What To Look For In The Perfect Digital Sheet Music Reader: Crystal Balls

by airturn

Crystal Balls (See the Future)

If you read music that takes up enough pages to require a page turn, then you’ve experienced what I call the “blind zone”.  When you get to the last note of the last measure of the last page, you cannot see what’s coming up next – you are in the “blind zone” and have a split second to turn the page to see what’s next if you’re in a performance situation.  Classical pianists actually hire people to sit next to them to take care of the pesky page turning task, but I’m sure every one of them could recount some horror story over the blind spot dilemma, where the page was turned too soon or too late, ruining the flow of the performance (remember my tale of page turning tragedy from the introduction?)

Several applications have a nifty feature where you can eliminate the blind zone entirely and always see what’s coming next in the music.  If you’re viewing your music on a monitor large enough to display two pages at a time, you could set the page turns up so that you only change one page at a time.  Here’s how it works:

  • You start by seeing Page 1 on the left and Page 2 on the right.
  • When you “turn” the page, you would now see Page 3 on the left and Page 2 on the right.
  • “Turn” the page again, and now you would see Page 3 on the left and Page 4 on the right.

Viewing 2 pages of digital sheet music with MusicReader PDF 4

With a half page turn, you see page 2 on the right and the next page 3 on the left for a continuous view

The next page turn completes the view from page 3 to page 4

It sounds a bit confusing at first, but trust me – if you can get your head around the idea that you don’t need to turn two full pages at a time and can actually have a continuous unobstructed view of your music, you’ll realize what a revolutionary idea this is.  No more blind zones, and you can always see what’s coming up next!

If you’re working off of a single page view, there are applications that can apply a similar “look ahead” capability.  Here’s how it works:

  • You see a full page of music (Page 1).
  • When you “turn” the page, the page splits, showing you the present page on the bottom half (Page 1) and the next page on the top half (Page 2).
  • “Turn” the page again, and now the split disappears, showing the next full page of music (Page 2).

A full page view of music using forScore on an iPad

Turning half of the page in forScore

Note the previous page can be seen on the bottom half…

…and the next page can be seen on the top half

Of course, the ability to continuously look ahead will necessitate turning the digital page more frequently.  That may sound like a big drawback, but we’ll explore how even page turns can be effortless when we get to the section on “Controllers”.

The above examples primarily apply for static PDF sheet music files.  For dynamic text files, you can find applications for scrolling the view in a manner similar to a teleprompter, the device that presidents and newscasters use to be able to read speeches and scripts in a continuous manner.

When I started my paperless journey 12 years ago, there were only one or two applications that gave me the ability to view and mark up my music with digital ink.  It’s been amazing to watch the explosion of music reading applications in recent years, giving me options I couldn’t even dream of needing but now realize that I can’t live without.  Throughout it all, my core library has continued to grow and port itself from machine to machine.  With each new device, it’s been astonishing to experience the incredible rate at which technology improves.  As you narrow your search down for the perfect digital sheet music reading computer, keep in mind that in some ways it will be a never-ending search, but the reward is in the journey as you discover the amazing possibilities that make it impossible to go back to paper.

To summarize:

1. Start with the application before deciding on a device
2. Determine if your needs are mobile, stationary, or a hybrid
3. Realize that you may discover a completely new way to look at your music

A great resource for finding sheet music applications on various tablets and computers can be found at this interactive App Guide.