App Experience: Any Font

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Note: This post will be posted on both techinmusiced and ukestuff.

One of the best aspects of this “non-job” has been the people I have had the opportunity to meet.  I can’t think of a single person in the area of music education technology that I have not immediately liked.   Simply put, the music education technologists that I know are also some of the finest, most intelligent, collegial people I have met.  I learn from them, as I am sure they learn from me–and I enjoy hearing about their lives and getting to know more about them.

This winter, I had the chance to present sessions at the Maryland Music Education Association, mostly thanks to Robby Burns, who has served as the MMEA’s technology chair.  Robby is an incredible teacher and technology user, and has a blog, podcast, and even a book on digital organization (Buy it!  Paper.  Kindle. See his awesome promo video at the bottom of this post).  If we have “specialties,” I would say that Robby is a specialist in secondary band and technology automation.  He looks for ways for technology to simplify his life and to make automatic processes that solve problems, keep things organized (for himself, his program, and his students), and to ultimately create more free time for himself and his family.  When you see Robby’s presentations, hear his podcasts, or read his book or blog, you need to know that like all the music technology experts I have met, he lives what he is teaching.  The knowledge comes from real life experience, and is personally tested.

One of the highlights of my trip to Maryland was spending 30 minutes with Robby (until we were kicked out of the exhibit hall as it closed) simply talking about apps that either of us did not know.  One of those apps was Any Font.

Robby discussed how he loved Any Font, as he was able to use any font on his iOS devices for anything–documents, presentations, whatever.  While I should have been writing down every app he suggested (I only typed out a few–and thus, I am not the expert on digital organization), that conversation is locked in my brain.

I blogged about the new version of Chordette the other day, an app that provides a way to use a font to make ukulele chords–something of great use if you teach ukulele.  However, if you use the fonts embedded with Chordette–they are not going to show up correctly on an iPad (ever get the Keynote message that a font is not available?  Even if the font is no longer used in the presentation?  Any Font is one solution, and there is another that I will add at the end of this post).  I have also been working with the developer of Chordette to make a font set that uses the colors of the Aquila KIDS strings–and would love to use those fonts in my presentations.  Fonts are always better for a smaller document size than an image–which is why a PDF of music created by a software program (e.g. Finale, Sibelius, Notion, Dorico, MuseScore) is always smaller than scanned music (embedding a picture in the PDF).

I haven’t had need of fonts other than the standard fonts embedded in iOS, but Any Font allows me to put the Chordette CGCA ukulele fonts into iOS.  You send a True Type Font (TTF–most are in this format) to Any Font (you can even “Open In” from iCloud Drive or Dropbox, but easiest is Air Drop from a newer Mac to an iOS device), and then select the fonts you want to install on your device.  Any Font sends those fonts as a profile to your device, enabling those fonts for the iOS device to use.  If you delete the profile, the fonts go away.  You can always add a font and take it away later.  Any Font also offers 1,000 additional fonts for $2 as an In-App Purchase–a pretty good deal.  Of course, you can find a great number of fonts on the web for free, including musicological fonts that might be helpful in documents and presentations.

So…if you have ever wanted to use other fonts on your iOS device, or have had issues with Keynote telling you a font wasn’t available, Any Font is a great way to solve both of those issues.

It does make you wonder why Apple hasn’t made it possible to simply add fonts to iOS as you can on a Mac–perhaps this will be resolved in the future.  Until then, I recommend Any Font to you, and want to offer thanks to Robby Burns for bringing this app to my attention.

Final note: Are you getting the “font not available” warning in Keynote, even after making sure all fonts were in the system?  If you don’t want to install the not-used but still considered “missing” font, do this:  Export the Keynote as PowerPoint, import that exported file into Keynote.  Save the file.  Problem solved.

Chordette: Chord Charts for Ukulele and Other Instruments

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While I now host most of my ukulele posts at my ukulele site (ukestuff.info), there are times where music education technology and ukulele interact with each other.  Today’s focus is an example of that interaction.  This post will be double posted (on techinmusiced and ukestuff) for that reason.

As I have written about in the past, I have incorporated ukulele into my choir program–both as a way to accompany choirs and also to have choirs learn how to accompany themselves.  There is a legitimate use of the ukulele as a melody (or chord melody instrument), but that has not been my focus, and to be honest, instructional time is limited.

This year, I used a number of videos (YouTube) from Dr. Jill Reese, Dr. A, and Kevin Way to have my students learn how to play chords along with “real” music, including very current pop music.  Generally, I would teach a chord, and then we would play songs that incorporated that chord as well as other songs that they already knew (it was a fun experiment in scope and sequence).  As I introduced chords, I needed a way to show the ukulele chord that was being taught…but it was difficult to find a consistent fingering graphic to use on the web (I also liked putting a picture of a real hand making the chord shape on a fretboard as well).

There was a program, by John Baxter, called Chordette, which allows you to enter ukulele chords as a font.  There was an old version that was no longer available, but when I reached out to John at his website (ukefarm.com), he was incredibly kind and shared a beta version with me, and was also open to feedback and special requests for chords.

As a result of using Chordette, I could have a consistent chord chart across all of my resources, and I was even able to use the font to make my own instructional ukulele play alongs like Dr. Reese, Dr. A, and Kevin Way using the Chordette Font.

The new version of Chordette is now available, and while no longer free, is a great resource if you teach ukulele or if you make ukulele resources.  Furthermore, Chordette comes in a number of formats, including Soprano Ukulele (which is really ADF#B tuning–and not common in education settings), Standard GCEA ukulele tuning, Baritone Ukulele (DGBE), Mandolin, Tenor Banjo, and Guitar.  So really, if you do any work on any of these instruments…Chordette is a good investment.  If you buy more than one instrument, there are ways to get a multi-program discount.  And if you order in May (2017) using the discount “ukefarm” (no quotation marks) you will get another 30% off.  Let’s be honest here.  If you teach or use ukulele, even the full price is worth every penny.

For the record, I am not receiving any referral bonus for mentioning this app, and while I did receive a beta for free, I have purchased Chordette for myself, too.

I’m not going to lie…I love this Mac/Windows application, and highly recommend it.  Additionally, if you have suggestions, or even a special request…contact Mr. Baxter at UkeFarm and see what he can do.  Again, you can find Chordette at www.ukefarm.com.

Caramel Ukuleles–in the light of Got a Ukulele’s Review

A couple of weeks ago, Barry Maz (gotaukulele.com) posted his review of the Caramel Zebrawood Concert (of which I have overseen the purchase of 40 such instruments) and he truly disliked the instrument.  You can see the review here: http://www.gotaukulele.com/2017/04/caramel-cc102a-concert-ukulele-review.html.

If you chose not to access the article, here are Barry’s concerns:

  • Cheap price–ridiculously low
  • Straight from Amazon, eBay, or the factory (no set-up)
  • Long wait for delivery (4 weeks)
  • Zebrawood (Barry isn’t a fan) laminate
  • Thicker Zebrawood laminate at that
  • Sun motif around the rosette (overdone)
  • Overly chunky bracing
  • Messy interior: glue and wood shavings
  • Photocopied label that is illegible in the ukulele
  • Poorly finished satin coat
  • Scuffs and chips in binding and overall construction
  • Bridge and fretboard need oiling
  • Fretboard appears to dip into the soundboard of the ukulele
  • Poorly dressed, sharp frets
  • Headstock is reminiscent of a Kaniel’a
  • Frosted plastic tuner buttons
  • Cheap quality tuners
  • Little sustain
  • Generic sound quality
  • Intonation issues that MIGHT be solved with a set-up

To be honest, I was disappointed by Barry’s review.  Please note that I won’t disagree with any of his observations.  His main concern was that the ukulele may have serious build issues–and that is where I disagree.  I have looked at his picture, as well as our Caramels, it it appears that Caramel shapes the end of the fretboard down.  If you look at Barry’s picture of the “dip,” you can see that the soundboard (face) of the ukulele isn’t dipping at all.  I would also say that Barry forgot to mention the nut. The nut on every one of our Caramels was sharp and needed to be sanded down.  I have looked inside many Caramels–our earliest ones (February 2016) had crooked bracing–but I would say that our most recent instruments have been tidy and clean inside (I could care less about the label), more so than some other “big name” ukuleles that I own!  I can’t really if the bracing is chunkier than any other brand–but Barry has played well over 500 models of ukulele, and I believe him.

Barry is right…if you can afford more money–it may be beneficial to get ukuleles from a reputable dealer who will set them up for you before shipping them out.   The Caramel’s aren’t “overly resonant” with sustain and have a very basic sound.  And they do need set-up work.  But if you are a teacher needing a set of ukuleles, and you can do some of the basic set-up work, $37 for a concert ukulele (direct from the Caramel website) is hard to beat.  Sure, you could buy something like the Makala C (my first ukulele was a Makala CE, and I still own it) but the Makala C begins at $65 (not counting shipping).  A set of 30 ukuleles becomes a $900 difference…or nearly double the cost.  For even better ukuleles, add more investment.  

I “get” that ukulele purists want people to play on good instruments that play well and sound terrific.  That doesn’t match the reality of sets of ukuleles in school (which are likely out of tune with each other anyway); and it also doesn’t reflect the issue of the beginning player who isn’t fully committed to a ukulele, where $37 might be worth a gamble, but crossing the $50 line becomes a “real” purchase.  

In reality, the most recent Caramels have come with generally good action (as Barry mentioned), better dressed frets (which have become exposed as the fretboards dry out in the school and need to be sanded down), and that “general” sound.  And to be honest, the Makala Dolphins, (old) Ukadelics, and even my Makala CE that I have played since Barry’s reviews have not been in tune as you progress down the neck past the 5th fret.  So Caramel doesn’t have an angle in the market in selling ukuleles that are not professionally set-up and don’t play in tune down the neck (although our most recent Caramel DOES play in tune down the neck). New Caramels are coming with a pin-bridge, and I am tempted to buy one of them.  Caramel plans to add side marker dots to instruments later in the year, and to start shipment from a US warehouse this year.

Again–I am not doubting Barry.  In the world of ukulele, he is one of my heroes, and this was a ukulele that he spent his own money to purchase and review.  This is what he was sent.  I have ordered 52 Caramels to this date–and they are getting better–and I would order more.  Not as my primary instrument, but as an instrument for a school or a non-committed beginner.  If you also need a “beater ukulele” that can be used for camping–this is also a pretty good bet.  If a school can afford better instruments–then by all means, go for it.  If a beginner can afford a Kamaka, go ahead (that Kamaka likely needs to be set up, too).  But if you are a teacher in a situation like mine, where you are raising your own funds for instruments–the generic quality of the Caramel becomes attractive.  Furthermore, our Caramels have survivied the tough environment of our school (and sometimes intentional abuse by our students), whereas two of our lovely Mainlands were damaged in a single accident this past fall, not long after receiving those instruments!  And incidentally, the tuners may be cheap, but they are functional.  I haven’t had to replace any, but I have had to replace tuners on two of our Waterman ukuleles (Kala was wonderful with support).

What I would say is this: by a $37 ukulele, and be aware that you will have some work to do, and that sound will be generic.  If you have more to spend…contact some of those great ukulele shops (Mim’s and Uke Republic still deal with “low end” sales) who include set-ups with their ukuleles.  And don’t hesitate to contact Mike at Mainland Ukuleles…particularly if you have an environment where you can care for those instruments (e.g. Humidity).

As a final note, check out Vic’s videos about his Caramel (which has the new bridge):

Love Sweet Love (11 Obscenely Optimistic Songs for Ukulele) was 


Jeremy Messersmith, a local musician, is going to release an album of folk tunes in the near future.  He decided to write the songs out and to make them available to everyone (you simply sign up for his mailing list at https://www.jeremymessersmith.com/).  He is inviting people to make videos of those songs.  The collection is entitled 11 Obscenely Optimistic Songs for Ukulele.

So…here is my first of eleven recordings that I am going to make…Song #4: Love Sweet Love

#ObscenelyOptimistic