Whether you are musical director for a show, chorus director, or band or orchestra director, you know that students usually learn faster and more effectively if they have a recording of their part with which to listen and practice. While these Cds or mp3 audio files are an effective tool, they can take a tremendous amount of precious time to record and distribute. If you would love an expedient way to have these learning tracks for your students without spending a lot of time or make or purchase them, well, there’s an app for that. In this article, I am going to review an application that is designed to easily create and distribute learning tracks for your students. You can also use it to create accompaniment tracks for soloists, and “music minus one” tracks for ensembles. Take at look at this useful application.
The app is called Playscore2. The app is free to download and is available for iPhone OS, and Android. I am reviewing the Pro version, which is an upgrade to the free version. When you open the app you are presented pre-loaded files. Opening one or two of these is a good way to learn some of the features of the app. After you open a file, in the lower left corner you will see a circle with music notation inside. Tap on that, and you will come to sliders for each stave. Move the sliders to increase or decrease the volume of each stave. This is how you can bring out the part to be studied, and decrease the other parts, or turn them off all together. If you have more than one part on a staff (stems up, stems down) go to settings and select “2” for “Staff voices.” The app will isolate each part, and give you a volume slider for each one. You can also select instrument sounds, and even transpose the parts from the same location. For example, if you have a vocal score, and you are making a learning track for the tenors, turn the other voices down with their sliders, and turn the tenor voice up with its slider. Once the levels are set, tap done. Now you can share that file with all your tenors. When they open the file you email them in their free version, it will play the file just as you sent it, with the tenor voice turned up and the other voices turned down. If they have the free version, they will not be able to adjust the volume levels, so you will need to readjust them for each voice (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) and send the file with the right balance to each section. If your students have purchased subscriptions, then they can adjust the levels themselves, and change the instrument sounds.
One feature the pro version has that is not in the free version, is the ability to export music as an XML file to music notation software such as Finale or Sibelius. If you need transposed parts, this is an easy way to do it. Just transpose the music, then export it as a musicXML file, then import it to Finale or Sibelius, or any software that handles those file types. I saved as XML the Hungarian Dance No. 7 in F Major. It showed up quickly from my iPhone to my iMac using AirDrop. The note accuracy was excellent. Some, but not all of the expressive markings showed up. Hair pin crescendos and some accents, for example were left missing, but considering the volume of notes and markings that were successfully notated, the process definitely is a time saver for those transposed or simplified parts. Get it in your music notation software, make your edits and you’re done, without having to enter the whole thing.
Beyond the provided sample music files, you will obviously want to enter your own music. This can be done in one of two ways. The best results are importing a clean pdf copy of sheet music. Clean pdf copies of sheet music are accurately read. As soon as the import is complete, which takes just a couple of seconds, the music immediately begins to play on your device. If you just want to use a portion of a multi-page work, select the pages you want in the upper right hand corner.
You can also enter sheet music by taking a picture of it. Once the picture is taken from within the app, the music will begin to play. This method is a bit tricky. The lighting must be just right, and there can be absolutely no shadows cast on the music for it to playback accurately. This is not an issue if you’re just transcribing, but if you are creating a learning track or play-along track, you have to get the playback right, and it gets off if the picture you take isn’t perfect. It takes some experimenting to get it right, and you will need to make several tries. To re-take the picture, swipe left and tap on the green margin that appears, then just take the picture over so that the lighting is better, and any shadows that were in the previous attempt are avoided.
To get the learning tracks or play-along tracks you’ve made with Playscore2 in to the hands of your students, they will want to download the free app. They will not need to upgrade, only you, the teacher need to do that. Once you have your file in Playscore2, you can send it to your students in an email. As long as they have downloaded the free app on their iPhone or Android device, they can open your file and begin to use it immediately.
I find Playscore2 to be a valuable addition to my toolbox as a music teacher. It has many uses, all of which improve the level of teaching and learning with my students. I recommend you look into incorporating it into your instruction. Visit the Playscore2 web site for more details. If you have any questions, Anthony offers excellent customer service and will be glad to help you along.