When I bought my current iPad a couple of years ago, I thought I would use it to sight read. Soon after, I started reading all of my sheet music on an iPad. And I don’t think I can go back to using paper.
But that doesn’t mean I think the iPad is perfect. There are a few cons but tons of pros to consider.
But first, this post contains affiliate links. Click here for my full disclosure policy.
When considering if you should read sheet music on an iPad, start with some of the benefits. Using an iPad can be great for busy musicians and anyone who wants to lighten their load.
Here are some more advantages that come with digital sheet music.
Everything in One Place
Keeping all of your sheet music on an iPad is super convenient. You don’t have to worry about forgetting an important piece for a rehearsal or performance.
As the rehearsals start to happen more and more, you might need to bring multiple pieces of music. And it can be easy to leave one at home on your music stand.
But when you put everything on your iPad, you won’t have that problem. You can load up forScore or another music reader app and start playing.
Search for Music Easily
If you have a lot of music and it’s not super organized, it can be hard to find a piece you need. You have to manually search through folders and bookshelves to find the sheet music.
However, you can save a lot of time when you keep your music on an iPad. As long as you use accurate file names when uploading PDFs, you can search using the composer or title.
That can be a lot quicker than looking in different places to find what you need. And it can help you find music in a rehearsal so that you don’t get behind.
Another benefit of using an iPad for music is that it can save physical space in your bag. Whether you don’t want to carry a ton of music or you have back problems, an iPad is amazing.
You can carry one piece of music or hundreds of pieces without changing the weight or size. And if you go with the regular iPad, you may even be able to store it in your instrument case or a purse.
Even using an iPad Pro can save space over tons of music books and folders. It can be perfect for students, professionals, and advanced amateurs.
Use Less Paper
If you want an easy way to help the environment, consider keeping your sheet music on an iPad. This can be particularly great when you download a lot of sheet music from IMSLP or other digital file websites.
And not only do you use less paper, but you don’t need to worry about finding a printer before you can use the music. Then, you can start learning the piece immediately.
I’ve also used my iPad to store other flute parts when playing in an orchestra. There have been times when I’ve needed to cover someone’s part, and it was nice to have it ready to go.
Fill the Screen
One potential downside of using an iPad for sheet music is that it can be small, unless you get the massive iPad Pro. However, you can still read sheet music on an iPad that isn’t as big.
If you use forScore to read sheet music, you can use the app’s crop feature. That allows you to eliminate the margin which really just takes up space.
Then, you can take advantage of the entire screen to make the notes a bit bigger and easier to read. The forScore app also lets you view half a page at at time if you use your iPad in landscape mode, so the notes can be plenty big.
Facilitate Page Turns
I’m sure you’ve had an awkward page turn at least once. But playing from sheet music on an iPad can help reduce or get rid of that problem. You can get a Bluetooth foot pedal to page forward and backward.
Another option is to use the half page feature when using forScore in portrait mode. You can switch into this mode so that you can turn half a page at a time, and you can adjust where on the page it will flip.
I’ve had some page turns on my iPad that were easier than they would have been on paper. Some publishers don’t always think through their layouts, so an iPad can be very useful.
See in the Dark
iPads are backlit, so you can see the screen even in dim and dark lighting. If you play in an orchestra or band and don’t have the best overhead lights, that can be nice.
You don’t need to worry about bringing a stand light just so you can see your music. Plus, you can adjust the brightness level as needed to compensate for when you have better or worse lighting conditions.
Of course, too much screen time can hurt your eyes. But it’s a benefit worth considering for anyone in an ensemble.
Wind Isn’t an Issue
If you ever play outside, you may come across some wind. And if the wind is really bad, you may need to use clips to keep your sheet music in place. But that can make it harder to turn pages and switch between pieces.
With an iPad, that’s won’t be a problem. Odds are, your iPad won’t float away with the next wind gust. You can play from your iPad and know that your music will remain in place.
Even if you hardly play outside, it’s nice having that option. Then, you can take on your next outdoor gig and not have to worry about the wind.
I love playing from sheet music on an iPad. But I’m also the first to admit that it’s not always perfect. Whether your Bluetooth connection fails or you forget to charge your iPad, things can go wrong.
Here are some potential downsides you should know about before switching from paper to an iPad.
Even the cheapest iPad costs a few hundred dollars. So unless you happen to already own an iPad for other things, it will be a big expense just to use for sheet music.
If you aren’t entirely sure you’ll use it, you may want to start with a regular iPad. You can make the smaller screen work, but you still might not have the money to invest in a tablet.
The forScore app is also pretty expensive now. I was lucky enough to buy it years ago for a few bucks. As of this writing, you’ll need to pay about $20 if you haven’t bought the app before.
And don’t forget about the cost of the Apple Pencil or some other stylus. If you want to be able to write on your digital sheet music, your finger just isn’t precise enough.
Another potential downside comes when you forget to charge your iPad before a rehearsal or performance. While you can still practice on your own while charging the iPad, other situations are more difficult.
In a rehearsal, you may not be close enough to a wall outlet. And concert stages probably won’t have them even if you are on the edge of the stage.
Fortunately, if you work charging into your daily schedule, you can keep your battery full. But it can be hard to get used to at first. Give yourself time and bring some paper sheet music while you make the transition just to be safe.
More Screen Time
One of the nice things of playing off of a paper copy is that it gives your eyes a break from technology. Computers are amazing, but they can be hard on your eyes.
If you work from a computer all day, you may not want to spend more time starting at a screen just to play music. And there’s also the potential for other apps to distract you during your practice.
Notifications can also distract you if you forget to turn on the do not disturb feature. A quick text message check could turn into a long break filled with social media.
So consider downloading only music apps and other essentials on your iPad. Turn off WiFi when you aren’t downloading sheet music. Then, you can spend more time practicing and not make your screen time too high.
If you decide to use a foot pedal to turn pages, be careful. The pedal can work well sometimes, but it might have issues.
I’ve heard that pedals can lag a second or two. The page might not turn right as you tap the pedal, causing you to tap a second time. Then, the sheet music pages forward twice, meaning you can lose your place.
On the other hand, your pedal might not work at all. You need to consider what batteries it needs so that it will connect when you need it to.
Is Reading Sheet Music on an iPad Right for You?
Reading sheet music on an iPad is an excellent way to lighten your load and find music quickly. But it can also lead to distractions, and it doesn’t come without some expenses.
Still, I believe the pros outweigh the cons. As I start to get back into orchestra and flute choir rehearsals, I’m excited to add new music to my iPad library. That way, I can keep improving my skills and gain experience as a performer.
Have you used an iPad for sheet music? What’s the biggest pro and con in your opinion? Comment below!