The world of classical music has changed a lot, since I was last playing on a regular basis. I mean a lot.
Example 1: When I got my viola repaired I purchased a backup-bow. It is not made of pernambuco wood. In fact, it is not made of wood at all. It’s made of carbon fiber. Carbon fiber!
Example 2: I can get sheet music online, in digital format, and display the music on my iPad. A lot of parts in the public domain can be found, free of charge, too. No more stacks of oversized sheets cluttering my office.
This second item is very exciting to me–I can have Symphonic Karaoke sessions!–but I was not satisfied with the way the standard iPad applications (iBooks, Kindle, DocsToGo, etc.) handled sheet music, so I went in search of a more suitable application.
A handful of iPad apps have been designed as a sheet music interface for musicians. I tried a handful of them; some were free, some were priced at a buck or two, and one (forScore) carried the unusually hefty price tag of $9.99.
As it turned out, forScore was the clear winner, definitely worth the ten bucks, and then some.
All of the other apps lacked some of forScore’s capabilities. Some, for instance, wouldn’t display two pages at once. Others weren’t so friendly on the import functions. None of the other apps I tried had all the functionality of forScore.
forScore is packed with functionality, and will please a wide variety of musicians. Page display can be 2-up landscape, 1-up portrait, or half-sheet landscape depending on your need and preference. Half-page display can be used with half-page turns, too. Enhanced display modes include standard “as-is” color tones, a grey “gradient” mode to simulate actual music on a stand, and sepia mode (easier to read in low light settings).
Importation of sheet music is a breeze. You can import PDFs, text files, and RTF/DOC files, or you can use the iPad’s integrated camera to build a file with snapshots. No scanners needed! The app has built-in support for iCloud, Google Drive, OneDrive, DropBox, and others, for easy on-the-go access to your music library.
Files are stored with accessible metadata, also, that you can edit from within the app or via a built-in “console” function that provides read/write access from any computer on your local network. Tired of fighting the auto-correct functions as you try to type Ludwig von Beethoven or Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov on your iPad’s virtual keyboard? Fire up the Console and edit all that metadata with your laptop or desktop computer. Title, composer, tags, beats-per-minute, genre, key, and other metadata can all be edited. You can also link a piece of music to an audio file in iTunes, integrating music and playback.
File organization supports working musicians’ needs, too. You can create set lists for your combo’s next gig, and create bookmarks for easy access to the minuet within a symphony.
One of forScore’s strongest features is the Annotations. Fingerings, bow markings, text notes, accidentals, and slurs are just a few of the many possible items that can be built into an annotation layer that lies atop a PDF. You can create different versions of your annotations, too.
Other features include a built-in metronome, pitch-pipe, and a tuner that will tell you how far out of tune you are. For the more sophisticated user, a forScore file can be tied to a piece of music, given a BPM value and a measures-per-line value, and forScore will play the music and turn the pages automatically. You can even annotate which sections of the score are to be repeated, and forScore will navigate for you.
forScore puts Bluetooth tech to good use, as well, allowing you to connect your iPad to a friend’s device and share, via Bluetooth, your files, your annotations, etc. Of tremendous use is its support for Bluetooth devices, such as AirTurn’s BT-105, a pedal-actuated hands-free page turner.
The app is packed with functionality like this, plus much more that will fit the needs of any musician.
It’s pricey, by App Store standards, but has proven itself as the gold standard for sheet music applications. Well worth the ten bucks.