Choir Singer Goes Digital

Yes, it’s 2018, and everyone in my choir is still using paper, pencils (hopefully) and erasers. I’m going to use this semester to experiment with going digital.

The tools:

  • My iPad Air. This 4 year old tablet is still going strong.
  • forScore, a music reader app. Essentially a glorified PDF reader with additional features for musicians.
  • A copier/scanner, for getting scores into PDF form.
  • A music folder with an iPad Performance Case insert. The fine folks at will install the case in any of their folders, or you can use it stand-alone.

The guides:

I’ve found two websites very useful. Neither has been updated since 2014, so I figured I’d document the way I wind up doing this here.

  • Technology For The Classical Singer: Practical tech for opera singers and choral artists
  • Going Digital for Musicians
  • Scanning scores

    The scores that I received this semester came in a number of form factors: photocopied letter size pages stapled or 3-hole punched; 7″ × 10″ scores, stapled or not; and a 7″ × 10″ book. First, I erased all existing marks in the music (curse you, heavy-handed tenor who had this music before me!). Then I removed all staples. I scanned each piece of music to a black and white 200 dpi PDF. For the scores that are smaller than letter size, I was careful to center each page on the scanner, in order to get even margins and not have to fiddle with the PDF files later. If your printer has an automatic document feeder, use it—it lines up the paper better than I can.

    I renamed all the files to the title of the piece, using correct capitalization and spaces between words, but without punctuation. At 200 dpi/black and white, files sizes wound up between 200-800 KB.

    I re-stapled the scores I had taken apart with a saddle stapler at my local print shop.

    Getting scores into forScore

    I then emailed the PDFs to myself as email attachments. There are other ways to get PDFs onto an iPad, most notably by using iTunes, but this was easy.

    On the iPad, I opened each PDF and copied it to forScore using the Share button. When you do this, the score is opened in forScore, which can be a little confusing, as it looks almost the same as looking at the PDF as an email attachment.

    Copying to ForScore with the Share button.

    Adding metadata to the scores

    Here’s my quickie cheatsheet for forScore. First, you need to know about the tap zones. Tap in the middle third of the page to show the controls, the left and right thirds to turn pages back or forward, and in the top left and right corners to go back to the most recent menu function.

    ForScore tap zones: green for controls, red for page turns, blue for most recent menu.

    Because I used the title of each piece as the filename, titles were already set in forScore (note that if you are comfortable editing PDF metadata, you can set the composer and other metadata on the file itself, before copying it to forScore). To set the composer, tap in the middle and select the quarter note (Library) icon at the top left. This will show you your score library arranged by composer. None of my scores had a composer yet, so they are all under “No Composer”. Select that, then the arrow next to the first piece (if you select the title of a piece, the score itself will open). The metadata panel for that piece will appear. I only filled in Composers and Tags. Note that the composer name should be entered as Firstname Lastname; forScore will figure out how to alphabetize by last name. Multiple composers should be separated with commas. A checkmark next to a metadata item indicates that the item has changed and will be updated.

    Updating metadata with composer and tags.

    Creating a setlist

    Last step in preparing my music was creating a setlist. Tap in the center to reveal the controls and choose the icon with three horizontal lines (Setlists). Click on the plus sign to add a new setlist. Name it, then click on the info/arrow icons (clicking on the name of the setlist itself will open the first score in the setlist). In the setlist, click on the plus sign to add scores. You will see two columns. The left hand column is the setlist. The right hand column is the score library. Click on a score to copy it to the setlist. Scores that are already in the setlist will have a dot in front of the title to help keep you from adding them twice. Scores will be in the setlist in the order that you add them, but you can move a score by holding down its title briefly and then moving it up or down as needed. When finished, select Done in the upper right hand corner.

    Current setlist on the left, score library on the right.

    Final prep before the first use in rehearsal

    I put in a little quality time practicing how to navigate from score to score and page to page, and practicing making notations and inserting stamps on scores. I also inserted score links for repeats and stuff. I plan to make sure that the iPad is fully charged, and bring backup paper scores with me. Wish me luck!

    Additional references:
    forScore User Guides
    forScore support knowledgebase


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