StaffPad and Surface Studio/Surface Dial

Hello, fellow musicians and composers!

Ever since we started work on StaffPad, I'd been dreaming of a device that I could easily write a full orchestral score on. Whilst the portability of tablets is fantastic, sometimes more is more. As you all know, being able to see a full view of your manuscript is an important aspect to writing a coherent and well balanced score.

Today, perhaps the ultimate device for writing music with StaffPad has been announced: a beautiful 28" high resolution All-In-One device, called the Surface Studio.

Surface Studio has an incredible 28" super high resolution touch and pen screen, with a clever hinge that allows the device to lay down at a 20° angle; perfect for writing scores on.

Whilst we aren't affiliated with Microsoft (we are a 100% independent company), we have been fortunate to be able to work alongside the great team at Surface to ensure that StaffPad gets a platform upon which it can shine brightest. The culmination of StaffPad, Surface Studio and the Dial almost completes my original 'composers dream', and I'm excited that we're able to take advantage of all of the power, features - and the sheer size - of this amazing computer. All in all, it's one step closer to the ultimate goal of StaffPad: to make writing music feel effortless.

Reinventing the Wheel

The Surface Dial is a wheel device that connects to any Windows 10 device via bluetooth, and can control various things within StaffPad. We've built in a special mode for the Dial so that it understands what you're doing in StaffPad and helps you out accordingly.

You can turn the dial left or right, and press it. With these three interactions, we're actually able to do quite a lot in a simple and easy to understand way by tuning it to context.

By default, the Dial controls playback. You can 'jog' through the score by turning the dial left/right, and start/stop playback by pressing it.

As soon as you start writing in a bar, the dial becomes a handy 'undo/redo' tool. Turning it to the left (counter-clockwise) will 'rewind' or undo the pen marks, and turning it to the right (clockwise) will fast forward/redo your pen strokes. You can also press the dial to trigger recognition.

If you've made a selection, turning the wheel will transpose the music up or down in pitch. Exit selection mode by pressing the dial.

If you have a Surface Studio, then the dial gains a couple more features. The Studio has sensors in the screen which not only detect pen and touch, but also the placement of the Dial on the screen itself.

Placing the Dial on the screen will bring up a quick insert menu of commonly used symbols, like hairpins, trills, tremolos and so on. You can rotate the dial to select a symbol, and then quickly insert with the pen.

You can also use the dial as a digital music stamp. To do this, literally 'stamp' (gently!) the Dial on the bar of music you wish to clone, and then stamp it again on another part of the score to impress the music there. This is an incredibly quick way of copy and pasting single bars on your score, and... weirdly... feels very satisfying!

The combination of the Studio, the Dial and the Pen means you can write your music with your writing hand for pen and touch, and your non-dominant on the dial for navigation, undo/redo and selection of symbols. It becomes possible to write without ever reaching for a toolbar or consciously switching a mode, which is very important when you're 'in the flow'.

Upcoming update

There'll also be an update to StaffPad released for everyone in the coming weeks. As well as supporting the new Surface Studio and Dial, there'll be some brand new features for everyone, along with some fixes and enhancements. As usual, I'll write a separate post detailing these once the update is published in the Store. See you in a couple of weeks!

With all our best,
David & Matt