My Music Machine

By Martin Jansen, Owner of Jansen-PCINFO

Those of you who have read my articles know that I am cheap – well maybe thrifty – when it comes to computer equipment.  I try to buy smart and get the most bang for the buck.

When it comes to my other passion, music, I have tried to combine singing with electronics. One way to do this is to use a tablet to view my music as I sing with choirs.  The alternative is to juggle multiple books and octavos during worship and at performances.

Of course, the music needs to be converted into PDF files before it can be loaded onto a tablet.   For this I use VueScan, wonderful cross platform software for all types of scanning.  I wrote an article about VueScan on my website.

PDF files can also be created by printing if you have a large volume of songs.  For instance, I found a fully indexed PDF file of Choral Praise Third Edition (CP3).  Even though it is out of print, this gives me full access to nearly 1300 pages of songs and biblical text.  I can excerpt certain pages of songs that we are singing for Mass.

The Tablet

The best deal in tablets is Amazon Fire HD 10.  This often goes on sale or can be found as a refurbished model below $100.  This also comes in a Plus model that provides extra RAM for extra money.  I need the 10 inch model to see the PDF files decently.  I added the Google Play store to this tablet which is pretty easy to do if you follow these directions.

I bought a Samsung 128 GB micro SD card to supplement the built-in 32 GB in the tablet for $15. This assures me I have plenty of space for files.

The Software

I use Total Commander along with the LAN plugin.  This software has a learning curve, but it is far superior to any others I have used for copying and transferring files from a computer to a tablet without advertisements getting in the way.

For reading the files I actually downloaded and paid for Librera PRO which gives me ad free viewing of my PDFs with a special Musician’s mode with scrolling feature.  This cost me $4.

Breaking Bread 2022 eMissal is software produced by Oregon Catholic Press.  It is the electronic version of the book used by our Parish.  This software is OK for songs and weekly Mass readings, but not strictly necessary.  The songs are all melody, while the CP3 gives me all four parts.  The software costs $5.

Of course tablets can playback MP3 files to learn the music as well as browsing to Youtube to view and hear songs.  VLC for Android is the ‘swiss army knife’ of playback for audio and video files.  VLC is free.

Sheet Music Scanner & Reader is a great little app for reading music.  It can import a PDF file or from the camera built in to the tablet.  I use it mostly for reading PDF files.  The technology used for this process is called Musical Optical Character Recognition.  The accuracy of this app varies depending on the quality of the PDF image.  As with most music scanning software it does have trouble with keeping consistent measure counts.  This software is for those who want to hear what a song sounds like before practice with the choir.  After the music is read it can export a music xml file for reading by MuseScore and other music software.

MuseScore is my favorite music composition software. I did a review of MuseScore on my website, but the Android version of this software is for reading music that has been uploaded to the MuseScore website.  Many professionals upload their compositions to MuseScore for viewing and listening to the public.  The playback is great and a mixer is available to isolate individual voices in the score.  Lower the volume on other parts to hear your own.  MuseScore is open source and free.

My Amazon Fire HD 10 has become a music machine.  The software allows me to read music while I am singing and practice songs prior to rehearsals.