Display screen size for digital music (pdfs)

August 18, 2019, 6:11 PM · We now have access to a large body of digital sheet music, especially in chamber music works. Over the past few years, there has been considerable discussion in this forum and elsewhere about using various display devices for presenting the music (iPads, Android tablets, laptops, etc.).

Commercial sheet music is often printed on 12 x 9 inch paper and many of us have likely used music printed on 11 x 8.5 inch paper; a 12.9-inch (diagonal) iPad yields a display width of approximately 7.74 inches. For a variety of reasons, I am considering the purchase of a Dell 2-in-1 laptop (screen diagonal sizes up to 17 inches; aspect ratio of 16:9) or an Apple 12.9" iPad Pro.

Based upon your own experience and usage, what would be a satisfactory minimum width (or other dimension) of the music when rendered on a display? (I recognize that individually we may have preferences based on our own vision ability, use of eyeglasses, etc.)

Replies (13)

August 18, 2019, 7:32 PM · The 12.9" iPad Pro is perfectly good for the IMSLP size PDFs, which are generally 8.5x11.

If you're intending to read digital music on a routine basis, I recommended the 12.9" iPad Pro with a bluetooth pedal (I like my Pageflip Butterfly), the ForScore app, and Dropbox.

Edited: August 18, 2019, 8:36 PM · I think the deal here is that the device is not the end of the game. You need really good software too if you're going to have a productive and enjoyable experience, and from what I've heard, the iPad and ForScore is really hard to match with Android or Windows. Maybe that's changed. For jazz gigs I've seen people read lead sheets off of their phones, but for orchestral or chamber music I wouldn't want something that's terribly smaller than an actual printed page. Remember that the diagonal of an 8.5x11 piece of paper is 13.9" according to Pythagoras. So 12.9" is definitely close.

I'm typing on a Dell 2-in-1 laptop right now. I like it but it's a lot heavier than an iPad. It's also really overpowered computationally for just displaying and annotating sheet music.

August 18, 2019, 10:50 PM · The ipad 12.9" might be a tiny bit smaller than an 8.5x11 sheet of paper, but eliminating the margins entirely using common PDF software makes it so most things appear larger than they would in print.

I'm doing all my musicals and orchestra concerts on it now--annotating is a breeze in forscore, and sharing it with the players is such a huge time-saver with bowings, markings, etc.

August 18, 2019, 11:37 PM · You can easily put an iPad Pro 12.9" on a standard Manhasset or Wenger stand, and they make iPad-specific gig stands, too.

I own a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 as well, that I tried to use for sheet music before I bought that iPad, and its form factor makes it more awkward for using as if it were a standard music book. I can't image trying to do that with a traditional laptop.

August 19, 2019, 1:16 AM · These days I spend most of my playing time in front of a 27" monitor which affords a view of 2 pages of music, usually pdfs from IMSLP. It often helps to merge a blank page on the front of the pdf file in order to get the even numbered pages on the left of the screen and the page turns on the right. The resolution is still barely adequate for Finale scores in which the lines come out scarcely a pixel thick. You get a lot of stave ambiguity if you try to fit a whole A4 Finale page on a smaller screen.
August 19, 2019, 4:28 AM · I've been considering something like this for when I join my teacher's string orchestra (when we finish Suzuki 3). Just thinking ahead a bit. Is there an easy way to mark up a PDF score on an Apple device and to save those changes with the file short of having a full-blown version of Adobe Acrobat?
August 19, 2019, 7:52 AM · I have acrobat reader on my iPad which I’m fairly sure was free. I can edit documents on that and save them ( as in pencil annotations - tried it with my finger - apparently there are better things than Apple Pencil ). I don’t know how user friendly that would be doing it while at rehearsal, but if you have a tablet with acrobat on it see if it does what you want it to.
August 19, 2019, 7:54 AM · Its not really about the screen size - but about your visual resolution (which is all about the condition of your eyes and your need to resolve the notes while your head is some distance away). I can't work of an iPad as I need a large sheet and hence, like to use paper (great digital resolution ;) ). I can read nicely off my 15" wide lap top - but its vertical image size is only about 5" so you have to do a lot of scrolling.

Note that if you use a large screen make sure its not just 'larger' but that it has a higher actual resolution or you won't see any more.

August 19, 2019, 7:54 AM · Its not really about the screen size - but about your visual resolution (which is all about the condition of your eyes and your need to resolve the notes while your head is some distance away). I can't work of an iPad as I need a large sheet and hence, like to use paper (great digital resolution ;) ). I can read nicely off my 15" wide lap top - but its vertical image size is only about 5" so you have to do a lot of scrolling.

Note that if you use a large screen make sure its not just 'larger' but that it has a higher actual resolution or you won't see any more.

August 19, 2019, 12:58 PM · I'm wondering if those of us who need more light might benefit from the backlighting of a device like this.
August 19, 2019, 1:01 PM · If you like e-readers, you will probably like digital music - and yes, you can adjust the background lighting.

However, is it possible to make it negative too? I mean with light notes on a black background? I think that would help me....

August 19, 2019, 1:01 PM · If you like e-readers, you will probably like digital music - and yes, you can adjust the background lighting.

However, is it possible to make it negative too? I mean with light notes on a black background? I think that would help me....

Edited: August 19, 2019, 2:04 PM · That could be very helpful Elise, unsure if it could happen with a pdf. Good to consider, I've a few months before I need to decide. My stand light is already so bright that I don't know what my future stand mates might think about that, and I can see signs that I might need to go brighter this winter.

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