SongSheet by iSharp – music app review

Download from iTunes App Storesongsheet logoWhether you are a songwriter, or a musician who plays in a gigging band doing lots of functions (weddings, parties, etc.) and have to have access to a wide repertoire of songs to suit the occasion (or requests from the floor), trying to keep all those songs – and all those chord charts – in your head is an accident waiting to happen. Most of us resort to a notebook or binder/folder of some sort. This is safe… well, safe-ish until you leave it somewhere. The alternative is to use a computer; easy to backup but difficult to transport to your next gig for instant recall and not so helpful when you are out and about and want to continue working on a song idea.

The iPad is, potentially, a solution to all these issues; the display is large enough to see a typical song chord chart on, it’s portable and easily mounted on a mic stand at a gig or propped on a table while you work on a song idea and, like a desktop computer, the data can be easily backed up so if you lose the actual device (painful enough) you haven’t also lost all your song details as well. All we need, of course, is a suitable music app to manage this process.

SongSheet – developed by iSharp – might be just that app.

SongSheet basics

My SongSheet catalogue with a couple of set lists already created. Click on any of the screenshots to see a full size version.

My SongSheet catalogue with a couple of set lists already created. Click on any of the screenshots to see a full size version.

The essence of SongSheet is very simple; it provides an environment where you can create chord/lyric sheets for your collection of songs (your own songs or those written by other songwriters). These are then catalogued within the app, can be searched quickly and, for live performances, organised into set lists, allowing you to step through a series of chord sheets with just the swipe of a finger.

What’s more, songs and set lists can be emailed either to yourself (for backup purposes) or to other band members so you all get to play the same songs in the same order at your next gig (always a crowd pleaser!).

In principle then, SongSheet sounds like a very useful tool. Let’s see how it works in practice?

Strike the right chord

When you first open SongSheet, your library contains two default songs; ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Welcome – tap here!’. The former needs no introduction while the latter is not iSharp’s latest potential hit song but the introductory guide to using the app. This covers the basic operation and key features but, personally at least, I found it a bit brief. It would be nice to have access to a proper PDF manual. Perhaps this is something that can be added to the iSharp website at some point for users to download?

After giving your set list a title, you just drag songs from the catalogue onto the set list.

After giving your set list a title, you just drag songs from the catalogue onto the set list.

That said, the user interface is well designed and clutter free and the bulk of the operations are pretty intuitive. As shown in the various screenshots, you can display song lists for either your entire catalogue or for a particular set list. Buttons along the upper toolbar strip allow you to create a new set list (at which point you simply drag songs from the main catalogue list to the new set list), edit a song or set list or create a new song. In short, all the organisational features you need to begin managing your song sheets.

Pressing the ‘create new song’ button (the familiar iOS ‘create new document/email’ icon) brings up a blank page (the scourge of all writers – music or otherwise!) ready for you to fill with your new creations. As well as the standard iOS virtual keyboard, you also get a strip of chord labels. Once you have entered some lyrics, you can tap where you want to insert a chord and, once the cursor is in the right place, tap the required chord from the chord strip to insert it. Tapping again allows you to edit it.

There are plenty of options in terms of chords and these can be added to the chord strip for inclusion in your song.

There are plenty of options in terms of chords and these can be added to the chord strip for inclusion in your song.

The default chords available in the strip depend upon the current song key. This, along with a range of other song details, can be set by pressing the ‘i’ icon. This screen allows you to detail the song title, author, year, etc. as well as the key, tempo and time signature. There is also a useful ‘notes’ box so you can remind yourself what inspired the song in the first place (or other useful details) and a number of category ‘flags’ you can specify. These are used when sorting songs if you have a large collection in your library and need to find just songs of a particular type.

If you change the key, not only will the chords in the chord strip change to match, but you also get the option to transpose any existing chords used in the song; useful if your singer decides they need to have the song shifted up/down for a little more comfort. You can, of course, also add chords to the chord strip and there are plenty of options here for the more harmonically adventurous.

When editing a song, there are options to label song sections (verse, chorus, etc.) and you can easily re-order different song sections to change the arrangement. This all works very smoothly.

Mine or yours

SongSheet allows you to set the key for your song and, if you want it to, will automatically adjust the existing chords to the new key.

SongSheet allows you to set the key for your song and, if you want it to, will automatically adjust the existing chords to the new key.

Creating new songs from scratch is – limitations of typing text via the virtual keyboard aside – quite a simple process and SongSheet gives you a nice set of electronic tools to do what you might otherwise do with a pencil and paper when sitting with a guitar or piano and working on a new song idea. However, the app also does a pretty decent job of interpreting similar song sheets cut and pasted from other sources.  For those working in a covers band, this is a big deal as it means – initial setup time aside – you can easily carry a library of chord/lyric sheets around on your iPad.

I copied a number of different songs in their chord/lyric form from my favourite chords/tab website into blank ‘new’ songs within SongSheet. While you needed to use some care with what you actually copied, the app generally did a pretty good job of dealing with the process, correctly placing the chords above the lyrics with no special prompting by the user. You do need to go in and edit the song information screen details and, if you like to be neat and tidy, set the verse/chorus labels correctly but, on the whole the process is fairly painless. Set aside a day with nothing much else happening and you ought to get your band’s complete covers catalogue sorted out, even if the library is an extensive one.

Once pasted into SongSheet, the apps editing functions also generally work well. So, for example, you can tweak individual chords or rearrange the verse/chorus structure if required. Equally, you can also adjust the key and the transpose function is available – very useful.

All set

Creating and managing set lists is a breeze so you can easily have multiple set lists to suit as many different performances or functions as you might imagine. Set lists can also be very easily edited including the ability to add, delete or re-order the songs.

Using a set list during a performance is also very simple. Once you have selected the set list you want to use, you simply tap on the first song to open it. You can then move to the next song by swiping from right to left (as if you were turning the page in a book). The reverse motion moves you through the song list in the other direction. Again, if you have your iPad strategically placed during a gig, this would be a really effective tool for reminding you what comes next and, if you need the occasional prompt, allowing you to see the lyric/chord combinations as you are playing.

Practice this

SongSheet seems to cope pretty well with songs cut and paste from online sources. Here, I've also added audiofile playback and markers for Thin Lizzy's Cowboy Song.

SongSheet seems to cope pretty well with songs cut and paste from online sources. Here, I’ve also added audiofile playback and markers for Thin Lizzy’s Cowboy Song.

One other neat feature of the app is its ability to play back an audio file from your iTunes library. If you team this up with the song’s lyrics/chords, you can also add makers to link the different song sections to the audio file. Then, as the audio plays back, when a marker is reached, the display of the appropriate lyrics/chords is highlighted. The audio file selected for a particular song sheet, and any markers you create, are saved within your library and recalled next time the song is viewed. This makes for a very useful practice tool when you are trying to learn a new song.

There is also the ability to display lyrics on a external large screen, either via a cable connection from the iPad or via AirPlay. I’m not quite so sure I’d have use for this facility but for karaoke sessions or choir practice it could be useful.

In summary

For busy songwriters or function-playing bands, it is easy to see how the app could make organising all your chord/lyric charts so much easier. For example, if you make a living – full-time or part-time – from playing in a covers band, this could well be a real time saver and a comfort blanket when you need to pull out a song you haven’t played in a while at short notice. In that context, the app’s price is a snip at £2.99 (or the equivalent $/€ price) and will easily pay for itself in convenience if you already own an iPad.

Yes, if you have a big library of songs, whether stored in a paper format or for ‘capture’ from chord sheet websites, it would be quite a task to get them all set up within SongSheet. This is not a criticism of the app – it would apply to any digitisation of such a catalogue – but thankfully, it is a one-off task. Entering or writing songs from scratch is easy enough and the only real downside is provided by the limitation of using the touchscreen keyboard for lyric entry. Adding or editing chords associated with the lyrics is easy because of the well-designed user interface.

SongSheet is a very neat utility app and the development team at iSharp seem responsive to their users and keen to keep it moving forward with new features. If you are constantly cursing those lost paper-based chord/lyric sheets, then SongSheet might be just the solution to your problem.

Song Sheet


Update

April 25th 2013; iSharp have released v1.3 of SongSheet and the major new feature is the ability to print songs. You get control over the layout, etc. and can also create PDF versions for emailing to others if required.

 

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    Comments

    1. Brian Vorderstrasse says:

      I find this app. quite confusing! All the little Icons mean nothing to me except the turtle and the rabbit. It would be nice to have a manual. as I worked through some of the features I ended up with eight untitled songs that are blank pages I can’t get rid of? I also thought I could scan and import my thick songbook but I haven’t figured that out yet either. I have been able to type my songs in without a problem.

      • Hi Brian,

        I am one of the developers of SongSheet. Apologies for the long delay for the reply – I don’t get notified when comments are made to the reviews so I was unaware that you had posted here – a better option is always to contact us via our official support channels.

        Anyway – deleting songs is easy. With “All Songs” selected simply swipe from right-to-left across the song to get the Delete button. (This is a standard iOS feature in tables). For 2.0 (which we will be submitting to Apple any day now) we also add an Edit button which will make this more obvious.

        As to scanning existing songs – in order to provide features such as transpose and easy chord chart editing, we chose to focus on that rather than making SongSheet a generic document manager.

        Thanks for your feedback and if you do have any other questions/comments please don’t hesitate to get in contact via the support page on our website!

        Regards,

        Gabriel

    2. Charlie says:

      How do I copy a song sent through email as a PDF and open it in songsheet.

    3. Hello, I too am very confused. I have been downloading songs but have tremendous problems editing. Often the screen clears and it goes back to home. I’ll choose songsheet app again and select the song, and it might do it again or it won’t edit. It moves the curser a half space down and won’t do the correction that i want it to do. I am very frustrated. I really can’t edit the song that has been loaded. Now what?
      Bob

    4. How do I get support for this app? Is there a number, an email or what???

    5. HI There.
      I want something that I can back up onto my computer and use on my iPhone and iPad. The iPad is actually my wife’s so I need to be able to work on the songs on my computer and then borrow her iPad from time to time for gigs. The iPhone is just as an emergency back up or when I’m on the move and want to spontaneously burst into song on a street corner.
      What have you got for me?
      thanks,
      f

      • Hi Francis… I assume you mean you are looking for a song book/chord charts app like SongSheet? Unfortunately, at present anyway, SongSheet is iPad only but it does offer all sorts of backup options for your data to it is easy to move stuff on/off the iPad to keep it secure… The other option is an app called OnSong… that works on both iPhone and iPad… check that out as an alternative? best wishes, John

        • Is it possible to download an entire drop box folder full of text file lyrics similar to OnSong? I sure hope so. Or, do I have to import each song one by one? Thanks.

    6. Colleen Rouse says:

      Is there a manual or instructions I can use to help me operate this app. As mentioned by a couple of people above I find it very confusing and not at all clear how to enter songs. For example, how do I upload all my songs off iTunes as is do-able with another song sheet app

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