As part of the recently concluded Normady Impressionist Festival, l’Opéra de Rouen Normandie performed a concert of student compositions, reading scores and parts entirely from the Newzik sheet music reader app. In a press release, Newzik said that attendance at the concert topped 900, and more than 40 iPads and Bluetooth pedals were used in the performance, which occurred one week ago on September 15, 2016.

Yvan Cassar leads the Opéra de Rouen in a performance using Newzik

Yvan Cassar leads the Opéra de Rouen in a performance using Newzik

Newzik said that the performers had only two days of rehearsal, and although most of the performers had never read sheet music off of a tablet before, they quickly adapted to the technology: “In rehearsal, the performers made heavy use of what might be Newzik’s most unprecedented feature: the musicians and their conductor annotated their scores using pre-designed musical stamps, and all that’s required for sharing across the orchestra is for the librarian to send an updated PDF to all performers.”

Newzik, available for iOS in both free and paid versions, is notable among the emerging sheet music reader offerings for tablets in that it does not use a proprietary file format, instead making use of MusicXML and PDFs, as well as MIDI and text files. Its MusicXML reader will automatically reflow the music to fit the page, and scores can be synced with audio and video files for practice purposes. Annotations can be made in real time and pushed to an entire group, and page turns can be done manually or synced among all the players in an ensemble.


Although the use of digital sheet music readers represent a small fraction of performances compared to traditional printed sheet music, the technology has steadily evolved and seems poised for wider adoption on iOS with the introduction of the larger iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil.

Besides Newzik, perhaps the most well-known of these apps is forScore, which exclusively uses PDFs, as does another app, DeepDish GigBook. Other apps are designed with a proprietary file format for a particular publisher’s library, such as the Henle Library Urtext score reader. MakeMusic’s new SmartMusic, is a web-based practice platform which eschews iOS exclusivity in favor of being web-based. And of course, there are tablet-based composing tools such as StaffPad, Symphony Pro, and Notion, which, while not being sheet music readers, have the potential to evolve into that space.

These products, Newzik, and others all overlap each other to some extent, but each has its own unique features. Adopted with increasing enthusiasm by individuals and smaller ensembles who enjoy the freedom of not having to lug around heavy gig books, it’s too early to tell if any of these products will gain a regular foothold in the world of symphony orchestras, as Newzik and the Opéra de Rouen aimed to achieve with their pioneering concert last week. Larger ensembles such as these will have to determine if the expense and technological commitment required with such an investment are worth the benefits over a library of paper scores and parts, which have suited orchestras quite well for hundreds of years. We’ll look forward to seeing how the evolution — or revolution — develops.

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Music notation software and macOS Sierra (updated)

by Philip Rothman on September 19, 2016 · 2 comments

in News

The official release of macOS Sierra (Mac OS X 10.12) is Tuesday, September 20, 2016. The golden master version — the same build that will be released to the public — was made available to developers on September 15.  While it includes new features like Siri integration and deeper integration with Apple Watch, Messages and iCloud, on this blog we’ll keep tabs on its compatibility with music notation software.

Please share your experience using any of these products in the comments section, and we’ll continue to update this post as warranted.

Updated September 22, 2016 at 11:10 am with information about Sibelius compatibility.

macos-sierra Read the full article →

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Barline joins in Sibelius

by Philip Rothman on September 14, 2016 · 2 comments

in Tips

OK, the term “barline joins” sounds funny; it conjures up the notion of getting into a queue for some intoxicating refreshment at the end of a long workday, not something having to do with music notation. (Though sometimes when working on your score all day, that’s exactly what you need!)

“Barline joins” is what Sibelius calls grouping two or more similar instruments in a system by connecting their barlines. When you set up a score from scratch or from a template, Sibelius automatically does this for instrument families, grouping the winds together, and likewise the brass, percussion, and strings, as such:

barlines-1

This looks quite normal for an orchestral score, helping the eye easily distinguish among the instrument families. However, if you set up a woodwind quintet from the default template, it looks a little strange:

barlines-2

This happens because Sibelius places the horn between the clarinet and bassoon — traditional in a woodwind quintet score, but not in an orchestral score. Because the horn is part of the brass family, Sibelius separates the barlines. We can debate the merits of the horn’s inclusion in a woodwind quintet later (maybe over that aforementioned refreshment), but for now we’ll want to connect the barlines together. Read the full article →

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Create harp diagrams in Sibelius, Finale, and MuseScore

by Philip Rothman on September 7, 2016 · 6 comments

in Tips

The harp has seven pedals, each one corresponding to a note name and capable of three positions corresponding to flat, natural, and sharp. Harpists use a diagram to indicate the positions of the pedals.

The order of the pedal marks from left to right corresponds to the order of the pedals on the harp: D, C, B, E, F, G, A, with a separator between the B and E to distinguish among the pedals operated by the left and right feet.

From top to bottom, the position of the marks correspond to the position of the pedal:

  • Pedal all the way up – all pitches for that note name down a half step (flat)
  • Centered pedal (one notch down) – the pitches for that note are tuned to the letter name (natural)
  • Lowered pedal (two notches down) – all the pitches for that note name up a half step (sharp)

Typically, it is best left to the harpist to write in their own diagrams, but there are times when you’ll want to notate them directly into your score, like when specifying the pitches on a glissando. Here’s how to do that in Sibelius, Finale, and MuseScore.

Incidentally, if this very cursory overview of harp notation and mechanisms has piqued your interest, two excellent resources for further reading are the pocket-size Essential Dictionary of Orchestration and Samuel Adler’s comprehensive The Study of Orchestration. Read the full article →

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Thumbnail image for Quick tip: Dismiss all open dialog boxes in Finale

Quick tip: Dismiss all open dialog boxes in Finale

August 31, 2016

Finale’s nested dialog boxes involve a lot of clicking, but by using shortcuts to dismiss them all at once, you can save yourself a bit of time.

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Thumbnail image for Notion 6 released

Notion 6 released

August 26, 2016

Notion 6 is now available, with new features such as cross-platform handwriting recognition, better layout control, more instruments, better video window controls, updated Music XML support, MP3 export, and MIDI over ReWire.

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Thumbnail image for Sibelius 8.4.2 update available

Sibelius 8.4.2 update available

August 24, 2016

Avid yesterday released Sibelius 8.4.2, a minor update to the recent Sibelius 8.4 update. 8.4.2 addresses a few issues, fixing some crashes and other bugs, improving once again spacing between clefs, key signatures, time signatures and start repeat lines, and minor improvements to the size of ossia staves.

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Thumbnail image for New Sibelius plug-in: Impose Sketch onto Template

New Sibelius plug-in: Impose Sketch onto Template

August 23, 2016

A new plug-in from Tom Curran automates the laborious task of transferring the structure of a sketch score, such as a piano-vocal or MIDI export, onto a full orchestral template. Tom describes how orchestrators and copyists can make use of this new time-saver.

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Thumbnail image for MakeMusic releases version 25 of Finale, its first to be 64-bit

MakeMusic releases version 25 of Finale, its first to be 64-bit

August 16, 2016

Finale enters the world of 64-bit computing today with a new release focused on streamlining and modernizing the codebase. New features include ReWire support, correct transposed instrument note entry, dashed slurs, and more Garritan sounds.

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Thumbnail image for “Link Up” with a day in the life of our music prep shop

“Link Up” with a day in the life of our music prep shop

August 10, 2016

Today we’ll take you on a behind the scenes tour of our music prep shop, where we prepare, print, pack and ship music for an orchestral program that’s performed by nearly 100 orchestras around the world each year.

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