Writing more music with StaffPad

by Philip Rothman on April 17, 2015 · 7 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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What’s with those strange-looking accidentals?

by Philip Rothman on April 15, 2015 · 7 comments

in Tips

Ever come across a passage of music that looks like this?


These are rare gems, but you may encounter them occasionally upon importing a transposed instrument in a score via MusicXML or in other instances.

This music is transposed up a triple-diminished third from where it should ordinarily be displayed. Ever learn about a triple-diminished third in theory class? Me neither — that’s because it’s enharmonically equivalent to a unison.

Fortunately, you can quickly fix this and other similar passages by selecting the passage and hitting Return to enharmonically change the notes until they look correct:


Note Input > Note Input > Transpose (Shift-T) will also do the trick, if you set Transpose by interval to a perfect unison (up or down).


Sib_Box_sqAvid today announced plans for the next version of Sibelius and, with it, plans for future Sibelius upgrades and licenses. Sibelius version numbers, like the symphonies of its namesake, will end at 7 (well, technically 7.5). Going forward, Avid plans to move away from version numbers with Sibelius and instead offer more frequent releases, which will likely be less comprehensive than previous major releases but also have the potential to be more responsive to user requests and changes in technology.

New features

The Surface Pro 3 has been receiving a lot of attention from music notation aficionados recently, thanks to the new Windows app StaffPad, a music handwriting recognition tool which makes full use of the tablet’s features and active pen-and-touch technology.

The next Sibelius version will also take advantage of the pen technology, by allowing users to add, select and delete objects in the score. We haven’t yet seen this in action, but one can envision the process being very similar to how StaffPad works for music that has been rendered in its scores.

Selecting music in Sibelius using a Surface Pen (promotional image provided by Avid)

Selecting music in Sibelius using a Surface Pen (promotional image provided by Avid)

Users will be able to add annotations in the next version of Sibelius, allowing you to draw directly on the score using a mouse, trackpad, USB tablet, or Surface Pro 3 Pen. There is good potential for this to be an effective tool for collaborators and educators, or simply to jot a note to oneself. Annotations will be grouped intelligently and always attached to the bar you add them to, and that the annotation layer can be optionally hidden.

If you use annotations to write in musical markings, however, it does not appear that they will automatically convert into Sibelius’s customary musical or text objects; you’ll need to input those in the usual way.

Annotating music in Sibelius (promotional image provided by Avid)

Annotating music in Sibelius (promotional image provided by Avid)

Windows users will be getting some more improvements from the next version of Sibelius, as it will support DPI scaling on Windows displays that support it. Sibelius already supports Retina Displays on Macs.

The PhotoScore Lite software from Neuratron that comes bundled with new versions of Sibelius will include support for NotateMe Now, and the upcoming PhotoScore Ultimate 8 will include the full suite of NotateMe features.

Owners of the Surface Pro 3 — and those with their eyes on one — must be feeling the love with the back-to-back announcements of StaffPad and the new Sibelius features, including NotateMe and PhotoScore. A workflow that involves beginning scores by handwriting them in StaffPad or NotateMe and then polishing them in Sibelius — all on one device that takes full advantage of the active pen-and-touch technology — will soon be possible in a way it wasn’t just a couple of weeks ago.

Additional features announced at this time are multi-touch support and UI improvements to the Keypad, Transport and other floating windows.

The new features will, for now, only apply to Sibelius, and not the entry-level Sibelius First product, according to Avid. Avid also says that future Sibelius upgrades will be more closely integrated with Sibelius Cloud Publishing, other products on the Avid MediaCentral Platform, and the Avid Marketplace community, although specific details were not available at this time.

Feature announcements for past versions of Sibelius have generally been timed to coincide with the public availability of the product. In this case, however, Avid is eager to demonstrate the new features in advance of its release, and will be doing so next week at the international Musikmesse trade show in Frankfurt, Germany. If you are attending and have a chance to check it out, please let us know what you think in the comments!

The next Sibelius version will be available in this quarter of 2015, in a number of licensing options described more fully in the following section. Read the full article →


Use the Bravura font in Logic Pro X

by Philip Rothman on April 7, 2015 · 0 comments

in Tips

Do you like the Bravura font, available for free from Steinberg? Me too. I like it well enough that, with a great deal of help from my colleague Matthew Maslanka, I made a Sibelius-compatible version of it called Norfolk. If you stop by here regularly, you already knew that (and maybe have even downloaded Norfolk from the NYC Music Services site).

Among the growing list of programs capable of using Bravura is MuseScore 2.0, which was just released, and, of course, the brand new StaffPad music notation app for Windows-based pen-and-touch tablets that incorporates handwriting recognition.

You may have even noticed that the font’s creator, Daniel Spreadbury, mentioned in our recent interview that, as of version 10.1, Logic Pro X can use Bravura. With all the other goodies in that interview, though, it was easy to overlook that tidbit.

Using Bravura in Logic Pro X is easy:

  • First, download Bravura and install it on your computer.
  • Open Logic.
  • Open a file with which you would like to use Bravura.
  • Go to File > Project Settings > Score… and click Global.
  • Choose “Bravura” in the Symbol Font area.
  • Check Font specific spacing and positioning.


That’s it! Now, Logic’s notation features aren’t quite as sophisticated as those that the dedicated notation programs can offer, although Logic Pro X was a welcome improvement over previous versions in this regard. If you regularly mock-up scores in Logic and take advantage of its notation features, you can now enjoy the benefits of Bravura.



Thumbnail image for StaffPad is a music handwriting app that’s real — and it’s spectacular

StaffPad is a music handwriting app that’s real — and it’s spectacular

March 31, 2015

A comprehensive review of StaffPad, a brand-new, breakthrough music notation app for Windows tablets that sets a new standard for music handwriting recognition software.

Read the full article →
Thumbnail image for An interview with David William Hearn, creator of StaffPad

An interview with David William Hearn, creator of StaffPad

March 31, 2015

Learn more about the inspiration behind StaffPad, in this interview with its creator, David William Hearn.

Read the full article →
Thumbnail image for An interview with Thomas Bonte on the release of MuseScore 2.0

An interview with Thomas Bonte on the release of MuseScore 2.0

March 24, 2015

Coinciding with today’s official release of MuseScore 2.0, we have a roundup of the program’s new features as well as a lengthy interview with MuseScore’s co-founder and CEO Thomas Bonte.

Read the full article →
Thumbnail image for Route Sibelius or Finale MIDI to Logic via IAC bus

Route Sibelius or Finale MIDI to Logic via IAC bus

March 18, 2015

Did you know that, with just a little bit of effort, you can route your MIDI from Sibelius or Finale through Logic Pro? This tutorial will walk you through the steps.

Read the full article →
Thumbnail image for Correct voice positioning problems with Narrow Two Voices plug-in

Correct voice positioning problems with Narrow Two Voices plug-in

March 12, 2015

If you work with music that uses two voices and have been stymied by Sibelius’s stubborn positioning defaults, you need this longtime plug-in staple in your toolbox.

Read the full article →
Thumbnail image for New plug-in: Scale Notehead Sizes

New plug-in: Scale Notehead Sizes

March 5, 2015

A new plug-in easily resizes noteheads in Sibelius — making quick work of what was previously a time-consuming task.

Read the full article →