Sheet Music Apps: Yay or Nay?

From newspapers and magazines to alternative-history science-fiction books, everything that originally came in a paper version can now be found online as well. The world of music is no exception. Paper is getting rapidly replaced by pixels and, while this is not always ideal, I’ve gone ahead and made a list of the pros and cons of digital sheet music and will tell you exactly where you can find online sheet music. After that, I’ll highlight various popular sheet music apps and their strengths, weaknesses and possible alternatives.

Paper versus Pixels


The biggest advantage of using a tablet instead of real paper sheet music is that it provides access to all of your sheet music. There’s no need to bring a stack of papers to an hour-long gig, everything is right there on your tablet or can be quickly looked up. Not to mention that using a tablet means annoying gusts of wind won’t blow your sheets away when you’re playing outdoors, but it also means you’ll never get the pages in the wrong order and you’ll never have to read your own illegible notes scribbled in the margins.


Digitising your sheet music isn’t as easy as it sounds. For starters, you’re going to need a big enough tablet to read A4-sized pages, and this alone will set you back a couple hundred quid. Moreover, bear in mind that you will be fully dependent on your tablet. No battery means no sheet music!

Where Can I Find Sheet Music Online?

Before you invest in a tablet and start downloading apps, it’s worth knowing where you can find online sheet music. When you open a sheet music app for the first time, there won’t be any music pieces in there yet. These must be downloaded and imported first. While there’s a lot of sheet music to be found online, it can be tricky to find what you’re looking for. Next up, I’ll explain how you can make good use of online databases and Google.

Online Databases

Online databases include hundreds of thousands of musical compositions from thousands of composers but that’s not to say all of those can be freely used. Copyright can be an issue and as a rule of thumb, it’s safe to assume that each piece of music written by a composer who has passed away over 70 years ago, is royalty-free. In reality, people often load an existing piece into their notation software before exporting the PDF file and publishing it online. Or they’ll simply create a PDF file of an ancient printed version that no longer bears any rights. Either way, both options are legal.


You can also use Google to find sheet music but, when you do so, it’s important to use the right search terms. Personally, I always use the following format:

[Name of the musical composition] + [composer] + [instrument] + [PDF]

For example: Claire de Lune Debussy Piano PDF

This should yield the best results and lead you to one or more free PDF files that can be downloaded, opened and studied! Naturally, the same copyright regulations that I’ve mentioned before apply here.

Which Sheet Music Apps Are There?

Since it’s practically impossible to test, review and compare literally hundreds of apps, I’ve gone with the six most popular sheet music apps. To stack them up against each other properly, I’ve looked at the features and possibilities of each app and then used mine and the experience of others to assess them.

forScore | iOS| £14,99

ForScore is the most popular iOS-based sheet music app and for good reason: the possibilities are almost endless and the interface is amazingly user-friendly. After purchasing the app, you can start importing sheet music via Safari, Mail, bluetooth, iTunes or cloud services like Dropbox and Onedrive. Alternatively, if there’s no PDF file available for your composition, you can import it using the camera of your iPhone or iPad. The speed at which sheet music is pulled from your database is also a big plus and, even if you’ve amassed thousands of pieces of sheet music, forScore loads them in the blink of an eye.

What else does forScore have to offer?

In forScore, sharing sheet music or setlists is easy as can be, making the app well suited for bands and choirs. Annotating is surprisingly simple and can be done with great precision, even in combination with Apple Pencil. Using the categories, setlists, filters and sorting options, bringing order to the chaos of your library is effortlessly done. Pages can be arranged and set up any way you want, and turned manually, automatically or via a Bluetooth page-turner for maximum convenience. Finally, forScore comes with various built-in tools that can help you play, including a metronome, tuning whistle, tuner and a learning mode that keeps track of how much you’ve been studying.


Packed with an infinite amount of options and updated regularly, ForScore is without doubt the best iOS app out there. I’ve only summarised the pros and cons, so there’s much left for you to discover yourself. Unfortunately, forScore doesn’t offer a trial version and at £14,99, beginners might want to consider trying a trial version of a different app first.


Sheet Music Apps: Yay or Nay?

MobileSheets (Pro) | AndroidWindows 10| €13,49

After you’ve completed your purchase and have downloaded MobileSheets PRO to your mobile device, you’re ready to start importing sheet music. Next to PDFs, you can load in images, documents and chord progressions and, while the steps you have to follow speak for themselves, there are quite a few of them. PDF files can be imported in many different ways but since the platform is well-integrated into the app, I recommend using DropBox for this and for the sharing of setlists. To ease navigating your collection, lots of details can be added to your imported pieces, even though applying some of the filters isn’t as easy as it should’ve been. Sorting your parts, on the other hand, works just fine!

What else does MobileSheets have to offer?

MobileSheets offers users a gigantic amount of ways to make notes and annotations, even if some of the functionality feels a little hidden. Scrolling through sheets is easy too; simply swipe to turn the page or have the pages automatically scroll vertically at a pre-set speed. In addition, bookmarks can be added to navigate extensive compositions and, along with other functions, this is fully compatible with Bluetooth page-turners. Besides a built-in metronome, the app comes with its own music player that can even be placed on top of your sheet as a mini-player so you can play certain parts on repeat. As such, MobileSheets is not only a great music viewer, but can help you study the pieces.


Top-ranked in the Google Playstore and the number one sheet music app for Windows 10 devices, MobileSheets is an absolute high-flyer. Granted, there’s room for a couple of tiny improvements, but the app basically has everything you could ever wish for. Next to the PRO edition, there’s a free trial version available so you can try before you buy.


Sheet Music Apps: Yay or Nay?

SongRepertoire | Windows 10| £12,99 (annually)

SongRepertoire’s strength lies in its simplicity. While it’s brimming with functions, the app doesn’t include any superfluous ones and is clearly a lot cheaper than the above-mentioned alternatives. Fortunately, the developers have opted to create a simple yet effective app rather than an intricate and incomplete one!

What else does SongRepertoire have to offer?

Just like the two premium apps we’ve looked at, SongRepertoire lets you import PDFs, images, text files and more. It’s not as fast as other apps but the end result is (usually) the same nonetheless. Ever since a few updates back, songs and setlists can be shared with other musicians and making notes or annotations doesn’t require you to open a separate mode within the app but can actually be done whenever you want. Again, there are plenty of easy-to-use options available, even though scrolling through sheet music with a wireless page-turner can prove troublesome at times.


Sheet Music Apps: Yay or Nay?

Orpheus Sheet Music (Pro) | Android| £6,49

When it comes to budget-friendly Android apps, Orpheus Sheet Music is your best bet. Its simple yet effective, user-friendly design only includes functionality you’ll actually use and the apps responds quickly in combination with PDF files and Dropbox. On the downside, Dropbox-integration requires an active internet connection, meaning that without one you won’t be able to create locally-stored files. Compositions can be ranked alphabetically and organised by creating different folders and setlists and there’s unlimited space, so that’s another thing less to worry about.

What else does Orpheus Sheet Music (PRO) have to offer?

Creating notes and annotations is simple in Orpheus, where any redundant functions have been deliberately avoided. Since the menu only displays a handful of symbols, the clean interface is easy to read. This certainly applies to stage use, since switching between pieces and pages is fast and easy, and comes with the choice of swiping or scrolling. Of course, Bluetooth controllers from makers like AirTurn and PageFlip can be used to serve the same purpose. To get a first impression, there’s a trial version available that offers space for a maximum of 30 pieces, 1 set list and 1 folder. On the other hand, it’s safe to say that the PRO version is worth the money.

Orpheus Sheet Music:

Sheet Music Apps: Yay or Nay?

Piascore | iOS| Free

When you compare this free music viewer app to its paid counterparts, it comes out remarkably well! As soon as you open Piascore for the first time, you’re welcomed with a clear rundown of the app’s basic functions. For quick navigation, there’s a smart search bar that instantly digs up the titles and tags of the 131,000 pieces from 16,200 composers included in the free database.

What else does Piascore have to offer?

The interface is highly user-friendly and provides access to a slew of functions, including notes, annotations and extensive page customisation options. Turning pages can be done manually via swiping, touch, or even by shaking your head. Word of warning, internet reviews generally don’t speak too highly of the latter option and, in addition, requires money to unlock it. Fortunately, Piascore does offer automatic scrolling and Bluetooth pageturner support. Just give it a try, it won’t cost you anything!


Sheet Music Apps: Yay or Nay?

MuseScore | AndroidiOS| Free

Basically, MuseScore isn’t designed for organising your music or sharing it with band members. The app is mainly developed as notation software that helps you write your own pieces of music, which can then be shared with the MuseScore-community. It’s a great beginner app with plenty of easier compositions to play, as well ‘original’ parts that can be accessed, played and practiced for free. Since everything is created online, either via the website or the app, all sheet music can be played back at different speeds and even with different instruments.

What else does MuseScore have to offer?

The MuseScore Community is a great place to share your work or look at others’. Not only that, you can comment on other people’s work and vice versa, shaping an entirely different concept than that of the apps we just looked at. MuseScore is definitely worth giving a spin, and is available for both Android and iOS!


Sheet Music Apps: Yay or Nay?

Sheet Music App Comparison

To help you decide, I’ve listed and rated the key features of each app in the comparison sheet below. The last column tells you what your options are if you want to use sheet music without the aid of any app. You can click on the image to enlarge it.

Sheet Music Apps: Yay or Nay?


There was a time that I used digital sheet music without ever using any kind of app. Sheet music apps are mainly great for organising your stuff and not necessarily made for projects. If you insist on steering clear of apps, all you need are PDF files that can then be opened using your browser or a PDF viewer. You can still use a Bluetooth page-turner if you’d like, and sharing links to PDFs shouldn’t be too difficult either. Creating setlists and setting up folders isn’t as practical without an app but, if you tend to perform solo, that doesn’t necessarily have to be a dealbreaker. Now, it’s up to you to find out what works best for you!

I’d love to hear other musicians’ best and worst sheet-music app experiences. Please share yours in the comments below!

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1 response
  1. Robert T says:

    For choirs, mobile sheets (PRO) is the App to have. I already had a 10″ Android tablet – that’s minimum size IMHO – and 2 big folders of sheet music, all on a Dropbox shared drive available as PDF as well. It took about 3 minutes to get going with the trial version because the # of scores is limited I think to 8, otherwise fully functional! Annotations are GREAT, correcting errors you made very simple and support exceptional. I live in the Pacific time zone, I got support on a Saturday evening within 15 minutes by Mike and was able to use the App next morning in church.
    Some of the best money spent ever on an App 🙂

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