When I started the “Taming The Sheet Music Tiger” project, I was partially inspired by a display I saw at a NAMM show a few years ago. I had seen the FreeHand Systems (freehandsystems.com) Music Pad Pro being demoed:
My colleague and I were instantly enamored with the idea of carrying a light tablet PC with our sheet music on it instead of a bag (or 2) of books and sheet music.
The cost however, felt a bit prohibitive. The consumer was also buying into a dedicated, proprietary system. So one would still have to lug their laptop in addition to the Music Pro Plus tablet. And of course, my colleague pointed out that if it ever failed, you didn’t have a backup. I decided I would be happy to leave copies of my books in my car to ride from place to place, never to be unpacked unless there was a digital copy failure. The Music Pad Pro could go into my workplace with me, with the books in the car as my backup. However, the cost was still prohibitive for me, starting at over $1000. (The Music Pad Pro currently runs about $899 at SamAsh.com.)
It has been a few years since that first inspiration, and my desire for a paperless office has not died. In “Taming The Sheet Music Tiger” part 1 and part 2, I’ve been finding a system to easily scan my music library “en masse”, and ways to create affordable storage and backup options. The next step is getting all of this effort to translate into a portable digital “book” of sheet music, which is well within my budget.
I decided to use my current laptop to experiment with. If this system works out, I will consider a tablet PC to take my laptop’s place. (This would allow me to easily create on-screen annotations). So I needed three things to make this work with my current laptop:
1) A foot switch to allow me to make page turns
2) Some kind of secure laptop podium or a secure method to attach a laptop to a music stand
3) A software package that would eventually allow me to make annotations to my music.
Since my digital music is all in PDF format, I decided to start the next phase of this project by locating a desirable foot switch. I watched the Music Pad Plus video and noticed the keyboard style foot swtich they use. I figured I needed a simple switch that had a USB connector.
After doing some of research, I found the Footime Page Turner on eBay, through a seller called ScorePerfect.
I liked this foot switch much better than the keyboard style foot pedal the Music Pad Pro offered, simply because the Footime could light up. This would be useful for playing in darker venues. I had a very successful, stress free transaction on eBay and recently tried out the new pedal. The foot switch was literally plug and play – no drivers to install.
Already my laptop is on it’s way to being a better music reading system. Unfortunately, Adobe Acrobat won’t allow me to make annotations. Since my laptop isn’t a tablet PC, writing annotations doesn’t really matter at this point. It woudl be nice to be able to create a play list. I can’t easily do that using Adobe.
The foot switch does allow me to test out my ideas cheaply in my home studio before committing fully to the paperless system. I can see if I would even use a system like this and if this system feels comfortable.
I have found that my experiences so far have been very positive. I am going to scan all of my personal practice materials into PDF format. This will lighten my load as I already bring a laptop to various studios. The laptop will now hold all my personal practice materials, instead of a large messenger bag with two binders.
Stay tuned to see the next stage in this system’s evolution.