Print vs. Digital Sheet Music

When looking for new sheet music, you have to decide between print and digital files. But is print or digital sheet music better? Is one better for everyone or for you specifically?

Print vs. Digital Sheet Music | Hannah B Flute

Some people will only ever use print files. But digital files offer a few benefits that you can’t get with print sheet music. Read on for more.

But first, this post contains affiliate links. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

Pros and Cons of Print Sheet Music

A lot of musicians start by using print sheet music. Some continue to use it for their entire playing journey.

But if you’re looking to compare print vs. digital sheet music, you should consider if it’s worth it to stick with paper. Then, you can choose the best option for you.

Easy to Read

As long as the printing doesn’t have issues, print sheet music is easy to read. You don’t have to worry about a small screen making it hard to see the notes on the page.

Of course, if you’ve ever been in marching band, you know that music can be small. But when it comes to solos and any indoor ensemble music, the size is big enough for most players to read.

No Charging Necessary

Once you get the print sheet music, that’s all you have to do. You can read it as little or as much as you need to while you practice or perform. As long as you keep track of your flute music, you can use it.

While technology is great, charging is a pain. It can keep you from practicing when you want to. But that’s not the case when you have a paper copy. You can practice and charge all of your devices.

Save Time

Since a lot of music still comes in print, using it that way can save you time. If I buy a print copy that I want to read on my iPad, I have to spend time scanning it. But that’s not the case for someone who only uses print music.

While it doesn’t take that much extra time, it does add up. If you deal with a lot of print sheet music, you may find it’s worth it to just play it as-is. Or you may need to set aside time each week to scan music.

Takes Up Space

Unfortunately, print sheet music isn’t perfect. If you have to carry a lot of music, it will take up a good chunk of space in your bag. And the more music you have, the heavier your load will be.

As someone who plays flute, piccolo, and alto flute, I like to keep my load light. I know my load isn’t as heavy as a saxophonist’s, but any extra instrument makes carrying your stuff harder. Using an iPad reduces your load.

Wastes a Lot of Paper

As more composers and publishers start offering digital downloads, it’s up to the performer to download and print the music. Whether you buy digital downloads or print music, you’ll waste a lot of paper playing print music.

This is particularly true if you’re in music school or if music is your career. You may have to play dozens of pieces in a given season. Over time, that will add up to using a lot of paper.

Potential Shipping Problems

If you order print music online, you may encounter issues. First, the package could get delayed in transit. If you need music quickly, that can slow you down and keep you from learning new pieces.

However, your music may also get damaged in transit. If the package gets bent, for example, that will affect your sheet music. You may need to spend time flattening it out to be able to use it.

Pros and Cons of Digital Sheet Music

Before you decide to stick with paper sheet music, you should compare the pros and cons of print vs. digital sheet music. Digital files can be very convenient, but they do have some problems.

If you want to give reading sheet music on an iPad a try, consider the advantages and disadvantages.

Instant Download

One of the most significant advantages of digital sheet music is that you can download it instantly. If you buy directly from a composer or publisher, you can get the music in a PDF file then and there.

You don’t have to wait for the music to get to your door. So if you’re on a tight schedule and want to start some new music now, a download is great. Even if you do print it off, you still get it quicker.

Save on Space and Weight

If you read your sheet music on an iPad, you can save space. Your iPad will never get physically bigger no matter how many files you download. That’s great if you have a small music bag or backpack.

It’s also nice if you don’t want to deal with a ton of weight. The iPad is pretty lightweight, so you don’t need to worry about carrying a massive stack of sheet music around.

Easy to Send and Share

If you need to share music with your students or chamber partners, you can do that easily with an iPad. Most apps have a share button, so you can use AirDrop or email to get the music to someone else.

Of course, make sure you can share the music. Some composers may not want you to share copies willy-nilly. But if you’re reading public domain music, you don’t have to worry about any restrictions.

Requires a Charge

As much as I love using an iPad, I’m the first to admit it has problems. For one, you need to make sure you charge your iPad regularly. If you have a rehearsal or concert, you should charge your iPad ahead of time.

While you can charge your iPad while you practice, that may not always be the case. If you can’t sit or stand near an outlet, you’ll need to either wait for the iPad to charge, use print music, or not play at all.

Hard to Get Used To

I had used the iPad to sightread before I switched to using it for everything. But if you’re making a complete switch, you may struggle to get used to it. Instead of setting pages next to each other, you can only view one page.

And you need to tap the screen to turn pages. Once you get used to it, it’s just as easy as print sheet music. But it can take time to get into the swing of using an iPad to read sheet music.

Expensive Upfront

If you don’t already have an iPad, you’ll need to spend quite a bit of money. The iPad can cost anywhere from a couple hundred bucks to over a thousand. I got the cheaper iPad to save money, but the screen isn’t as big.

A lot of people will pay more to get a larger screen. That way, it will be easier to read the sheet music on the iPad. But you have to decide if it’s worth the extra cost for you.

Will You Use Print or Digital Sheet Music?

Both print and digital sheet music files have their pros and cons. I love using an iPad, even though it requires charging and isn’t the most affordable. So consider if that’s the right choice for you.

Are you looking for digital sheet music? Want to learn more about using an iPad?

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