StaffPad founder David William Hearn gave a live demo of his new app on Wednesday at Microsoft’s Build 2015 conference in San Francisco, for software and web developers using Windows.

David shared the stage with none other than Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, demonstrating StaffPad in front of thousands of viewers watching in person and online. David worked on an orchestral score — “This is no nursery rhyme,” he said — and had to educate some non-musicians on some musical terms: “Slur means play it like you’re drunk – I’m going to get in so much trouble for that.”

More to the point, David explained why he developed StaffPad for Surface and Windows: “It’s really the only platform that we could do this for, because it really understands the difference between my fingers and the pen.”

David showed remarkable poise with Nadella and a crowd of thousands, including accommodating a last-minute schedule change, so we’ll forgive his extra note values at the end of a bar — the likely cause of a copy-and-paste glitch, which he handled in stride. More amusing was the real-time tweets he was getting during the presentation, which he eventually switched off. Hey, that’s why it’s a live demo!

Read our full review of StaffPad, and watch the 4-minute presentation here:

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You can also hear a short piano quintet that David composed especially for the occasion.

Updated 2:00 pm with more information about the presentation and a link to the performance of David William Hearn’s composition.

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touch-notationKawai has released a promising music handwriting app for iOS. It’s called Touch Notation, and it comes on the heels of the release of StaffPad and the announcement of NotateMe 3. Touch Notation has been available in Japan for several months, and the English version was released one week ago on April 16. It runs on both iPads and iPhones, and it’s being offered at an introductory price of $8 until the end of April, after which time the app will cost $12.

Kawai has made a six-minute video demonstrating the app’s features and methods of use:

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Getting started

Now that there are several serious players in the music handwriting app space — an incredible development on its own — we can begin to compare them and their approaches to entering music on a touch-screen device using handwriting. On one end of the spectrum is NotateMe, which attempts to learn and adapt to your own style of handwriting. In the middle is StaffPad, which contextualizes one bar of handwritten music at a time, and, while having recommended writing styles, also allows its recognition engine to be tuned.

On the other end of the spectrum is Touch Notation, which probably should be more accurately termed a gesture-based music notation app. It is very specific in the ways that musical notes and symbols can be drawn, and in this way it is reminiscent of the Graffiti system used on Palm OS devices from nearly two decades ago. The gestures accurately resemble music notation, but there is no attempt to conform to the user’s style. As a result, the process is the least natural way of writing music of the three apps, because each gesture is immediately interpreted — you never see your own handwriting for very long at all.

Kawai understands this, and they have thankfully provided short videos for each and every type of gesture that Touch Notation recognizes. Users are well advised to review these videos before beginning to write music; each one is only several seconds long.

To that end, upon starting the app for the first time, a Quick Start guide is presented, which is also recommended reading to understand the basic operations of the app. More detailed in-app support documentation is also available, including the aforementioned gesture videos, organized by category.

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zawalich3This blog post is written by Bob Zawalich, composer, guitarist, software designer, and creator of hundreds of useful plug-ins for Sibelius. In this post geared towards Sibelius power users, Bob describes the rather generous limitations of the numbers of notehead styles and plug-ins Sibelius can support at a given time, and how to get around those limitations, if needed.

In Sibelius there are few limits to how many objects you can have. Typically, you can add staves until there is no room on the page, or add bars to a system until the notes all smash together. If the score is too big, things get slow, but they still work.

There are, however, two quirky limitations you may encounter without warning, and weird things can happen when you encounter them.

The first of these is the limit of 64 notehead styles in a score, and the second is the limit of 300 installed plug-ins, which was increased to 1,000 installed plug-ins in Sibelius 7.

Most users are unlikely to ever reach these limits. You can add at least 30 notehead styles before you reach the limit. Sibelius ships with about 140 plug-ins in Sibelius 7.5, so you should be able to have roughly 160 user plug-ins safely installed in Sibelius 6 and earlier, and over 800 user plug-ins in Sibelius 7 and later. If you do encounter either of these limits, though, it can be a bit of a mess.

The 64 notehead styles limit

What the problem is

You can only use 64 different notehead styles in a Sibelius score.

Sibelius comes with 31 pre-defined notehead styles. You can also create new styles with House Style > Edit Noteheads or Notations > Noteheads > Edit Noteheads, and you can add notehead styles to a score by importing a House Style or copying noteheads with a new style from another score.

Additional noteheads can also be created by plug-ins, such as Add Note Names To Noteheads, which will add 21 notehead styles, giving you a minimum of 51 styles in Sibelius 7.

The number of notehead styles is the property of a score, so each score may contain a different number of defined notehead styles.

What can happen if you have too many notehead styles

Sibelius will display the wrong notehead when you try to apply a notehead style with a style number greater than 63. The style numbers “wrap around” (mod 64 for you math types), so trying to apply notehead 64 will apply notehead 0, applying 65 will apply notehead 1, and so on.

How to confirm this is the problem

If you are not seeing the correct notehead style, run Edit Noteheads and scroll to the bottom of the list. If the highest number is greater than 63, you can have a problem.

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Writing more music with StaffPad

by Philip Rothman on April 17, 2015 · 12 comments

in Tips

staffpadgrab1StaffPad, the new music handwriting app for Windows 8.1 pen-and-touch devices like the Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3, was announced a little more than two weeks ago. Since then, there has been a lot of interest in it, along with many questions about how it works.

I thought I’d do a more detailed, “real-time” video showing how to use StaffPad to write a few bars of Billy Joel’s “Vienna”, including two-voice music, triplets, slurs, grace notes, duplicating music, using the eraser, and the expression layer — and how to correct recognition errors when they arise.

A couple of things to consider: StaffPad is still at its initial version 1 release, with maintenance updates and feature additions promised by the developers in time. Also, even though I’m “copying” music in the video for the purposes of the demonstration, StaffPad is not really intended as an input replacement for desktop scoring programs, which will surely be much faster at that task with customizable engraving rules. Rather, I see StaffPad’s real potential as a notation-based creative composing and arranging tool, either on its own, or as a complement to the more advanced desktop programs via MusicXML export and import.

I hope to do more structured tutorials in the future, including how to work with StaffPad in conjunction with desktop programs, but for now, enjoy!

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