I carry a huge bunch of sheet music daily. It turns out that there are 63 sheets of A4 printed music in my paper folder that I take with me everywhere I go. I have my printed music as separate sheets. So you can imagine the pain of sorting them again when they drop out by accident and get mixed up (and curiously, this happens quite often)!
When I travel, things get much more painful as I need to take even more sheet music with me. I suppose this is a pretty common situation among classical musicians.
Recently, I've come across a promising digital sheet music reader project which really caters for classical musicians.
I'm delighted to introduce Siim-Juhan Vakker, the co-founder and CEO at NotesNote LTD.
Q1. Please tell us about yourself and your company.
I've always been surrounded by music, as I recall. My parents are both musicians, and I practically spent my whole childhood in the theatre watching rehearsals or playing roles in various musicals - the biggest one being "Oliver Twist".
As a professional musician, I started working at the age of 14 at the Theatre Vanemuine. After that, I also played French Horn in the Estonian National Opera as a co-principal, the Nordic Symphony Orchestra, the Finnish Youth Symphony Orchestra, Pärnu City Orchestra, Berlin Youth Symphony Orchestra, and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, etc..
Finally, in 2009, I became concert manager at one of the best music colleges in Estonia. On one occasion, I had to stay for three days in a room without windows, sorting out a pile of sheet music after a 5-day concert tour of Russia. And it was then that the idea of a sheet music reader for classical musicians occurred to me.
In 2015, we created the first prototype of the sheet music reader designed for the classical music world.
Q2. Please tell us about main features of this sheet music reader.
My idea is simple - to give musicians a device which displays sheet music that can be annotated. I consulted hundreds of musician friends of mine about what was necessary for such a device. They told me that it would be really hard to use tablets like the Samsung Galaxy, iPad or Kindle for concerts. And that the ideal screen size would be B4, though A4 dual screens could be a good start. They were against LCD screens but in favour of the possibility of incorporating Bluetooth to extend the functionality by connecting to gadgets: e.g. foot pedal, metronome, etc..
So I formed a team of the most skilled people whom I could trust. I started finding out the hard way in the hardware world and named the company NotesNote. In the autumn of 2015, we finished our first functional prototype. The main features of NotesNote device (unnamed) are: 2 x A4 E Ink screens, bi-foldable, ultra light in weight, 30 hours battery life, Bluetooth, software for reading and annotating the pdf files so musicians do not need to copy, sort, archive or travel with a huge bunch of sheet music any more.
Q3. Please tell us about the supported file formats. For example, is it possible to display digital sheet music in pdf format or scores created by users using digital music notation softwares such as Finale or Sibelius?
NotesNote device currently uses PDF format. The most important feature of the device is that it can be used in orchestras' rehearsal sessions where many musicians work together. The next steps will be developing the software using MusicXML, which is used by over 210 notation programs already.
We are discussing several different educational application possibilities that could be integrated afterwards for music schools and hobbyist musicians. At the end of the day, there will be a question: Should the NotesNote device also support e-book file formats? In the long term, it should.
Q4. According to your website, you are launching a "beta-testing product" of this sheet music reader in April 2016. Can you roughly tell us when the final product would be available for purchase? And the price?
Yes - our plan is to launch our "beta-testing product", which means we're going to test it out on selected groups of people within the music world, at the end of the 2nd quarter of 2016, before launching it more widely. It is very important for us to polish our development with our customers, spending more time to work on the user interface.
At the 4th quarter of 2016, we will hit the market, which will meet our customers' expectations 100%. The exact price will be secret till we begin our Kickstarter campaign.