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The paperless environment for musicians

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April 10, 2006

Herbie Flowers tries the new system

Herbie Flowers tries the new system

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April 11, 2006 Sheet music has changed little for three centuries. A new device may be set to change that. The MusicPad Pro Linux-based tablet PC weighs a tad under five pounds and displays music notation on a low-glare LCD screen, overcoming the distractive and disruptive task of page turning. Musicians "turn" the on-screen pages using a foot pedal, leaving both hands free to perform while a "look ahead" feature a half-page preview of upcoming music. With the capacity to store thousands of pages of music, the MusicPad Pro can handle any repertoire. One of the first to embrace the new technology at an elite level of performance will be the UK tour of Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds where all musicians will use the MusicPad Pro. That's guitar maestro Herbie Flowersin rehearsal for the show at Music Bank Studios.

For the first time he is using the MusicPad Pro digital sheet music system rather than traditional manuscript. This ground-breaking show of the hugely successful concept album tours the UK and Ireland's major venues during April and May this year. This is the first time the piece has been performed live and the extended nature of the work posed considerable problems for the musicians in the handling of all the required sheet music.

Starring original talent such as Chris Spedding, Herbie Flowers and Justin Hayward alongside new faces such as "Just the Two of Us" winner Russell Watson, The War of the Worlds is already a sell-out and is a showcase for cutting edge production.

Jeff Wayne has the entire conductor's score on the MusicPad Pro and has been able to do away with an enormous pile of sheet music. The MusicPad Pro provided a perfect solution to the practical problems of providing two hours of printed music to more than 50 musicians.

The visual staging for the musicians will be greatly enhanced and there are no problems with distraction or noise from page turning. The show fuses a traditional string section with a modern rock band and singers, so the MusicPad Pro is ideal as each musician has his or her part on their own MusicPad Pro and can annotate and mark it up as required.

Weighing just under five pounds, it is lightweight and easy to carry, and comes with a rechargeable battery life of three hours on a single charge. Suggested retail price for the MusicPad Pro Plus, with a, is US$1,199. The MusicPad Pro Plus has a low glare, backlit 12.1 in. TFT LCD display with the ability to zoom in and zoom out, and on-screen color highlighters and pens to add or erase rehearsal marks and notations.

Digital music files in pdf, jpg and other popular graphics formats can be directly imported into the MusicPad Pro using the software provided with the device (compatible with Mac or PC. Printed music can be scanned into a computer and then imported, or downloaded via the company's digital sheet music website.

A new offering from Freehand is the MusicPad Maestro, a 19” TFT resistive touch screen unit providing the conductor a 2-page view. Its innovative touch screen allows the user the ability to make marks and notations right on the page of music, store, change and delete marks as needed. Its back-lit screen eliminates the need for external lighting. A quick touch on the screen or tap on the optional foot pedal and hands-free page turning becomes a reality for the conductor.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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