Windows 10 tablet as substitute for sheet music

July 31, 2016 at 08:05 PM · I have reached the point where putting my music scores on a tablet makes sense. I am considering a Windows 10 tablet with 11.6" (diagonal) screen. Has anyone tried a similar setup? I'm also interested in peoples' experience with 10.1" diagonal screen and what software they use on their Windows tablet to display PDF. Thanks!

Replies (35)

July 31, 2016 at 08:10 PM · I've tried a Surface Pro 4 (I own one, though I received it for free). My advice: Get an iPad instead. ForScore is superb.

July 31, 2016 at 09:03 PM · I play in a folk band for English country dancing in which several of the other musicians use iPads, or perhaps Samsungs, to pull up tunes instantly as required by the caller. It generally works well. I'm sure no-one uses a Windows tablet.

With the number of tunes we have in our repertoire, fussing around with sheet music when there's maybe only a few seconds to the start of a dance isn't necessarily the best option when immediate random access is involved.

July 31, 2016 at 09:59 PM · Thanks, both of you. After recently singing the praises of my daughter's iPhone to some luddites in my family, it would behoove me to at least look into the iPad.

July 31, 2016 at 10:23 PM · Related questions: Do people use a special iPad holder for reading music, or will a sturdy music stand do? And the two choices of screen size are 9.7" and 12". Is 9.7" adequate for reading music while playing in a group?

July 31, 2016 at 10:24 PM · They sell special holders as well as clips that attach to a music stand, but you can just put the iPad on the stand. They're very light.

August 1, 2016 at 01:25 AM · There is also a clip for a tablet that screws onto a standard microphone stand.

I have heard good things about ForScore for the iPad and MobileSheets for Android. My eyes are not as good as they used to be. For classical music I think I'd want the larger size. For jazz lead sheets the smaller size seems adequate.

I'm waiting for phones to become lighter so that you can clip your music right to your scroll. Kind of like the lyres they use in marching bands. :)

August 1, 2016 at 02:04 AM · Great. Finally the audience will get a chance to make selfies, tweet, text and answer their phone while you reboot your MS in the middle of performance....

August 1, 2016 at 04:54 AM · Quick question, does anyone else have problem using touchscreens with built up callus/leathery skin on finger tips?

Rocky, more accurate event might be that the performances will be taken down once a week or so due to "updates" destroying drivers for the tablet. No music for the performers.

Francesca, for the love of GOD, don't buy Windows 10 device. MS dropped the ball on Windows 10. Similar to the way they did with MS Vista, and worse than Windows NT.

I'm not a fan of Apple products, but Ipad would save you a lot of trouble. If I were ever to get a tablet I'd get a Ubuntu Tablet personally.

August 1, 2016 at 05:46 AM · @Steven, you sound like me and my husband regarding Microsoft. I don't know if you're joking about Ubuntu tablets, but I'd get one if it made sense. Mostly, my husband wants to use whatever tablet I get for running something like vlc.

August 1, 2016 at 01:31 PM · I've found my Surface Pro 4 to be no worse than my iPad for stability, to date. However, for music annotation, I've actually found the SP4's stylus to be less accurate than writing with my finger on the iPad, at least within the software that I've been using for music. (I originally was going to buy a stylus for annotation purposes, but I've found that my finger is perfectly adequate.)

August 1, 2016 at 01:55 PM · The iPad Pro with the new Apple Pencil would be sufficient for anyone's needs!

August 1, 2016 at 02:52 PM · Actually, in my folk dance band there are some who don't need the dots in front of them in any shape or form. So, a darn sight less expensive, nothing to fall off stands, no batteries or other hardware going south at a critical moment, instant access to the music and, most important when playing for dancers, we can watch them all the time.

August 1, 2016 at 05:14 PM · Thanks Lydia and Corey for mentioning annotating. While practicing last night with this topic on my mind, I was wondering how I was going to make annotations on a screen.

@Trevor, you just pointed out why this hasn't become a topic in my Scottish Fiddle group. This is for my chamber music group, where we get inundated by pages of music. Violists often have different page breaks than violinists, so fast page turns can be useful.

August 1, 2016 at 05:30 PM · ForScore has excellent editing tools. You can draw on the screen (and it's got a nice zoom feature for really careful drawing if you want to do that), there are tools that make nice slur marks, etc. You can also erase things from the original part (I use it to erase pre-done bowings and fingerings, for instance). And you can cut pages apart, move them around, and so forth.

August 2, 2016 at 06:00 AM · @Paul, I was reading an earlier thread Lydia started about part-marking software. Did you ever try MobileSheets? I read somewhere that ForScore is instantaneous at changing pages and I'd be interested to know how MobileSheets does in that department.

August 2, 2016 at 06:21 AM · Francesca, as someone who operates, modifies, builds Unix-based OS, I am serious about Ubuntu Tablets. I personally find Ubuntu to be quite distasteful. It's too user-friendly for the people who are used to linux, and extremely resistant to modifications, and optimization. I consider Ubuntu as "free version of Mac OS X", and the only Apple product I personally own and can tolerate is iPod nano 5th gen.

Ubuntu is an entrance-level linux system that I think people should start getting familiar with. Essentially Ubuntu Tablet would give you a decent/high spec tablet that can turn into a lower-spec computer easily. It is also the most popular linux distribution, so just about anything has been done, and you can use google to search it. I personally have an android phone turned into Ubuntu phone.

VLC and Okular/Evince are movie and pdf software, which are very easy to install, and are standard.

August 2, 2016 at 03:19 PM · I'm not going to get into this on this violin forum, but I disagree strongly on your characterization of Ubuntu, although I recognize you may be talking about it as a desktop or device OS, versus its more typical use as a server OS.

Here's why you want to use a standard tablet with high-quality music software: Because you'll want to integrate it with a pedal for page-turning. Also, minimal technical hassles that get between you and the music.

August 3, 2016 at 05:20 AM · Lydia, yes, I am speaking for personal devices, and agreed, we'll keep our discussions to violin-related topic.

Although I agree that using a known standard tablet with well supported system such as ipad, or android have their advantages. I just encourage escaping from the main-stream devices and companies to anyone really.

September 11, 2016 at 06:15 PM · Cross-post:

Any further thoughts on these after a half year's use-- especially the tablet software? If there were a decent way to turn pdfs (either commercial, or copies of my own parts) into a readable page on the large iPad Pro I might just bite. Is ForScore/Apple the preferred combo?

I do like working on paper when possible, but the prospect of being able to transport basic etudes, Bach, and whatever else I wanted to look at in a single tablet has some attraction right now.

September 11, 2016 at 06:21 PM · Oh, I should give an update from my end;

I bought a Kobo 7 HD to replace 10kg of textbooks(someone offered it to me for $60 Cdn), and I also was able to load some sheet music in it. It is rather small, but it is not an impossible task to program/find an app to enlarge one line at a time, in according to beat of the music.

September 11, 2016 at 07:50 PM · I'm still using ForScore with my iPad Mini and haven't gotten around to buying a stylus yet. Still very happy with it, though.

September 11, 2016 at 09:15 PM · Thanks.

September 12, 2016 at 02:05 PM · Interesting thread.

I play a lot of traditional music, and desperately want to get rid of the endless printed sheets of paper which are cluttering up my house.

I've been wondering about using LilyPad to generate my own PDFs containing all of my current repertoire, which would then be copied onto an iPAD for using when practicing. What makes this feel possible is that almost everything I play is available in a strange notation called ABC, which is easy to import into LilPad. As a traditional musician, my ultimate goal will be to memorise all of the music.

Advantage of doing this way - versus collecting lots of PDFs with the tunes on - is that the formatting will be standardised - e.g. I'll be able to set it up to generate sheet music typeset exactly as I like it.

Anyone else tried this as an approach?

September 13, 2016 at 05:41 AM · Original OP here. I took all the advice to heart and am thinking of going for an Android tablet. But now there's the question of getting one with the latest Android, which just came out so there's exactly one choice, AFAIK. What is Apple's upgrade path like? How many iOS upgrades (and how many years) before an iPad becomes useless? I don't want to get a tablet with Android Lollipop (2 versions old now but a LOT of tablets are still on KitKat, the version before that) and then find out that the version after Nougat (latest) won't play nice with it.

September 13, 2016 at 08:38 AM · I've been using the same ipad 4th gen for nearly 4 years. Had ForScore installed all that time pretty much and it hasn't had any problems with managing updates, apple is still updating ios regularly. I am saving for an ipad pro though :)

September 13, 2016 at 09:57 AM · Apple has supported the iPad 2 (2011 release date) through the iOS 9 versions (basically through now) so you're looking at about a 5-year lifespan for a device to be under full support.

As long as you are using a supported version of iOS, you will not have app compatibility issues, assuming that your iOS device has enough CPU horsepower and memory for the app. This should not be an issue for things like ForScore, but can be an issue for games.

September 13, 2016 at 08:51 PM · Thanks so much, Sharelle and Lydia!

September 14, 2016 at 01:02 AM · Oddly enough, it's the Windows tablets which have the least risk of obsolescence in terms of OS support -- you can probably upgrade it yourself if you get one with enough hardware capacity to the newer OS, whereas you're at the mercy of the vendor for Android and iOS upgrades.

That said, Windows tablets are generally a good choice only if you want or need Windows for some other reason -- e.g. as a two-in-one. They're more expensive (unless they're under-powered and don't have enough storage capacity), often have shorter batter life due to the great performance needs, but they'll also run Windows apps and maybe let you get work done as well.

MusicReader PDF runs on Windows. They also run on iPads, but as second-class to their offering on Windows and MacOS. Wow, it lists support for iOS 5.1 -- might be one of the few current apps which will still run on the iPad 1.

September 14, 2016 at 01:32 AM · @J, I don't know if you read this thread from the beginning, but as you can tell from the subject header, I started out asking about Windows and was discouraged at the get-go. My son has a Windows 2-in-1 that has a lot of expansion capability. But noone came up with MusicReader before. I've used Windows (kicking and screaming) for many years and know its shortcomings, but I hadn't been that exposed to Android's until I started this search. Thanks for weighing in.

November 13, 2016 at 06:12 AM · Update: I bought an iPad. Last night I installed the free Virtual Sheet Music viewer and it worked great--for about 10 minutes. I'm going to try ForScore next, now that I know what features I want.

Since this past summer, our household of 3 went from 0 iThings to 3. My husband bought an iPhone to listen to news and podcasts on. He and I are both impressed with the sound quality of the builtin iPhone and iPad speakers.

November 13, 2016 at 04:49 PM · "I just encourage escaping from the main-stream devices and companies to anyone really."

An initially attractive philosophy for would-be iconoclasts. But in practical terms, bad idea. Tech history is littered with dead-end and orphaned software and hardware. Wang. Wordperfect. Encore. HP photo printers.

The best practice at this point is to simply use what everyone else is using because it's less likely to go unsupported or just go a way. Not great for those rugged individualists, especially those wishing to "stick it to Apple," but the iPad is the least likely to go away at this point. Choosing bit players in the computer industry, even ones that seem better, usually results in a headache and a hole in your pocket.

November 13, 2016 at 06:47 PM · If a particular piece of software (such as Word Perfect) goes away, the good news is that there is usually a way to convert your content over to the currently preferred format (such as MS Word).

The sad thing is that sometimes the software that is actually *better* is the one that goes bust (Word Perfect being a great example). I wrote my PhD dissertation in three weeks using Word Perfect 5.1 (under MS-DOS).

November 14, 2016 at 04:38 AM · At least I didn't pay anything for the Virtual Sheet Music viewer. It was free from, which I was already subscribe to. I'm always free to download the scores I want as PDF's, which is what I've been doing. I can transfer the PDF's to any other score reader that accepts them.

I just wanted to try the VSM viewer because it has all the features I need and it would have saved me a step.

November 14, 2016 at 04:48 AM · Well, Android stuck it to Apple and won. One can be a rational iconoclast, not just using "the different" to make a statement but because it works for you. Not using Apple is more than just a statement of ideals-though admittedly, I don't love their products vs the alternatives.

(Nothing wrong with being iconoclastic either, in my strong opinion. Be who you are, "normal" or not.)

But good luck to all of you that eschew physical scores. I love carrying and annotating them. Whether it's Apple, Windows, or anything else, digital scores are not meant for me-and this coming from a "technology" person who likes, comprehends, and uses computers and smartphones.

November 14, 2016 at 02:31 PM · I have to agree with Adalberto. I like technology. But I prefer my music on paper. I don't even mind wrestling with the paper, or picking the sheets off the floor when they all fall off the stand. ;)

I have an eReader, that I never even think of using unless I'm flying/travelling somewhere. Then I remember I have one and that it's much easier to pack one eReader than it is 5-6 books, lol.

I am though, watching the evolution of ePaper. It seems to me to have promise. Maybe not for the average Joe, but certainly might be a great way for orchestras to have a more user friendly technology at hand, without the bulk of all those sheets of paper.

For what it's worth, I prefer Android although I do have an iPod that I use when I remember to. I hate the iPad (hubby has one so I've played with it - and don't see the point) and I hate the format of Apple computers. But my younger son loves each to his own.

At any rate, we will use what is available and affordable and meets our needs. That will change over time. I have horses and a cart and I can drive them, but I generally prefer to drive my car...much more convenient.

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