Poll: "MS Songbook" usage for music reading.

• Nov 20, 2015 - 13:34

As user from the MS "Songbook" app and promoter of reading music from an iPad or an Androïd tablet my impression is that the MS "Songbook" is hardly (or not at all) used for music reading and playïng from an iPad or Androïd tablet.

So which device are you reading (for playïng) from and why?
1. Paper sheets and if so why not a tablet?
2. PDF file reader and if so which app and system?
3. Dedicated reader (like MS Songbook) and if so which app and system?


On 'gigs' and rehearsal I'm almost exclusively using PDFs on my Android tablet and Adobe DC as the reader, the rest of our choir and band uses the printed PDFs, a few use MuseScore at home for playback and practising

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Using a simple Adobe reader for PDF does not give you any flexibility wrt. organizing songs, searching 10.000nds of songs in a library and having it instantly available, add corrections, notes, song binding, creating song lists, sharing it, etc.etc. That's what you can do with apps like forScore (iPad) and iGigBook (iPad and Androïd-[Lollipod]). If you search at youtube for "forScore tutorial" you will find many stuff created by mainly classical music users that show many features any musician would like to have. Since this is all based at PDF input you cannot transpose. An equivalent app for Androïd is "MobileSheets". Although it is still less sophisticated then forScore it will catch up soon. You might as well search for "Avidscorch tutorial" (iPad) and see how this app is used for Sibelius files by teachers and students. Now here we have the equivalent in MS "Songbook". Both apps can transpose. Only both apps don't have yet the abilities like forScore or MobileSheets. That's why a PDF export function is vital for the Songbook (and for AvidScorch) so you can export a transposed result directly into forScore or MobileSheets. I do this export presently via Screen photo. This suits me well for 1 page but for more pages it is clumsy.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Of course if you prepare your work, but not while you're at a gig or somebody mentions a new song. And the singer asks a different key. And the sax wants his key. And we try different keys with the singer during a rehearsel. That's my practice. Preparing the song behind my PC is never the situation. Generally all songs are already on my iPad but not in the correct key. I just always need to transpose them. Simply search for the song, transpose it and send it to the companions iPad (tablet) in case he doesn't have the song yet. And why can't I rely on the mobile app? Never had a problem except that I sometimes need an octave changer, but that's coming.

Paper sheets only!


1) I need usually at least two pages in sight at the same time (sometime three) and no device exists which can do that (at least no device I can afford).

2) Even for single pages, the resolution on common devices is too coarse for me to read everything clearly.

3) Sticking a portable device on a music stand is cumbersome.

As far as I know, none of instrumentists I'm in touch with plays from a portable device, independently from the notation programme used, for mostly the same reasons.

In reply to by Miwarre

Affording is just a matter of time since screens grow and prices drop. Two or more pages can easily be replaced by paging either by hand (that's what I do as keyboard player) or by a footswitch. For jazz musicians a 1 page lead sheet is often sufficient and I regularly use 2 pages by paging forward and backward by hand without finding it inconvenient. As keyboard player I've also no problems with a stand but a good floor stand for your iPad or Androïd device will cost $25 - $50 which can't be a problem. A bluetooth paging pedal $69. A normal music stand with books that fall down with pages all over place is a regularly thing that happens in my combo's for the ones that stick to paper sheets and they complain not having a score available yet at all or not in the correct key. I guess that in The Netherlands about 30% musicians including profs, use tablets for reading music.

In reply to by Robipad

"Affording is just a matter of time...": then I am afraid I have to wait.

I do not know your usual playing context; for me, as a bowed instrument player (viola da gamba), the stand should be at at least 1m from me, otherwise I risk to hit it with the bow; at that distance I simply cannot read the tiny details of an average music page if it not at least as large as an A4. And I definitely needs two pages in sight at any given moment, so A3.

Of course, paging is an issue also with paper sheets and a fair portion of layout time of a new score is spent devising the paging points. I assume that, with a mobile device large enough, the same paging points would be fine (a pedal would be more inconvenient than paging by hand). Still we are speaking of a device quite large and heavy, definitely heavier than the printed pages I usually deal with.

Lastly, I believe that on a device it is not possible to add annotations like bowing, fingerings, articulations, phrasing, dynamics, all the stuff that you have to add during rehearsals, at least not as quickly and easily as with a pencil on paper.

So, I suspect that for me (and, as far as I see, for my fellow instrumentists), paper, pencil and eraser and still required.

In reply to by Miwarre

OK I see your points with your instrument. I'm not sure about the pencil and paper thing and making annotations. That is easier then you might think. And it can be a lot cleaner. Erasing, drawing or adding signs is quite easy, especially since you can prepare your own signs/symbols in forScore. You need to learn of course, but once you know it it's quick and clean. I don't know about MobileSheets (Androïd).

I use paper most of the time for the same reasons as Miwarre - reading from a tablet is just not as convenient for scores of more than a single page. Now, in the special case of single page "score" (for me,. that normally means "lead sheets"), I do sometimes read from my iPad, but these are almost never scores prepared in MuseScore so I'm not normally using Songbook. Instead, it's usually iReal Pro, which is the go-to app most jazz musicians use to display the chord progressions to zillions of songs you can easily download, transpose, etc. it's bailed me out on gigs where someone calls some relatively obscure tune I should probably know but don't. iReal Pro displays on the chord progression, not the notes, which is fine for our purposes - the guy who called the tune presumably knows the melody already. And by only showing the chord progression, it can be quite readable on a tablet - many people even read directly from their phones.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

For a poll a disappointing number of reactions after 1 week which still shows the low interest in the app as reader. Nevertheless thanks all for your insights.
1. The great success of iReal Pro is that you can transpose and that it is available at iPad and Androïd and has zillions of songs. This is exactly what many musicians should like to have for lead sheets. The MS "Songbook" principally has the properties to make this possible. The actual problem is the availability of the zillions of songs publicly. This is mainly a copyright issue and from publishers who don't adapt to the 21th century. For my own use and for all my musical friends that's not a real problem, I just convert anything directly to .mscz and share it. In fact the whole Wikifonia library and the complete BiaB library is already available to me and my friends. For me the MS "Songbook" is iReal Pro for lead sheets and more. Once the song is transposed I transport it to forScore (presently with darkroom, but I'm urgently waiting for MS Songbook's promised PDF export) to get access to all the correction and managing possibilities and the song binding (Youtube results).
2. Although many musicians have enough experience to read only chord progressions and do the improvising by hearing, as many musicians (imho) really want a decent lead sheet, especially the beginners and basicly you need it if you try new songs. We use it in my 3 combo's all the time, if a new song is proposed just search it in the library, ask the singer which key is best for her or him, transpose it, share it, bind a youtube song then hear it and then play it. All done within a couple of minutes. It has never been so easy.

Many of our Over 50" community choir use Songbook on iPads and tablet for practicing and love it, but use a hard copy for full choir rehearsals.
On another recent post about PDF's is the result better if the PDF is scanned then imported?

In reply to by jillllee

Yes, that is at least my impession. Unlike PDF2MusicPro, which needs to be fed with PDFs created by some score writer, the PDF importer (and Audiveris, which is used under the cover) seems to prefer Images, i.e. scanned PDFs. I may be wrong on this though...

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

For whatever reason I completely miss the point in this discussion. So please help me out.

Some info up front:
If the PDF is exported by the notation software MuseScore it doesn't make any difference if it were done by the program on your PC or Mac or by downloading the PDF directly from the MuseScore Sheetmusic web. In all cases it is a vectorised PDF. All decent notation programs produce vectorised PDF's. The property of a vectorised PDF is that you can enlarge it infinitly without ever seeïng pixels because there is no matrix used like with images. In other words it's perfect in all conditions. So if you print such PDF the result should be perfect.

The other way around if you scan (or take a picture) a music sheet from a book you will get a matrix like picture from which the resolution will depend on the properties of your scanner. If you want to translate such image (which may be stored in a PDF) into a music piece in the MuseScore notation program you can try to do it with Audiveris which is used by MuseScore at the website (PDF Converter). The results are generally useless imho. The program uses OCR techniques as well digitally analising the vectorised PDF's. It will very much depend on how the original sheet music has been organised, on the resolution of the scanner and on the way the sheet was positioned at the scanner. Imho there is not any program on the market that really gives a usable result. In all cases I tried with whatever program the corrections you need to apply afterwards are as time consuming as importing your music manually into your notation program.

If the music is coming from a PDF which has been exported by a notation program like MuseScore or Sibelius or Finale, a program like PDFtoMusic Pro is one who can translates those vectorised PDF's. It is based on a combination of OCR techniques and recognising the digitally used info from the PDF describing the used characters and musical symbols. The results are far better but still depended on the used type/sizes of characters and symbols and the used conversion properties from the notation program. It will also depend on the used settings of PDFtoMusic Pro. If a good match is found during notation and the PDFtoMusic Pro conversion an almost perfect conversion is possible. For example if you used the correct settings in "Band in a Box" during the export of a PDF you can convert the PDF into a MusicXML format via PDFtoMusic Pro and use the result as import for MuseScore to create a directly usable music score (.mscz format) which includes all chord symbols.
PDFtoMusic Pro can only handle vectorised PDF's. The PDF Converter at MuseScore (Audiveris) sometimes accepts both types of PDF's, however most vectorised PDF's I used returned unsuccesful to start with.

I still cannot understand the original question:
....is the result better if the PDF is scanned then imported?
What is meant? Scanning the sheet print out of a PDF? Importing the PDF into what program? Importing what kind of PDF vectorised or one with matrix images? What result?

In reply to by Robipad

my point was that PDF2Music insists on a vectored PDFs, while Audiveris (and as such MuseScore's PDF Import) seems to work on both, but give better (better, not excellent) results on a scanned PDF, i.e. using pixles rather than being vectorized.

In reply to by Robipad

I use the online version at MuseScore.com sometimes - but there is so much cleaning up to do, even in the scores which make it through the conversion process, that usually it is quicker to just bite the bullet and enter it all by hand in the first place.

The only Optical Music Reader I have found that is any good is the commercial Sharpeye - and even then there is a consderable amount of editing to do, such that again, it is usually as quick to enter by hand.

I find Songbook messes with slurs etc. especially if you resize. Then there are possible page turning problems. There is no Airturn support yet (iOS) but it will be good to have my transposing charts (backing singers, jazz gigs) in Songbook. This assumes they are in Musescore format. Using XML import into Musescore does not produce a finished page, so there is a lot of time needed to lay it out. A composer will use their own software (not necessarily Musescore). And if the source is a scan then it needs to be input, perhaps with OMR then tidied up. Quite time consuming.

From other notation software, usually PDFs are produced, so this points to using paper or PDF file reader. I still like paper, advantages being not needing recharging, convenient pencil annotations, the elements on the page stay where they are (like page turns) etc. Possible disadvantages are manual page turning, lighting, wind, the weight of the paper, etc.

Tablets using PDF files require time to add its metadata, composer, tags, key, genre, band or orchestra for organisation and searching. Annotating digitally gives you tools, stamps, highlighter, pen, pencil, color, transparency options but find it takes more time in a rehearsal than using pencil and paper.

I simply do not have enough of my music in MuseScore format for Songbook. It will require a huge amount of time to import in and tidy. I like resizing and transposing but frustrated with elements moving around when you do this. However I have made a start. Most music is paper, scans or PDFs. Picking up the paper pages does not require much work; PDFs to tablet require time adding metadata, anything input into MuseScore requires work unless it is done directly.
Finale discontinued their (same titled) SongBook for iPad and Sibelius has Scorch which (currently) has not been updated for many years, crashes, buggy and very basic.

In reply to by arco

If you have some specific score that shows some problem with some specific slur moving, pleasde start a new thread and post the score and precise steps to reprodxuce the problem. In general, this should never happen if you created the slur correctly - if you actually attached it to the proper notes rather than simply dragging it into shape. If the slur is attached correctly, it should stay with those notes as the score resizes.

In reply to by arco

Quote: "Using XML import into Musescore does not produce a finished page, so there is a lot of time needed to lay it out."
I convert a lot of XML into .mscz but aren't aware of this problem. I think it also might be an export problem of the program which produced the XML? So what program is used by you? And can you send an XML example? And tell what is missing?

Thanks Robipad,
From my quick tests a few months ago when v2 came out, I was testing Notion, Symphony Pro, Touch Notation all from iPad. Perhaps they do not adhere strictly to XML export. I do not have the examples, but I was playing around with notes, slurs, chords and various random articulations as basic tests. Unfortunately I do not have much time at the moment to look into this but when I do, I will post back.

In reply to by arco

That explains everything....! MusicXML is a limited music notation language, differently interpreted by all notation program creators. This is valid for export and import as well. Sometimes they even produce a different result if importing their own export result. Problems need to be solved by notation program creators, but that's a difficult process. You also might create your own batch program that automatically solves the returning mistakes.

I changed to using an Android tablet more than a year ago. An important argument for the change was, that a new MobileSheets version was released that supports PDF, graphic files and ChordPro. Most of my PDFs are not scanned but exported from the respective programs (Finale, MuseScore, Microsoft Word, LibreOffice) on a PC. New scores are created in MuseScore, they are exported as PDF in my preferred key and imported into Mobile Sheets. To be prepared in case a different key is requested I keep the .MSCZ files on the tablet to open them in MuseScore Songbook.
It's possible to keep a link to the MSCZ file on the PDF, so that it can be opened by a single click. There's an issue in MuseScore Songbook affecting such a workflow: every time an MSCZ is opened, a new entry in the song list is created, so that the list contains multiple entries. This happens also when an MSCZ file is opened from any file manager

In reply to by SqueezeBoxer

That's an interesting workflow, I don't think I've heard it used before. Could you report the bug [here](https://musescore.com/groups/musescore-android/discussions)?

It occurs to me the LibreOffice gives you the option to embed an editable Open Document Format file within the PDF during export. The ODF file is ignored by PDF viewers but can be opened and edited by LibreOffice. If MuseScore had an option to embed an MSCZ file within PDFs during export that would probably be ideal for you.

In reply to by SqueezeBoxer

Quote:"It's possible to keep a link to the MSCZ file on the PDF"
I like this workflow very much, but I don't have any clue how you create the link in the pdf pointing to the .mscz file on your tablet. So please can you explain how you add the link and what code the link should use?

Although I don't (yet) own an Android tablet but an iPad, I'm not sure if this is possible for an iPad as well. May be you can answer that question as well.

Anyway opening the songbook also on an iPad creates multiple equal files in the list which is annoyïng. So I will add this to the list of shortcomings in the MS Songbook app.

In reply to by Robipad

I open the PDF with PDF-XChange Viewer to add the link.
From the menu I select "Tools – Link Tools – Rectangle Link Tool" and add a rectangular link.
Then I open the link's properties window and select the "Open a file" action via "Actions - Add 'Open a file'...". Another follow up window opens where I select the MSCZ file, and set "Open In:" to "Window set by user preference" and "Operation:" to "open".
From the "Appearance" menu you can set a frame around the link or add a textual comment via "Comments" to make the link visible.
A bit complicated, for now I just wanted to see if it works. I'm looking for an easier way to do it.

Attachment Size
RectangleLinkTool.png 28.72 KB
Action_OpenFile.png 54.38 KB
OpenFile_Properties.png 12.83 KB

In reply to by Robipad

Here's an example that works for me. Unzip the PDF and the MSCZ to the same folder. Top left on the PDF there's a link that starts MuseScore and opens the MSCZ file.
It works for me on Windows with PDF-XChange Viewer, it does not wor with Sumatra PDF.
On Android it works with MobileSheets Pro (that's what I wanted to have) and it works with ezPDF Reader.
If somebody tries other PDF tools, please let me know where it works and where it doesn't.

Attachment Size
BeiDirWarEsImmerSoSchoen.ZIP 75.89 KB

In reply to by SqueezeBoxer

Thanks for your examples. It made me try a few things for a second time to get it working, since my earlier efforts didn't succeed.
Your zipped examples did work right away at my Windows computer. But I am mainly interested to get it working at my iPad. So first of all I figured out to get a link into the pdf with my Adobe Acrobat Pro stuff. Basicly you can follow some similar steps as you do describe for the PDF-XChange Viewer. But windows acts on the the extension .mscz. I suppose that something similar may happen in an Androïd operating system, but I'm not familiar with that OS.
In an iPad (iOS) that does not function. The particular used apps needs to recognize the extensions for which apps are available you can choose from to open a file, and the .mscz file need to be available in the source. So if the source is coming from a webserver you can point to it and open the app with the webserver information e.g. the link may look like: https://musescore.com/score/1434181/download/mscz, where 1434181 is the number of the particular .mscz file (song:Sensation) in the musescore sheetmusic website. Depending on the properties of the pdf reader app used in the iPad the link in the pdf file will open a window ( sometimes indirectly ) which will open the MuseScore Songbook app and open the .mscz file. (Sometimes you need to open the link 2 times before it works and for forScore you need to be very quick to touch a round clock icon add the top right, to get it working).
So it worked for the Adobe reader and for forScore but not for iGigBook. Clicking the link will open Safari, and then open a window which lets you choose for the Songbook app.

Actually I'm still looking for a way to put the link in the original .mscz file so it translates automatically in a link shown in the pdf file created by MuseScore. Would that be possible?

In reply to by Robipad

You need to be aware that there are two different kinds of links. PDF-XChange Viewer names the according actions "Open a web link" and "Open a file". "Open a web link" calls the default browser and depends on the browser's capabilities to handle what the link points to. "Open a file" uses what the OS is intended to do with the link target. In windows there's a default application connected by the file extension. This is why some PDF programs let you confirm executing the link, it could be an executable that might do evil things.
On Android I'm not sure about the details, but generally it looks similar to the behaviour on Windows: if there's only one app that can handle the target file (as it is the case with MSCZ) it is opened directly in the respective app. If there are several connected apps (as it is the case with images, .txt, PDF and others) a selection window lets you choose the app. I'm not sure if this connection is based on the file extension (probably it is) or some internal file header or the like. It seems that apps during install register the file types they can handle in Android.

Creating the link automatically seems not to be possile by now, hope we can find a way to do it. The link has to be created during PDF export, it can not only be a property of the MSCZ file. I could imagine a plugin that does that - just an idea, not real knowledge. The meta tags $f and $F (file name and path of the MSCZ) might be a good start.

In reply to by SqueezeBoxer

Yes I know the differences between open weblink and openfile. In my trials I used open a weblink. I did also add the link directly into the .mscz file. Then print it to pdf and surprise: if I open the pdf in Windows and click the shown link it starts the browser and downloads the .mscz file. So that might function in Androïd as well??
However in the iPad there is no pdf reader that recognizes the text link as something to act upon. So only Windows recognizes readable text in pdf like "https:www......" beïng a weblink.
"Open file" links in pdf are not recognized at the iPad since there are no directories with files, nor will it recognize extensions, so that will never work.

In reply to by Robipad

How did you add the weblink into the mscz? I added them as text into the header fields. If I add a weblink as http://d:/dir/subdir/file.mscz it is taken over to the PDF and can be clicked. But the path is converted to something like www.d.com/dir/... and (after confirming that I trust that site) reports a server error. So the path obviously has to point to a valid internet URL where a webserver is able to send the file.
Links to file:///d:/dir/subdir/file.mscz did not work, whereas a browser can handle file:///d:/dir/subdir/picture.jpg and display the picture.
My goal are relative paths pointing into the file system so that I could copy a folder structure with PDF and MSCZ files and the links stay intact and working.

In reply to by SqueezeBoxer

Sorry to jump in here,

There's also the possibility to embed files in a PDF.
Files can be attached to pages or to the "Attachment-Bar" of a PDF.

Opening a PDF-attachment depends on the PDF-Reader, so though it works on Windows (PDF-X-change, Sumatra) and Linux, I don't know if any mobile PDF-Reader is capable of opening PDF-attachments. I read that Mobile Acrobat Reader could open PDF-fileattachments. Please test the PDF-file:

It contains a .mscz file attached to page 3 and as a 2nd attachment to the whole PDF in the "Attachment-Bar"

The PDF was created using PDFtk. You can use it from command line or - as I did - from within LibreOffice:
LibreOffice Songbook Architect

Please excuse the unfinished score

Attachment Size
LOSongbookArchitect.pdf 281.99 KB

In reply to by musikai

Musikai, interesting solution. I did open your LOSongbooArchitect.pdf file in the Adobe pdf reader at Windows XP and Windows 10, both showed 2 identical .mscz attachements that both opened with MuseScore. Great!
I did open it in the Adobe pdf reader app at my iPad. There it showed one .mscz attachement, which opened with the MuseScore Songbook. Great again, but in the music reader apps forScore or iGigBook I can't open pdf attachement, which is a pity.

In reply to by musikai

Including the .mscz file in tge PDF is a great advantage if you're able to open the file. At the iPad it seemed not possible in the music readers I use. According to the Acrobat Adobe documentation it should be able to open the attached file from a link inside the pdf instead of a separeted "open attach" function not available in music readers. I didn't succeed to create this link, can you? PDF links can be opened from e.g. the forScore music reader.

In reply to by SqueezeBoxer

SqueezeBoxer, I did add the link likewise, and if beïng a valid weblink it works with my Windows XP if clicked in the exported MuseScore pdf. You can use my public example to try. ( https://musescore.com/score/1434181/download/mscz ) It should download the song "Sensation".

But it doesn't function in any iPad app, and that is my goal. If the link is added as a real (invisible) link in the pdf afterwards, it does function in various ways in several iPad apps.
However I don't want to do this extra step. The pdf's can be downloaded from the MuseScore sheet music website and then that should take over a link uploaded with the .mscz file. That's how it actually should work! Maybe one of the MuseScore developers can solve this for a future version.

I save scores in PDF using the print function in the Mac OS, then email them to myself and save in the Kindle Reader on my iPad.

I have only one working arm and it's the only way that I can hold my music and turn pages with the same hand.

I see nothing in any of the dedicated music reader apps for iOS that adds any functionality I need. YMMV.

In reply to by MikeHalloran

Paging can be done via the bluetooth device Airturn Ped by foot. That works for several apps. I'm not familiar with Kindle. It works for iGigBook and forScore for me, both specific pdf music readers. You can program the Airturn Ped for several virtual keyboard functions.

In reply to by MikeHalloran

May be I don't understand your question good enough. For forScore and iGigBook you can just tab or shift the with your thumb at the side of the screen to turn a page while holding the iPad. For forScore you can automate page turning by setting the metronome and the number of measures to count. In the example here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PU0deGXTJpM you can use your mouth. But I'm not sure what you're really looking for by asking for functionality! There always is a solution even this guy did solve his problem:

In reply to by MikeHalloran

Your statement which asks for solutions:
Qoute "I have only one working arm and it's the only way that I can hold my music and turn pages with the same hand. I see nothing in any of the dedicated music reader apps for iOS that adds any functionality I need."

In reply to by Robipad

Ok, I made a statement and didn't ask a question. I wasn't looking for an answer. There was nothing for you to reply to. I wasn't looking for help, only stating how I handle the situation.

If you do not understand the word, 'question', you may wish to look it up.

Ha, right today i realized that having a footswitch for Songbook could save me a lot of paper work - et voilá, here is the topic on that.

I prefer songbook over pdf-display for
- zoomable display yet gapless
- auto page turn
- selective display for the other instruments
- transpose etc...

Nearly perfect for rehearsal, but for band playing i miss control of page turn.
So yes, i am going to use Songbook for performing, but need a footswitch for page turn, preferably forward/backward. Is there any experience for USB switch on Samsung Android Tab 4?
Can i use any model with mappable keys?


In reply to by Robipad

Thanks Robipad,

can i read that as "Songbook takes Input from external keyboard device on Android"?
I prefer a simple USB cable device over fiddling with bluetooth connections and dying proprietary batteries so the Airturn is not an option.


In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

Yes, a USB keyboard, or a device working just like a USB keyboard, should work with Songbook or MuseScore on Android.
Current version should support
* PageUp / KeyUp to go to previous page
* PageDown/ KeyDown to go to next page
* Space to toggle playback
* C to toggle the cursor display
* Esc to close the score view

In reply to by Carlocarl

Late but finally the outcome:

Unfortunately my non-branded USB-footswitch "FS1-P" works fine on laptop but is not recognized by the Samsung tablett. I did not find any hints on possibly needed android drivers so no triggered page turn in Songbook for me...


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