Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Piano and Me, and the iPad Makes Three

Being busy for not blogging is a lame ass excuse. I know this because people say they are "busy" to avoid seeing their family members, in-laws, and annoying acquaintances. The truth is, I've been too LAZY to check-in consistently. So...sorry.

Now that I got that out of the way, on to the main event. My iPad!! (I know I'm a year late. Sorry...again.)

When I first started my career as a dance musician, I was lugging around a crate strategically strapped to a luggage dolly. In that crate was about 10 music books with tabs sticking out, mainly books I've collected over the years. The crate, along with the books probably weighed more than 20 lbs. When word got out, and I started getting more and more jobs, and playing at more locations. Some locations required me to park in BFE, and I had to drag my dolly over a bridge, into the woods, passing several buildings before I get to the dance studio. This schlepping-method quickly changed when it started to rain...HARD. I remember one rainy night, I spent the night scanning the music from the books I used, and consolidated it all into one binder. Over the years, this 20lb dolly evolved into a 10-lb binder.

I used this binder for a good year, and it made traveling from place to place a lot simpler. But still, it was 10 lbs. I decided it would be "clever" of me, if I converted all the ballet class music I used into Finale, then save every piece of music I have carefully edited into PDFs. This "conversion" took about 3 years to complete. At the end of this project, all my music was uniformed, it was cut to 16-32 measures, and were fitted onto 1-2 pages to avoid less page turns. I thought to myself how clever of me, and what great efforts I went through to get to this amazing ballet class book I have today. Then the morbid side of me thought, in case I die...someone can inherit this binder! Then the recipient wouldn't have to go through the struggles of finding ballet-appropriate music.

I also thought to myself, wouldn't it be amazing if Apple would make a device that would read PDFs, and all I have to do to turn the page is touch the screen? Wouldn't be even more amazing if this device weighs almost nothing and it would last all day? I joked about this to my colleagues who were always telling me that I need to write to Apple so they can make such a device. I never did, because Apple was already working on such a device since the iPhone just came out at that time.

There was already a tablet product out in the market for your sheet music. It was called the MusicPad Pro. Problem was, it only lasts 6 hours, and I needed it to last all day. It's also quite heavy from what I've been told. It doesn't do email, web browsing, and it has no calendar. These are all things that I needed in one device

Enter the iPad.

After months of twisting The Husband's arm, I got my hands on one. For the general population, the iPad was just a giant iPhone made for gaming enhancements, movie viewing, reading, to sum up, a toy. For me, it's a music reader, and an office built in one device. As long as the studio has access to wifi, I can now do email, and book jobs while I'm ON a job. The response is minutes instead of a 24-hour period for me to go home, open my Dino-MacBook, wait for the rainbow wheel to tell me if I am available to play on this date, at this time.

I now have more than 300 pieces of music stored in my ForScore app. Everything can be sorted into PliƩ, Duple, Triple, Ronds de jambe, Adage, Grands Battement, Waltz, Mazurkas, Petite Allegro, Grand Allegro, Variations, Musical Theater, and on and on. Now finding music is just a matter of seconds, instead of minutes. The neurotic part of me even have spreadsheets so I mark every piece of music I play, where and when I played it so the dancers and teachers don't get bored with me.

The questions I always get asked are: Is it big enough for you to see? What about turning pages? Answer is: Yes, it's big enough to see. ForScore is simply a fancy PDF reader, designed for musicians. So all you have to do is scan your scores at a low dpi, and load it into the app. But I went as far as reediting my music in Finale, I made the print bigger, and I spaced out the music so that the last bar gives me a free hand to reach up to touch the screen. Then another question is: But didn't that take forever for you to do? Answer: Yes! It took me the course of 3 years to get everything inputted into Finale. And yes, I am that dedicated to my job.

When I moved down to Orange County, I vowed to myself I wouldn't do Modern Classes if I didn't have to, since lugging around a djembe AND a cart of music was difficult enough. I was putting a lot of strain on my shoulder. Since the economic times have been tough for everybody, me including, I knew I would be missing out on more opportunities if I wasn't playing for Modern Classes. So I can now program percussion loops into the iPad, and play the djembe on top of it, and layer tone-clusters on the piano. I have myself a one-chick-band, and I don't have to put too much stress on my body doing it.

The only downside of my iPad and me, I am no longer known as that Asian girl with the crazy mohawk who plays the piano for ballet. I am now considered "cool" by the young kids because I HAVE an iPad. I'm okay with that. In this day and age, it really makes no sense to fall back on the times and miss out on opportunities because you have to stick to your "old-ways" of being "old school." No. I enjoy being a nerd! Because at the end of the day, it pays off.

1 comment:

  1. I am sooooooo happy to have found this post. I have been searching everywhere knowing that somone out there does what I do and uses an ipad. I am a ballet accompanist and play the piano around 30 hours a week at the university and in studios and have been doing it since i was 14..roughly 19 years ago now. I have decided that it is time for me to go digital and have scanned all my music into the computer. I was planning on using forscore. How do you switch between pieces? Find pieces? I watched a tutorial that you can hold your finger on a piece and see a preview. I have always been able to switch quickly between my pieces and that is something that my boss loves and I don't want to loose that because I am now looking only at titles and not at the actual music. It is the music that I see that helps me know what works. I have imputed around 500 pieces at this point and so I have a lot of music I have sorted out by musical genre...gavotte, polka, jig, rag etc. Thanks for your post.