Using ForScore: Basic and Advanced Tips

If you’ve got a new tablet for music reading, then you’re going to need an app.

For Android tablets, the best app for sheet music reading is mMobileSheets Pro. I did a look at some of the more advanced features in MobileSheets a few years ago.

MobileSheets Pro is very powerful, but it wasn’t always the easiest software to use. Since I’ve been using an iPad for a music reader, I’ve been learning ForScore. Like MobileSheets Pro, ForScore has some incredibly powerful abilities, if you know where to look.

To that end, I’ve put together a collection of some of my favorite tips for using ForScore effectively. I start off with some that are more basic, and I have some more advanced tips at the end.

Basic ForScore Tips

Use A Scanner

While it is possible to take pictures of music and use them in ForScore, it’s better to use a scanner.

A scanner will allow you to get neat, clean copies of music without the discolorations caused by taking pictures. A scanner will also keep the file size much lower, which will allow you to fit more music on your device (and load that music faster). ForScore recommends a scanner setting of 100-150 DPI (dots per inch) to get high-quality scans.

I use our Brother flatbed scanner, but if you have lots of sheet music (as opposed to books), a portable scanner could be a bit easier to store in your office or on your desk and faster to scan.

Always Be Organizing

Keeping track of a large number of scores/parts is one of ForScore’s strengths. Since importing is so easy, though, it’s possible to amass a collection of random scores with no easy way to find what you need when you need it.

That’s why you should always organize files when you import them.

Each file has many options for metadata, so it pays to think ahead before you start categorizing things. I use the following fields for organizing:

  • Composer – for the composer (and arranger)
  • Ensemble – band/orchestra/solo works/etudes/etc.
  • Genre/Time Period – Classical/Romantic/Baroque/etc.
  • Labels – Other notable information (music collections, scores, guitar parts, etc.)

It’s worth pointing out that you can rename the “Tags” and “Labels” fields to give more descriptive headings. Simply tap on the label you want to rename and you can type in the new name.

Also, don’t forget about the “Ratings” and “Difficulty” fields. While these can’t be used to easily find items in your library, they do show up in the far right of the library drop-down and can make it a bit easier to find what you’re looking for.

Try the Apple Pencil

While it’s definitely more expensive than a regular stylus, the Apple Pencil works well with ForScore. Not only do you get the pressure and angle sensitivity, but there are also a couple of different settings that make annotating with an Apple Pencil even easier than using a stylus.

Apple Pencil-specific features

If you go to Settings → Apple Pencil, you can turn on “Automatically enter” and “Automatically exit” annotation mode. This will allow you to easily make quick marks on your music when you get your Apple Pencil close to the screen, and automatically exit annotation mode after a short time. This saves you from needing to manually enter and exit annotation mode – it’s not a huge time savings, but if you need to quickly mark an accidental or other note, every little bit helps.

Also, don’t forget that you can double-tap on the flat side of the Apple Pencil to switch between the standard writing and erasing mode.

Advanced ForScore Tips

Once you’ve gotten the basics out of the way, here are some things that can take your ForScore use to the next level!

Open Multiple Scores In Tabs

If you want to open two (or more) works at the same time, ForScore has tabs just like your browser.

Go to Tools → Settings →scroll down to “Appearance” (the third group of settings items). Here you can enable or disable the status bar (which shows the time and your battery level), and the options for always showing the tab or seek bar.

Create a Part Inside ForScore

If you need to quickly jot down a musical idea or write out a transposed part, you can do that totally inside ForScore – no needing to mess with cumbersome music notation software.

Inside the “Tools” menu (the briefcase in the top-right corner) select “Template” and you can create a brand-new score out of blank staff paper. From here, using a stylus, Apple Pencil, or note stamps, you can write out whatever music you need to.

If you need to insert something inside an already-existing part, you can do that too! Simply open up the score you want to add pages to, and go to Tools → Rearrange → “+” (at the bottom of the screen), and select the number (and type) of pages to add.

Create (and Customize) Stamps

While ForScore has many options for stamps (accidental symbols, dynamics, note heads, etc.) there are some options that are missing.

While you can get more stamps by subscribing to ForScore Pro, you can also add your own stamps to ForScore!

For best results, you’ll want to find (or create) a 144 x 144 pixel PNG image of the symbol you want to use. Once you have that image, put it in iCloud (or another cloud storage service supported by the Files app), open the stamps menu, and tap the “+” button. You can also duplicate and edit your existing stamps (for example, making accidental symbols red or yellow so they are easier to notice).

Use Bookmarks

For larger files, consider adding in bookmarks to make navigation easier during rehearsals (or performances).

I do this inside of Adobe Acrobat when I’m scanning in larger works (like musical scores or other large works) but you can also add bookmarks directly inside ForScore. To add bookmarks within ForScore, simply open up a score and tap the bookmark icon (it looks like an open book in the top-left). From there, tap the “+” to enter the “New Bookmark” dialogue to create new bookmarks.

When creating new bookmarks, you have two options “Item” or “Page”. The “Item” bookmark creates a virtual score in your library. The “Page” bookmark is simply a page reference that you can find within the score.

While the “Page” option is the closest to a traditional bookmark, I use the “Item” bookmark under certain situations. For example, if you download the parts to a symphony from IMSLP, you’ll get 2 (or 4) parts as a single PDF. Using the “Item” bookmark allows you to add the single PDF file to ForScore, but have separate “pointers” and metadata for each individual part. “Item” bookmarks are also great to separate out individual pieces of music from a collection of solos.

Clone Files to Save Space

If you have multiple copies of the same file, you can clone the file to save space and keep two copies of the same file. These files can have separate metadata, separate annotations, and can be added to a setlist independently.

This is a great space-saving feature if you’re an accompanist that plays the same piece with different soloists, or you regularly play the same piece with different ensembles/conductors.

To create a clone, go to Library → Edit → tap the file you want to clone, and then tap “Clone”.