Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Notebook:" An Ideal Music Reader

I was seriously disappointed when I found that the ipad is not capable of turning the orientation of PDF files (like the ones available on the Werner Icking Music Archive or the Petrucci Library) from landscape to portrait. I also found that it is not possible to conveniently turn pages or even conveniently scroll through music.

I'm not holding my breath, but I'm secretly hoping that some very smart music-loving technical person will eventually develop a mac- and windows-friendly music-reader (wouldn't it be appropriate to call it a "notebook?") that would really work for musicians. It wouldn't have as large a potential buying "audience" as the ipad, but it would help a lot of musicians. This is what my machine would require:

1. A screen that can be viewed clearly under all lighting conditions, including strong stage lights. It would need to have a viewing area that would be at least 8.5 x 11. 9 x 12 would be better.

2. A button on the lower and/or upper right hand side of the machine that would function as a page-turning button. It would need to go in both directions to account for repeats.

3. A method for annotation (fingerings and bowings) on the downloaded copy (a stylus, perhaps), and the option to save an annotated copy in an easily-accessible format.

4. It would have to have a very smart and flexible filing system that could organize sheet music into categories: period, genre, instrumentation, etc.

5. It would have to be silent, like the ipad.

6. It would have to have the capacity to do e-mail and send attachments, so there would need to be a functional keyboard--either internal or external (I can't stand to type on the ipad touchscreen).

7. It would need to have a long battery life and would need to be easily recharged.

8. It would have to be sturdy, but it would have to be light enough to sit on a music stand.

9. It would have to be affordable for musicians.

10. Here's my pie-in-the-sky dream for such a machine: it would work as a scanner as well as a reader (hence the ideal larger screen size).


Lisa Hirsch said...

There are multiple electronic page-turning systems on the market. Take a look at the AirTurn, MusicReader, CLEF, and eStand, for example. If none of those hits the right intersection of price point and features, a web search on "digital music stand" will turn up more possibilities.

Elaine Fine said...

Thanks Lisa! The eStand looks like the best of the litter to me, but it seems only to work with Windows, and it weighs six pounds, which is rather heavy. It also doesn't not have the capability to go online itself and import music.

My music reader needs are many. I would only buy an electronic device that would provide serious advantages over paper music. So far there is nothing available that satisfies me.

Kathryn Rose said...

A foot pedal option for page turns would be good too. Often when I'm playing serpent, I'm doubling a vocal line which poses no page-turning problems for "look! my hands are free!" singers but requires me to remove my hand from the serpent, reach through or around it, turn the page, and get my hand back in the right spot without breaking the line. If I'm actually meant to be keeping some holes covered with my right hand, it's impossible (the left one takes more disentangling).

Lisa Hirsch said...

Kathryn, I'm pretty sure that the AirTurn has a foot pedal or option to use a foot pedal.

Anonymous said...

My choice is old-fashioned paper and a large music stand.

Monique said...

I was disappointed by the iPad for the same reason: that it wouldn't work for music purposes.

Another thing on my wishlish is the ability for multiple people to read off of the same device at the same time. With a lot of these eReaders, unless you're staring directly at the reader you can't see what's there. Not very helpful when you're the one that remembered to bring the pile of music.

Elaine Fine said...

This is a great point, Monique. To make it fully functional for orchestral playing, the music would have to be visible by two string players who, in order to accommodate for their scrolls and bows, have to sit at a reasonable distance from one another and need to see the music from the side of the stand. My macbook pro could be shared by two string players, so I know it is not a technological impossibility.

Anonymous said...

Check out the MusicReader.net website. They now have a version of their software that runs on the iPad

Elaine Fine said...

The iPad is simply too small for practical use, even with MusicReader software.

Hugh Sung said...

You can turn digital pages without lifting a finger. The AirTurn is a wireless page turning pedal system that can accommodate one or two pedals for single or bi-directional page turns. MusicReader works with both Mac and PC computers, and provides a lot of the library and catalog capabilities you're looking for, as well as the ability to mark up your scores in bright inks, highlights, and music notation "stamps" and text. I've been a "paperless pianist" for over 8 years, working with a variety of laptops and tablet pcs, and it's been wonderful to be able to carry my entire sheet music library of over 6000 scores with me everywhere I go, all in one little laptop bag (I'm on the faculty at The Curtis Institute of Music as a very, very busy collaborative pianist)

AirTurn also carries a selection of laptop stands that collapse to the same size as music stands, and are very stable for musicians who work with laptops to read music.

Please visit the AirTurn website to learn more about various digital music reading options, or subscribe to our new weekly video podcast on iTunes for tips and tricks for digital music readers. Hope this helps!

Elaine Fine said...

I have been aware of Music Reader for a long time. What I would like to have is an iPad-type device, with online capabilities, that is large enough to actually be useful for a string player. I'm so happy that someone like you, who has the power to influence the people who make the actual machines, will understand the desires of people who play instruments other than the piano.

Hugh Sung said...

MusicReader has a great half-page view capability that zooms the music and intelligently recognizes the white space between staves, so that instead of just cutting the page in half, it will recenter the bottom half of the music so that you don't miss anything. On an iPad, MusicReader's half-page zoomed view actually makes the music the same size as "regular" paper. You can see a size comparison with the iPad and a Tablet PC with a 12.1 inch touchscreen on this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keVlZF6rqTc

The great thing as you pointed out is the fact that professional musicians are working on these technologies, so it's even more important to get feedback from our colleagues to try to get closer to that ideal digital music reader design!