How the iPad frees musicians from sheet music while connecting them to history

The iPad is helping shift how musicians approach their sheet music. Where once it was necessary to carry around large collection of scores from a myriad of pieces, it's now possible to carry your entire repertoire around in a single tablet. Instead of graphite, wood, and rubber, musicians now use Pencils made of plastic and silicon, made for touch screens rather than paper.

From The New York Times:

Ms. Wu takes pride in being an "early adopter" of the iPad and can rattle off its benefits to the traveling musician. By her own count, she is performing 42 works this summer. In the past, the attendant sheet music would have filled three quarters of a suitcase. Now she carries an entire library in a sleek tablet. Page turns have become quiet and elegant thanks to a wireless pedal. (Where her enemies were once awkward page turners, they're now Chinese concert halls with Bluetooth blockers.) She needn't worry about losing her scores or seeing the paper deteriorate over the course of a long tour. And in master classes, she scribbles notes for her students onto her tablet, saving a separate file for each player.

But it's not just in ease of use where digital tools are proving their value. Musicians are now increasingly able to read their music from digital versions of their original manuscripts. And because of this, more musicians are getting to see and study the original scores, connecting them more to the history of a work.

Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.

  • Really wish they would've included what apps they are using. As a pianist I have tried a few but haven't found anything great. Sent from the iMore App
  • I've been using iBooks for getting my sheet music for the last year. It's definitely more convenient to carry them with my iPad than their physical copies.
  • ForScore is the one that I use, and most of the musicians that I know (with iPads) use it as well. It's is great for maintaining thousands of scores in multiple set lists. Annotating the scores is simple. Adding in links to jump to different pages for repeats is a snap. It can work with a bluetooth foot pedal page turner if you like. It's phenomenal.
  • I play guitar for my own pleasure at home and have recently discovered SongSheet. All those A4 sheets of paper with chords & lyrics are now held in my iPad. Sent from the iMore App
  • I don't own an iPad (or any tablet) anymore because they simply had no use, except for this exact circumstance. Whenever I play anywhere, I don't relish having to lug around books and folders and do miss having an iPad.
  • I wish GarageBand was a little easier to find 80s style arcade synths for what I want to compose. Not really interested in sheet music. Sent from the iMore App
  • I've been using the Box app for quite a long time because unlike dropbox it has a save offline feature. it works pretty well for all my piano and organ music, although I had a few times when it suddenly logged out and 'lost' all the offline files so you had to redownload them all when you logged in. That is a nightmare scenario because you don't want to loose all your music before or during a performance and not have wifi around. But the ease of adding music from any device is really great. I've also used Goodreader when I wanted to be sure files stayed accessible. That syncs files from a cloud service like box or dropboxs etc and stores it on the ipad.
  • Dropbox has always had an offline function. It used to be done by making individual files 'favourites', but now has a download symbol for files you wish to keep local on your device.
  • Didn't know it worked that way in dropbox, but then, having almost 1GB on sheet music pdf's it's not really helpful, unless you should be able to favourite a whole directory.