With the advancement of the internet and tablets like the iPad, more musicians are starting to go digital with their sheet music libraries. I am a part of the “revolution,” and many of us have taken to one particular app: forScore.
forScore is a digital sheet music reader, and it’s a must-have for any musician that uses an iPad for sheet music. If you want to convert part or all of your music to PDFs, you need this app.
Of course, you’ll need an iPad. But you may also want to know if you even should use an iPad for sheet music…
Before we continue, this post includes affiliate links. You can click here to read my full disclosure policy.
What Is forScore?
The app forScore is one of the most popular sheet music reading apps, and it might be the most popular. forScore is for iOS, and it works on most iPad models. If you use Android, there are tons of alternatives, but I’m going to stick with forScore for now.
With forScore, you can turn your iPad into a digital sheet music library. Gone are the days of carrying tons of sheet music books and folders around from rehearsal to rehearsal. If you have everything on your iPad, you can just bring that and your instrument.
Unfortunately, forScore does cost money ($14.99 at the time of publishing). However, there are tons of features that make the app well worth it, especially if you make it your primary source of sheet music reading.
How does it work?
At its core, forScore is very similar to a PDF reader. You can import PDFs into the app, and you can read them on your screen. But there’s much more to forScore than that basic function.
forScore takes full advantage of everything the iPad can do, including annotations and different page turning methods. To start, you can import a PDF into the app.
You can either download a piece of music from the internet or your email. If you have a printed piece that you want to use in forScore, you can scan the pages with your iPad camera.
forScore has tons of features that make it a fully immersive digital sheet music library. You can write on your music like you would on paper, and you can organize your files based on title, composer, genre, and more.
You definitely don’t have to become a forScore expert to get started, though. I’ve been using the app daily for a few months, and I’m still learning new things about it.
You can’t use forScore if you don’t have any music scores in the app. So the first thing you need to do is add a score or two. There are multiple ways to start creating files that you can put in forScore.
The first way you can do this is with PDFs that you can access on your iPad. If you have a PDF stored directly on your iPad, in your email, or in the cloud, you can use Apple’s share feature to open the PDF in forScore.
- When you open the PDF, find the share option, which will be a box with an arrow pointing up.
- After you tap on the share button, you will see multiple options, like Share to Files. You may have to scroll, but find the forScore icon, and tap it.
- This will automatically open the forScore app, and the PDF will be open there.
If you don’t have any PDFs accessible on your iPad, you can find sheet music online, from websites like IMSLP or FluteTunes. However, you can also scan printed sheet music using your iPad camera and a scanning app.
- There are tons of scanner apps out there, and forScore does feature a native scanner. However, I use and love Tiny Scanner.
- Once you choose a scanner app, you can use that app to take a picture of a piece of sheet music.
- Some apps, like Tiny Scanner, allow you to crop the image based on what you want, so you can crop out what’s not part of the music.
- Tiny Scanner also allows you to add more pages to a single PDF, which can come in handy for a lot of sheet music.
From there, you can follow the same steps as you would with PDFs on your iPad. Just share the PDF to forScore, and you’re ready to go.
Once you import scores into forScore, you can start to use the app. Up at the top, there’s a navigation bar that you can use to move from piece to piece. You can also use that bar to search for different pieces and create setlists.
Setlists may not come in handy at first, but they will be a lifesaver when your forScore library grows. You can create a setlist for a certain ensemble, so you can find all of the pieces in the middle of rehearsal.
Once you create a setlist, you can add pieces, and you can change the order. That way, you can put everything in concert order. What’s more, you can turn pages between pieces in a setlist.
If you want to organize your scores, you can add labels. Of course, you’ll want to set a title, which can be useful if the default title isn’t descriptive of the piece. You can also add labels based on the composer or genre.
forScore also allows you to add other tags and general labels.
As musicians, we all know how important a pencil can be. We have to have a pencil on hand to mark in accidentals and other notes. forScore has an annotation mode that makes it super easy to add those marks to your scores.
- If you have an Apple Pencil, you can use it to mark on the screen and automatically enable annotation mode.
- Without using an Apple Pencil, you can tap near the top navigation bar, and tap the briefcase in the top right corner.
- This will bring up the annotation tools, which include different color inks and highlighters. You can also use their ready made accidentals and articulation markings.
- You can zoom in to make annotating your score even easier than writing on paper.
- Tap Done to exit the annotation mode and get back to reading your score as normal.
Aside from annotating your score can also crop the music. This can be especially helpful on the regular sized iPad and/or if there’s a lot of white space.
You can crop out the margins to take full advantage of the iPad’s screen, so you don’t have to have a ton of useless space.
As your digital sheet music library grows, you may have trouble finding pieces of music. Luckily, forScore makes it easy. For one, pieces are already grouped alphabetically.
- To view all of your scores, bring up the navigation bar. If you haven’t applied any labels, select No Labels.
- If you have used any labels, you may see the option for All Scores.
- Select whatever is appropriate to view all of your music. Once you do add labels, you can select the right label that you need.
- If you still have problems, on the right side of the navigation bar, there’s a magnifying glass, which is the search function. Tap on that to bring up a search bar. It will bring up anything (scores or categories) with that in the title.
As long as you keep your music organized, you should be able to find scores quickly and easily. If not, there’s always the search function.
Now that you know the basics of navigating around forScore, it’s time to start playing music there! You can play music like you would if you read from a paper copy. But there’s a lot more to playing from forScore than playing from paper.
- forScore has a built-in metronome, which can come in handy when practicing. You can use it as an auditory metronome, a visual one, or both.
- There’s also the option to bring up a built-in tuner and a pitch fork. These features aren’t perfect, but they can be nice if you don’t have a tuner on hand.
- Turning pages in forScore is easy. You can turn a full page at a time in portrait orientation. If that’s not convenient, you can enable half-page turns in the navigation bar. You can then set the page to turn halfway through, and you can adjust the exact location of the turn.
- If you turn your device to landscape mode, you can view half a page at a time. This can help you see the music, though you’ll have to turn pages more often.
- On the other hand, you can also enable a two-page view to see two pages (albeit smaller) at once.
- Another feature that can come in handy is the ability to use perform mode. You can find this where you find annotation mode, and it makes it so that you can’t do anything by play and turn pages. I don’t use that mode much, but it can be useful if you don’t always tap the right place of the screen to turn the page. It’s more forgiving than the general use mode.
Of course, there are many more features that I probably don’t even know about. However, these basic features will get you far in the world of forScore.
If you want to use an iPad for sheet music, consider investing in some accessories. While the iPad is a great tool in and of itself, the right accessories can make it a powerhouse that no paper library can compete with.
I already mentioned the Apple Pencil, and I do think it’s a great option. However, the price is a bit steep, so you may want to start with a lower priced stylus, like the Logitech Crayon.
To keep your iPad protected, consider adding a protective case or screen cover. And if you want to make page turns a breeze, consider a Bluetooth pedal, like the PageFlip Firefly. That way, you can turn pages without taking your hands off your instrument.
Do you use an iPad for sheet music? Do you use forScore? If not, will you make the switch and give forScore a try? Share your thoughts in the comments!