Entering the world of music composer with PDF Expert

Who is a music director? An artist, a creator, a painter of sounds. The one who harmonizes the sounds of instruments and voices to deeply touch the soul of the world. And it is also one of our users, – remember we asked you not to be shy, and jump into our episodes of guest posts? So this is it, a new story of a brilliant music director, composer, and clinician, Vince Gassi, who is telling a story of his friendship with PDF Expert in leading an orchestra and creating a masterpiece.  

Everyone feels the mood of a music director. You don’t say a word, but the orchestra and the audience scan it. It’s about responsibility and the ability to control yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally. At the same time, it’s about building communication with the world through music and gestures. A music director is the heart of the performance. It’s a person with many secrets to turning work into art; let’s look behind the scenes to explore one of the biggest secrets of music writing. 

Creating a symphony of musical scores 

There are so many reasons why PDF Expert is the perfect app for music directors. Let me tell you about just a few. Musical scores can be long, sometimes up to 300 or more pages. Flipping through page after page just to get to the right place is not only time-consuming but cumbersome. Inserting sticky notes, tabs, and dividers into your music is helpful but who wants to carry around bulky scores that get tattered with use. Enter PDF Expert!

With PDF Expert you can easily create virtual bookmarks and with one click you can move instantly through hundreds of pages to your desired location page (see figure 1).

Fig. 1. Bookmarks (PDF Expert on iPad)

Words aren’t lost, characters aren’t mixed

When scanning music with your device, Scanner Pro (another great app by Readdle), will allow you to make the document searchable. You can also use Devonthink’s OCR (optical code recognition) converter to make existing documents searchable. Imagine trying to remember the place in the music where a singer has a certain word or phrase. No problem. Simply click or tap the magnifying glass icon, type in your text, press enter, and voila, instantly find your text (fig. 2).

Fig. 2. Text search (PDF Expert on iPad)

Additionally, PDF Expert will show you every occurrence of that word in the entire score (or document). This is especially handy when you want to see every place where a specific character sings (or has dialogue in a script). For example, you may want to find every place in the score where Timur (from Puccini’s Turandot) sings. Imagine seeing every instance at a glance (fig. 3). Tapping on any of these instances will take you immediately to that location in the score. 

Fig. 3. All instances of a text string (PDF Expert on iPad)

A mere flick of the hand, and you’re exact on that page

As a music director, I need to know every place in the score where I’ll have to teach harmony to the chorus. My process?

  1. read through the entire score, page by page;
  2. using PDF Expert’s annotation tools, I put a box around each system that contains harmony (fig. 4);
  3. I can then plan out rehearsals accordingly (i.e., more rehearsal time for songs with more harmony).
Fig. 4. Marking harmony with boxes (PDF Expert on Mac)

Tapping on a box in the annotations pane takes me immediately to that page in the score, instantly and without the mental stress of searching through multiple pages!

Remember the table of contents? I included a capital letter H in parentheses (fig. 5) in the title of each song to indicate which songs contain harmony. This is another way I can quickly see where it all is without having to scroll through each song.

Fig. 5. Bookmarks

PDF Expert has many annotation tools. Everything from highlighters to sticky notes to text editing tools. (fig. 6)

Fig. 6. Annotations toolbar

Feeling every note, wholeheartedly

PDF Expert’s awesome stamp tool comes preloaded with some standard stamps (fig. 7). One that comes in very handy is the date stamp (which reads “revised” followed by the current date on your computer or device).

 Fig. 7. Standard stamps

Additionally, you can customize stamps to suit your needs. In the example below, you can see some stamps that I have created which include text stamps, arrows, and even metronome markings. Check out the eyeglass stamp to warn musicians to pay close attention to the following measures).

Fig. 8. Custom stamps

The DEFCON stamps are invaluable to me. I can add a stamp to the first page of a song or movement of a larger work to indicate that it is either in good shape or needs more rehearsal (fig. 9).

(DEFCON 4 means all is well, DEFCON 3: needs touching up, DEFCON 2: needs more attention, and DEFCON 1: stop everything and handle this immediately)1.

Fig. 9. DEFCON and other stamps

DEFCON status originally referred to the defence alert status used by NATO (see the 1983 film WarGames). I use them to rank each song; a song with a lower DEFCON rating gets more rehearsal time. How you decide to use the stamp tool is up to you but some possibilities are: date rehearsed, tempo changes, checkmarks, arrows, or anything you will find useful. Date stamps can be especially useful to help you remember when a song was last rehearsed. Of course, your rehearsal schedule can tell you that but having the information in multiple places doesn’t hurt.

The value of sticky notes is extremely helpful when rehearsing any kind of ensemble. As I read through my pdf score, I can make rehearsal notes right on the music and because they minimize, they don’t clutter the screen (figs. 10a, 10b). Additionally, the pdf can be shared with your ensemble members and any rehearsal notes will be available to them.

Fig. 10a. Arrow and minimized sticky notes

Fig. 10b. Arrow and expanded sticky note

Alternatively, just the annotations can be exported by email. This is extremely helpful when you wish to give rehearsal or performance notes to your cast or orchestra.

Fig. 11. Annotations export

One more helpful feature is the Thumbnails pane (fig. 12). This feature provides another quick way to easily navigate through your score. Again, tapping on any one of the thumbnails will move you through the score to that location at warp speed!

Fig. 12. Thumbnail pane

Preparing scores for performance doesn’t entail processing a mountain of data, but rather, a mountain range of data. From bookmarks and annotations to stamps, sticky notes, and much more, PDF Expert is an indispensable tool that makes it possible to painlessly assimilate and manage that vast mountain range. I simply cannot imagine working effectively without it.

This is it. After all, how beautiful this interface of art and digitalism. Something wise, good, and eternal in harmony with the modern, digital, and of daily use. 

Is there any story you’d like to share about your user friendship with Readdle products? Don’t hide it! Tell us how you make your life productivity-friendly 😉

Vita Vypovska Vita Vypovska

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