Tablet Applications

All the applications listed here have the following features:

  1. All of them are actually databases that store and organize music
  2. They are all searchable
  3. They all organize songs into Libraries, Collections, and Set Lists (under various individualized names)
  4. All of them have some method of using a full size computer for data input (Console functionality)
  5. They all have some mechanism to scroll the page
  6. They are all compatible with current Bluetooth pedals

From there, they vary widely with their user interface (UI), which page formats they work with, which platform they run on, and any additional features that they have available.

There are four apps that we consider ‘best in class’ for the purposes of PDF or ChordPro formatted music. These are:


iOS-Only

 ForScore
Cost: 15-21**

This app is only available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

This is the best music notation reading application available. It is blazingly fast at rendering PDF pages, and the annotation technology is extremely smooth and easy to use.

In fact, I use this app for more than just music. It’s become a part of my regular tools to use in my work. Contracts, resumes, etc- I use them all in ForScore for the ability to quickly read them, keep them organized, and keep handwritten notes and feedback.

For using as a choir songbook, it is unparalleled. I sing with three different choirs, and I always have my music organized and accessible. Songs from one choir never get mixed in with songs from another choir- and I never have to squint at my music in a dim church (due to the backlight on the iPad).

They also never stop innovating. They also have an app called Cue (cost 2-3); which is a companion app to ForScore. It allows remote control of ForScore from another device. Or, should you happen to have a second, older iPad lying around (as one does); Cue will allow you to display PDFs in dual page mode- so you can view and turn pages as if you had the paper book on your music stand!

Console access works the same as OnSong, making your tablet act as a web server; so edits from your desktop are done through a web browser. The best news of all, though, is that this function is bundled with the native app at no extra cost.

Website: forscore.co


Android-Only

 MobileSheets Pro
Cost: 10-18**

MobileSheets Pro was one of the first Android-based music reader applications. It started as solely a PDF reader, and the Android version of ForScore. Since then, it has added the capability to interpret ChordPro formated text. I do not know anyone who has worked with MobileSheets’ ChordPro implementation; but my suspicion would be that an app focused on that page format would give a better showing (such as SongBook).

Console capability is via their free Companion application available on their website. Unfortunately, the application is PC- only. There is no macOS support.

Website: www.zubersoft.com/mobilesheets/


iOS-Only

 OnSong
Basic Cost: 30-40**
Total Cost: (with Console add-on): 45-61**

This app is only available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

This is the Cadillac (or Mercedes, if you’re German) of the songbook applications. It will read ChordPro, text, PDF, HTML, as well as Word files. It also has its own song format; but this is actually a stripped down and slightly altered version of ChordPro.

Obviously, all of this comes with a Cadillac price. But you definitely get your money’s worth.

Rather than try to describe the app in detail myself, let’s use their own video (it’s 14 minutes, but I highly recommend it). Their documentation is excellent, and it has the best and easiest to use UI (IMO) that I’ve seen. (ForScore comes close, but it does come in second).

While OnSong can be used to store and view PDFs, its heart and soul (and speed!) is text-based. I perform from stage with my guitar using OnSong. When I’m in a filk circle, I use primarily OnSong; but occasionally will dip into ForScore for the songbook PDF archives I keep there.

Before an open music weekend, I usually create a Setlist of songs that I would like to play. I use the Setlist as a reminder; sort of as a closet of selected clothes I plan to wear sometime over that weekend.

Console capability is an add-on that you need to purchase. Once installed, it will turn your iPad into a web server; and you are able to edit and update your OnSong database from a web browser on your computer.

Website: onsongapp.com


Android & iOS

 SongBook (Android) / SongBook ChordPro (iOS)
Basic Cost: 11-15**
Total Cost: (with Console add-on): 29-40**

This appears to be the definitive ChordPro application for iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS. It strictly adheres to the ChordPro specification, and can only read text files.

Due to the number of platforms that this app is written for, the UI is extremely basic (you can’t use custom menus designed for an iPad on an Android device, for example). This leads to a slightly steeper learning curve to figure out the settings; but it is still a powerful app that is feature-rich.

This is the only app that can display lyrics in multiple columns, if the desire is to see everything on a single page.

There is no built-in Console capability in the tablet apps; instead, full-featured Windows and macOS apps provide this function. File storage is synced to Dropbox; so songs that are edited on the desktop will be updated on the tablet when Dropbox synchronises.

Website: www.linkesoft.com/songbook/


**With prices, I’m stating units as a general number, rather than quoting in dollars, Euros, or pounds. So, if the cost is listed as 15-20; this means that the price will be within that range of numbers in the local currencies of the USA, Germany, UK, and Canada; e.g. $15-$20, or 15€-20€, or £15-£20. Ranges listed were current as of May, 2020.