Ask LH: Can I Use A Tablet For Sheet Music?

Dear Lifehacker, I am a musician looking for a tech solution to replace my sheet music with. My sight is poor at best, and because of that all my music is enlarged to A3 and filed in A3 folders. I've used this trick for a while but it is becoming very cumbersome and I am currently searching for a better solution.

One of the options I have been considering is getting a large tablet that I'll be able to put on my stand, but anything smaller than 15 inches will be too small for me to read, and tablets at this size are more or-less non-existent. Any ideas? Another worry I have is that a conventional music stand will not be stable enough to hold my eventual solution and I fear my new tech may be damaged by falling off the stand. Any advice? Thanks, Tuning Up

Sheet music picture from Shutterstock

Dear TU,

While it's true that seven-inch and ten-inch tablets are the norm, there are a handful of plus-sized options out there. Some recent examples include the 13.3-inch Toshiba AT330, the 18-inch Asus Transformer AiO and the frankly ridiculous 27-inch Lenovo Horizon. (The latter two are actually all-in-one PCs that convert into tablets.)

As to the second part of your question, you'll want to invest in something a bit sturdier to support the weight of your tablet — a custom stand with a heavily weighted base should do the trick. There are several tablet floor stands on the market that would probably suit your purposes, although most are specifically designed for smaller tablets like the iPad.

Another option would be to buy a wooden easel and make a few modifications to the base. (On the downside, this will be substantially heavier than your current stand, which is bound to make traveling a bit of a hassle.)

Incidentally, have you actually tried using a regular-sized tablet? A recent scientific study found that people with weaker eyes have an easier time reading on tablets than on regular printed paper — even when the font sizes are identical. You could also try enlarging the sheet music on your tablet screen and making it auto-scroll while you play.

Are there any Lifehacker musos out there with solutions of their own? Share your tips in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    I have been using ForScore on the iPad since the first version (of both the app and the device). Love it!

    I use ForScore on an ipad. It is a great app as you can import all your sheets via pdf or camera, add annotations/corrections, add related audio tracks, arrange sheets into sets and categories, turn pages with a touch or via bluetooth footswitch.

    iPad is waaay too small for piano music.

    I'm currently using a Lenovo Yoga 13 tablet/ultrabook which can show A4 pages at roughly full size. I turn pages by touch, but am still experimenting with different PDF readers for optimal touch interface since Adobe's idea of a touch interface is about a decade behind everyone else's.

    Try the Forte app on the Apple store - it's the National Library of Australia's new ipad app for sheet music:
    13,000 pages of music
    Browse scores by decade or composer
    Beautiful cover artwork
    Create your own list of favourites
    Easy to play music straight from your iPad with simple swipe function
    Share your favourites through Facebook, Twitter and email
    Learn the history of each score through the Library Catalogue

    You don't say what you play, which could make a difference. Do you need something that can rest against the built-in music desk of an acoustic piano, for example, or do you play an instrument that allows you to use a standalone music stand?

    In any case, I wouldn't recommend iPad (too small) or most garden variety tablet. Since the 1990s there have been increasing numbers of companies worldwide – including a group based out of Adelaide – working on projects that cater specifically to the needs of musicians, and coming out with variants on the basic idea of the digital music stand (a music stand with built-in display, page-turning foot pedal, custom software for reading electronic sheet music, and facility for annotation). So that's the direction to turn. It won't necessarily be cheap, but it's more likely to meet your needs as a musician.

    Here's just one option, the SightPad
    And another, eStand
    And a post about Digital Music Stands vs iPads
    Google «digital music stand» and similar – there's a lot to explore.

    I have developed my own database where I can scan the books I own into the database and call up any song I choose. I can choose any book or any song name to fine the music I like.
    I currently have to run the database from my laptop because I want the larger screen. It is more cumbersome that way but either I go for a heavier larger screen all-in-one PC, or I'd have to use a lighter tiny screen tablet, neither is workable for me yet.
    I do however attach a larger screen monitor to my Laptop which I use as a 2nd screen for my wife to use. She has a serious vision problem however the larger monitor works great for her. Being back lit also helps her.
    I'd love to share my database software however I've written it on a MS-Access database and the source code is easy to steal, so until I find a software company that would be interested in helping develop it (which will probably be never, I've already tried), I can't really share it, well not yet anyway. But for you Chris Jager, I could make an exception.
    The good news is, technology will catch up sooner or later and produce a larger tablet, probably 5 more years. Not only that, music viewing software is improving too and whilst I don't think their software will ever do what my database can do, they are slowly getting more advanced.
    To summarise, there's no real answer yet but it sure is getting close.

      Good... well what time can it be in Australia ? ;-) About midniht ? Hello everybody.
      I'me asking from Geneva Switzerland I never seriously learned English; pleases forgive my mistakes.
      After hours I found finally a web discussion on the other middle of the world about the issue which interests me. Like Mike Jager (sorry for any misspellling) my eyes became as old as myself but I would'nt have to stop playing flute (by the way it's already in Australia that I found the only (as far as I know) method for learning "circular breathing", written by great Australian flutist Vernon Hill). Thank you to any reader of this Autralian blog for advice and/or opinion about using a Lenovo 13 inches tablet for playing music on the flute, about sofwares making the notes scroll on the display at the rtight tempo, turning pages pedal and slightly magnifiing software for the notes. I would be very thankfull for any infromation helping me to make a choice, fi the good solution does exist.
      With best musical regards

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