Q: What's the best way to START using Note Prompter?
A: We recognize that it CAN be overwhelming the first time you pick up your instrument and have Note Prompter start playing a song at full speed! We strongly recommend starting this way:
1. Start with the first Major scale (tap the 'Load' button and scroll down to the 12 included Major scales), load it.
2. Then when it's playing MUTE it (tap the yellow button under the instrument name in the top highlighted tab... tapping on the round button will mute the track).
3. Also SLOW IT DOWN all the way by sliding the Tempo slider (right side of screen) all the way left!
In general, we tend to use it by muting the instrument we are playing. You can mute a track but still have that track's note fingerings shown. It's great to be able to hear a whole song with all parts playing in Note Prompter, but when you are ready to play along yourself, we find it's best to mute the part you are playing! :)
Q: When playing a long song that I've imported into Note Prompter, after 2 minutes my screen starts to go dark, then locks and the music stops. How can I change this?
A: Great question! This is because of a setting outside of Note Prompter. It's very easy to fix by going to the general iPad settings and simply changing the setting for 'Auto-Lock'.
1. Open iPad settings app
2. Tap 'General'
3. In the fifth section down tap on 'Auto-Lock'. By default this is set to 2 Minutes. Change to '5 Minutes' and you are good!
Q: Can I slow down songs to make it easier to play along?
A: Yes! This feature is implemented and will be pushed out in the first update this week!
Q: So how do I use this app?
A: When the app launches for the first time, it automatically loads one of the pre-installed music files. Simply press the 'Play' button and you will hear that song play--and see the alto sax fingering diagram for each note so you can play along! You can press the 'Load' button on the title bar of the app to load a different file. Files shown there include blues progressions in all keys, major scales in all keys, minor scales in all keys, and any user-installed song files. You can import your own song files easily! When surfing the web if you come upon a MIDI file (with the extension .mid) you can tap on the link to it and a pop-up window will appear. To import that MIDI file into the Alto Sax Prompter app, simply click on the Alto Sax Prompter app's icon in that pop-up! The file will be imported, the app will launch, and the song will start playing automatically! You can also import MIDI files from your e-mails. If someone e-mails you a MIDI file, open the e-mail on your iPad, click on the attachment, and choose the Alto Sax Prompter's icon from the pop-up window to send the MIDI file attachment to the Alto Sax Prompter. All files you have imported to the Alto Sax Prompter app will appear in the Load menu, in the bottom section. You can play them at any time by choosing them from that menu. You can also delete any imported files that you no longer want, by swiping your finger to the right across the name of the song in the Load menu. A 'Delete' button will appear to the right of the song title. Press that button to delete the song! (Only songs whose titles appear in blue letters are deletable.)
Q: What are all these ON/OFF switches for on the left side of the screen?
A: These switches let you turn individual instrument tracks ON and OFF. A MIDI file typically contains several different instrument tracks (e.g. Acoustic Grand Piano, Electric Bass, Alto Sax, etc.). If a file has instruments you do not care to hear, simply turn OFF the appropriate switch on the left side of the screen! Note that although they look like sliding controls, you really only need to tap a switch to toggle it ON or OFF.
Q: What does 'Show notes for instrument' mean?
A: The Alto Sax Prompter app will display Alto sax fingering diagrams for notes from one single MIDI track at a time. The 'Show notes for instrument' control tells you which track's notes are currently being displayed in the fingering diagram area, and the -/+ control below it give you the freedom to choose which track you would like to see fingering diagrams for--even if the track is not a Alto sax track! This can be useful, for example, if you want to learn how to play a particular guitar or piano melody from the song on your Alto sax.
Q: How can I view larger note fingerings?
A: In the song player screen, you can expand the note fingering diagram (and associated staff notation above it) by simply tapping on the diagram. The Play and Stop buttons will remain visible. To shrink the fingering diagram back down to its original size, simply tap again. NOTE: Expanding the note fingering digram is only possible in the song player screen--not in the note browser screen.
A: This is a reference tool. Use the -/+ stepper control (located below 'Browse note fingerings') to choose the note for which you would like to see the fingering diagram. The note browser only displays notes within the Alto sax's range, so it will eventually not let you continue clicking to higher or lower notes outside that range. But within the alto sax's range this screen will show you the note on the musical staff, the fingering diagram (or in some cases there may be two or three different fingering diagrams that produce the same note), the note name, the concert note name (see next question), and the note MIDI value. The note MIDI value may not be of interest to most users, but is shown for the benefit of musicians that may care to see it.
Q: What does all this stuff about 'concert' notes mean?
A: This is an important question. By historical convention, alto sax players do not call notes by the same names that are used by piano players, guitar players, etc. Sure, they still call notes 'C', 'C#', 'Db', etc., but they do not refer to the exact same notes.
When an alto sax player says he will play a C, he really means he will play an Eb.
The 'real' note name is what we refer to as the 'concert' note name. The Alto Sax Prompter app shows note fingerings to produce the note as sounded in the pre-packaged song files (or imported song files). It uses the note name that a alto sax player would think is associated with that note. But this will always be a consistant interval from the actual 'concert' note name. To help the beginning sax player keep this straight--and to make it easier for him to communicate with other band members like the piano, guitar, and bass player--the Alto Sax Prompter app's 'Browser' screen will display BOTH the note name that a alto sax player uses AS WELL AS the note name that a piano/guitar/bass player would use.
This strange convention is not unique to the alto sax; it is used by players of most woodwind and brass instruments (e.g. alto sax, baritone sax, clarinet, etc.). Instruments that follow this convention are known as 'transposing' instruments. Not all woodwinds instruments are transposing instruments ( for example the C flute and the oboe are not transposing instruments).
The reason for this confusing historical convention is that apparently more emphasis was given to helping a beginning sax player learn the major 'natural key' of his instrument, rather than equipping him to play in all keys, with other performers who are playing different instruments. To do this, the convention arose that the natural key would be (inaccurately) referred to as the key of C. So although the alto sax's natural key is Eb, the notes in that key are referred to as C. So the alto sax player can play the notes in the C major key and think of them as C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. In reality, those notes are 'concert' notes Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C, and D. Thinking of those notes as if they are actually in the concert key of C major apparently helped beginning alto sax players. However, the value of this convention seems dubious--since no woodwind or brass instrument player will ever play exclusively in the key of C major--even within the context of a single song! Yet this convention persists, and continues to be a source of confusion when alto sax players perform with--and talk with--performers who play instruments such as the piano, guitar, and bass.
Because this convention persists--and because most alto sax instructional material (like fingering charts) and sheet music will be written to follow this convention--we have followed this convention in the Alto Sax Prompter app.