Musicians know only too well that their art and craft can’t always be played from a spur of the moment passion, as sometimes sheet music is required, but in a digital age, what do you do?
Back when the iPad first appeared on the scene, there was barely a smattering of apps designed to let you get sheet music online, and while the iPad seemed a perfect way to hold and read music written for the page, finding out wasn’t easy.
A few years later, it hasn’t changed all that much, with PDFs generally the best way to get your music on your tablet, while “ForScore” offers up a store for horns and keys.
String musicians, however, don’t get to see as much, and so when this journalist pulled out his cello on the weekend, he wondered just how hard it would be to find music.
Turns out that there’s an app for that.
Called “Chromatik”, it’s a bit of a surprise app that offers up a library of songs for you to browse through, with filtration changing what’s available to you dependent on the instrument you play.
Arrangements are available for quite a few instruments depending on the piece of music, and you can pick an instrument starting with a bass going alphabetically all the way down to violin and voice (sorry, there are no instruments with “a” or “z” in its listing).
Music is provided in numerous categories, with holiday music sitting at the top in an almost “App Store”-esque layout, though you’ll also find movie theme songs, Disney tunes, popular chart toppers, songs from various decades, The Beatles, rock, electronic, classical, jazz, and so on, with quite a fair bit of music available.
Select a category and you’ll find a song list, though some sections don’t have much at all. Pick a song, however, and you won’t only find the sheet music waiting for you, but you’ll also see a metronome, tuner, and the ability to mark up the sheet music if you so choose.
You can also listen to the song as it’s playing, allowing you to follow the music page by page in some instances, with the auto turn kicking in at each page section.
For popular songs, this means you get to watch the music video on one side of the screen while the page flips over, having you track the position of the song as you read the music.
What this feature is missing is a line or ball to track the position the song is in, so Chromatik is only so connected with the song, which is to say the play bar will tell you when the page needs to be turned, but not which bar or measure you should be playing in.
For people familiar with music reading, this shouldn’t pose too much of a problem, though it would have been nice to see a little more interactivity to point you to the right location, which would have been super handy for new players that may not be as quick with the reading of the notes.
Overall, we love the idea of Chromatik, not just because it connects the music you want to play with a system that is somewhat easy to follow along with, but also because it offers sheet music in an easy to find place, and that’s something written music often lacks.
Finding that song you want to play outside of the world of piano and violin isn’t always easy, and this application puts so many arrangements in the same place, and without cost.
Unfortunately, as much as we love Chromatik, it does appear to be reasonably buggy, exhibiting not just a slower system that often needs to be force closed, but an inability to connect with its server.
You don’t have to do much to get this error, but try to download music at the wrong time and you’ll get one of the “unable to get tune” errors without fail, basically telling you the servers aren’t talking to the app.
In our time with the app, we’ve had this at least once a day, with the error revealing itself for a good hour or so, even with the latest version of the app and the iPad reset.
From what we’re seeing, we don’t think this is an iPad issue, but rather a problem with either the app or the Chromatik web site it talks with, and that means when it does happen, you are out of luck.
Compounding this is the lack of an offline mode for the app, meaning you have to go online to get your sheet music, but if the server is down or the connection doesn’t work, you cannot play your music.
That’s the most frustrating aspect of Chromatik, because while we could live without an offline mode — because there’s WiFi in so many places — not being able to connect to the service just to get the song you want to play makes Chromatik difficult to deal with.
It’s just so frequent a bug, too, and we found it over on the iPhone version. It seems you can’t escape from the bug, so expect it to pop up when you least expect it, but probably when you really want to play something that you can’t find anywhere else.
Still, for a cost of free, it’s hard to see what you’re losing even if you do run into the connection error, because you could easily spend up a fortune trying to find these pieces of music to play.
Chromatik is available now free for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. A version of Chromatik can be found online via the website.