How to import sheet music into your iPad

By Tim Topham | iPads / iPhones

Aug 20

import sheet music

I get asked this question by lots of teachers, particularly when they first decide to purchase an iPad. Getting started using an iPad in your music lessons for the first time can be quite a challenge, so I hope the resources on this page will help to get you started.

Firstly, if you’re new to using an iPad in your teaching, there are a few places you need to check out first:

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’m going to link to all the great resources you’ll need to get started using digital scores on your iPad.

Before we get started, I’m going to recommend that you download and use the forScore app for storing, viewing and organising your digital sheet music. It is without a doubt the hands-down winner for me.

Related: Get the latest Bluetooth Page Turner from AirTurn

Firstly, here are some great recommendations about the settings and features to organise when you first download the app:

Janet Lanier has a heap more great tutorials about forScore for beginners on her blog page: Video tutorials on how to use the iPad.

Once you’ve got forScore, you’re ready to ditch those paper scores and books forever!

Loading Your Music Scores

There are a few ways to load scores depending on where you found the originals. Are they online or are they printed scores?

For music you find online:

For scores on sites like imslp.org (you do use this site, right?!) and other online websites, you can import PDF files directly from the web into forScore using forScore’s built-in web browser. Here’s how:

For music you have in hard copy (scanning):

Please keep in mind that scanning in music can be a contentious copyright issue. Indeed, it may even be illegal in your jurisdiction to do this (as it is in Australia). For more about this, read my post on Music Copyright for Teachers.

My personal feeling is that if you already own the score and you’re using the scanned version for your own reference as you would a printed copy, I can’t see how anyone could get upset by what I would call ‘fair use’.

In any case, here’s how to do it:

Method 1 – great for small amounts of music and scores you need in a hurry:

How to import sheet music into your iPad using the built-in camera, the JotNot Pro scanner app, and ForScore music reader app.

Method 2: For bulk music:

The way I get most scores onto my iPad is to use the scanning function of a dedicated photocopier. The bigger and faster the copier the better! I’ve found that copiers in institutions (businesses, schools, universities and printing centres) can scan a page with one flash rather than a slow parse of the scanning head. The quick flash is ideal if you can get hold of a machine that does it and it is often better quality.

In Australia, you may find machines you can use of this type at Officeworks or other self-service printing houses. Alternatively, you can give your scores to a printing company and ask them to scan them for you, however this can get quite expensive.

There are even online offerings for scanning services such as Book Baby or 1dollarscan or if you want to go totally crazy, you can buy an automatic book scanner like the DL Mini (I’m kidding!).

Anyway, the settings I use for the best quality with lowest size files (very important):

  • Black and White (line art)
  • 300dpi (maybe even less – try out a demo and see)
  • PDF (choose compact if there is an option)

If you use “Greyscale”, you’ll get better quality but the file sizes will be substantially larger. Similarly if you choose “colour” to get that nice cover image scanned it will look great but will quickly take up lots of space.

I then save the files to Dropbox.

In order to import the PDFs into forScore from Dropbox, follow this tutorial:

Editing Scores

If you want to be able to edit your files (not just annotate but actually change the music itself), try using NotateMe with PhotoScore. I blogged about NotateMe when it came out in 2013 (NotateMe app for piano teachers (with video)).

It’s since been improved and updated, so if you’re interested in scanning, OCR and editing music on your iPad check out the following resources for more information about this:

Using UnrealBook

If you happen to be a gigging musician, you may well be using UnrealBook which is a great app for musicians playing from lead sheets. If this is you, check out this tutorial about scanning music into this app:

How’d you go?

I hope those links were helpful and have got you started on the path to iPad mastery!!

Whatever you do, just give it a go. I know that sometimes these kinds of instructions sound quite confusing and difficult, but if there’s one thing that Apple is brilliant at, it’s making things intuitive. Once you get started and give things a try, you’ll very quickly work out how to do it in your own time.

Let me know if you have any questions!

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About the Author

Best-known for his blogging and teaching, Tim is also a well-respected presenter, performer and accompanist based in Melbourne, Australia. You can check him out on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

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