recommend a tablet for live shows

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by hbarcat, Feb 5, 2023.

  1. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois
    I've been playing in rock cover bands for 35 years and have always avoided using a mic stand for chord charts or lyrics because of the idea that it's antithetical to the spirit of rock and roll.

    But, seeing as how the vast majority of working bands, from the local weekend warriors to the biggest stars, are now using tablets for reference, I've decided to get with the times.

    I'm looking to buy a tablet that is as friendly as possible to my meager budget and only needs to be capable of performing the most basic functions of displaying a setlist and cues for lyrics, chord progressions, and miscellaneous information. Also, it needs to have a fairly large, bright, and clear display that can be seen, even in direct sunlight, with my bad eyesight.

    I don't need it to control a mixer or other stage equipment, or play, record, or compose music, take pictures, work as a phone or a computer, play videos, browse the interwebz, or make me a sandwich. I just need it to display a bit of information about the songs I'm playing.

    While I do have some limited experience with PCs and laptops, I'm rather incompetent when it comes to this type of technology and I need a device that is intuitive and very easy to use.

    I'm asking this knowledgeable TB community to recommend a few options that meet my needs.

    I'm not a fan of Apple products and would really prefer to avoid them, but I won't completely rule them out if there is a particular Apple tablet that's clearly my best option.

    I don't have a specific dollar amount in mind. I can come up with the cash to cover the cost, but I'm budget conscious and don't want to pay any more than is strictly necessary. Essentially, I'm looking for the cheapest item that meets my requirements.

    I see a number of tablets in the $100 - $200 range. I'd like to keep the price toward the lower end of that, if possible, but I can go as high as $200 if that will get me better functionality.

    Thanks, in advance.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2023
  2. KohanMike

    KohanMike Gold Supporting Member

    There's no such thing as easy when it comes to tablets, they all have a learning curve. I went through Android and Windows tablets, each had their problems, but when I looked at an Apple iPad Pro 12.9" and the Apple Pencil, I realized it ran circles around anything else. Been using it and the forScore app with my uke group for the last 7 years. I only use Apple products, started on a Mac in 1986, and over the years have done support, training, repair and more. I got the 12.9" iPad Pro because it's as close to real paper size as can be.
  3. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once...

    Feb 24, 2013
    Samsung Galaxy A7, i got mine in a sale bundle at Costco. MobileSheets for charts and setlist management. ILock mike stand holder and iRig BlueTurn page flipper pedal - came on a bundle from Musician's Friend or Sweetwater. Finally a rubber armored case guard. Worked great these past three years..
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  4. Leigh_D


    Sep 13, 2022
    Ann Arbor MI
    I was a die-hard paper fan until I went to a rehearsal without a part and the drummer lent me his small iPad. Even with the small screen I found it easier to read than paper. Now I would never go back to paper although I always take printed parts to gigs just in case.

    I agree that the iPad Pro 12.9" and the Apple Pencil plus ForScore can't be beat. I got a screen protector called PaperLike which make writing on it feel more like writing on real paper. I use an AirTurn pedal for page turns.

  5. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    I got the most basic iPad brand new for $300 in 2017 and it's been nice & stable for me with way more than enough storage for many binders' worth of charts.
    Most other musicians I work with also have iPads and the ability to transfer charts directly back & forth via AirDrop is a significant plus.
    If you really hate Apple that's okay. Just don't be like my buddy, all bragging about how he got his tablet for $50, then holding up the show when the thing freezes. (Spend a few more $$$ on a more current & capable droid - or at least don't brag.)
  6. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    I went through this drill at the beginning of The Plague. I despise the whole Apple ecosystem but still ended up buying a one generation old iPad brand new, which ran about $300 at that time for the most basic model, and for my needs it's just fine. With a cheap adapter it fits on the tripod section of my Manhasset music stand and the stand can double for video work if I should ever get around to doing any. I've retired from playing gigs but that's actually enhanced the value of the Pad in some ways, because the readily available free synth apps have spun off a new musical rabbit hole that's quite fun.
  7. CallMeAl


    Dec 2, 2016
    Ithaca Ny
    I have iPad and really like it, but I know plenty of folks happy with Android. I got the 10” and it’s fine for rehearsals and home (which is all I use it for.) but if I was using on stage I’d definitely want the 12.9”. I get by with finger for notes, but a stylus would also be a very nice feature.

    check out if you want to go refurbished. I got 2 there and both work great.

    and a big thread on the topic
    Choosing a Tablet for Reading Charts
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  8. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois
    For the record, I don't actually hate Apple, it's just that I've never used their products for anything because there have always been alternatives (PC/Windows, smartphone/Android) that were equal to or better for what I was using them for.

    If it turns out that iTablets really are superior to the competition and most musicians are using them on stage, then I'll definitely consider getting one.
  9. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois
  10. I've been using an iPad 2 since they came out - originally for both charts and production stuff until it became too old to support the production stuff. Just upgraded my personal iPad to an iPad 11" Pro and couldn't be happier. Now I've put a bunch of other production software back on it to go with my 1000+ charts in ForScore. :woot:

    Also using a Pageflip pedal to turn pages...
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  11. Slade N

    Slade N Supporting Member

    May 28, 2005
    portland, or
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  12. juancaminos

    juancaminos Supporting Member

    I'm on my third. First was a Samsung Galaxy 8" but it wasn't large enough. So I went with a Galaxy 10.1".
    The 10.1 stopped working after two years (it was old when my wife gave it to me). So I just bought a 10" Samsung A8 which works well with the Songbook Pro app that I use.
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  13. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    i still use paper (so i can re-do arrangements/sheets to fit my old eyes), but my bandmates (two bands) fall into these two general, user categories:
    - those with vision concerns: they like the large ipad screen --- looks just like an 8.5x11 page.
    - those without vision concerns: use the android products just fine and prefer them as cheaper options.

    good luck with your tablet considerations! :thumbsup:
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  14. InhumanResource

    InhumanResource Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2012
    Bucks County, PA
    maybe an unpopular opinion, but if you’ve been able to perform without one…stay that way. There just isn’t anything lamer than iPads on stands in front of a bar band.
  15. bigthemat

    bigthemat Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2008
    Salt Lake City
    iPad!! Soo handy. Got a Bluetooth pedal for page turns. Life changing.
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  16. ebo


    Jul 15, 2012
    Bay Area, Ca
    I disagree. Having a music stand with a book is way lamer. I use an IPad hanging on my mic stand. I only refer to it before songs or if we are bringing something brand new up with minimal prep time. I sometimes need it for lyrics on newer songs as a safety net. I hate having to read charts while playing, it ruins my focus and keeps me from interacting with my fellow musicians and the audience. Knowing your material is the way to go. Next best is a tablet.
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  17. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois
    That was my opinion for the past 35 years.

    But, I just recently joined a new band last summer and I've had to learn over 100 songs in that time, about half of which I've never played before, and some I've never even heard.

    Furthermore, my bandmates are of the mind that we can't have enough songs in our repertoire. They want to have enough tunes to be able to play multiple shows with a variety of material so that our fans won't get bored if they see us numerous times. The number of songs they're tossing around is 200 or more, and I don't think I can memorize that many as a hobbyist who works a full time day job and has a family.

    We've just started gigging and I'm finding that my old fart brain isn't as reliable as it used to be and I occasionally flub changes and forget lyrics (I both play bass and sing). The fact is, that I'd rather have a handy visual reference available, than make mistakes.

    Also, I'd only be using it on a very small number of songs - just the few that I'm having trouble with. I can play 80% to 90% of our song list flawlessly from memory, so I won't even be looking at it, except rarely. And even then, it's just a quick peek if I happen to blank out on what's coming next.

    I do have quite a lot of past experience using charts on a music stand when I was playing in jazz bands. This will be similar, except instead of a Real Book and paper sheets, it will be a compact and discreet e-tablet.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2023
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  18. CryingBass

    CryingBass Just a Fool Whose Intentions are Good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 8, 2016
    I use MS Surface Pro tablets in warehouse management applications.

    Overall, if you get a higher-end model, they work pretty well. Do NOT get their convertible detachable-keyboard Surface Books - junk. But a Surface Pro tablet with any good USB keyboard/mouse ( or solo tablet ) works pretty well IMHO. Get yourself on W11, bite the bullet, and you are set for a few years. Good luck!
    hbarcat likes this.
  19. Nebadon2000

    Nebadon2000 Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2005
    Moyock, North Carolina
    How much over $200 is an IPAD PRO 12.9 and accessories needed:)

    I have used something like this[pocket sized] after having to learn 45+ song quickly and gigging right after until I got them memorized consistently.

    Got song list in advance and put them in order rest alphabetical; just chords and structure and sometimes a note[ on speaker beside amp head. Always had clip on light or small flashlight an wrote letters/numbers large.:)

    Just needed a glance once started playing memory returned.

    For singers IPAD hanging from Mic Stand may be good idea don't know how many times I heard singer just make up lyrics:)

    Last edited: Feb 5, 2023
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  20. CryingBass

    CryingBass Just a Fool Whose Intentions are Good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 8, 2016
    Oops - I did not see the $200 thing. That will not be easy.
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