I was provided a link to try Newzik, a sheet music reader boasting a wealth of features. Here are my experiences with the software on an Apple iPad Air 2 and iPhone 7. Please note I was not paid to write this review.
Newzik – Music Reading App
The download and installation of the app were super easy, as was creating an account. Once I was in the app, I was presented with four ways to input scores: iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, and IMSLP. I first selected and authorized the use of Dropbox, which quickly allowed me to select the conductor’s score and two solo instrumental parts of my work Beyond This Time We Share. I was glad that the app allowed me to put them all under the heading of one work, so I can easily jump around from the score to any particular instrumental part, and back.
This put the work in my library, so I am now able to quickly access the music and read it for purposes of editing and proofing. My screen is a bit too small for playing off of in my case (I wear contacts but I don’t like to squint at music even a bit), and I do not have a foot pedal to control page turns, which may make things easier when zooming in to make things larger. (I later found out that one can scroll by half-page, which makes it feasible for me to zoom in and scroll from one section of music to the next. I now don’t have to worry about screen size or squinting!)
For my purposes of studying scores and annotating parts, I found the annotation features quite useful. With a press of two fingers on the music there pops up a menu bar with annotation tools. Not only does the program have a highlighter and pen (both of which which can be red or any other color–I know that’s basic but I love that it changes color–this would make a great teaching tool too!), but it allows easy erasing of those markings.
There is also the option to add text in various sizes and colors, and musical notes and symbols are available in many colors so that you can be specific. One of the gripes with text input in many programs such as Microsoft Word is that it is hard or impossible to write musical notation. This program has common notation symbols and musical elements at the edge of your fingertips. You can also easily move your markings, and delete annotations for an entire page or an entire work, for easily creating a “clean” version again. I then created two bookmarks, so I could easily jump to the beginning or the clarinet solo.
I then added the audio of the piece to the score, which allowed me to view the score in real time with a recording. I was a bit disappointed, though, that if one goes into annotation mode or switches parts/score in the piece then the playback restarts at the beginning of the piece when one returns to listen. I would be extremely excited if playback could start where one left off after an annotation or part switch. It would make this invaluable to any traveling compose, conductor, or performer.
I then decided to lead a band session, where a leader (eg. conductor) and follower(s) (eg. performers) see the same piece in real-time. In this mode, the leader can control what the followers see in real time, or the followers can choose their own part. I was soon able to quickly use my iPad to control what my iPhone is seeing and hearing! This feature seems to work best in performances.
Band mode is not very useful for annotating as an ensemble in rehearsal, though. A great way to do this, however, is through a collaborative setlist. This is where the app really shines. By creating a collaborative setlist, one can annotate a score in real-time and it automatically pushes to the parts of the other people on the setlist. This is extremely powerful; the ability to share markings is great for aspiring musicians being led in ensembles, professionals marking bowings for a section, teachers annotating their private students’ work, conductors sharing study score markings with their peers, or composers and theorists discussing their work.
Other great features
The features of this app are very deep and well-crafted, so I will let you try them for yourself. A few other features I tried include:
- Downloading Beethoven’s 9th Symphony from IMSLP. This allowed me to download the work and annotate it. I then made the piece a collaborative setlist and could see the edits I made on my iPad appear on my iPhone in moments!
- I imported an XML file of an old piece of mine and was able to have it play back in real time! It even allowed me to see individual parts, even though the formatting was a bit strange at times.
- I was able to duplicate, rearrange, and add a blank page in a PDF, and immediately reset my changes to undo my edits.
I didn’t try using a text file as a musical score, though (e.g. for lyrics with chord symbols in them). I assume that feature would be useful for singer/songwriters and bands, and even though I didn’t try it I would be encouraged to use it based on my good experiences with this app.
I also do not have a Bluetooth foot pedal, so I was unable to try turning pages with my feet in real time. I can only imagine how useful that is; it is actually a highlighted feature of the app. I am aware that other apps have this capability too. Newzik also has the ability to synchronize a score with playback, so that pages turn automatically.
I didn’t try synchronizing a score and audio file since I had already spent a lot of time exploring the app and I didn’t have much more spare time. Please note that you cannot synchronize a PDF and audio file a this time (you can synchronize other score and media file formats, including YouTube videos).
I didn’t try using a stylus (I don’t own one).
I usually don’t come out with such a glowing review, but I give this four stars (5 stars is extremely rare for me). I highly encourage you to consider using this app.