In-depth listening with forScore

Listening is one of the cornerstones of the Suzuki method. Here’s a way to let technology help with active listening.

There are a lot of ways to listen to the Suzuki repertoire. You can put it on in the background as you go about your work at home. You can listen in the car. These are forms of ambient listening; and I’ve written previously about some ways you can use technology to help make your listening more effective based on our family’s experience. I also wrote about a technique for listening to the recordings at slower tempo to convey a sense of the recommended practice tempo.

Another form of listening - active listening - involves seeking out particularly elements in the reference recording. Does that sound like it’s on the string, or off? Is there a ritardando here or not? Active listening is a way of focusing the ear and cognitive brain at the same time.

Recently I discovered how the iPad app forScore can help with active listening. forScore is an application for iPad that allows you to store, manipulate and organize digital scores. I’ve used it a handful of times for performance1; and we use it frequently while traveling so that I don’t have to lug the books with us. One of the features of forScore is its ability to link the score to a recording in iTunes. There’s a bit of effort involved; but once you have all the pieces in place, it may be a useful aid to active listening.

Scan the scores

Unless you already have your repertoire books in digital form, you’re going to have to scan them. This is not difficult so long as you have a flatbed scanner to work with. I use an Epson Perfection V370 scanner to capture the pages in TIFF format in grayscale at 600 dots per inch. As each page is completed, I trim and edit it in Photoshop to make sure that the contrast is correct. After the pages are all scanned (it may take a day or two depending on your free time…) then I assemble them into a PDF using Adobe Acrobat. I believe that the builtin OS X application Preview can do the same thing. In Acrobat, remember to save the PDF as a reduced-size PDF or the document will be enormous.

Alternative: Download the scores

There are out-of-print editions of the Suzuki repertoire books at the document sharing site Scribd. I have no idea about the legality of sharing out of print versions of these scores. There is also the issue of revisions in the scores. You may find bow markings, slurs, and other annotations that differ from the current editions. Be forewarned. But, this is a quick way to get the PDF’s into the iPad.

Have the reference recordings in iTunes

Although the books are distributed with CD’s, optical discs are just not that convenient. I recommended making a personal use copy of the reference recordings that you can have on iTunes. Please see my 14 Tech Tips for Suzuki Listening for more on transferring the CD’s to iTunes.

Adding the recording to forScore

Once you have all of the parts in place, it’s easy to link the recordings to the digital score. Navigate to the score using any of the available organizational tools (by book, composer, etc.) For example, let’s link the score and the recording of the Seitz Concerto No. 2, 3rd movement:

To edit features of the piece, press the “arrow in circle” button on right of the title of the piece.

To get to the audio features, find the Audio tab (1) and then choose Add from iTunes (2). After you select to choose from iTunes, you will be able to navigate through your music library and select the appropriate piece.

Now, you have a digitally-linked score and recording:

It sounds cumbersome - and some parts, like scanning the scores are - but there are significant payoffs in convenience later on. And this system really enhances your ability to listen actively.

  1. With the larger format iPad Pro, the score is almost the same size as the printed page. [return]
Written by:

Alan is the main practice partner and accompanist for a young violinist.