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Mander Organs

Sheet Music on Tablets


rogbi200

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This has been touched on occasionally in discussions but not enough to merit a topic of its own yet, as far as I can tell. I wondered if anyone has gone down the route of scanning all or part of their organ music library and transferring onto tablet so that it can be read (and annotated etc) from the console?

 

I did read an article in "Organists' Review" a couple of years ago by Kevin Bowyer outlining his experiences with Cambron Software's Power Music application, in that instance I think running on a small-form PC with a large 24" LED screen for the music desk. I have experimented with various PDF files played on a 9" iPad screen, and there are, as well as Cambron's iPad version, other apps out there such as 'forScore' and 'unrealBook'; there are various hardware solutions too via bluetooth for facilitating page turns in these apps, should tapping the screen to turn not be viable. The iPad "retina" screen is just about viable to play from- it's clear and sharp enough, though inevitably on the small side, but if you know the music well, it's enough of an aide-memoire to suffice. However for learning, it's still a little fiddly to add annotations or fingering.

 

With the launch of larger tablet screens such as the iPad Pro or the Surface Pro 4, these sizes (with the high resolution and crisp screens) become rather more viable to display music, and with the advent of the bespoke stylus such as the Apple Pencil, it becomes much easier to annotate files, so I have been pondering whether to pursue this a little more seriously.

 

There seems to be less of a move to find a common format for selling sheet music in electronic format, and whilst public domain scores seem to have adopted PDF as the common format, the various proprietary systems set up by publishers and music retailers who have dabbled in selling music as downloads have not found any standardisation yet as far as I can tell. Nor does there seem to be any move by the likes of Amazon to develop music on their Kindle platform. I would for example find it rather useful to have our hymn books on my tablet, both for reference and occasionally to play from on those instruments where the music desk has no clips to hold it open properly, but newly released hymn books seem to be in print version only. One or two of my choir members find holding a heavy modern hymn book hard work, and a tablet/kindle version would be a good solution for them were it available.

 

I simply wondered how many of you had either dabbled in or embraced, partly or totally, the concept of the paperless-console...?

 

 

 

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This is something I am thinking about too, rogbi200. Up to now I haven’t felt the need for an iPad or similar-sized tablet, and on the occasions when I’ve been asked to sight read from one I have found the image a little too small for my middle-aged eyes. But an A4-sized iPadPro is a different proposition. A PDF or other digital-format hymnbook would be really useful, especially with an easy-to-use bookmark feature. As you say, the Apple Pencil should make annotation straightforward. I export from Sibelius into PDF all the time so viewing on the iPadPro should be easier than printing. The only major issue with organ music is switching from portrait to landscape—I know this should just be a question of physically turning the tablet through 90º but I’d like to try it out. In the new iOS there is the ability to split the screen so you could eg type into a word processor whilst viewing a source document, which could be useful. The 10 hour battery life should be ample for most purposes too.

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And I see that on yesterday’s post on the YouTube thread the organist is using what appears to be an iPad to play Franck.

 

 

I hadn't noticed that!

 

The possibilities, of course, are endless. perhaps frightening and, possibly, beyond most of our imaginations. I suspect that more and more, in the future, organ consoles will be fitted with more and more devices to allow us to input different technologies - some are there already - others will appear and become the norm and the console of, even 20 years from now, will look very different from that of today.

 

At my age I find it all a bit scary! - but then I would never have believed when I was at school or even as an undergraduate that, one day every morning, I would switch on a computer, access information and receive messages from around the globe and, more importantly, be able to create music scores and generate a set of parts - the days of spending the first hour, or more, of a rehearsal finding the mistakes in a set of parts seem so long away!

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I've been using forScore for a little while now. So far, I have about 200 scores on it, including PDF exports from Sibelius, some public domain downloads and a limited number of scanned scores. My overall view is a qualified success. It's really handy having so many scores to hand in a convenient package and there are a number of functions that I find useful. There seems to be a number of utilities that are common among the different applications but I note that forScore is only available as an IOS application: anyone who uses Android or Windows will need to look elsewhere.

 

A few pros and cons:

 

Pros

  • It's convenient to have everything in one place.
  • Useful bookmarks feature to cope with repeats.
  • Being able to categories by genre and by 'tags' (such as repertoire, service settings, carols, and the like) is very handy. I have both funeral and wedding tags, for instance, so I can call up all my suitable music without having to delve into the library.
  • The create set lists feature is really useful: you can marshall all the scores you need together and simply tap to get to the next item. Handy for occasions such as carol services (to take a seasonal example).
  • the iPad's retina display means that scores are clear to read (but see below).

 

Cons

  • The iPad is still a small screen. It displays one page easily enough but you can rotate to display two on one screen. Those pages are, however, pretty small and can only be useful as an aide memoir as Rogbi200 mentioned. If you stay with one page per screen, you have to 'turn' the page twice as often. The new Pro might make this a more viable solution with its much larger screen estate.
  • The screen reflects. If the organ light is in the wrong position (given that it is there to illuminate the score) you can lose the display completely.
  • The page tap to turn is OK but if you tap in just the wrong place it can grey the display to show the menu options. In the middle of playing that's not helpful.
  • Some of the downloadable PD scores are poor scans, or scans of poor prints. The iPad display shows warts and all and can be difficult to read in those circumstances.
  • Some music (the Novello Bach editions, for instance) are quite the wrong shape for the screen. You can download more traditional formats, of course but, I still use the original books; it's just easier.

I fancy the idea of a digital hymn book but, for it to work, I'd need the facility to display an alternative tune to words. We do that quite a lot in our church and it rather defeats the object if you have to have both the book and iPad open to play an alternative tune. A digital psalter would be handy too but the same issue applies.

 

Overall, I think it's early days but it brings convenience and, once you are used to it, makes life quite a bit easier in some circumstances. It'll never really replace physical scores in some respects and there's still pleasure to be had just opening a musty old book of chorale preludes that technology will never replace. I still keep my physical scores to hand because of belt-and-braces nervousness but less so than I once did. I confess I'd avoid Windows tablets in case some Vierne is killed by the blue screen of death, but that iPad pro with its pencil is calling to me. And, if there's a convenient wi-fi or you have a 4G version there are always the live cricket scores during the sermon (you didn't hear that from me).

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I carry a tablet with all my music round with me and have given a few recitals now. Page turns are annoying as they only show one page at a time, though I now use a mouse (blu-tacked to the side of the music stand) with the cursor fixed on a part of the screen that clicking advances the page, and that makes it easy enough for a page turner. The first time I used a pageturner he clicked on the wrong part of the screen at one point and closed the music file (thank goodness for memory!)

 

My house organ (running Hauptwerk) has a 26 inch music desk monitor which can display two pages of A4 at life size, and I control it with forward and backpage pistons. I have downloaded probably several hundred out-of-copyright composers' scores from IMSLP and have vastly expanded my repertoire in the process.

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  • 1 month later...

Had a discussion about this with my local DOM. We agreed that tablets may be useful for carrying a large library of music (subject to the limitations already described), however for performance nothing is better than an original paper copy.

- Paper is more easily readable in a multitude of different light conditions.

- Nothing beats a pencil for making notes (as well as conducting and throwing at unruly choir members)

- Paper doesn't run out of battery life.

- Paper doesn't break when you drop it.

 

The only limitation of paper we considered was the proximity of candles in carol services....

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  • 4 months later...

Hi all,

 

I have a friend who has transferred some music to tablet, and on trying it I found it quite difficult, most particularly as the size of the device was rather smaller than the printed page and thus not friendly to my aging eyes, and, as Choir_Man notes, light conditions change between venues such that paper seems to have an advantage. (I used it in two churches with quite different conditions.) Innate also notes problems in switching between portrait and landscape. Copyright is of course a real issue - and, I think, the biggest one.

 

I suppose the ideal would be a non-reflective display of about the same size as a "standard" music page - rather larger than A4, although I don't know the slightest thing about page sizes - which is designed to be set up both upright and lengthways, depending upon the music. "Page turning" would be by touch, far easier than turning the real thing. Contrebombarde's system sounds like a brilliant answer to (many., at least) of the issues involved, but of course isn't adaptable in so many situations. However, something like this overall, commercially available in a form with particular standards that music publishers will agree to use - ie, selling their product either in old-fashioned print form, or alternatively in a form which can be readily downloaded onto such a device - would be the ants-pants. That's the big question, isn't it - getting music publishers involved, so that music currently under copyright is released and available in the appropriate format. If publishers were to take this on board, and also other parts of the music performance "industry" were to take it up - have any orchestras moved to electronic scores in any contexts? - then then it might be a real goer.

 

Rgds

MJF

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I suppose the ideal would be a non-reflective display of about the same size as a "standard" music page - rather larger than A4, although I don't know the slightest thing about page sizes - which is designed to be set up both upright and lengthways, depending upon the music. "Page turning" would be by touch, far easier than turning the real thing. Contrebombarde's system sounds like a brilliant answer to (many., at least) of the issues involved, but of course isn't adaptable in so many situations. However, something like this overall, commercially available in a form with particular standards that music publishers will agree to use - ie, selling their product either in old-fashioned print form, or alternatively in a form which can be readily downloaded onto such a device - would be the ants-pants. That's the big question, isn't it - getting music publishers involved, so that music currently under copyright is released and available in the appropriate format. If publishers were to take this on board, and also other parts of the music performance "industry" were to take it up - have any orchestras moved to electronic scores in any contexts? - then then it might be a real goer.

 

Here is a photograph of my home practice organ:

Salisbury2.jpg

 

Whilst I appreciate that posting photos of non-pipe organs is frowned upon here, I hope I may be permitted to demonstrate this console because there is no reason why this arrangement couldn't be adopted by organbuilders in a pipe organ. It simply requires a 26 inch or bigger monitor and preferably a non reflective transparent protective sheet of something in front to prevent scratching the monitor screen on the rare occasion that you might put a paper copy up. A 26 inch monitor is big enough to display either landscape or portrait orientation music with two leaves open such that each page is about the size of an A4 sheet. In my case I have a forward and reverse piston above the Solo manual and a forward and reverse toe piston to turn pages. Initial selection of the music is with a mouse and Windows File Explorer, and the music opens in Foxit Reader (mainly because you can choose to open a pdf file to open full screen by default, whereas with Acrobat Reader you have to do a few mouse clicks to get to full screen).

 

I have a huge library (over 2GB) of scanned organ music pdfs from imslp, the University of Rochester music library and other out-of-copyright sources that are freely downloadable, along with a small number of my more recent scores that I scanned myself but which are in copyright so cannot be shared. A huge attration of having a home practice organ "net enabled" is that I can be watching Youtube clips or listening to Organlive and hear something that's lovely but unfamiliar; the chances are I can find a copy of the score and I'll download it and within minutes I can be learning exciting new repertoire. That was never possible for me until I began realising the possibilities of having a digital music display on my home practice organ.

 

Comments have already been made about the pros and cons of tablets, which have a much smaller screen and require turns after every page rather than every two pages, so I will add one more invaluable practice technique that I have developed thanks to this page display technique. Often tricky bits in the music seem to occur around page turns, and practising them can be exacerbated by having to make the turn. It's very simple to add a blank first page to the score so that every page turn moves on by one page, and thus what previously was the move from left to right now becomes the turn, and what was the turn is now followed over to the right hand page of a pair. Thus you can practice with the whole section displayed and no turn to worry about until you are satisfied that you've mastered the notes.

 

As for cost, well, you can buy a complete Windows PC with 32GB solid state hard drive on a device the size of a memory stick that you plug into a monitor and it would be way more powerful than needed if its sole purpose was to download pdf files and display them. That plus a decent 26 inch plus monitor shouldn't cost more than £200-£300, plus mouse and some means of mounting it to the music stand since it would be rather heavy to just expect it to stay there.

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A couple of local organist associations have arranged visits to my house organ, and other visitors are always welcome by arrangement. Whilst the mechanism of sound generation of my organ is well out of scope for this forum(*), the sheet music and practice techniques I use certainly are not. When I practice at home I regularly download new scores to learn from imslp and annotate them (yes, you can annotate pdf files). For organ concerts or organ crawls I just stick my tablet into the computer that controls my practice organ's music desk and upload the annotated scores to the tablet. And having a screen and a net-enabled home practice organ means I can look for and listen to recordings on Youtube and elsewhere of pieces that I'm learning to get different ideas for interpretation. I even wondered about having tablets for the singers at my church too - email music to the choir ahead of the practice, no books or sheets to fall over in the service - but there is enough in copyright church music to make that a bit more restrictive.

 

I can see no obvious reason why pipe organs, especially a home practice organ, couldn't be built with an LCD screen in place of the music desk large enough to display two open pdf pages and a small computer; perhaps some of our organ building members might comment. Obviously you'd still need a ledge to mount paper books when you weren't using the screen, and a sheet of protective perspex or glass in front of the screen. That would overcome what for me are the biggest shortcomings of displaying music on a tablet - only one page at a time, small screen (how many tablets are larger than 10 inches?) and requires a hand touch gesture to turn every single page.

 

(*) Although my practice organ uses Hauptwerk, to hide the speakers it does have a facade rank of Nicholson and Lord 4 foot diapasons that came from from a redundant pipe organ. I don't suppose however that qualifies it for being considered a hybrid!

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I have one of these, but it's not much use for an organist who wishes to turn his or her own pages! Can some boffin adapt it to work with another (free) part of the body - perhaps something you hold between you teeth and clench when you want to turn the page. Or maybe a sensor that can be stuck under the keys of one of the manuals next to the registration buttons.

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Further to my last post, I have discovered that there is a device on the market called the Bite Switch. It is apparently used by photographers and sky divers! It looks as though it fits on the head rather like those microphones that television presenters wear. It would be great if this could be used on the same principle as the tablet foot device.

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