Going Digital


Ditch those bulging binders of music and lighten your load by digitizing your gig music library.

—by the Chicago Harp Quartet

(Scroll down for the Chicago Harp Quartet’s video with tips and tricks on how to get started using the forScore music reading program, along with a list of sources to obtain instant music PDFs.)

In the harp world, getting to the gig is half the battle. Maybe even more than half the battle. Gigging is largely about schlepping—large instrument, larger car, stand, cart, amp, gig bag, and a pile of music.

The logistics of moving all of your gear into place can rival those of a small-scale military operation. So imagine the schlepping required to get a quartet of harpists to a gig. That’s what we face each time we head out to a gig—all the gear, times four—so any opportunity to shed weight in our packs is welcome. We happily ditched our heavy binders of music for sleek, lightweight iPads.

The Chicago Harp Quartet is certainly not the first chamber ensemble to go digital, but our lives are much improved since we did. Originally, we switched to iPads in an effort to better connect with audiences.  We found using traditional music stands created a wall between the audience and us.  Memorizing our repertoire wasn’t an option, considering how much music we prepare for any one season, so the best solution for us was to go digital.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that the reduced visual obstruction was just the beginning of all the benefits. Now we can carry our entire music library in our purse, saving money buying digital music rather than hard copies, and we can instantly retrieve a piece we need from our digital library or purchase it online.

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    • Gretchen Cover on

      John, if you play ensemble, you simply can’t memorize the music. I play with a guitarist as a duo and could not do this without my iPad. A lot of the music is fast and uses both hands making page turns almost impossible with paper music. Using the Air Turn foot pedal with my iPad (forScore is the app) makes page turns a breeze. In addition, you don’t have to keep turning your head to the left to see the music. I can keep my eyes on the strings and music almost simultaneously. I find it very annoying when harpists make jerky head motions while playing. The ipad also gives the illusion that you are playing from memory. I’ve been using my iPad for 18 months now. I use the Standzout iPad stand (not perfect but best I could find).

      It is important to keep unnecessary apps off the ipad, to clear out the cache periodically and clean out the iPad like you would a computer so it doesn’t freeze or crash at the wrong moment. There have been some issues with this since the IOS8 operating system came out. When we play, we have a third iPad with its own foot pedal as backup for both our scores. This came in handy when I once forgot my iPad and another time when my guitar partner forgot his foot pedal. We take turns being in charge of the spare iPad. It always is ready to go in one our gig bags. We’re concerned about an iPad crash because we came really close. Thankfully, the excellent customer service at Air Turn bailed us out. I might add, the forScore tech support is superb, too.

      There was a very useful thread on the old Harp Column about using the iPad. Harpist Barbara Brundage was one of the first to use the iPad in place of sheet music and she wrote extensively about it. That is how I become an iPad for music devotee.

  1. I agree, “Digital” is the way to go! I have played harp for over 30 years, and my sheet music and books are precious to me. They are also getting old and non-replaceable. So, putting the music in a digital library for gigs is perfect. Because I wanted the screen to be about the size of sheet music, I got a Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2″ screen, and use Mobile Sheet Reader ($8.99 app), with an AirTurn dual pedal and a tablet music stand. It is amazing, and the harpist looks so tech-savvy and updated at gigs… why carry around all those music books when this is available? And it provides a storage for your valuable music at the same time! Donna Benier (NY state) – http://www.HarpByDonna.com

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