The top 6 sheet music apps
Orchestras, and classical musicians in general, seem to be overlooked in a lot of technologies. You could say that’s due to being steeped in tradition and traditional practices. It’s certainly not because there is a lack of options.
As someone who tends to be resistant to change, I get it. You’ve done something one way for so long, and it works. So why change it?
Because there’s something much better lurking around the corner.
If you’re reading this then you already know. You’re ready to ditch the paper sheet music, paper cuts, and hefty binders in favor of a highly transportable tablet. But where to start? There are hundreds of apps that do the basic function of having sheet music. But not all apps are created equal.
Not even close.
So let’s save you a lot of time and stress so you can get back to playing. Here are our favorite (and some of the most popular) sheet music apps designed specifically for Classical and Band & Orchestra musicians.
Best Features: Advanced notation and the ability to wirelessly control multiple devices within the app.
Let’s start with the most widely used sheet music app, ForScore.
ForScore has a sleek and user-friendly interface most classical musicians will enjoy. The app uses adaptive caching to make sure there isn’t any lag. Pair this (pun intended) with a Bluetooth Page Turner pedal or MIDI controller and have a flawless concert.
Take thorough notes with advanced annotation (stylus compatible). ForScore allows you to load audio files to accompany each piece for practicing. The pitch pipe helps you find the right key or tune your instrument. It even has a piano keyboard and an audio recorder.
PDFs are easy to import or download, set lists are easy to create.
It’s clear that ForScore has style and substance. The capabilities, features, and user experience make this perfect for any classical musician. Whether solo or part of an ensemble.
Price: $9.99/month or $99.99/year
Platform: iOS, Android, Windows
Best Feature: Sharing annotated sheet music with other musicians using the app. Great for conductors and instructors.
nKoda has an expansive library of sheet music for all Band & Orchestra instruments. The catalog is updated and edited by respected publishers, so you can trust the accuracy of the piece. This combined with the ability to upload your own charts gives you a limitless catalog.
The user interface is clean and easy to navigate. “Playlists”, as nKoda calls them, allow you to easily assemble the music for your ensemble’s performance.
Annotating is easy and stylus friendly. One of my favorite features is being able to share your annotated sheet music with other users. This is perfect for instructors working with musicians.
The “Magic Pen” feature digitizes your markings into actual music symbols on the sheet music. You can also free draw, highlight, erase, add text with a digital keyboard, and add overlay style layers to create different versions of the piece.
Price: Monthly Subscription $2.99 / Yearly Subscription $19.99
Best Features: Universal reader (PDF, MusicXML, .txt, MIDI, audio, video) + library organizer (pieces with multiple parts, bookmarks, setlists, etc…) + cloud-based platform which gives you unique collaboration and sharing capabilities (such as real-time sharing of annotations and sheet music between users using “Projects”).
Newzik is a universal reader, meaning it supports a wide variety of file formats. PDF of course, but also other formats such as .txt for lyrics and chords, as well as MusicXML files. MusicXML is a dynamic format that most music notation software can export to (Sibelius, Finale, Dorico, MuseScore, Guitar Pro and much more…) and which contains actual musical information (contrary to PDF which is an image). It allows you to manipulate this information in Newzik and lets you manage on-the-fly transposition, smart zoom, tempo changes, multi-track accompaniment (automatically generated by the app), and much more.
Whatever the format your sheet music, you will find a wide variety of annotation tools. Draw, highlight, edit, copy & paste (which is very slick), or go even further and enrich your sheet music with audio, video or MIDI files and synchronize it with your part to automate page turns.
Another key feature of Newzik that sets it apart competing apps is the Newzik Cloud. With Newzik, you library is securely backed up on the Newzik Cloud (which is 100% free, whatever the size of your library), which offers many benefits. First off, you can access your entire sheet music library from any device by logging into your Newzik account (so you can manage and read your scores on both your iPhone and iPad, or any iPhone or iPad for that matter). Second, in case you lose or break your device, you can always retrieve your library on another one: whatever happens, your music will be safe. Finally, and most importantly: the Newzik Cloud allows you to collaborate in real-time with other users by sharing parts and annotations inside collaborative environments called Projects, in which other members can see your markings, and you can see theirs (think of it as the Google Docs of sheet music).
Organize your library in various ways, store multiple parts in a single piece, create setlists, and crop uploaded PDFs. The Two-Page mode is useful on larger devices set in landscape.
Newzik has partnerships with several major music publishers among which Universal Edition, Faber Music, Schott Music, Boosey & Hawkes, Bärenreiter, Universal Music Publishing, Carl Fisher and Donemus, to provide you with a huge library of published work in digital format. The big benefit is having sheet music for a wide range of instruments, such as saxophone, flute, clarinet, guitar, piano, violin, and more. Newzik also directly offers free sheet music to its users on a regular basis.
If you’re looking for a wide variety of sheet music for a wide variety of instruments, with a wide variety of editing and organization options, Newzik just might be the perfect app for you.
Price: FREE with in-app purchases
Best Feature: The price. You can get pretty far without paying for anything.
PiaScore is a well rated sheet music app designed for Apple devices. They’re library of 70,000+ pieces from nearly 8,000 composers covers almost everything you’ll need. If you have original works or one of the few works they don’t offer you can load any PDF into the app.
You’ll find the iTunes music player useful for practicing. The built in metronome will keep your tempo honest. Take copious amounts of notes with the user friendly annotation functions. It even has a fun piano to try out and record ideas.
The file tagging makes it easy to find music, despite the incredibly large library. Set lists are easy to create and organize as well.
If you’re just dipping your toes in the water of digital sheet music, or if you’re not ready to spend money on an app, PiaScore is a great place to start.
Price: FREE with in-app purchases. $9.99 to unlock all features.
Platform: iOS, Windows
Best Feature: Synchronized page turning on connected devices
Power Music is available for mobile Apple devices, Macs, and Windows equipped computers. You have all of your standard features like set list creation and organizing, and creating and editing music in the app.
On the mobile version you can import text or PDF charts, or scan a physical chart or sheet music with the camera. This is a highly underrated feature.
For guitarists, it has a capo chord feature that “transposes” the chart so you don’t have to figure out the new chords on the fly. The built in tuner is helpful for all stringed instruments, and the metronome is a nice practice tool.
The quick navigation will take you to a specific page, bar, or a user set rehearsal mark. The smart tags let you quickly pull up sheet music based on any of the tags. Especially useful for weddings, formal events, or if you need songs with a specific feel.
Price: FREE with in-app purchases
Best Feature: Handwritten sheet music in the app is converted to fundamental note objects.
Symphony Pro is different from the rest of the list. This app is less for reading and more for creating. Create scores inside the app instead of on paper. It has a built in digital keyboard (QWERTY) and is MIDI compatible for external devices.
You’re able to upload a variety of file types, including MusicXML and PDF. It outputs the same.
The most unique feature is the hand writing capabilities. You’re able to write your music and the app converts that into a MusicXML format. In fact, this writing capability is the only thing that costs you anything with Symphony Pro.
When you’re ready to compose the piece, add accompaniment from the 100+ instrument database. You’re able to use up to Up to 64 instruments, 45 staves, and 4 voices/layers per score. It even has the ability to transpose instruments and concert pitch.
The capabilities are extremely expansive and I’ve only scratched the surface here. If you’re at all interested in composing, Symphony Pro is a must have. And did I already mention that it’s free?