MusicReader Mac OS X version + Windows v. 2.3 + AirTurn = Happy Musicians ;)
The developers of my new music reading program of choice, MusicReader, has just announced the release of their latest version upgrades for Mac OS X and v. 2.3 for Windows. I can already attest to the improved inking capabilities for the Windows version, as well as a number of under-the-hood fixes and other improvements. In addition, the MusicReader store is now offering the AirTurn line of wireless page turner products! Pretty cool, eh?
You can view a short 3 minute video review of MusicReader here:
My new favorite feature of MusicReader is its ability to zoom the music to half a page at a time while retaining the ability to turn pages without staff overruns or clipping. I gave my first public performance this past Saturday night using the half-page view on my ordinary, non-tablet HP laptop together with my AirTurn page turner, and i have to say it was a revelatory experience both for myself and the audience! I've been blessed with excellent vision, but even my eyes were soooo much happier to not have to squint so much to see the notes (and my teeny weeny eyes don't leave much room for squinting! LOL!)
Well, whattaya know! i was sitting in my hotel room at Skidmore College the other day channel surfing when i came across the TV version of NPR's "From the Top", the PBS show featuring Classical Music kids and hosted by pianist Christopher O'Riley. I had heard the show on the radio a number of times, but never realized that there was a televised version, taped in front of a live audience at Carnegie Hall. So anyways, i'm watching the show and noticing that the music on Christopher's piano is awfully thin...and bright...and there's a funny cable snaking under the piano...
Whoa! Looks like Christopher is using a Toshiba convertible Tablet PC (my best guess, given the color scheme and button layout) with the screen flipped around - note the double-page layout in portrait mode, allowing him to see two pages at a time instead of the single-page portrait mode that i use with my Fujitsu slate model. I'm curious about the pedal system he's using to turn the pages - i'll see if i can email him about that. Anywho, the Tablet PC is certainly much more aesthetically pleasing for the camera than having to flip pages by yourself (as you can see one of the young pianists doing in the above video) or having a huge wall of paper scores as in this other video of Christopher playing Elliott Smith:
Every once in a while i get these terrific questions from folks who either visit this website or who have seen one of my videos on Blip.tv or YouTube.com. Here's one that gives me an opportunity to summarize some of the technologies that i use on a daily basis as a paperless musician:
I'm an amateur pianoplayer and also a computerfreak like you. Some time
ago I also dreamed about playing the notes from a tablet-pc and than I saw
your youtube-Video... It seems, that you already have scanned much music
scores, haven't you? My question: How do you digitize the paper best and
can you send me an pdf-example of that technique (Chopin would be nice...
I'm so glad you came across my YouTube video! Sorry for the delayed response - work has been really crazy for me lately!
There are several ways of getting digitized scores into computers like tablet pc's - the first place would be to check out online vendors like www.EveryNote.com - you can also purchase CD libraries of scores from CD Sheet Music. For examples on the image quality, check out my blog article here: http://www.hughsung.com/blog/index.php?itemid=20
You can also download a large number of scanned scores from www.imslp.org, an online archive of public domain works. Quality will vary from score to score, but for the most part everything i've downloaded so far has been very legible and representative of the quality you can expect from scanning your own scores.
I've been using a digital document camera scanner, but the model is no longer being manufactured. If i hear of any comparable models that can replace what i've been using, i'll be sure to post an article about it. An option you might want to try is to purchase a copy stand holder for digital cameras and use a digital camera to scan pages by taking pictures of them. http://www.hughsung.com/blog/index.php?itemid=392
You'll need to have a high resolution digital camera for this operation. A program you might want to use in conjunction with this operation is called Snapter http://www.snapter.atiz.com/
Early versions of the program were buggy, but i've read that the more recent versions are getting better. Haven't tried the recent version myself yet, as my camera doesn't produce high enough resolutions for the pictures, but i'll be sure to try it once i upgrade my camera.
Hope all this information helps. Feel free to email me if you have any further thoughts or questions.
I just received an email announcing a successful test run of a new product being developed in the Netherlands called the MusicReader. Not many details about the program yet - it appears to run on Tablet PC's with page turns enabled by foot paddles from Pedalpax Corporation (enabling both forwards and backwards page turns). Check out the demonstration video from their website below:
I'd love to see more details on the various functions of the MusicReader program, particularly with regard to annotation and networking capabilities. It'd be nice to see details about the pedal paddle too - seems to be silent operation from what i can tell from the video, but it's hard to confirm. Looks very promising and a welcome addition to the growing field of digital music readers!
Once upon a time (a long time ago), i used to keep my money in 3 or 4 savings and checking accounts. i don't really know why, i suppose it somehow made me feel "richer" to have little portions of money spread over various locations. Tellers would always look at me quizzically when i tried to explain that - well, bottom line, it was a stupid idea that only served to make my life more complicated than necessary. More often than not, simplicity breeds efficiency, and that applies to both money and computers.
After countless reboots, re-partitions and re-installs, i think i'm getting close to a more-or-less ideal Windows XP/Ubuntustudio dual-boot setup. Having two operating systems in one computer is pretty cool - having both operating systems running at the same time is even cooler! That technique is possible due to virtualization, a technology that has been exploding in popularity recently, giving a server or a single user the ability to run multiple operating systems on a single machine. VMWare is the pioneer company for the technology - my personal VM flavor is a nifty free program called VirtualBox by innotek (they seem to like little "i's" as much as me...).
So where does the allusion to simplified money accounts converge with installing multiple operating systems? In the setup of your whole digital enchilada, of course:
1. Keep partitions to a minimum. Partitions are a way of creating separate "drives" within a physical hard drive. In my previous direct installations of Ubuntu, it was necessary to create a separate bootable partition. I went a little partition crazy, splitting my main C drive in half, then chunking up my new 500 GB drive into four bite-sized pieces, thinking that Ubuntu would take 2 and Windows could keep the rest. Thanks to Wubi, the super-simple Ubuntu installer, partitioning is no longer necessary - it creates virtual drives in a single folder. Rather than limit myself to a piece of a drive, i found i could do away with partitions altogether and just install Ubuntustudio to the 500 GB drive straightaway, leaving myself with plenty of room for what i really wanted to do: have Ubuntustudio and Windows XP running simultaneously.
2. Bigger is better. In terms of storage space, of course. The problem i was constantly hitting during my early Ubuntu installation attempts was running out of space for apps and OS, as i tried to squeeze the experimental operating system into tiny spaces, and especially as i tried to set up a new install of Windows XP within Ubuntustudio via VirtualBox. i realized that this new setup would need as much space as possible. No more sharing a cramped C drive apartment - i moved the new OS family as sole occupants of the 500 GB mansion. Again, this is largely thanks to Wubi allowing me to setup Ubuntu without having to create "real" partitions.
3. Don't be greedy: share nicely. VirtualBox gives you the option to custom adjust RAM settings for Windows XP installation/operation. I thought i would be a speed demon and dedicate every drop of RAM for Virtual-Windows, but that only ended up crashing the installation over and over. Splitting the allocation in half allows both Ubuntustudio and V-Windows to play in the RAM sandbox nicely side by side.
4. Be greedy: get pants that fit. i guess my pattern for experiemental OS's is to breed them in tiny test tubes before i realize that they can live and breathe without risk to the host OS. That being said, OS's still need a LOT of space to enjoy the full benefits of space for all the applications you want to load up on. So, a better axiom might be, "Share the RAM, Hog the Drive." In my VirtualBox Hard Drive settings, i opted to give a full half of the 500 GB mansion to V-Windows. Cool thing is that you have the option to allocate the space as either a fixed amount or as a dynamically expanding allocation (the latter being the default and preferred option).
Oh, little tech detail for VirtualBox that had me banging my head for several hours until i came across the solution quite by accident -
VirtualBox captures the mouse and keyboard actions within the virtual OS environment. It gives a hotkey to release the mouse and keyboard (Right-Control), but no matter how many times i pressed it or held it down it would keep them locked within V-Windows. The trick to getting the hotkey release to work correctly is two-fold: first, don't provide the option for V-Windows to recognize the USB keyboard; secondly, after starting the virtual OS up, press the hotkey BEFORE clicking the mouse within the virtual environment - that seems to wake up the option to release.
Why this crazy dual OS setup? To be perfectly honest, i don't really know yet - i want to have a dedicated video editing computer, so i need the Windows XP OS to run Vegas 6; i'm really intruiged with free MIDI sequencer apps like Rosegarden for Linux, so i'm thinking of using programs like this to be able to edit digital piano recordings. Those seem to be the two primary reasons for the multi OS setup, though i want to get more into the open source graphics programs like Blender and Inkscape eventually, as well as a deeper exploration of the multitude of Linux audio apps ("FREE" is a very attractive word for me these days, hence the serious look at the open source offerings). One machine, two operating systems, consolitation of multimedia production - yeah, i'm a walking oxymoron when it comes to so-called "simplicity" (sigh...)
I received this promotional email from Grahl Software Design, developers of one of my all-time favorite programs PDF Annotator, announcing a fantastic 60% discount sale through Bits du Jour. PDF Annotator is the only program i know of that allows for seamless inking on Acrobat PDF files, taking full advantage of the power of Tablet PC's or the digital pen capabilities of external digitizers like the Wacom tablets. At just under $20, this program is indispensable for musicians needing to retain the paper and pencil feel of music scores with all the advantages of working in the digital arena. You can see a video of how PDF Annotator works here .
Here's the email message below - run over to Bits du Jour as fast as you can to grab a copy of PDF Annotator!!
This Thursday, we will have a 24 hours sale with our partner
BitsDuJour. If you don't know BitsDuJour, they offer one
great software deal a day. It's Bits (anything digital) of the Day.
Every weekday, they feature one program or service at a substantial
And on August 9, they will feature PDF Annotator at a
discounted price of $19.90! So tell your friends or grab a license
About PDF Annotator: PDF Annotator lets the user open any PDF file
and add annotations, using the keyboard, mouse or a Tablet PC pen,
directly on the PDF file's pages. The annotated documents can then
be saved directly back to PDF format.
This one is thanks to CNet.com - Wubi is quite simply an amazing, truly simple Linux Ubuntu installer that doesn't require burning a CD or partitioning your hard drive! My previous struggles with getting Ubuntu onto Jayne (my ornery new computer that has issues and a bone-headed attitude) seemed to leave me with serious deficiencies - not being able to read NTFS file formats (NTFS=Windows-friendly), not being able to access the wireless card with the Ubuntustudio version of the kernel, constant boot hangs and freeze-ups that were wildly unpredictable, the list went on and on.
Wubi ingeniously dispenses with the hassles of installing the Ubuntu OS ("Operating System") on a Windows XP machine by creating a single folder containing all the necessary files, and by some Linux magic it creates virtual partitions that preserve full disk access throughout the NTFS universe. Various versions of Ubuntu can be selected for install (i opted for the multimedia-intensive Ubuntustudio version). A few brief requests for customized inputs (username, password, etc.) and Wubi either proceeds to download the Ubuntu ISO files, or it can work with an existing ISO from your hard drive.
All OS upgrades/installations should be this simple! Wubi is not only simple, but actually better performing than the "regular" Ubuntu installation route! Oh, excuse me - am i drooling with delight over the keyboard? Sorry about that - it's just so amazing to find something this simple, effective, and powerful that actually WORKS!!
Thank you, CNet, for the wonderful heads up about this terrific app! Be sure to check out CNet's informative video on the Wubi installation experience. Whoopie for Wubi!!
After installing Ubuntu, the "friendly" version of Linux onto Jayne, my newly donated RAID-capable pc, i found myself in a strange situation - something akin to having a custom-built Maserati with no wheels, or a Hamburg Steinway D with no keys - a beautiful operating system with tons of potential, but about as useless as eye candy for the working musician. The main problem simply is that i couldn't find drivers for the audio equipment i needed to interface with Linux, specifically my M-Audio Firewire 410 Mobile Recording Interface. M-Audio has a strange way of teasing folks with links to Linux drivers that spit out "n/a" - what's the deal with that?? Creative Labs doesn't even bother for their E-MU digital audio interfaces (another strikeout for my recently donated E-MU 0404 USB digital audio/MIDI interface), and all of the Linux/Ubuntu forums on the topic are filled with pleading net-urchins begging for developers to dole out respective drivers. I'm sure there's a way to get my basic MIDIMAN 1x1 USB interface cable to get recognized by Ubuntu, but installing drivers in the Linux universe is a major pain - the EZ-USB MIDI project is anything but "EZ".
There are lists of compatible sound cards and digital audio interfaces, but frankly i'm not in a position to spend even more money on an OS that is frightfully immature with regard to audio and MIDI manipulation, even if the software is mostly open-source. Maybe if an older soundcard like the M-Audio Delta 1010LT gets donated my way, i'll be inclined to give the Linux thing another whirl, but for now i think it's better left as an Office alternative (and a good one at that). The current ratio of Linux geeking to productive output just isn't in the musician's favor yet, save for those who really enjoy splitting headaches.
Lest i leave the impression that the Linux audio/MIDI world is completely bereft of helpful resources, here is my list of Linux Links for the Musician:
Linux-Sound.org - a directory of Linux-compatible music hardware and software
Music Education with Linux Sound Tools - this is a terrific article with links to lots of neat programs (some are cross-compatible with Windows) for the active music teacher/student. Almost makes me wish i could really get Linux to talk to my microphones and Roland RD-700SX...GNU Solfege in particular looks like a terrific program!
I've always had an envious eye on the Linux community, dreaming of one day having a machine that could 'dual boot' Windows and Linux (i believe "Linux" is pronounced "Lee-nicks" - please correct me if my geek-speak is wrong!). For those of you not familiar with this, Linux is the "other" operating system that is the flagship of the whole Open Source movement (Microsoft has Windows, Apple has - well - an apple, and Linux has that cute penguin mascot). Although free for downloading, Linux has always been a daunting OS for computer newbies - various flavors of the code made it difficult to know which one to download, and more often than not i would hear horror stories of installation difficulties and missing drivers for critical components that would cripple the OS...definitely not for the faint of heart, until now.
Ubuntu is a new flavor of Linux that tries to offer a simple installation experience and a graphical user interface (GUI) that mimics elements of both Windows and Apple's OS X (or 9 - not being a mac guy, Ubuntu's elegant desktop doesn't have quite the polish or eye candy of the other commercial OS's). Dell Computers apparently thinks highly enough of this build to include it in an entirely new batch of laptops as the primary OS, breaking out of the Microsoft Windows/Vista mold.
Thanks to a generous gift from Jake and Larry Fritkis (a super speedy computer with dual RAID drives! woo hoo!!), i finally had a machine clean enough (read: not filled to the brim with programs and multimedia audio/video files) to try installing Ubuntu.
An earlier attempt at an Ubuntu installation on an older machine quickly revealed that the drivers for my Linksys wireless network cards were not included. You'll need to check with Ubuntu's support forums to find the lists of compatible network cards. Since my new machine (we'll call him Jayne) didn't have one, this gave me a chance to pick up a new Netgear WG311T Wireless PCI adapter.
i wish i could say that my Ubuntu installation was smooth and painless, but it wasn't. That being said, it was much easier than i had actually expected. i actually had to reinstall the OS twice, as the first installation kept freezing up Jayne, but now i think i have it finally running on all pistons. This blog article, in fact, is being written via a neat little Linux applet that allows me to post directly from my desktop, bypassing the normal "open browser/navigate to administrative panel/login/open edit windows" procedure. I'm also using "Thoggen", a DVD video ripper to extract the video from my latest trip to Boulder, Colorado where i ran a Visual Recital workshop with a group of amateur and professional visual artists (video coming soon!) Lots of neat looking programs to start exploring, all of them open source and free free free!
More on my adventures in Linux-Land in coming posts as i explore the boundaries of Ubuntu...
I received word over the weekend that the collaborative recording music site, Indaba Music, has now been upgraded to version 2. If you recall from my earlier blog post about collaborative music sites, i complained about Indaba Music's primitive DAW (Digital Audio Workshop) interface. That interface has now been vastly improved, bringing it at least on par visually with other sites like Splice and Jamglue, and even surpassing them with other features like LED level meters, adjustable volume changes over the timeline, moveable markers, and stereo mixdowns.
I really appreciate the addition of waveform graphics in the track views - it makes the alignment of various tracks so much easier now. Still no interface option for viewing lyrics, lead sheets, or (imagine!) music notation, but hopefully that will be something that they will address if enough musicians ask for it...
A really nice new feature is the Indaba Music Player that features a random selection of (i assume) finished session mixes:
It's nice to hear an overview of some polished works which really sound good! I wish there was a 'genre selector' of sorts on the player, but i'm sure that will improve with time. For now, it's a neat way to have some truly Indie music playing on your computer while you get through your work day.
Kudos to the Indaba Music team for some terrific improvements!
Ok, so i figured out how to get a decent looking video with CD-quality audio converted into FLV flash format, compatible with Blip.tv's video viewer programs by using a terrific freebie program called Super(c). The vids look and sound great...but there was one more bug to fix, namely the fact that the scroll bar wasn't working to enable fast forward or reverse views. Blip.tv's support staff does a terrific job of responding fast to technical questions! Apparently, time coding metadata was missing from my FLV files, so they directed me to http://www.buraks.com/flvmdi/, where you can find a neat little applet that adds the missing metadata time and frame code info back into the FLV file. You can use the main program (FLVMDI 2.94) by itself if you're comfortable with using a text only command line interface (you need this program at least to run the metadata encoder), or you can be a chicken like me and add a windows-friendly GUI (graphical user interface) to run on top of the basic program (FLVMDIGUI 1.05).
Check the 4 boxes beneath the "Options: Extra Data" area and you're FLV video will be good to scroll!
Note: current version 2.94 can only handle FLV files up to 700-750MB. The developers state on their website that version 3 should remove that limitation.
You may have noticed that i've recently signed up with a new video distribution website called Blip.tv - this is a neat freebie service that promotes user uploads as continuous series, with some amazing distribution capabilities (i can automate the cross-posting of my videos in Blip.tv to this blog and my MySpace blog simultaneously, for example). The interface is clean, simple, and really easy to navigate. Setup is a breeze and you can be posting your own channel's worth of content in minutes. A wide variety of video formats is supported, making for super-easy uploads.
Blip.tv automatically converts uploaded video files to FLV formats. FLV is a Flash video format created by Macromedia, and appears to be the default format for a growing number of popular video sharing sites like YouTube, DailyMotion, MySpace and the like. FLV excels at delivering nearly instantaneous playback of video files, as opposed to the typical wait or delay for playing back other types of older video file formats like Quicktime's .mov or Window's .wmv. There is a corresponding degradation of video quality that seems inevitable in order to ensure speedy playback, but for most web-embedded presentation purposes the reduced visual quality is minimal.
There is, however, one BIG drawback to Blip.tv's FLV conversion process, particularly if you're trying to post musical or rich audio content: their video file converter automatically changes audio content to mono. I've been banging my head all day trying to find a stereo workaround, and i think i've finally come up with something: a nifty freebie program called Super (c).
Super (c) enables you to convert between a huge number of video file formats, FLV included. The main website is really funky though, and it can be a major headache to try to find where the download links are - the direct download page is here, and you need to scroll to the bottom to find the "Super (c) setup file" download links from 4 different servers. Oh well, i guess you have to pay some sort of a price for free software...
The website's download servers can be excruciatingly slow, so be patient - the alternative is to spend hundreds of dollars for other video conversion programs like Macromedia itself, Flix, or Sorenson Squeeze for Flash (Mediacollege.com has a terrific article comparing the various FLV video converter programs.)
Once you have Super (c) downloaded and installed, you'll see the main interface window:
It took a LOT of experimentation, but i think i found the optimum settings to convert a 320x240 Quicktime .mov file to a decent looking and great sounding (in 48K stereo!) FLV video file:
In the "Video" panel, be sure to set the frame/sec to 29.97 and Bitrate kbps to 3600
Right next to the Bitrate box, click all the available video options ("Hi Quality", "Top Quality", etc.)
In addition, click the "O" Other Opts button and DE-SELECT the "Deinterlace" option - interlaced video looks MUCH better and sharper
Next, in the Audio section, set the Sampling Freq to 44100
Make sure 2 channels are selected
Set Bitrate kbps to 128
Drag and drop the desired video file into the bottom box and hit the "Encode (Active Files)" button, and you should be good to go!
Pianist Hugh Sung explores the expressive and sound customizing capabilites of Pianoteq, as well as the new possibilities this piano simulation software presents to bring Classical Music to broader audiences. This version features stereo audio.
Thank you for visiting this site! I hope you'll find this to be a friendly place to learn about and discuss the fascinating technologies available for the Classical Musician. A great place to get started is with the ongoing "Getting Started" series. Remember, the worst questions are the ones you never ask, so feel free to email me!