App essentials

I have to admit it: I am a gadget junk! I just love all devices that make life easier and more comfortable. Since the era of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, I’m totally happy to have all my sheet music, charts and music notation in one place… In my case, I use an iPad to organize all of it.

But I’m often surprised that other musicians, that also work with iPads, didn’t hear of some very useful apps and tools and are still struggling with papers, notes and chaos within their sheet music library. So here are a few tips to create lead sheets, organize your sheet music library and notate music, when you’re on the road.
No more searching for the right charts in the gigantic pile of papers, no more forgetting to bring them to the gig. All you need is your tablet.
The apps I use so far are: iReal b, forScore, Notion & iGigbook

Your sheet music library:
1. forScore
In order to organize your library, forScore is the perfect tool! All sheets in one place, organized by title, composer, genre, playlists or keywords.

2. iGigbook
All your real and fake books are better handled by iGigbook since it features the indexes for all of them.
So, for whole books (as long as the index is featured on iGigbooks website) use iGigbook and for your own sheet music library use forScore!

Making a lead sheet:
Mobile devices are very useful, when you’re away from home. There are a few apps out there that can help to notate music, help to transpose, compose or share your notation with your bandmates. No messy handwritten sheets and everybody can rely on the same sheet music.

But unfortunately there still is no all-in-one solution and we have to pick the best features from a few apps and combine them. There are notation apps that are capable of writing music and chord symbols, like Notion (which I like a lot), but in this case, it only supports 2 bars per row, which is insane when you need just a lead sheet with chords. At least, you need 4 bars per row, otherwise you’ll end up with a lot of pages…
I really hope that the Notion-team is adding a “more than 2 bars per row” feature soon. It would make it the perfect notation tool for notes and chord sheets!

So if you want to make a “normal” lead sheet with chords and some annotations, like rhythmical notation or stops, you’ll have to use two apps to get the job done.

Step 1:
I use iReal b to make my chord charts. It’s clear layout and chord features are perfect to create a great sheet. The down side: you cannot make for example rhythmical notations.
Therefore I use the share/export function within iReal b, that makes it possible to export your sheet to another app. When the sheet is finished, I export a PDF to forScore.

Step 2:
Your created chart opens up in forScore and now it’s added to your library. Organize it by setting the title, composer, etc.
Now you can add all your (rhythmical, dynamical) annotations. You can highlight important spots and chose colored annotations to make everything more visible for when you’re on stage.

Writing down melodies & composing:
Apps like Notion or Symphony Pro are really great to write down your ideas, to compose music and to listen to what you’ve just created with great sounding instruments. Even if we can go a long way with these apps, they still do not replace our desktop notation apps like Finale or Sybelius completely. But at least they are compatible and you can start your idea on the road and finish it at your desktop computer at home.

Practicing & exercises:
iReal b is also a great tool for practicing songs and chord progressions. It features a band-in-a-box like player that’s capable of playing your song in different keys, tempi and styles. You even can mix the balance between the instruments (bass, keys, drums, fx).

I hope that this gives a little inspiration for all your mobile musicians out there. My experience is a really good one so far. I think that tablets really have a great future as music readers, tools and sound devices.
To give an example: My laptop was connected to the FOH mixer and I used my iPad as a remote control to start the recording of our shows every night. Pretty cool!

As always, please share your ideas, comments, suggestions and opinion!

Florian

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