Video: Using iPads and Tablets for Choir Rehearsal and Performance [via Schola Cantorum]

Posted: July 10, 2012 in accessories, annotation, apps, choral, folders & cases, forScore, iPad, iTunes, performance, rehearsal, scanning, screen protector, sheet music, stylus, tablet, video, webcast

This video playlist is a webcast of a presentation given to the singers of Schola Cantorum on using iPads and tablets for choir rehearsal and performance.  The first part of the presentation is about the practical and logistical considerations of using an iPad/tablet as a singer and in a choral setting.  There is much useful information and Q&A here, including many issues that you might not have thought of if this type of tablet use is new to you.  The last part is a brief introduction to the forScore PDF score-reading app.  There was a more detailed follow-up session on using forScore – I’ll include the video link in a later post. [UPDATE: video link is now available here.]

Make sure to check out the video description text on YouTube, there is quite a bit of information there too.  Unfortunately, due to technical limitations, the videos don’t include close-up screen footage of the iPad in action.  If you don’t have time to watch the whole webcast (about 40 minutes total), I’ve included my notes on the salient points below.

Advantages and disadvantages of using a tablet


  • Much more compact than a choir folder – translates to more elbow room on a (possibly cramped) stage
  • You have all of your music with you, all of the time
  • More flexibility to mark up your music with different colors, etc. (as opposed to printed scores on loan from the choir’s library)
  • Page turns are quiet!
  • Music reading apps like forScore have extra features like metronome, pitch pipe, ability to link to MP3 files of the piece


  • It’s a distraction to the audience (but less of a problem, now that iPads have been present in this choir for a couple of seasons now, and audiences are more used to it)
    • Folder-style cases are less obvious
  • It’s potentially a distraction to you the singer (fumbling around with unfamiliar score-reading app, email notifications), your colleagues (if they see you frequently checking email), and the conductor
  • Is it heavier than paper music? Depends on the concert program. Since the iPad is compact, it can feel heavier. Can be tiring to hold it for the duration of a concert.
  • Small screen, can see less of the music at once, does not have the same resolution as paper
  • Depending on the source of your digital score, it may be a diffent edition with different page numbers, rehearsal letters, etc. than the printed score being used by the rest of the ensemble
  • Annotating music is slower
  • You do have to remember to keep the battery charged!
  • Try it for a while and see how well it works for you. Give yourself a week or two to work with it before making a decision.

Etiquette and logistics of using a tablet in the chorus:
Minimizing distractions to yourself and others

  • Resist the temptation to check email or web surf during rehearsal
    • Tip: Put your device in airplane mode when you arrive at rehearsal
  • Mute your device during rehearsals
  • Minimize the amount of fiddling you need to do with the device during rehearsals, as it is distracting to others. Do as much score prep as you can before coming to rehearsal.
    • Score preparation: Before coming to rehearsal, download all of the music and put it in the right order. Put in links so you can skip over solos or extended instrumental passages where you don’t sing, so you can avoid fiddling with page flips
    • If using a different edition from the rest of the chorus, take the time to write in and/or bookmark page numbers, rehearsal letters, and other markings from the printed score. That way, you won’t slow down the rehearsal when the conductor calls a rehearsal letter and you need to find it.
  • Get a black case for your tablet, if your chorus requires one for concerts. There are many options. If the case is mostly black with a logo, you can obscure the logo with black paint or shoe polish.
  • Make sure to charge your battery before concerts!
  • Clean your screen before concerts. Fingerprints and smudges are very visible under stage lights and will obscure your view.
  • Anti-glare screen protectors work well under stage lights, but don’t fit with all cases
  • In low-light venues, the tablet screen may light up your face in an undesired way. Adjust the screen brightness down, or use the display in inverse mode (white-on-black, configurable under Accessibility Settings)


  • #1 accessory is a black case (folder-style or otherwise) or music stand, or both. There are many options. The iPad also fits nicely on a regular music stand. If your tablet already has a black back, a hand strap alone might be sufficient – again, many options.
  • Stylus – can be more precise than drawing with your finger. Make sure you get one that works with iPad (or whatever screen type your device uses) – there are different screen technologies.
  • Bluetooth wireless page-turning foot pedal (probably more relevant to instrumentalists) – Brands: AirTurn, PageFlipFooTime
  • External mic, plus background recording app – for recording rehearsals/performance

Finding and distributing PDF scores to choir members

  • CPDL and IMSLP are two sources for PDF scores of public-domain choral works.  However, if some chorus members are using a printed edition of a particular work and others are using a CPDL or IMSLP edition, there is a fair chance of discrepancies between the two.  In a choir like this one where iPad/tablet users are still the minority, you will probably need to review your score in advance and write in any page numbers, rehearsal letters, note/text corrections, and other markings that differ from the conductor’s edition.  It’s nice if one person can do this (along with other editing niceties like PDF margin cropping) and then distribute the corrected score to other iPad/tablet users in the chorus.
  • Or if not available on CPDL/IMSLP, you can post PDF versions of the pieces on a (possibly private) website accessible to your chorus members (if you have the legal right to do so).
  • Another score prep step: when scanning in a printed score, you may need to add extra blank pages to the beginning of the PDF document to make page numbers in the PDF file match the page numbers in the printed score – so you can easily navigate to the right place when the conductor calls a page number.  (Useful when some singers are using the printed version and others are using iPads/tablets.)

Intro to ForScore for iPad: PDF score-reading app

  • Importing music – two main methods:
    1. Download the PDF to your computer and then transfer to iPad via iTunes
    2. Use forScore’s in-app web browser to navigate to any website with PDF scores, then download it directly into forScore
  • forScore supports two file formats, PDF and forScore’s proprietary format with the .4sc file extension that incorporates any annotations you have added in forScore.
  • Bookmarks – A bookmark can mark a page or a range of pages (e.g. a section, movement, or song within an anthology).  By marking sections of a score with bookmarks, you can actually add/remove/re-order the sections independently in your setlist.
  • Setlists – These are really important for concerts and for rehearsing efficiently, they let you arrange pieces in the concert order and find and navigate to different pieces instantly.
  • Settings – the most important ones are:
    • Controls – for creating gesture shortcuts.  You definitely want to assign a gesture for opening the Annotation toolbox.
    • Gradient effect, page transitions – turn these off, they slow down the score page rendering
    • Flip between scores – turn it on
    • Links – you can create links in the score and tap them to jump instantly to a different page/measure in the score.  Useful for navigating codas, repeats, cuts, or long passages where you don’t sing.
    • Screen orientation and rotation lock – If you prefer a different screen orientation (portrait or landscape)
    • Half-page turns – If you enable the feature, when you get to the bottom of the page, you can turn the page for the top half.  Lets you see ahead in the score, but you have to do twice as many page turns.

Related Posts:

  1. […] Video: Using iPads and Tablets for Choir Rehearsal and Performance [via Schola Cantorum] […]

  2. I posted this comment on the Youtube video, but thought I’d throw it here too…

    I would like to disagree with the idea that an iPad in the chorus is a distraction to the audience. I’d suggest that’s a fail on the part of the singer. In a proper looking black folder, with the screen brightness set appropriately for the lighting conditions and an anti-glare screen, the audience shouldn’t even see it. The only times I’ve had people ask me about it was because they happened to notice I wasn’t turning pages. 🙂

  3. […] Video: Using iPads and Tablets for Choir Rehearsal and Performance [via Schola Cantorum] […]

  4. […] Video: Using iPads and Tablets for Choir Rehearsal and Performance [via Schola Cantorum] […]

  5. […] Video: Using iPads and Tablets for Choir Rehearsal and Performance [via Schola Cantorum] […]

  6. […] Video: Using iPads and Tablets for Choir Rehearsal and Performance [via Schola Cantorum] […]

  7. […] Video: Using iPads and Tablets for Choir Rehearsal and Performance [via Schola Cantorum] […]

  8. […] Video: Using iPads and Tablets for Choir Rehearsal and Performance [via Schola Cantorum] […]

  9. […] Video: Using iPads and Tablets for Choir Rehearsal and Performance [via Schola Cantorum] […]

  10. […] Video: Using iPads and Tablets for Choir Rehearsal and Performance [via Schola Cantorum] […]

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