I don’t think we’ve ever had so much music in our lives. Not just Spotify or Pandora, but sheet music.
When I worked in a small music shop almost 20 (!) years ago, I remember seeing racks of music books. From Mozart to Beethoven, Dexter Gordon to the Flash Gordon soundtrack.
But buying sheet music online? No way. The internet barely existed back then. Finding sheet music was not probable, and the sites were iffy.
Flash (Gordon) forward 20ish years and you can get just about any sheet music you want.
That’s kind of the whole point of this website after all. But you already know this.
But have you ever thought about using your tablet as a vessel for your sheet music?
Why Digital Sheet Music Makes Sense
Digital sheet music, as you already know, is super convenient. No bulky things to carry, no paper waste; all of the benefits you already know and love about digital things.
When I go to a gig I try and maximize my gear as much as possible. “What don’t I need to bring with me?” I ponder as I look through all of my gig gear, seeing what dead weight I can leave behind. “Do I really need 3 delays on my pedalboard for tonight’s gig” I gestfully ask myself, because the answer is always “of course!”.
Besides delay pedals, I’m always trying to consolidate pieces of equipment. I buy cases that have a place for cables and other accessories. I use more carabiners than a rock climber to limit my trips from my car to the stage. I’m all about making less trips and carrying less things to a gig.
So a binder full of sheet music might be one of the first things to go.
Using Apps To Organize Your Sheet Music
OK, so you have your collection of digital or digitized sheet music and you’re fully bought into the idea. Now what? Now it’s time to think about an app to organize your music.
Sheet music apps are plentiful and are kind of the same. Some have more bells and whistles, some have sleeker interfaces, but they all achieve the same basic thing.
I’ve used, tested, and have written about my fair share of apps. And instead of putting you through an overly detailed (read: boring) talking about all of the miniscule nuances, I’ll give you the 2 minute rundown.
My top recommendation for both iOS and Android devices.
The Best Sheet Music Apps For Tablets And SmartPhones
iOS users should check out ForScore. ForScore is the most widely used sheet music app. And with good reason. The interface is really sleek and intuitive. In the background it uses adaptive caching to remove any potential lag. Which makes all the difference during a gig.
You can mark up your music with a stylus compatible annotation feature. For at home practicing you can load audio files to each piece of music, and record yourself to get immediate feedback on your performance.
And of course you can import and download PDFs, create setlists, and make on the fly changes quickly and easily. It’s also compatible with Bluetooth page turning pedals for hands-free usage.
Orpheus is our pick for Android devices. We were initially hooked by the easy to use interface. After all, it’s an app made by musicians to be used by musicians. It’s sleek and well designed, which makes it quick to learn and easy to use.
The PDF rendering is lightning fast so you don’t have to wait around. Spend your time practicing instead of fussing with an app!
If you’re paranoid like me you can back up everything in Dropbox with the integrated Dropbox sync. The annotation is top notch and you can book mark individual pages in long PDFs to get to them quickly.
And just like all the good apps, it’s compatible with a Bluetooth page turning pedal.
How To Use A Tablet On Stage
So you’ve ditched the binder, now what? Well, you’ll be happy to know that you now get to carry less things to your gigs!
Leave The Music Stand At Home
And off the stage. Since you’re using a tablet you get to use a low profile, easy to carry tablet mount. Tablet mounts fit into a backpack you’re likely already carrying, they clip to any stand that’s already on stage, and they take up way less space (physically and visually) than a clunky music stand.
Here is an article that covers our favorite tablet mounts.
Best Tablet Mounts For Reading Sheet Music On Stage
Turn Pages Hands-Free
The final piece to this efficiency puzzle is perhaps the most practical: turning pages hands-free.
The STOMP Bluetooth page turner and app controller is designed for musicians, by musicians. It easily syncs to virtually any app (including ForScore and Orpheus) and enables you to do all of your page turning with the pedal. Not your hands.
That means you can finally do what you came to do. Play your instrument. Not play around with your sheet music. After all, you’re at your gig to liberate the world through music. That’s hard to do if you’re taking your hand off your instrument to turn pages.
Everything we use as musicians are tools to aid the music itself. I don’t use digital sheet music to come off as a cool techy to younger players. I use it because it simplifies my life and lets me show up to a gig and only focus on my music.
Which is kind of the point.
About the Author:
Rob Hampton is a passionate musician, gear geek and the founder of Coda Music Technologies. Having spent years gigging, recording, and performing with incredible musicians across the United States, he sought to create the tools he wanted on stage with him and CODA was born.