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Digital Sheet Music

I am amazed so many of you use tablets to display music... but I have never been one for following the trends. Hmm... I think I will go down to the music shop today to buy some more manuscript paper. Now where did I leave my quill...:unsure:
I am amazed so many of you use tablets to display music... but I have never been one for following the trends. Hmm... I think I will go down to the music shop today to buy some more manuscript paper. Now where did I leave my quill...:unsure:
I am an avid collector of sheet music, both for accordion and pipes. I have in excess of 80 books on pipe music,many now out of print, and about 20 accordion books. I also have in excess of 20 ring binders of sheet music downloaded from the internet.
There are two problems with this. Firstly it is impossible to carry all the books with you and secondly, trying to find a particular tune can take ages.
I have a (very) cheap 2nd hand Samsung Galaxy tab which I bought purely for storing sheet music on.
I use Mobile Sheets pro (about £12) to copy sheet music from the laptop. I have scanned many music books and copied them to the tablet.
So far I have about 600 tunes on the tablet. The beauty of it is, it will copy the tunes in alphabetical order and you can then transfer them to styles, genres, whatever. For instance, I have all my Scottish stuff arranged in 2/4, 4/4 6/8, etc.and all in alphabetical order. You can also arrange them into sets.
I've hardly dented the memory capabilities of the tablet and it could take many thousands more, without any increase in weight or size.
It fits it the pocket of my accordion soft bag easily.
Adding a cheap(£20) Chinese blue tooth page turner and a good pair of specs, and I'm ready to go.
Firstly it is impossible to carry all the books with you and secondly, trying to find a particular tune can take ages.
Couldn't agree more, it saves me so much time and weight. I was a late convert, but can't see me jumping back saved to time I used to spend faffing with bits of paper all over the place. Very useful too if you play a few different instruments and want everything handy, another vote for mobile sheets!



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I'm sitting here thinking... the one part of performing that I was NOT fond of back in my younger and professional days was the issue of music. At my peak I could keep 200-300 songs in my head and more if I needed just place at an area that I was not sure about.

Even then, the 10-12 3" binders that held my music protected in plastic sheets, along with the 12" pile of loose sheet music in folders arranged in numerical order (that would need to be re-arranged back to order after every gig) was irritating to say the least. That was a good 40 pounds of paper and plastic to tote from gig to gig, day in and day out. Playing outside, yes there were times that even the plastic protected sheets were moved and thats annoying to say the least.

Jeff's solution is sincerely great... as long as you don't have a song that is over 2 pages long and your set is preset and unchanging. How does one handle a windy situation where you need to find a song that is not in your list or in another binder or 3-15 pages long?

For me, I would say that near 50% of my music is over 2 pages in length... so what is one expected to do, stop to turn the page or maybe have someone turn pages for you? When gigging, I'd remind myself of the first page or 2 while taking a glance, and move it over to the last page or 2 when possible. But it wasn't always possible. Have you ever tried even just practicing a song that is 4-5 pages and experience the frustration of needing to stop your flow, turn the page and then continue,, the move to the sometimes several times per song?

I even used to place 2 music stands together to string those 5-page pieces on so I would not have to practice and bother with turning the page. I know that Ed is specifically going this route motivated by one song in particular (Trieste Overture, which I believe is 13 pages long... lol), though I am sure he will learn to appreciate it's other advantages real soon too!

How about as a professional trying to find a specific song in response to a special request and needing to search through several binders or folders? I can digitally sort a list in the order I want to play or with a couple of touches and swipes of a finger alphabetically sort all the songs in the current set or the COMPLETE list from all my music in the iPad or search by entering 2-3 letters in the name of the song, and find it in a few seconds, bring it up and be ready to start right away.

For the amateur, digital music is a very welcome change. No binders to carry, no issues with wind, speedy access to any song all make practicing longer songs mindlessly easy. For the gigging pro, seriously, there is NO comparison, you get all those advantages, AND MORE, if you set up your equipment choices right, and learn how to use them. :)

Note Because it is a bit more brand/model specific, I did not mention the ability to have your source of digital music have the ability (in SOME cases) to reprogram your Roland accordion and/or the BK-7m arranger making moving from piece to piece in around 2 seconds. I can completely change the complete sound of the FR-8X, rhythm, tempo, intro of the BK with the same effort it takes to press a button on my BT pedal to move to the next song.

All the above said... this is just my opinion, I do not presume to speak for anyone else, amateur, pro or anyone in between. :D
let everyone use what feels best

the tablet is my workhorse, but:
- for acoustic gig with my wife I will only bring a paper setlist with keys
- for recording projects I tend to use printed PDF's on a large music stand
- when busking I will use A6 paper binders

my father-in-law (an upright bassist) will use nothing but paper, even though he is an IT technician
he also doesn't reprint anything, so when his paper are scribbled full with annotation, changes etc. he will just keep playing from the same paper out of principle
For me, I would say that near 50% of my music is over 2 pages in length... so what is one expected to do, stop to turn the page or maybe have someone turn pages for you?
That is a problem. My own solution is to simply not have (or very seldom have) music over two pages! Nearly everything in my books has been notated by me, and is mostly leadsheets. This wouldn't work for someone who needs to precisely play from a specific full arrangement, but for the types of gigs I wind up doing (and the sort of music that I play on them), it works fine.

Of course, for strolling gigs, I have to keep my charts down to zero pages. :)
Hi Jozz, I've been looking for A6 paper binders and can't find a good one, ie one that opens and stays open.
Maybe you have a link to show yours? Dankuwel!
look for "Presentation" binders at your office or business supply store

they are tailored for salespeople and can be very sophisticated with
hinged covers and cleverly shaped "rings" to not only hold the
page protectors but give them an indented resting stop
Hi Jozz, I've been looking for A6 paper binders and can't find a good one, ie one that opens and stays open.
Maybe you have a link to show yours? Dankuwel!
I have a very simple scrapbook with 2 rings that I attach with pedalboard velcro

search online for 'marching folder' or 'flip folder', you will find all sorts. some will be weatherproof (cost extra for foil cartridges) and others will have magnets
just sayin'

regarding making your own gig music books and such

i very much coveted those machines they used on the
big fat old Fakebooks.. the plastic comb binder system..

so i kept my eye out for local Auctions and liquidations of small
business's that might use such devices and eventually got lucky
and was able to purchase a motorized comb system decades ago

it punches the holes even in card stock (for thick covers) and motorizes
the spreading of the comb with nice stainless fingers to load the sheets
(then you slowly reverse the motor and the comb inserts itself.. Voila)

so i was able to take some of the fake books apart and re-bind them
into easy to handle "chapters" so to speak

i also have had Lazer Printer/Copier machines for ages.. can resize
or copy from glued books then re-combine into theme focused ones

also ran across a cheap Spiral binding machine (all hand operated)
but it also is handy for smaller projects like Holiday Sing alone books
of a dozen or so pages

where these machines really saved me money, and ease of use,
are with Instruction and Service manuals that are now only
available online or in PDF form.. easy and cheap to print out
on the big Brother brand Black Laser printer, then bind
up using the comb binder machine

doing it myself and customizing stuff like a small spiral of the most
important pages (for remembering how to do stuff) on the FR7 and FR3
to have handy and leave in the Van for reference as well as printouts of
my program sets (because i forget which set is which sometimes)

life is a lot easier when you have neat office equipment handy to support your
musical endeavors, and while buying this stuff brand new is cost-prohibitive
for many, with some luck, the local Auctions can get you nice machines for
pennies on the Dollar

of course along the way i too used Binders, still have the entire two original
Real books in binders and page protectors.. but they live in the studio Library
as do all the other binders of stuff from waaay back before i got the Comb machine
I also stole a (non electric) comb binder from work. Makes it way to easy to make way too many books. Nice thing though, I could make the Real Book into 2 smaller sections.
Well I use a large sheet of masonite on my stand so I can spread out 4 pages across. I put them in three ring binders, reinforce the holes with tape but no plastic on them. Tape together sheets so they are 11" x 17" if I have to. I use large clips when playing outside to hold pages in place. Less page turning, copy songs out of books or print them from online. If paper gets too worn out, just print new one. My books are often old and beat. I can also take the songs I am going to play for an event and put them in order. Normally just keep them in alphabetical order with different genre's in different books. Have not tried the Ipad route, tried a smaller screen and it is okay for just chords an lyrics like off Ultimate Guitar maybe but not really for sheet music.
Some pictures of my music stand with the "extender" on it. When I played piano, I had a large surface for sheet music, so I said why can't I do it with other instruments. Shown with my keyboard, but could not sit with accordion and take picture too. use large spring clips which maybe cannot be seen in picture to hold sheets down in wind. keep 4 with me when playing outside. I hate turning pages, this way I can handle up to 5 pages but it does get awkward trying to see some of the notes when the pages are so far away. 4 is pretty good.


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@Mike K what a glorious unfurling of the written note, Lullaby of Birdland, no less! Sorry for the leisurely response; less than 7 months ain't that bad. :unsure:

But now I have emerged from hibernation and am looking at the digital option with renewed vim and vigour. I am going down to have a look at the tablets today, though will likely shriek in horror at the cost. Still... no pain to gain.

I am planning on a daring new project. :D In addition to having a digital version of the gigging material (mainly old pipe music, traditional fiddle tunes, accordion/dance music, etc) I am planning on creating a website where I can create a digital library of my compositions, starting with the pieces from my first book of music (all trad./Scottish dance style). I then hope to gradually add another 30 to 40 unpublished trad. style own compositions. Under a separate heading I will start to compile a collection of my airs and 'expressive' type music written for free bass accordion.

So, in addition to acquiring a tablet, and there has been much excellent information provided above on the topic, I need to consider the music scoring side...

For a number of years I used a score writer by NOTION, that I typeset my first book with. It gave excellent, refined results. However, when my old laptop croaked-it, I lost the software use because the programme was on a CD, and new laptops don't seem to have that type of drive any more. Going forward, I have the dilemma about whether to upgrade to the newest version of NOTION so that the music engraving remains consistent, or if this is not a big hurdle to overcome even using a different notation packages.

My concern is; I want to keep moving forward, so don't really wish to re-type all my old compositions in a new score writer (I think around 70 pieces) just to have consistent music engraving. That's why I was thinking about just getting the updated NOTION.

Also, for entering the notes onto the score, regardless of package, do you find a tablet gives user friendly experience? I have only ever used a laptop for creating scores - by literally dragging each note, one by one, onto the stave with the cursor. I have a hunch it's easier on the laptop.

All thoughts and opinions gratefully received!​
Thanks Tom! I managed to buy a new laptop computer earlier today. I think I would prefer using this for data entry (creating scores) over a tablet. However, I am also considering trying out the Sibelius First notation software, to see how I get on with it. On reflection, I don't think it matters that my first book might have a different engraving style than the second or third collection (preferably digital) as long as the final result is well done.

I plan to get a tablet in the near future, but will only use this for presenting a digital 'folder' of music for performance purposes. I guess it's just horses for courses.