It’s About Expressing Yourself

Music allows us to express ourselves in deep and meaningful ways that can not be duplicated in any other way. Whether by voice or instrument, we can pour ourselves out, expressing deep, intense feeling and emotion. Can there be a more genuine form of worship?

No more paper. Ever!

The most gifted among us can do this without the need for music – the melody just flows from within. Others can memorize and have the freedom to play expressively without ever worrying about a page turn. And then there are those of us, like myself, who have been chained to paper music. We are forever fretting about the next page turn, or worse, dreading to turn 5 pages back to find a segno, and then 6 pages forward to chase the coda. For us, pouring ourselves into the music can often be a hit or miss affair.

Happily today, there is relief for those of us living in paper music jail. It comes in the form of an iPad, an app to display the music, and optionally, a wireless foot pedal to help turn the pages. Imagine how things change when your entire set list is presented to you page by page just by tapping, swiping the screen, or using your foot. Imagine jumping back to a segno or forward to a coda with just one tap. How might this free your mind to play expressively?

I’ve been playing piano and keyboards for just over 45 years. In all that time there has been no more important invention to my musical performance than the iPad, especially in worship. Removing the paper from the equation has freed my mind from stress and distraction, and it’s allowed me to focus on making a much more meaningful contribution to the musical experience being produced by the worship team.

Whether you choose NextPage or another similar iPad app, I encourage you to take the plunge and choose something. And give it a fair chance, meaning, try it for a least a month. Even in the most ideal situations, turning pages breaks one’s concentration and limits the depth of feeling that can be expressed. So making those page turns as momentary, as reliable, and as uneventful as possible is something you most definitely want to do.  Why? Because our goal is to communicate the music expressively, in the unique way that each of us can do, so as to impart the emotion and message of the music in a way that is meaningful to the listener.

Sunday Set List 10/27/13

Below is our set at FBC for today. Patch settings below.  This is the new look of the Music Desk in NextPage 2, now in review with Apple. Alas, because of iOS 7, the wood look had to go.

Set List for 10/27/13 in NextPage for iPad

The B3 and EP patches below are from the Nord.  The synth patches are either from Omnisphere or an audio unit supplied with MainStage (MS).

  • Hallelujah (Your Love is Amazing):  B3 888000001
  • You Are All I Need: Nord EP1, model 2
  • Just as I Am:  Basic Dark Pad Wheel, Hollywood Studio String Section, Hybrid Warm String Section
My Rig

My rig consists of a Nord Stage 2 and a 13″ Macbook Pro (early 2013 refurb) running MainStage 2.2 (without Logic) and Spectrasonics Omnisphere as an audio unit plug-in. The Nord is connected to MainStage over USB2. For audio output, I don’t use an external audio interface – I run the Mac audio output directly into a Behringer 16-channel sub mixer using a 1/8″ stereo to 1/4″ cable. And lest I forget, I use an iPad 3 running NextPage and an iKlip 2.

NextPage Version 2 Back Story

If you’ve found your way here, it’s more than likely that you’re an owner of NextPage. If you’ve ever contacted us via email, we’ve done our level best to reach out to you regarding this post. Let me again thank you for your support and patience as we’ve transitioned NextPage to iOS 7. We know that many of you have been suffering with some rather annoying issues with NextPage since upgrading to iOS 7. So we’d like to share with you what’s been going on, and what you can expect in version 2.

NextPage V2

First off, you may be wondering why we’re about a month late with an iOS 7 compatible version. To be frank, Apple quite literally caught us off guard with the release date, and we underestimated the pressure it would put on the resources we depend on to put a new release together. Apple never shares exact dates with developers, so we were working in reference to past history for major changes to iOS, such as iOS 5, expecting them to release sometime in mid-late October. Had that been the case again this time, we would have been right on time. As it turned out, however, we were caught a bit by flat-footed with about 10 days effective notice from Apple – not nearly enough time to get NP2 finished. We decided that rather than rush something shoddy out the door, we would stick to our original schedule and bring you a quality upgrade. We believe you be pleased (or as Apple would say, “delighted”) with the results.

Next, we had conveyed to some of you who had asked about NP2 that it would be a new app in the store for iOS 7 only. Since Apple doesn’t allow upgrade pricing, that would have meant you would have had to buy the new version at full price to get the new features and iOS 7 support. We’ve changed our minds about that.

Because our delay in getting NextPage 2 shipped has caused trouble for many of you who’ve updated to iOS 7, we’ve decided not to charge you for the new version.

Despite that fact that we had to make significant financial investments to accommodate all of the changes that iOS 7 brought, plus the tremendous amount of time we invested in the new, faster page turning engine, we just did not feel that charging you was the right thing to do. We will likely raise the price of NextPage for some period of time to recoup our development costs, but we will not be charging you, our faithful existing customers. It’s the least we can do to try to compensate you for any trouble you’ve experienced.

While free to you as an existing customer, NP2 is an iOS 7 only app. Customers who must remain on iOS 6 because their iPad can’t run iOS 7 will unfortunately not receive further updates. We originally wanted to release the faster paging engine to NP1 owners as well, but the shortened time schedule and Apple’s new rules regarding iOS 6 apps necessitated we change those plans.

Looking Forward

While it will look a bit different (our designer calls the new color “Violin Red”), NextPage 2 works just like the NextPage you already know. Our goal has never been to have the most features or get involved in a features “arms race” with competitive apps – that does not serve you. Instead, we are focused solely on providing you with a simple, reliable sheet music app geared for live performance. (If you’ve not heard it before, NextPage was born out of my own frustrations with paper music at the piano. I have sketches of sheet music “apps” that go back to the early 80’s, when apps were called “programs” and computers were too clunky and unreliable to trust during live performance. I’ve written about that once or twice before).

NextPage has been built for one purpose: to help those of us who need music to perform better.  We are not trying to get featured by Apple, be the app with the most bells and whistles, the coolest user interface, or be featured as a “must-have” app in the trade press. We are not interested in any of that (but if it happens, we won’t complain…) It’s about playing music better. That’s all.

Here are some highlights for version 2:

  • New graphical design for the look and feel of iOS 7.
  • A redesigned page turning engine (aka “Lightning”) that actually gets faster as you use it.
  • Simplified markup tools that require much less effort to use.
  • Faster startup time with larger numbers of songs.
  • Add information to each song, including key, tempo, transposition, score type, composer, arrangement, and genre.
  • 3-finger swipe to move forward/backward one song.
  • Backup/Restore of Set Lists, markups, and annotations to Dropbox.
  • A slew of usability improvements.
  • A beautiful new Quick Start Guide as a downpayment on a more comprehensive manual in both PDF and iBooks format.
  • iOS 7 only.

Those of you who’ve been with us for a long time know that we talked about doing short videos on how to use various features, tips for scanning music, playing with a foot pedal, etc. We did not deliver and we apologize for that.  We will be getting around to that this time.

Real Soon Now

We submitted NextPage 2 to Apple this past weekend. All things being equal, and barring any serious objections from Apple that require significant rework on our part, you should find it in the store within the next 7-10 days.

Thanks again for your support. We look forward to continuing to serve you.

Warm regards,

//Scott

Sunday Set List 8/25/13

Below is our set at FBC for last Sunday. Patch settings below.

Sunday Setlist 8/25/13 - NextPage

The B3 and EP patches below are from the Nord.  The synth patches are either from Omnisphere or an audio unit supplied with MainStage (MS).

  • Rise Up and Praise Him:  B3 888000001
  • Blessed Be Your Name: Nord EP1, model 2 with Basic Dark Pad Wheel from Omnisphere
  • You Are For Me:  Basic Dark Pad from Omnisphere
  • Cornerstone: Nord EP 1, model 2 with Basic Dark Pad, Strings On Air from Omnisphere
  • Ten Thousand Reasons:  B3 836000202
My Rig

My rig consists of a Nord Stage 2 and a 13″ Macbook Pro (early 2013 refurb) running MainStage 2.2 (without Logic) and Spectrasonics Omnisphere as an audio unit plug-in. The Nord is connected to MainStage over USB2. For audio output, I don’t use an external audio interface – I run the Mac audio output directly into a Behringer 16-channel sub mixer using a 1/8″ stereo to 1/4″ cable. And lest I forget, I use an iPad 3 running NextPage and an iKlip 2.

Using Sheet Music Apps Part II – Scanning the Music

As discussed in Part I, the first step in using an iPad sheet music app is loading the music:

Most sheet music apps work with PDF files. These days it’s possible to buy music in PDF format, but for most of us with existing paper music collections, it’s simply not practical to hope to find PDF versions. The answer? Scanning. Printers that include scanning capabilities have become quite affordable and are available for PC or Mac. The software that comes with the printer/scanner can usually create PDF files in just a few easy steps. It is very important that the scanning software be able to combine multiple scanned pages into a single file (it is usually a checkbox or option that you have to select in the software).  It’s worth getting a machine that has a document feeder so that you can scan a whole song in just one operation.

So let’s get right down to it!

Step 1 – Load the pages onto your scanner

The photos below show the Epson Workforce 610 that I use, a printer/scanner/fax all-in-one that includes a document feeder. (Click on any of the photos for larger views.)  It is fairly inexpensive unit that, for the most part, has been trouble free. The WF610 also allows you to scan directly from the glass instead of the document feeder, which is a capability you’ll need when scanning pages from a book.

Workforce610 small Scanbed small

 

The first step is to simply load the document feeder, as shown in the next 2 photos.  You’ll note that the pages are oriented with the top edge feeding in first.  

Feeder small Feeder2 small

  

If you don’t have a document feeder, you would start by laying the first page face down on the glass with the top edge facing left, as shown below:

Scanbed2 small

Step 2 – Start your scanning software

This step will vary depending on your software, but for this post we’ll focus on Image Capture that comes with Mac OS X. After it’s starts up, we need to adjust just a few settings. Some of these will only need to be set one time, but it’s good to get into the habit of checking them each time. With most printed music, choosing to scan black & white at 150 dpi usually gives the best results. In Image Capture, these two settings are called “Kind” and “Resolution” as shown in Figure 1. Scanning in color or at higher resolutions will certainly work, but will result in larger files, which may cause slowness or or lag when page turning in your app. Even though NextPage is optimized to handle large files, it’s always best to keep your files as small as possible. After you’ve made these changes, they will remain that way every time you run Image Capture.

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Figure 1

Next, we need to give our scanned document a name and specify a location, shown in blue Figure 1. We also want to be sure the format is set to ‘PDF’. I have entered the song name “Alive” and chosen to save it directly on the Mac OS X Desktop for this post, but normally I scan directly to a Dropbox folder (we’ll talk more about Dropbox in the next post). Image Capture will remember the last location you selected, but you will of course want to change the file name for every new song. Most often, the name you choose here will be used as the song’s title inside your app. NextPage, for example, uses the name you specify during scanning without the “.pdf” extension tacked on by Image Capture.

And finally, AND THIS IS SO IMPORTANT, we check the box that says ‘Combine into a single document’. By doing this, every page we scan during this session will be placed into the same PDF file until we change the name to something different. So the 5 pages we are scanning in this example will all be placed into a file called Alive.pdf, whether we use the document feeder to scan them all at once time, or do individual page scans from the glass. (Most of the support questions we receive from NextPage customers regarding paging not working correctly are due to the pages being scanning into separate PDF files, which NextPage sees as separate songs! After we tell them about the “combine” option and have them rescan their music, all is well.)

Step 3 – Scan

If you are scanning from the glass, your software may try to do an overview scan to give you a preview of the page, and Image Capture does exactly that. This will give you an opportunity to make sure the whole page will be captured as indicated by the dotted outline box in Figure 2.  Your scanning software may not always properly detect the edges of the page, so you may need to adjust the boundaries. When you’re ready, click the Scan button.

Ic7

Figure 2

Ic6

Figure 3

At this point you have a file ready for loading into your app using iTunes Sync or Dropbox, which we’ll cover in the next post.

 

Parting With The Paper – Using Sheet Music Apps

The iPad is a tremendous tool for the performing musician, especially those who rely on paper music in one form or another. I’ve talked about the hassles of paper music before, but how exactly does one use an iPad to make that better?

oldkeys681500

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/freeartist

First and foremost, a good sheet music app is required, and while we’d love to see you using NextPage, all sheet music apps generally work the same way.  Here’s the basic outline of what you’d need to do to use an iPad instead of paper:

Loading the Music

Most sheet music apps work with PDF files. These days it’s possible to buy music in PDF format, but for most of us with existing paper music collections, it’s simply not practical to hope to find PDF versions. The answer? Scanning. Printers that include scanning capabilities have become quite affordable and are available for PC or Mac. The software that comes with the printer/scanner can usually create PDF files in just a few easy steps. It is very important that the scanning software be able to combine multiple scanned pages into a single file (it is usually a checkbox or option that you have to select in the software).  It’s worth getting a machine that has a document feeder so that you can scan a whole song in just one operation.

So, you will be scanning your paper in to PDFs, and then loading those files into the iPad. How you do that depends on the app you’re using. NextPage allows you to load PDFs using iTune sync, Dropbox, or email. Dropbox is by far the easiest and most effective way to manage your PDF files, and perhaps the subject for another post.

When you first start scanning and loading music, it will seem like you’re always doing it, and you might be tempted to think it’s too much trouble. The point will come however, when you finish loading the music you use most often, and the amount of scanning you do will seem to suddenly and drastically decrease. Happily, you will probably soon find that your time investment was well worth it.

Organizing the Music

Every sheet music app provides ways to organize your music, and most use the concepts of a song list or library, and set lists. Some even allow you to enter extra information like composer, genre, key, etc. After you’ve loaded music into NextPage, for example, you tap the ‘Songs’ button to see your list of PDF files. Then as you tap on individual song titles, they are added to a set list and presented to you in order as you play. You can create as many set lists as you like, name them however you’d like, and load them as required. You can also rearrange the song order or remove songs from a set list whenever necessary.

Some apps also allow you to change the page order within a song to make performance easier. Say for example, you’d like to avoid turning back three pages to handle a repeat sign or D.S. al segno. Using tools like the Page Arranger in NextPage, you can duplicate the three pages and arrange them in such a way that all you have to do is keep paging forward.  No more missed turn backs!  Or perhaps there are certain pages in a song that your conductor or director has decided to skip. You can remove those from the page order completely and eliminate page turns!

Turning Pages

Here is where the magic really happens. To move from one page to the next, you have a couple of ways that you can mix and match depending on the situation and the instrument you play. You can:

  • Tap the left or right side of the screen
  • Swipe left or right
  • Use wireless foot pedals and turn the pages hands-free
Multiple-page jumps are also possible. Using page links in NextPage, you can define a small rectangle on the screen that when you tap inside of it, you will be taken directly, and instantly to any other page in the score.  No more missed codas!

Marking the Music

Obviously pens, pencils, and highlighters aren’t going to work well on your iPad.  Virtually all sheet music apps provide a set of tools that let you draw freehand on the music, highlight it, and make text annotations. Some, like NextPage, even provide a symbol pallet that let you add the most common musical symbols without having to draw them.

Preparing for the New Playing Experience

There will be an adjustment period that will vary depending on how you’re used to doing things. Because page turns are now virtually instant, your eyes and brain will have to adjust. Think about what happens during a manual turn. Your arm moves up to grab the page, then it moves in front of your eyes momentarily blocking your vision, the new page becomes visible, and finally your eyes have to move either left or right depending on the turn direction.  It all happens in a second or two, but now that second or two is gone, and you brain and eyes have to react faster. Your eyes will also have to adjust because even though they are now moving less, they have to pick up the new page image of a size that is probably smaller than the original paper you’re accustomed to.  On the other hand, dark rooms are no longer a problem! With an iPad no ambient light is even required.

Practice, of course, is key to perfecting your new page turning technique. Even more so if you decide to use wireless foot pedals, since you must train yourself to tap the pedals at the right time. If you’re a pianist or keyboard player, your right foot is already occupied, so training your left foot becomes the challenge (but well worth it!)

No Turning Back

This all sounds like a lot of work, and maybe even like more hassle than the paper, but once you’ve invested the time and made all of the adjustments, there simply is no turning back. You will be amazed at how much better you can focus on playing once the paper is out of your thoughts. You will also be amazed at how much time you begin to save because your music is always with you – no more pulling, filing, and searching for your music. And no more fighting with 3-ring binders that seem to always explode on impact when you drop them on the floor.

Sheet music apps like NextPage were created to help you perform better. Give it a try. You will be delighted!