May/June 2018 First Looks: Apps for Teaching
A closer look at SuperScore
A unique liquid display? Embedded performances? Interactive features for learning and performing? An amazing library of scores? Is it possible that all of these features are found in one free app? Yes, in an app called SuperScore. To say that George Litterst, developer of SuperScore, is a pioneer in the world of music technology is an understatement. Litterst and his team of tech experts have fearlessly led the world of piano teachers and artists into the digital age with his forward-thinking company, TimeWarp Technologies. The company's ground-breaking, tech-savvy tools such as Home Concert Xtreme, Classroom Maestro, and Internet MIDI have revolutionized how we integrate technology into teaching piano. So, it comes as no surprise that TimeWarp Technologies' latest project is a score reading app that includes features like no other.
What makes SuperScore "the most advanced sheet music viewer on the planet" as the TimeWarp Technologies website claims? Perhaps the most dynamic feature is the trademarked Liquid Music Display technology. With the standard pinch and spread gestures on the iPad screen, the score adjusts to any size and layout, and remains that way from page to page until it is adjusted again. Users can augment a page in other score readers but this action does not permanently change the layout of the score as the Liquid Music Display technology does.
Library of Scores
Another unique feature of SuperScore is its growing library of repertoire from well-known publishers such as Alfred Music and numerous self-publishers. Some of these music files are free with the download of SuperScore while others must be purchased within the app. SuperScore is free, but an additional in-app purchase is required if you wish to import and add any of your own PDFs to the library. All files can be annotated, organized into collections, and work with any Bluetooth pedal for hands-free page turning. They continue working with major publishers to add more content.
Interactive Features with MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface)
Connecting an iPad to a keyboard or piano with MIDI capabilities maximizes the features of SuperScore. Many of the files available for purchase in the program come with MIDI performances by the composers themselves. In addition, a large number of these files are coupled with fully-orchestrated accompaniments.
A video is embedded with each piece on SuperScore. Some feature the audio of the composers playing their own pieces while the video scrolls through the score. Other videos show a live performance by a young pianist. Jamie Shaak, a piano teacher in the Denver area, uses SuperScore in her lessons on a regular basis. She finds the videos are ideal, especially for those students who have limited musical experiences at home. According to Shaak, the provision of videos within the app keep distractions to a minimum as there are no ads and thumbnails in the side menu as found on YouTube. Shaak finds that her students are inspired and motivated because they can listen to the entire library of scores before purchasing any. This opportunity allows students to browse selections before lessons and therefore cuts down on the time it normally takes to hear and select repertoire. With the option to purchase files within the app, students can specify their favorites and teacher and students can immediately dive into the new repertoire without having to drive to the music store or wait for a shipment to arrive.
Teaching with SuperScore
In lessons, Shaak couples SuperScore with an acoustic piano to replicate the experience of how the students will generally use the app at home. When working on a piece with students, she chooses a slower practice tempo, which can be regulated by the metronome feature in the app. The ability to increase the size of the notation is helpful for reading and Shaak notices that the green bar that moves as the file is played, guides students' eyes as they track the score. By tapping Play and muting the volume, students as SuperScore automatically turns the pages.
User Overload and Limitations
The substantial features provided in SuperScore are numerous, and for that reason, can be somewhat overwhelming for firsttime users. It is difficult to decipher which scores include the full functionality with MIDI and which ones can only be viewed and annotated. A more userfriendly landing page and menu modifications could help eliminate confusion. Importing personal PDF scores into the app requires a one-time fee and there is limited functionality with imported files, making the program work like any other score-viewing app. Most performance venues and homes do not have the proper equipment to enjoy SuperScore's full functionality with MIDI, which can limit the user's experience. Litterst and the TimeWarp Technologies team continue to support SuperScore with updates that fine tune its functionality and expand its collection of scores. The program is paving the way to dynamic interaction with paperless scores thanks to its powerful Liquid Display Technology and in-app library. SuperScore is for the iPad only and is free with in-app purchases. Learn more at timewarptech. com/shop/music-software-apps/software/ superscore/
A young student practices with SuperScore. (Spanish Dance by Bernard Shaak)
Editor's note: In full disclosure, Leila Viss has compositions for sale on SuperScore. However, her thorough knowledge of the software far outweighed any connection or positive bias she may have towards the product.