Written by The Weekend Vote
Published: February 17, 2013 at 6:17 AM [UTC]
The basic idea is that, instead of lugging around books and piles of sheet music, one can easily store and retrieve sheet music in a digital tablet. Want to mark a bowing or fingering in it? Use a stylus. Need to turn the page? Just swipe your finger across the face of the tablet, or touch the right side to go forward, left to go back. Or, get a special pedal and do it hands-free.
Have you ever tried using such a thing? If so, I'd like to mine your brain. If not, I will share what information I gathered from a bit of looking around:
First of all, the use of tablets for reading music is becoming a bit more easy and widespread. For example, apparently the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra has converted from using sheet music to using tablets, specifically, using Samsung's Galaxy Note 10.1. (No doubt they were much helped by the fact that Samsung donated 100 tablets to the orchestra!) These appear to be larger tablets than say, an iPad, which IMO would make them a bit more readable.
Big performers are appearing on stages more and more with their computer tablets rather than with sheet music, also. A few months ago the Washington Post had an article that talked about pianist Sam Haywood and Jeff Kahane, conductor of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, using digital scores on tablets, aided by a foot pedal called Air Turn, to turn pages.
Some of the most common apps include: ForScore, an application for iPad ($4.99) and MusicReader. For these, one can use PDFs and scanned music. Sheet Music Plus came out with a Sheet Music Plus Digital Reader, which is downloadable for free, but I do believe that you must buy the music from their digital sheet music section, which doesn't include all their titles.
There is more, much more. For example, Tonara can apparently turn pages at the correct time, by listening to you play. And there are many more apps, though a lot seem more directed at guitar players and singers than at classical musicians.
Have you tried using digital sheet music, and what has your experience been? If not, would you be willing to try it?
What happens when the battery runs flat?
What happens when the thing is obsolete (almost instantly), or a girl sits on it by accident smashing the fragile little screen, or drops it, or someone steals it while you are off stage?
You share one of these poorly visible displays with someone else or what then?
What happens when someone turns up the stage lighting suddenly far too bright at the wrong angle?
How do you mark bowings and other fingerings permanently into such a device, if it can so easily be permanently erased or damaged?
Ever heard of data security?
What about copyright and printed music rights?
The companies investing in this make the technology then ask questions later?
The rush for stupid new technology is growing irresistible.
I thought the last refuge of real musicians with some brains was for page turners.
Try turning Widor for some wedding when your feet are already hammering away on the pedals & 2 hands are jumping from manual to manual, as well as pulling stops!!
Some page turners are really quite beautiful.
Robots invariably look like droids from Star Wars.
How do we fight back with common sense in this crazy world where companies like Samsung will do just anything to promote this rubbish?
Next thing you can't play a piece without entering some twaddle in facebook first.
What about...."Tonara can apparently turn pages at the correct time, by listening to you play".
Being as orchestras spend more time in rehearsals than in concerts, can it turn back to bar 234 at the drop of a hat, or 13 bars after letter "B" and find it when you can't even see the darn page on this stupid pad...
You know, the things we spend out lives struggling with, not to look stupid when rehearsing and fighting over the "right" bowing.
Can it do a Da capo??
Repeat the first part?
Can it help you relate the opening tempo and key to the one in the final coda?
This stuff is for dumbing down people's mental capacities isn't it, then they call it progress!
Not only that, but we are still in the computer stone age, and the next development will be far more useful and less fragile.
Wait for useful technology not some fad promoted by companies with more money than sense!
AS a previous poster has mentioned, too, the technology becomes obsolete very quickly. We still read manuscripts from the 16th century and earlier, but I had the devil's own time and $$$ reformatting my dissertation from 1995 so I could reuse it.
This would become obsolete tomorrow as a scenario.
Also if we have to be so "up to date".....
What on earth are we doing playing some renaissance instrument designed in 1550, shaped like a woman, made of a mixture of pine and maple, scraping away at sheep guts with a bit of south american wood strung up with the tail of a siberian horse???
Those little ice age Italians knew a thing or 2 we still don't, and they have lasted near 500 years with that technology.
It was Steve Jobs needed "advanced" technology, you know that old one called "common sense" which isn't very common any more.
He was so backward in his head he didn't even think it was worthwhile having cancer therapy in time.
Where will our fad for technology be in 400 years?
It's just a mere pimple in history, so will be the "APPS" and Apple store, and even protecting their shop layout...
Who are these nutters anyway?
1. Too small.
2. Too expensive.
3. Built-in obsolescence. (See Barnum...)
4. Shiny screens.
5. General long and short term reliability of electronics.
6. Creepy corporate tracking. Ew.
1. Our Friends The Trombones can discreetly play the Angry Birds during 12,646 measures of rests!
Don't forget that there are many bad things that can happen to "real" sheet music too. We've just learned to live with them. These devices make less sense the fewer pieces you're working on, and more sense when you have piles of music you'd otherwise have to deal with.
Just a couple of things to think about (and I'll say now that I know the inventor of Air Turn, one of the pedal devices). This was invented by a pianist who was, at the time, head of accompanying at the Curtis Institute. He routinely had to play the Brahms concerto, and Sibelius, and every other piece in the world, with 20 different violinists in a given semester. With this device, he could always start with a clean copy of the music, then add markings for one particular violinist. For the next lesson, he could exchange that set of markings for a completely new set, rather than bring a separate part for that violinist. Or, worse yet, rely on that violinist to bring her piano part to the lesson.
For us, we can mark in different colors for different sets of markings... for example in solo Bach. I still have my first Bach music with all of the fingerings from my first teacher. Now I can't use that music because I don't want to erase any markings! I plan to enter them in electronically though, so that they'll be saved. That way, I can put in the fingerings I would use nowadays and instantly compare them to my first ones. Of course I won't throw out the original music! This is just an added convenience.
Touring pianists who use this (and there are more all the time) just have to be smart about file management/battery stuff. Think about pro photographers, who always carry spare batteries, memory cards, etc. They don't freak out about what could happen because they're prepared. And they've had to learn about their particular devices. Many pianists carry two devices, for example. Certainly several batteries. Even that beats lugging around literally suitcases worth of scores. I play with one pianist that routinely plays 75-100 pieces in a single summer!
Anyway, I haven't used one myself yet in performance but I'm just about at that point where I'll take the plunge!
Don't forget the IMSLP resource where any number of scores and parts can be downloaded as PDF files which can easily be transferred to an iPad via the iTunes link on a desktop PC.
Someone up there mentioned bowings and markings as a drawback, but I think technology could potentially be *helpful* in this regard.
I am the (volunteer) concertmaster of a volunteer community orchestra. Right now to distribute bowings I write bowings in my own part with a pencil, scan my bowed part and email the pdf to the 1st violin section members and to the principal 2nd. Many players are conscientious and copy the bowings into their own parts. But some don't get the email, can't open it, don't have time/desire to copy the bowings, etc.
I could imagine a situation in which the section leader could edit and bow his/her own part easily using a touch screen and those changes were immediately shared with the rest of the section, on their tablets. It would make consistent bowings easier, and it would cut down on people talking during rehearsal trying to get bowings from the people in front of them.
The real problem is one that is already here with electronic media: licensing. Once I purchase sheet music, I have purchased it for a lifetime. If I like, I can lend it to a student or donate it to a library, or pass it to my children. However, we're seeing with e-books that the new e-media is MUCH more restrictive. Just read the disclaimer that you signed when you purchased your last iTune: It dies with you. One wonders what libraries will look like in a few decades--perhaps they will be starved of new acquisitions.
The rush to push e-media, regardless of technology, is designed to gather more control and profits for the tech companies and take it out of the hands of the user. While I'm not against the readers per se (I do have a Nook), I don't look forward to the day when paper publishing stops and we are all obliged to purchase media only in digital form.
As someone who hates "social media", values privacy, & is highly cynical about motivations, this tablet thing immediately forces another sectarianisation of society down everyone's throats.
The haves and the have nots again.
Regardless of the technical merits, it is designed to foist yet another layer of control where there once was freedom.
What about an edition you want, but no-one has heard of? (Simrock springs easily to mind).
"Tough" we have only a rights agreement with "zoo-bazaar".
Anyone who has experience with the giant bordel that even Apple MAPS came up with, would by now have grown weary of the next fads coming along, always wearing this of this guise of "BE 21st century" be up to date!
The APP store, the constant push-push of the next Ipad version, the next tablet that....and then when it all goes t...ts up, there's no-one to blame like Sony when they got their database & a/c passwords hacked to pieces by some little kiddies.
Haven't you learnt, the government is not even capable of data integrity without leaving laptops and USB sticks on a train to Clapham.
What chance trusting anything to chance, when the next concert is....err.. sorry the memory crashed!
Next thing you know, the flautist will be sexting the trombone player on his kindle thru the concert hall wifi.
No I'm NOT linked-in, facebooked, google+, yahoo groups....
I don't Microsoft, I have always hated Intel because they held back progress for 20 years.
I don't Android or tweet or any of that time wasting rubbish that people are dreaming up next to enslave you & spy on you.
**Just learn what are cookies.
They don't crumble too well, and what if some bum hacks my score and I don't want him to have all those annotations?
Well, once, like a pirated CD or DVD it's been released, it's gone.
Also let's not dream computers are waste free, they generate enormous amounts of toxic material and fill the oceans with our waste packing material to send them round the world from China.
Stradivarius was "with it", he made instruments that could have just about everything modified over 250 years then get battered in and out of decompression and humidity changes, and still be hammered out in a concert hall of 2500 people several times a week.
Let's think before we act.
Above all admit we DO live in the past.
Thank you, to the renaissance & thank goodness a warmer climate than when Antonio was working, where there's plenty of paper to print stuff on.
Stuff the whole score collection carefully scanned onto your "cloud", in pdf or on a USB or DVD.
Sibelius will even play it for you, if you need to try something out, or check for wrong notes in the original edition on your laptop.
When you got to your next hotel, you just download it, and get the "business centre" to print you out a copy.
Easy as pie & dirt cheap.
Worked OK for me with a little USB stick in China too.
Let's remember an ARM powered tablet is one of the worst most useless impractical formats to store anything on, least of all a book.
I just watch all those poor people on the tube, hunking around this block of plastic and thinking it's kool.
Sure it would be kool, if you could simply roll it up, or unfold it and stick it in your trouser pocket.
That is the next generation coming along, thanks to inventions like graphene.
For now I say wait for 2025.
Then it may start to be interesting.
That is, if the new freezing winters don't immediately need a complete redesign in battery technology, the sort of thing which even Boeing can't master....
If "this new model of technological advance is becoming our main economic engine".
Then we are all screwed.
Microshaft just managed to come out with "surface".
It was a vast uncontrolled "naufrage".
Nobody wanted one.
If we are depending on this stuff to get economic growth,- from products which either are dead before they even hit the market, or are already completely obsolete in weeks, then we should start making tests of our own sanity.
It reminds me of the great fad for the giant size plasma screens in people's living rooms.
Fast money, debt mountains, and all made in China.
Well today you can't even find a place to scrap them fast enough.
Same for 3D TV.
Let's get real, and start thinking a little about standardisation first.
It just took 2 decades to get a midi/score format in place.
Did you know that?
That in technology terms is light years.
Standardisation brought you the mobile phone thanks to this thing called ETSI.
There is no such thing as standardisation of any digital format for sheet music, and that is the principal problem of this mess.
Pdf? what the heck is that, apart from some cobbled together semi pirated mish-mash of Postscript for Unix and Adobe ripping it all off?
Pdf is a non format.
Are you really telling me you want to combine a non format with the ability to write annotations on it like with a stylus pen, or wacom type interface?
You just get even less standards based output...
There is an expression in the industry..."cr..p in = cr..p out"...but a bit ruder.
Tablets are a mess of ARM (which is merely a licence to develop a product), and a nightmare of firmware, badly developed operating systems, + conflicting interests of google and a nasty bit of Amazon.
Standards? You have to be kidding.
The day you can UNROLL a computer screen and it becomes a piece of paper, without a battery inside, will be the day we have made progress.
That will mean making new formats, and proper standards.
In an orchestra, the principal can make markings on the ipad and email the file out to the section so there is absolutely no question in bowings, dynamics, articulations, etc.
Of course there are drawbacks, but I do take a little bit of issue with the claim that technology is immediately obsolete. For example, you can still run ForScore on the original iPad (they're on the 4th generation now) perfectly adequately.
Maybe they're not perfect yet, but as more musicians adopt the technology the better the devices and apps will get. The more resistant we are to try new things out, the more we get in the way of progress.
From a practical standpoint, the screens on tablets are simply still too small for my eyes, and I like making copies of my music to work through bowing & fingerings and keep the history of the progression.
Are you just now realizing this? Yes, of course we are all screwed. There's a good reason why our economy (along with most of the other developed nations) has flatlined on real job growth.
Use the tablets if they're useful! The great thing about sheet music is that it conveys so much information per page. That's why I can scan my Barenreiter edition of a Mozart concerto (just 15 pages or so) and view it on a tablet. I'm not locked into any edition or digital rights issues. And I can keep unlimited sets of markings, something I could never do with the paper and pencil system (not without making another fresh copy).
Presumably I'm doing exactly what?
Schopenauer accurately described our self satisfied, comfortable world.
In our orchestra we have several musicians above the age of 70 who would similarly benefit from enlarging their musical parts.
While this enlarging can be done with a copy machine, I think that tablets also might have something to contribute in that situation. Having to make extra enlarged copies for some players can get both expensive and time-consuming. If everyone had music on a tablet, each player could enlarge it to the size that he or she needed.
This is becoming more important to me too as I get older and got my first pair of progressive lenses a few months ago.
I'm another "no" vote on this one, for many reasons already laid out above. Paper has served its purpose well for a very long time, and I can't see any reason to replace it.
At the most basic what is needed is a PDF reader with indexing and a means of turning pages efficiently, and the foot pedal idea is great, hopefully that would be wireless (e.g., Bluetooth). Repeats, DS, and DC are no big deal either, you can just put in the extra pages.
With regard to using technology, I'm not anywhere near the front (for example I don't have a cell phone, although my wife does), but I too am a little surprised by some of the hostility.
About the price of the device: The tablet can do OTHER THINGS too. Even if you buy the device largely for a single function (which I did -- it is the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 that Laurie mentioned), you quickly discover it can do a great many things that are fun and sometimes even useful.
About whether the software can do everything a printed page can do: Maybe not YET. Remember when people swore their leather-bound DayPlanner was better than anything on a computer? Then the day came when they realized the value of having something SEARCHABLE. Then the Palm Pilot put the whole thing in their shirt pocket! Now it's on your phone. The Palm Pilot is obsolete. This is a GOOD THING. Folks, technology is *supposed* to advance.
I got an app called iRealb for the Android tablet. It plays a reasonable bass, drums, and piano accompaniment for 1300 jazz tunes from the standard repertoire. Is it just as good as live rhythm section for the purpose of performance? Of course not. But it's way more fun than a metronome for just practicing late at night. Since I play the piano (another electronic toy that some would argue I dont need), I dim out the piano comping in iRealb, connect sports earbuds to the tablet and then put over-the-ear headphones over that, and it sounds great. It plays in any tempo and in any key. Easy to read on the 10" screen of the tablet. You want standardization? iRealb exports MIDI.
Downside, yes the tablet setup cost $600 but its my money.
David Finckel and Philip Setzer had old-fashioned paper music on their stands, and one of their page turns was a bit noisy – I normally would not have thought anything of it, but it was a contrast to Wu Han’s silent page turns. Although there was a lot of audience chatter at intermission about the iPad, the playing was, in turns, so incredibly passionate, tender, connected, playful, exuberant (I could go on forever) that the novelty of the iPad did not distract from the music. As for myself, it’s going on the wish list!
Karen, another thing I thought about, in regards to an orchestra using a tablet: surely the technology exists to make it possible for the section leader to enter new bowings in, with a stylus, and then to have the markings appear instantly in the parts of everyone in the section... wouldn't that be cool? I'm thinking of this because I just did a performance in which, even after everyone's best efforts to communicate the bowings, the section leader wound up taking everyone's parts home to mark them the night before the concert.
Laurie's idea about beings for the section is an obvious next step for orchestras everywhere. I can't tell you how much time that would save the Philharmonic librarians, not to mention wasted effort during rehearsal on the part of the players. And how about the unspoken rule that we don't put any fingerings in the parts? If we knew that we could wipe out any fingerings at the end of the week, we could feel free to mark at will!
What about the person who hasn't got, or doesn't want a tablet, and who wants to take the part to (fill space) study in their hotel room/home for the night.
You also conveniently sidestepped the issue of theft, which may not occur to you in comfortable US or A, but which makes such ideas totally impractical in any BRIC country.
What happens when a tablet goes missing?
For a few sheets of paper, no big deal, and unsaleable!
There are many highly criminalised societies throughout Europe, and it's hard enough to prevent instruments disappearing never mind gadgets.
Resale values of tablets presents a perfect chance for some gang to make a killing in no more than a few minutes, from nothing more than a car boot sale, or market stall.
Haven't you ever heard of the theft of enormous quantities of copper cable from British railway lines, iron manhole covers by the 1000, lead from church roofs, and cars vanishing from streets to be weighed in for scrap,- most of it just to get a miserable 20-50 quid, driven around by some Romanian in the UK in a knackered Ford Transit.
These guys are not stupid.
They target people like you, as 2 attempts to steal my notebook from under my very arm on 2 separate days in St Petersbourg metro demonstrates beautifully.
Imagine the golden opportunity to steal 60 tablets from an orchestra on tour, either in airport baggage handling or by breaking into their cloakroom, or an "insider job"?
(I have heard of the ENTIRE musical instrument inventory of an orchestra get stolen overnight in Russia).
Do you live in such a "protected elite world" that you are totally oblivious to all this going on around you on a daily basis?
Surely also we can be more civilized than to entertain your cheap shots against Romanians or any other nationality or ethnicity.
Be careful what you say.
It happened last week in our own Ural area of Chelyabinsk.
It was brightly visible as strong as the sun 700kms away in Sverdlovsk and Orel.
If the asteroid had in fact burnt out some 10 miles lower down (as in 1908 in Tunguska), not only would there be no tablets or PCs, for some 100 miles surrounding it, but we would be burying upwards of half a million people, as the explosion was the same size as a small hydrogen bomb.(220KT)
In the event there was more broken glass, scares and over 1000 people hospitalised with moderate to severe lacerations.
Don't joke about such things, they happen.
Was that supposed to be funny?
This might seem very OT and perhaps far fetched but....
FYI, 21st century mankind is not anything like as clever as you might think.
It only takes a global cooling of a tiny 2-3C, we all freeze & the grain harvest of Canada will fail.
You know the stuff people use to make lots of different kinds of food inc those hamburgers you like so much?
It is precisely what is happening now, with the record low in sunspot activity of solar cycle 24 and the noted shift in jet stream activity.
It then only takes just one "Carrington event" like the one of 1859, your entire US electricity will be down for months, (like the minor one in 1989.)
All the cellphone and wifi networks will be burnt out, any unprotected electronic devices will be fried, because they are simply not designed for EMP, and the GPS system would give massive errors & probably fail.
You might think this sounds like apocalypse now?
We have become dependent on very poor technologies made on the cheap in Taiwan & the PRC.
Did you know, the Russian harvest failed in 2010 because the jetstream shift caused it to be far too hot.
For the last 5 years there has been nothing remotely resembling a summer in the UK, and 1000s have had to live through repeated episodes of flooded houses.
In 1693-4 people 15% of Scottish population died of famine, (for much the same reasons).
When the Maunder minimun was here, Amati was making violins & trained Stradivarius with wood that grew with tight tree rings characteristic of slower growth.
Or when the Dalton minimum was were here, you had Dickens writing about freezing London & ice fairs were held on the Thames.
Don't laugh..people replacing their windows in mid winter Ural, are not laughing a whole lot just now.
“Always use the best tool for the job.” Quote from my dad!
I don't want to use an iPad to conduct my next chamber orchestra concert. I'll use the sheet music.
I don't want to carry four orchestral scores to a meeting that requires two train connections and a twenty minute walk. I'll study the scores on my iPad. The meeting had nothing to do with music but I wanted to make the most of the four hours on the train. I need my iPad for a presentation so I was taking it anyway.
As a violin teacher, I'll keep my pupil's piano scores on my iPad and use it to play from - I just find it easier. I can also annotate each piano score for individual pupils and keep my pupil notes on it. I’m also a rubbish page turner, the sheet music normally ends on the floor at some point of the lesson! I don’t have that problem with my iPad.
When I'm practicing myself, I may download a new work on to my iPad to read through it. If it's something that I want to invest time in learning I'll buy the sheet music. No, not print it for free. (I think there is a good blog on http://imslp.org and the future of music publishers...)
For me, as a violin teacher, the use of the iPad has been interesting. Your pupil is not bowing straight. Take a 30 sec video of them and let them see it. Email it home to let their parents see it. When they've sorted it out, video them again and watch the two side by side. I guarantee you a huge smile from the pupil. Pupils and parents love to see good result.
You have a pupil that can't play a scale in tune. Record the scale. Before playing it back to them get them to comment about their tuning. Play it back then ask them if they noticed anything else. Initially they will be amazed at how much they missed. It really helps them to focus on their listening skills.
Record one of their pieces every now and again and email it home. Over time it gives them a clear picture of how they have improved. Again, their parent’s love it. It also makes a perfect CD gift to Grandparents for Christmas. They normally cry (hopefully because it’s good…)
No, I don't spend all my teaching time playing with my iPad, when I do it’s for a specific learning objective. Most kids are in to tech so they like to see it in a lesson. Yes, I do ask permission from parents before taking videos of pupils.
I hope I use my iPad as a musical tool to do a certain job - help me or my pupils enjoy the world of music making even more. (I can also play Angry Birds on it too…)
I agree with the idea of using the best solution for each situation!
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