V.com weekend vote: Do you prefer paper music or a tablet?

May 29, 2021, 8:48 PM · I love reading music from a creamy, well-printed Bärenreiter edition any day, but I have to say that reading from a computer tablet has gained in appeal for me in recent years.

paper music or tablet

For example, rather than procuring 24 pages or more of paper-copy practice parts for an orchestra concert or church gig, I can simply download the music to my computer tablet. When the gig is over, there's no guilty feeling over throwing an entire tree's worth of paper into the wastebasket - with one simple keyboard action, the music is gone. And with quartets, we can agree which one to play, and if I want to practice it, I can download the part of IMSLP if I don't have it in my library.

That said, I am still working on the set-up for my computer tablet. I inherited an iPad Pro (2nd gen 12.9") from my late father-in-law, and while I've figured out how to load music into ForScore, I've recently realized that I really want an Apple Pen so that I can write more easily in the scores -- and I can't get a cheap knockoff for such an old tablet! And, if I'm really serious, I want a pedal page-turner. The page-turner is really almost a necessity for rehearsing or performing, since the tablet shows only one page at a time.

The point is, I'm seriously considering investing in these things, largely because it is so much easier to deal with gig music and quartet music on a computer tablet.

Of course, I still do have an entire library of physical sheet music, and I use it every day. I feel it's important to have well-published physical copies of certain music - etude books, concerti, the Sonatas and Partitas, and even important orchestra parts, like violin parts for the Brahms Symphonies, etc. I encourage students to get physical copies of their music, as much as possible.

How do you like to read your sheet music? Are you most happy with physical, paper copies of music? Or do you find that you more often use a computer tablet? For the vote, I'm not giving the option of "both," even though I know many people (myself included) probably use both. I'd like for you to make an argument for one or the other - which are you preferring at the moment? Have you never used a computer tablet? After all, they are expensive and they require a learning curve. Did the pandemic expand your use of the tablet? Do your eyes prefer paper?

Please participate in the vote, and then tell us your thoughts and experiences with traditional paper editions of music vs. computer tablets for music reading.

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May 30, 2021 at 02:28 AM · I simply don't have the money to acquire the necessary hardware to even try using a tablet. So paper it is.

May 30, 2021 at 02:39 AM · I like the immediacy of writing snd erasing on physical paper. I know you can mark up with a tablet, but still like pencil and eraser better!

May 30, 2021 at 02:56 AM · Someday maybe but its not a priority.

May 30, 2021 at 02:56 AM · While I don’t really mind either, I am leaning more towards tablet for the reasons you listed above.

Plus, as I am getting older, I can make the music easier to read in a darker room.

I have an oldish iPad Pro that has my life stored on it and I take everywhere ( within reason)

But during last years lockdown, our beginners orchestra was holding zoom rehearsals to keep things going and keep us sane. Plus I was having a hiatus from lessons and looking for new music. Hence a lot of downloaded music that then had to be printed.

I discovered that while in lockdown for most of last year, so no life , I had saved enough that buying a mammoth 12.5 inch iPad Pro was not a stretch.

It doesn’t go anywhere- I use it at home. For rehearsals, I take the older, smaller one, as it’s in a very robust case. The bigger one would weigh a ton in the equivalent case.

Now we’re back to real rehearsals, (up until now, at least - another lockdown) we get paper copies again, so I scan them in, so that keeps the paper copies safe, as we have to give them back at the end of the year, and I can share them with people who haven’t been able to make rehearsals.

I didn’t bother about the pencil as I had one for the previous one, which I hardly use. ( each generation of iPads has their own pencil - they’re not interchangeable) There are supposed to be cheaper generic “pencils” that will do the job, but they may not be suitable for scribbling on scores. The Apple Pencil is still overrated, compared with the rest of their technology. ( I have an ancient Samsung note tablet with an awesome pencil)

I can’t justify a page turner yet…..

May 30, 2021 at 03:20 AM · Last weekend I attended my first live concert since the covid started! It was a string quartet playing outdoors. The 2 musicians with paper were fighting the wind with clamps and even bows during gusts. The 2 musicians running tablets with ForScore and footpedal page-turners were completely unperturbed. After the concert I talked with them, and that's how I know ForScore was their software. At least 2 years ago I noticed some Yale Music School students using tablets with pedals on stage in their halls, but I couldn't approach to ask what software. The violinist using it last week said she marks up the music in red with her stylus. She said it will run on Mac, Windows or Android.

I definitely want that set-up, but can't afford the hardware yet. I will want a very big tablet because my eyes aren't as young as they were. It will be nice to be able to play in the dark in my room at night, to be able to explore the IMSLP library by loading the pdf in to ForScore. Many first editions are scanned into IMSLP, so that will be a way to study reading earlier notation.

May 30, 2021 at 04:24 AM · I had to go with paper as I simply don't have a tablet of a scale to even try.

May 30, 2021 at 04:46 AM · I’ve been using my new (to me) iPad Pro with page turner foot pedal and Apple Pencil for our most recent rehearsals and concerts. Yes, there is a learning curve but as long as I have to turn my own pages, this is SO much easier.

It will be nice not having to pack a box of music this summer. I’m just putting everything on the iPad.

May 30, 2021 at 06:03 AM · My new beginner album has both versions. https://universalviolin.net

May 30, 2021 at 11:45 AM · I have to say in pedagogical settings during the pandemic, the ability to markup parts and exchange them while keeping a canonical version on the iPad in forScore has been a real advantage. I love my books and there's nothing like the tangible aspect of them; but after over a year of this remote way of interacting, the tablet has really helped.

May 30, 2021 at 12:00 PM · Paper here. I don't have any experience so far with tablets. I like to leaf through sheet music -- away from the instrument -- as part of learning new material or reviewing old pieces. I know you can do this with a tablet. If I were in the music business, I might be more open to investing in one; but, as a non-professional who isn't a teacher and is no longer a student, I find that paper works fine. For items I don't have in my own library, I sometimes scan through PDF files on the PC -- just for reading, not playing. Haven't attempted this on the smartphone.

Then, too, once I know the material, I like to play it without referring to the printed page. Cases in point: Scales, Schradieck, bowing exercises. Same for etudes and repertoire pieces. Once I've mastered something, I like to play it from memory, keeping the sheet music open nearby only as a safety measure -- in case I need to double-check something. No worries about a battery running down.

May 30, 2021 at 12:25 PM · I voted for paper, but only because I don't have a tablet. If I actively performed on the violin, I would definitely want a tablet, for all the reasons listed above.

May 30, 2021 at 01:10 PM · With the new iPad 12.9" and ForScore Pro, you no longer need a foot pedal. It now handles face gestures, which allows you to turn page with either a head movement or a mouth movement. Eliminates the need for a pedal, although the gestures take getting used to.

I'm 100% tablet now. It's just too easy. Apple Pen is a necessity and works great with marking your music. No searching for papers. And get the Apple Scanner Pro App by Readdle. It produces really amazing scans of paper scores that import into ForScore for adding your paper music.

Sooner or later, digital will suck you in. Just too convenient if you play in groups and need quick access to all your music.

May 30, 2021 at 01:52 PM · Those who say paper is cheaper may be miscalculating their costs. I was spending over $60/month on printer ink printing out parts, and then $20 or more for binders, paper tabs, dividers, etc. I now use a Boox Lumi-- an eReader 14" tablet that has a built in light and can be used in full sunshine (no glare) -- essential for outdoor gigs or other performances. It's music stand is incredibly small and light weight. Battery life is 10+ hours. Best of all no lost pages or missing music. I carry well over a thousand pieces in my tablet, and easily download music from One Drive or websites as needed using MobileSheetsPro. Total costs with page turner pedal? Less than I spent in a year with paper, and much easier and better. Annotations are easily added or removed- better than paper. Best of all, I've lightened my load and never want to go back.

In the photo you'll see our string quartet using our other tablets - Samsung Galaxy 18.4" tablet -- two pages of music, side by side!

May 30, 2021 at 02:24 PM · I've not tried using a tablet and would want to try it out before buying one. I especially like the idea of a foot pedal to turn pages and not having to worry about wind blowing paper, BUT I am constantly marking my music and changing the markings as I practice or play. It is that feature that I'd want to try before investing in the equipment.

May 30, 2021 at 02:58 PM · Coincidentally, within the last few weeks I had contacted quite a few other opera stage managers to find out what application they use on their iPads for music. Some said they were Luddites and will always use paper. Others gave me their opinion, mostly ForScore. I don't have an iPad and have always used paper music to stage manage operas but want to try technology for a change! So as of now, I vote for paper but would love to learn how to do it on an iPad.

May 30, 2021 at 03:11 PM · The problem with either paper or a tablet is that for long pieces, you have to stop playing your instrument and turn the page. I have found a foot-controlled device for turning pages on a tablet. Now I can play pieces 10 pages long and keep my fingers on the violin. Pretty neat, eh?

May 30, 2021 at 03:22 PM · I have everything but the pedal but most of that was since the pandemic started so it hasn't become a priority yet. No one (that I noticed) has mentioned a stand, though. Maybe a professional music stand would work but the folding type, even a good sturdy one. I broke my old iPad moving it around on my stand. I was pretty much forced to buy a tablet stand for zoom lessons because it was taking a lot of time to set up without one and my teacher could never see what she wanted to see.

May 30, 2021 at 03:25 PM · I had to vote paper, because I don't have a tablet, only a 3 or 4 hear old laptop, and MuseScore is so intolerant (I wish it had a shut-your-cakehole facility so it doesn't move barlines, etc. until I tell it it can), but I must say the idea of Eve's Boox Lumi, with its eReader and 14" (ideally I'd like something even larger) carries with me an enormous appeal!

May 30, 2021 at 03:43 PM · I voted paper since I don’t have an iPad. However I am very interested in the iPad for all the reasons you have mentioned. I’ve not had the opportunity to see one being used in a rehearsal situation; only seen it from videos. I didn’t know about the pencil, so that was informative as I wondered how fingerings and bowings could be documented. Thank you for raising the topic!

May 30, 2021 at 04:32 PM · I chose paper because I personally like the experience better, but lately I've been using a tablet more frequently because I've been revisiting a lot of fragile music that's been handed down to me from previous teachers and has some precious markings in it, handwriting from my teachers' teachers (my "grandteachers", if you'll pardon the expression). A tablet gives me the ability to still use this music without it being damaged or ruined.

May 30, 2021 at 06:40 PM · iPad has really changed my teaching and performing life for the better. I always have all my music with me. It's backlight allows me to see better. I can mark up and erase easily. I put markings from a lesson in the score and then send the student a pdf copy of the markings at the end of the lesson ("this weak's markings are in blue"). I can turn the metronome on inside the Newzik app, and I have all the other apps on my tablet. The only thing I don't like is that I like to use apps on my tablet to practice, but if I'm reading from the tablet that's no longer an option unless I'm memorized or print out music.

May 30, 2021 at 06:54 PM · I've mainly been playing jazz these days, and in that world, the iPad has been a real boon for jams where you don't know which tune is going to be called. iGigBook is the go-to. But I also use ForScore and mark up with my finger or a "dumb" stylus. Because most jazz charts are single-page, page turning isn't an issue. When playing a particular set list outside, however, I will print out charts because the sun sometimes makes my iPad hard to see.

May 30, 2021 at 06:59 PM · I'm still using paper because I have an old ipad that isn't big enough, no foot pedal for page turns, and no way to mark it up. But maybe buying what I need to make it work will be my next project!

May 30, 2021 at 07:02 PM · I am definitely a tablet. I actually bought one and was able to deduct it as a business expense. One orchestra was telling us we had to print off our own parts. I was not about to spend the money on paper. I have gotten proficient enough with the tablet that I can mark my music just as fast as someone without one, but another feature I really like is I can also clean up marks on the music say if perhaps someone scanned in a heavily marked up part. I have a foot pedal, so I do not have to worry about page turns. I also like where I can program it to turn pages for me — if I am doing something where I can use that feature.

Another reason I love using the tablet is bowings — especially as a section leader. I can use my tablet to bow the music and then send the annotated copies to everyone via pdf or upload it to a Dropbox they can access. It just makes life so much easier.

May 30, 2021 at 07:05 PM · I use paper. I like paper. I like holding it, marking it up, losing it somewhere in the house, finding it, and trying to keep it on a music stand. I don't have to plug it in, or worry about dropping it. I'm sure an iPad is easier, but I don't care. Paper rules.

May 30, 2021 at 07:27 PM · I voted for computer tablets. I love using good old-fashioned paper music. But using an iPad is just better. More portability allowing me to not have to lug so much sheet music everywhere. It's just all on the tablet. I do still buy all my sheet music and use it for lessons and chamber music. I haven't tried learning repertoire on my iPad yet because of two reasons. For one, I'm just so used to sheet music, and the other, because I would rather use an iPad pro 12.9 inch but I just have the regular iPad. I used my iPad for some quartet rehearsals and prior to having a pedal page tuner, it was a nightmare. Since getting one off of amazon it's a whole new ball game.

Once I get a 12.9 inch iPad pro I will likely switch almost exclusively to an iPad. However, I would still buy the sheet music so that I can have the editions that I like and just scan them into the iPad. Plus, things happen. I think having a backup in case the iPad dies or something is useful whether you have it printed off or you have the original edition in your car or something. Of course, you could just invest in a portable battery. I have several

May 30, 2021 at 08:33 PM · I voted for paper music because I have missed playing on the same edition of a string quartet with my friends. During the pandemic, we've used Jamkazam or Jamulus to play music but we've had to decide beforehand what we will play so everyone can find their part. I've been downloading from IMSLP, creating a PDF, loading it into ForScore and playing off my iPad using a foot pedal to turn pages and an apple pencil to make markings. It works perfectly well until someone loses their place and we have to stop and find a place to start. So frustrating! When you go to someone's house, you can decide when you get there what you will play. Everyone can use the same edition. It's quite nice. And it's just so nice to be able to play together in person again. So I voted paper (for now).

May 30, 2021 at 09:17 PM · I voted for "paper", since this is what I'd prefer under optimal circumstances. In reality, I'm mostly using my iPad pro 12.9 with stylus and foot pedal. That way, I can carry all my music with me, and making excessive notes is not a guilty pleasure anymore. Under dubious light conditions it's way better (because I'm exceptionally bad in contrast discrimination in low light situations). Only thing I'm missing is the double page. No idea if this would be technically possible on two iPads (similar to the PadMu), but financially this would be beyond my limit anyway.

May 31, 2021 at 04:15 AM · I have so much sheet music, I could pop up my own store for violin, viola, chamber music, and orchestra repertoire (scores AND parts). My wife and I probably have more "inventory" than most music stores these days.

While I will always support buying paper scores and parts, from an application standpoint, I've been using an iPad Pro 12.9 since 2018 for orchestral and musical theater conducting, and will never go back. Can the device potentially fail? Well, yes...but it is unlikely. One just has to be disciplined enough to plug it in every evening, or carry a decent power bank. No more stand lights, either!

The bag of quartet folders stays in the car now, just in case. But for outdoor gigs, having a music solution that isn't going to blow away is (literally) worth its weight.

May 31, 2021 at 06:37 AM · I am waiting for the screen size of iPad to come up to our normal Score page size and to have the ability to play in Portrait mode with the ability to move pages or part pages swiftly.

It will come but we are note there yet to use all of the time plus an iPad stand is so more important as resting a £900 iPad on a stand is so dangerous as we know stands do have the habit of being knocked so easily and then it will all come crashing down and that could be the end of the music, end of iPad and having no music to play then if you have not printed out a backup copy.

May 31, 2021 at 08:26 AM · Use IPad with Forscore wherever possible. Also Musescore, IMSLP and tunebook but generally transfer to F. iPad with pageturn pedal copes with wind, poor light levels, space issues, sharing copy and it’s brilliant for organising playlists etc. limitations are very bright sunlight (inc. heat) and annotation is a bit clunky even with Pencil.

I’m really fed up with scores that fall off stand, wont stay open and flat, or which gradually come apart.

Play in a Bluegrass group and have been using Jamkazam regularly over past months, it’s a pain waiting for paper users to find their music.

May 31, 2021 at 10:04 AM · I didn't vote because I would vote 'Both Paper and Tablet.' I've been using ForScore on my iPad (2nd generation original iPad, then 1st generation iPadPro, now 2nd generation iPadPro with 1TB storage) and in many circumstances I love it, but I also love playing from paper, so I can't say I prefer one over the other. What I love best about a tablet is the ability to carry an entire music library of parts and scores as well as many complete fake books, method books, etude books, with me, something that's not possible with paper. So when I travel for a weekend or a vacation I can still have my entire library with me.

On the other hand, there is something more intimate about playing from paper, and when I'm at home that's what I use most of the time. As a conductor using the tablet is great, especially with ForScore because of the ability to either add jump points or to simply copy and rearrange pages in a score (or part) so that there's no need to jump around. It's possible to simply copy a page (or more) and move the copies to just after the D.S., D.C., repeat sign, so that we can simply keep turning the pages forward simply. A great time saver and convenience!

Thus my wish for a vote that said "BOTH."

June 1, 2021 at 09:47 AM · I voted paper. But I can see the idea of having a device where the page turn problem is eliminated with a foot pedal. The device need to have a big screen I would say. For the now I use paper and then we will see.

June 1, 2021 at 10:14 AM · I would love to use a tablet instead of paper. However, size is very important and there are few tablets that are at least the size of a sheet of paper. The eink ones from a few years ago were a bit smaller.

Several years ago I purchased an all in one portable computer to be used to read from. It just did not work well for me. It was very heavy and the screen was an odd ratio.

Maybe in these pandemic times it is worth revisiting, as I do not have to port it around.

June 1, 2021 at 11:32 AM · I voted computer tablet, because that is what I am generally using these days. It has totally revolutionised by practice and my teaching, I can take everything with me for my own lessons etc.

I use an iPad 12.9inch 2017 release, which I initially bought for my university studies. Now I only use my laptop for my studies and iPad for pretty much everything else. It is more than large enough for me to read the music with my appalling eyesight.

I have also enjoyed using a variety of the apps, from iBooks for all of my downloaded IMSLP scores to the Henle Verlag app, on which I can buy digital sheet music, which is perfect. ForScore is a recent buy and so far I am really enjoying it.

I encourage sheet music for my students and I still buy sheet music now and then.

I have also found my iPad is great for preserving the fragile sheet music I seem to be collecting, which is certainly older than me, and definitely older than the iPad.

June 1, 2021 at 04:15 PM · If this technology had been available when I was performing I would have bought one in a "hot-second." Now I do not perform and all of my music is paper. Paper is fine in the studio but on the stage either as a part of an orchestra or whatever the tablet offers so many great features that it is all but indispensable.

June 1, 2021 at 07:58 PM · I've always used paper. I'm intrigued by the possibilities of a tablet but I remain skeptical. This is ironic, given that I've been making my living as a computer programmer for 50 years. But that very experience means that I'm used to telling machines what to do. Too much modern equipment seems to be dedicated to the idea that users need to be told what they want. I know what I want, thank you very much. I do archive sheet music as PDFs on my computer, and I could play it off the screen if I wanted, but I usually just print it out. Perhaps if someone other than Apple or Microsoft came up with something that simply let me view sheet music without forcing me into a whole new lifestyle, I might be tempted.

June 2, 2021 at 03:53 AM · We have been investing in our (paper) chamber music library for years now but I'm tantalized by the iPad setup for chamber music sight-reading sessions. My gut tells me that being able to play from the score (which has always been theoretically possible but physically impractical) would enhance the experience for everyone. And indeed, that's what I've observed a lot of professional quartets doing.

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