The Devil’s Instrument Meets the Devil’s Technology: Reading Violin Music on an iPad

November 7, 2021, 7:37 PM · For no particular reason now that I think about it, I have always been rather averse to linking technology and the violin in any way. It may have been that I subconsciously absorbed the prejudice against computers evinced by my youthful idol, Jascha Heifetz, who believed they were one of the worst things on the planet. Who knows? Indeed, when I heard about orchestral players putting up iPads on their music stands, it did seem to me that the world was taking a horrible turn for the worse. Now we are even seeing them proudly displayed on music stands in masterclasses, too!

iPad on music stand

Thus, I am rather surprised to find that I am now enjoying using my iPad as a resource that has a wide range of benefits. There was no initial impetus other than sheer boredom that compelled me to download the Edition Henle app to see what it was about.

Having stuck that on the screen, I thought it might be nice to download a single movement of unaccompanied Bach, since it was dirt-cheap and I could perhaps review it in coffee breaks. To my surprise, I realized I had found something that would be of considerable value to me for the following reasons:

These days I teach online, using a combination of iPad and computer. This unfortunately compels me to work in our spare room, which is already packed from floor to ceiling with language teaching textbooks. As necessary etude books and other sheet music began making their way over from the music room proper, I was finding myself sinking deeper and deeper into a chaotic morass.

Part of the problem was that these days I do what is called "online standby teaching," so anyone can call me and get a lesson on anything with only five minutes notice. I simply don’t have time to shuffle through piles of music or go and fetch the work from elsewhere. With the iPad resources to hand, the problem has, for the most part, been solved. One touch of the screen and I have what I need (usually).

There is another tangible benefit: A slight but significant improvement in practice logistics. I can start warming up on one etude and then flick to a new one in a different etude book without having to put my violin down and carefully rearrange the books on my stand. Want to finish with some unaccompanied Bach? It’s just another touch away!

The app allows one to switch between editions of the same page so one can instantly compare fingerings and bowings of the urtext and versions by one or more editors (admittedly of variable quality). They don’t have my beloved Szeryng edition of Bach (why would they?) but one can write any and all fingerings and bowings in that you personally like using as many different colors as you want. It’s an iPad. Duh!

Finally, it comes with an unobtrusive metronome as well so you can speed up your tricky passages without having to fuss around elsewhere.

All in all, I would say this one particular bit of technology has a lot to offer in terms of making practice more efficient and more fun. It’s up to us to play better though. They haven’t solved that one yet…

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Replies

November 8, 2021 at 05:24 PM · thanks for the reporting on the Henle app! with this app, one is tied to music acquired through Henle? if that is the case, the "ForScore" is possibly more versatile as it works with arbitrary PDFs (if I'm not mistaken; I don't use it myself but have seen it). I suppose it's a dichotomy: the Henle app is free but their music isn't; the ForScore is not free but is not tied to music selling.

November 8, 2021 at 06:26 PM · Good morning from Wyoming Buri. Thank you for this contribution. I'm not familiar with many of the new apps for musicians. I'll look up this one you mentioned. Regarding technology, I like that I can carry quite the library on my tablet/phone and where available just about any computer here on campus. I'm happy that I have hard copies for when technology decides to throw a temper tantrum. It is nice that books and sheet music are being preserved on database especially with so many works that have and will go out of print. Hopefully this will help keep works from being lost. I like how it makes editing easier for me. It has its place.

November 8, 2021 at 06:48 PM · I'm finding that I use my iPad all the time for orchestra music practice parts, as well as string quartets. I finally used my Firefly PageFlip for the first time in a rehearsal, and it was great except occasionally I'd get enthusiastic with my general motions and accidentally tap the page-turner, mid-page!

November 8, 2021 at 07:51 PM · I find the ability to arrange things into sets is super useful. So I organize multiple works into an orchestral set-list for rehearsals, for instance. And I can put together practice sets that contain the week's repertoire, etudes, exercises, etc.

I really wish Henle would make their stuff exportable so everything could go into ForScore. Right now I end up buying paper copies of Henle and Barenreiter and scanning them, sometimes badly, into ForScore.

November 8, 2021 at 08:29 PM · Greetings,

yes, you need ForScore as well. The Henle is not so versatile and costs a bit in the long run.

Cheers,

Buri

November 9, 2021 at 06:41 PM · Buri, are you teaching random V.commers?

November 9, 2021 at 08:38 PM · Collaborative pianist here - iPad + ForScore + Bluetooth page turner pedal has changed my life. As Lydia mentions, the ability to organize material into sets is enormously beneficial. Practice sets, rehearsal sets, recital sets, etc.

More than once, too, I've saved the day by just having the iPad around. A student was to play a movement of the Dvorak cello concerto in a studio class - I was not accompanying her, but heard that she was planning on canceling her performance because she forgot to bring the score. No problem, it's on my iPad!

However, I have this nagging feeling that one day Apple is going to move on to the next thing and forget about the 12.9 inch glowing rectangle that we depend on.

November 10, 2021 at 03:17 PM · Thanks Laurie! When faced with moving a few years ago I had ALL of my music professionally scanned. I gave the hard copies to my former student. All of the .pdf files are not only in forScore but also in my iCloud Drive. I use my Apple Pencil for fingerings and bowings and love the Setlist feature. I personally scan any new music using Genius Scan and it easily is imported to forScore. I also have a Bluetooth page turner but my foot technique needs work. I love the freedom of knowing I can find anything without pawing through piles of music. With the recent iOS and iPad OS 15 updates, forScore now uses your iCloud at no extra cost to sync on all devices including my iPhone!! Clearly, I am not using my phone for reading music, but it’s great for checking things on the go.

November 10, 2021 at 03:59 PM · The Henle App is almost perfect. I just studied and performed the Berg concerto, which is always a pain performing because there are no convenient page turns. So the I pad seemed ideal, and i was over the moon Henle also had the Berg in their app. Not only can I turn fingering suggestions off and on, but most interestingly: they have editor notes. In case of the Berg this is very interesting since there is quite some discussion on notes, and performing techniques. By a simple tap on the highlighted section you read what is being said about it.

There is only one minus- One can not adjust the amount of empty space on the sides when using the “printed digital version”. But a simple transfer into the forscore app can solve this. (I also prefer Forscore with adding notes-it is more intuitive than the Henle App).

Baerenreiter also has an app but no solo violin parts, only scores. Hopefully they will follow soon!

And yes for teaching it is fantastic. When students play through a piece I write down notes and immediately airdrop it to them. I am a big fan!

If it would only smell like paper…

November 10, 2021 at 04:02 PM · I can teIl where to find a foot-controlled page turner for PDFs and Finale software, "joyinmusic@cox.net"

November 11, 2021 at 04:46 AM · I like the Henle app but my eyes are too old for using it in practice or performance. I purchase music on the app and print it out and enlarge it 120% and trim 11x17 pages to 10x14. It's much better than trying to align published parts on the copy machine.

Lydia you can export Henle parts to PDF

November 12, 2021 at 12:37 AM · I was about to say: Henle to pdf allows export to ForScore.

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