If you play a lot of music, you know the struggle of keeping track of everything. But what if you could use an iPad for sheet music?
That’s right. You can store your sheet music digitally. That can save you space, and you’ll know you always have what you need.
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Sheet Music rEvolution
Sheet music has come a long way, especially in recent years. What started as manuscripts from composers evolved into music books.
Arguably, we’ve gone back to manuscripts with the release of sheet music you can download. What’s more, you don’t have to print that sheet music to take advantage of it.
Apple fan or not, you can’t deny the benefits of using an iPad for sheet music. There are some great sheet music apps out there that allow you to write on your music as if it were printed out.
So, let’s talk about some popular ways to view/use/read sheet music.
Sheet music books
When you started playing music, you probably started with some sort of method book. String and wind players usually start in a book for their ensemble.
Piano students start in one of the many different beginner piano books. You know the drill…
As you advance and start to play solos, at least as a flutist, a lot of solos are part of a book of pieces. Maybe you’ve worked out of the Rubank Concert & Contest Collection.
Or perhaps you’ve reached the level for playing pieces in Flute Music by French Composers.
I’m sure other instruments have similar books.
Sheet music books are especially nice since they come with multiple pieces for you to work on.
Printable sheet music
If there’s a piece you want to play and you can’t find it in print, you might be able to print it yourself. You can find multiple digital sheet music retailers where you can buy digital downloads of sheet music.
Some musicians even release sheet music or exercises for free.
Of course, the downside to printable sheet music is that you have to find pieces separately. You also have use up a ton of paper and ink to use that sheet music.
Luckily, there’s another option for digital files!
Sheet music downloads
Of course, most digital downloads are probably printable files. However, printing sheet music all of the time can be costly. You’ll need a printer with plenty of ink.
And you’ll also need somewhere to store all of that sheet music after you stop using it.
That’s where using a digital device or iPad for sheet music comes in. If you like to download a lot of sheet music, you can store it on your iPad.
You won’t have to print and use paper or ink.
Using an iPad for Sheet Music: Basics
If you use an iPad for sheet music, things can get complicated. You can start off with just using your iPad for sheet music downloads.
However, you can also scan your entire print library onto your iPad.
Still, there are some pros and cons to consider before you drop hundreds on a new iPad for sheet music.
One of my favorite things about using an iPad for sheet music is that it takes up less space than print sheet music. Right now, I have four solos and music for multiple ensembles.
Oh, and I also have orchestral excerpts to work on. So that means juggling multiple music books and folders of loose sheet music. It’s much easier to pull out an iPad for sheet music than all of those things.
Another benefit that comes with using an iPad is that I don’t use as much paper or ink. While I’ve never printed sheet music every single day, my iPad has definitely helped.
I like to practice sight reading as much as I can, so I can easily download a new piece of music and read it right on my screen.
Similarly, you can download and start reading a piece of music whenever. I don’t have to find a printer to print the sheet music. I can just download and read it.
As great as the benefits are, there are some downsides to using an iPad for sheet music. The first downside is the upfront cost.
Even the cheapest iPad isn’t super cheap. I saved up some gift cards, which covered most of the cost on Amazon. However, $300+ is a lot to spend on something that might work.
And the cost doesn’t stop there. You’ll have to consider accessories, like the Apple Pencil, which starts at $100. You might also want to get a Bluetooth page turner to solve the next con.
Yes, page turns can be awkward when using an iPad for sheet music. You can’t just set out every page. Of course, a tap can be quicker than flipping a printed page. And there are other solutions.
Finally, you have to remember that an iPad is an electronic device. It needs to be charged. If your iPad dies, you don’t have access to your sheet music.
Should You Use an iPad for Sheet Music?
Despite all of the cons, I still think a lot of people should try using an iPad for sheet music.
If you travel a lot, the iPad can save tons of space in your luggage. It’s also a lot lighter than lugging around all of the sheet music you need. And you won’t have to worry about forgetting an import piece of music.
Students can also benefit. In music school, you have a ton of music to work on at a given moment. Currently, I’m preparing for a solo recital, in the school orchestra, and I’m also in flute choir and a flute studio ensemble.
And that doesn’t even cover etudes or orchestral excerpts. All of that sheet music really adds up. My iPad makes it much easier to switch between pieces in a practice session. And I know that I have everything in one place.
I’m also a private teacher. While I haven’t used my iPad in lessons yet, I know it will probably come in handy as I get more students. Instead of having to carry all of their materials around, I can bring my iPad.
That’s especially nice since I don’t have a dedicated studio to store music.
I will say that if you’re new to playing music, you might want to hold off on getting an iPad for sheet music. Scanning all of the pages of a method book can be time consuming.
What You Need
Aside from the iPad itself, there are a few accessories you need to be productive when using an iPad for sheet music. Some of these things are expensive, but others are cheap or even free.
iPad and Apple Pencil
Of course, you need an iPad. You can’t use an iPad for sheet music if you don’t own the tablet. And it’s up to you on which iPad to get.
You can go big with an iPad Pro. Or you can go small with an iPad mini. I personally went with a standard iPad. It was the most affordable, and it’s a decent size. I can still see the screen, but it doesn’t take up a ton of space.
Regardless of the physical size, though, you should get the most amount of storage possible. I haven’t used a ton of storage space for sheet music, but it does add up.
The last thing you want is to use all 32 gigs and then have to get another iPad a few months out.
Along with your iPad, consider an Apple Pencil. Yes, there are cheaper styluses available. However, the Apple Pencil is pretty precise. If you’re gonna spend hundreds on an iPad, you might as well get a good stylus, too.
If you’ve done any research about using an iPad for sheet music, you’ve probably heard about forScore.
This app is probably the most popular sheet music reader out there. You can import sheet music into the app then write on that sheet music as if it were paper.
The app lets display the sheet music in different ways, like two pages at once or with half-page turns. You can also organize your sheet music based on composer, genre, or something else.
A newer addition to sheet music reader apps is IMSLP, but it’s existed as a website for quite some time. IMSLP is the International Music Score Library Project.
Whether you have an iPad or not, you can use the website to find free, public domain sheet music. And if you use the app, it will download the sheet music straight to your app.
If you want to scan printed sheet music onto your iPad, consider getting a scanner app. There are tons available, so compare a couple and choose the best one for you.
Of course, you can use an actual scanner, but a scanner app uses your iPad camera. You can crop what you want from the photo, and it will render an image. That’s especially nice if you don’t have a scanner or if you need to scan on the go.
I personally use and love Tiny Scanner, and the full version does cost a bit of money. However, you can test it out with a couple of files to see how you like it.
Have you used an iPad for sheet music? Will you make the switch? Let me know in the comments!
Do you want to get started with using an iPad to practice more efficiently? Download forScore and More today!
12 thoughts on “Should You Use an iPad for Sheet Music?”
I’m interested in an iPad for reading music. If you have to jump back a couple of pages ie. da capo, or jump forward to a coda, is this a problem, or is there a hyperlink?
Thanks for any advice.
I believe the app forScore lets you create bookmarks to jump back a page or two, but I haven’t had to use that feature!
Forscore actually does one better, you can edit the page order in a piece even creating extra copies so you could set it up that if you have a da capo you can just insert a copy of the first page after the page with the d.c.
Wow, I knew you could reorder pages, but I didn’t know you could copy them in forScore. Thanks for the info!
Nice read! I’m considering a new iPad myself for sheet music and was wondering how musicians go about that.
One comment I do not agree with is: “get the most amount of storage possible”. This is a common mistake many people make. I’ve spent my whole professional life in IT and want to give this piece of advice: it is important to stress out that a mobile device, be it a tablet or laptop computer is not a storage device. In other words, your main storage device should never be a mobile device. It is far better to have a central device, at home or in the cloud, that 1) contains all your documents and 2) gets a daily backup. Your mobile device (iPad, laptop, or any other mobile device) only holds a copy of the documents you currently need. That will result in several important advantages; here are three very important advantages : 1) you do not need large and expensive memory options in mobile devices, 2) you are sure that you have a backup of your precious documents and 3) the thief only has a partial set of your (personal) documents if your device gets stolen.
You also might want to consider using an external storage device for your iPads (USB memory stick or SSD drive).
That’s interesting. I still would say to get as much onboard storage as you can afford because you never know what you might need to access when you don’t have WiFi or a hotspot to access your sheet music. I’ve performed in a couple of venues outside of cities where the internet wasn’t the best.
I agree that using the cloud or an external hard drive is important. But for anyone who has to learn or reference a lot of music on any given day, the entry level storage space may not be enough. Thank you for the insight!
Does forScore have a blank music sheet template? I have a song with the first phrase of the lyrics set to music. The remaining five phrases that use the same score appear at the bottom of the page. As a beginner, I would like to add notes to the lyrics for a complete music sheet of the song. Thank you!
I don’t know that forScore has a blank sheet music template. But what you could do is find a blank sheet music file an import it into forScore. Then, you can use a stylus (or your finger) and notate the music in forScore. You could also combine the blank sheet music file with the song file and import them together so that everything is under one file or create a setlist for the current song and the blank sheet music page. Here’s a site where you can download blank sheet music: https://free-printable-paper.com/blank-music-sheets/
Let me know if you have any other questions!
I’ve been using my Kindle Fire. The PDFs show up in the Kindle app. I wouldn’t use it for something big, but for at home practice it’s great.
That’s awesome! I haven’t used a Kindle Fire, but I imagine it’s a great way to test the waters with a tablet before investing any money into something else, especially if you already use and like it.
I can’t find anything about this on the forscore website itself (which is bizarre!) but you seem to hint in your answer to the IT expert above that you can access some music offline? Is that the case (the rest could then be in cloud storage which would be our preference)? We are singers and always know what we need to access on any given day, and we currently have an ipad that has no data plan (because we mostly use it just in the house (and use our phone as a temporary hotpsot if we do need it out and about).
If we could download the pieces we need from cloud in the morning using home wifi and then be offline with ability to read and annotate when out that would be a gamechanger.
Aahh, just realised, we’d need to be online to save annotations, right?
Once you download music on to your iPad, you can import it into forScore without using the internet. Then, you can access the music (including annotations) without internet as well. I play with a couple of groups at venues without public WiFi, and I have no trouble accessing all of my sheet music and notes in the app. If you pay for forScore’s cloud backup, then you’d need internet for that, but you don’t need a constant internet connection. And you can backup your music for free elsewhere, such as with iCloud storage.