More than anything, a tablet resembles a piece of paper. Apple’s iPad rests easily on a music stand, and – while in this generation, it’s a bit small and low-resolution – is at least the beginning of an ideal score reader.

We took a look at Avid’s Scorch, a leading contender for your iPad score-reading needs, when it came out, and followed up with questions for Avid (like how you turn pages on a tablet – hint, it’s easier than on paper):

Not Quite Sibelius for iPad, but Avid Scorch Could Become an iTunes of Notation (“Not Quite” because, while powered by Sibelius’ notation engine, you can read but not create scores)

Tablet Scores: Avid Answers Our Scorch Questions; Bluetooth Page Turners for iPad, Android

Now, there are further developments. Most importantly, in its evolution toward what I predicted would be an iTunes of music, there’s now a huge store of notation – Hal Leonard’s Sheet Music Direct is now available, powered by the Avid Scorch platform. That’s relevant to, erm, about half of our readers, because it’s only available in the USA (or if you have a US iTunes account). But I imagine we’ll see other countries soon, as Sheet Music Direct is an international service.

If you are in the USA, you can grab the app for free and get 15 songs free of charge to get started:
Sheet Music Direct @iTunes

Daniel Spreadbury, a gifted notation and education advocate I’ve had the pleasure to know for some time, details what’s in the new release.

New Sheet Music Direct app for iPad powered by Scorch technology [Sibelius Blog]

The highlights: what differentiates this from, say, a chunk of bleached tree, are features like:

  • Metronome
  • Tuner
  • Set lists
  • Sharing
  • Lighter than a tree
  • Turn pages with a foot. (*Possible with paper, provided you have a human page turner and you kick them.)
  • On-demand purchasing

In the favor of the flattened wood pulp with ink marks on it: higher resolution, bigger, easier to see, easier to mark up, the battery never runs out, does not cost US$499. (Not at first, anyway.) Oh, and you don’t have to wait for it to come out on the iTunes store in your country.

But that puts some significant promise on the iPad side of things.

There are also 90 improvements in Scorch 1.1, including better page turning features and page turning, but one of those 90 features to me jumps out: you get PDF support.

With PDF support, wherever you are, and whatever notation program you use to generate scores, you can now easily share your work with someone else with an iPad. Scorch itself has a separate link from the Sheet Music Direct app:

Scorch @ iTunes

I really want to hear from someone actually using these apps to read scores. What’s the experience like? Are you using it on a regular basis, or did you revert to paper scores?

  • On a side note, the ipad is also too heavy to use on those standard fold-up metal music stands which are everywhere. Having spent many a time photocopying orchestra scores (trying to shrink them down to fit on an A4 page!), the benefits of the tablet for notation are obvious. Considering the cheapest of kindles are becoming really affordable I wonder if its worthwhile for someone to start makselling a larger screen e-ink tablet device optimized for this sort of use? 


  • Experimentaldog

    I prefer a chart where I can see it all at once.  The iPad is way too small. You can't see the coda and need to mark up the score easily on the fly.  This is not good for last minute changes.  I couldn't see this as any sort of solution for big bands etc.  Plus, the harder you make it for an ensemble to read, the more mistakes may happen.  The iPad screen like most other glossy screens become mirrors under the stage lights.

  • Peter, your list of the advantages of sheet music on paper is good, but you forgot one or two: Paper will never glitch or crash, it requires no OS updates, and a paper score will still be readable 50 years from now: It won't require a new device.

    I'm not sure a tablet score would be bright enough to use outdoors, but if so, it would have one huge advantage: At an outdoor gig, you have to worry constantly about the wind turning pages for you. (I have old-fashioned clothes pins in my gig bag.)

  • Randy Piscione

    I'm really looking forward to getting a larger tablet for sheet music, maybe something Windows 8-based. Right now, I have one binder of music for the rock band, a couple of large binders for the jazz fakebooks and another large binder for worship music. I have converted some of my music to PDF files, so at least I'm a bit ready. I also don't think the iPad is big enough for the task. A tablet would also mean I wouldn't need to carry a music light for my stand so I can see in the crazy lighting in the rock venues. Jim, good point on the wind thing, I had that happen a couple of years ago at an outdoor gig, didn't have any clothespins either.

  • I don't use sheet music but it would be cool if the app actually "listened" to the score and when the next page needed to be played it just auto turned the page.  It could just use a basic tuner style algo in the app behinde the scenes and when that "highlighted" note was hit then it would turn to the next page….

    Well,then you would have to work out how it could register that "magic" note and not just a similar note in the score….ah well,it was an idea. Just thinking out-loud(keyboard?), catching my thoughts before my brain spiraled into another tangent of meaningless ideas and futuristic babble totally off track from what the original topic was saying…(clears throat),see what I mean.

    I love having no insight to a specific topic yet for some reason that topic turns me into a pseudo forward thinking,mumbling,mad scientist type with big ideas and no platform on which to shout from…..HEY! 

  • J

    I like the idea but you could use a pedal for turning pages.

  • Now there's a great use for the Ipad.  Piano players reading sheet music would surely appreciate this advancement.  Especially with the foot pedal page turning trigger like J says.

    Turning pages is a major drag when reading from sheet music.  Also, just getting the music book to remain open is a challenge.  And how many piano benches have their bottoms bulging through from being overfilled with sheet music.  I give this app ***** five stars!!  

  • Jack

    I can't wait for the day when we can also input music on a tablet using a stylus. I love Sibelius, but it's always been awkward to input scores no matter which method I used: QWERTY keyboard, mouse, or MIDI controller.

  • KCool

    freesoulvw – check out Tonara

  • Starda Vanyra

    The future is already here. The IMSLP has thousands of free scores online and there is also an IPAD application for it called Padrucci (not necessary to view the PDF files).
    Mount a wide screen monitor on the piano with and Apple TV and mirroring on the IPAD and you can view the largest scores. I'm waiting for an inexpensive foot pedal for turning pages.

  • I use forScore for reading and catalog scores on iPad. It has not any purchase option, but it's a great app with tons of features. Within the metronome options, you can set bars number in a page and forScore will turn the page for you, no pedal or anything needed. Simply brilliant.