Kindle DX for teaching library, legal PDFs of Suzuki books?


Michelle said: Sep 17, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
25 posts

Long back story:
I teach at a studio outside of my home and the bag of music I take with me is getting heavy. I know I should probably just take some reading material and if a student forgets their book, then they just play what’s memorized and practice reading, but I can’t help wanting to carry everything I might teach from in a day, in addition to carrying whatever I might want to practice if I have a break. I have the CD sheet music collections for violin concertos and etudes and loaded them onto a small tablet computer that I take with me. Unfortunately, the 5″ screen is too small to be useful reading more than 4 lines of music at a time. In addition the CD sheet music PDFs are locked so they can’t be edited anyway. Even though I have pen input, I can’t draw markings on the PDFs, so maintaining that function is not important. I did load some scans onto an SD card to pop in the floor model Sony Reader at Fry’s, but it came out way too small on that screen to be useful. I would be mostly interested in carrying the music on the big Kindle for basic reference, not major working.

A parent in the studio has the big Kindle DX and I asked if he wouldn’t mind loading a PDF of some sheet music on it to see if it would be readable. I sent him the PDF of Wolfhart and it came out very nice. The whole page was on screen at once and very readable. The staves came out about the same size as the revised books, so any student reading out of the Suzuki books could read off the Kindle. There is a review on the Amazon website for the Kindle of someone else who is using one for cello music.

I already have most major concertos and etude books ready from the CD sheet music collection, but when I searched for Suzuki PDFs, The Pirate Bay tops the list. I know I could just scan what I have, but I wouldn’t mind paying again to get nicely formatted PDFs straight from a publisher. I have experimented with scanning into Finale or Sibelius to have the flexibility to reformat the spacing if I need to. Unfortunately, both programs choked just trying to figure out Minuet 2, I doubt they could handle the higher books.

Does any one have experience trying to digitize their music library? How have you gone about it?
Does anyone know of a legal source for digital versions of the Suzuki books?
Has anyone else tried using an eReader for music?

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Jennifer Visick said: Sep 18, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

The only legal source I can think of that would have digitized versions of Suzuki material is SmartMusic. I do not believe these are .pdf files, though.

I don’t know how much of a “computer” a Kindle is—I have a feeling a kindle would not be able to handle a SmartMusic program.

Have you thought about just using a laptop instead of a Kindle?

Connie Sunday said: Sep 18, 2009
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

I have a book on Kindle, and I can tell you from personal experience that MobiPocket is much easier to use than Kindle, in terms of putting material in the MobiPocket format.

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Michelle said: Sep 18, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
25 posts

I’m not familiar with SmartMusic and will have to research it more. Finale can import SmartScore, is that the same thing? If it can import into Finale, I can output a PDF.

The main draw of the Kindle DX for me is that it is so thin, will sit on a stand nicely, has a near 10″ screen, the ease of e-ink on the eyes and the similarity to paper, and the battery life. The Kindle DX is the only eReader right now with a big enough screen. The 6″ ones are too small to render the music readably. I think there are some other readers with near 10″ screens, but none with the market share of the Kindle. I would rather stick to a device that’s well supported. I guess as long as it does PDF, it would be fine, unless of course there are MobiPocket versions of sheet music. Reading books on it would be a nice bonus, but my main interest is in being able to carry a lot of sheet music in a smaller space. Also, it makes a nice excuse to get a new toy to play with, in addition to the business expense tax write off.

I have tried whipping out the laptop for music before, but it just doesn’t work as well. The studio has really bright lights, and glare is a problem. The younger students are a little too fascinated by the computer and get distracted. I’m hoping a Kindle won’t illicit the same moth-to-flame “shiny” reaction that my little laptop does. It’s also harder to negotiate the laptop on the stand, and my little slate tablet it too little. Battery life also becomes an issue with laptops and I’d rather not deal with plugs and cables.

I’m off to look into this SmartMusic thing now….

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Ruth Brons said: Sep 19, 2009
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Livingston, NJ
148 posts

Definitely look into a laptop and SmartMusic—it has revolutionized my portable teaching kit!

I spend so much time extolling the virtues of this program, I should work on commission.
It is heavily marketed for classroom applications, but I really enjoy it in my studio. My students use it a lot a home, especially for recital preparation.

I do admit to lugging some small speakers, and the SmartMusic microphone, along with a laptop—but it is SUCH an improvement over the old tote bag filled with books and a metronome. Important to note is that some elements of the SmartMusic program are always available, with or without internet connection, while others, like the Suzuki repertoire, need an internet connection to download from the web. SmartMusic will store the last 20 or so downloaded pieces on your computer, so you can download in advance which pieces you might need for the day if you are teaching without a web connection.

There are so many features of SmartMusic, that if you only use a few it is a bargain. Some of the features I use frequently, in addition to the Suzuki accompaniments, are:

-the easy to use tuner for students to use at home
-the metronome that can’t get lost in the bottom of the teaching bag
-the several method books [Essential Elements, String Explorer, Orchestra Expressions] for fun sightreading practice
with various stylizes of accompaniment, and the Assessment feature where the notes light up in green if they have been played correctly. I often do the open string pieces with PreTwinklers, so they can get the feel of playing along to the music—while my hands are free to guide their bow.
-Scales!!! When used with the Assessment feature they become, as my students say, “Practice AND a video game!”
My students LOVE to do scales at a slow tempo, and when they achieve an Assessment score of 80% or more correct at that tempo, they get to move to the “next level”, which is a faster metronome marking. It’s a game to them, and the scales shape up amazingly.
-the Record button has been so handy. Once cool use is that my high school juniors and seniors have used it to make mp3 files to burn onto a CD to supplement their college applications—we used to have to hire a pianist and a recording tech to do that, and now we can do it either in the lesson or the student can do it at home!
-the Rhythm and Play by Ear exercises, which again have the Assessment feature, are superb training and quite fun in small doses.
-the String and Full Orchestra library is great for intermediate and advanced sight-reading practice

Best Wishes,

Ruth Brons
Inventor of Bow Hold Buddies[tm] Instant Bow Hold bow accessory

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