Using a tablet for choral singing

I recently rejoined the Mornington Singers, a chamber choir based in Dublin that I sang with a few years ago. We perform 4-6 concerts a year, and use choral music scores to sing from. That normally means holding a black folder with a stack of paper inside.

However, I’ve decided to try something a bit different – combining two passions of mine – technology and music! I’m ditching the paper, and singing from a computer tablet.

I’m not exactly breaking new ground here. I’ve seen loads of other singers doing this already, but this is my first serious attempt at singing off a screen.

It helps that there’s an Android app that makes the whole thing easy, called MobileSheets (available as a free and and paid-for ‘Pro’ version). You can import music scores in PDF format, and then adjust them for display on the screen. I like the option to auto-crop the margins from the edge of the page, and the ability to apply a sepia-colour filter to help improve the page contrast.

I originally tried it out using an old Google Nexus 7 tablet, which as the name suggests has a 7 inch screen. It kind-of works, but the screen is a bit too small, and would not suit anyone with less than 20-20 eyesight. So a couple of weeks ago I upgraded to a reconditioned Amazon Fire 10 tablet that was on sale. It has a bigger 10 inch screen, which works a lot better with A4-sized music scores.

The Fire tablet itself is not stunning in terms of performance, but it does have a good quality screen. It’s locked in to the Amazon ecosystem, running an old version of Android that is tightly integrated with Amazon services. Thankfully there’s loads of online tutorials out there that explain how the Google Play Store (and other Google apps) can be loaded. And although the Fire tablet can feel quite sluggish when using some demanding apps, the MobileSheets Pro app works very well, and there’s no noticeable lag loading scores or turning pages.

MobileSheets app running on Amazon Fire 10 tablet

The positives

  • I have access to all my music in one place, and depending on the memory capacity of the tablet, I could store hundreds/thousands of music scores in one place.
  • I can define a “set list” in the app that shows scores in a defined order. This helps keep my music in order. 
  • I can define bookmarks within a score that enabled me to jump quickly between movements of a larger work. I’ve set some hot-spot areas of the screen to jump backwards and forwards between bookmarks.
  • Page turns are very quick, and also silent. Just tap on the right of the screen to go forward, and on the left to go back.  Moving back and forth between pages in a score during rehearsal seems to be easier on a tablet than with paper.
  • I don’t have any problem seeing the notes in a dark room, as my music is back-lit. At a recent concert the rest of the choir were using clip-on lights to illuminate their paper music, but I don’t have that worry. I’ll just have to make sure I turn down the brightness in really dark settings, so that the screen doesn’t illuminate me!

The negatives

  • The tablet is heavier and more awkward to hold than a piece of paper, which makes it less convenient in a rehearsal – although once we get to the concert it’ll be easier to manage than lots of different scores
  • Adding markings to the score is possible with the MobileSheets app, but it takes a bit longer (there are a few taps required) than using a pencil on paper
  • Audiences are not used to seeing performers singing off a tablet, so I’ll need to be discrete to avoid it being a distraction. I plan to mount the tablet somehow inside my normal music folder using velcro strips or similar.
  • I have to source my music in PDF format to load it onto the tablet. If that’s not readily available then I need to find the time to scan the paper score into a PDF document. The CamScanner app seem good at this.

Generally I feel that the positives outweigh the negatives so far. However I’ve only been using tablet for rehearsals and a couple of concerts so far.

I just have to make sure that my music is fully charged!

Cancel next alarm

I’ve been looking for an alarm clock app for my mobile phone that supports a very specific feature, but I can’t find it anywhere.

What I want is the ability to cancel the next occurrence of a repeating alarm without having to disable all future alarms.

Here is my problem. When there’s a bank holiday or I take a random day off work, and I want a lie-in, I want to be able to cancel that day’s alarm. But I don’t want to disable the whole recurring alarm, as I have to do with most alarm apps, because I invariably forgot to re-enable it a day later.

I want to be able to cancel the next morning’s alarm, but leave the alarm for the day after and all future recurring alarms untouched.

I’ve looked around the Play store and checked the description of all the alarm clock apps, but can’t find any mention of my feature.

So what do I want? Well it would be great if an app developer found this blog post and took it upon themselves to build this feature.

Any takers?

Hailo

I’ve had the Hailo app on my iPhone for a while now, but it’s only in the last couple of weeks that I’ve started using it, and I’m already a covert!

Hailo App Dublin

Hailo App Dublin

Available for free on both iPhone and Android smartphones, Hailo will help you hail a taxi more quickly, more easily, and more safely.

When you launch the app, it automatically works out where you are, and also where all the nearest taxis are – and displays them all on a map. If you then decide to book a cab, it’ll send out a message to the nearest car, and let you know as soon as it’s booked – all within a few seconds – and will continue to track the taxi as it makes its way to you.

The service relies upon taxis signing up to the service, and it seems that more and more of the city’s drivers are using it. Over the last few weeks, I’ve talked to several drivers about their experiences of using Hailo. Without exception, they love it, as it gives them more work – and it’s also much cheaper for them than using a traditional radio booking system. Some drivers are using Hailo to supplement the jobs they get over the radio, but in one case a driver told me that he had cancelled his ties to a cab company (and the associated fixed cost of €150 a week – regardless of the amount of work it yielded) and was using Hailo exclusively.

For the passengers too the Hailo app had lots of advantages. As I said, the app can identify where you are – and it’s a simple matter to pinpoint the exact address by typing in the house number. You can also specify what size of taxi you want – with options for 1-4 passengers, 6 passengers, 7 passengers, 8 passengers, or a wheelchair accessible cab – and so, if you have a big party, you can filter your search for taxis that meet your requirements.

Another big advantage of Hailo is that you can pre-define one or more credit/debit cards, and select to pay by card as part of the booking. The removes the worry about having enough cash to pay for your journey. Most taxis will take payment by credit/debit card already, but it can seem like a bit of a faff to pay by card, as it takes a while to process. But not with Hailo. As soon as you arrive, the driver can take payment with a single press (and you can decide to tip your driver), and an email receipt is sent out straight away.

When you book the cab, you get told the details of the driver that’s coming to get you, including their name, badge number and car registration – which makes it a lot safer, as you know you’re getting into the right car. Hailo vets drivers themselves, so you also have that added sense of safety, so that if something does happen during your journey it’s possible to trace who your driver was.

And finally, if you accidentally leave something behind in the cab you can report the loss through the app.

First access to Mailbox iPhone app

Mailbox app waiting list

Mailbox app waiting list

After waiting around a month in the waiting list, I have finally got access to the Mailbox iPhone app this morning.

When I first downloaded the app in early February there were almost half a million people ahead of me in the queue waiting to get access, and it’s taken all this time to get to me. And as you can see, there are another 722,000 people waiting behind me!

Anyway, so I’ve been able to register my Gmail account with them, and have been able to try out the app.

It took about half an hour to sync with the thousands of emails in my account, but once finished, the app is very slick.

Moves iPhone app

For the last few days I’ve been trying the Moves app on my iPhone 4.

Moves iPhone app

Moves iPhone app

The app tracks all the walking, cycling and running you do during the day; working a bit like a mix between a pedometer and a GPS tracker, but all presented in one very slick bundle.

Other apps work on the basis that you need to start and stop them manually when you perform any activity.  Moves, on the other hand, sits quietly in the background recording all your different activity, using a combination of the accelerometer (to measure movement) and GPS (to measure distance) to work out what you’re doing, for how far, and for how long.

It then presents a daily summary back to you of your minutes, distance, and steps (walking only) for each activity. It also plots a timeline of your activity throughout the day, showing where you went, how you got there, and how long it took.  It’s very clever of course, and I’m not entirely sure I quite understand how it all works, but I don’t care. It manages, somehow, to distinguish when I’m cycling (as opposed to in a car or bus) – and that allows me to track how much I ride each day.

The only downside I can see to the app is related to the battery life of your phone. As the app runs constantly in the background, and taps into the GPS signal a lot when you’re moving, it uses a fair bit of juice. The developers say that they’ve tried to minimise the battery drain, and say you should still get a full day’s usage with an iPhone 4S or above. However, I’m noticing that iPhone 4 is running down somewhat faster than usual, such that under moderate usage I’m down to about 30% battery by mid afternoon – meaning that I need to recharge it at work to get a full day’s usage out of it.

Having said all that, I’m still a fan of the app, and it’s especially good for people who build their activity into their daily routine to be able to track what they’ve done.

In accordance with the 2011 European Union directive designed to protect your online privacy, I am required by law to check you consent to the use of cookies on this web site. Click on "Accept" to grant that consent. Click for more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close