How To Use An iPad For Live Music

One of the biggest changes that I’ve made onstage is using my iPad for carrying and reading all my charts. I love that it holds hundreds of songs, has great lighting for the stage, is small and portable, has a great built-in metronome, has a smaller footprint onstage and that I can use a hands-free foot-switch to turn my pages. Here is how to make it work for you:


1. Buy an iPad

There are numerous tablets on the market but the iPad is still #1.  And because of it’s market dominance it get’s the best support for products and apps. 

If a new one is out of your price range… pick up a used one on Kijiji. But make sure you buy an iPad3 or newer.

2. Convert all your documents (music, notes, etc) into .pdf documents

This is quite simple: When you’re printing your documents from your Apple computer, simply choose the PDF option in the lower right corner of your print page.

For multiple options on the platform your using, check out this WikiHow article: 5 Ways To Create PDF Documents

3. Get a free Dropbox account and load all your .pdf documents into it

Dropbox is free and is becoming one of the best ways to store your documents in the ‘Cloud’. Check out this article: How To Start Using Dropbox 

4. Download a great music reading app

My favourite music reading app is ‘forScore’.  Here is a link to an article of the top music reader appsThe reason I prefer forScore over other apps (and I’ve tried numerous other ones) is:

  • It links easily with Dropbox
  • It has great user-friendly features
  • It has a versatile metronome built-in with great sounds and great program features: I can tell it how many beats to play and then have it turn off automatically so it ends before a ritard ending
  • The metronome instantly changes when the next song comes up
  • You control the metronome with a footswitch
  • You can add metronome controls on to any page of the music.
  • You can easily write notes on your iPad music screen.

Metronome for forScore

I also want to give honorable mention to the OnSong app. It has a solid metronome, great editing and transposing features, the ability to sync tracks and also download charts from Dropbox and convert files from CCLI’s Songselect.

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 12.13.21 PM

5. Buy a stand for your iPad

My recommendation is the GigEasy stand. It is good-looking and very easy to use. (Although you can just put your iPad on a music stand if needed.)

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 7.53.53 AM

6. Buy a Bluetooth Foot-switch for your iPad

I recently upgraded my foot-switch to an iRig Blueboard. This pedal has 4 foot-switches so I can easily turn pages (forwards and backwards) and also turn the metronome off hands free. (this video is in French but it will give you the idea)

Airturn has also just come out with a new bluetooth foot-switch for only $69. This will enable you to turn pages and other functions. It is great to be hands free! Check this great Youtube video on the how-to-use-it with OnSong!

If you have an older iPad you can use the Airturn BT-105 (which I was using before I upgraded my iPad).

7.  Practice and use the iPad for live music ~ here’s how:

  • I make all my music into .pdf’s and then I download all of them onto my Dropbox account.
  • I put them into a set list.
  • I set-up the metronome settings for each song.
  • I link my iRig Blueboard foot-switch to my iPad and practise using it to turn the pages backwards and forwards and turning the click on and off.
  • I send the metronome click to the band for their in-ear monitors.
  • I also put a special programmable transparent button on each page to quickly turn the metronome on/off in emergencies. (see set-up for buttons on forScore)
  • I practice using this set-up so that it works seamlessly in live performances.
  • I memorize my music and only use the iPad for a back-up.

Question: What are you using on stage for your music? What app are you currently using? Do you memorize your music?

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6 Responses to How To Use An iPad For Live Music

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  5. ColinWiseman says:

    I have been using Planning Center Online since it came out. When they added the “Music Stand” I started using it. I love it because once I choose my song list they are automatically added into my music stand. I love the fact that I can add capo charts and assign them to different band members. I have used every page turner foot pedal on the market and have found the iRig Blueboard to be awesome, but I also love the AirTurn Stomp kit because it uses the very durable Boss FS-5U pedals.

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