A Music Toolbox
iPad has become a great music tool to use for music creation, performance, practicing, and teaching. Its mobility, beautiful screen display, touch-screen, and pencil drawing features make it perfect for reading music, taking notes, and scanning scores. Even the budget models have very powerful hardware and all the features you need for storing, editing, and reading your music books.
I started working with PDF files of sheet music and music books on iPad since my first iPad in 2017. I have discovered more efficient ways to use PDF files of sheet music and music books using indexes in forScore and other similar apps. I have decided to create indexes by myself to be able to bookmark the multipage PDF properly.
I update this article regularly according to my own experience and user feedback.
Table of contents
Music Library – Sheet Music, Scores, and Music Books
iPad is a very handy tool for storing and reading music scores. It can save you a huge amount of space (and weight in your bag :) by going completely paperless. Just scan your music or load your sheet music into it.
There are several apps for it, like Newzik, unrealBook, iGigBook, Deep Dish GigBook, forScore, and others. In my opinion, the best app would be forScore because of its great features, ease of use, and beautiful design.
forScore, the sheet music reader, is the no. 1-ranked music app on the Apple Store with good reason. Justin Bianco, its creator, and developer, relentlessly refined the vision that he had when the iPad was first introduced: to make a simple yet powerful music reader for Apple’s revolutionary platform (from Scoring Notes Podcast
forScore App for iPad, iPhone (and Mac)
I’ve been using the forScore app since I bought my iPad Pro 10.5 in 2017. It is a really powerful app. Besides storing and opening PDF files with sheet music it does annotation, sharing, scanning, syncing with audio files creating bookmarks, organizing and reordering music, set lists, and more. All of this works fast in a beautiful elegant interface.
forScore is been great not only for single scores and parts. You can also load Real Books and Fake Books which have hundreds of songs in one giant PDF file.
forScore version 10 adds a great feature that allows you to add indexes to large scores by uploading a CSV file that links the song titles to specific page numbers of the PDF. You can now search for a specific song and open it in seconds within a huge book.
Understanding indexes and bookmarks
forScore:Page bookmarks are like table of contents entries that simply take you to a specific page, while Item bookmarks work like virtual items in your forScore library.
Real Book 6th Edition Index File
Upload the CVS index to your iOS device and try applying the settings the way it is described in the above video. It should work fine. I did succeed in managing it after a couple of trials. The best thing is that upon successful application of the CSV index file, you will be able to manage your Real Book 6th edition finding and opening the songs within seconds in the forScore app.
An Updated index for Real Book I 6th edition and new indexes for more Real Books
I have created the index files (.CSV) for Real Book I (6th edition), Real Book II (second edition), Real Book III (second edition), and Real Book Volume VI.
A new updated version of the indexes contains the Start Page, End Page, and Composer name – the metadata important for making the “complete bookmark” match the PDF file exactly. It makes it possible to search, share, and add to setlists the tunes in the book.
The indexes are available here
How to install the Real Book index in forScore (#)
1. Click on the CSV Index file to open it in the Safari browser or download the Index and open it in the Files app. Then click on the share icon to open in forScore.
2. Open the PDF file of the Real Book in forScore and tap on the bookmark icon.
3. Click on Indexes and select the Real Book I (6th edition) Index. This will open the index properties page.
Your Index settings will look like this:
3. Use the arrows < and > at the bottom of the settings window to display and set the first page in your PDF.
4. VALUES section – You need to set the correct value for each corresponding field:
Title – this would refer to the title of the first song (look at the image above ☝🏻)
The next field will display the name of the PDF.
Start Page – for the page of the first tune in the book.
End Page for the next field (some tunes have two pages) – to” close” the bookmark.
Most of the Indexes that I have found have only the Start page field and don’t have the End page so if the tune has a two-page layout, forScore will make a bookmark of the first page only, and to make the tune shareable you’ll need to add the last page of the tune manually to make it a “complete bookmark”. So In the CSV Indexes, I have created, I added the End Page field as well. I also have added a Composer field to add it to metadata so the tunes can be grouped and searchable by their composers.
That is because some of the tunes have a two-page layout so the whole tune of the two pages will be bookmarked.
You can see the differences between the existing format CSV Indexes and the custom CSV Indexes I have made. Here are the screenshots of both the Old and New CSV Indexes opened in the spreadsheet program:
5. SETTINGS section – set the Page number offset to the desired value, so the page number will be set to the corresponding page in the PDF. If, for example, the first tune in the Real Book Vol I 6th edition (“African Flower”) is on page 10 and page 9 in your PDF, then the Page number offset should be set to “-1”.
Skip header rows – in my Indexes, I have added the header row (see the image above ☝🏻) so Skip header rows should be set to”1″.
6. Click on Save at the top right corner.
Delete the Bookmarks to reset the index
If the Index settings are not applied correctly, the Index will not work properly. In this case, you will need to reset the Index settings and delete all bookmarks. The deletion of “old” bookmarks is needed for new settings to make the effect.
Here are the steps:
Edit => select All => delete => click to confirm the deletion.
Also deleting or reinstalling the Index itself and the PDF file might be helpful.
The following images show how to delete bookmarks in forScore.
Add/insert blank page(s) to the PDF to fit the page numbers (#)
Another simple solution to set your PDF to correspond to the page numbers of the contents of the book is to insert a blank page(s) or to duplicate the existing page (i.e. the cover page).
If you already created the bookmarks in the PDF you need to delete them.
You can do this right in the forScore. Here is how:
1. Click on the File icon (the icon on the right next to the Metronome icon in the upper panel) => Rearrange.
2. In the Rearrange window click on the “+” at the bottom to open the “insert” window.
3. Click on “Templates” at the bottom and choose the empty page.
It will add an empty page to your PDF.
4. Click and drag it to the beginning of your PDF, to place it right after the cover page for instance.
5. Click on “Save” to save it (or “Save As” to save it as a new PDF).
You can also duplicate any page at the beginning to add an extra one to the PDF. In the Rearrange window (step 2) click the little circled “+” on the page you want to duplicate. It will create a duplicate of this page.
Here is a forScore reference on how to rearrange the pages in the PDF
You can also add an empty page in the PDF on your computer using the free Adobe Acrobat Reader DC
Here is how
- The best iPad score reader for most people [2023 update] by David MacDonald – scoringnotes.com review on iPad score reader apps
- How to transfer your forScore library to a new iPad by David MacDonald (scoring notes article)
- Using Indexes to create bookmarks (forScore Knowlege Base)
- forScore user guide: Metadata (forScore user guide)
- YouTube video on forScore Indexes (YouTube video)
- Adding Bookmarks to forScore for multi-page PDF & add that page to a Setlist (this YouTube video and this YouTube video)
- A Pro Musicians Guide To Using forScore (In-Depth Walk Through) (YouTube video)
- Amazing iPad Feature for Musicians | Hands-Free Page Turning Demo | ForScore Pro Face Gestures (YouTube video)
The forScore app for iOS is an amazing tool. I use it daily as my main score and sheet music reader app for iPad and iPhone in my teaching, practicing, or performing. I (almost) say “goodbye” to those heavy music books and printed PDF scans that I used to carry with me in my bag :) Thanks to a nice screen on today’s digital devices, reading music becomes easy in a dark room or on stages with poor lighting.
There is much more to discover with forScore – the variety of annotation tools, tuner, metronome, scanner, setlist maker, audio file player with a speed changer (good for transcribing music), page editor, cropper, and more. The developers are very active in improving the app and working on new features. At the time of reviewing this post, the current version of forScore is version 13 which is available for iPhone (since v.12) and has an iCloud backup for your scores and full iOS 15 compatibilities among numerous other new features.
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I hope that the information in this post was helpful. If you have any questions or thoughts, please let me know in the comments area.