Music PDF apps (introduction)


For those not familiar with iPad music PDF apps.
(This is not a comparison.)

Although 1Chart has Notebooks, where we can group various charts together for our gigs, bands, singers etc. there are other advantages using a dedicated PDF music app.
Typically they have these kinds of features:

annotation for highlighting, additional text (currently there are limitations in 1Chart as to where you can place text, color, size) or add lyrics, markings (scribbles, large arrows etc.), rehearsal alterations; use your finger, stylus or Apple Pencil (at the time of writing, Apple Pencil is reasonably new, so many apps have not been updated to support it as well as they could);

images for instance adding specific music notation images, fingering notes, chord diagrams for students;

audio some apps allow you to attach a specific audio file (or more than one) to a chart. This is useful for practice with a backing track, rehearsal recordings or other reference tracks. An app might access your (iTunes) Music folder or some can import audio into the app itself (keeping the audio out of your Music folder, good if it is only for reference);

setlists where you can organise charts in a specific order for gigs, rehearsals, concerts;

tags, categories used to organise your charts, search field options (for instance tag the charts with each band it is used in, by key, genre, style, singer, collection, composer, instrument, year, album for search or listings). Currently 1Chart v1.7 does not have this;

metronome visual and/or audio as reference;

reference pitch for tuning;


file formats import other file formats we use, like ChordPro, txt, doc., png, jpg etc. You might have lyrics, music notation, tablature as well as your 1Chart songs, so an independent app that integrates all this is ideal;

double page view where a two-page PDF might show lyrics on one side and our 1Chart on the other;

wireless connection to other iPads running the same app, to send charts to other members of the band. Some apps give the option to set one iPad as master, the rest as slaves, where the song selected on the master will automatically select the same song on all the others. The singer (with master) selects the song and all other iPads load the same song filename (each iPad needs the same document with that filename but it could actually be a different PDF for each player’s iPad—notation or the transposed notation for transposing instruments, 1Chart PDFs, or just lyrics for the singer’s iPad);

hands-free page turns use either wired or wireless footpedals (like the Airturn range) for turning pages with your foot. Generally NN charts are only 1 page but if you need to turn the pages (or your instrument is between you and your iPad—like tuba or double bass) then this is perfect. (Currently 1Chart v1.7 does not support this);

sync currently most PDF music apps do not support sync (like iCloud sync as we know it) so if it is important to you, check the app to see if it is there or coming. This would mean you could add files from your computer or another iPad and everything would sync and stay current;

cloud access most support cloud access (like Dropbox, Box, Google drive) and you can use them for backups, transferring, import as you would expect. Also you can add documents to an app using the usual iTunes connection with your computer (Mac or Windows) to drag and drop into a specific app. It's easy to do this and quick if you have many audio files or to restore from a backup. (I have not tested this with 1Chart yet as I do not have many 1Chart files elsewhere to import).

1Chart exports PDF files. I send it to PDF converter app then Open in and import to your PDF app, add your various metadata (like artist, categories, tags) and you're done. Once you have added a few songs you can begin to see how useful it will be. Take some time to set it up in terms of the categories, tags etc. so it works best for your needs. For instance, you could have a Category for each band then tag each song in terms of rhythmic style (fast, slow, bossa, waltz, 12/8), or genre (Rock, RnB, bossa). And perhaps another for Artist (Beatles etc.) or a category for 60, 70s music. Use Setlists for rehearsals, concert lists, gigs, practice, work in progress songs.

Currently I use forScore for gigs but a different one for practice charts so everything remains independent. I also have classical music in yet another. I am still undecided as to whether to have everything in one app but there is no real reason to do this (or not).

(I have no affiliation with any of these app developers but have been using a variety of these apps for a number of years)
Relevant URLs:
There are many music PDF apps out there. Here are just three, mentioned here because they have been out for a while, are regularly updated and well supported.


Pia score


Apple file sharing (with iTunes)


MobileSheets (PDF music app for Android)

Currently (May 2016) there is no adequate Windows (tablet) equivalent music PDF app I am aware of.
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New Member
I realize this is an older thread, but a useful one, and still relevant.
ie. 1Chart hasn't change much

I play country/rock/pop music, in several different bands, on guitar, and my routine is similar...
  1. Create charts in 1Chart, and export to Google Drive
  2. Meanwhile, I have a giant spreadsheet in Google Sheets that I use for creating and printing setlists, and keeping all sorts of details I use for metadata
  3. Import PDFs into OnSong 2020... copy/paste metadata from my spreadsheet... organize into Books... and create setlists
  4. Repeat #3 every once in a while as OnSong screws up, mysteriously, but regularly
OnSong is unreliable, and I need to replace it. It's replacement will have...
  1. Reliability, or be made by a company that makes an app that works. OnSong doesn't work, and they still release updates... usually with a bunch of new fancy features... before the current features work
  2. Auto-scrolling based on duration metadata
  3. Books aka. Folders, and Sets aka. Setlists
  4. Google Drive support, and probably Dropbox support, etc.
  5. Low Light mode that works on PDFs
  6. Text support, or else .chordpro support would be nice
  7. Sync'ing to a cloud server (actual sync... not what OnSong thinks 'sync' means)
I wish 1Chart did more, but it seems to be best at one thing: creating the best, cleanest, most professional-looking charts for recording or live performance.

1Chart is great, but I wish it...
  1. Didn't add so much whitespace... or else, had line spacing options
    eg. Single, 1.15, 1.5, Double
  2. Had a wide range of font point sizes instead of small/medium/large
    eg. 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20... 32...
  3. Displayed charts without page breaks, and instead, as one long continuous chart
  4. Had 'Print' instead of 'Export to PDF'
  5. Had a 'Page Setup' options window... allowed you to set page size (letter, legal, A5, etc.), margins, header with tag support, footer with tag support, etc.
    eg. Page numbers, filename, date...
Basically, I wish it let me print charts on one piece of paper, with huge writing.

Instead, I get multiple pages, with a font that is still too small to read when on the floor in front of you... with no page numbers or header or footer, so multiple-page charts, in a pile of different charts, get out of order easily and waste time... or worse... get so mixed up in the heat of battle, that they can't be used... but the show must go on.

eg. A single, letter-sized piece of paper, with huge, easy-to-see, Sharpie-sized letters or numbers is ideal, big enough so that it can be used off of the stage floor

Other gripes with 1Chart...
  1. How it handles double-tap to select text. So unintuitive... and painful.
  2. How editing a comment sometimes doesn't display the whole comment until you edit part of it, at random
Re: 1Chart... Curious what you meant by...
I send it to PDF converter app...
Maybe in 2016, it didn't have a built-in 'Export to PDF' feature?

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