Make Score Prep Videos with Explain Everything
Date: February 28, 2014
Do you send out score marking instructions to your singers? Many conductors have a set of markings that they want every singer to have in their score: cutoffs, changes to rhythm or diction, accents and dynamic changes, or paticular tempi to observe. Rather than send those on a sheet of paper, or take time in rehearsal explaining them all, you can make a quick and easy video witih your own narration illustrating and describing these marks using an app called Explain Everything (Android or iOS, $2.99). An important point about this app: it will publish your work as a video, which you can distribute to any other device. In other words, you have to have a tablet, but your singers do not. Explain Everything bills itself as a screencasting tool, but think of it more as a recorded whiteboard. Let's walk through how you could use this to distribute your score indications to your singers quickly and easily.
Explain Everything gives you a blank stage to begin with, and asks you to choose a set of colors to use for your project. A blank stage is of limited use for us, though. A great hidden feature of Explain Everything is that if you import a .PDF file, it will create a separate slide for each page of the document. In other words, you can import a scanned copy of your score, and Explain Everything will lay out each page as a separate "whiteboard" upon which for you to write. If you aren't happy with the initial setup, you can zoom and crop to make the score larger if necessary, although you'll probably be able to use the score straight off of the import. One note about the EE stage-- it only works in landscape (wide) mode, where most of our scores scan in as portrait (tall).
Marking Up and Recording
Once you have your pages in Explain Everything, you can hit the record button to begin recording your demonstration. Take the pen tool and draw the score markings that you would like your singers to use, and explain them as you go. Explain Everything will record both your notations, and your narration. Scroll through the pages using the slide arrows (like you would in PowerPoint). Each theme gives you three colors to use, so you could get into color coding if you so desire. The key point is that you can explain or demonstrate your desired rhythmic effects, articulation or diction as you notate, giving your singers a better idea of what they're notating as they're copying your markings. This will lead to less talking from the podium as you have to explain yourself again later on.
Explain Everything has some limited editing capabilities-- if you don't like your narration for one particular slide, for example, you can re-record that slide without having to re-record the whole project. You can't import audio into your narration, but you can import audio and movies into the project. If you have a great YouTube example or recording of the piece that you'd like to share, you can drop those in at the appropriate points as well.
Once you have your video made and ready to go, you have several options to get it out of Explain Everything and into your singers' hands. By default, EE wants to publish your video online on their own website, which is pretty limiting. The new versions, however, allow you to also save it as an .MP4 movie file, which is near universal at this point. This means that your musicians will be able to view the file on just about any device they want/have access to: phone, iPod, computer or tablet. You can also publish directly to a number of cloud storage services: Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, etc. If you use one of these services, you can publish the movie directly to Dropbox, for example, and then share the link with your whole choir for them to download.
Make Their Score Prep Part of Your Score Prep
Because you can record slides individually, the movie doesn't have to all be done at once. As you walk through your score prep, make note of the elements that you'd like your singers to have. Use Explain Everything as a dictation machine to explain your score prep step-by-step, with the markings, to your singers. Even if you've never published score markings to your singers in the past, you might be amazed by what your singers gain and can then perform by watching your dissection of the score into the technical and artistic elements that you are trying to bring forth.