Friday, May 20, 2011

Playing from the iPad with UnrealBook


When I play bass, the music is just lead sheets, meaning the iPad’s screen is big enough.  I also don’t have to write as much in the way of little things in this music, it’s more general roadmap notes on the sides.  That means, the iPad becomes an option.  I chose the iPad as my retreat reader, as I had never been to the location before and wasn’t sure what the charging situation would look like.  I also wanted to use whatever machine I took to be used for notetaking.  That meant the longest battery life I could get, and that was the iPad.  That’s my Dell streak on the right, showing the event flow so I could create the set lists.  I’m a fan of multitasking with multiple devices.  It was much easier than flipping back and forth from my email to UnrealBook. 

While working with UnrealBook is not as nice as Journal, and notetaking with Penultimate is not as nice as OneNote, it was all good enough. 

The main reason I prefer Journal for music reading is the ease of using the pen for notes on the music.  With an active digitizer, notes are smooth and accurate, and erasing is as simple as flipping the pen over and using the eraser end.  With UnrealBook, you first have to select the pen tool (which means you can’t turn the page anymore without closing the pen too) and then write without touching the screen with your hand.  The inking is jagged, and it’s difficult to be accurate with the big rubber nub on the end of a capacitive stylus.  Erasing requires selecting another tool.  The ability to create set lists was nice, and helped manage the 20 or so songs that were spread over 4 different services. 

I prefer OneNote for notetaking primarily because of the cloud sync.  All of my notebooks are synced through the cloud to all of my other machines.  It’s nice to have everything in one place.  Also, the inking is really smooth and natural.  Penultimate does have nice smooth inking, but the palm rejection likes to remove the first word of a new line.  There were so many occasions where it would just remove words, several times in a row.  It would sometimes take three or four tries to write something that would actually stay on the screen.  That can be quite frustrating, especially when I really just want to be focused on the message, not fighting with a tablet.  Turning wrist protection off was frustrating in a now-I-have-to-think-about-my-hand kind of way, and it still didn’t catch all my writing. 

But the battery life was spectacular.  I went all day with some music reading, some notetaking, and some general interneting (we had wifi in the meeting hall), and still never went under 50%. 

Now if only we could get a Wacom digitizer in this form factor (or perhaps with a slightly bigger screen) with this battery life.

Now for the fun photos:


The setup.  I got to hide in the back corner and sit on my amp.  I find that being directly in front of (or sitting on) my amp, and right next to the drums, is all the monitoring I need.


My little corner.


The team in action, and I‘m just hanging out in my little corner.


  1. violajack

    Thanks for sharing your experience with UnrealBook. I am considering getting an iPad, UnrealBook, and a footswitch. I noticed the leadsheet displayed on your iPad is an already prepared one for Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) by Chris Tomlin. I would like to use the iPad to lead worship from the guitar and also when I play bass. I typically use my own prepared leadsheets and was considering using the device in landscape mode and reworking them accordingly because of the screen size.
    Do you find standard leadsheets to be clearly readable on the screen?


  2. I would say the leadshets were on the small side for what I would like, but still clearly readable. I wouldn't want to go any smaller. I did have to transpose a few farther than I wanted to do in my head in the fly, and I had enough room to rewrite the chrords.

    I have a USB footpedal that I love using with the windows tablets, but I don't have the connector to use it with the iPad. It's supposed to work just as well with unrealbook.on the iPad.

    We use Planning Center to post chart for events, so I was able to download most as PETs straight from there. A few were in word and had to be converted first. I think the charts are coming from ccli.

    It is certainly easier than the huge binders my band mates have of every tune we've ever done.