A musician’s thoughts about the iPad


For about 9 years I’ve been using the MusicPad Pro as a way to view my sheet music rather than carry around dozens of books of music. The MusicPad is a 10×14 inch tablet with only 1022×766 resolution at I believe 72 (possibly 96) dpi. It weighs nearly 5 pounds. All it did was display sheet music and organize it, nothing else. Unfortunately, the MusicPad is no longer manufactured or supported nor was it ever improved upon since it was first manufactured.

Back in mid-March 2012, I was asked to play the organ for a special anniversary service celebrating a priest’s anniversary of her ordination. Being one of the first 100 women Episcopal priests ordained, it was kind of a big deal. In the middle of the service, on a piece the audience was singing along to, my MusicPad went completely blank. Not just froze, it went blank, no power, no battery, nothing. Needless to say, it was not an idea situation to be in. I had some similar issues in the past, always during practice, never in a live performance. So, I knew the time was coming to replace it with something else. But what to replace it with or do I go back to paper music?


At the time I started researching what to buy, there weren’t any tablets of the same size that I could definitively confirm could run some sort of music display application. After some time of considering different products, I decided to go with the iPad. The latest, sometimes referred to as the iPad 3 had just been released. The high resolution display looked impressive in spite of the small size of the tablet (at least it was small compared to what I was use to). So, I decided to purchase one. (Please help me pay for it by referring me piano students in the Gainesville-Ocala-Micanopy, Florida area OR by purchasing my recordings on iTunes, Amazon, Google or buying my sheet music at my website).

It should be noted that I am neither a Windows nor Apple fan. I think those who are passionate about either company and/or their products might want to seek professional therapy. I’ve never cared for Apple’s almost monopolistic approach to their products and therefore high prices. Let’s face it, the PC world gives you far more choice and bang for the buck. If you want a computer that does what you want it to do and will run the majority of software out there, get a PC. But the Apple world is known for being easy to use and having good customer support. The iPad will be the first Apple product I’ve used or owned since 1983. (That’s before the Mac came out). Although, my first solo piano CD was recorded and engineered (by someone else) using a Mac.

If I’m not home composing/arranging music or doing web maintenance or design, I’m either teaching piano lessons or at a gig. One of those gigs is a steady job as a church musician. (I might add that too many up and coming musicians ignore the potential income one can make working in churches and at the same time honing one’s skills). So, I couldn’t see much point in having to pay $30 (or more) per month that I don’t have to be able to access the internet via my iPad no matter where I go. That made the choice of the WiFi model the obvious one. Not knowing how much my sheet music and recordings would take up when combined with the size of various applications I opted for the 32Gb model (the middle one).

First impressions

I won’t try to do a comparison with the MusicPad as that would probably be like comparing apples with oranges. As of this writing, I’ve only had the iPad for two weeks. The one thing that I will not be doing with the iPad is returning it. While not as big as my MusicPad pro, something I’ll definitely miss, the screen resolution and added abilities make it a worthy replacement. The ability to have other applications, such as music theory and piano teaching apps as well as calendar and note taking apps have already come in handy. I’ve already used some apps to help with my teaching. My students, adults and children, have been receptive to it.

I’ll talk in detail about the various apps I looked at and am using in another posting. For now, I’ll just talk about the iPad itself. The screen resolution is excellent.  When viewing PDF files, which are the bulk of my sheet music, it is very clear and easy to read. It is a very easy product to use. I had no problems setting up a WiFi connection with my home WiFi network. I’ve had no connection issues.

My one complaint is the iTunes software on the computer side of things. The fastest way to transfer data from the PC (or Mac) to the iPad is via iTunes using the included USB cable. (You can use WiFi, but it is slow). The iTunes software is not a program I care for. It doesn’t feel like a mature product. It feels like a bunch of different programs put together to try and meet all the needs of iTunes, iphones, ipads, app store, video store, tv store, etc. All with an emphasis on ‘store’ as in ‘buy stuff from us’ and do things our way. The software changed file associations without asking me. I don’t understand why I need to add my music and videos to the iTunes library just to transfer it to the iPad. Those libraries take up disk space and use system resources. iTunes also runs some services and apps in the background that they don’t tell you about.

I find the fact that one has no choice but to purchase apps from Apple to be offensive and monopolistic. I know I didn’t ‘have’ to buy an iPad, but why should I be forced to purchase almost everything that goes on the iPad from Apple. I don’t like it and I don’t think it’s right.

The iPad is definitely geared toward using the internet. Since my needs have little practical reason to be accessing the internet, especially when you consider the draconian data caps that ISP providers force on us, I’d rather put something on the iPad and do everything separate from the internet. If I’m going to watch a movie on my iPad, that movie better be located on the iPad, not somewhere on the internet.  I don’t care for the iCloud and am not using it. Not that I have anything to hide, but read the Apple terms of service. It makes it very clear that what you put in the cloud will be viewed by Apple and may be voluntarily shared with private companies (like RIAA and MPAA). What encryption that does happen is done by Apple and they have all the keys to view it.

Final thoughts

I may never use the Safari, Mail, Maps, YouTube, GameCenter, iTunes, AppStore, Newstand and FaceTime apps (which are the bulk of the apps that come with the iPad), but the other apps will get some use. The video and camera apps are nice and of course being able to play music examples for my students is good. The speaker quality is not so great, but acceptable for demo purposes. But, the sheet music reading apps, educational potential and the ability to use the ipad as a MIDI controller or DAW controller are very powerful and worth serious consideration if you are a musician looking for something in those areas.

I’ll write more about the specific music apps I’ve started using and those I’ve decided aren’t worth using. Look for future blogs with those articles.



About jamesgilbertmusic

JamesGilbertMusic is a web based publisher of sheet music and mp3 files. The founder, James Gilbert, is a pianist, organist composer/arranger and piano teacher. He offers piano lessons in Micanopy.
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8 Responses to A musician’s thoughts about the iPad

  1. I am thinking about getting a thin large android tablet for this very purpose and utilizing this software: http://www.zubersoft.com/mobilesheets/about.html
    Possibly sometime later this year.

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  5. podkłady muzyczne says:

    Is there a working, free, and easy-to-use program to convert Midi files into sheet music?

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