The Best Digital Sheet Music Apps to Make Life Easier for Musicians

 reviewgeek.com  10/18/2020 09:00:00  7
violin, headphones, and sheet music on table
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Every musician knows what a hassle sheet music can be. It’s easy to misplace, tear, spill on, and even get back if you lend it out to a friend or student. But with a sheet music app, you can keep all of your sheet music in a central location, safe from harm, and easily mark it up during rehearsals or use on stage in a performance. These are the best sheet music apps for all platforms.

Some of these apps have built-in sheet music libraries that allow you to browse, purchase, and download, while others take more of an organization-only approach, allowing you to import your sheet music files then use the app to display them. Those that do have built-in libraries all had more of a general selection of pieces for individual instruments or with piano accompaniment. If you’re looking for a specific title, you’re better off buying digital copies from dedicated (digital) sheet music stores like Sheet Music Plus or JW Pepper.

So grab your music stand, your phone, or tablet, and get ready to take your sheet music collection to a new level.

Best Overall: Musicnotes

Musicnotes app for buying, annotating, and displaying sheet music
Musicnotes

Musicnotes (free, with in-app purchases) offers over 400,000 sheet music arrangements for several instruments across virtually all platforms. The app itself is free, but you’ll have to buy each piece of music you want individually. It keeps your purchased pieces organized with folders and set lists, and has tools that can help you learn a piece. Musicnotes also lets you scan sheet music you already own and add it to your library, though you’ll need a Dropbox account to do so.

The app can play a song so you know what it sounds like, and it can slow it down to a tempo you’re more comfortable playing along with. You can even annotate your music using the built-in pen and colorful highlighter, and make other notes as needed. The app supports transposing, custom hands-free page turning options, and even has different paper background options.

Musicnotes’ sheet music database spans several genres, such as classical, Broadway, pop, and hymns—and covers most instruments. That being said, its selection is fairly shallow and definitely aimed more towards casual beginner and intermediate musicians (thank goodness it lets you import your own files). However, Musicnotes’ convenient wide device compatibility kind of makes up for the hit-or-miss sheet music selection. It’s the only sheet music app we found that can be downloaded on iOS, Android, Mac, and PC.

Best Premium Pick: ForScore

ForScore app for importing and displaying sheet music
ForScore

Although ForScore costs $14.99 and requires you to bring in your own sheet music from elsewhere, it is incredibly beautiful, powerful, and smart. It displays your music on a clean minimalist screen, keeps it organized, and stays out of your way at every step. ForScore also isn’t weighed down with frilly extras you never wanted to begin with.

The app is only available for iOS and iPadOS, meaning it’s beautifully optimized for all Apple devices taking a cue from Apple’s less-is-more aesthetic. It makes it easy to create setlists, annotate files, rearrange pages, add bookmarks, play along with an audio track, and more. ForScore’s powerful tools make it equally brilliant in its capacity to help newer musicians as it is to play stage manager for seasoned performing artists.

ForScore has powerful importing features and supports sheet music for all instruments (as well as simple chord-and-lyric sheets). It supports page-turning devices, has a simple digital piano keyboard and pitch pipe, and even lets you track practice time and goals. ForScore’s artillery of powerful features and its smart design make it worth the cost.

Best for Guitarists: OnSong

OnSong app for guitar chords and lyrics
OnSong

Sheet music apps don’t have to be just for pianists or symphonic musicians—guitarists can benefit from them, too! OnSong ($29.99, with in-app purchases), is perfect for managing all of your tabs and lyrics sheets. You have full control over how your music is organized: You can rename files, reorder setlists, change font size, add notes or annotations, and more. The app is only available on iOS, however (sorry, Android).

During rehearsals, you can transpose or highlight chords with the press of a finger. You can set up a metronome with your songs, adjust the speed at which the music scrolls on your screen, and even play the song from your iTunes or OnSong library if you need to hear what it sounds like. Importing TIFF, PNG, PDF, JPG, Word, and Pages files is also a cinch, as OnSong can connect directly to Dropbox and iTunes.

The app supports regular old sheet music, as well, but it primarily focuses on tabs and chord sheets for guitarists. In fact, one of its standout guitar-friendly features is foot pedal support. This lets you connect a compatible pedal (like iRig, PageFlip, AirTurn, and Coda) and use it to change pages in your music hands-free, so it’s convenient for live performances.

Best Budget Option for iOS Users: Paperless Music

Paperless Music app for ios
Paperless Music

Paperless Music ($4.99) is a straightforward sheet music management app that’s easy to use. It’s great for scores, fake books, and guitar tabs, too. You can import PDF files from most places—like iCloud, Files, and AirDrop—and once everything’s uploaded, you can search for a piece through filters like composer, title, genre, key, or duration. The Collection feature lets you group music together, for things like recitals, then modify or delete them afterward.

Paperless displays your sheet music so it looks crystal clear, not fuzzy, and you can add annotations any time, thanks to the convenient built-in editing tools. It also uses a rendering engine that enables lightning-fast page turns so you never miss a beat during a rehearsal or performance. You can scroll or swipe to the next page manually, of course, but it supports Bluetooth devices (like PageFlip and AirTurn) as well if you need hands-free page turns.

The app has no ads, in-app purchases, subscriptions, third-party tracking, and doesn’t even require you to sign up for an account. It just works. Its only real drawback is that it’s only for iOS; I’m sure Android users would appreciate the app’s streamlined design.

Best for Android Users: Orpheus App

Orpheus app for android users
Orpheus App

While many sheet music apps are iOS only, we were happy to find something terrific that’s only available for Android users—Orpheus App ($6.99). The low-key app is all about the essential features and keeping things easy to use, and it was thoughtfully designed by an actual musician who knew exactly what needed to be included and how to make it user-friendly.

Orpheus app has a modern intuitive interface. Everything is clearly labeled, and the app doesn’t have any bloat so things load fast. The app syncs with Dropbox, so you can store your digital sheet music there and load it to the app as needed. It’ll even let you bookmark pages in super long pieces so you can pick up where you left off later without any fuss. Flexible lightweight annotation tools let you add cues, bowings, and more quickly. Plus, the app is compatible with Bluetooth page turning devices so you can stay focused on your music.

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