Choosing a Tablet for Reading Charts

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by JimmyM, Oct 25, 2021.

  1. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I have never owned a tablet in my life. Plenty of desktops and a laptop, never a tablet. But it appears that the entire reading world has converted. And I never make a major purchase without research and lots of it, especially something that I never bought before. Sooooo…

    1. Will I look like a ne’er do well if I don’t have an iPad? Or would a solid Android tablet that doesn’t cost as much still make me acceptable and be as easy to use as iPads seem?

    2. Obviously the bigger the screen, the better but how big is too big? Same for RAM and storage space as I can’t imagine there being a need for the.highest speed and storage just to flip thru sheet music and DL some MP3’s sometimes.

    3. I have no idea what some decent software for organizing your music and making it easy to find quickly exists. Got suggestions for both Apple and Android?

    4. What kind of average battery time can I expect out of one?

    I want to do it right the first time, but I don’t like spending more than I need to spend. Thx for any advice you can toss my way!
  2. Neo1

    Neo1 Supporting Member

    I can only speak about my own recent experience this past spring, and it concerns screen size. I found I needed a larger screen due to my aged eye-sight. I bought a used Ipad Pro with a 12.9" screen (I tried using a "normal" smaller screen, and found myself leaning in and squinting). I also was thinking that my eyes-sight will only get worse (not better), so was planning ahead. I don't think it looks too large from an audience's point of view (and because it's larger, I can lower it more than if I had a normal-sized one). Going from a binder on a stand to a device, this all has made for a smoother transition, too.

    Though ebay-used, the battery on my device lasts for 5-6 hours easily (and I charge it when it gets too low, so haven't exhausted it). Make sure whatever device you get is recent enough to operate a wireless page turner (it seemed the next logical step - just more GAS, I guess. I bought an inexpensive Donner, which works fine for scrolling forward or backwards, though I need more practice turning with my foot mid-song). And I use Forescore for the ability to edit my music (I can write words/notations/whatever on it in different thicknesses as well as erase any size mark, all just by swiping my finger). It's also a one-time price.

    (Also - none of setting this up was too overwhelming to figure out - this coming from a guy who still doesn't own a cellphone)
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2021
    68Tele-Bass, kittyboy, Artman and 8 others like this.
  3. FishyJoe


    May 10, 2021
    The software situation is much better with the iPad. Especially when it comes to apps for musicians. Like night and day difference.

    I wouldn't worry about memory or processor, pretty much everything outside of some games and video editing will work on any newish iPad. If your eyesight is good, then a regular iPad should be fine. The larger size of an iPad pro is nice if your eyesight isn't so great.

    A fully charged iPad will likely last longer than you can play so I wouldn't worry too much about it.
    Mvilmany, Flog, Jason Hollar and 17 others like this.
  4. theduke1

    theduke1 Supporting Member

    Dec 22, 2010
    Sussex WI
    I have an Android and the software I use is two free apps
    Lyric Search and Lyric pad
    Search for songs in Lyric search, when you save them they are placed in Lyric pad
    In Lyric pad you can create set lists, edit lyrics , change the key, etc.
    While I don’t use it on stage, it is a great tool for learning new material
    Good luck
  5. Geri O

    Geri O Endorsing Artist, Mike Lull Guitars and Basses Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    I went with a 12.9 iPad Pro, because (A), I'm heavily invested in the Apple eco-world, but (B) more importantly, I need a big screen for these 63-year-old eyes to see better with. I use the iPads for remote mixing and reading charts. It's really paid off having the real estate. If your eyes don't need such a large screen, a smaller iPad or Android tablet can be had for not a lot of cash.

    Oh, yeah, there's all kinds of gadgets for turning pages by hand and foot switches, too.
    armybass, Tommy V, kittyboy and 4 others like this.
  6. CallMeAl


    Dec 2, 2016
    Ithaca Ny
    I chose iPad simply because we already use MacBooks and iPhones. But watching my guitar players Android crash all the time didn’t help anything;) he eventually got an iPad…

    I got the 9.7” (discontinued size I believe the basic one is ~10.2” now) but I just use it for woodshed and rehearsals. If I was using on stage or using lots of standard notation, I’d definitely want ~12”.

    Setlist helper is a great app for organizing. You can import lyrics and chord/lyric sheets (like Ultimate Guitar etc) and edit, change key, font size. It has auto scroll, but not sure how it functions with a page pedal. Imports PDF and even photos so you can really organize everything here. $9.

    SongSheet Pro seems like a more polished version of setlist helper. My banjo player uses this one and he loves it. The only added feature I can see is chord charts. (Very basic “slash for beats” charts, no bar lines or anything fancy). But this one is $90 so I didn’t see $80 of benefits.

    iReal pro is a great chord chart app. There’s an online forum where you can search and import charts. Seems geared towards Jazz, but I’ve found fiddle and bluegrass tunes too. I believe the “i” implies it’s iOS exclusive. You can edit, change keys, export PDFs. There’s even piano /drum backing track generator, if you’re into that (I use this almost daily). $20.

    forscore seems to be the standard for sheet music, but I don’t use a ton so I skipped that one . The other two do all I need.

    Welcome to the 21st century Jimmy! I hesitated and it took me a while to take the plunge, but I’m glad I did :)
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2021
  7. J_Bass

    J_Bass Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    I don't think the tablet matters a lot. As long as is not entry level, so you can use it for a long time.

    I use an iPad, but an android tablet will work as good as an iPad.

    The app you're going to run is more important.

    I use forScore, but that is exclusive for Mac.

    Lots of people use museScore, I have it too, both work great.

    Free music composition and notation software | MuseScore
    longfinger and JimmyM like this.
  8. Goatrope

    Goatrope Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2011
    Sarasota Florida
    I’m not using any tablet, but to address the battery concern, I use a 10,000mh power bank for my GoPro.

    I remove the GoPro internal battery prior to the gig. I turn it on while we’re setting up, and it records the entire gig, so 4+ hours, with 46% battery life to spare on the power bank.

    So if battery life is a concern, you’ve got options. :)
    JimmyM likes this.
  9. Plectrum72

    Plectrum72 Supporting Member

    For software, I really enjoy Fakebook. You can import charts, create your own charts, edit/make notes, link to music files to practice along with. Just all kinds of useful features for me.

    For a tablet, I went with the 10" (10.2?) Amazon Fire. Using it exclusively for performance/practice purposes so memory & speed are no issue. Battery life in real world always on application is 10-12 hours.

    Whichever route you end up going, I also recommend getting a hands free page turner such as the AirTurn BTS200S-2.
  10. jazzyvee


    Aug 11, 2012
    United Kingdom
    Oh, if you do get one, remember to turn off the auto screen lock feature when gigging with it or you will be faced with a blank locked screen mid song.:bassist:
    OldShark, Jxff, Jason Hollar and 11 others like this.
  11. srayb


    Oct 27, 2010
    I use an iPad Pro 12.9”, which I bought from Apple as a refurb. I highly recommend going this route as their refurb process includes new outer shell as well as a new battery. To me their refurbs are indistinguishable from new. They are previous generations of the product but Apple always seems to over-engineer they products - products released years ago are still blazingly fast and support the most up to date OS.

    Refurbished iPad

    I use iReal Pro app & also the built in Books app for PDFs. The screen display is great for this.
  12. mrperkolator


    Jan 4, 2020
    I have owned both. I bought a cheaper android one just to read on. If price is an issue, then android is ok.

    The real issue is support. There is not nearly as much support for android tablets as compared to apple. Most (including mine) android tablets feel kinda half done. They also usually lag behind mainstream android by a version or two, so that makes the app marketplace a little more annoying. This is mostly because apple dominates in this sector. I have not tried samsung's flagship model tablet. It may be better polished.

    I like many things about both tablet OS, but one is definitely better supported. I suppose you should find what software you plan on using first, and then work backwards from there. there are other issues that both have, and we could talk all day about it, but to me, the support given is the biggest issue. hopefully things will level out, as competition in business is healthy.

    TLDR: I've owned both. I'll buy apple next time.
  13. kjp360


    Feb 11, 2014
    My daughter is an opera singer. Her and all of her instrumental orchestra buddies appear to use the larger ipad pro units and forScore FWIW.
  14. biobass


    Sep 16, 2007
    Princeton NJ area
    I have been using an iPad for on stage music reading for about 10 years. Currently, I’m using an iPad Pro 12.9”, 256GB. I bought a factory refurbished one, saving a couple of hundred dollars. As others have written, the larger screen is a big advantage for my aging almost septuagenarian eyes!

    For pop, rock, jazz type gigs I use unReal Book as a pdf reader. For theater gigs, I use ForScore, it has a half page advance feature which is useful for reading ahead. I have used AirTurn page turning pedals, but have had issues with their reliability and their annoying algorithm for turning them off. I now use iRig Blue Turn. It only uses batteries (AAA, I think), but it gives you plenty of warning when the batteries are getting low. The page up and page down arrows seem to me counter-intuitive, but are easy enough to get used to.

    I have Real Books 1, 2 & 3 as Kindle downloads on my iPad. Also, I have iReal Pro, from which you can access literally 1000s of chord charts (no melody) or make your own. iReal Pro allows you to transpose any chord chart on the fly.

    My pdf readers override the auto shut-off feature on the iPad, so you don’t have to worry about them inconveniently shutting down, however the Kindle app doesn’t do this.

    Battery life has never been a problem. I fully charge my iPad before a gig. I have never had the battery drain to less than 80%, even on a 4 hour gig of being constantly on. That said, I always bring a charger with me, after all, I am a bass player and I also bring extra guitar picks, although I rarely use them for bass, and a pack of our guitar player’s favorite strings.

    Oh, almost forgot to add, I recommend getting a stylus. I use the Apple Pencil. It is expensive (nothing from Apple is inexpensive), but it works well. Both ForScore and UnReal Book pdf readers allow for annotation. The whiteout feature is especially useful for making cuts in theater scores.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2021
  15. dopejohnpaul

    dopejohnpaul Supporting Member

    Oct 6, 2009
    Bonaire, GA
    +1 for the giant iPad Pro. I have the first generation 12.9” model. I have terrible eyesight, so the big screen was a must. The Pro also has better battery life. It will last a whole night, easily. Now that they’re a few generations later, you can get a Gen 1 pretty cheap used/refurbished.
    JimmyM likes this.
  16. Spearsy

    Spearsy Workin' at it ... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2004
    Western Pennsylvania
    IMHO - get the biggest iPad you can afford (refurbished is a good route to go).
    Bigger is better.

    Then ...

    I use iRealPro for creating quick and dirty charts. The drawback is no standard notation. But, it's really good for blocking off arrangements, you can change keys on the fly, and there are tons of charts floating around in the user community online.
    I also use ForeScore for scans, pdfs, etc. I like that you can add annotations to the scans with this one.

    Backup everything to "the cloud" somewhere and have copies of the apps on your phone, just in case. If it's a really high profile gig, I still print hard copies of the charts and carry them in my bag. Never had to use them because of a technology failure. But, I'm anal about having backups when you only get maybe one rehearsal for a show.

    Anyway, that's my two-cents.
    Good luck with the search and welcome to the future ;)
  17. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    with old enough eyes (e.g., if you use stronger readers or wear bifocals with stronger inserts when playing) = the bigger the screen the better.

    while i am a committed MS/android user, my trumpet player's ipad is way better than my sax player's android tablet. it's bigger, badder (features), and more reliable...and a lot more expensive!

    (disclosure: my eyes are 'old enough' that even the ipad won't accommodate the reading i have to do, the way i like to do it, so i still use printed charts that i can size/resize to my liking before printing.)

    good luck finding a solution that works for you! :thumbsup:
    Staccato and JimmyM like this.
  18. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Columbia, MD Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    I really enjoy my iPad Pro 12.9", very close to the size of real sheet music. Also, I'm using the Coda Music Technologies STOMP page turner. Finally, I'm using forScore to organize my PDFs, set lists, etc. A lot of people like OnSong, but to me, it seems like a hacked together bit of software while forScore is smooth and cohesive. I have ~1500 pdf files and forScore handles those with no problems. OnSong was choking with that many files and support was no help. So, in my opinion, I'd only use OnSong if the BL were sending sets / charts as a OnSong file.
    Guitarodeo and JimmyM like this.
  19. Hasty


    Jul 4, 2014
    Fort Worth, Tx
    I’ve been using e-devices for charts for years.

    I started with an iPad Pro and it works pretty well. However if you’re in a situation where sunlight is a factor, then they’re pretty worthless. I play a bunch of outdoor gigs so this is a factor for me.

    4 years ago I switched to an e-paper tablet. The difference is astounding. Battery life is insanely long, I can read the chart in any type of lighting conditions, and I have a backlight that I can adjust the color balance on the match the situation (warm, cool, white). Currently I use it 3 nights a week.

    The software is android so it’s frequently updated and they usually market them as a fully functional tablet. However in my opinion it’s a very very good one trick pony. It reads charts (or books). That’s about it. Sure I can surf the web with it, might be able to watch YouTube? But it would be a lackluster experience. However I really don’t care. I only use it for reading charts.

    Mine is made by a company called Boox. When I bought it it was a Chinese device being imported by a Russian company direct. But I think they’re more mainstream now and probably available on Amazon. My screen is 10.1 inches, and I think they make a 13 inch one now. They’re probably around $500 now. For me it was a great investment. Mine has 4 apps that I use. Google drive, Dropbox, iRealPro, and MobileSheets Pro. It has WiFi and Bluetooth so I can transfer music on the fly and use a Bluetooth page turner.
    I like it enough that I would buy one again.
  20. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Springtown, Texas
    I use a Samsung Galaxy with 11" display. It is open, so I don't have to worry about a WiFi signal. For software, I use Setlist Helper. For a 3 hour gig, it will use 10% of the battery life. The advantage with Setlist Helper is I don't need a WiFi connection.
    I've been very happy with this set up. I have a gizmo that attached to the mic stand.
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