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As a chorus and opera singer, I have gotten tired of lugging thick opera scores everywhere. Most of the music I sing is public-domain, and the scores are freely available in in PDF form. I am working my way to a setup that lets me rehearse and perform by reading PDF scores from tablet readers, instead of from printed books.

The problems I have with printed scores are:

  • They are heavy, especially for rehearsals where we are doing numbers from multiple shows and so I need multiple scores
  • Photocopying pages from scores or printing from downloaded PDF files imposes a cost per page
  • Published scores are expensive
  • Some operas don't have printed scores in distribution for any reasonable price

What equipment set and score preparation process would let me leave my heavy vocal scores behind for good?

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Disclaimer up front: I work for the company that makes these devices, but also use the software they run myself regularly.

Have a look at the MusicOne range. You do lose a degree of portability over a tablet in going for a larger screen size.

The problem of rendering speed is overcome by importing the PDF files or scanning the originals into a library that stores pages as high-quality images, which render much faster than PDFs.

They also give you the ability to annotate the score.

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One commercial solution is musicreader.net, as well as the device "Freehand MusicPad Pro" (the producing company is no longer operational, however). ePaper is too slow, you need a TFT of 10 inch or more, especially since scanned scores do not reflow. Especially the multi-voice scores wont stay readable easily.

Exercise marks are difficult: do you expect to do that on the device itself? If not, any PDF editing program will do. Note taking is possible on many devices, you can at least put a dog ear for later reference (bookmark in the eReader sense as opposed to PDF sense).

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There are several music-score-oriented PDF display apps for iPad that are highly-rated. I'm not making any endorsement and I have no direct experience with them. The advantage of these systems is that they are designed to enable you to assemble "set lists" of scores that can be placed in a specific order so you don't have to hunt around for different scores between pieces. They also provide annotation features designed for marking up sheet music.

ForScore by MGS Development

iGigBook by Black & White Software

Do a Google search for "sheet music pdf for ipad" to find more.

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For what it's worth, here's what I've learned so far, in using scanned music scores in PDF form on an iPad.

  • Some PDF files containing high-resolution scans of the score take a long time to display. The degree of lag is a function of how the PDF file was made. In some scores it seems like the page starts off blurry and comes into focus.
  • It's difficult to jump to arbitrary points in the score (e.g. director says, "let's skip to page 166", those with books turn easily, I fumble fumble on the device)

  • It's hard to add bookmarks to PDF files to correspond to rehearsal numbers, to speed up jumping to points in the score.

  • There's no way I know of to make annotations on the score during a rehearsal, even an "x" to say "review this later". The built-in PDF reader does let you "bookmark" pages, but that seems to just put a red ribbon mark on the page, and it's not easy to jump to that bookmark during a performance.

In trying to read a score with a Kindle, I found:

  • Screen size too small. Not enough of the score is visible at a time.
  • The built-in PDF reader on the Kindle is really delicate. Some of my music score PDF files caused it to crash.

So far my list of capabilities to look in on-screen score systems are:

  • Should read ahead in the PDF file, digesting the next couple of pages of the score, so that when I turn to the next page, the page appears instantly -- for all PDF files, even those with high-resolution scanned images.

  • Easy ways to jump to page numbers and rehearsal numbers quickly, while rehearsing.

  • Ways to add bookmarks to scores for rehearsal numbers

  • Some way of annotating the score.

  • Displays each musical staff at least 7mm high, while still showing a complete line of music.

  • Displays the score at least 15cm x 10cm, preferably 20cm x 25cm, and a huge 50cm x 33cm would be even better. These are based on sizes of printed music scores used by commercial publishers, which presumably reflect the best practices of centuries of tradition.

  • It occurs to me that a system where you took one picture per measure or per pair of measures, then set a metronome like timing to scroll the stack of images may work. – Sherwood Botsford Oct 6 '16 at 1:26

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