Sunday, November 25, 2012

Those Page Turns Will Be the DEATH of ME!

Over a year ago, I wrote about my love for my iPad and how amazing it was to just carry around a small device that stored all my sheet music. Since then, I've had the honor to play for many dance and musical theater shows with my humble 1st Gen iPad. I've also put many "miles" on two major page-turn foot pedals that have been in the market since the iPad came out.

The PageFlip Cicada, and AirTurn. I can go into the specks and the nerdie-techie side of these two devices, but there are already some good reviews out there on these pedals. Instead, I'm simply going to write about my personal experience with these two pedals.

Last year, as I was prepping for Orange County School of the Art's Fall Production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." I purchased the PageFlip Cicada per the recommendation from the lovely people at forScore when I told them price is a factor in making a decision. My first impression of the pedal was that it was kind a flimpsy piece of plastic. Pairing the device was a little annoying, because you had to enter a code for the pairing to work.  The other downside to this pedal is, you have to turn the pedal off to be able to use your keyboard because your iPad sees it as an external keyboard. It was also noisy and made a clicking sound when you pushed on the pedal. But it did the job that I needed it to do. Turn pages.

One month into our production, the pedal started skipping pages. I contacted PageFlip asking if they have suggestions of what to do, they simply sent me a new pedal. The second pedal worked beautifully, until Day #2 of our show. In the middle of the number "Pandemonium," the pedal stopped working. (Ironic, no?) I pushed it several times, and still the page didn't turn. So I quickly touched the screen to turn the page. I must have had two fingers on it because the "search content" option came up and the screen darken. (This was how I set up the app to make finding music faster.) I looked at the top right corner of my iPad screen, and noticed that the pedal was no longer connected.  The Bluetooth symbol says it's "on" but not connected to any devices. I kept playing, and kept pushing on the pedal in hopes that it would reconnect. It did. The Bluetooth symbol flickered, and reconnected my pedal. By this point, my iPad was thinking, "Oh, you pushed the pedal 6 times while it wasn't connected so let me catch up to you!" By this point, I was completely lost in my music. I had to depend on my instincts that I know this show and can do it in my sleep and survived through Act 1 mostly from memory.

During intermission, I decided to re-pair the device by "forgetting" the device and pairing it again. There was something I noticed.  Because all these people were in the theater, I was picking up about 20 Bluetooth signals. Now, not having much knowledge of how Bluetooth technology worked, I immediately assumed the pedal was getting a Bluetooth-interference from the audience because there were simply too many devices out there. Act II wasn't any better. The pedal kept losing connection and I ended up playing the rest of the show by memory. Goes to show you, you can't always depend on technology to work, and you still have to rely on your skills.

After the run of the show, I emailed PageFlip again with videos showing him exactly what happened in the middle of a performance. The PageFlip guy was kind enough to send me yet another pedal that he personally tested himself. The 3rd pedal was fine until I had to take it somewhere. The back-pedal stopped working, and something was rattling inside. That was when I decided that perhaps I need to look into the AirTurn. Going through 3 pedals in a year isn't economical for anybody. In reality, if I had to repurchase the PageFlip Cicada 3 times, I would have just purchased the AirTurn in the first place. Lesson learned.

When I finally got the AirTurn, my first impression already was that it was a much sturdier pedal. It's made in the US of A, unlike the Cicada which was made in China. The pairing was simple. No complicated codes to enter. You simply turn on your pedal, turn on the Bluetooth on your iPad, and pair up the device. It was quick and easy. Another advantage was the ability to get your iPad keyboard to pop up if I need to respond to an email or hop on Facebook to post a snarky status. All you have to do is push the little red button, and the keyboard pops up. How fantastic is that?

The touch compared to the Cicada feels a little different. The Cicada had a medal contact that would trigger the page-turn. I know this because after the third pedal, my dear husband took the pedal apart to see how it worked. The AirTurn's pedal is shaped like a U. It takes a little bit more muscle, but only be a smidge. The AirTurn takes no time to get use to. Because of the sturdiness of the pedal, it's much more ideal for gigging musicians like myself. Let's be reasonable. I take very good care of my things. I'm not one to play frisbee or broom hockey with it. But I do work with jr highers and high schoolers half the time, and with dancers the other half of the time. This means, there is always a slight possibility that someone might accidentally kick it across the stage or studio floor. In that case, AirTurn wins by a landslide. (Kids, I do not recommend any of you doing that. It was just an example!)

I decided if I was going to do a write-up about these pedals, the AirTurn needs to survive through my high school Fall Production of "Thoroughly Modern Millie." Well, not only did this little guy survive, he passed with flying colors. I did run into a small snag, it had nothing to do with AirTurn, but everything to do with my humble 1st Gen iPad. I guess it's that time to upgrade.

At the end of the day, I need a device I can depend on. I highly recommend the AirTurn to any gigging musicians out there who is using the iPad. Not for just the durability, but also the fact that you can use your internal keyboard with the pedal connected. To me, that was a huge win in my book. The PageFlip Cicada is still a good device, however, not for a professional musician. If you were say, a private instructor and teach out of your own home, and the Cicada stays in one place, it works great. But if you are traveling on a daily basis from one location to the next, AirTurn is the way to go!

Happy Playing!

Interested in purchasing the Airturn?

Interested in purchasing the PageFlip?

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