Digitizing your music…It’s the way of the future!

I think we are at an interesting point in the history of printed music. While we still spend most of our time around music which has been printed and/or published, I have an overwhelming feeling that we are probably the amongst the last generation(s) to do so. With the convenience of traveling, lack of physical page turning, and the possibility of having not only every piece currently in your repertoire at your finger tips…but every piece you’ve ever played at your fingertips – it should come to no surprise that the tablet will be the future of reading music.

Carrying all of your scores in a sheet music app does a couple of things. First off, it is quiet literally your own personal library at your fingertips; ready to be called up on screen in a matter of seconds. This completely eliminates the clutter and consumption of room that physical paper can have – not to mention the process of trying to constantly keep all of those pieces of paper organized. Secondly, many of the popular apps allow you to organize a set-list. Meaning that not only do you have all your scores with you, but with very little effort, you can organize your repertoire to the exact order you’ll be playing in a concert. Not to mention how easily adaptable that process is – so even a gig the next day or week with a shorter or longer repertoire can just as easily be programmed in, even with all of your marked up scores.

This leads us to a major point of a philosophical process I’ve never really been able to grasp. Some of the absolute greatest minds in the history of humanity, have been musicians. Despite their elevated intellect, why is it that no one really seemed to conquer the page turn? It really seems that one of the greatest inconveniences that has lasted for the past millennium for musicians, is getting to the next page! While this may not seem like that big of a deal, there are two aesthetic reasons we should be avoiding actually taking our hands away from instrument to turn pages.

The audience can hear it. Whether it is on stage or on recording, everyone can see/hear a page turn. While this certainly is not the worst added effect a musician can provide onstage, regardless of level or experience, it can certainly be a distraction to everyone involved!

The physical act of turning the page can take away from the music. Yes, I said it. While my personal adaption and comfort playing from a digital source has taken years, one thing I notice now is how awkward it is for people on stage to flip to the next page. It often ruins the flow, or causes odd moments in ensembles when some people are left waiting for others ”…and oops! You flipped an extra page, so now you have to take even more time to get to the right spot”. That may be an exaggeration, but having been in that position before, those moments can feel like an eternity…so why not avoid it altogether!

So how can we avoid the physical action of removing our hands from notes and our instruments? Foot pedals! Yes, just like an electric guitar pedals, there are pedals designed specifically for turning pages on tablets. While it is no wah-wah pedal quiet yet, these pedals do provide for a seem-less transition to the next page. Not only are you not losing any time by physically reaching to turn the page, you’re also eliminating the noise from all of the movement – not to mention the risk of over-flipping or even the score falling from the stand!

The only draw to back at this moment to the movement – is the ability to write on the digital score. Yes, this problem is being addressed by the big companies such as Microsoft, Apple, and the other giants of the technological industry – but, they are not quite there yet. Granted, it could be a matter of hours/days/weeks before this problem is addressed. But in the mean time, I haven’t quiet found a product I’m 100% completely satisfied with. And let me reiterate – it is a problem I assume can be easily solved by someone and fixed in a matter of days.

While many of you may already have a tablet, let me quickly run down a list a things to get you started on your digital transition.

1) If you own an Apple product, there is no better app than ForScore for editing, page turning, and creating set-lists, etc. I do not own an Android tablet, but due to its’ popularity and from what I’ve read, many competitors may offer stiff competition, but the Apple/ForScore combo is the best right now. I expect the Apple Pen experience will only help it too! I’ve gradually grown accustomed to it, but I know use these devices on stage, for gigs, practicing and during lessons.

2) Bluetooth Foot Pedals – there are currently two main companies in category: AirTurn, and PageTurn.

When I initially began toying with this concept, I purchased an AirTurn. This product was good, but, in all honesty, I never felt comfortable on stage with it. However, it’s rechargeable battery has proven that it is a fantastic practice tool, as regardless of the amount of time you can take on a bar/phrase/or page, you can leave the AirTurn on without worry.

Recently, I was told about the AirTurn’s main competitor, PageTurn. While I was initially hesitant, the moment I started using it, I instantly gained a comfort level with it that I was unable to achieve with the AirTurn. The one, and only one draw back I’ve had with the product is that the battery is not rechargeable. Meaning that it uses two AA batteries for power. I am a little nervous about it dying onstage, but with a battery life of an estimated 200-300 hours, I solely use it for performances, meaning that I have to play a lot more concerts before the battery becomes a worry.

3) Pen/Stylus – For as fun as it may be to drag your finger on the tablet screen, I’ve found that using a good writing device goes a long way. The two big products in the market right now are the Microsoft Surface Pen, and the Apple Pen. If you own an Ipad Pro, or you are anticipating the new Ipad 3 rumoured to be released soon, then the Apple Pen is for you. If you own a Surface, then you already know all about it.

Some food for thought!
– Zak

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