I’ve borrowed heavily from the book From Paper to Pixels (2013) for this list. It’s a free download- and while some of the information and websites have become outdated, the basic information in it is very, very good.
The least expensive full sized iPad available today (May, 2020) weighs just a little over a pound (483 grams), and has 32GB of storage. This is more than powerful enough – in fact, it would hold over 120,000 pages of paper converted to PDF. Think about what a ream (500 sheets) of paper weighs. Or how much space 240 reams of paper would fill. All in a tablet that weighs just a bit more than a pound (or less than half a kilo).
Never lose music again
When I was still working from paper notebooks, the backpack in which I stored all my guitar music was stolen. I suspect the thieves were looking for a laptop- I’m sure they were pretty disappointed that my heavy bag was full of nothing but ring binders full of lyrics. However, most of what was in those ring binders was the only copy I had of those songs. I was devastated, and it took me years to rebuild my repertoire from memory.
Today, all my music is backed up in the cloud. If someone stole my iPad today (which, really, is a reasonable thing for one to steal, as opposed to a bunch of ring binders)- I would simply need to re-download everything to a new tablet. I will never lose my music again.
Find music instantly
I have over 2000 discrete pieces in my music library on my iPad. With everything stored digitally, I can locate and display any distinct song or choral piece in seconds, ready to perform.
When gigging, it’s normal to make a set list of songs you intend to perform. Usually it’s scratched on a piece of paper, and dropped on the floor where hopefully someone doesn’t kick it off the stage or spill their beer on it. Or, if you’re performing a concert with an orchestra or choir- Lord help you if you happen to drop your music folder and the the paper goes flying…
Using a tablet as your songbook, arranging the music you’re going to perform is as easy as selecting items on a list, and then dragging up and down on that list to put them in the proper order. And then you have that set list to call up later to help you evaluate what worked, what didn’t, and what you may want to repeat.
Music transposition (ChordPro)
Is a song too low for you? Too high? With ChordPro apps (see more about ChordPro in Tablet Page Formats) you can instantly transpose a song to a new key to try it out. Or, if you are accompanying someone, you can make the song fit to the performer, rather than trying to make the performer fit to the song.
People say that the great advantage of paper over digital is the ability to write notes in pencil directly on the page, to help you remember tricky details of a piece. However, if you need to give that music back, you have to erase all the edits; and over time smudges and tears will build up.
With a stylus and the right app; not only can you highlight and make notes directly on the piece; you can do it in multiple colors. And if there is a misprinted note, you can correct it so invisibly that you almost can’t see the correction.
If you play an instrument and the piece of music is more than one page long (which is most of the time); you are always balancing the need to play notes with the need to take a hand off of your instrument to turn the dang page. And, what’s on the other side of that page is always a blind spot for a fraction of a second- which can lead to surprises and missed notes.
Most of the apps we talk about here can be set to auto-scroll. This means, that with practice, you can set the music to auto-advance without doing anything- you can simply play through. Or, with a Bluetooth pedal, you can turn pages without having to take a hand off of your instrument.