LMTO Guide: Using an iPad/Tablet for Sheet Music
Full disclosure: LMTO is not affiliated with any of the products listed in this blog
As the world becomes increasingly paperless, musicians are moving their sheet music to digital form. Here’s LMTO’s guide to using a tablet for reading sheet music.
We recommend an iPad over other tablets. It’s the industry standard, and you’ll find the software available for iPad over other tablets is superior.
In general bigger is better, but you don’t need huge processing power or storage.
- 12.9” screen is best for two-stave instruments (eg piano/harp), 9.7” minimum for single-stave instruments, and ideal for singers.
- 32GB is more than enough storage.
- Second hand is fine. Any iPad made since 2016 which is compatible with Apple Pencil will be good enough to use.
- Apple Pencil. Essential tool for marking up scores quickly.
- Page turn pedal. Recommended tool for easy page turns, even without bars rest. Recommended option is this one.
• Forscore – industry leader.
• Do not use iBooks, PDFReader or similar. Forscore is optimised for sheet music and will not fail you.
• Do Not Disturb (avoids embarrassing messages flashing up on the screen)
• Silent Mode (avoids embarrassing sound alerts in the quiet bit in Music of the Night)
These are suggestions built up over ten years of use, but the user may wish to tailor them to their own preferences.
Settings are found in the Forscore menu, top right of the menu bar.
OFF. Not a useful feature, can be annoying,
• Swipe controls OFF – prevents a tap on the right turning into a swipe *to* the right
• Tap controls ON
• Double-tap TOGGLE NAVIGATION BAR – prevents a single middle tap causing trouble
• 2-finger tap OFF – clumsy page turns begone
• 3-finger tap LINKS – best feature immediately accessible
• Tap and hold ANNOTATE
• Tap and hold with 2 fingers BUTTONS
• Tap and hold with 3 fingers LINKS – best feature accessible however you use 3 fingers
CURL. We sat with OFF for a few months, but found you need to see that a page has definitely turned, and curl is the least intrusive.
Flip between scores
SETLIST. ALL is really annoying because you feel you never get to the end of a piece. OFF is hopeless because the joy of setlists is that they flip between scores.
Appearance and Metadata
Leave all as default.
• Automatically enter annotation mode ON
• Automatically exit annotation mode LONG or NEVER – we keep trying SHORT because it’s quicker, but it’s a fraction too short for our style. LONG can be frustrating to have to wait to turn pages, so most users end up at NEVER.
• Prevent finger drawing OFF – if your Pencil runs out of juice you’ll want your finger
• Variable Width settings all ON
• Set your default to be an actual tool (we recommend a dark grey pen medium thickness) as opposed to NONE
All other settings can be left as the default.
Some Useful Annotation Setup Suggestions
Enter annotation mode (1 finger tap and hold anywhere on the page) and create the follow useful preset drawing tools:
• Dark grey pen medium thickness which looks most like a pencil colour (we set this as default)
• Black pen very thin for writing small instructions
• Red/orange pen medium thickness for pointing out really important bits
• White max thickness for covering up any printed material you want to hide (NB not the same as eraser!)
Stamps is the top left annotation tool and you should create your own stamps which you might use often. Useful examples:
- page turn symbol
- patch change symbol
Shapes is the second from left annotation tool, the most useful of which we’ve found to be the white box for quick ‘erasing’ of large sections of music for cuts.
What follows are highlights of the very best features/use cases. This section is best practised before a rehearsal/gig.
3-finger tap. These allow you to navigate repeats or cuts really easily. Tap the left hand page for where the bit of music ends, tap the right hand page for where you want it to jump to.
Found in the main menu top left. Let’s say you have a single PDF containing multiple songs. Using bookmarks, you can say that pages 1-7 are called “Song 1”, pages 7-9 are called “Song 2” etc. Those bookmarks are then listed when you search for songs – so you can then use them in setlists.
MD usage: within PVs, bookmark each song. Means that you can find Defying Gravity or Bring Him Home quickly at those impromptu sing-a-longs.
Found in the main menu top left. Put all the charts for a single gig into one setlist, and they flow neatly from one to the other. Particularly powerful when combined with bookmarks.
2-finger tap and hold. Page not filling the screen properly? This will sort you out.
Use the menu to download files direct from your Dropbox or any other cloud provider (once you’ve signed in).
Mark up and send
Want to mark up a score and send to a colleague? Mark it up on Forscore, then go to the menu, click share and Annotated PDF. Or – if they’re on Forscore, send as 4SC – it keeps all of the links and the annotations can then be edited.
Pretend it’s paper. Don’t think of it as a screen. Because of the wrist rejection algorithm, you can lean on the screen with your wrist/hand just as you would a piece of paper.
MD usage: when working on a new show and you need to keep track of notes, change the default drawing tool colour each day. Means that when typing up at the end of each day you can just look for eg the blue pen. Likewise if you’re making notes across a week’s worth of shows, colour code each show-watch so you can be show-specific with your notes.
MD usage: Let’s say you use the same chart but with different cuts/articulations for different gigs. This is where layers come in. Once in Annotation Mode, top right is the layers button. You can create a new layer for each version of the chart you need, and then turn each layer on and off as you desire.
Copyist miss out a page of your chart, or need to rotate a page? Rearrange is here for you. Access via the top right menu. You can add other PDFs into your current PDF using the ‘+’ at the bottom, you can reorder pages by clicking and dragging, and you can rotate pages using the arrows bottom left of the screen.
The Night Before Usage
Download all charts and import into Forscore.
Put iPad on charge overnight. Unplug when you wake up, plug in Apple Pencil while you’re having breakfast.
Always bring a charger!
Always bring a charger!
Always bring a charger!
Whenever you use an iPad for LMTO, we will always have a spare on hand, but in five years of use across hundreds of users and iPads, we have never once experienced an issue with using the combination of settings above. Freddie, our conductor, even uses it to conduct from for any scores which print to B4 or smaller.