, each user has their own notes, but they can view other users’ notes. This is a great way for a leader to pass on info to the team.
Music Stand works very well for church musicians who participate in multiple churches. The accounts link to the same log-in. While I don’t use that function for that reason, my church collaborates each year with some other churches with a men’s conference. This has made it that all our musicians no matter which church they are from can easily access the music with their devices.
As I already said, Music Stand is an add-on to a program called Planning Center Services. If your church does not already subscribe, you would need an account. If you aren’t the church music leader, ask him or her. Again, it is very likely your church already has an account and this would be only a small additional add-on. I interact with many churches and it is getting very rare to find a church that doesn’t already use this great program. Besides, if your church hasn’t already discovered this gem, I believe they would really find it beneficial.
For the second program I’d like to highlight, we can step away from the church musician side of music and move to the world of jazz. Back in the 1970’s a jazz fakebook called The Real Book started being distributed. The copyrights were not cleared, and royalties were not paid, so this book wasn’t sold on music store shelves, but was sold musician to musician in music school hallways, pulled from a hidden stash under the counter of a music store, or even from the trunk of a car! It was known as the tool any serious jazz musician needed to have. In 2004, publisher Hal Leonard stepped in and obtained rights to most of the music in the original Real Book and the first legal edition came out. Now, this legal edition is the standard any jazz musician or jazz student needs. But wait! I thought this was an article about tools for iPads. That is where iReal Pro comes in.
iReal Pro offers a tool where the chord progressions of jazz charts are published. Melodies are not provided as they can be copyrighted, but a chord progression cannot, so, while iReal Pro seems to have stepped back into the realm of not complying with copyright laws, it really is legit and a great tool for any jazz musician.
What makes iReal Pro even better than just getting a Real Book? The iReal Pro app simulates a rhythm section that can accompany you while your practice. If you play a horn, you’d leave the entire rhythm section playing, but as a pianist, you can easily take the piano out of the mix and play along with the bass and drums.
Tempo, key signature, and form are customizable, so this tool provides a great way to practice. I find this a very helpful tool for a jazz piano student. I regularly ask for metronome practice. This tool provides metronome practice in a much more fun way. It can also help develop swing style or help the student understand Latin style such as clave patterns.
The database of songs is enormous and there are many styles that one can download, or you can add your own songs easily.
While there are many great uses for iReal Pro for the student jazz musician, I would caution to not allow your student or yourself to only play and practice with iReal Pro. A significant characteristic of jazz music is the interaction between players. We “play off” one another often imitating or responding to a rhythmic or melodic pattern we hear. This is a big part of the improvisatory communication style that is inherent in jazz music.
That aside, iReal Pro is a tremendous benefit to a serious student of jazz young or old, and I highly recommend it.
These are certainly two great additional tools for a Pianist With an iPad and both can be easily found in the App Store. I have a final installment that I will write in the upcoming weeks where we’ll wrap things up, highlight a few additional tools, and cover a few other necessary things to consider as a Pianist With an iPad. Until then!
Our church loves the music of the Keith and Kristyn Getty. From In Christ Alone which has been sung countless times here for fifteen years or more to He Will Hold Me Fast, Oh, How Good it Is, For the Cause, and Lift High the Name of Jesus, all songs that are regular on our current worship song list. As a congregation, we’ve appreciated the music of the Getty’s being theologically solid, upward focused, and easy to sing and engaging. With this love for their music, you can only imagine how excited I was to hear this book titled Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family And Church was coming out.
Equally exciting, was a Sunday morning just a few weeks ago when a congregation member and singer very graciously gave me a copy of this book. I looked forward to reading it. What made it even more exciting was in the mail the next day was a second copy of the book sent from the publisher. I gave the extra copy to another pastor and decided I better get reading!
The book is short but filled with depth and wisdom. The book begins with the Biblical basis for congregational singing, and the need for the church to sing. We are created, commanded, and compelled to sing with our hearts and minds. This singing is not limited to a service on a Sunday morning, but extends to our families and through our community. The book ends with the point that our congregational singing witnesses to the world around us. Our singing declares the glory of God in the Gospel of Christ.
At the end of the book are several “Bonus Tracks” that are written for special groups of people such as pastors, worship leaders, musicians, songwriters, and those who work in the music industry.
While a pastor, worship leader, or worship musician may get the most out of this book, anyone-even non-musicians—can learn from the teaching and we can all be challenged with the truth that the important thing is singing with all your heart.
As a worship leader, I highly recommend it to other worship leaders and pastors. Even more, I believe any one of us would benefit from reading it as we strive to worship, declaring the glory of God as sing, proclaiming the gospel together in obedience to God.
Want to check it out? Here is a link on Amazon.
So here is second installment of Pianist With an iPad, a series I began last July but never finished. In this post, we’ll look at some of the tools and benefits of using the iPad for this purpose.
I believe what I’ve found most helpful for me is how the iPad allows me to have organized practice. I’ve been that guy with piles of books on top the piano, or the “black hole” of scores in a backpack or computer bag. I think of so many of the accompanists at music festivals walking around with their rolling suitcases packed with music. The iPad with forScore allows me to be organized. Everything is in one place. It is all grouped, sorted, and I can hold the device in one hand and still have room for a coffee in the other.
I discussed this to some extent in the first installment, but let me go through it here as well. I organize using Genre for instrument. That way, I can quickly pull up every trumpet or trombone piece I have on my iPad. As long as you use logical naming and enter things like composer’s name, it is also very easy to find pieces using search or sort.
I use “Tag” for the student name. This is especially helpful if you are developing a repertoire with another musician. Some of my lists are quite extensive, and others just have a few pieces in them. I love having all pieces for one musician so easily accessible.
I set up Playlists as soon as I know we have a performance scheduled. I’ll name a playlist according to the person I’m accompanying and I also put the date of the concert. Then, I sort my lists according to date. This helps me know the priority order to practice with regards to when I’ll be performing a piece. This is very helpful with college students who give me their repertoire for the year at the beginning of the fall (or in some cases, the spring before). Since I typically have a waiting list for recitals, students are accustomed to asking me early, which is very helpful, but requires some careful organization.
Organization is very helpful for planned programs, but it is just as helpful to keep playing and to grow as a musician. As my iPad library of music has grown, I’ve found I have many great options for sight-reading practice and I tend to pull out pieces for maintenance practice a little more. I have some pieces in the iPad that I hope to learn but have never done so. Having them with me and easily accessible gives me hope I will eventually learn them.
forScore allows you to write notes which can help you practice on the “right things” next time. It is important to have a practice strategy or game plan. Writing notes can help you formulate a good practice plan. There is certainly no need to waste time in practicing, and writing good notes as to what you did at in a practice session can be a tremendous help to you the next time you sit down with your instrument.
One can upload mp3’s into forScore for playback. That is a great tool, but one I don’t find as useful, as the music I am working on, tends to be somewhere else, and I don’t like to fil my iPad with multiple copies of the same song. I have used Amazon Music and Spotify for this purpose. Now that I’ve moved almost exclusively to Spotify, I’d love to see an integration that would enable me to play a Spotify link right from the music page.
Another feature that helps you organize your practice using forScore on the iPad is metronome markings. forScore remembers the last tempo you had for each song file. This is very helpful if you are ramping up a tempo slowly speeding something up, but allowing time for good slow practice. Since forScore assigns the metronome speed to the file, you’ll need to manually adjust it in multiple movement pieces. I would love to see forScore add a feature where we could add a tempo to a specific page.
The metronome easily accessible within the program is a great tool and I lean heavily on metronome practice whenever possible. forScore has the capability to highlight the first beat of a measure, but I find that feature unhelpful for myself except in very rare occasions as often in the instrumental accompaniments I often play, the meter changes regularly. I would prefer the metronome to play louder or give more pitch options that might “cut through” the playing, but one can use a Bluetooth speaker or headphones.
There are many other features that one can use. You can track goals. forScore will track for you how much time you are spending in a piece. I could see some uses of this, but for me, the amount of time spent is far less important than the quality of time I spend practicing.
forScore provides tools for careful practice and marking a score to help you. It is easy to add markings. I regularly highlight, circle, and add courtesy sharps and flats. I like the ability to mark with a variety of colors. Highlighting a courtesy accidental in red helps it to jump out to me. When music has a lot of details rhythmically or accidentals, I’ll typically turn it to landscape mode as I learn the piece. This zooms the page larger and in many cases it is larger than the printed page. It is really helpful to notice small, but very important details this way.
One of the most helpful tools is the ability to edit your score pages just the way you’d like. Does your score have crazy repeats or a D.S. that jumps back several pages? You can simply rearrange or duplicate pages so you can keep stepping forward rather than jumping around. forScore also allows you to create multiple versions of a piece. This is extremely helpful for an accompanist who plays the same accompaniment for many people. Does one of your performers add a ritard and in the same place another prefers a stringendo? Just use multiple versions and remember you have tags and playlists to make sure you have the correct version up.
Concert programming is very easy with the playlists. I save go-to program lists for a jazz ensemble. It helps me remember what is working well with consideration of the flow and progression throughout the performance.
It does take some practice and effort to get a good scan. There is a Darkroom feature within the program, but I have found this inferior to dedicated scanning programs. The fastest way to scan is with a large-scale photocopier with scan capability. These copiers can handle A4 format and the larger pages that music is usually in. Home scanners are usually limited to letter or legal size, so are not as helpful. Far better than the home scanners is software that can be easily and cheaply acquired for the smartphone. I use Genius Scan by Grizzily Labs for iPhone. Even on the large scale scanners it is difficult to get a good scan because music books tend to be large and bindings cause the pages to curl away. Usually, my best scans have come from Genius Scan, but it does take longer to get a great looking scan cropped just right. While getting the perfect scan takes time, Genius Scan is great for quick scans as well. I’ve scanned a piece moments before going on stage as I prefer to have it in my iPad for easy page turns.
It also takes good battery management. You certainly don’t want to be caught on stage with the battery dead or dying. Be active with battery management. Let your battery run down. Don’t use just a little and then recharge right away. I start all performances with a full battery whenever possible. When approaching a large day of accompanying or rehearsing, I turn off WIFI when I’m not specifically using it. On those extra-long days, I avoid using iPad for other things and try to use my phone for email or other ordinary tasks. I replace the batteries in my Bluetooth when I have a major performance. They tend to last a long time, but I don’t like to take the chance. I can usually remember when they were changed last. If I have a few performances close together, I don’t change them for each one, but you can be sure I will a few weeks or a month later when another important one rolls around. If you mark your used batteries, you can use them at more relaxed times—practice, lessons, studio class.
forScore has become a very important tool for me musically as a pianist, but it isn’t the only music reading program I use very regularly. In the next article, we’ll look at two others that I have found very helpful.
Here is a great article on artiden.com that describes mistakes I'm sure every pianist has made at one time or another in our discipline of practice. What "mistakes" tend to trip you up? I struggle with the "how" vs "when" mistake. Too often, I'm under deadline to learn something, so the "when" is looming and that is answered very simply if I just focus on the "how." A mistake she mentions that I have struggled with in the past, but am seeing both musical and physical benefits from is interrupting my practice. Stepping away from the piano even if I seem to be "on a roll." It is better for my body physically to not be in a seated position for hours at a time and it gives my brain time to think and process. Check out this article and see if there are any "mistakes" you might recognize that would help you to correct in your own practicing. Click here for the article.