feature of the week

Pitch Pipe

| feature of the week

Since version 3.1 was released all the way back in 2011, forScore has included a pitch pipe that lets musicians hear a specific note. Since then it has grown to become our most flexible utility: it can be accessed from almost anywhere thanks to iOS 8’s introduction of Today View widgets, and the standalone app makes it available on all of your devices—even Apple Watch.

We discussed the widget previously, so today we’ll be taking a look at the primary interface instead. The most important part of the pitch pipe is the dial which displays each note around a central speaker control. Drag the notes around in a circle until your desired note is at the top, then tap the speaker icon to hear it. You can also tap on a specific note to bring it to the top quickly.

In the top left-hand corner, tap the control to switch between C-C or F-F based on your needs. Our pitch pipe also sports a three octave range, and the controls in the top right-hand corner allow you to hear notes one octave higher or lower than normal. As you drag the dial around, you’ll notice that these controls update automatically: move the dial from C to the B just to the left of it and the octave will drop (unless you’re already using the lowest octave).

The gear icon in the bottom right-hand corner lets you change the type of sound you hear. Pick from high-quality piano or clarinet samples, or let forScore generate pure sine wave tones instead. If you pick the latter, you’ll also be able to adjust the base frequency to better suit your needs.

Easily accessible and fully-featured, our pitch pipe is just the thing when you need to find your starting note. For the complete experience, be sure to check out the standalone version (including the Apple Watch app) called Pitch, Please!

Tuner

| feature of the week

Some of forScore’s features are completely unique, while others build on well-established tools to provide an integrated solution for a common need. Like our metronome, forScore’s tuner is just one version of a utility that’s available virtually everywhere. But just because you can find thousands of metronomes and tuners on the App Store doesn’t mean that we can’t bring something unique to the table.

In the case of our tuner, its biggest strength is not that it’s built right in to forScore (an advantage that’s since been reduced by iOS 9’s fantastic split screen modes), but in its design and usability. Like forScore itself, our tuner was created to be as simple as possible while still including the specialized features that so many musicians rely on.

To use it, just open the panel and play a note on your instrument. You’ll see the name of the nearest note right at the top with a smaller number below that indicating how close your tuning is (in cents). Below that, the tuner uses two major interface elements to help you get a feel for your note as you adjust it. The needle pivots to show you if you’re too flat (left of center) or too sharp (right of center), and the sine wave animation gives you a different way of sensing how far off you are by reducing amplitude as you get closer to your note. These two animations help you work quickly and intuitively to get your instrument into shape.

Use the controls in the bottom left-hand corner of the panel to adjust the note names if your instrument uses different letters. The controls in the bottom right-hand corner let you adjust the base frequency to better fit your needs.

When you need a tuner that does everything under the sun there are plenty of great options out there for you. But for most musicians—most of the time—our tuner is the easiest, most convenient tool for the job.

Buttons

| feature of the week

Last week we learned about Links, semi-transparent dots that you can place on a page that direct you to another spot when tapped. Just like Links, Buttons are tappable dots that you can place on a page. Instead of helping you handle repeats, though, Buttons let you easily perform a wide range of different and customizable tasks with just a quick tap.

Choose “Buttons” from the tools menu and you’ll see an interface that looks a lot like the Links creator. Instead of showing you two copies of your score, however, the Buttons creator shows your page on the left and lets you customize the button’s actions on the right.

Buttons can be set up to perform one of seven major kinds of functions, each with its own customizable color:

  • Metronome: start or stop the metronome, after a delay if needed.
  • Tempo: change the metronome’s tempo to a specific value (temporarily overriding your saved tempo), or leave it blank to revert back to the saved setting.
  • Play/Pause Audio: start or stop the currently queued audio track, if available.
  • Pitch: play a specific pitch using the pitch pipe’s last-used sound bank.
  • MIDI: send MIDI messages or presets with a tap (discussed in-depth here).
  • Note: temporarily display a text note near the top of the screen, similar to the page-specific “notes” feature and the “remind me” option.
  • Navigation: program a button to take you to the next score, the previous score, or to perform a full- or half-page turn, whichever is the opposite of your normal settings.

Many of these actions are similar to the options available in the “Gestures” section of forScore’s settings panel, but Buttons are unique in that they’re location-specific. Gestures help you do global things like open a new tab, but Buttons are suited to the kinds of actions that are more strongly connected to your music. Buttons don’t just let you change the tempo, for instance, they remind you that you should do so at a specific point in the song and they store the tempo value so you don’t have to think about it while you’re playing.

When your music requires dynamic changes like these, Buttons are there to help you prepare everything in advance, then execute flawlessly as you play with just a quick tap.

Links

| feature of the week

We sometimes hear from people who tried using a general PDF reader to store their sheet music before they ultimately decided to use forScore instead. There are lots of reasons why people find that a dedicated app like forScore is better-suited to the job of managing and displaying your sheet music library, but one of the biggest reasons by far is our Links feature.

It was one of the very first features we came up with, and it was the perfect demonstration of the sort of augmentation that was possible with a dedicated digital sheet music reading app. It made handling repeats far simpler, and we hadn’t seen anything like it at that point (though it’s become so ubiquitous that you’d be hard-pressed to find a sheet music reader these days that doesn’t offer something similar).

So how does it work? By marking two spots in your score—a “from” spot where a repeat is initiated, and a “to” spot where that repeat leads—you create a connection between those two areas. You create these connections in the Links panel (found in forScore’s Tools menu) which displays two copies of your score side-by-side. Tap on the page to mark the “from” position on the left and the “to” position on the right, swiping to turn pages if necessary. (Links take you to a specific spot, either on the current page or on any other page of your score.)

A blue circle is always visible on the page where you’ve marked a link’s source position, and tapping it takes you to the corresponding target position. An orange circle will appear and pulse briefly, indicating where you should begin playing. These orange spots aren’t normally visible, they only show up immediately after you activate a link. If you’re using your iPad in landscape orientation, forScore scrolls up or down as needed to get you to right place.

In short, links make repeats a lot easier to handle. They give you a quick and easy way to jump from one spot to another, and you can create as many as you need to unfurl even the most complex musical knots.

Table of Contents

| feature of the week

PDF files can have certain kinds of metadata embedded within them, like a title, author, subject, or keywords. These aren’t necessarily words shown on any of the pages, but the information is there in the file ready to be used however any compatible application sees fit.

In forScore, we use most of this information to help you organize your files: the metadata panel can pull this data into its own fields, including title, author (as a composer), subject (as a genre), and keywords (as tags). But there’s one more useful type of metadata, and that’s the table of contents.

In the bookmarks menu, you can see if the current file has a table of contents by switching to the TOC view. Since a table of contents pairs titles with page numbers, you can tap on any title and be taken immediately to the corresponding page. With a little bit of work, though, you can use this information to create more advanced forScore Bookmarks as well.

To do this, tap the “import” button and forScore will use the titles and page numbers of your file’s table of contents as the titles and starting page numbers of each new bookmark. It goes a little further than that, too: forScore makes some educated guesses about where each bookmark ends. For instance, if a bookmark starts on page 3 and another one starts on page 6, forScore assumes the first one ends on page 5. It’s not a perfect assumption, but it gets you most of the way there and saves you lots of typing.

Depending on where your PDFs come from, they might have a table of contents that you never even knew about. Next time you’re looking for a particular section, a quick visit to the Bookmarks panel could save you some time and effort.

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