As soon as the iPad was announced, it became clear that the device had all the potential in the world to be everything the Music Pad Pro (we own one at the school where I teach) wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong–I give a lot of credit to Freehand for being pioneers in the field and making a device that could replace sheet music. But as I’ve discussed before on this blog, the hardware itself never seemed to catch up with the concept. The Music Pad Pro is large, has seemingly poor resolution, and can only be used for one purpose. The iPad has a screen that is nearly as large as the Music Pad Pro, with much more internal memory (without a USB slot), has a higher resolution screen, seemingly operates much faster, the battery lasts 10 hours or longer, and in its most expensive format (3G) is still $50 than what we paid for the Music Pad Pro. I need to contact our IT staff and see if we can auction that device on eBay and buy an iPad in it’s place.
Both Freehand and one of their competitors (Music Reader) have written comments to prior articles on this site, and they are in the process of creating iPad applications, and I look forward to trying those applications.
One company beat all those other companies to the punch, and introduced ForScore, a PDF viewer and a metronome, for $2.99 about a week after the launch of the iPad (That pricing may have been introductory). Just today they released an update which solved some of the issues I had experienced, and another version with even more functionality is around the corner.
The program comes loaded with a lot of piano music, which might be difficult to read until you turn the iPad on it’s side. Then you can scroll down, and then tap the lower right or left hand corners of the page, or swipe left or right, to move pages. If you press and hold on the screen, you can type notes about the piece. If you tap anywhere above the bottom corners, the screen darkens a shade and the top menu items appear. The menu items allow you to choose a piece, use a metronome, and disable animations.
That’s about it. One person on the App Store commented, “All it is, is a PDF reader with a metronome.” Yep, that’s about it. Keep it simple and elegant. ForScore doesn’t have to worry about offering a specific library; that’s up to the user to figure out.
You can upload PDFs while tethered via iTunes, and the company recommends the addition of 8.5×11 PDFs in black and white. I’ve tried this feature with one of my choir’s songs (the screen of the iPad is the same size as a choral octavo). Ultimately, I think I will need to photocopy the music, making it slightly larger, then scan it, and then import it to iTunes. I have no fear of copyright; we own roughly 60 pieces of each song in our library, and instead of using the sheet music, I’ll use a digital copy instead, which I am not distributing. I’d like to see publishers offer a PDF of every sheet of music, with a license, just as what is offered by Masterworks Press.
Of course, music from the Choral Public Domain Library is often in 8.5×11 PDF format.
ForScore promises the ability to make notations in/on the music with their next version, along with even speedier page turns. I also want to see the ability to create “set lists,” the ability to quickly jump back and forth in a piece (or to use a slider bar), have the ability to edit the title/composer information of a song while in the application, have the ability to export an edited file with added notations in the music and the notes that may have been created. Having the ability to zoom in on score while making notations would be a useful addition, too..and if Apple will allow it, so would the ability to show the score through the iPad’s VGA connector, for the purpose of music education. I’d also like to see an embedded help menu or instruction manual with the app. The instructions appear when you open the app the first time, and then are impossible (at least for me) to find afterwards!
I really like this app and the developer’s commitment to improve the program quickly and to add new functionality. The company’s willingness to be transparent through their blog and Twitter accounts is also impressive. I’m excited to see where this app will go, as it is a perfect match for my occupation and my target audience (choir music).
If you have an iPad, and you are a musician (or music educator), buy this app.