Digital Music Sheet – An Evaluation

Background

A colluege of mine has a nice use case for his old iPad2 – he uses that for displaying the music. So he doesn’t have to carry all the paper when rehearsing or performing.

I am not only a trumpet player, I am also interested in technical gimmicks. So I also want to have such a thing.😉

So I started an evaluation. Because I don’t own a tablet I am not fit to a special device. There are mainly three different platforms you could use: t dAndroid, Windows 8 RT and iPad. For the first two you can choose between several devices and sizes while the iPad is (still) available at 10.1″.

Because I am more familiar with Android because of my mobile, I decided to start here. I ordered a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 2014. I like the hand writing there and its performance. But for playing music this device was too small for me. I don’t want to say, that 10.1″ is not enough in general, this format is too small for ME with my 10dpt bad eyes …

So I send that device back and did an evaluation of 13″ devices. If you want to have a device in that size, you won’t find as many as for 10″ … But on the other hand this limits the possibilities and the work for searching.😉
With 13″ you could use only Android or WinRT at the moment. Apple had announced bigger devices and Samsung did that also, but I am curious NOW :O.

To be honest I am not sure about using Windows on a tablet … maybe I am prestressed from my old mobile running Windows Mobile.

Hardware

So now I had to search for candidates available in Germany (where I live). A little bit googling gave me: Odys Aeon, Archos Family Pad2, Archos Arnova Family Pad, Point of View Graphics Mobii 1325 Tab-P 1325  and the Hannspree SN14T71B.
Next step is collecting the requirements: should not be too big and too heavy. Nice display, actual OS, enough storage. Bluetooth is also a benefit for connecting to page-turners. And a low price would also be fine🙂

13-tablets
From that table I choosed the Hannspree due its good hardware data. After that I did some searches again for a better price than the 245,30 € at Amazon and found  226,85 € at Atelco. After only a few days I got the tablet.

First impression of that tablet is: big. Reminds me on my 15″ notebook. But directly comparing with that the Hannspree is not all big as the notebook. And it’s much thinner.
What I dont like is the power adapter. It is not an USB one (the tablet has two micro USB ports) – it’s a propriety one.

Software

A real evaluation would have to evaluate multiple music readers. But I found Mobile Sheets it impressed me: you could to much of what you are doing with paper, behind that tool there is programmer who is very responsible in the tools forum and there is a free ‚test‘ version (full features but limited songs).

Mobile Sheets Free

Installation is done via Google Play Store very quickly. And there are some points I had written in the forum – u.a. as error feedback to the programmer. Very nice: only two days later I had a good feedback from the programmer.

There is also an open bugtracker where you could place your wishes. And here are my first few:

  • #60: MS supports image rotation. This is done via double-tipping. Maybe an alternative would be more intuitive: place two fingers on the tablet a let them rotate. Answer:v5 is adding rotation support where you can rotate any amount you want. This will be done with a slider on the song editor screen (with the ability to enter a value manually if desired).
  • #61: You could configure how to activate the overlap. Default is a single tap. Because chances increase that a simple „next page“ results in activating the overlap, I suggest having a „double-tap“ or „long-tap“ as default. (There was a forum entry here which shows how to configure that behaviour.) Answer: There are already three overlay modes available in MobileSheets. If you look under the options for these overlay settings, you have the option for single tap, long tap, or swipe.
  • #62: Just in idea: improve the AutoScroll and the Metronome by supplying more information. The user could mark the area which build a „line“ in the music and save how many measures this line would include. Additional information is the tempo (which defaults to the tempo of the previous line and finally in the tempo of the song).
    • A Metronome could change its tempo while playing according to the music.
    • AutoScroll could use this information for calculating the time which is needed for playing one line. Also AutoScroll could ignore not marked lines (because they dont contain music).Anwer: These are good ideas. I am introducing more advanced auto-scrolling options, but I didn’t really think about adjusting the metronome mid-song. In a future update, I will look into adding these capabilities.
  • Preload of the Setlist. Having all songs loaded into memory would speed up page-turning. If it is not possible to load the entire setlist (maybe to less memory) preloading the next page and holding the last page would also tune the speed. Answer: I already load up to 10 pages in each direction from the current page. Even this can cause problems on some devices with limited resources.
  • Multi display support. As the price for tablets decrease you could choose the trend using more „commodity hardware“ instead of „high end hardware“. You could combine multible tablets for building one „big“ display.
    You have to store where each of the tablets is (like dual monitor support in desktop operating systems). Then input and output could be done via all displays. One of the tablets will be the „master“ which holds the configuration and the songs. The „slaves“ only require a thin layer for transport the input and output data. Communication could be done via bluetooth or wifi.
    This feauture could be interesting for conductors who have to see much more music at once.
    Answer: I am adding two pages up at a time, but the other features you’ve mentioned are pretty extensive. I’m not sure when I will try to tackle them yet.
  • Support for „native keyboards“. When entering text you only have the virtual keyboard. Supplying other input formats would be nice:speech input and pen writing. Answer: Speech input is naturally built into the Android OS, is it not? There is usually a microphone button on the keyboard for this (I don’t have my tablet to verify this). I also support voice-based searching for songs already as well. As for native keyboards and pen writing, these are also OS things. If I plug the keyboard into my ASUS Transformer, it works automatically. I don’t know if you can plug in any usb keyboard, but in theory, my app shouldn’t have to change at all to support this if the OS supports it. After that explanation I found the way of „entering text by speaking“. Nice.
  • #63:   Export the metadata (title, artist, notes, …) as plain text (CSV, XML) for further processing. I think there was such a feature request already … Answer: This will be tackled along with the other sharing features.
  • #64: Table overview of all notes. So you could create a „todo list“ from all saved notes. Answer: Are you saying you want a list on the library screen of notes taken for every song? I can consider adding this if it would be useful to people.
  • #65: Custom stamps. E.g. a danger sign, glasses – so the musician knows to have a deeper look. Answer: User provided custom bitmaps are still on my list of things to finish adding, along with converting the existing implementation to use fonts instead of bitmaps for the core symbols.

Mobile Sheets Companion

Another good tool is Mobile Sheets Companion. This is a program for your PC for managing the data on your tablet. It is much easier to import files or enter text with a ‚real‘ computer than with a tablet.

MS-C is available without additional charge and requires a connection to a running MS instance. Connection could be established via USB or Wifi (I choose Wifi because that’s much easier).

External Tools

When playing from tablet you have to get your music into that tablet. One way is using PDF (Mobile Sheets supports graphics too). When handling with PDF is use these external tools:

  • scan2pdf: Scans one or multiple pages into a PDF file.
  • pdfsam: split, joins, rotate PDFs

It is also possible to attach audio files to songs. So these tools may be worthful:

  • Audiograbber: grabbing audio files from CD into your computer
  • mp3tag: add MP3 ID3-tags to your file

Mobile Sheet

After the first iteration I decided to stay at this combination (Mobile Sheets on Hannspree), so I purchased the full version.

Here I did more experiments – adding audio files. Are you familiar with ‚Play Alongs‘? You get the orchestra music on CD and the solo part as music. So you could play ‚with your own orchestra‘ (or band). If you now attach the audio file to the song, you could directly play the background music from your tablet. Switching to another song would directly start the next audio file. No more searching for the right CD.😉 And if you have Bluetooth you maybe connect BT speakers to get the music louder …

Stand

For 10.1″ tablets there are lot of stands like the K&M 19742.

tablet-holderFor a 13″ tablet I haven’t found a good stand yet. So I place that on my usual music stand.

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2 Kommentare - “Digital Music Sheet – An Evaluation”

  1. Muzietto Says:

    Quite interesting. Thanks for sharing all this. I play keyboards and this could be a very useful thing to try myself.

  2. Mick Says:

    Hi,
    I currently use mobilesheets on a 10.1 size tablet and am looking for a 13.3 size tablet.
    Are you still happy with your Hannspree tablet running mobilesheets?
    I would be interested in any further information you could give me. For example, is it fast enough and reliable enough for critical live work, etc?
    Kind regards,
    Mick.


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