A plethora of riches…another PDF Music Reader, by The Gig Easy

For the past years, The Gig Easy has made iPad stands for performance settings. I wrote a short note about their product in January of 2011. They have continued to make mounts for the iPad, including a very good looking portable stand. This evening, I was contacted by the company as they have released their own PDF music reader. The app was released on June 1st, 2012.

Let’s just stop there for a moment. Another PDF music reader for the iPad? Have you ever searched for PDF music readers on the iPad? There are dozens, including some of my personal favorites like forScore, unrealBook, and DeepDishDesigns Gigbook. Any rational person would ask, “Why would you invest development dollars into an app category that is so overloaded?” The answer would have to be: a) You think you can make a better product, b) you think you can put your own spin on a product, or c) you want to provide a complete solution for your customers. In my opinion, The Gig Easy is focusing on points b) and c) above.

On June 1st, Bill Murray tweeted: “Money doesn’t make you happy. I now have $200 million but I was just as happy when I had $100 million.” That is how I feel with PDF music readers on the iPad. We have a plethora of riches; other platforms have incomplete solutions for PDF music readers.

So, how does The Gig Easy iPad app work? Overall, very well. The app can interact with Bluetooth page turning devices (AirTurn and PageFlip Cicada). Pages turn very fast and images are clear, although I optimize all my PDFs with PDF Shrink and I am using an iPad 2 (I am not sure if the app is optimized for the new iPad). The main interaction with the app occurs on the bottom toolbar, which looks like the Mac OS dock, and it can be toggled off and on.

As you can see above, the app offers choices for help, settings, song info (metadata), pitch pipe, metronome, annotation, set lists, and your song library. I won’t discuss all of these features, but the annotation feature and the song info feature deserve some additional attention.

As I’ve said repeatedly on this blog, I believe that annotation is a key feature for any PDF music reader, and I refuse to take a PDF music reader seriously–as both a musician and a music educator–without this feature. On this app, annotation works well, and you can zoom in and out with standard iOS gestures (zoom and pinch). The app gives you the ability to customize the color for pens, highlighters, and text. There are also a number of music symbols (with a nod towards forScore) that can be used in a score. With those symbols, if you touch the box and continue to drag down and up, you can fast forward through all the symbols, and by touching the box and continuing to drag left and right, you make the symbol larger or smaller. The dragging feature also works for the color box, but alters the opacity of the color.

The song info feature is also worth a closer examination. The app allows for the storage of title, project, artist, genre, instrumentation, arranger, composer, notes, key, tempo, length, image quality, as well as the abilty to preview the scores in different formats (1 page, four pages, or nine pages at a time), hide pages, and to set the background color of a page. In other words, there is a lot of functionality in this feature.

There are some key features that are missing in this app, compared to unrealBook and forScore. For example, the original version of The Gig Easy does not seem to have a way to set “hotspots” or “links” through which to jump quickly ahead in a score. There is no way to link and audio file to a score or to play an audio file through a score. And there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to scroll quickly through a song. File management is a bit archaic whereas you need to use iTunes to upload and delete documents, although you can import a PDF directly from a website. There is no Dropbox integration at this time. The addition of Dropbox would be my first priority.

Overall, I think The Gig Easy has created a great app. There are a few features that should be added, but the app is already a nice addition to other offerings by forScore, unrealBook, DeepDishDesigns Gigbook, and Music Reader. Some users may find the Mac-like doc easier to use than some of these other programs. The app has an initial price of $3.99, although pricing of apps are dynamic over time. I particularly like the fact that The Gig Easy is committed to providing both hardware and software for the iPad for the use of musicians first (other people can make use of The Gig Easy products, but they are first and foremost music products).

Disclaimer: I did receive a promo code with which to review this app.

Addendum 6/3: I received a note from the developer regarding my statement that there is no way to quickly move through a score. I was referring to a slider bar to move backwards and forwards quickly through a score. There is a way to jump pages (not in the way I am looking for), so I thought I would let the developer’s words speak for themselves (there is nothing confidential in this reply, so I share this information freely).

I wanted to point out one solution to one of your complaints – that there was no way to ‘turn pages quickly’. If you have the Page Number feature turned on (which it appears you do in your photos), the Page Number appears in the upper right corner of the page.

  • Tap the Page Number and you will get a drop down. If you are playing only a song, the drop down will have all the pages and you can tap any page to go directly there. If a page is hidden it will appear in the list dimmer, but is still tapable.
  • If you are playing a set, you will again get the drop down but the left side will show all the songs in the set and the right side will show the page numbers for the current song. You can again jump to any page, or any song in the set.

You can do a similar thing from the Song Info page – though that would not be as fast during a performance… however, Song Info lets you go to any page (the small page number wheel near the bottom of the Song Info page) – and then use the LOAD PAGE button.

As a note, you can reposition the page number by tapping, holding, and dragging the page number elsewhere on the page.



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