Make Music, the company that produces Finale, has released a free iPad app called SongBook. You can check it out here at their website. Several months ago they announced it was coming, and I was waiting with anticipation.
I downloaded SongBook last week and it is very handy for me, since Finale is my composing program. I can put any score of the music I compose on my iPad and SongBook will play it. Of course, I can play it myself on the piano, but it’s nice to talk to the student and point to the score as it plays or to be able to play a score for someone away from the piano. SongBook will play back any file or a program from the Finale family, such as the free NotePad program, as long as it has the .MUS extension.
In addition to playing music, you can also use it to save and read any PDF file, such as the ones on my website. It will not play regular PDF files back, obviously! Please don’t download it and expect it to play any score you download from the internet!
However, it is a nice PDF reader if you want to open a PDF score and play it on your instrument, rather than carry around a lot of music books. At this time there is no option to write on the score, an option I would like to see in future updates.
There are some other features such as wireless printing if you have a printer that will work with your iPad, and the ability to extract parts and print them. That would be really handy for a music director at school or worship.
If you have an iPad but don’t have Finale, there are still ways to use this new app without having to buy anything. You can write exercises in NotePad and use them at your lesson. If your students use NotePad to compose like mine do, you can play those back for your students as you both view the score and critique it. Also, you can create ear training examples for your students in NotePad and play them at the lesson.
My students do not find NotePad hard to use, with students as young as 3rd grade using it. One little guy brought me an “orchestra” score that he composed without knowing there was such a thing as concert pitch. That was a learning experience!
Just as computers and cell phones became ubiquitous, so will tablets in a few years!