I have been a supporter of forScore and unrealBook, the most inclusive PDF sheet music readers on the App Store, for some time. Every version of forScore and unrealBook break the boundaries of what PDF sheet music readers can do on the iPad. It turns out that unrealBook has one of the solutions I have been looking for on the iPad…you can save and open an audio file directly into unrealBook's own library (not the music library of the iPad), avoiding (while still abiliding to Apple's coding policies) Apple's restrictions of music library. You can even record over the recording while it is playing…and I am working with that.
But what working in a 1:1 iPad environment has taught me is that my students don't need all the tools I need in a PDF music reader. And truthfully, many amateur and professional musicians do not, either. This is why there are seemingly 500 PDF music readers on the App Store. In my own situation, price is a factor as we have no funds to purchase apps. This means that we have to find free alternatives. Although Chromatik shows promise, its current iteration was too buggy for our school's use. I will visit Chomatik again when a new version is released (it has been exactly a year since Chromatik first came out). We have been using PiaScore, but PiaScore has a YouTube viewer embedded in the app. This is not good in an educational setting. I e-mailed the developers, and they didn't understand why I would not want YouTube in the app. This might have been a language barrier, so if someone knows the PiaScore people and understands what I am trying to say, please reiterate this for me.
At any rate, I have been following Hugh Sung's efforts with the AirTurn foot pedal (and they are now branching off into all kinds of music accessories). Hugh has been hosting AirTurn TV, and this past week, he interviewed Scott Kantner, the creator of NextPage.
In a nutshell: NextPage is a PDF music reader that has all the core components–and then a few more–that a musician (student, educator, or professional) would need; but it does not have all of the features of forScore or unrealBook and does not plan to have all their features.
Every PDF music reader seems to have its killer feature or niche, NextPage's is to be a simple but powerful tool for PDF music. At $4.99, you can argue that it is $1.00 less expensive than unrealBook, and $2.00 cheaper than forScore–so why not get the app with all the options? If you teach in a 1:1, you may not want your students to have all those options. Or you may be a musician who just wants the basics.
What basics are included in NextPage? Here's my list so far:
- Reads PDF Files
- Allows for e-mailing the score to someone else (without annotation)
- Dropbox integration, works with “Open In” from other services
- Allows for annotation, musical symbols (currently a two-press action)
- Has a metronome
- Allows for basic metadata on each piece
- Allows for setlists
- Shows page numbers, or slider, or sliders with music over 15 pages on the screen
- Stretches the page slightly to fill the screen (I like this, not everyone may)
- Stays in portrait mode (no landscape viewing or 2-up pages)
- Allows for backups
- Allows for page links (jump to another page in the score; e.g. repeats, dal segno, etc.)
- Allows you to change page order and/or duplicate pages
- Allows to rotate the page for external display (if you were to connect your iPad to a large monitor, so it would look right on a screen turned 90º)
- Integrates with the AirTurn foot pedal
Yes, many, if not all, of these features are available on other PDF music readers–but two thing are true. First, there are over 300,000,000 iPads on the market. People have different tastes in apps. Second, this app doesn't have everything, and it does so intentionally. This doesn't mean that the developer isn't open to suggestions, but the idea is to keep the app as basic and simple as possible.
Just the other day, I was showing some music teachers some of the features of forScore that they never knew were part of the app. They were blown away by the features, but never felt compelled to dig them out of the menus on their own because they weren't critical. They are wonderful additions for musicians–don't get me wrong–but they weren't critical for them to use the app.
NextPage is an example of an app that will give you those critical components. And I continue to say that you should have at least two PDF music readers. Those two, for me, are always forScore and unrealBook. It might not hurt to add NextPage as a third.
If you have made it this far in the article, Mr. Kantner has provided me with some promo codes for NextPage. I would like to give two of them away to techinmusiced readers. Simply send me an e-mail, I will file your e-mail away, and then do a drawing from those names on Thanksgiving Day. (Side note: I forgot to do the drawing for the Music Resources App, and did so this evening, and have already contacted the two winners. My apologies for slacking on that one!).
As a reminder, all links here on techinmusiced.com are referral links. The app costs the same, but 7% of the app price (it comes out of the 30% that Apple keeps from each sale of an app) comes back to techinmusiced.com. Your use of these links is greatly appreciated.