Notes from Making Sense Out of Digital Scores

As I mentioned, I just attended the live webinar presented by George Litterst in collaboration with MTNA: Making Sense Out of Digital Scores.

Early in his presentation, George reminds us that “The best way you learn something for yourself is by teaching it to others.” I also tend to focus and learn a lot when I write about it, so I thought I would jot down some notes from the presentation to share with those of you who are interested in learning more about the current state and future of digital scores.

Why Electronic Scores?

We’ve all suffered from the OPBS (Overflowing Piano Bench Syndrome), right? Even my carefully planned system of organization eventually overflowed the file cabinets and I finally had to take drastic measures to reduce my collection of printed music. All of this becomes a non-issue with the use of digital scores, which are all contained in the form of bits (binary integers) on a single mobile device. Along those same lines, an iPad – or similarly-sized device – is easy to transport, and you don’t have to worry about printed scores getting damaged, stained, or yellowed over time.

Mr. Litterst also spent some time discussing various wireless page turning devices and demonstrating how they work via foot pedals. Some move the score up one stave at a time; others flip the top half, then the bottom half of the page; others function more like a full page being manually turned.

He makes a point to let us know that the buttons that supply functionality in many electronic scores are often hidden from view. It’s often necessary to tap or hold your finger on the screen to display additional features and functions. Using the app ForScore Mr. Litterst demonstrates selecting and using an annotation feature to jot down notes directly onto the score.

Drawbacks teachers might experience include unfamiliarity, inability to place stickers on the page, absence of that new book scent, and a smaller size page.

Types and Availability of Electronic Scores

Mr. Litterst continued his webinar with an overview of the types and of electronic scores and where to find them. You can scan them in yourself, converting printed scores to PDF files. You can download them for free from the Internet ( is a fabulous repository of public domain music available for free download!). You can print to PDF from a notation software. You can also purchase and download electronic scores either in PDF or using a proprietary program. He briefly discusses the challenge of organizing electronic scores once downloaded and mentions the app NextPage which allows you to drag and drop files using a computer window (using either iTunes or iMazing for your interface). One of the webinar attendees also recommends the app iMazing for iPad organization.

What to Look for in Electronic Scores

After a discussion of important considerations when acquiring electronic scores, Mr. Litterst goes into the more technical side of things, discussing the advent of Music XML. Music XML is a code designed to be both human-readable and machine-readable. A quick glimpse of the code behind an electronic file reveals lots of familiar terms indicating placement of clefs, symbols, and more. For practical use, a teacher could export an XML file of a composition in Finale, then import it onto an iPad via an app designed to read XML files and allow interaction on the user end. He reminds us that there is no substitute for exploring the options on your own, building familiarity, and determining what works best for you.

It’s truly fascinating to hear about the technology being developed in the music world and consider the possibilities for the future! Thanks to George Litterst for all the time he has spent not only learning and developing these possibilities, but also sharing them with the rest of us!

Mr. Litterst will also be presenting at the 2016 MTNA Conference in San Antonio, TX, so be sure to catch his session there if you want to learn more about this technology!

Got Wolfie?

If you haven’t heard about the Wolfie App yet, you might be living under a piano bench… :-) This interactive app for both teachers and students is taking the piano teaching world by storm! If you have students preparing for a recital or competition, the next webinar they are offering is for you. Wolfie’s Digital Education Expert, Nathan Smith, will be walking attendees through the process of using the app to help students observe and fine tune performances. The webinar will be this Thursday, November 12, from 11:00-12:00 CST.

Even though I’ve become somewhat averse to emphasizing technological use in the studio (thanks to all that I’m learning as we shift to a Classical model of education as we homeschool our children), I am intrigued about the possibility of using apps that truly help students improve their piano playing skills. I have Wolfie downloaded on my iPad, and I’m hoping to take a closer look at it over our Thanksgiving break so I can see if and how I should best utilize it in our studio. I’m also excited that Nathan will be offering a regular Wolfie Hour each (non-holiday) week via the GoToWebinar platform so that teachers can drop in, ask questions, and discuss teaching-related issues with one another.

If you’re interested in checking it out or attending the live webinar, you can view all the event info here: And if you’ve used Wolfie in your studio I’d love to know what you think of it and what aspects you have found most helpful for your students!

Free Wolfie iPad App Webinar this Wednesday

Have you heard of Wolfie? One of the teachers in our local association [of MTNA] first mentioned it at a meeting we held last year to discuss studio technology and apps. I was fascinated by it, but didn’t yet have an iPad, so I couldn’t check into it much. Thanks to a couple of generous gifts, I was able to purchase an iPad mini earlier this summer, so I’m in the process of figuring out the best ways to utilize it in the studio. Wolfie seems pretty incredible with its database of musical scores, ability to track where you are playing and turn the page for you, handle annotations you want to make on the score, and keep track of the progress of students in your studio that are using the app for their own piano practicing!

Wolfie iPad App

These things sound fabulous, but I’ve only caught a glimpse of them in action, so I was excited to learn that the creators of Wolfie will be conducting a free webinar this Wednesday (11:00 a.m. CST) for teachers who want to find out more. I’m looking forward to learning more and seeing how I can implement this in my studio this year!

(If you’re interested in attending, just visit the Facebook Event for the Free Wolfie iPad Webinar and click the link to register.)

InTune App Review

I do believe that InTune is one of the simplest apps I have ever reviewed, but the effectiveness of this simple ear training app has apparently earned it an almost 5 star rating on iTunes. In addition to its iTunes rating, it has been ranked among the top 25 music apps in more than 50 countries, and in the USA it stands at #11.

So what’s this app all about? Well, there’s honestly not much to it. Using the concept of pitch discrimination (differentiating pitches that are close together), award-winning and highly acclaimed app developer, Ben Kazez, has gone to task with basically just this concept and a gaming element to create InTune.

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.24.18 PM-You open up InTune.

-You select New Game or compete with your friends in Apple’s Game Center. (The Game Center icon pops up in the top left corner)

-You can select what mode you want to play.

-Once the game has started, you hear two pitches, distinguish if the second was higher or lower than the first, and then slide the second dot accordingly (up-higher; down-lower).

-If you get three strikes the game is over.

-If you slide correctly, you continue on and the pitches get closer together/harder to distinguish-testing to see just how good you are at pitch discrimination! :) Once you’ve completed Level 5 (the highest level you can attain) you can either Play Again, Share Score, or Change Mode.

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It’s just that simple.

I don’t know if the sound they chose for the game has significance or not, but it definitely reminds me of the sound you would hear when getting your ears checked at the doctor, which to me, is unlike any other sound I typically hear. Just a side note!

Dr. Dan Kazez, producer of InTune, is a cellist and professor at Wittenberg University, who discovered through studies that students who played InTune (regularly practicing pitch discrimination) improved their listening at 3 times the rate of those who did not.

I haven’t played InTune very regularly to know if it’s been improving my ear or not, but it has caused me to be more conscientious of pitch and it’s apparent world success is quite intriguing to me!

InTune Info Page on the Wittenberg Website

iTunes – keep in mind this app is only available for iPhone or iPod Touch

InTune on Youtube (the version on the video is a little older but still very similar)

Review & Giveaway of Sonoptic

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The metronome gets an encore” is a very fitting tagline for the app, Sonoptic. I never cease to be amazed by the innovative and ingenious apps produced by developers-and Sonoptic is definitely among that lot of ingenuity.

After trying this app myself, here is how I would describe it:
It’s as if Sonoptic’s developers started with the idea of digitalizing Hanon exercises/a metronome app and then went to a whole new level by not only creating digital Hanon-like exercises, but ones that would cater toward whatever needs you might have! So these exercises include anything from basic scales to Blues & Jazz figures, and then from whatever one of these you select (or one of the other 5 options that I didn’t mention), you can choose subcategories to help you target a specific area in your practice. Sonoptic offers nearly 400 exercises which helps make the $6.99 price tag a little more understandable.

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It also includes customizable features like changing the tempo or key, selecting a specific note value to have the exercise favor, choosing one of the many instruments it has available, selecting a specific cycle for the exercise (repeat, randomly vary the keys) etc…

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However, the feature I like best by far is the real-time visual critique. With this feature, you can see what you played correctly/incorrectly, what you played too late/right on, and what your dynamics/articulation looked like. And then, if you desire to hear how you did, you can listen to yourself by pushing the playback button at the bottom. I can see this being very helpful for the practicing student to see where they need to improve in their scales, chords, arpeggios, and other skill building exercises.

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Overall, I think this app is quite the sophisticated metronome! :) It has beautiful notation that is easy to read, and the developers did a good job with the layout and filling the app with lots of content. Something I do hope to see them update at some point is the ability to do exercises with the left/right hand together in the piano setting.

Sonoptic is available for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch and if you’d like to enter for a chance to win your own download, express your interest in the comments and you might just be the winner next week!

 To view the Sonoptic website and get more info click here

To purchase Sonoptic click here

To view a Sonoptic demo click here

To see more pictures of what Sonoptic looks like click here (As you’ll be able to tell, the app operates in portrait mode and the iPhone layout is slightly different than the iPad and vice versa.)

Review & Giveaway of SingTrue

One thing I really like about this new app on the market called, SingTrue, is its option to try an activity “just one more time” and see if you can do better. It’s a strange balance between getting you hooked (addicted) and being intrigued (the possibility of improving), that I haven’t experienced in an app before. Sure, plenty of games-especially popular electronic ones-have these elements, but they’re rarely helpful for stimulating one’s mind, voice, and ears.Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 11.46.41 AM

From the creators of the Relative Pitch and Tone Deaf Test apps, SingTrue is designed for singers and non-singers alike who want a fun, portable way to improve-even discover-their singing voice.

Here’s a quick visual summary of SingTrue:

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If you didn’t quite catch how it works, here’s the run down:

  1. Opening SingTrue will take you to the home page. On the home page you can view your profile (your current level, your eXperience Points, your number of lives that are indicated by hearts…). From here, you can also select your module, view other apps, sign up for singing tips, write feedback, and read a little notice that says, “More Modules Coming Soon…” :)IMG_8231IMG_8232
  2. Once you’ve entered a module, you can then choose a sub-module (ears, voice, mind), and then from there, you can do any of the available exercises. Some modules have just a few exercises, while others have ones that are locked until you’ve reached a certain level or passed the requirements for the preceding exercise. And then there are some exercises that can only be accessed if you purchase the “full app” version of SingTrue.IMG_8233
  3. After selecting an exercise, some brief onscreen instructions will appear and then you begin. Most of the exercises require very little time and are quite fun and mostly painless, but really seem to get your brain going-at least it did mine! :) Once you’re finished, it will show the stats of your performance and whether you lost a life or earned a star.IMG_8234IMG_8235IMG_8236IMG_8237

I really liked seeing my personal progress/regression because it motivated me to keep striving for better…and better…and better…:)

Even though I don’t think SingTrue will ever be able to compare to the sound and instruction quality of having an actual voice teacher, or is as thorough as the eMedia Singing Method program, it is incredibly convenient and portable which are perks an actual teacher nor the eMSM can offer. Plus, SingTrue was just released, so I’m sure we can expect many improvements and updates to come!

To find out more about SingTrue and/or download it follow the links below…but wait…SingTrue has offered a “full app” giveaway for MMB readers! All you have to do to enter is comment to let me know you’re in and one lucky participant will receive a special code to receive full app privileges for SingTrue.

SingTrue Website

SingTrue Download (Compatible only with iPhones)


Review of Practice+

Lately, there seems to be a surge in mobile apps designed for musicians; or perhaps, music resource apps having been emerging in great numbers for quite some time and I’m just now aware of it because my job is to review the newest, greatest music products-and apps seem to be at the top of that list currently! :) Having this job of reviewing products is pretty fun at times because I get to experience firsthand the new inventions designed to be the next leading resource for various areas of music performance and/or education. It’s just so fascinating and inspiring seeing different individuals or companies recognize a need and then set out to create a product to help fill that need in a unique way. And from what I can tell, that seems to be one of the driving forces behind Practice+.

Practice+ was recently released by DynamicApp Design (creators of Metronome+) and has been featured on and

In the Practice+ app you will find a handy musician toolkit that includes a metronome, a recording mode (for self-evaluation and sharing), a tuner, a practice mode (for drilling a specific set of measures), and a setlist mode. Upon opening the app you will not be taken to a homepage, but rather, the mode you last used before exiting previously. This aspect of the app made it a bit confusing for a first time user because most apps or music programs I use have a homepage that allows you to select where you want to go from there, or if they don’t, when you open it for the first time, the app/program will pop up with introductory pages that help walk you through how it works.

Practice+ also has some special features such as multitasking between modes, hearing a specific pitch within the tuner mode, sharing through email or social media, etc.

I don’t want to sound overly critical of this app because I think that with the capabilities it has any musician would find it very handy; however, I feel like I would not be giving a completely honest review if I left out a few other things about Practice+ that caused me not to be thoroughly impressed with it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find it to be nearly as intuitive as I thought it would be. The interface isn’t super intimidating to navigate, but I found it hard to figure out exactly how each mode or function worked to its full extent. For example, it took quite some time to figure out how to turn on the metronome because nothing had start/stop on it or on/off. You actually push the circular button at the bottom with the rate in it. I also didn’t understand how the practice mode worked and couldn’t figure out how to edit the name of a recording or setlist. The last thing I believe worth mentioning, is that I think I would’ve found it very helpful to have little pop-up “description bubbles” in the settings, to learn what the different settings were for and what they did.

I guess these issues wouldn’t be such a big deal to me if I felt like I were illiterate with apps, but apps are one of the few things I normally can operate pretty well. I honestly feel like if the app was just updated with more labeling of what things are/what they do or have introductory pages or a YouTube demo link it would help tremendously with understanding and being able to use all the features of Practice+.

(Note: Just now, I discovered after going back to the DynamicApp website, if you turn your phone so it’s in landscape mode, a “?” will appear in the bottom and if you push it “description bubbles” will pop up! However, this feature still does not appear to be anywhere when your phone is in the portrait mode. And there’s also nothing like this in the “settings.”.)


DynamicApp Design Website

Purchase the App and more info!

Overview of PRACTICIA (prac-TIS-ia)

PRACTICIA is an up-and-coming practice app designed to engage teachers, parents, and students in a new, revolutionary way. This app will not only be able to be used as a resource for private teachers, but also band instructors, choir directors, orchestra teachers, etc. Since I am not a music teacher, I don’t have any students to try the app out with…so I decided to do this review/overview a little differently.
First, take a look at PRACTICIA’S promo video on their site and then come back for a Q&A session with the app’s CEO and Co-Founder, Sam Rao, to find out more about what PRACTICIA is!
Q&A with Sam Rao
MMB: Does the app monitor how long a student practices or is that just based on what the student enters?
Rao: Yes! It actually records all practice and presents a live feed of all practice sessions to the teacher. The teacher can instantly give a “Thumbs Up” acknowledging that they noticed the student had practiced. Or they can even make comments on the practice sessions they choose to review…:)
MMB: Is this supposed to be a substitute for an assignment book?
Rao: Yes. It is meant to completely replace the assignment book. In fact, it will also enable the teacher to give Audio, Video instructions in addition to Text instructions. Also, the teacher can reuse the assignments for other students working on the same piece. The parents and students can elect to get email notifications every time an assignment is created or updated, or marked complete.
MMB: Will it only be able to be accessed through a mobile device?
Rao: In the BETA, the tool will only be through mobile device. Over time we will make more and more features available through the web until the whole tool is fully available on PC’s and Macs as well.
MMB: With this app, is your thinking and hope that many teachers will shift to using this approach with most if not all of their students and parents?
Rao: It is our hope that teachers will use this tool with all their students. The more students are participating, the more exciting the practice dynamics become. With PRACTICIA’s unique “group functionality”, teachers can divide their studios into “Practice Teams” and have the teams compete against one another for best average practice times and number of days practiced.
MMB: Do you believe that most kids will have easy access to a mobile device whenever they’re in need of inputting their data into PRACTICIA?
Yes. Most homes have multiple smart devices that they can use. And the number of smart devices in use is growing exponentially.
MMB: Do you think it will create any inconvenience for teachers if some of their students use PRACTICIA and some don’t?
Rao: It should not be inconvenient. Teachers can keep using the traditional ways for students that do not have access to mobile devices. However, more and more people are getting smart devices and this situation should only be temporary in most cases.
MMB: Does this cost anything?
The Beta version will be completely free. Once the full version comes out, there will be a nominal monthly fee for the student to use it. It will be free for teachers and schools.
MMB: I can see where this app could help improve a student’s quantity of practice, but do you think it will help improve the quality of their practice?
Rao: Because every practice session is recorded and can be heard and commented on by the teacher at any time, EVERY practice session becomes a work product that the student is accountable for. Teachers should see a dramatic increase in the QUALITY of the practice!
MMB: There are many teachers who have a large number of students, with the ability to constantly be in communication/interaction with their teachers, wouldn’t that create a much greater workload for the teachers?
Rao: The teachers are free to be as engaged as they feel like they need to be. There is no ability to message through PRACTICIA. Teachers can decide how much or how little time they want to spend spot checking practice sessions. With the ability to create automated Awards, leaderboards at the click of a button, and the ability to reuse assignments and instructions, teachers might find themselves saving time with PRACTICIA while keeping their students more engaged!
Note: Some teachers are excited about the possibility of offering “Practice Coaching” services to their students for a monthly fee. For a set monthly fee, to be determined on a case by case basis, the teacher can commit to commenting on every practice session submitted by the student. Food for thought..:)
MMB: How did you come up with the name PRACTICIA?
Rao: PRACTICIA was not the first name we thought of! We had many iterations. But we gravitated toward that name as our vision of PRACTICIA is that of a “global practice village” i.e a destination, where students go and practice (inspired by destination names ending in “ia” such as “Valencia”, “Iberia”, “Tanzania”, “Mauritania” etc.) Eventually PRACTICIA will become a global social network for practicing…
MMB: What are your top 3 hopes for this new app?
-That it ENGAGES students and parents in practicing like never before.
-That it gives teachers (both private and classroom teachers) unprecedented visibility into what goes on in the practice room
-That practicing becomes as exciting, if not more exciting than anything else the students are involved in…:)
Click this link to check out the website for PRACTICIA:
Thanks Sam for giving us a closer look at the PRACTICIA app!
Here are some screen shots of PRACTICIA–>

Review and Giveaway of Supersonics Piano by Daniel McFarlene

I’m greatly inspired by Mr. McFarlene’s (creator of the Supersonics Piano website and piano music) innovative spirit and how he takes full advantage of the modern technology available to us today. All of McFarlene’s music is completely digital and can be downloaded at, making it possible for you to have his songs at your fingertips within minutes wherever you are in the world. The piano music offered on the site ranges from elementary to early advanced, each with its own modern flare.

I love Mr. McFarlene’s ambition behind his site and music, but unfortunately I did not fall in love with his music like it seems some have. As I played through his songs, I felt like many of them lacked strong melodious character. What I mean by this is that the melodies were either hard to detect or abstract, and the harmony would seem to collide with the melody in various songs rather than complement it. On a more positive note, however, because of the recurring patterns incorporated into his songs, I can see McFarlene’s music being an awesome resource for earlier level students learning how to identify patterns throughout a song!

On the Supersonics Piano website you can also find duet/trio music, as well as audio recordings and McFarlene’s video channel.

Starting the 4th of August Supersonics Piano pieces will be featured in the Piano Maestro app and Daniel McFarlane has generously offered this code: JTS3MSUPERSONIC for Music Matters Blog readers to gain access to the entire app one month free!

Additionally, we are having a giveaway! Comment on the post saying you want to be entered and three lucky winners will each receive a single print piano e-book of your choice (from Levels A, B or C) which can then be printed, accessed on your smartphone, iphone/tablet, and computer.

If you are looking into purchasing some music on Supersonics Piano website you can use this code: musicmatters to receive a 10% discount. But don’t waste too much time, it expires 8/6/13.

Supersonics Books A, B, & C; The Lake (Intermediate Piano Book)