How to Tame Your Paper Music

Many of us who love to play music, especially amateur musicians including myself, often can’t do so without “printed” music.  We need a full score, a lead sheet, or at the very least a chord chart in front of us. We are also painfully aware of the problems of paper sheet music, and can share all too many horror stories about blown page turns, sheets of music spontaneously deciding to leap to the floor, or discovering at the very last minute we don’t have the right music with us.  It’s sort of an odd love/hate relationship. But there is hope.

With the Apple iPad and a “score” app, we paper-bound musicians finally have a legitimate solution that can solve our problems without stressing us out during performance. Using a score app like NextPage, we can eliminate the most serious problems that traditional paper plagues us with. And, instrumentalists who need both hands to play can add a wireless foot pedal to improve their performance capabilities even more.

The big idea behind a score app is that it presents the music to you one page at a time and allows you to move between pages using simple finger gestures or a foot pedal. NextPage, for example, lets you tap or swipe to turn pages forwards and back, and also allows you to skip to a segno or coda with just a single tap.  If you add a wireless page turner, such as the AirTurn BT-105, you can even use your feet instead of your fingers.

In addition to turning pages, a score app will allow you to load much, if not all of your music into your iPad.  Imagine having your whole performance library with you all the time!  No more embarrassment and apologies to the band about forgetting your music!  Most score apps require music to be in the well-known PDF format (please leave a comment below if you’d like this explained), so you will first need to convert your paper music into PDF files by scanning them before you can load them into your score app. This may sound like a lot of work, but if you put together a good workflow (the subject of a future post), it’s really not burdensome, and the results are absolutely worth it. Some apps will even allow you to take a picture of your paper music using the iPad’s built in camera, and then present the images to you as you play.

If you play multiple songs during a single performance, you ideally want to move very quickly from one song to the next. Most score apps do this by letting you organize your songs into a “set list” containing all the songs you need for a given performance. NextPage, for example, allows you to create multiple set lists, so you can save and re-use lists of songs for different occasions. If you play with a group that rehearses for multiple upcoming performances, you can switch between different sets in just seconds. When you play from a set list, as you reach the last page of one song, paging forward again takes you directly into the first page of the next song. Imagine…no reaching for another pile of paper!  Usually there are also ways to skip directly to another song anywhere in the set with just one or two taps. Easy. Painless. Pure performance joy!

Beyond these basic functions, the various score apps in the App Store have a lot of fancy bells and whistles, such as being able to mark up your music, share it with others wirelessly, transposition, zoom in/out, half page turns, and much more.

The bottom line is that you want to find an app that fits you. As much I would love to see you use NextPage, you may have some special requirements it was not designed to meet. But no matter what app you choose, if you can find one that simply organizes the music, turns the pages well, and doesn’t crash, you will be able to finally tame the paper music monster, improve your performance, and most importantly, enjoy playing more. NextPage was specifically designed to do these three simple things extremely well. Take a quick look here.  Don’t wait to tame the paper monster any longer, and good luck on your quest!


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