App Review: Tonara – Bringing Sheet Music into the Digital Age

By Carolyn Heneghan

Many musicians of all stripes love playing long, developed pieces, which are a chance to showcase their instrument and their mastery, and really dig into the complexities and harmonic deviations therein. But the bane of such lengthy compositions is the choppy, unavoidable page-turning inherently involved.

With the digital age, significant progress has been made in the music industry, from social media’s increased accessibility to musicians to the way they record and share music over the internet. The next development was to devise a way to help these artists practice and perform lengthier pieces more easily, and various guitar tab and automatic page-turning apps have since been created.

One such app, Tonara, from Israel-based Tonara Ltd., has been developed specifically for the iPad and takes this technology one step further. Most of the similar apps automatically and passively flip to the next scored section of the piece at the time the musician should reach the end of the previous section, based on a built-in metronome. Tonara actually listens to the musician and adjusts the page-flipping to when the musician actually reaches the end of the page in their own time.

With what’s been referred to as polyphonic note recognition, Tonara has the potential to revolutionize the way digital sheet music is played amidst a slow decline of the sheet music industry. The app actively and fluidly adjusts to the tempo of the musician, whether the musician plays faster, more slowly, makes a mistake, repeats a section, or stops completely.

To move beyond its competitors and improve upon the technology’s intelligence, Tonara had to listen, with the cursor following the performer in real time instead of the other way around. This provides a truly interactive experience for both professional and amateur musicians, as well as a whole new way to learn and perform their new or favorite pieces.

When you’re ready to begin, pull up the score you want to play and toggle the Tonara Magic button in the top right corner. As you play the music displayed onscreen, a red cursor tracks your every note, and you can see it actually slowing down, speeding up, and skipping notes as needed. You can toggle the metronome’s visual and audio presence on and off to help you keep time as you like.

Tonara also records your performance as you go along. You can listen to the playback to identify sections you’d like to practice, or you can save the recording with its own file name. When you save the performance, you will also retain valuable information along with it, including the date and time of the recording, the duration of the recording, and how many measures were played.

One handy feature of the app is that it is able to ignore ambient noise and not interpret it as part of the performance. You can also play with other musicians by setting up multiple iPads with several instruments playing at the same time. Another is the scribble feature, which allows you to take notes directly on the sheet music to help you as you go along.

Tonara comes with six scores already preloaded, including Beethoven’s “For Elise” and Chopin’s “Prelude in E.” To purchase more scores, simply access the store directly from within the app and browse their enormous, growing catalog of songs. Classical music isn’t the only genre represented. In the store, you will find sheet music for everything from pop and rock to jazz and soul to Christmas-themes and soundtracks. Scores are available from $.99 to $2.99, and still more are promised in the future.

The app is available for free download on the iTunes store for the iPad.