I'm curious - how do folks use tablets to support performances?

I'm a solo performer and I use a first gen. iPad (the original one) for my lyrics/chords - one page per song (mostly!). Double columns if required.

The process I follow seems complicated, but over time it's become an easy one for me. I have a single document containing my entire repertoire (this is actually a dynamic document as I keep adding new songs). I create separate set lists for gigs. This document is saved as a PDF and dropped into iBooks which is then uploaded to my iPad.

I found a bracket ( that clamped to my mic stand. After using it for a while I found that it could be a bit awkward as the angle and height didn't always work well. My (very supportive) wife suggested that I try taking it apart ... and she was right! The main bracket is actually threaded for a mic stand - it fits right on. So I now use a dedicated mic stand - photos attached.

The iPad headphone jack is connected to my T1 for performances. During breaks I play background music off my iPad.

This process works well for me.

Someone recommended an app - BandHelper - which is actually a pretty nifty app and very inexpensive. I tried it but something just didn't work for me even though it is pretty versatile and I like the way it's been designed.

 So now it's your turn ... how do you use a tablet for your performances? Please share - we can all learn something from others!

Thanks. Peace.







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Original Post

Songbook. You can import and edit songs. Songs are stored in dropbox and you can sync to all devices. It automatically syncs to wi-fi so everyone is always up to date, you can make playlists, has playlists, can change keys, etc. You can use any device too-phone, ipad, laptop.

You're lucky you have an iPad.  OnSong is the best software I've found.

You can import individual song's text files, word files, PDFs (although burns lots of storage to hold these) with chords inline if you wish or a ZIPFILE with a whole bunch of songs in it.

You can organize the songs by libraries -- types of songs, etc.  You can also easily build setlists and move the song titles around within them.

You can backup songs or the whole library to share with other folks who have OnSong or most other song warehousing software.

Alas, for you PC tablet owners, OnSong only runs on iPads and there's nothing even close for windoze...

Good topic here. I use forScore and it's a good program and I'm use to it.  However, I'm also considering a change.  A couple of quick questions regarding Songbook. Does it use pdf or other format? If it uses another format, can you transfer in songs already charted in pdf?  I'm assuming since it can do key changes it must be a format other than pdf. Correct?  Also, how does the auto-scan work?  Does it work if the ipad is set to landscape rather than portrait mode?  Thanks for any answers.  I will provide a more detailed response concerning forScore in another message. 

For PC owners, I have always used WinCDGPro - It will play almost any format and by using a program called "Karaoke Builder" you can put your own lyrics, chords, prompts etc to run alongside your backtrack as an mp3g or a wavg - So, as you play your tracks, lyrics scroll in sync as though playing a karaoke.

I use a refurbished 9.7" iPad - wifi only, 32G that cost me about $300 and installed Onsong (much less than $300).

I had an old music stand that bolts on to a regular mic stand but the music holder bit was too small when I had huge 9x11 notebooks of paper lyrics.  It's perfect for the iPad.  I leave the base of it permanently attached to the mic stand.  (There's a Quik-Lok version that's close).  Another nice thing is that there's enough room on the music holder bit to hold the iPad (in its leather case), my phone, picks, capos, etc.

I also bought a very sturdy K&M 19740 that quickly attaches to a regular mic stand for those larger gigs where all of the PA, mics and stands are already in place.

Note; PDFs will eat memory very fast and you can't transpose the chords in a PDF.  I mainly have regular text files with bracketed chords in line with the lyrics.

I had two problems with Songbook. 

The first is that it doesn't look half as good nor are the indexes to songs and access to them as easy and intuitive as OnSong.

The 2nd is that in my band there were two of us with iPads and Onsong and it took me HOURS to convert the songs and then import them into our other bandmate's windoze tablet (I had to download a demo version of the PC version onto my desktop and import then copy the resulting songbook library to my bandmate's PC.  And to update songs one at a time -- no can do very easily.

And because of problem number one, out bandmate went back to paper...  :-)

I use a "Jumper EZ-Pad" Win 10 touch screen tablet which runs my WinCDGPro tracks /  Lyrics. My songs are numbered and to re-call a track I just input the number and hit enter - Also stops after every track if you wish, so no rushing back to hit the pause. Denon blue tooth back to X-Air mixer and wireless to two Bose L1 model 1 S in stereo. Great set-up and sound. Android tablet runs the X-Air mixer wireless. Two tablets fit on a bar attached to a heavy duty music stand (minus the top metal sheet holder) using the usual tablet holders. So no leads at all from the two tablets (only power if not already powered up). Sure wireless Mic completes the set-up with only my guitar manually plugged in to my GT5 pedal. ......... Anyway, that's my set-up for solo stuff - quick and easy 

troubador posted:

@FCBlues @Chet 3 @Archtop Eddy @Big Jim - so do all of you use some form of tablet to hold your lyrics etc? What kind? On a music stand or with some form of clamp on the mic stand?


First, let me say thanks FCBlues, Chet and all for info on Songbook, Onsong and other options.  I plan to look into those programs since key transposing and auto-scolling could be useful features. I like that Onsong also lets you use Spotify to hear the song(s).  The biggest issue is having to re-input all my songs in another format other than PDF. That's a ton of work when you have a few hundred songs.

Back to troubador's questions:  I use a first generation ipad and iRealb and foreScore for gigging. 

I use iRealb for jazz or Gypsy jazz gigs when I'm playing with a group. It's also useful for practicing with a background track. It's like a basic Band-in-a-Box at one twentieth the cost. Plus you can go to their forum on line and find thousands of songs you can download to your ipad.  It's big draw to me was when I found more than 300 Gypsy Jazz songs ready for the grab.  The main limit of iRealb is that you cant effectively add lyrics.

So foreScore is the app I use for my solo singer guitar gigs.

I don't know if it's better than other apps like unrealBook, GoodReader or others, but at this point, it's the app I'm used to using. Here's how I use it during a live gig.

First, I code all songs by title, original singer or composer, genre, and which decade (era) the song was first recorded (i.e. 1920s, 1930,s ... 1970s, 1980s, etc.)  Then I put the songs in a variety of setlists: Sets 1-4, Vintage Songs, Uptempo Songs, Best of Rock Songs, etc.

So at the gig, now I'm able to select songs by choosing a Set List, by song title, genre, composer or era.  And with foreScore it's easy to move around from one to the other.

Say I'm at a gig and decide to play a set with three songs from each decade from 1930s to 1970s. That would be 15 songs total. I'll pull up a setlist named "3 each 30s-70s popular Set 1" and go from there. If in the middle of the set I decided I'd like to add another song, I'll usually determine which "era" I'm in at that time and go that genre (let's say 1960s) and pick song either by title or by composer or original artist. Then if I want, it's easy to go back to my 30's-70s set list and pick back up where I was.  This explanation makes it sound more complicated than it is.

I keep all my songs down to one page so I don't have to flip pages in mid-song. Sometimes this is a challenge when there are a ton of lyrics.  To keep from having to use two lines (chord lines on top of the lyric lines), I put the chords after each lyric line. This gives me twice the room for lyrics per page.  For example:

Instead of:

    C          F     C          F

If you like-a-me,  I like-a-you

I'll underline the "chord" words so I can place everything on one line. In this example I used boldface since I can't underline here:

If you like-a-me, I like-a-you         C  F  C  F

You might notice, I also use short dashes between words (like-a-me) to help me remember the rhythmic timing of the song.  I'm sure there are better ways to this, but this is what Ive become used to and works for me.

As for stands, I use a separate foldable mic stand to hold my ipod with a K&M holder that screws directly to the top of the stand.  I prefer a separate stand for my ipod and mic. 

To me, the ability to easily read and understand your lyric/chord sheets and confidently move around in your app program are the critical factors during a live gig.  Also having gear that's small, lightweight, easy to set up and holds up well during a gig are vital.  This is where all my Bose gear comes into play!  Anything that eliminates problems or inconsistencies get my thumbs up.

One recent issue I've been facing is it can be hard to read an ipad when busking in direct sunlight.  Moving the ipad is not always an option.  I carry polarizing sunglasses in case I need them for the sun glare. By flipping the ipad direction from portrait to landscape it can help eliminate the glare.  Unfortunately, it also means I can only see the top half of my lyrics sheet. At some point during the performance I need to free up a finger to swipe to the bottom half of the page.  By setting the looper or putting a quick break in the music I can make this adjustment, but it's just one more thing I have to deal with on the fly during a performance.  Anybody else have this problem?

Look into programs that will process all of your songs from PDF to Text.  There are ways to create a batch process or there may be online tools that could convert all of your files in one go.

I did a search on "batch convert pdf to text file" and got a long list of links to possible software and instructions.

Try converting a sampling of some of your individual song files first.  It's possible that the files may convert your chords in the correct places but might not retain the underlining...I don't know for sure.

You WILL have to redo the index to all of your songs but once they're in Onsong that's pretty much a matter of creating topics/subjects and clicking checkboxes to add the songs.

Onsong supports bluetooth page turners like Airturn and Pageflip (I have a Cicada - it works).  You can also set autoscrolling for REALLY long songs.  I find that I've been able to engineer quick dramatic pauses into my performances that allow me to reach out and scroll up as part of "dynamics"!

Onsong automatically enlarges the text when flipped from Portrait to Landscape but you'd have to scroll much more often.  Again with footpedals or autoscroll you may be able to overcome this problem.  One thing I've found is that my iPad will overheat and shut itself down after an hour or two in direct sun!  Most of my gigs are outdoors under portable shades so haven't experienced many glare issues.

Another reason I can recommend Onsong (over Songbook) is that navigation through the program has a relatively short learning curve but the program is very flexible.  It also has interface to dropbox built in so I've been mainly using wifi/dropbox to transfer new songs into my iPad and to backup the entire contents of OnSong to my pc and a backup iPad...

Good luck!


PS: Once all of your songs are converted from PDF to text and edited on a computer you can zip up ALL of them, upload them to Dropbox and then download the zipfile directly into your iPad using Onsong from Dropbox which will extract every song into your main Library.  If you find you have to edit any songs once they're in Onsong you can do that and when re-imported have the option to replace the previous version on your pad.

Bottom line, I've been a software designer/consultant/programmer for decades and OnSong is one of those rare programs (like Steinberg's audio processing software) that's been done right!

Thanks Chet. Great advice about transferring from PDF to text then to Onsong.  I never thought about that!  So just to make sure I understand... What you're saying is that I can use a text file in Onsong and then be able to use functions like changing song keys, correct?

Thanks again, Chet.

Nearly all of the text in my Onsong files look like this:

[D]No one to [D#dim]talk with,  [Em]all by my-[A7]self
[D]No one to [F#7]walk with,  I'm [G]happy on the [Gm]shelf

With the bracketed chords inline with the lyrics - usually exactly where they change.  OnSong displays the chord names above the lyric the way we're used to seeing them.

In Onsong, when one goes to edit text mode in a song you are presented with a little piano icon in the upper right that can be used to transpose immediately. 

I've often brought up a tune that I do in my solo act, transposed it to play with someone else and then immediately transpose it back to my key.  Very simple...

The "Natural" Onsong file IS a standard text file (I edit with Notepad) with the extension ".onsong" instead of ".txt".

Another cool thing is that you can print out the songs FROM the iPad to a wifi printer that will include the chords and can be scaled to fit on one page.  I used that feature to printout my tunes for my band member who doesn't have an iPad and for whom Songbook on his tablet PC wasn't usable...

Somgbook works great for 2 of us but we don’t use windows. I’m not surprised windows isn’t compatible. I bought the songbook app and downloaded to my Mac. My friend shared his Dropbox file with me and I imported 1400 songs from his file into both Mac and iPad in less than a minute. Never had a problem. 

I have in the past used Windows Movie Maker...

Create a new video project. Insert your music track. Use the 'frame captions' to place your lyrics synchronised to the music (same method as karaoke). From that you produce an MP4. The best thing about the MP4 is its cross-platform portability, it can be played on a PC, Laptop, Tablet, SmartPhone etc. etc.

Windows File Browser makes a perfectly reasonable media player and file organiser. Double click on a song file, it plays and stops at the end. While that's playing you can pre-select your next track and then just hit the 'enter' key to start it. You can if you wish pre-select any number of tracks and hit 'enter' and it will play you multi-selection one after the other.

If you want to pre-plan a play list, then create a new folder and copy the tracks you want into it. To control the play order, edit the file name by adding a prefix number and it can play the tracks in number order.

It is much easier to setup and use than it sounds, and if you have a Windows PC to hand, essentially its FREE!

I've attached an example.


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I use Song Sheet Pro on an iPad Mini, on a mount that clamps to my mic stand right above my T1. I use an AirTurn Bluetooth pedal to advance between verses, or I could set it to turn to the next song. I like that I can pinch the text to make it larger or smaller. I email song lyrics to the iPad then cut and paste them into Song Sheet for editing, with notes for key, capo position and bpm. You can also set verse, chorus, bridge notations that the AirTurn can jump between, and even add chord notation. You can drag and drop to a set list, and forward songs and set lists to another user. Song Sheet also lets you link mp3s for backing tracks or reference to each song. Anesthesia from a recent surgery has degraded my ability to memorize lyrics (I have no problem remembering lyrics learned pre-surgery), and the software provides just enough of a visual cue to help me recall the words. 

rycowan posted:

SNIPPET... and the software provides just enough of a visual cue to help me recall the words. 

That's the trick isn't it, a system/method of getting just enough of a cue/prompt to make your memory work how you need it work at the time. While at the same time it you don't want it to distract you from your performance or connection with you audience.

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