Trundling off to school each morning as a child with a heavy backpack slung over my shoulder, I’d often wonder…why am I carrying so many textbooks and folders!? How many of these will I really need today!? Will I even make it to school without collapsing from this load?
Contributed by Mark van der Sluis for the Roland Australia Blog
I am amazed I didn’t have to go to a physiotherapist after all those years of carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, as well as a lot of library books!
To be fair, the above scenario occurred several decades before the invention of computers. Textbooks, encyclopaedias and folders full of sheet music were constant companions by necessity. There was simply no other way to access the information and resources I required if I did not have them with me at the time.
Fast forward to this decade. As we know, computers have revolutionised our daily lives. Many students now trundle off to school with a lightweight and portable laptop or tablet. Making it easy to find and download information online, as well as taking them wherever you go, these devices have also transformed the way we think about books.
So when it comes to sheet music, how do these technological innovations help musicians?
Here are a few reasons why digital sheet music is the best way to go:
1. Your Entire Library in the Palm of your Hand
Carrying heavy books and music folders around is a thing of the past. Did you know that even the smallest iPad (16GB) can store an estimated 14,000 books? That equates to more than 300kgs! With tablets, your entire sheet music library never needs to leave your side.
2. Find Any Piece Instantly
With digital sheet music, there’s no more wasted time searching through mountains of books for that one elusive piece of music. With digital sheet music, every song in your library can be located instantly and with ease.
3. Turn Pages Hands-Free
Being able to turn pages without taking your hands off the piano is definitely one of the best things about using digital sheet music. Most laptops/tablets/smartphones with Bluetooth, support a function called “AirTurn” which allows you to turn pages using pedal accessories. For the full list of iOS/Android Apps that support AirTurn, click here: http://www.airturn.com/apps
If you’ve been waiting for digital pianos to start incorporating Bluetooth technology, then the wait is finally over. The latest Roland digital pianos (FP-30*, F-140R, HP-603, HP-605, LX-7, LX-17) have Bluetooth built-in, allowing you to use the AirTurn feature using the Left & Centre Pedals.
*Requires optional KPD-70 Three-Pedal Unit
What Digital Music Score Apps are available?
There are far too many ‘really good’ digital sheet music apps to cover in this one article, so I’ll go straight to a few of my personal favourites.
I highly recommend these 5 apps for a few reasons:
- All (but one of them) are free!
- Great functionality – they do what I expect them to do.
- They look great, they’re intuitive and easy to use.
- You can get 70,000 Classical Music Scores for free!
- You can make notes and highlight the score as you like
- YouTube integration allows you to watch or listen to performances (pictured)
- Real sound Metronome supports your practice
- Supports Bluetooth pedal “AirTurn”
Video Overview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xk9d6Uymvno
If you’re looking for a digital sheet music app that caters for more modern and contemporary music, then Sheet Music Direct by Music Sales is hard to go past. SMD offers a smooth interface (not dissimilar to the iTunes store) and has a gigantic range catalogue of sheet music.
The app is free to download and offers some free sheet music as well, although the majority of titles are an in-app purchase. You’ll find sheet music for popular artists and bands such as Pink, John Legend, Adele, Elton John, Billy Joel, The Beatles, Sting and Coldplay (to name just a few) and they come with a MIDI file backing track as well. This is particularly helpful because you can separate left and right hand parts for practice whilst listening to the melody play.
This app also supports AirTurn, but because the digital sheet music also comes with the MIDI backing track, the score pages turn automatically – complete with visual metronome, which is a very handy guide when learning to play the piece.
This is definitely one of my all-time favorites!
Sheet Music Direct PlayAlong is the first iPad app that combines interactive sheet music, pro-quality audio backing tracks (not MIDI File backing tracks) and powerful practice/performance tools along with premier songs from the Sheet Music Direct music library. Like the other apps, it is free with in-app purchases but it includes 15 free songs to get you started!
The App includes sheet music and backing tracks for songs from the top artists of yesterday and today including Adele, The Beatles, Bruno Mars, Billy Joel, Coldplay, Elton John, Taylor Swift, Eagles, One Direction, Christina Perri, Frank Sinatra, Sam Smith, Pink Floyd, Queen and more.
Styles range from Pop to Rock, Jazz, Musicals, Classical, Latin, Film/TV and more.
#4. MUSICNOTES SHEET MUSIC PLAYER
The Musicnotes Sheet Music Player allows you to hear and watch the notation light up on your Musicnotes digital sheet music – which is fantastic for learning! This app is very popular amongst musicians and vocalists because of the custom playback options, including tempo, key and audio mixing, which allow you to personalize their music practice and performance needs.
You can use the Sheet Music Player to practice and sing along with your piano, vocal and instrumental sheet music, mark up and instantly transpose musical scores, organize your sheet music library into set lists and more. And, it’s easy to get started with seven free sheet music selections.
With the latest version of the app, you can also import PDFs of your own sheet music arrangements. (Note: PDF support is limited to display, markup and folders/set lists).
- Play and learn from 300,000+ sheet music arrangements available at the Musicnotes web store
- Audio mixer (example: selectively mute vocal or instrumental parts)
- Adjustable playback tempos
- Built-in pen, highlight and type tools to mark up your sheet music
- Instantly transpose keys on most popular pieces
- Print your Musicnotes sheet music from any synced AirPrint Printer
- Import your own sheet music PDFs to your library
- High resolution viewing
- Organize your music files using folders and set lists
- Easily jump to any page (when app is not in play mode)
- Seven free bonus songs (see titles below)
- New free sheet music added monthly at the Musicnotes web store
#5. IREAL PRO – MUSIC BOOK & PLAY ALONG
iReal Pro offers an easy-to-use tool to help musicians of all levels master their art. It simulates a real-sounding band that can accompany you as you practice. The app also lets you create and collect chord charts of your favorite songs for reference.
Have a virtual band accompany you as you practice
– Choose from 47 different accompaniment styles (Swing, Ballad, Gypsy Jazz, Bluegrass, Country, Rock, Funk, Reggae, Bossa Nova, Latin,…)
– Personalize each style with a variety of sounds including piano, Fender Rhodes, acoustic and electric guitars, acoustic and electric basses, drums, vibraphone, organ, and more
– Record yourself playing or singing along with the accompaniment
Play, edit and import any songs you want
– 1000s of songs can be imported from the forums in a few simple steps
– Edit existing songs or create your own with the Editor
– The Player will play any song that you edit or create
– Create multiple editable playlists
Improve your skills with the included chord diagrams
– Display piano fingerings for any of your chord charts
– Look up piano for any chord
– Display scale recommendations for each chord of a song to help with improvisations
Practice in the way and at the level that you choose
– Includes 50 exercises for practicing common chord progressions
– Transpose any chart to any key or to number notation
– Loop a selection of measures of a chart for focused practicing
– Advanced practice settings (automatic tempo increase, automatic key transposition)
Share, print, and export – so your music follows you wherever you need it!
– Share individual charts or whole playlists with other iReal Pro users via email and the forums
– Export charts as PDF and MusicXML
– Export audio as WAV, AAC and MIDI
– Support for AirTurn™
Android Overview: https://vimeo.com/21985314