Digital Sheet Music

I had a new teaching experience at a lesson a few weeks ago. One of my students forgot their music *sigh*, but what she had brought along was her iPad mini. To be honest, I can’t remember why she even had that device with her in the first place, but loaded onto it though, was digital sheet music of the Star Wars main theme. I think it was purchased online at http://www.musicnotes.com.

Despite having used quite a bit of Sibelius and thus used to seeing music on a computer screen, this was still the first time I’d ever held a class using a screen as manuscript.

The screen was too small, but gosh it looked crisp. Bars 16, 17 and 18 with all those triplets always confuse students, so we pinch-zoomed in to account for the small screen. Of note was the magnetic case/screen protector which kept sticking to the robust metal music stand; at least there was reduced chance of it falling to the floor (at least paper sheet music doesn’t break).

All this got me wondering how much effort it would take to digitise my entire music collection. I have two boxes full of music, one of which I keep at my teaching studio, so imagine it all stored digitally.

Pros

  • Everything is backed up. There’s going to be no disaster if say, the water sprinklers turn themselves on, the studio burns down, or some muppet thieves it all.
  • Less physical storage required. Here I am trying to keep my life transient and all I do is accumulate stuff (this year it’s electronics equipment (circuit boards, LEDs etc)), so it’s great to know that just because I’ve bought 6 more books, I haven’t just accumulated more stuff.
  • Save on photocopy costs. Everyone’s favourite grey area, rather than photocopy music to give to a student, I could just email it to them.

Cons

  • Everyone loves tangible pages
  • One feels like that actually own something
  • No legal issues
  • Sometimes it’s easier to search a box for a book. As an aside, I find it difficult to find a recording of clarinet music on my iphone. The track titles are so long, they get cropped on the iphone screen. Imagine this when trying to find music on a digital device. In fact, just opening a book and skimming through the pages is surely easier that it ever could be on a digital device.

Despite the Google’s books project for digitising literature, and Avid’s Photoscore for converting scanned music into Sibelius music notation format, it doesn’t seem obvious where one could just essentially scan and save an entire music collection to .pdf format (or something less proprietary). It’s certainly a time consuming task and books of all shapes and sizes that don’t conform to A4 are a nuisance to copy. It would be great if one could just drop them all off at, say, a photo house and let them do all the work. Gosh, they might do it all now, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be a common practise.

This also got me thinking about the fact that all this music is a huge asset that to lose would certainly cripple my ability to teach. I really should make a record of every single book, complete with title, artist etc so that, if disaster strikes, I at least have a record of everything I owned so that getting replacements is much easier.

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