Never sell or trade that old Apple iPad – you can turn it into an electronic music reader

By Stephen Pate – When Microsoft offered a trade-in deal for a new Surface this month it started a chain of events that led me in a circle with a new use for an old iPad. Of course a new iPad can become a sheet music reader as well but I like the utility of using an old Apple device.

My 1st generation iPad is now a music reader replacing a yard of hard to manage music books. All it took was the $6.99 iPad app forScore.  I may have to buy a few more accessories but as it is I can use the iPad as a very efficient music reader for $187.

We keep all our Apple gadgets since they never seem to die and there is always some use for them. The bank gave me an iPad Nano years ago: it’s a music player you can wear for outdoor gardening. My iPad Touch is a permanent music player in the Bose Sound Dock.

forScore Music Reader

forScore takes PDF copies of music scores and tablature and converts them into a readable format on my music stand.  I need reading glasses but at arm’s length forScore songs are nicely readable.  I’m not a genius: other people knew about music reading apps long before me.

My first mistake was telling my wife about the Surface trade-in deal. She offered to buy my iPad Air on a trade for our old iPad 1st gen plus cash.  I like to deal so Bob’s your uncle she had the iPad Air and I had her old 32 GB iPad which I promptly sold on Kijiji for $180. Too slow I thought.

Music-books

Too many music books

A few days later the music books fell on my foot while practicing.   After a little research, I found out that forScore was a cool way to organize the thousands of songs I have in sheet music.  Luck would have it, the purchaser called me with buyer’s remorse and I got the old iPad back.

From Paper to Pixels – Your Guide to the Digital Sheet Music Revolution is an excellent guide to moving your sheet music to a tablet. The author has 12 years of experience that saved me months of effort. He is biased towards the Apple iPad but that’s not uncommon. Highly recommended.

Music Reader Apps – forScore and GigBook

There are two major programs for creating a sheet music reader on an iPad, forScore and DeepDish GigBook.  Both programs have their fans and very few detractors. GigBook is rated the best program for gigging musicians and forScore is said to be better for the studio and practice.  I find forScore minimalist and GigBook more colorful.

GigBook, setting the tap tempo metronome

GigBook, setting the tap tempo metronome

Both programs use the PDF file format for the sheet music and Dropbox to add scores to their library. For $17 I bought both apps. Total cost $197.

The apps had to be compatible with iOS 5 since Apple has abandoned the original iPad and won’t upgrade it to iOS7, the latest operating system. GigBook is compatible with iOS5 at their latest release and forScore  sells an earlier version that works on iOS5.

GigBook and forScore run very well on the 1st gen iPad.  Perhaps if I load 1,000 songs it might bog the iPad down but I will wait for that to happen before I upgrade to a newer iPad.

I sent PDF files of songs to both apps via Dropbox and they work very easily. It is amazing to easily find a song and start playing. Soon all those lose music sheets in and out of binders will be gone.

The apps have hundreds of cool features like annotating scores,  meta tags for genre and composer, metronome for practice, set lists for gigs, the ability to enlarge the music score on the fly and read the music in landscape or portrait.

Getting the songs into forScore and GigBook

The big chore is to convert all my music to PDF files but I can start with the 100 to 200 most popular songs and work from there.  Most of my usual repertoire is in MS Word format, so all I have to do is save the files as PDF. I probably will organize them with the same font and size and layout.

Once the songs are in PDF format, you put them in the Dropbox subdirectory and then import the files into the program on the iPad. The job is ultra simple.  The tutorial took less than an hour.

For the rest of my library, I will have to scan the sheet music into PDF and go from there. That will take time but once I figure out how it works, I should be able to add music on demand.

There are more choices in iPad music reader apps than the two I picked. The internet has plenty of good advice from other musicians. I also found this article helpful Sheet Music Readers For iPad.

See Part 2 of this story for more details about what else you need – page turners and iPad music reader holders and stands. Making a iPad Music Score Reader Work

The moral of this story is that you can never go wrong keeping Apple gear.  Follow me on Twitter at @sdpate or on Facebook at NJN Network and OyeTimes.