For years, many musicians have been transitioning to the use of digital sheet music. Seeing a performer walk on-stage with an iPad has become increasingly commonplace, and no longer elicits the same novel response as it once did years ago. However, digital scores have been slow to gain a strong foothold in private studios for a variety of reasons that may have once proved valid but are less so in 2021—especially when the coronavirus pandemic moved most piano teachers online, forcing them to transition to the digital medium. Consequently, some teachers have found that relying on physical scores can be a hindrance to effective virtual instruction.

 BENEFITS OF DIGITAL SCORES

The most immediate benefit of digital scores is that they take up very little space, both physically and in terms of data storage on your device. Because you are not limited by the number of books you can physically carry, you will have immediate access to your entire collection of music. This is particularly helpful for collegiate music students, traveling teachers, and performing musicians who would otherwise be transporting large volumes of music.

Another benefit of recent importance is the ability to share your score when teaching virtual lessons. Screen sharing via your computer's desktop or a synced tablet makes it easy to show students your annotations or to isolate the passages you are demonstrating. This goes both ways—students can also share their screens with you and show you specifically which measures they need help with. Beyond these practical advantages, the lack of paper also makes the use of digital scores a more environmentally sound choice.

NEW FEATURES

In the past, digital scores were limited in their utility. However, the digital format has evolved with significant improvements in user experience. What were once simple digital reproductions in a PDF reader are now fully fledged score experiences that rival, and even surpass, physical copies in practicality. The primary issue that musicians used to face with digital scores was the ease of making annotations and other markings—this issue has largely been solved by a variety of score-viewing apps. However, making annotations possible and efficient was only the beginning.

Now, these apps let you organize repertoire into various collections or setlists (helpful for organizing repertoire by student or collaborating musicians), change the layout of the score, share your annotations with students and collaborators, record audio examples, and even synchronize with other devices when playing with other musicians.

You can think of your scores in these apps as more than just a digital library. Instead, they have become digital sheet music experiences that emphasize practicality and ease of use for teachers and performers. If you want to take advantage of the innovative features and experiences, you will want to download one, or more, of these apps.

POPULAR APPS

Whether you spend most of your time teaching or performing, there are several options that will suit your needs. Keep in mind, the following apps are designed around the user experience and viewing space of a tablet. Additionally, most of these apps are designed for Apple products, though there are options compatible with Android devices.

Some of the most widely used and versatile apps include ForScore (iOS: $19.99, additional in-app purchases), the Henle Library app (iOS and Android: free, additional in-app purchases), and SuperScore (iOS: free, additional in-app purchases). Both ForScore and the Henle Library app are incredibly powerful and offer a high level of functionality. While ForScore has an initial purchase price, it does allow you to take advantage of its features whether you import PDF scans of scores or books you own, or purchase scores within the app. In addition to making and sharing annotations, their app allows you to add editorial markings, rearrange pages, make recordings, and more.

The annotation feature even creates multiple layers of annotations that can be turned on or off, depending on what markings you want to display. This is useful when working with one piece in several contexts, allowing you to have one score with multiple sets of annotations.

The Henle Library app features many of the same capabilities as ForScore, with the added benefit of being able to access the Henle Urtext editions of your favorite composers on either Apple or Android devices. While the initial download is free, users purchase access to scores within the app. This is an excellent option for those who prefer Henle's editions and want to get as much functionality out of them as possible. Android users looking for a similar level of functionality to ForScore or the Henle Library app, but without being limited to Henle editions, can look to MobileSheets which has both paid and free versions (MobileSheetsPro, $12.99; MobileSheetsFree).

SuperScore, developed by TimeWarp Technologies, is a truly unique and powerful option. Scores purchased within the app feature their proprietary Liquid Music Display™. While other apps allow users to resize and reorient the page within certain limitations, SuperScore's Liquid Music Display offers unparalleled ability to alter the size and layout of the music on the page while maintaining clean editorial markings through real-time re-engraving of the score.

Additionally, building on the tradition of TimeWarp Technologies' other offerings like Classroom Maestro and Internet MIDI, SuperScore includes MIDI compatibility. This allows for features such as adaptive play-along accompaniments, page-turns that follow your playing, and embedded MIDI performances. Some scores even include helpful tutorial videos by the editor(s). Note that these functions apply only to scores purchased within the app. SuperScore does allow users to import their own PDF scores, however this function is tied to an optional one-time in-app purchase ($4.99). Imported PDF scores feature basic annotation capabilities but will not have the same advantages as those designed with Liquid Music Display.

For those that do not require the bells and whistles of the previously mentioned apps, options like Paperless Music (iOS: $4.99) and Orpheus Sheet Music Pro (Android: $6.99) offer a more streamlined and simplified experience.

These apps give users basic functionality that will satisfy most of your primary needs in a simple and easy to use format. They also support PDF importing, allowing you to digitize your own books and scores for your library.

If you primarily teach beginner and elementary students, there are resources for you, too. Many method series have their books available for digital download. However, Faber's Piano Adventures have gone a step further with their supplementary Piano Adventures Player App. This app gives students access to play-along MIDI accompaniments for their repertoire from thirteen levels in the Piano Adventures curriculum. These MIDI accompaniments vary in style and instrumentation, going beyond the original piano accompaniments. Helpful interactive features include the option to adjust the tempo of the accompaniments, a scrolling score or keyboard view while playing along, and even MIDI input for added features. Note, however, that this is intended as a supplement to their method books, not a replacement.

MOVING FORWARD

As teaching studios and concerts continue to return in-person, many of the necessities imposed by the pandemic may become irrelevant. However, some elements, like digital scores, are part of the evolving nature of teaching and performing. These are just a few examples of the myriad options available to those who would like to incorporate digital scores or completely transition to a digital library. They represent the most useful features that you are likely to need, and some of the most important innovations in the digital format. The advantages to digital scores are clear, and whether you want an app with the most advanced features or a streamlined experience, there is an app that will fit your needs as a teacher and performer.

RESOURCES

1 ForScore, iOS (forScore, LLC), forscore.co/.
2 Henle Library, iOS and Android OS (G. Henle Verlag), henle-library.com/.
3 Maeve Lander, Orpheus App, Android OS, orpheus-app.com/.
4 MobileSheets, Android OS (Zubersoft), zubersoft.com/mobilesheets/.
5 Paperless Music, iOS (Agilstream, LLC), paperlessmusic.com/.
6 Piano Adventures Player, iOS (Dovetree Productions, Inc.), pianoadventures.com/resources/piano-adventures-player-app/.
7 SuperScore, iOS (TimeWarp Technologies), timewarptech.com/shop/music-software-apps/software/superscore/?v=7516fd43adaa.

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