Working with symbols and other musical elements
There are certain elements of music notation that are easier to enter digitally in StaffPad. These are found in the symbols palette, which can be accessed by tapping or touching the symbols icon on the top of the screen (to me, it resembles a snowman).
The basic concept is that you select the symbol by touching or tapping it, and then you place it in the score by using the pen, although the exact method differs a little in each case.
Trills, octave lines, hairpins and pedal lines are placed by selecting the the tile, tapping with the pen where the item should be placed, and then, if necessary, dragging the item to the right to extend it as far as you like. If, after you’ve placed the object, you find you would like to extend it further or contract it, first, deselect the tile in the symbols palette, then extend or contract it in the same way you do with slurs. Changing between a whole-step and half-step trill is accomplished by selecting the “trill-to” note with the pen and dragging it left or right.
Glissando and portamento lines are quickly placed by selecting the appropriate tile and simply tapping between the two notes. StaffPad intelligently snaps the line between the two notes, adds extra space if accidentals are present, moves the line up or down if you move the notes, and adds multiple lines for chords. (Take note, Sibelius and Finale.)
A single note tremolo is placed by selecting the appropriate tile and “painting” the notes with the pen from left to right. Dragging the pen up on up-stemmed notes, or down on down-stemmed notes, will add more strokes, up to three. It’s really cool!
If you know how to place a glissando, and you know how to place a single-note tremolo, then you know how to place an alternating tremolo between two notes: just select the tile, tap between the two notes, and drag the pen up or down to add more strokes.
Arpeggios work much as they do in Sibelius or Finale: you select the arpeggio, tap the chord, and StaffPad snaps to the correct span of the chord. StaffPad offers the regular arpeggio as well as versions with the up and down arrows.
Grace notes and “X” noteheads are achieved by selecting the tile and then tapping on the note to change it. For grace notes, this means that you will temporarily over-fill the bar. StaffPad easily converted both single grace notes and beamed grace notes, and you can erase or add beams to grace notes in the same way you can with ordinary notes. However, I didn’t see a way to change a grace note or an “X” note back into a regular note, other than deleting and re-entering the note, although David said that this will be fixed in an update to the app.
Fermatas are placed by selecting the fermata tile and tapping on the note. StaffPad intelligently places the fermata not only on the note, but on all other notes on the same beat, on the theory that if one instrument is holding, everyone else is too.
Finally, rehearsal marks are placed in the same way, by tapping on the tile and then tapping in the bar. StaffPad automatically centers the rehearsal mark on the barline above the top staff in the score, regardless of which instrument you’ve tapped on. Rehearsal marks automatically sequence when they are added or deleted. By default, rehearsal marks appear in the “A, B, C…” sequence style, but you can change it to measure numbers by touching and holding any rehearsal mark and selecting Switch Rehearsal Mark Style. About this method, David said that “eventually, this will be how we simplify the symbols palette down, and expand it without complicating it: there will be no need for separate tiles for up/down arpeggios, different styles of gliss lines, etc.”
Of course, all of these items can be erased with the pen, using the eraser button.
I found using the symbols palette very intuitive. At the modest risk of the palette becoming too crowded, I would like to see articulations added to it at some point. Especially when adding repeated staccato dots or accents, painting them in in the same way that is done for tremolos would be very convenient.
Selecting, copying, transposing, adding and deleting bars
This is where the pen-and-touch approach starts to bear more fruit. Because StaffPad knows that tapping using your finger is different than tapping using your pen, it frees up your fingers to select and manipulate music without it being interpreted as note and symbol entry.
Selecting a bar is done by double-tapping on it with your finger. The bar and notes become colored blue, and a contextual command bar appears at the bottom of the screen. To expand a selection, single-tap on any bar above, below, to the left or right of the first bar you selected and all the bars between your initial and subsequent selection will be selected. Double-tap again, anywhere on the score, to deselect.
Double-tapping on a clef will select the entire staff (only a single tap on the clef is necessary if a bar is already selected).
The contextual command bar offers the familiar Cut, Copy, and Paste, along with Select All, with some nice visual aids: Copied source material turns yellow, and the bars representing cut source material turn red, until you’ve made a new selection and pasted the source into your destination. Like other programs, you only need to select the first bar of your destination.
If you’ve made a selection, you’ll notice a handle in the bottom right-corner of the bar. Selecting the handle with the pen and dragging it to the right or down repeats the material into the adjacent bar(s), kind of like pressing R for “repeat” in Sibelius. I found that this only worked up to the edge of the screen and I was unable to drag further; it would have been nice if the score kept moving once my pen reached the edge.
Tapping Delete will delete any of the music within the selection, leaving empty bars in their place, while Remove Bars will actually remove that bar (or “measure stack,” to borrow a Finale term) from the entire score. If you are familiar with inserting columns in an Excel spreadsheet, Add Bars works the same way: select as many bars as you wish to insert into your score and tap Add Bars to add the equal number of bars prior to your selection.
Transpose Selection works as you would expect; select the interval and direction, and StaffPad helpfully tells you the number of semitones you’ll be transposing the music. Transposing by key is currently not possible in StaffPad.
Reverse Stems is a rather rudimentary way of “swapping” voices. If you have written music in voice 1 that is lower than the music in voice 2, tapping Reverse Stems will point the stems as if you’d swapped the voices, although the voice assignments remain intact. Perhaps an actual “swap voices” feature will be forthcoming eventually.
Rounding out this contextual command bar are Undo and Redo; Export; and Home. These appear in the main command bar as well.