Digital Music display

There you go, these are all my music books of piano sheet music. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t play all this but I’d like to be able to. If I’m being honest I’d love to be able to ad-hoc the blues and boogie woogie but that skill has passed me by. Anyway, I have a lot of music I *try* and play and while I do spend most of my time playing classical, sometimes the mood takes me to have a go at say, ‘smoke on the water’, or ‘Bohemium Rhapsody’ or any other popular tune. Trouble, is I need to find it.

Analogue is great but digital would be greater. A digital collection of sheet music I can just pull up in seconds.

So I start looking for a solution. Now there are a number of commercial solutions out there, but brace yourselves, they’re not cheap. Here’s one now. That one is 1600USD!

I want a solution and I’m sure this one is great but errrm, no thanks.

I could use a tablet but I tried that with my Samsung but the screen is too small for one sheet, never mind two.

So I figure I’m a techie, or at least used to be. I can work this out, plus it’ll be fun.

The obvious answer is connect a Raspberry PI up to a screen. Nice, cheap solution and the good news is, I’ve already got plenty of Raspberry PI’s, see?

Trouble is, they’re over there and the piano is over here.

Aah well, that’s what cables were invented for, a 10m USB cable and a 10m HDMI cable later and I’m ready to go……Except I’m not, because the cheap screen I bought second hand, doesn’t have a HDMI connector. See, I told you I *used* to be a techy. Aah well, that’s what HDMI to VGA adaptors were invented for. Note for the uninitiated (me), those adapters need power.

Excellent! NOW I’m ready to go.

Just need some software that can display sheet music now. This is the fun bit. If by fun I mean, frustrating.

First I tried DMS, https://www.wis.co.uk/andy/dms.html, works straight away, but too basic for my needs.

Then I tried MusicRack, http://www.stefanv.com/computers/musicrack-a-digital-sheet-music-display-system.html. Looks pretty good but it’s uncompiled. So I roll up my sleeves, used to be a half decent programmer. That’s when I find out it’s written in Pascal. PASCAL! I tried for a little bit but eventually gave up, that kind of craziness can take a long jump.

Then I came across Calibre. Calibre is actually intended as an open source e-book reader but during my search for a sheet music display I found one person using it so decided to give it a go.

It actually works really well! Easy to import pdf’s, organises them clearly, works well on the Raspbberry, the two sheet display fits well on the screen and it’s easy to move backwards and forwards between pages. Space bar advances a page which makes it easy to tap while playing.

Sweet! All sorted.

Although it’s not……

Two things, I can’t annotate. One good thing about real paper sheet music is you can add little pencil notes regarding style, fingering, reminders of the key (I’m an idiot so sometimes have to remind myself which key I’m in at the actual notes). Second thing is Calibre is a very capable system but remembering all the keyboard shortcuts is very difficult, and some tasks require pressing tab seventeen times. I need a mouse.

The keyboard/mouse one I agonised over for ages. I thought I needed a wired but combined keyboard and mouse. And good ones of those are in short supply. After a lot of searching I eventually realised I was not going to find one so bought a wireless Microsoft multimedia keyboard and trackpad. Turns out my concerns were unfounded. It came beautifully packaged, looks like excellent quality and worked perfectly in the Raspberry. Recommended. It also gets rid of one of the 10m cables.

Annotation is a harder one and one I’ve still not fully resolved. I’m using libre office to add items to the PDF’s but it’s a bit clunky, is nothing as simple as adding things on the fly and loses a lot in the flow. I can’t see a simple solution to this other than buying a touch screen and stylus, another expensive option.

So there we are, a fairly simple and cheap digital music display on a budget, the keyboard was the most expensive item at £30 although I did already own the raspberry PI.

Notes…

By default, Raspbian has no screen saver and will turn the screen off after a few minutes of inactivity. I had to install a screen saver and then set the timeout to 30 minutes.

My Raspberrys are 3’s. It’s not the fastest set up. I can’t load a piece up and expect it to flick through the pages at each space bar tap, I have to load the piece, move through the pages slowly to get them into memory, then it’s ready to go.

I can’t find a way to to automatically display in the right mode which displays two pages next to each other yet. Each time I open a new piece, I have to change the viewing mode to ensure two pages are always displayed next to each other.

Ideally, page turning would be achieved with a foot pedal rather than tapping the space bar, I’ve not yet found a solution for that.

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