While conducting the wind band at the recent Bay of Plenty Music School I finally had the chance to test using digital scores. I’ve always been intrigued - have already blogged about it twice - but only with a new iPad have I had the chance of taking the full digital leap. Here are my thoughts... GETTING UNDERWAY
An iPad Air 2 sits, charged, ready for action. I already had some of the scores as PDFs which was a great start. Then I scanned the rest using Scanner Pro which kindly then drops the file into my Dropbox. Then in comes forScore - a sheet music reader app and the absolute hero of the equation - I import the files straight from Dropbox and then it’s all ready to go.
WHAT I LOVED
- Magnetic to stand - my iPad lives in an Apple Smart Case and to my surprise it latches itself to a metal stand so you can place it nice and high and it won’t fall off if knocked.
- Markings and highlights - I had loads of fun marking up my score, highlighting and bringing out the important info (see photo).
- Linking - okay, so we’ve got repeats and codas and so on - I set up links so you just click on the spot and it will take you there immediately. Fantastic.
- Metronome markings - not so much during the rehearsal, but while I was looking at a score in downtime, I really appreciated having the built-in metronome set on the tempos for each score.
- Setlist - once I knew the concert order I made a setlist and everything was there ready to go and flows from one score to the next. You can even remove title pages from each score so it’s just what you need.
- Plenty more features to explore in the future - you can bring up an onscreen piano to perhaps play a passage, you can click to record your ensemble playing, and much more.
WHAT I LEARNED
- No auto contrast - we rehearsed in a room with loads of natural light. During a massive climax in a piece the sun went behind a cloud, the room went dark and so did the screen on the iPad... couldn't see a thing. Lucky I knew the score, and I turned off the auto contrast after that.
- Battery life - to be honest, if the iPad isn’t on WIFI then that battery will last for ages. But, I took this for granted and late afternoon I needed an emergency trip back to the motel to pick up the charger.
- The screen size - I understand this will be an issue for some, but it really didn’t bother me. While it is obviously a little smaller than an A4 page, the clarity of the retina display made everything so clear and with the annotation, you can easily highlight what is important or write on the score in any colour of the rainbow. And of course with a quick gesture you can easily zoom in to more closely analyse a chord, rhythm or whatever.
WITH OTHER HATS ON
- As a composer/arranger and general creator of many (many!) scores, I used to print them constantly just to take to rehearsals for reference and to write on. I’d then look at the comments at home before putting it straight into the recycling. Not anymore… used digital scores at a recent rehearsal with the Auckland Philharmonia and it works a treat.
- As a teacher, having a variety of material available to students is important as well as having reference scores and so on. The close integration forScore has with Dropbox (or Google Drive or iCloud Drive) makes this usage even more trippy.
I thought there would be issues, but that the connivence of it would outweigh them. But, apart from those obvious things to consider with any digital device, it’s a dream. It's fast, effective, a little flash, and I think the best thing is that, as I briefly mentioned, I once printed excessive amounts of music at home - but now I print barely anything. Yay, save the planet! I'm a complete convert.