V.com Weekend Vote: Do you ever use digital sheet music and readers? And is this the last stand for the printed score?

September 16, 2016, 11:45 AM · This week had people wondering, is this the last stand for the printed score?

At the same time, over here on Violinist.com we had Philippe Quint advocating for the urtext print score, turning to the Barenreiter or Henle editions, with their beautiful creamy pages that smell like ink, to study what's true and come up with your own solutions.

So which is it, are we hurtling toward a completely electronic future, sans printed music or printed word? Or are we returning to our roots?

iPad on a stand

In a New York Times article last summer about the phenomenon of "going digital," musicians sung the praises of the iPad-as-music-reader, noting that they can fit what once was piles of music into one sleek pad. Some of the most common digital music reader apps are forScore and Tonara.

Musicians also said they can find a lot of early editions and manuscripts that have been digitized. For example, Barenreiter and Henle have made many of their urtext scores available digitally and have their own readers: Here is the Bärenreiter Study Score Reader App and the Henle Library Score Reader app.

In other words, it's possible to go to the source, using digital technology. New technology allows the musician to mark up the score on the screen, as well.

Of course, I can certainly envision a scenario with both, just as I see a place for magazines and books as well as articles on the Internet. To me it makes sense to study the score from paper, but then to use some kind of electronic version of that in performance.

The question remains, are a lot of musicians adapting the new technology? In a poll several years ago, only 35 percent of our readers had tried the new technology. I'm wondering if that has changed over the past few years. So please answer the poll, and then share your experiences and thoughts about using digital music readers.

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September 16, 2016 at 06:51 PM · I find scores online and print them out if they are not found in any books I currently own.

September 16, 2016 at 06:54 PM · Great to see the Weekend vote back! I missed this blog.

September 16, 2016 at 08:33 PM · My answer: “I’ve never tried it,” which has 50% of 16 votes at this hour.

It depends on the player. I’m all for technological advances but find that, for some activities, low-tech solutions still suit me best. A digital device can fail. If it does fail and you haven’t memorized the score and don’t have printed sheet music on hand -- then what?

September 16, 2016 at 08:52 PM · Thanks, Helen! I welcome people's ideas for the Weekend Vote, if you have an idea just e-mail me!

September 16, 2016 at 09:49 PM · I am very much looking forward to digitizing my library so that I can ultimately move to having everything on my tablet. Unfortunately that is a bit of a long process but it will happen.

September 16, 2016 at 10:42 PM · I love it for traveling (as on vacation) - don't have numerous pages to keep track of - so I can keep my originals at home. Sometimes I will put on different variations or versions of a piece and compare them at a leisurely pace.


September 16, 2016 at 11:19 PM · For my violin music I really just enjoy the paper music. And I want it to be nice. I tolerate my Kreutzer being dog-eared because it's 35 years old but when my teacher assigns me something, even if its on IMSLP I buy the music.

For my fake books I'm going digital. With a fake book there is not a hell of a lot of notes on the page, just a lead line and some chord changes so it's easier to see on a 10" screen.

September 16, 2016 at 11:56 PM · I would try it if I had invested in a tablet, but ideally I'd want to use a screen that's at least A4, with e-ink technology (My mobile phone gives me grief when I take it into daylight) - It may be a while before any Kindle, etc. is that big, and when it is, it's likely to be fearfully expensive!

September 17, 2016 at 01:07 AM · I use paper music but have started the long process of scanning and filing on my computer. I also print music from imslp when available. For really complicated scores when teaching I am going to try the Apple Pencil soon on the iPad and use digital score for this purpose. You can annotate in colors on the screen and then save as a pdf so you could erase as they correct things and essentially not end up with a super busy looking score by the end.

September 17, 2016 at 10:22 AM · My eyes don't like reading from screens as well as from print; I tire more quickly. My opthamologist concurs: screens tire--& strain--eyes more than print, so I shall stick with paper, ink, & pencil.

September 17, 2016 at 03:57 PM · Although I haven't tried it, reading from an iPad would seem to present a dilemma that, so far, is unresolved: size. If you use a regular or Pro size, you have a top-heavy stand. Do people ever knock over stands? It happens all the time. An iPad mini is lighter, but the screen is tiny. I have both the regular and mini sizes--I generally avoid things like using the internet or emailing with the mini unless I have to. But even the regular iPad is still small for reading. So the dilemma is that either you use a larger, heavier screen, or you have to turn pages often.

There are of course many advantages, including no need to mess with lights in the hall.

But current screens are, IMO, intermediate steps to something really desirable. I'd want to see a full-size light weight screen, probably the entire size of a full-size Manhasset stand, which is 13x20 inches. I'd imagine the processor to be somewhere else, like on the floor in the switch assembly. It would be dedicated just to music to keep the cost down, instead of having GPS, camera, etc. However, I could imagine a built-in microphone which could bluetooth to a recorder somewhere else.

I've played quite a few chamber works that were page-turning nightmares (anyone ever performed the Kodaly Duo, last movement?), for which an e-screen would be perfect.

Bu so far I see using existing tablets as hijacking them into a role for which they are not well-suited.

September 17, 2016 at 07:26 PM · I've tried it several times, but won't use it again.

September 17, 2016 at 07:35 PM · Thanks for bringing back the Weekend Vote, Laurie.

I would certainly try digital music on an iPad if I could afford it.

One time at a bluegrass and country jam, I watched a woman playing with an iPad and said, "I just can't put together folk music and the iPad." Someone responded, "So speaks the woman who teaches fiddle by Skype."

September 17, 2016 at 09:24 PM · Another vote for the return of The Weekend Vote.

For screen versus paper, I vote paper.

I would be very interested in the "green" question of whether the production, distribution, and eventual disposal and/or recycling of paper is less or more harmful than that of screens.

That said, I have been very happy to recently receive not one, but two violin (paper) music libraries, and even though the music is used, it is still most usable.

September 17, 2016 at 10:29 PM · Scott they make an iPad holder that fits onto a standard mic stand.

September 17, 2016 at 11:27 PM · Also, turning the page by foot pedal is easier than turning a physical page. I agree there's a size issue.

September 18, 2016 at 04:25 PM · I thank everyone who wrote about the limitations of screens on the iPad and other devices. This information, which I was not aware of, is very helpful in evaluating such devices for reading sheet music.

September 18, 2016 at 06:38 PM · If you've never tried it, the foot pedal page turner is not as easy to do as you might think!

September 18, 2016 at 10:39 PM · Do they use iPads now in pit orchestras? That's one place where probably they could be quite useful.

September 21, 2016 at 12:23 AM · I don't have a sheet music app on my iPad nor do I have a foot pedal, which considerably limits the amount I use digital sheet music... however, that said, I'm going to get the aforementioned right now. I try to use digital sheet music as much as possible to save paper. As a teenager, I know that a few decades from now digital sheet music may be the only format widely available to us for reasons both technological and environmental. So I'm adopting it early.

September 22, 2016 at 12:53 PM · Gene, what makes it difficult? I admit, I've not tried it.That said, turning pages manually also gives people trouble, I had to do a tutorial on it!

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