The Seward Concert Band has begun a multi-year project to digitize our music library. With this project underway, many performers have been asking questions about digital sheet music and what it takes to make the shift.
Here are some common questions that our testers reported they hear from others:
- How do you turn the pages?
We recommend a bluetooth page turner. The foot pedal style is most popular, but some button styles may work for certain instruments.
- Isn’t it very small to see?
We recommend a minimum size of 10-inches (standard iPad size), though you might consider larger too. Most sheet music applications allow you to resize and edit the pages, allowing you to maximize the page use as well.
- How do you take notes in your music?
Different applications handle this differently, but most have some level of notation possible. Some support Apple Pencil and other more advanced writing tools.
- Is it expensive?
If you’re buying a tablet solely for this purpose, that can present a large price tag. Many performers may already have tablets that could handle this additional use, and used tablets can be good options for this purpose. Sheet music doesn’t tend to take significant storage space, and most sheet music apps are pretty lightweight.
You can expect to spend $50 to $200 on other necessary supplies (bluetooth page turner and music app).
Supplies for Digitizing
A Tablet Computer
The performers we spoke with who use tablets to host their music both use iPads, though there are sheet music apps available for android as well. We highly recommend checking in on used tablets, as even an older device may be able to run these simple sheet music apps quite well.
Tablets commonly come in the 10-inch size, and that is the bare minimum for being able to read sheet music well. Some performers choose to buy large-scale tablets (20-inch or larger) in order to maximize the size of their sheet music.
A Bluetooth Page Turner
While music apps allow finger-turning on the screen, that will get quite tedious in our multi-page pieces. A bluetooth page turner will allow you to click a button/pedal with your foot to advance or turn back pages.
There are many of these devices on the market, and new products develop regularly. These devices tend to range between $60 and $150 dollars depending on the features and style.
A Sheet Music App
There are many apps available in the Apple Store to serve sheet music. Here are two being used now by some of our performers:
- forScore – $19.99 (price January 2024)
forScore is one of the most popular sheet music applications in the Apple Store and it is fully featured.
- Piascore – free, $5.99 unlock (price January 2024)
Piascore has many of the same features that forScore and others have
Other “Nice to Have” Items
These items aren’t truly necessary to get going, but you may find them useful as you transition into digital sheet music.
With bringing your tablet out more for rehearsal, it does increase the likelihood of accidents. We recommend that those using digital sheet music look into impact resistant cases for their devices.
Glare-Resistant Screen Cover
We don’t do too many outdoor performances, but the sun can be a factor on screens when we do. These screen covers can typically provide some physical protection as well, though they will require testing with digital pencils and accessories.
The Apple Pencil can be pricey, but it does provide a great experience for writing. There are many stylus options on the market that you can try which would have a much lower price tag. A stylus would likely write more accurately than a finger, but not nearly as well as the higher-end options.
Tablet-Specific Music Stand
While not completely necessary, a tablet-specific music stand can be quite nice. They can hold a tablet more securely, and they’re typically smaller and lighter than a traditional music stand.