Tonara Turns The Page For Musicians

In my opinion one of the purposes for having a tablet is to replace paper. As a musician I have a fair amount of sheet music on paper in folders that I would prefer to have on a tablet like the iPad. Several apps are available for the iPad that display sheet music, but Tonara is unique in that it follows along as you play and automatically updates the screen with new music as you reach the bottom of the screen.

I have experimented with two different apps, Musicnotes and forScore, that display sheet music very legibly and make it easier to read in low light settings. The problem is that like music printed on paper, some pieces are on multiple pages, requiring you to manually turn the page, and because a tablet only displays the equivalent of one sheet of music, you end up needing to interact with the tablet more often than paper.

One solution is to use foot pedals to move back and forth between pages, and while that solution works much better for a french horn player like myself who needs both hands to hold an instrument, it still requires doing something to move within the music. Tonara displays the music and shows a cursor of your current location in the piece. Since it’s “listening” to what you are playing, it tracks how fast or slow you are playing and displays the music accordingly.

Robert Scoble has featured Tonara as part of his Building 43 series of videos and you can see how Tonara not only tracks as you are playing, but is even able to pick out one instrument from another. Background noise doesn’t appear to interfere with Tonara’s sensing. Tonara appears to be trully remarkable in it’s ability though I am skeptical about whether it will work in large ensembles.

The downside to Tonara is that it requires special sheet music files that work with the app, rather than being able to use sheet music scanned into PDF or graphics files. One will only be able to play the music that is in Tonara’s catalog, which will not only be limited by the number of pieces but also by instruments. Since I don’t know exactly how it works, I don’t know how difficult it would be to make a desktop computer companion that could create a Tonara equivalent of any scanned piece of sheet music, thereby allowing anyone to create Tonara versions of sheet music.

If you are interested in Tonara you will find it for free in the App Store. Sheet music that works with Tonara ranges from $.99 to $1.99 per piece and can be bought within the app.

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