John O'Flaherty Projects

Flat screen score display

Pointers for using an LCD monitor to display piano scores on a Windows computer.
An LCD monitor does a good job of displaying PDF-formatted piano scores stored on a computer. It's an especially attractive alternative if a computer is already in use with the piano, for example, hosting digital piano software. The same screen can be shared between the two uses. A monitor of 22-inch diagonal size will display two side-by-side pages of 8-1/2" x 11" size, about the size of paper scores. With the monitor properly placed and angled, paper scores can be leaned against it, so it will also function as a music rest and won't ever have to be moved away. Leaning a paper score on the screen causes no heat buildup problem.
A PDF display program like Foxit Reader will be needed. This program can display the score along with menu bars and selection tabs, which will make the score a bit smaller, or in full-screen mode. The reader program will toggle between the two modes with the F11 key. Paging forward and backward in the score can be done with the right and left arrow keys. Multi-page scores aren't a problem. These keyboard functions can be evoked by foot pedals (as discussed later), so the player can play without stopping to turn pages.
The scores from multiple pieces can be open simultaneously in the software, so the player can go from one piece to another without shuffling papers. Changing from one score to another is done by mouse-clicking on the tab of the desired score when not in full-screen mode.
Foxit Reader allows markup of the score, for fingering or other reminders, while it is displayed for playing. With a PDF editor program like Foxit PDF Editor, erasures in the original PDF file are also possible.

Where to get score files -
PDF score files can be made by scanning a paper score. In cases where the score is part of a book and can't conveniently be scanned, it can be photographed, and the resulting picture can be saved as PDF. PDF scores of public domain works are often available on the internet, from and many other sites.

Pointers for scanning scores -
Use resolution of 150 to 300 dpi to get a good sharp image. If higher resolution is used, the score file will be larger and take a little longer to load, and if there is half-tone shading on the score, it won't be removeable even with photo editing software. Cropping the scanned image to decrease margins will make the score appear larger on the monitor. Cropping can be made closer by removing or repositioning title and other page markings.

Using foot pedals to turn pages and toggle screen mode -
This calls for three foot pedals that are seen by the reader program as the F11 and right and left arrow keys of a keyboard. A simple way to get this functionality is to add an additional keyboard to the computer. This could be an added USB keyboard, or, as I did it, an old scrap keyboard connected to an available PS/2 input on the motherboard. It is then just a matter of connecting the pedals in parallel with the contacts for the desired keys. The Windows software doesn't mind having two keyboards connected.

A handy way to use the monitor with scores -
 All scores currently being worked on can be kept in a single directory on the computer. When this directory is opened, typing control-A will select all scores, then alt-F will elicit the File menu, and then typing O will open them all. In about ten seconds, all the scores in the directory will be opened in the reader program, and the one to work with can be selected by clicking on its tab. Then F11 can be keyed or pedaled, and the selected score will be displayed full screen. I've opened as many as ten scores simultaneously.

Recommended software settings -
In Foxit, under Tools, Preferences:

Documents check “Tabbed documents”
Full Screen check “Scroll bar” and “Left click to page fwrd, right to page back”
Page Display

choose “Default layout” as “facing”

choose “Custom facing – 2 pages”

Document by John O’Flaherty
quiasmox at yahoo dot com