Using Your iPad to Position Your Music

Part of the benefit of using an iPad to display music is that it gives you flexibility when placing your music in relation to your instrument. Seeing the music easily, and being able to reach it comfortably when necessary is very important to performing well. Missing page turns, or fumbling with music between songs leads to a Bad Musical Day, and we want to do what we can to avoid those as much as possible.

My rig with iPad to left side

Orchestral instrumentalists are somewhat restricted by a relatively small physical space and are accustomed to dealing with a traditional music stand. An iPad is right at home here if the bottom ledge of the stand is wide enough, and the stand itself is not too wobbly (is it me, or do they all seem to wobble a little). In this case, the iPad allows the performer to slide her music left or right of center as desired, depending on the sight line provided by the instrument or the hand she has available to reach forward for turning pages. Adding a wireless foot pedal brings the best of all worlds to the orchestral player. No hands are needed to handle the music, and the music can be placed where it can be seen without having to move one’s head.

For instruments like an acoustic piano, the options for music placement are a bit limited regardless of paper or iPad because the construction of the instrument essentially dictates the placement. Fortunately, most pianos are designed with a music holder (I.e. the “music desk”) already built into the instrument.

Electronic keyboards, however, typically don’t have a music desk. Depending on brand and model, there may be an optional music desk-like attachment available, but my experience with these has been quite disappointing. They are usually either too narrow or too short, setting one up for all sorts of potential disasters during performance. Here is where the iPad truly shines.

If you play an instrument without a music holder, or where a traditional music stand won’t work, there is very simple, effective recipe available to you. Besides an iPad (and NextPage, of course) you will need:

  • An standard microphone stand, like this stationary stand, or if you want even more flexibility, this boom stand.
  • An iPad holder with a built-in microphone stand adapter. You may want one that has a flexible shaft (as I do), though it’s not visible in the picture above. You can also find some models that rotate, if you prefer showing the music in landscape mode. I’ve got my eye on this particular holder. I haven’t used it yet, but it’s an example you can check out as part of your search.

The microphone stand can be placed anywhere you’d like it – left or right side of the keyboard, or directly in front of you. It can also be adjusted to whatever height you need based on whether you sit or stand to play. As a keyboard player, I like to position it to my left when standing to play. While I do use a foot pedal, I often find it comfortable to simply lift my left hand off the keys, and slightly reach forward to tap or swipe for a page turn. In a very short time, this will become a natural, easy motion. In fact, it’s become so automatic for me that I’m hardly aware anymore that I’m doing it, which is exactly what we want when we’re performing. Of course this only works well when the melody can be sustained with the right hand, so the foot pedal is very necessary at times, depending on the score.

Positioning the iPad to the left as I’ve described is of course not going to be ideal for everyone. Depending on your eyesight and the lighting in the room, you may need it directly in front of you to see it well enough. If you are leading, you may want it front of you so you are facing the audience directly, rather than having your head angled sideways.  The beauty of the iPad solution is that it accommodate all of these and almost any other positioning need.

Regardless of your specific situation, displaying your music with an iPad can definitely empower you to perform better and enjoy your music more. The music notation must be made to serve us, not the other way around!

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