Hooray for Forscore
It’s taken me far too long to get the Forscore sheet music app: I can be very slow to adopt stuff. It’s at least a couple of years since my colleague Ho Wen Yang told me about Forscore, a sheet music app for the iPad. But then another colleague, Chris Hobson told me about it (because we were sharing footpedal stories – he with his bluetooth pedal to turn pages on the iPad (which in fact another colleague, Grant Kennedy, had told me in about 2012), and me with my USB footpedal for transcribing from audio).
Then, as the time approached again for the annual Ballet Masterclasses in Prague, I remembered all those failed resolutions to use these two weeks to take and learn new rep, and I recognised my own stubborn resistance for what it was. If I’m really honest, of course an iPad with your scores on it is a good idea, and it would be a way of taking a load of stuff with me (including my 52 cards work) without weighing down my luggage. I could scan bits of stuff that I wanted, rather than having to bring the whole darn book. I checked out the alternatives, and there seemed to be little competition – iPads are pretty good at what they do in that price range (though there is also mobilesheets for Android devices).
Learning to love the Forscore sheet music app
And, dear reader, after just one morning with my iPad and Forscore, I just love it. I got it partly because I recognised that the technology has made it possible for pianists to take libraries round with them, and that means there’s not really an excuse not to do the same. Part of my apprehension was because I prefer to play from memory for class. I still do, but actually the iPad’s pretty unobtrusive, in fact less so than a score. And, well, Jonathan, get over yourself and read from a score now and again.
- The best bit was when I needed a bit of Swan Lake in a rehearsal, and I could just draw in a cut on the screen, without having to worry about rubbing it out. Everything you write on the score is non-destructive, and you can save different versions of the same thing with different cuts. Perfect for rehearsals.
- It’s easy to read because it’s got light behind it.
- You can find stuff quickly
- You can bookmark bits of larger scores – keep the whole of Swan Lake there, and bookmark the two pages you need.
- You can be spend the time you save searching and setting up music on thinking about what else you’re going to play. It’s a matter of seconds, but it makes a huge difference.
- Nothing is at the bottom of the pile any more. It’s all instantly findable.
I don’t think I’ll ever be a convert to the Kindle or iPad for reading books. I’ve tried both for years, and books win out every time for me (not least because most of the books I want aren’t available digitally). But for music? I’m sold. It’s times like this that I’m thankful to be around enough younger people to have my stubborn old brain have some sense kicked into it.
But before you buy it…
I had the chance to see someone’s installation of PiaScore and I liked the look of it. I have been intending to review it for myself for 18 months now, but still haven’t got round to it. It’s free (with some in-app purchases) so if you’re considering your options, probably worth having a good look at it.
It’s about two and a half years since I bought the iPad and ForScore, and my use of it has tailed off. I still take it with me if I can predict I’m going to be in one of those “Oh, while we’re waiting do you have Flames of Paris?” classes (every summer school going), but there’s something about reading off an iPad that I don’t like (leaving aside the obvious things like page turns, the iPad going into powersave mode while you’re playing, or not being able to find stuff quick enough, unless you’re prepared to go through your entire library and tag like crazy).
I also found that it attracted unwanted attention—unless you know exactly what the pianist is doing, it looks like they’re bored and reading the news during class.