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iPad for accompanists

I recently joined the 21st century and started using ForScore on my iPad when I'm accompanying choirs.  I especially like the convenience of using the bluetooth foot switch to turn pages, and the ability to carry all the music for all the groups I'm working with in one small, neat package.  One of the conductors I work for is leery of my using it in performance -- says he wouldn't want to depend on it, that he wouldn't "trust it" in a performance situation.  I'm interested in hearing from other accompanists who have used this method -- is this a reliable method?  What are the possible pitfalls?  What are the odds the iPad would mysteriously go blank in the middle of the Brahms Requiem?  Does it make sense to always keep my paper copies handy just in case?  Thanks for your time.
Replies (16): Threaded | Chronological
on April 9, 2015 4:24am
I have been using ForScore and the AirTurn pedal for going on three years for virtually all of my accompanying, conducting and solo work.  The only problems I have had I would put down as "operator error," the worst being an operating system update that ForScore wasn't ready for and took several days for it to get working again.  The usual concerns about running out of charge for either the iPad or the foot pedal are easily prevented with proper preparation.  Occasionally, the Bluetooth connection between the iPad and the pedal needs to be reset, but I have found that is from operator error as well when improperly turning off the pedal.  The only major problem I had was just this past month was when I was conducting the pit orchestra for The Light in the Piazza (a beautiful, but incredibly difficult score) when I rearranged a page and inadvertantly deleted 250 pages of the score two minutes before curtain.  I quickly grabbed the paper score and was surprsed by the bigger music where I could see two pages at a time, but without any recent score markings.  Again, user error, but I was very glad that I had the paper copy in reach.  
 
I have never had a problem with my iPad that proper preparation didn't eliminate, but I would think that keeping the paper music with you would be wise when working with the conductor who is leary of using the iPad.  Good luck!
Applauded by an audience of 3
on April 9, 2015 8:34am
Hi Carol,
I agree with all the points Ken made. Operator error or updates are probably the main reasons for problems using the iPad or bluetooth foot switches. I've been using forScore for my harp gigs since 2012 and at first I did take paper scores with me for peace of mind but after while I felt iPad and forScore were very reliable and I stopped taking the paper backup. Since it was just me, I was willing to take the risk. However, since others rely on you, the paper backup would be wise. I have my iPad set up to NOT automatically install updates so I can choose to install iOS or software updates when I know I can have time to test it out.  I feel there are many advantages to using the iPad. Like you said, it's so much easier to have your library in one little device (with backup files set up on Dropbox or other location). To me, the lighting advantage is one of the strongest reasons to use the iPad (with the exception of playing outdoors). You can't always "trust" what the lighting situation is going to be when performing (contests for example). As we get older, that lighting is very important for our eyes.  When I took my harp from room to room at a care facility, the lighting was extremely poor and inconsistent and the iPad backlighting eliminated that challenge.  As long as you're able to make rehearsal markings on the page quickly in forScore and show that you have paper backups, I imagine over time your conductor will feel more at ease.
 
BTW, on another post some people were talking about making markings with forScore and they said it took too many taps through menus to bring up the annotations menu. In forScore, all you need to do is tap and hold with one finger in the middle of the screen and the annotations menu comes right up.
 
Hope you continue using the iPad and forScore. I think theyr'e wonderful tools.
 
Janet
www.janetlanier.com
Applauded by an audience of 3
on April 9, 2015 11:13am
Many thanks to both Ken and Janet for insightful and informative responses! 
 
I took it to rehearsal (with the leery conductor) last night for its "maiden voyage," after practicing with it for about a week, and for the most part everybody was pretty impressed with it.  At the break I turned everything off, and then couldn't get connected to bluetooth again.  This also happened at home one time before, but now rehearsal was in full swing so I didn't have time to reset everything.  I continued to use the iPad, and simply reached up to tap the screen when I needed page turns.  No big deal, but I really need to figure out if I'm doing something wrong when I power off.   As Ken already pointed out, it's probably some sort of operator error -- perhaps I inadvertently didn't follow the proper sequence of steps.  I did notice when I got home that the iPad was asking to install an update that would improve, among other things, bluetooth connectivity, so I installed it and rebooted this morning and everything works fine. 
 
I do find the annotations menu relatively easy to use, but in the throes of a fast-paced rehearsal it is cumbersome -- last night I missed the ease of grabbing the pencil and scribbling in a forgotten flat or sharp, or other similar marking while still keeping the accompaniment moving along with the other hand.  I'm thinking a more effective method for me would be to use my paper copies until closer to concert time, after all markings have been entered and slogging through voice parts and other things that require going back and forth with multiple page turns are all finished.  THEN I would scan everything into forScore and use it for the final rehearsals and performance.  And, as Janet pointed out, because others are depending on me, I can't see myself ever going on stage without having my trusty paper scores ready and waiting....
 
So -- thanks again, and stay tuned for more updates.  It's about 5 weeks til concert time with my leery conductor (who joked a bit about my new "gadget"), but I have a couple other concerts before then, so hopefully I will have all the bugs worked out and both he and I will be very happy!
 
Carol Walker
www.MusicLadyCarol.com
on April 9, 2015 2:18pm
When I am rehearsing a musical, I do use my paper copies when working through cuts, cues, etc., with the cast, then transfer the final notations for when I am in front of the pit orchestra just before performance time.  In a choir rehearsal I use the iPad alone.  I am confident you will fall in love with it when you have it all figured out.  My rehearsal accomanist only uses the iPad, then notates any cuts on her iPhone so the cuts can be shared with the "new" pit members when they arrive.  (This is something I should be doing, but teaching blocking, choreography, making tickets, repairing costumes, doing hair, and who knows what else tends to prevent me from getting that bit of business done.)  We let her take the time to get it done because it save so much time later on.  With your conductor paper might be a good idea until changes to the score have settled down.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on April 10, 2015 6:05am
Thanks again for all the encouragement!  I know I'll definitely become quite addicted to using the iPad.  It's very reassuring to know that others are equally smitten with this new (for me!) technology. 
on April 10, 2015 5:08pm
It's too bad we can't just say, "Siri, circle that last measure or mark a flat in front the B in the measure I just passed or Siri, turn page."  Who knows... maybe someday.
Applauded by an audience of 3
on July 29, 2015 3:31pm
I appreciate all of the comments and I'm encouraged to use it more than I currently do.
on July 30, 2015 1:57pm
Seems like it's time for an update on my iPad experience.  Referring back to my first post, I did not use it in the concert with the leery conductor (who I'm sure reads these posts as well, so no disrespect intended!).   :-))  The performance was a very high pressure situation for me, and I was nervous enough without worrying about new technology.  I also discovered that I tended to accidentally hit the page turning pedal once too often (nerves), so I went back to my trusty paper copies, worked out all the page turns, and played the concert with confidence.
 
Meanwhile, with two other groups, I've had better experiences.  I was accompanying on harpsichord along with a small ensemble of other musicians, and downloaded just the harpsichord parts directly onto my iPad.  In most cases, each movement fit nicely on one or two pages -- what a joy not to have to read from the full choral score (although I did have the score next to me on the bench).  Another benefit was that the lighting in the church was poor, but I could see everything just fine!
 
I also play bass with a local string band, and I've put all my parts on the iPad -- I no longer have to carry around a huge 3-ring notebook stuffed with 200+ songs.  I still keep the book in the car (just in case).  We sometimes do outdoor shows at dusk -- others are struggling to see their parts, I'm doing just fine!
 
So, in summary, while I am now very confident and at ease with the technology, I am most comfortable using the iPad when I am part of a group, rather than being the sole performer, such as the accompanist for a large choir's performance.  And for rehearsals with said group, I still find it easier to grab the pencil and make marks on the fly while the other hand keeps on playing. 
 
Carol Walker
www.MusicLadyCarol.com
on July 31, 2015 5:45am
I use ForScore on my iPad to play handbell scores - yay! No more manual page turns. I cannot convince mt own handbell group to try it since they are comfortable with paper and just deal with the page turns. ForScores new annotation protocol is a breeze. I don't have to fumble for a pencil since I can use a fingertip. I know a director who uses the app to turn her entire group's pages.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on August 4, 2015 7:01am
How does that work - turning pages for a whole group? I have iPad, air turn,and use occasionally, but am not familiar with that option.
on August 1, 2015 4:05am
I judged a solo and ensemble contest and one singer's performance was completely botched by the accompanist's use of this device.  Poor kid, she was scared to death as it was and to have her pianist ruin her performance was disheartening.  For contest and important auditions, it would be best to use paper music.  Just my two cents worth.'
Virginia Volpe
Austin Community College
on August 1, 2015 7:35am
Very interesting converstion. I am a newcomer to this but use PiaScore. Any advantage to using ForScore instead?
 
John
on August 1, 2015 7:38am
I was accompanying a singer in a cabaret show, when the iPad suddenly went blank--turned off. Fortunately, I knew the song, so I continued to throw down some chords with one hand, while turning the device on and off with the other.  Frightening! After three tries  (it was a long slow ballad!) it started working again.    (I never discovered what the problem was.)  Do I bring a backup paper score to shows? Defeats the purpose! Bring a spare iPad?!  Also: when I read scores, I realize I need to process two pages at once.  With most Piano-Conductor or Piano/SATB scores, the notes are just too small. I'd like to use the iPad, but it hasn't yet quite worked out.
on August 4, 2015 3:08am
The two times I accompanied a singer using their iPad, I had similar issues
on August 5, 2015 9:55am
For those who said the iPad turned blank while using forScore, I wonder if it might be because the Auto-Lock was set to a time-out. However, since this had not happened before, it probably isn't the problem because the longest time you can set for the screen to go blank is 15 minutes and you would have experienced it already. If you aren't aware of this feature though, it is under Settings-->General-->Auto-Lock. I always have mine set for "Never".
 
Also, I was looking up what others on the web had to say about this issue and I found this:

"My iPad is now working as it should; there are no more issues with the screen randomly going black! Here is what fixed the problem I was having. The first thing I did (again) was go into "Settings" to double check how each option was set-up; here is the path:

 

1. Settings

2. General 

3. LOCK / UNLOCK -  I TURNED OFF this option (made sure it was NOT GREEN)

 

Once I did this it no longer randomly shut off. If I understand correctly, a simple hand motion waving over the screen when it's turned on will cause it to shut off because it's supposed to; it's sensitive. Now it shuts off automatically according to the time I've determined in the Settings OR I shut it off manually with a click of the button on the side of the iPad."

on August 6, 2015 6:31am
The only troubles I have had with ForScore have been when when there have been system upgrades from Apple. I have learned to postpone any upgrades until after performance time. There is often a time of glitches until the folks at ForScore get a handle on it. Glitches that seem to effect the entire iPad.
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