The MusicPad Pro Plus: Sheetless Sheet Music for Greener Gigs

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I received an e-mail recently from the folks at FreeHand Systems (Freehand) about the MusicPad Pro Plus (MusicPad), a patented device that can save reams of paper by electronically storing and displaying sheet music.  The MusicPad’s LCD back-lighting also obviates the need for external music stand light fixtures.

The MusicPad is covered by Freehand’s U.S. Patent No. 6,483,019 (‘019 patent), which is directed to a system for displaying music including an internet server, a computer, a plurality of viewers and a plurality of styluses.  Musical compositions are downloaded from the internet (including one of FreeHand’s own web sites, which offers 98,000 digital music scores) and stored in the computer’s memory.  The computer sends the musical compositions to the viewers, which have memories to store the compositions. 

The musician reads the compositions from the viewer (shown above), which, at 13.3″ x 9.9″ x 1.8″ and weighing about four pounds, can fit on a music stand.  The stylus allows the musician, conductor or bandleader to annotate the musical composition in the viewer, and save the annotations.  Multiple annotations by different people can be overlayed and saved in the MusicPad.

The first thing I wondered was how the MusicPad “knows” when to “turn the page” of the musical composition.  There the device relies on prior art; the ‘019 patent incorporates by reference U.S. Patent No. 5,760,323 (‘323 patent), which discloses a display stand that can advance the pages of the composition by a hand- or foot-operated actuator, sound translation software which “hears” the musical sounds and translates them into the notes on the page, or a timed interval.

The claims and examples in the ‘019 patent primarily contemplate multiple viewers displaying multiple groups of a musical composition to multiple users, with variations in the composition within and among the groups, i.e., a musical score for an orchestra.  Perhaps institutional performing groups like the philharmonic orchestras around the world might invest in MusicPads for their players.  For the average working musician, however, the $899 price tag could be prohibitive. 

At the moment, FreeHand does not appear to be marketing the MusicPad as an environmentally-friendly device.  If they do consider marketing the MusicPad as a “green” solution for musicians, they should first substantiate the device’s environmental benefits (i.e., by estimating whether the environmental gains from the paper saved by using the device would offset the impact of the energy the device uses).  But it seems that the potential is there for bringing an increasingly paperless world to the world of music.

Eric Lane Avatar

Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.