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Your Sheet Music on an iPad!

by Donna Germano
edited by Sylvia Woods
January, 2013

I am writing about my recent experiences and love affair with my new iPad, but much of this will also apply to Android based tablets such as the Samsung and others.

I recently purchased a remanufactured iPad 3 direct from the Apple store for under $400. I only had a few functions in mind when I started out, and viewing sheet music was not one of them. But I couldn't resist trying to see how a sheet of music in PDF format would appear on the screen.

First you need an "app" as the tech savvy say, an application to display the music. I chose forScore based on reviews and the fact that it was one of the first music reading applications. It cost $4.99 from the Apple Store.

I created a folder on my main computer called "PDF Sheet Music." In this folder I've placed music pages I've scanned from books I have bought in the past, saved PDFs from my notation software, and music that I've purchased as PDFs from Sylvia's www.harpcenter.com website. For example, I have played her "50 Christmas Carols" spiral-bound book so much that I've worn it out! So I purchased the PDF download from her site. Sylvia now sells many books and single arrangements in this format for download. Instructions from the Harp Center come to you in an email explaining how to download the PDF sheet music files.

I will give you an overview of how to get music to your tablet but I also found a series of excellent tutorial videos by harpist Janet Lanier, describing the procedures in step by step detail. I wish I had found that before I stumbled through this process on my own!

There are various ways to get the music to your tablet: email, wireless, opening free PDFs from the web or through a free iTunes account for either Mac or PC. This will serve as the vehicle to transfer PDF sheet music to your iPad. The iPad comes with the cable to connect to your computer through a USB port. Connect your iPad to the computer and launch iTunes. There is a column on the left including the music library and devices. Under "Devices," click on the name of your iPad (mine says "Donna's iPad.") and another screen will open. There is a menu across the top following the word "Summary." Click on "Apps" and all the applications you have on your iPad will show up. Click on "forScore." Scroll to the bottom of the page under "File Sharing." Click "forScore" again, and then on the "Add" button at the bottom. Find the folder where you have stored your PDFs. Click or drag each PDF into this screen. When you have finished adding files, click on the "Sync" button at the bottom of the screen. The sheet music will be magically transported to your iPad!

You can also email the PDF to yourself, or open the email from the Sylvia Woods Harp Center that contains the PDF in your iPad. Go into your email. You'll see the PDF in a box with an arrow. Click on the arrow to download the PDF. Once it downloads, press down on the PDF icon and you should get a pop up with "Open In" options. If you don’t see "forScore" listed, click the bottom one that says "Open In…" and then choose "forScore". Your PDF will now be ready to edit and view in forScore.
You can now open the application and see your new music scores. Janet's videos will teach you about all of the forScore features, including how to resize and crop the music to maximize the page to fill the screen.

Most apps, including "forScore" will allow you to classifying music according to genre or composer, and to write set lists. For example, you can write a list with wedding processional music in the order in which it will be needed!

To turn the page either forward or backwards, you either swipe your finger sideways across the screen, or just tap in the corner. There are even Bluetooth foot pedals that will allow you to turn pages without using your hands, such as AirTurn's BT-105 and Cicada's PageFlip. Also, if you use the metronome feature in "forScore" you can enter the number of beats per page and "forScore" will turn the page for you once the metronome reaches the specified number!

Settings: The first thing I learned on a gig is you need to turn off the auto lock power saving feature! For the first Christmas piece I played with my flute partner, my iPad went dark after 2 minutes, locked down so I could not bring it back up as I was in the middle of a piece! So before your gig, go to "settings" in your iPad, turn on Do Not Disturb (so you don't get email and Facebook alerts during your gig), then set Auto Lock to NEVER. With this setting, the iPad will shut off when you close it but will stay on as long as it is open.

Limitations: The biggest limitation to me is that you are looking at a single page on your music stand at a time, rather than an open book with two pages visible. Also, the music will display in about a 7.5" x 6" rectangle. Not the 11" x 8.5" page we are used to in our standard music books.

Advantages: For background music gigs and weddings I could have a large quantity of music organized in this device. It minimizes shuffling through pages and I am quickly able to find pieces. Since I play with a variety of music partners I sometimes need the same piece of music in several keys. My notebooks are getting heavy and I'm not getting any younger. I can imagine using a combination of the iPad and my regular music notebooks for various gigs. I love the concept of having a set list on the iPad which is specific to any gig ( Brittany's Wedding!). The fact that I imported Sylvia's entire "50 Christmas Carols" book in a few minutes of work was fantastic! You also have a lighted page wherever you go with the beautiful iPad screen!

I haven't tried it outside in the sun and it is not something you would want to fall off your music stand or to disappear during a break. But imagine the possibilities...including the possibility of technology failure. So the notebooks will be right beside me for awhile. Then maybe in my car for backup!