A New Kind of Stand Light

I’ve started noticing a lot more tablets at my orchestra rehearsals. I see small, and large ones, propped on stands. At rehearsal the other week I watched the violist lean forward and magnify his music to scribble some notes for himself. Then he pinched the screen reducing the music back to its normal size.

I looked at my pencil with its worn out eraser. It’s an old mechanical one and sometimes the tip retracts when I push too hard to write. Then again, on the plus side, I can write things in my music while I’m still playing. It’s quick and easy to lift my pencil, jot in a note, all before joining in again. Though fascinating to watch the violist, I did have to wonder about making notes electronically without taking a real pause.

Some musicians have foot pedals connected to their tablets so they can turn pages without using their hands. This would be a neat trick, especially for fast page turns. I had a page turn so fast once, the second player had to reach over and turn the music for me so I could keep playing. Of course we also work around this by making an extra copy of the part so we can turn the page at a better moment. Though I would also be nervous about flipping too fast with a tablet. What if I accidentally turned two pages at once? Or got distracted keeping beat with my foot, which I often do, and mistakenly tapped the foot pedal?

Though, to be honest, turning pages the analog way is not fool proof either. I recall one concert where I accidentally left one of my pages flipped over. When I turned the page, it was blank. I happened to be performing with an octet, so I was pretty exposed on the stage. Also the music was fast and I ended up missing two pages by the time I got everything sorted out.

Even so, I’m still on the fence about using a tablet to read music. I rather enjoy the analog experience of reading from the paper. Rehearsal is a time to disconnect from electronics and listen to what’s going on around me. I like seeing a two-page spread on my stand, something that wouldn’t be possible with a tablet. For now, I’ll stick with my printouts.

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