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iPad Pro for Pianists: Up and Running with forScore

Elizabeth Dawson

This is a guest post from my daughter, who was a disciplined saver with a goal of buying the iPad Pro for her piano playing, among other things. She met her savings goal and was able to order the iPad Pro the first day it was available. It arrived yesterday, and she is happy to share her unboxing story with you: iPad Pro for Pianists. 

As I opened my new iPad Pro, I was so excited! I have saved up my money from teaching piano lessons, babysitting and allowance, and my grandparents added some money as birthday and Christmas presents. As I walked up to the box, two things crossed my mind. One, how excited I was, and two, how big it was! The iPad Pro is 12.9 inches tall and 8.6 inches wide. It is extremely thin at 6.9 millimeters. I wanted the Pro because of the size. I mostly use the iPad for sheet music, so the bigger the better. I was previously using the iPad 3 which was quite a bit smaller. I was looking forward to some new features such as the Touch ID. I really like how quick and easy it is to get into the iPad.

I love the four speaker sound, too! It really turns the iPad into a good sound system. The camera is so much better on this iPad. The photos come out very crisp and have a great resolution. It is a great device to look at and take pictures on. It’s really awesome!

I am currently waiting for the Smart Keyboard that attaches to this iPad to arrive. Right now, I am typing this story on the iPad’s on-screen keyboard and I love that it is big enough to feel like a natural keyboard! I also plan to use this iPad with the keyboard as a laptop for writing school papers and sheet music.

For music on my iPad, I use an app called forScore. With an app called TurboScan, I scan music into the iPad and then open the electronic music into forScore. ForScore also lets you open a PDF of any sheet music and load it into the app. For me the challenge of the app was the music page turns. I have a hard time with playing and using my hands to turn the page. I got a device from Airturn (a refurbished BT-105) which connects to the device and lets me turn the pages with my feet.

I think the bigger design will really help with drawing, typing, and music. I didn’t buy the Apple pencil because I don’t draw very much, but if you are into drawing, it really helps be more precise and helps add details to the drawing. For me, the biggest perk of the larger design is how much it will help me with the music. This iPad has been great to use so far, and I look forward to getting to use it more!

Musicians: check out this post about using iPad Pro with forScore for managing your music Click To Tweet

iPad Pro for Pianists: Video with Airturn

Check out the video of me playing. The page turns are triggered from my foot, so I can keep my hands on the keys!

iPad Pro for Pianists from Scott Dawson on Vimeo.

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  1. Nice write up and great use of technology. Most importantly, Elizabeth, your piano playing is fantastic! You’ve obviously worked hard at it. Congratulations on a life skill you will never regret!

  2. Elizabeth, do you use your finger or another stylus for annotations? I’m intrigued by the Apple Pencil because I write all over my scores. Even if I’m using the printed fingerings, I often re-write them much bigger because the printed ones are so darn small.

    1. Thanks, Paul! I don’t write a lot in my scores, but when I do I mostly use a finger, and it seems to work pretty well for me. The pencil looks pretty cool for drawing, though!

    2. Paul – I would love to know what you settled on when it comes to marking up your scores. I’m also very interested in the Pro and Pencil combination for my scores but wonder if I could settle with the iPad Air 2 as it would be much more cost-effective for me.

  3. Thanks for your opinion! Very interesting for my purposes!

    I’ve been playing the piano for many years using an iPad 2 to read the scores (with ForScore, too), even in concerts or working playing in a restaurant.

    But since iOS 7, the iPad 2 started to run more and more slow (iOS 8 and 9 didn’t solve nothing for me), so I think now it’s time to change my iPad.

    I think the iPad Pro is very expensive comparing with an actual iPad Air 2. but I hope that its bigger screen it will be the best option for my purposes. The iPad 2 that I was using for all this years have worked very well, but sometimes the screen was a bit smaller for me, for example when you want to read or learn some song for first time. When you know the score, a normal iPad size is ok if you only want to remember some bars, because you have thousands of songs in your mind. But if you have not practiced before a song or don’t know it, you need to read carefully the first time and then, in my opinion the screen of an iPad seems a bit small for that. So, hope that the big screen of an iPad Pro will give me this extra size that I’ve always missed when using the iPad to learn a song for first time compared to a physical score in paper, always bigger.

    So, thank you for your review. I think it help me a lot to decide to go for the iPad Pro.

    The next step when I receive it: learn how to use my page turner foot controller, because everytime I tried to use it, I failed the notes with the hands when playing, haha. I think I need to practice to get more coordination between my hands and the left foot at the same time to turn pages without problems. Until now, I continue turning pages with a fast movement with one finger while playing, just waiting the perfect moment, for example when I arrive at a bar with less notes, hehe.

    1. Thank you so much for the comment, David! Your web site video is very cool, by the way. We really enjoyed learning more about your compositions and performances in Spain. You’ll really enjoy the larger screen (and it’s FAST, too), and I’m sure the foot controller will get easier over time! My daughter is thinking seriously about the Apple Pencil now, as she read that annotations are supported in forScore, and that’d be a lot easier and more precise than using her finger. Best of luck!

  4. Thanks for the article and your video. I play clarinet in an ensemble and orchestra and have been using my iPad 2 for many years. I use a Cicada page turner pedal and often set forScore to half page turns. That way you are never without the right part of the score in front of you and you have more freedom as to when to hit the pedal. The down side of that is that you are turning pages twice as often.
    I have now upgraded to the 12 inch iPad Pro and that is just wonderful. As you say the sound is also quite amazing.
    So for me the winning combination is forScore, 12 inch iPad Pro and Bluetooth foot pedal. I do all my marking up with an ordinary stylus (or finger) as the Apple Pencil is just too expensive for me.

  5. Hi Elizabeth! Thanks so much for this post, and great playing! Just got my own iPad Pro for all the same reasons; I’m also a piano instructor and have SO much music I want to get it into the pad. And had no idea how wonderful the sound and camera would be, big bonus I wasn’t even expecting…However … I want to set up iPad Pro and be able to put music under it, sheets, books etc with good lighting–I can’t hold it still enough myself!–any thoughts on this?
    Also do you find TurboScan better than Darkroom (have only used that so far).

    1. Hi Julie!
      I do use turbo scan to scan documents into the iPad. It doesn’t just take pictures of the sheet, it physically scans the paper into the iPad, which I find better than the darkroom which just takes pictures of the music. I find it best to put the sheet on a flat surface under a light and take the photo.
      I hope this helps!

  6. Hello Elizabeth,
    What do you mean by saying “It doesn’t just take pictures of the sheet, it physically scans the paper into the iPad”. “Physically scans”? … As I understand it, it has two modes: to make picture with applying algorithms to make it look better. And second mode: to make three pictures and merge them into one for best quality and again applying algorithms. In any case thease are pictures actually, because in both cases the built-in camera is used. All the differences are in software algorithms. Better algorithms will give better results.

    And I see on your pictures there are quite big white spaces on your scans (especially on the left side). Did you try to use manual Crop in forScore? Those white margins have sense on printed sheets, but they are just waste of valuable space on the screen. Removing them will make sheets even bigger a bit. And general look will be more organic.

    And maybe a bit unexpected question. Why did you chose iPad Pro with white-coloured frame? Was it a conscious choice? Personally I thought that iPad with black frame would combine better with a black piano color. But your piano not black… For me from one side white frames are like continuation of white sheet, like its margins. But from the other side black frames are better for combination with grand pianos (most of them are black), and more noble color, IMHO. And when iPad is switched off, it looks cool, because you don’t see the edges of the screen, it’s like one monolithic technological plate.

    1. Thanks for commenting! Of course it doesn’t “physically scan”, but to your point, there are algorithms that take what would be a normal photograph and really make it crisp. I haven’t tried the crop feature in forScore, but I’ll definitely check it out. It sounds like you’ve done a lot of thinking about the color of your iPad. I was partial to the gold, so I went for that. Good luck with your purchase!

  7. Hello Elizabeth, thanks for this post and video, my girlfriend just got her Roland FP-30 and was interested in using my iPad for sheet music but you convinced me to get her the 13″ iPad Pro. Roland offers an iTunes app that turns the pages wirelessly using the foot pedal. Now I need to find her the best place to buy or download the music sheets.

    1. Thanks, Logan! That’s exciting about your girlfriend’s new set of keys. It looks really nice and portable! Best of luck with the iPad Pro! I use forScore to hold all my music, and scan in any hardcopy music I want with TurboScan, but you can also buy PDF music from any online music service and import it right into forScore.

  8. I have been using a Miracle Piano to learn how to play for a number of years. I see this page turner being used at a Symphony event in Fort Worth. The arrangements on the Miracle Piano are different from other arrangements. I need to take pictures of the Miracle Piano arrangement so I can page turn them on the real piano which I have in the house I live in now. I am looking for an ipad just for this process because I am an
    Android guy. I have wifi access here also. Any idea where I can find an ipad just for this use? Richard

    1. I’m not sure! You could check in with the page turner manufacturer to see if they have any recommendations. There may be an Android alternative you’re not yet aware of.

  9. Dear Elizabeth and readers.
    I’m a violin player and in many occasions play with other people (string quartet, chamber orchestra). I was wondering if anybody knows about an app that can allow me to share markings such as bowings and fingering in real time with other players.
    Also what about storing the library on a cloud?

    Thank you for your beautiful writing and playing!

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