Tag Archives: PDF

Going All Digital

If you’ve noticed, there have been a lack of new posts lately? “Oh no, he’s losing interest in the site. Where are we going to get our latest Katy Perry sheets?” you might say. Fear not, there are a lot of things in the pipeline. So where have I been? Busy. Actual high paying gigs, working on CDs for my students, and…..finally going paperless.

Since getting an iPad in 2010, well, actually, before that, when I decided in 2007 to get a second monitor attached to my computer in my teaching studio, I have wanted to abandon all my physical books. Actually, probably iTunes ushered in this era, where you could have ALL your teaching materials (Aebersold, other play-alongs) available instantly on your computer. When I first started teaching full time in 1999, I bought a 300 disc CD player to hold all the Aebersold volumes I had, then other play-alongs I had. I had books strewn all over the place. I had printed sheets, which some of the kids called the “Reject pile”, on the floor (songs that I had made on Finale and printed to try, but then for various reasons it wasn’t going to work for them). It was a mess. But iTunes started to change that. Spending a few months ripping my mass collection of CDs into iTunes, it was amazing. All of a sudden I could instantly pull up a Aebersold blues in F, or in C on separate volumes. Gradually the CD player was being used less and less. Now, it is still in my studio (above the DAT recorder I have). It hasn’t been plugged in for well over a year, probably two. I really don’t know.

When I put a second monitor on my teaching computer, partly to use SmartMusic (which started to put sheet music play-alongs in the program), and partly to see the songs/exercises/arrangements I did in Finale, I was stunned by how it changes your teaching. Finding stuff is simple. In the case of having something in Finale, does it need to be in a different key? Click….done. Transposed down an octave? Click…..done. And no more piles of paper. 

But, I still had a huge collection of books. Aebersolds, Fishman, Snidero, more flute books that I care to count, clarinet books, oboe books, jazz books. Books books books! Great stuff in the books, but it was and still is a PAIN IN THE ASS to find something. Maybe there was an exercise in flute book X…..now where is flute book X…….oh, I can’t find it…..did I lend it out to someone never to get it back? So, sometime in 2008 I decided to scan some of my books that I use a lot. 

Scanning a book though is a pain. Mainly, because they are double sided. It takes a lot of time to scan, even if you break the binding or cut the binding off. I had been using a Brother All-in-one to scan one side, then I’d have to scan the other side, and then go through and number them, then assemble them into a PDF…….it was a lot of work….but I did it for a lot of books I used a lot. It made finding them instant now, and copying a page as simple as a Command-P now. But there are still hundreds of books left…….

ScansnapEnter my Christmas gift…..a Fujitsu Scansnap 1500M. How do I explain this…..it is like maybe being Christopher Colombus and getting GPS and a modern boat at the same time? No…..maybe getting an iPhone in 1970? That is closer to what it is. This machine was not cheap ($430 or so), but it is worth it. It does well over 20 pages a minute, double sided, high resolution. Puts them into a PDF, OCRs them…..it is amazing. In the week and a half I’ve had it (it came Jan 2), I have blown through 2 boxes of old music magazines, and probably a hundred books (a lot of them are drum books for a drum teacher….who’s paying me to do the scanning). And now I have easily tripled the number of books in my digital collection. I’m using stuff out of books I had totally forgotten about. It’s great.

The ONE downside is that I still have NOT found a good organizer of PDFs. The big issue is that I have all my digital stuff on a NAS (RAID5). I mean, it would be STUPID not to have some sort of digital insurance like that (plus Crashplan). But all the cool PDF like organizers either don’t find the OCRed text in the files on a network share (iDocument) or what to put all the PDFs into a tome (Devonthink Pro). I don’t want to put them into one tome/database file because I still want to have them in iTunes (I have playlists with the PDF and the tracks on ones that have audio tracks). So, that is the only weak link right now. Like if Devonthink would just symbolically link to a PDF and still be able to search the text there…….that would be great. Supposedly iDocument is going to add this. 

So, that is what I’ve been up to. No more paper or paper books. I’m digitalizing all of the stuff I have that I use or want to use. Things seem like they are getting less cluttered in my studio as the books disappear (they go into the recycle bin once I am happy with the scan). It’s great. I’d HIGHLY recommend this scanner to everyone. It EATS paper. 

Looking for the Best Indexer of PDFs and Documents

I’ve been doing a project for several years now…..converting paper material to digital. I wrote about this a while ago, and the process still holds true for me. Since getting an iPad, and also since basically converting my teaching studio to being centered around electronic display.

So, in the process of going all “Digital”, you need to have some sort of “backup” plan. For years, I have been running a Infrant/Netgear NV+ to hold all my iTunes music and books. It worked great for many many years, but it is slow. It’s like 6 years+ old now. I recently purchased a Synology DS1512+ to replace it (the Netgear unit is now a RSync clone of the Synology that is stored off site). It works well. iTunes runs great on it and things are safe (RAID5). BUT….iTunes isn’t very good at all for managing PDFs.

Most everything I have is text searchable PDFs. Or text files. What I am looking for is a program to program like DevonThink that can keep track of all the PDFs and stuff, and you can search for text in the PDFs. BUT….I don’t want all the PDFs mashed into a single library file. Why? Cause I like having a play-along in iTunes that also has the book in a Playlist. If I had DevonThink handle all the PDFs, it would put them all into a Library file and I’d lose that ability.

I’ve looked into Yep, and that would be AWESOME for PDFs…..except it only works with Spotlight enabled drives. All the PDFs would have to be stored locally. Kinda defeats the purpose of having a NAS and RAID5. The other contender is iDocument, which is probably going to fit the bill. It is flexible in how it handles the PDFs, and doesn’t require you to keep them all in a single Library file (though you can), and doesn’t only work with a Spotlight drive.

Anyhow, it’s not a perfect solution, but it is getting there. Ideally, I’d love something like Evernote but that you can run locally without any of their limits in file sizes or bandwidth. Maybe Synology will come up with something for their units. They already have iOS/Android Apps that allow you to stream music or video from your NAS WHEREVER you are (home, on the go). It’s pretty darn cool. If they come up with something similar to Evernote for their Synology line…..that would be amazing.

Best Practices For Preparing Music for an iPad

I spent most of new years day going through binders and either scanning or shredding (sometimes both) music I have. I was amazed at how many binders of things I had, and a LOT of it consisted of my II-V patterns and various exercises I wrote for myself.

Anyhow, if I had the finale file to something I had in the binder, I shredded the paper version and proceeded to tweak the finale file to better take advantage of the iPad. Here is what I learned.

First, you can make the margins practically nothing. In one version of my II-V patterns I have it formatted for a double sided printer so whatever side the holes are to be on, it is 0.5″ from the end of the page on the right and 0.75 on the left (to allow for holes). On an iPad, you can set that to 0.1 all around. The results are quite stunning.

Standard Page with 0.5 Margins

Page with 0.1 Margins on Right and Left

Second, I was able to enlarge the size of the music with 0.1 margins. The result is a page that takes advantage of the iPad’s display, and is easier to read than the pain Jane dumping a standard page to PDF to iPad. So, a note to all you people providing stuff out on the web and who are iPad or Tablet enthusiasts…..you need to reformat your PDFs. It doesn’t take much, and in Finale it was simply making a new Part and then tweaking the layout. About 3 to 5 minutes of work for something that looks a lot better.

Here are the patterns formatted for iPad. I will be doing a mass update of files to include iPad versions. Enjoy.

  Random II-V Patterns - Bb (iPad) (4.9 MiB, 92 hits)
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unRealBook vs. GigBook

I received some iTunes gift cards from students this year, same as in previous years, and I decided to use some of them on two iPad apps that a lot of people have been buzz about, unRealBook ($4.99) and Gigbook ($4.99).

Let me start off by saying that both programs absolutely suck on how you get stuff into them. Part of that is Apple’s fault. It would be nice if Apple would allow access to the area where iBooks are being stored, but that doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment, though they now allow Apps to talk to iTunes and play music from your library which unRealBook does. It would be idea for both of these developers to come up with something to allow easy importing/syncing of PDFs. I suppose one could use DropBox.

A slicker alternative, PadSync ($9.99) works great. Strangely enough on yet another iPad Music reading App recommended it. Yet, this too doesn’t really offer anything I really want. I would LIKE to have say a folder called SaxBooks and have ONE of these programs, when I sync to iTunes or run some syncing program, update any changes or additions. Is that so much to ask? Hence, this is why I really like using iBooks. It syncs to iTunes, and I can keep all my PDFs in iTunes, tag them, etc.

Moving on past the pain in the butt that is putting files on you iPad into one of these programs, what can you expect? Which one works better? First, lets look at Gigbook. This is a slick program. You can organize scores into Binders, make set lists, organize by composers, genre, key, tempo, time. You can make it part of a Collection so you can bookmark 400 page PDF fake books for songs. It feels like a proper iPad App, like my favorite iPad App Reeder.

UnRealBook has a lot of neat features. You can draw on your music, different pens, colors, etc. Save it. Undo it. Email the changes. Very cool. You can link a PDF to a song in your iTunes library and play it. VERY COOL. You can export Pages, send files via Bluetooth, Get files from DropBox or a URL, email PDFs, pages. There are lots of things you can do. However, the navigation around the program isn’t very “iPad-like”. Plus, once you’ve gotten used to the Binders and Collections that GigBook has…..

It’s a tough call to pick a winner. Feature wise, unRealBook is the best. The ability to mark up your PDFs and play things out of your iTunes library and attach those things to PDFs. Total thumbs up. Gigbook needs to step up and have these things. Interface wise, Gigbook is clearly the best. And the Collections and Binders are pretty invaluable…….

Winner…..Gigbook. Of the two, it is the one that is really the best thought out and implemented. If unRealBook redid its interface, and implemented something similar to Binders and Collections, then it would be the winner.

Couple of notes:
Both programs work with the Airturn BT-105 (seriously, who the hell names these things).
Both programs DO NOT and SHOULD read PDF fields like Title, Author, Subject and Keywords that are in PDFs. I take the time to tag my PDFs, it would be nice for these programs to read them.
Both programs should be able to read and use bookmarks in PDFs. Seriously, I bookmark important PDFs or RealBooks I have in PDF format.
Both programs should allow cropping of PDFs. After I did this experiment, it can really help make things more readable.
Both programs should have contrast controls, like GoodReader.
Either Apple or these guys really should find a way to access PDFs in iBooks or come up with some easy way to manage PDFs between the Mac and iPad.
AND it would be nice to have TEXT searching in PDFs. Programs like GoodReader allow this, and for 400 Page RealBooks, it would make finding a song easier.

So, Gigbook. Now if someone wants to send me forScore 2 ($4.99) to play with………I might have to revisit all this (HINT HINT). Or if GoodReader had a few of the features of Gigbook and unRealBook (Binders, ability to draw on PDFs).

Best Practices To Scan Old Books into PDFs

Yes, the iPad is amazing. Ok, sure, there are some other makers coming out with devices too. Regardless of what you get, you are probably at some point going to want to convert some of your tattered books into digital format. But how? What should I use?

Fear not, here are some guidelines to do it as I’ve converted quite a few of my old books that were falling apart into excellent PDFs. First, you need a scanner. A sheet feed scanner on something like a Brother 7340. I used a Brother 7420 myself, and it works great. Good Macintosh support. You could use a lot of other different solutions as well, but you really need to have a sheetfeeder scanner (ie: you can put 20+ pages on it and let it do it’s stuff).

Second, you need some sort of paper cutter to cut the bindings off, and any books that are oversized (like Rubank) need to be trimmed a little to fit in the scanner’s sheetfeeder. You can use scissors I suppose, but a paper cutter is easier, cleaner, and does it better.

For scanning, I’ve found that 300dpi B&W uncompressed TIFF is the way to go. I don’t do JPG or compressed TIFF because I am going to let the PDF part of the process do all the compression when I’m ready. I put in a stack of pages in the sheet feeder, and have it go. When its done, then I put the other side through the scanner. When that is all done, I go through the scans and number them (01…09….20….etc) and make sure that the scanner didn’t take two or more pages in by mistake (it will happen) and to see that they pages have all the stuff on the page (as in nothing was cut off during the scan). The cover and back I’ll generally use the flatbed scanner on the unit to make color scans. The covers are usually thicker anyways and don’t go through the feeder well (if at all).

Ok, so, now you have all these TIFFs, I use Adobe Acrobat to assemble them (“Combine Files into PDF”). The middle setting (lower right filesize) is the setting I use, into a Single PDF file. You also need to make sure the pages are in order then go.

Acrobat will then assemble all the files together, and display the result. Now, the next thing to do, which is why I use Acrobat, is to use the Tools->Recognize Text. Why you say? Well, it does OCR any text in the PDF, which is helpful if you need to search something, but it also will do things like straighten any crooked pages and stuff. Little things that will make your PDF look great. So run it. When it is done, then do an Apple-D and type in info for the PDF like the title, author, some key words. Then save.

Done! Now you have a nice digital copy for yourself. It is really great using the iPad to practice with, it remembers where you were in each PDF, and you can make bookmarks (which can transfer to your computer), etc. Notes. Great stuff. Here is an example page

The Apple iPad…..Revolution

Ok, so, unless you have been living in a Cave, you know that there was a great event held on Wednesday. Something all the media covered. Something everyone was waiting for with baited breath. Steve Jobs announced the fabled Apple Tablet. (And some guy named Obuma was doing some standup comedy later in the evening as well).

A lot of Gadget people were bemoaning the lack of this or that. No camera (front or rear), no USB, no HDMI, no Verizon, no Multitasking, no FLASH. Waaa! Sadly, these people are missing the point. It does need to have these things and was designed not to (except maybe the camera…rumors are that there was a prototype version that had one, and the software seems to have hooks for them).

So, what does this mean? And what does this mean for musicians. Can start scanning all our books into the computer? Can we ditch that lame electronic music things like this, this and this? Well, for traditional musicians, I think that scanning your music is a music regardless of what you plan on viewing it on. It might sound like a waste of time, but when you can’t find that book of etudes by so and so that you know you have but don’t know what happened to it….and that it is out of print. Yeah, you’ll be happy that you had the foresight to scan a copy for your archive. Now, viewing music that was made for 8 1/2″ by 11″ pieces of paper on a 9.56″ x 7.47″ device (slightly smaller actual viewing area)? Dunno. Obviously the music would need to be scaled down. Would that make it unreadable then? Dunno. However, if the music is formatted for that size, it would be no problem. Perhaps some witty programmer will design a program that will slice up music PDFs and make them more viewable. I for one plan on offering up iPad versions of stuff here. So, people with iPad can practice the tomb of II/V patterns, or Brecker solos, or whatever.

I think the bigger impact is going to be the cool apps for this. If you have an iPhone/iTouch, you already know all the handy apps out there for it. Now, increase the screen size 3 times and make it faster……can we say mixing applications? Slowdown apps? Multitrack recording device? Practice tool? Tuner? Hmmm….