StaffPad is a music handwriting app that’s real — and it’s spectacular


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StaffPad is, quite simply, the most fun, innovative, and groundbreaking music notation software available today. The app is available exclusively from the Windows Store for $70. The only platform on which StaffPad is currently available, for reasons that we’ll soon explore in detail, is pen-and-touch based Windows 8 tablets like the Surface Pro.

With that in mind, let’s watch the 2-minute promotional video for StaffPad:

Watching the video may conjure up a sense of déjà vu, but let’s not dwell on that too much…

A brief history of music handwriting apps

…OK, maybe just a little, for some brief history: In early 2013, a start-up called ThinkMusic caused a sensation by releasing a promotional video for an iOS app that recognized handwritten music. The video was later discovered to be a series of screenshots from Sibelius and GoodReader, and was ultimately used as a fundraising tool for an app that never materialized. Nevertheless, the buzz demonstrated the intense interest in such a product, if one ever were developed.

Then in October 2013, Neuratron introduced a beta version of NotateMe, a new music handwriting app for iOS and Android devices, with an official 1.0 release two months later. Having years of experience with music recognition technology via its PhotoScore desktop software, Neuratron was naturally positioned to enter the mobile space with a related product. Since then, Neuratron has released version 2 of NotateMe and has integrated PhotoScore directly into the mobile app, via an in-app purchase.

If you use NotateMe, you are aware of its strengths and its shortcomings. Writing something naturally and seeing it instantly converted into typeset notation is nothing short of magical — when it works. It can be disorienting, though, to see your scribbles interpreted by NotateMe in real-time when the interpreted result is not what you intended. Because a split-screen is required — you write music in one staff and it appears, somewhat disconnected from what you entered, above your entry — you can only view a relatively small portion of your music at a time. The non-native interface is, to me, visually unappealing compared to many modern apps. However, with practice, NotateMe is a useful tool for jotting down brief musical ideas and sharing them with yourself or others for later use, thanks to its built-in MIDI and MusicXML support, especially if the only tool you have with you at the time is your smartphone.

The beginnings of StaffPad

During this entire time, and even well before the ThinkMusic video appeared, composer, orchestrator and programmer David William Hearn was thinking a lot about musical notation and its relationship to the digital, mobile world. (You can read a longer interview with David on this blog.) David is no stranger to the world of music technology; indeed, he’s done some high-profile work in music for film, TV, advertising, and the stage, including working as music editor and programmer on the film adaptation of Les Misérables — a particularly challenging task, given the nature of that film’s live recording process. He’s also one half of the team behind the Cinematic Strings sample library for Kontakt.

David William Hearn, with StaffPad
David William Hearn, with StaffPad

With all this technological know-how, though, David said he was concerned about the growing remove between the creative inspiration and the technical skills needed to compose music digitally. “I worked in sequencers and had to buy Sibelius because I was doing string arrangements for pop records,” David told me. “But my focus was on sequencers, and it seemed that the two lived in very different worlds. You were expected to write into a sequencer and then lay it out and finish the job in Sibelius, if it was ever going to be played by real musicians. That killed productivity and inspiration for me. As much as I contribute to it with Cinematic Strings, I really dislike the act of getting up in the morning and switching on the computer, opening up Cubase, having some iLok error to deal with, creating MIDI tracks, loading in samples, buying new sounds… it’s not a musical process, it’s a technological process.”

So David set about thinking of a way to bridge the gap, and the music handwriting app was born. “The actual moment of ‘let’s do this’ came whilst I was sat in Air Studios with orchestrator Nicholas Dodd,” David said. “He’s probably one of the top orchestrators in the world. There had been some crisis on the film session we were at, and whilst we were having lunch chatting about how we could solve those kinds of issues, I floated the idea that I’d been having about making a notation app that’s designed around pen. Nicholas lit up in a way that you rarely see, and flooded the room with enthusiasm. That was the moment that I realized that, if it was done right, the app could be useful to true professionals — but also be simple enough for the casual musician, teacher, student to enjoy.”


David then built a non-functioning prototype, but needed some serious coding help. “When I started looking around for freelance developers that I could hire to help me build this vision,” David said, “I thought, well, I should first look to see if anyone’s done it already. At that time, nobody had, at all. But there was a page on Google Code that Matthew Tesch had started. It was basically an outline of something he wanted to do, but hadn’t started yet.”

A collaboration was born. “Matt’s been brilliant. He’s the coding genius that makes it all happen. The recognition is all Matt’s work,” David said. “He works for Carnegie Mellon University programming search and rescue robots! We’ve been working on this together for the past three years.”

Those three years of work have finally seen the light of day today. I’ve been working with an advance build of StaffPad for a few weeks now, so let’s take a detailed look at it.

Getting started

When you open StaffPad, you’re greeted with a collection of tiles that represent scores, as well as options for creating a new score from scratch or from a pre-exisitng template. Scores can be tagged and organized by collections, meaning that a score can be accessed from more than one collection. There’s a sound store, where you can purchase additional sounds that work within StaffPad — though the app comes with a nicely full-featured set already.


If you choose to create a new score from a blank score, you’ll be prompted to choose your instruments. This process will be very familiar to anyone already using Sibelius, Finale, or most other desktop notation programs. You choose instruments from groups and add them to your score, and StaffPad will automatically order them in conventional score order. You can then save your score as a template if you have a custom collection of instruments you write for on a regular basis (more on how to do that later).


Although you may be tempted to just create a new score and start writing, I highly recommend first watching at least the “Getting Started” tutorial video and trying the interactive tutorial. The four other tutorial videos are also well worth watching early on. StaffPad is extremely intuitive, but you’ll save some time and frustration by learning more about how it works before diving in too much.


Key to the way StaffPad works is its method of recognizing your scribbles. It looks at every individual  stroke you make and then interprets what you wrote based on the relationship of each stroke to all of the others. David says that “it’s more efficient and accurate to take the position and temporal information from the pen, and then use musical context to decide what the music is trying to be. That way, you can do things that would totally confuse OCR. Because we know the order of the strokes and where they are in relation to the notes, we can say, OK, that’s a natural, that’s a sharp.”

Notes and rests

StaffPad works best when you write quick, unfussy strokes. Don’t be bothered filling in the blackness of a space to make a perfectly opaque, round notehead. A quick slanted line is what StaffPad wants for quarter notes and smaller; simple circles or ovals for half notes and whole notes.

There’s no need to select a bar or instrument before you begin writing; in this way StaffPad is completely natural. Customary swipe gestures to navigate and pinch-to-zoom gestures are just as you’d expect. You just write where you want, and the bar instantly becomes “active” — the staff lines turn red to indicate that StaffPad is monitoring your input. (To me, red is more of a warning color — perhaps I’d be more used to a Sibelius-style blue or purple to signify an active status — but that’s a minor quibble.)

Accidentals are also best drawn in the manner StaffPad recommends: One continuous stroke in the style of a lower-case “b” for a flat; two complementary “L” shaped strokes for a natural; four strokes to make a “#” for a sharp.

StaffPad is quite good at recognizing flags on notes to create unbeamed notes. You connect beams in an ordinary way, by drawing one or more lines connecting a set of notes with stems. StaffPad impressively recognizes note values as small as a 128th-note.

Half and whole rests are drawn simply as a single horizontal stroke on the third or fourth line from the bottom, respectively. An eighth-note rest is drawn like the numeral “7”, with additional strokes in the middle for smaller durations. Again, rest values as little as 128th notes are supported. Quarter rests are a bit of a curiosity: StaffPad prefers that you draw those shaped like an “S”, but I preferred to draw them more naturally, in the squiggle style. As long as I was fairly consistent, StaffPad recognized my quarter rests just fine.

Augmentation dots for notes and rests are drawn with a simple dot to the right of the note or rest.

Leger lines are simple, short horizontal lines above or below the staff; it is not necessary that the vertical space between the leger lines equals a space. The distance between the lines is irrelevant to StaffPad, as it merely counts the number of lines to calculate the note — although if you draw the lines too close together, you’ll make it more difficult to precisely draw in your intended note(s).

Chords are drawn by simply adding additional notes above or below the first note of the chord.

StaffPad will automatically add tuplets based on the context of the music and beam groupings, although you can draw in a numeral later, and StaffPad should recognize it, and bracket the notes when appropriate (such as over a group of quarter notes).


Ties and slurs are drawn in the usual manner, and StaffPad intelligently recognizes the difference between the two: a tie being an arc between two notes of the same pitch; a slur being an arc over two or more notes of different pitch.

Basic articulations are drawn as you might expect: staccatos as small dots, and marcatos as a inverted “v”, placed close to the notehead. Accents are drawn as “>”, and tenutos as horizontal lines as wide as the notehead. I found that StaffPad recognized staccatissimo articulations as well, as a short, vertical stroke placed near the notehead. In general, I found that reliably drawing articulations proved tricky, but I think an alternative way of placing them might be more effective (more on that later).

If a bar is active, you can drag its right barline to add additional space to write more notes. You don’t have to be constrained to the default width of the bar. StaffPad will re-space the bar correctly once you finish writing in the bar.


So far, all of that may sound like a rather dry primer on how to write music. Which, in a way, is precisely the point: yes, you will probably have to conform your writing style a bit to make StaffPad recognize what you wrote, but, as David said to me, “If you know how to write music, you’re already using the app.”

You might wonder how to erase something you’ve written: The Surface Pen includes an eraser button. Tap and hold the eraser button, and then use the pen to select or “paint” over any unwanted strokes to quickly erase them.


Getting into the StaffPad workflow

The real magic of StaffPad starts to become evident as you begin to move from bar to bar. All you need to do to move to any other bar is to simply start writing in it. You don’t need to finish writing in one bar; StaffPad won’t automatically fill the bar with rests. You don’t need to write in contiguous bars or select another bar to prime it. It is so natural, it’s almost jarring if you’re accustomed to selecting an empty frame in Finale or selecting a bar and pressing N for notes before starting in Sibelius.

As you do this, StaffPad renders the bar in engraved notation; StaffPad uses the Bravura font. It automatically respaces the music and corrects stem direction. You can also tap outside the active bar at any time for StaffPad to render it. This workflow was crucially important to David: “I didn’t think you should do either constant recognition — which is what NotateMe tries to do — or recognition after you’ve written your whole score,” David said. “I thought the recognition should happen one bar at a time; that will keep it fast and predictable. If StaffPad gets something wrong, you don’t mind correcting one bar at a time, but you don’t want to go through a whole score and try and fix all of the mistakes.”

Indeed, StaffPad won’t be perfect 100% of the time. If it can’t recognize something you wrote in the bar, it will render what it can, but it will leave the unrecognized strokes unchanged, and turn the staff lines in that bar orange. This signifies a “pending” bar.

About pending bars, David explains that StaffPad “will ask you what each unrecognized stroke is. You can report it, ignore it, or tell it what it is, and the app will learn your style. Train it well! This, conceptually, is key. Sometimes you might be writing graphic notation, and not have StaffPad try and apply recognition to it. This is really the first time you can write completely what you want and be experimental. That’s where this could really get handy: when you’re not trying to write conventional notation.”


In the latest build I worked with, I found pending bars to be a mixed bag. StaffPad will try to guess at your intended stroke and present you with a few limited options. If none of those are correct, StaffPad will offer you the entire library of strokes from which to choose, remove, report or ignore. Even when I methodically went through and identified each stroke, sometimes StaffPad would still keep the bar pending, and nothing would change. The concept is good, though, and hopefully in time StaffPad will both get better at recognizing strokes and simplify the process by which one identifies those which are unrecognized.

In any event, I heeded David’s advice to not let a pending bar interrupt my workflow. The genius of the concept is that you can move right along and get back to a pending bar later; your unrecognized ink strokes will be saved, and even printed (more on that in a bit).

Once notes are rendered, you can do some pretty amazing things with them. You can erase them just like you do your ink strokes, and you can even erase the individual components of the rendered notation. For instance, tapping on a beam of eighth notes while holding the eraser button will turn those notes into unbeamed (flagged) notes; erase the flags to turn the notes into quarter notes. If you erase a stem on a half note, it will turn the note into a whole note. You can even tap-erase secondary beams between notes to break the secondary beams.

Likewise, you can always go back to a rendered bar and add or modify the notation by drawing in more strokes. If you tap on a note, it gets colored blue. You’ll hear its pitch and you can drag it up or down to change it. Drag a note left or right to temporarily add space for, say, additional notes or accidentals.

You can tie notes between bars or slur over many bars with the greatest of ease. Slurs will snap to the nearest notehead, much as they do in Sibelius or Finale. Indeed, if you want to extend or contract an existing slur, just drag its left or right handle (the handles appear once the pen is in close proximity to the slur). To reposition or flip a slur, drag its middle handle.


StaffPad supports up to four voices, like Sibelius and Finale. Tap on the voice number at the top left-hand corner of the screen to specify the current voice. Stem directions will automatically adjust once the bar is rendered.

Finally, you’ll notice a pen icon at the top of the screen. Tap this to turn on a drawing mode, where you can freely write in blue ink on the score. Toggle the visibility of this layer on or off by tapping the eye icon.


Adding instruments, text, clefs, barlines, time and key signatures

As you get more into the details of working with StaffPad, the importance of the pen and its relationship to touch becomes even more evident. The palm-rejection technology is excellent; you can rest your hand comfortably on the screen and write in a natural way. The pen is generally for writing and erasing music; your fingers are for moving the canvas, selecting bars and using the menus. There is some overlap — for instance, you can select most menu items with the pen as well as your finger — but each tool, as it were, does what it does best.

If you touch and hold your finger on the screen, you’ll bring up a contextual menu. On the Surface Pen, the button above the eraser button is a “right-click” button, and so if you tap on the screen while holding this button, you’ll get the customary contextual menu as well.

Touching and holding your finger — or “right-clicking” with the pen — just about anywhere on the screen will bring up a contextual menu with at least two options: Insert Text and Instruments. Selecting Instruments will show the same window seen when creating a new score, and so you can easily add or remove instruments in the same manner.


If you’ve touched above a bar, the Windows keyboard appears, and you can type in technique text or tempo text. Simply typing in a number will tell StaffPad that you’re entering a metronome mark, and it will give you choices to select from (although dotted rhythms appear to have been omitted from the default options). Same with the most common Italian tempo terms: StaffPad recognizes “Allegro” and “Moderato”, for instance, and will automatically place these at the top of the system. If you type other technique-type text, such as “pizz.” or “arco”, StaffPad will place these on the top of the staff you had tapped on, in roman non-italic text.


Touching below a bar works the same way, except that StaffPad will interpret this as expression text. Start typing a dynamic like “p” or “mf” and you can instantly select it. Type other text, like “espressivo” and it will appear in the appropriate spot, in italics.


You will start to notice that StaffPad does an admirable job of collision avoidance and automatic spacing. While not at the level of a sophisticated desktop program, it nevertheless is more than adequate to keep your score perfectly neat and legible. As David told me, “I initially thought we were going to keep things very simple and just say that this is a very basic front end for Sibelius or Finale. But as you can see, the output is pretty good on its own. I wouldn’t necessarily put this output down in front of the LSO, but for the majority of cases, it should be just fine.”

If you tap and hold in a bar, you’ll see a few more contextual options: Change Clef, Change Time Signature and Change Key Signature.


These are all relatively self-explanatory, with perhaps one or two details: although changing the clef will change the position of the notes on the staff, changing the time signature will not re-flow the music, and changing the key signature will not transpose the music. This, said David, is by design: “The key difference between this and Sibelius is that it doesn’t try and auto-complete things for you. If you change the time signature, it won’t re-flow the music. That’s not to say we won’t have that eventually. But when you’re working on paper, you may be writing along, and then, in your head, you may have done a time signature change, and you just want to erase a note to fix it. That’s really easy to do in StaffPad. The assumption is that, musically, the user knows what he or she is doing.”

Still, StaffPad offers a bit of assistance: under-filled bars will be colored grey, and over-filled bars will be colored red, to help you identify those bars that don’t conform to the time signature. What you do with them is up to you.


If you touch and hold directly on a barline, you’ll see the Change Barline option in the contextual menu. Familiar options are available: double barlines, repeats, and final. Be aware that selecting a final barline is final in the true sense of the word: StaffPad will erase everything in your score afterwards.

Touching a staff name is pretty interesting (you don’t need to hold). Here, you’ll be able to change both the full name and short name of the instrument, exclude it from printing, and adjust some playback options (oh yes, we will get to playback).



Working with symbols and other musical elements

There are certain elements of music notation that are easier to enter digitally in StaffPad. These are found in the symbols palette, which can be accessed by tapping or touching the symbols icon on the top of the screen (to me, it resembles a snowman).

The basic concept is that you select the symbol by touching or tapping it, and then you place it in the score by using the pen, although the exact method differs a little in each case.

Trills, octave lines, hairpins and pedal lines are placed by selecting the the tile, tapping with the pen where the item should be placed, and then, if necessary, dragging the item to the right to extend it as far as you like. If, after you’ve placed the object, you find you would like to extend it further or contract it, first, deselect the tile in the symbols palette, then extend or contract it in the same way you do with slurs. Changing between a whole-step and half-step trill is accomplished by selecting the “trill-to” note with the pen and dragging it left or right.


Glissando and portamento lines are quickly placed by selecting the appropriate tile and simply tapping between the two notes. StaffPad intelligently snaps the line between the two notes, adds extra space if accidentals are present, moves the line up or down if you move the notes, and adds multiple lines for chords. (Take note, Sibelius and Finale.)


A single note tremolo is placed by selecting the appropriate tile and “painting” the notes with the pen from left to right.  Dragging the pen up on up-stemmed notes, or down on down-stemmed notes, will add more strokes, up to three. It’s really cool!

If you know how to place a glissando, and you know how to place a single-note tremolo, then you know how to place an alternating tremolo between two notes: just select the tile, tap between the two notes, and drag the pen up or down to add more strokes.


Arpeggios work much as they do in Sibelius or Finale: you select the arpeggio, tap the chord, and StaffPad snaps to the correct span of the chord. StaffPad offers the regular arpeggio as well as versions with the up and down arrows.

Grace notes and “X” noteheads are achieved by selecting the tile and then tapping on the note to change it. For grace notes, this means that you will temporarily over-fill the bar. StaffPad easily converted both single grace notes and beamed grace notes, and you can erase or add beams to grace notes in the same way you can with ordinary notes. However, I didn’t see a way to change a grace note or an “X” note back into a regular note, other than deleting and re-entering the note, although David said that this will be fixed in an update to the app.


Fermatas are placed by selecting the fermata tile and tapping on the note. StaffPad intelligently places the fermata not only on the note, but on all other notes on the same beat, on the theory that if one instrument is holding, everyone else is too.

Finally, rehearsal marks are placed in the same way, by tapping on the tile and then tapping in the bar. StaffPad automatically centers the rehearsal mark on the barline above the top staff in the score, regardless of which instrument you’ve tapped on. Rehearsal marks automatically sequence when they are added or deleted. By default, rehearsal marks appear in the “A, B, C…” sequence style, but you can change it to measure numbers by touching and holding any rehearsal mark and selecting Switch Rehearsal Mark Style. About this method, David said that “eventually, this will be how we simplify the symbols palette down, and expand it without complicating it: there will be no need for separate tiles for up/down arpeggios, different styles of gliss lines, etc.”


Of course, all of these items can be erased with the pen, using the eraser button.

I found using the symbols palette very intuitive. At the modest risk of the palette becoming too crowded, I would like to see articulations added to it at some point. Especially when adding repeated staccato dots or accents, painting them in in the same way that is done for tremolos would be very convenient.

Selecting, copying, transposing, adding and deleting bars

This is where the pen-and-touch approach starts to bear more fruit. Because StaffPad knows that tapping using your finger is different than tapping using your pen, it frees up your fingers to select and manipulate music without it being interpreted as note and symbol entry.

Selecting a bar is done by double-tapping on it with your finger. The bar and notes become colored blue, and a contextual command bar appears at the bottom of the screen. To expand a selection, single-tap on any bar above, below, to the left or right of the first bar you selected and all the bars between your initial and subsequent selection will be selected. Double-tap again, anywhere on the score, to deselect.

A selection in StaffPad brings up the contextual command bar at the bottom of the screen

Double-tapping on a clef will select the entire staff (only a single tap on the clef is necessary if a bar is already selected).

The contextual command bar offers the familiar Cut, Copy, and Paste, along with Select All, with some nice visual aids: Copied source material turns yellow, and the bars representing cut source material turn red, until you’ve made a new selection and pasted the source into your destination. Like other programs, you only need to select the first bar of your destination.

If you’ve made a selection, you’ll notice a handle in the bottom right-corner of the bar. Selecting the handle with the pen and dragging it to the right or down repeats the material into the adjacent bar(s), kind of like pressing R for “repeat” in Sibelius. I found that this only worked up to the edge of the screen and I was unable to drag further; it would have been nice if the score kept moving once my pen reached the edge.


Tapping Delete will delete any of the music within the selection, leaving empty bars in their place, while Remove Bars will actually remove that bar (or “measure stack,” to borrow a Finale term) from the entire score. If you are familiar with inserting columns in an Excel spreadsheet, Add Bars works the same way: select as many bars as you wish to insert into your score and tap Add Bars to add the equal number of bars prior to your selection.

Transpose Selection works as you would expect; select the interval and direction, and StaffPad helpfully tells you the number of semitones you’ll be transposing the music. Transposing by key is currently not possible in StaffPad.

Reverse Stems is a rather rudimentary way of “swapping” voices. If you have written music in voice 1 that is lower than the music in voice 2, tapping Reverse Stems will point the stems as if you’d swapped the voices, although the voice assignments remain intact. Perhaps an actual “swap voices” feature will be forthcoming eventually.

Rounding out this contextual command bar are Undo and Redo; Export; and Home. These appear in the main command bar as well.


Playback is hardly an afterthought in StaffPad. As you might expect from his experience working on Cinematic Strings, David said, “I’ve programmed an entire library straight into the app, so you have the full orchestra as well as a few other things. It’s quite detailed with multiple dynamic layers and round-robins. I’ve recorded a lot of sounds, licensed from Sonic Implants, or SONiVOX, as they’re now known. So these are Boston Pops samples, completely re-programmed from scratch to fit nicely with notation.”

Simply tap the Play icon at the top of the screen to begin playback. You can tap the deck controls to move forward or back one bar at a time, or simply touch and hold the red playhead and slide it wherever you like. If you’ve made a selection, tapping Play will solo those bars, like in Sibelius (the difference being that StaffPad will stop playback one it reaches the end of the selection).

In a nice touch, once the playhead gets to the midpoint of the screen, the music scrolls while the playback line stays stationary. I had actually tweeted a question about this barely a week before I first learned of StaffPad; clearly I wasn’t the only one wondering!

David told me that playback is “meant to be very functional, so don’t hit play and expect to hear back a real orchestra.” Still, for a tablet app, I was very impressed by StaffPad’s default playback results. To my ear, they were at least as good as Sibelius 6 or 7’s default sounds, approaching (though not quite equaling) results achieved in Finale with Garritan Instruments and Human Playback, or in Sibelius with NotePerformer.

Here’s my orchestral arrangement of “America the Beautiful,” played by StaffPad (visit my site to compare it to the live version):

If you’ve placed dynamics in your score, you’ll see the expression overlay reflect those dynamics. But you can further customize playback by drawing lines and curves to subtly enhance your score. It’s an ingenious implementation and one I’d love to see in other notation products. (If you copy a bar with a custom expression layer, however, the expression data won’t be pasted to your destination bar).


Should you tire of your custom expressions and wish to reset the data to strictly reflect the written dynamics, simply touch and hold the staff (with the expression layer active) and select either Reset Expression for Bar or Reset Expression for Staff. You can also use the eraser to erase expression data.


As mentioned earlier, tapping the instrument name will bring up additional playback options on a per-instrument basis.

I noticed one bug in the build I worked with: Regardless of what value your metronome mark is set to equal, it always reads the number as if it were equal to a quarter note. In other words, eighth note = 100, quarter = 100 and half = 100 all play back as quarter = 100. Dotted rhythms appear to cause the markt o be ignored entirely. Hopefully that will get sorted out in a future update.

Of course, playing back your score won’t be half the fun if you can’t save it and share it; read on…

Saving, exporting, sharing, and printing

Saving and exporting your StaffPad file is done via the Export icon on the command bar. You can also add or delete additional instruments to/from your score, and switch on Transposing Score via the command bar. Unfortunately StaffPad does not currently support a truly keyless or “open” key signature.


While you can manually save your file at any time, StaffPad is constantly making versions of your file, so manually saving is mostly for the exceedingly paranoid (myself included). To access these versions, tap the Home icon to go to the Home screen, then tap and swipe down the tile of your desired StaffPad score. Tap the Versions icon to select an earlier version of your score. Cloud syncing is supported via OneDrive, if you’ve set that folder as your default.

MIDI and MusicXML export are supported, the latter essential for taking your StaffPad creations and polishing them in one of the more traditional desktop programs. Audio export is available via WAV and MP3, although I found that the built-in MP3 converter unacceptably degraded the audio (the “America the Beautiful” excerpt above was generated by exporting the WAV file and converting to MP3 in iTunes).

You can print your StaffPad score as a full score, a full score with all parts, or any individual part, by swiping in from the right edge and selecting the Devices charm. Choose Print and some basic options are available for you to choose from. Multirests currently don’t appear, but David said that they are one of the features currently in development, to appear only appear during printing, not on screen.


As mentioned earlier, unrecognized ink strokes will be included in the printouts that StaffPad generates.

Final details, thoughts, price and availability

This is a full-fledged notation-based composition app, no bones about it. In my opinion, it’s the first seriously usable one made for tablet PCs, handwriting recognition or otherwise. “Seriously usable” is an understatement; it’s mind-blowingly awesome, a few of its debut quirks notwithstanding.

A brief wish list of features for the next versions or updates:

  • Chord symbols and lyrics — David says that these items are “absolutely the next things on the list.”
  • Cross-staff support
  • Keyless/”open” key signature support
  • Being able to lock an active bar — sometimes when drawing too high above or too low below the staff, the active bar turned inactive
  • Refining the symbols palette and including an option to “paint” articulations
  • Better support for portrait mode — the music doesn’t reflow across multiple systems, so you’re currently left with a narrow strip of music if your score only has a handful of instruments

No doubt the app would have broader market appeal if it weren’t only for Windows. “StaffPad was designed to handle full orchestral scores with a pen,” David said, when asked about that. “One of the reasons I didn’t make StaffPad for the iPad in the end, was, although it makes business sense since everyone has an iPad, the design concessions were just too great. For example, you’d have to have a drawing mode, a navigation mode, or split the screen, which means that you wouldn’t have much room for your music; you don’t get the palm rejection. It makes the market much smaller, but it’s the only way I could design it how I really saw it to be.”

After working with StaffPad, I appreciated David’s uncompromising approach to the app in this way, at least for the time being. Not only is the pen essential, but the Surface Pro’s larger canvas compared to the iPad is a huge benefit. Given Microsoft’s enthusiastic support of StaffPad, don’t expect an iOS or Android version anytime soon, not to mention, David said that “from a technical perspective, it would be a major rebuild job. I’m open to the idea though – but only if the device is right and doesn’t compromise the experience!” Perhaps we can look to the early days of Sibelius as a guide; although the Surface is hardly the exact analog to the Acorn, had Sibelius not been developed for Windows and Macs, it would not have been much more than a footnote in the history of music notation software.

On the other hand, Microsoft is clearly hopeful that StaffPad will help sell a lot more Surfaces, and they may be onto something there. I demonstrated the app to a prominent composer who doesn’t currently own a tablet. After seeing StaffPad, she said she was more likely to get a Surface because of it. Of course, if you already own a Surface Pro, buying StaffPad is a no-brainer, unless you don’t want to endure your iPad-using friends constantly clamoring to borrow your tablet.

On StaffPad’s target users, David said: “The idea from day one was not to try and compete with Sibelius and Finale, which are amazing at what they do. We wanted to do something different, to try and make it not just for composers, orchestrators and arrangers, but also just for musicians. I actually think that’s one of the least-represented demographics: your cello teacher, your flute teacher, musicians in general, who don’t have the time to learn, or the money to buy high-end packages like Sibelius or Finale. But they might just want to scribble something down during their lessons.”

Regarding hardware: “The best experience on the app is had on any of the Surface Pro 3s. It will work on the earlier Surface Pros, but the Surface Pro 3 has the bigger screen and better experience.”

Price: StaffPad is available today at introductory price of $50. It will rise to $70 at some point in the future. [As of April 4, the introductory pricing has ended, and the regular price is $70.] Updates will happen automatically, and you can install StaffPad on up to 5 PCs. According to David, “for example, I can start on my Surface, and finish the score on my Wacom.”

StaffPad’s arrival onto the scene today has refreshingly jolted the field of music notation software. It’s exciting to envision what the future holds. For now, we’ll end with yours truly using StaffPad to write out a few notes of a familiar piece:

Updated April 1 with the above video. (No, it’s not an April Fools’ joke!)

Updated April 5 with correct pricing information.

For more information, see this post from November 10, 2015 about StaffPad for Windows 10, the updated version of the app, with new features.


  1. Bob

    The price has already gone up to the $70, at least at the link you provide. Great promise for this software/hardware combo, tho..
    No rating
    Published by
    StaffPad Ltd
    Copyright © 2015, StaffPad Ltd

    1. Philip Rothman

      Bob: I’ve confirmed that the $50 introductory price is indeed correct, and the price should adjust on the Windows Store later today.

      1. thashli

        I just wanted to know if the STAFFPAD application is for use only on Microsoft Surface or Surface Pro. I am using a Lenovo all in one tablet pc with multi touch feature, can I use staffpad on this device. Is staffpad available for purchase on any other site other than windows store ?

    2. Jim Jacobsen

      Oh, how I wanted this to work. Dropped $1100 + on a SP3/256 just to run this software. Spent hours, and hours, and hours on 4 bars of music for string quartet. Still not right. E-Bay, here I come. This app simply doesn’t work, marketing claims notwithstanding.

      1. Steve

        This app is what I and many musicians have been waiting for. Your comment is very disappointing. Can you write some more about what you experienced. I was ready to jump to a new platform and thought this would be the answer finally to a direct and simple way to score. Thanks

        1. Red

          Yes, pls. Does this thing really did not work as it should? I am soo into buying it the way they been showing it in FB. I’ll appreciate any updates. Thanks.

          1. Vahagn

            Well this thing ” STAFFPAD” works perfect spatially on SURFACE PRO 3 with I5 processor 4 gig Ram. As shown on Utube
            I am working with it since it was out. I had some issues, but overall its FANTASTIC.
            What is really missing , is the Chord symbols, Endings, page layout is funny too, some other important things like swing feeling, click pick up bar…. And so on . BUT I REALLY HOPE and looking FOREWORD . Come on GUYS DON’t give up !!!!

          2. Terry Huud

            Good luck. I couldn’t get it to be consistent. I’m also left handed and the palm rejection technology does not seem to work well on the surface. Ymmv.

  2. Peter

    Do you have any idea when it will be available for the Mac iPad? This is great.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Peter: Not anytime soon, I imagine. According to David, “StaffPad couldn’t exist without a great pen experience.”

      1. Peter

        What do you mean when you say: “couldn’t exist without a great pen experience.”

        1. John Dingleberry

          I guess he means that witout a great pen experience an application like StaffPad could not exist. Glad to clear that up.

          1. Eric Hayes

            So now the iPad pro will come out in November, with “a decent pen”. Are we back on track?

          2. Philip Rothman

            I received this statement from the StaffPad developers: “We’re looking forward to investigating the capabilities of the iPad Pro/Apple Pencil, and will carefully evaluate it’s suitability for StaffPad.”

          3. Stephen Parris

            Hallelujah. As awesome as the app appears to be, it’s obviously just a matter of time before it makes its way to the Apple ecosystem whether by the creators or competitors. Well worth the wait.

          4. Janna Glasser

            HI Stephen: Please be patient. MusicJOT, the music notation program with handwriting recognition for iPad and iPad Pro, is in beta testing now and will be available to the public soon. It is a robust and complete app, just what you’ve been waiting for.

          5. Alex

            You know, one year sharp passed since you wrote that. And that app still under “Coming Soon” status… And their note’s font on screenshots looks ugly, by the way.

          6. J.W.

            The new iPad pro operating system (iOS) is still limited – it’s not a full blown OS like Windows or OSX.
            I can imagine problems in navigating through the app, not to mention issues with storage due to the extensive playback features in Staffpad.
            Furthermore there’s no potential for expansion on ipads, no memory or usb slots.
            I also believe an eraser feature is required for pen use. The iPad pro pen(cil) doesn’t have an eraser.

          7. Stephen Parris

            Well by the looks of the application as it stands, it appears the developers are more than capable of adapting to make the application function well within those parameters. If not, a competitor will find a way.

          8. Mike Owings

            This is (apparently) a small development team. New features for the app are not exactly rolling out quickly. They have a great start. I would sincerely hope that they maintain their focus and simply make the Windows app the best it can be.

            I understand why iPad users want something like this. But developing for two (constantly changing) environments brings a level of complexity that non-developers seldom appreciate. And as soon as they add iOS people will be screaming for OSX. Count on it.

            The company of course could hire more people and get investors to fund cross platform development, etc. That would likely raise the price and would be essentially be a bet that they increased number of users would make it profitable at the higher cost and that users would tolerate the increased cost.

            All the while Sibelius, Finale, and especially the Cubendo developers who left Sibelius are working on similar technology.

            It will sure be interesting to see where Staffpad goes development goes. We all seem to have pet needs. For example if the features included the ability to essentially create usable jazz type lead sheets with repeats/2nd endings and maybe more “band in a box/iRealb” type features I’d purchase immediately. Others of course have different needs/wants.

            Ever the dilemma for the developer….

          9. Stephen Parris

            Why would StaffPad be the ONLY app out there that can’t find clever workarounds for those issues? And those items that are mentioned here as limitations are actually considered “features” by most of us who don’t want to load up our systems with bloated applications that require those things to provide basic functionality. Innovation and ingenuity are American qualities to employ here. Sounds like the issue is “we don’t want to do it” rather than “it legitimately cannot be done.”

            (Starting to get the impression that the StaffPad hype is kind of like those movie trailers that show all the funny parts leaving you not plot or substance once you fork out the dough to buy the ticket.)

          10. J.W.


          11. J.W.

            I’m not being funny here! But you can’t have it both ways! If the device is limited, then obviously some degree of functionality is going to be lost.

            Yes, the iPad is relatively intuitive to use, it’s this simplicity that probably accounts for it’s widespread uptake (and Yes, I have an iPad air).

            However, in not having a full operating system, which I acknowledge, many don’t need, the iPad from the start is at a disadvantage when it comes to complex applications.

            Staffpad is already sophisticated, taking advantage of Windows capabilities not possible on iOS. This will only increase, adding more functions and complexity as it evolves.

            It’s not hard to see that any iOS port will be stunted at birth.

  3. Bob Zawalich

    I am totally blown away by this. The number of features available for an initial release is staggering. Bravo!

    Will this work on a Windows 8 “convertible” touchscreen laptop like a Lenovo Yoga? I’m not sure if there is anything specific to the Surface Pro hardware-wise, or it it will run, at least conceptually on any Windows 8 touchscreen. Is the Surface Pen usable on anything but the Surface Pro?

    Might open up the hardware options at least a little bit.

    But anway, this is mind-blowing, and it was a great review, Philip – congratulations to you too!

    1. joe ringhofer

      Hey Bob,
      I am using Staffpad with my Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga Tablet. I was stymied by the fact the pen does not have two buttons (hence no “erase” function). I found a solution on the internet which worked: Download the Wacom driver – then you can easily switch the functionality of the Lenovo pen to “erase”. I hope this helps. And yes, Philip, a terrific review. Staffpad, a great product!

      1. dimitris

        hey Joe,
        I use staffpad in my Asus vivo tab8. i have the same problem with the pen which does not have two buttons. Could you please let me inform which Wacom driver use it.

      2. Stefan

        Hi Joe,
        I just purchased a Lenovo ThinkPad 2 and I experience the same issue. The pen has no erase function. Could you please be more specific about your solution? My proficiency with this system is limited. What driver are you referring to?
        Much appreciated,

  4. Dave Metzger

    Wow… I’ve been dreaming about something like this for years (along with everyone else). I’m trying to get my head around how to use it efficiently in the film world, where you still need to produce hardcore mockups and lock to picture while writing, but I can see it as being completely applicable when working on a Broadway show, or writing a concert piece, or doing just about anything else. Bravo indeed!

    1. Mike Herron

      Hi Dave,

      Saw your name while going over the StaffPad. This is wonderful, a game changer for me!!!

  5. Neil Sands

    Do you know Philip what the introductory price in GBP will be? All I can see at the moment is £49.99, which is a long way north of $50, and it’s several hours now after you said to Bob that it would adjust in the Windows store today…. Thanks for any light you can shed.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Neil: My understanding is that the GBP price will reflect the USD exchange rate. The Windows Store here still shows $70 as of the time of this reply.

  6. Neil Sands

    Fair enough Philip, thanks. And I notice now that the timings of these messages are not in my time zone, so your exchange with Bob more recent than it appears!

  7. Delbert

    This is a stunning tool, extremely useful. Thanks for the great review.

  8. metaharmony

    Congratulations! The sooner it’s done for Apple as well the better of course, but yes, it does seriously tempt one to buy an awful Windows machine, even if it is just for using this application.

    1. Quikboy

      Oh no! The horror of using the most widely used desktop OS in the world. You can’t possibly use something that most common people use to get work and play done.

      1. Predrag

        This app doesn’t run on desktop; it runs on tablet. As much as Microsoft would like it not to be so, the two are rather different worlds.

        Not to forget, if one owns Apple gear, one doesn’t see justification to buy another $800 device only to run one $70 app on it.

        1. J.W.

          Staffpad does work on Windows 8.1 to 10 desktop PCs. The Windows tablets, laptops and Desktops all share the same operating system.
          Its, iPad and Macs which are incompatible: The operating systems are different – iOS and OSX respectively.
          So if you bought Staffpad, you can use it on a maximum of 5 (Windows) devices regardless of whether they are destops or tablets.
          You can’t do this with Apple devices.

    2. Janna Glasser

      Please be patient. MusicJOT, the music notation program with handwriting recognition for iPad and iPad Pro, is in beta testing now and will be available to the public soon. It is a robust and complete app, just what you’ve been waiting for.

      1. Terry Huud

        Janna – That is very exciting to hear. I spent at least $700 on a Surface 3/keyboard, etc and picked up StaffPad and am very disappointed. After two months it is a very frustrating piece of software with very poor tech support. Good luck to you and your product.

      2. quikmantx

        Any plans to make a Windows app? It’s nice to have options.

  9. MCRevolt

    Thank you for making this app. Looks very beautiful and functional. Glad to see in on a Windows tablet so I don’t have to buy an awful iPad.

  10. Joe

    “but yes, it does seriously tempt one to buy an awful Windows machine”

    Spoken by an Apple fanboy who has never used a Surface. It slaughters an iPad. Surface is an incredibly device.

    This app on an iPad would be a truly crippled experience.

  11. Brynjulf Blix

    Will it work on a touch-enabled Win 8.1 all-in-one or other touch-enabled Win 8.1 PC using a stylus pen bought separately?

    1. Scott

      I’m using this on a Dell Venue 11 pro (i-5 4300y w/4gb ram) with an active stylus. Works great!

      1. Jorge Luis

        Hi Scott,
        Can you share more about your impressions! A vídeo on youtube. Thanks

      2. Ha Vu

        Hi Scott,
        Can you share more about your impressions! A vídeo on youtube. Thanks

  12. David O'Rourke

    What font is being used? Only asking because of the whole screen shot/Sibelius issue with ThinkMusic.I can’t imagine Microsoft would sell something that wasn’t vetted. This one looks like the real deal.

  13. Ruby

    Looking to buy a tablet, which ones does this run on?

    Also Does the pen come with the program?

  14. Philip Rothman

    Neil: The introductory pricing is now reflected on the store.

    Brynjulf: The app requires an active pen, not just a stylus.

    David: StaffPad uses Bravura. I can assure you that the app works as advertised. Most of the screenshots in this review are ones I made myself.

    Ruby: StaffPad requires a device with an active pen and a touchscreen. The pen comes with certain devices, like the Surface Pro 3.

    Thanks, everyone, for the comments. Please note, my replies are my own, and I don’t represent StaffPad, although, having spoken with developers, I believe my replies to be accurate.

  15. Peter Roos

    Wow — I am kind of speechless right now. Philip, quick question, how does this integrate with Sibelius? Can you import / export scores and go back and forth? Thanks!

    1. Hans Nel

      Yes Peter, one can do it through XML

    2. Andy Pesich

      I have a fully loaded installation of Sibelius 7. I used to be a Finale 2003 user and find that exporting old scores from Finale 2003 (using Finale 2012) to Sibelius 7 via MusicXML works wonderfully. I would hope that this sort of export would be available in StaffPad.

  16. Bill

    From the questions asked, people are looking at the video but not reading the article!

    It’s worth the time to read it all!

  17. Derek Williams


  18. Vincent Diamante

    Would this work on older Windows tablets? For example, I’ve got an older Fujitsu tablet that does have a Wacom active pen digitizer, but it doesn’t have the capacitive touch digitizer. Seems like the demo video shows relatively constant use of both…

  19. Vincent Diamante

    Looks like the Windows store description answered my question. Both touch screen and active pen are required. Pen alone won’t cut it, if you’re using an older Windows tablet pc…

  20. Dan Gordon

    I’ve bought it and having a play with it — seems very promising. Has anyone figured out a way to do 1st/2nd endings? I can’t find a way, and none of the example scores have them, so I’m guessing maybe they’re not doable at this stage, which is a reasonably significant omission if so.

  21. Neil Sands

    I could see the reduced price on the web, following the link from this article, long before I could see it in the Store app. In the end I reset the Store app by running WSReset.exe. If anyone is hanging around waiting for the app to catch up, I recommend doing the same (though it’s possible the correct price would have been charged even if the old one was still showing).

  22. Stuart Pringle

    Will this work for notating drum scores / exercises? Seems very intuitive but would like to use it to write out anything from various 1 bar examples to entire pieces for lessons / students / personal gig notes.


  23. NegLewis

    Please make an app for people who want to use just the basic features.

    1-2-3 lines and 8 + notes and basic – mid school level.

    Make it Free with Ads or a couple of $.


  24. Andrei Pricope

    The recent interest shown on this excellent blog in StaffPad and MuseScore 2.0 proves two important and disruptive developments:
    – the shift toward music-notation on mobile/portable devices and (desktop) touch-sensitive displays
    – the “race to the bottom” in terms of pricing/value.

    Both developments should be of great concern but hopefully equally emboldening to the good people at Sibelius, Finale, and Steinberg… Absent their adaptation to these tidal trends, their products will be relegated to obsolescence quite rapidly, I suspect. Can Sib/Fin/Steinberg sustain their business model catering to maybe 20-30 worldwide engraving services who in turn focus on getting contracts from the best publishing houses and movie/animation studios and therefore require the top desktop engraving solutions?!?

    MuseScore 2.0 is probably capable of 90% notation needs for 90% of users, and it’s free. $599 (or around $280 for academic) Sibelius or Finale is a hard way to compete with free.

    Likewise, desktop-only is a hard way to compete with mobile-anywhere-anytime.

    Also, it’s probably a matter of time before someone figures out a way to go back and forth between all these apps that’s even more accurate than MusicXML. Yes, a less than fully legal way, perhaps, but remember what Napster did, what MP3 did?

    The times we live in… Survival of the adaptable, the flexible!

    (with continued thanks to Philip for this blog with excellent interviews and great tips)

  25. Terry Sanders

    Please show me a demo for the abilities of creating percussion arrangements. What percussion sounds are available for playback? Marching? Concert? Ethnic? World? Steel Drum? What what what?

  26. Candy Sisson

    Please let me know by email when it is ready for the apple.

  27. Plonk

    Very impressive! I’m also very interested in how percussion notation will work. For instance, can I draw an “x” as notehead for hihats, cymbals and rimclicks.

    1. Robert

      Yes, draw notes as usual and then apply the x from a menu up top.

  28. alberto martinez

    what about ipad? whoo used window? ipad is the real platform for musicians

    1. Quikboy

      “whoo used window?”

      Apparently people who can use proper grammar and spelling? I’d say many more millions of people use Windows as opposed to iOS on iPad.

      Nearly ROTFL when you said “ipad is the real platform for musicians”.

  29. Larry

    Apple Users:

    This will never be available on an iPad.

    At least not the way iPads are currently made. For starters you need an “active pen” which is way different than a stylus…

    Read Page 5, last section of the article.

  30. Luis

    Just lovely. By the time I get back from overseas, this should have developed even more nicely.

  31. Plonk

    And will it be possible soon to work with lyrics? That would be superb.

    1. Robert

      yep… lyrics function is very good.

      If you write four quavers, a triplet and a minim and then type (or even paste) in “ly-rics func-tion is ve-ry good” then it will place all your syllables under the appropriate note and lock them there, so if you stretch the bar the lyrics get stretched out too. It’s beautiful.

  32. Josh

    I’d like to know when the updates to include relevant jazz notation features will be released. In particular we need chord symbols and atonal key signatures.

  33. Metaharmony

    I forgot to ask for a very important feature when I offered my enthusiastic congratulations.

    I would very much appreciate a keyboard of sorts (but at least two octaves long) to be able to be called upon, in order to try motifs/melodies first before notating – not everybody has perfect pitch.

    P.S. “Fanboy”? How old are you? I have been using both platforms since the early ’80s, and I was not referring to the actual device (my fault for not being clear), but to the unadulterated awful Windows/Android aesthetics. I don’t own an iPad.

    1. Robert

      You can’t attach a keyboard and it doesn’t have an interface, but you can play on a synth and then import midi. It appears to be a bit buggy if you’ve edited the midi score in another program (well, in Sonar at least).

  34. Justin

    I’m fortunate to play in a brass quintet with Matt Tesch, and I’ve gotten to see builds of this from almost the beginning. I’m a dedicated Sibelius user, but if I had a Surface I’d be all over this.

    1. Hans Nel

      If I had a Surface Pro 3, I would combine Sibelius and StaffPad just as I am currently combining my workflow with Notion 5 and Sibelius.

  35. aidas

    Worst in program – WINDOWS…..

  36. Rich Pulin

    For MAC?

    1. J.W.

      For Mac use, you will need Parallels or Bootcamp, then a copy of Windows 10 installed.
      Staffpad is Windows only.

  37. Asbjørn

    This looks absolutely amazing. So glad to see some great software on a Surface. I’ve been meaning to get one for a while and this just helped me decide.
    And for all those Mac/iPad users feeling left out: Serves you right! Mac users are so arrogant about their devices – now they can be on the other side for a while. Which feels *very* good as a Windows user. May this never come to Android or iPad. For now it can’t due to those platforms having vastly inferior hardware.

    1. Quikboy

      Exactly. I generally don’t judge whatever OS or devices people prefer, but vocal Apple/Mac users seem to be very arrogant. There are a couple of iOS/OS X-exclusive apps that I wish were available on Windows, but it’s nice to see a creative-type app that’s completely exclusive to Windows for now.

      1. Dudley

        Cough, cough. iPad Pro & Pencil. Done. If StaffPad doesn’t release, be sure someone else will. Because it’s a true no-brainer at this point given the other absolutely stunning apps for music like GarageBand.

        1. Hans Nel

          Amen to THAT brother!

          1. J.W.

            IPad pro is still a stunted device due to the OS.
            You’re not going to get the full experience. A lot of the functionality would be lost, such as the sample playback; a hardware storage issue.
            Unfortunately, the iPad pencil doesn’t have an eraser, which is a key support feature for Staffpad.

          2. Stephen Parris

            Samples issue: But Garageband and many other sample-driven apps can function flawlessly?

            Eraser issue: A simple software feature would overcome that. A modifier button on the screen that you tap to switch the Pencil tip to eraser mode? Or require the FiftyThree Pencil that DOES have an eraser? Come on, guys. The whole “Windows Only” thing is a choice, not an insurmountable limitation.

          3. J.W.

            Yes, the iPad pro is a more capable device than the iPad, but it’s still limited by iOS.

            Also, is it worth taking the risk by developing a port for a device that has zero market share? Sure, I get the ‘take a chance/seize the day’ mentality, but the iPad pro coming towards the $1000 mark and above is unlikely to sell in great volume.

    2. Hans Nel

      Amen to THAT brother! NOT to Dudley. Posted on wrong reply. Windows 10 is kickin’ @ss!

      1. Alex

        Being a Windows user, I will never choose Surface Pro to move from paper to digital sheet music. Nothing can beat iPad Pro 12.9″ + forScore in that regard. And be sure there are much much more musicians, who need just to read music instead of write music. And most of them choose iPad Pro 12.9″ + forScore. Nothing to do here for 12.3″ 3:2 screen and complete lacking analogues of great froScore app on Windows. Another important thing here: I heard a lot of feedbacks from users of various handwriting apps (including this StaffPad), that you have to be precise. Even with stylus. Otherwise you will get wrong notes etc. And I’ve read a lot of complaints about such applications (including StaffPad), that users use many attempts to get right results. And here I see two drawbacks: 1) It is not fast, and it is irritating. Thus work is not effective. 2) Maybe even more important for me: Ergonomics. I think working with stylus your eyes will strain much more, because you have to watch screen every moment, and you have to be precise with stylus. While working with regular Sibelius, using keyboard, you don’t even need to watch monitor all the time, and you don’t need to be precise. And this fact gives more freedom and makes work more effective. So, to not make this app on iOS is only developer’s problem. There are another options like Kawai Touch Notation. Search it on YouTube. I have Sibelius on my Windows laptop, and I don’t need handwriting toys instead of powerfull Sibelius. And I will definitely go for new iPad Pro 2 in March to start my big way of moving from paper to digital sheet music.

        1. Terry

          I agree. The iPad Pro is awesome. Most of my sheet music is all moved over to it. One of my biggest regrets was the purchase of the Surfavce 3 and Staffpad. A waste of money.

  38. Barry

    Any idea if/when StaffPad will be available for Android?

    1. Asbjørn

      @Barry Android has no support for active pens (like the Surface has), so until that happens, it won’t be coming to Android. The app relies on the superior input support of Windows/Surface.

  39. Andrei Pricope

    @ Asbjørn: You’re funny! Thanks for preaching about arrogance without noticing the irony… Enjoy your “superior” device!

  40. a Martin

    The rumored, bigger iPad (“iPad Pro”) might be a candidate for a software like this.

    Anyway, nice to see some well made and good looking Windows software. It’s not too common in my opinion…

    1. Hans Nel

      That’s ONLY if the developers decide to develop for iPad. I should think they should start om Android first. Don’t know, my Note 4 pen looks quite active to me.

  41. Bryan Moodie

    @Andrei, active pens actually *are* superior to styluses. Pens have pressure sensitivity, multiple buttons, and may have tilt and contact width/height information. The vast majority of Android users don’t have pen support and iOS users have none (strictly speaking Wacom does make an iOS pen, but the software has to be written specifically to use that pen). It doesn’t how much people fangirl over their favourite brand. If the feature isn’t there, it isn’t there.

  42. Philip Rothman

    Hi everyone, thanks for the great questions and comments. I’ll try to answer soon! Right now we need to do a server migration because of all the traffic, so there will be a few minutes of downtime.

  43. Philip Rothman

    Hi everyone. Thanks for the great questions and comments. I’ll try to answer:

    Peter: No native integration with Sibelius; it can import and export MusicXML.

    Dan: No 1st & 2nd endings as of now.

    Stuart: It should work fine for drum scores and exercises, gig notes, etc.

    Terry, Plonk: It can do “X” notation, as described in the article. There are drum kit sounds and orchestral percussion sounds, but no other percussion.

    Plonk: Lyrics and chord symbols are top on the developers’ to-do list.

    Josh: As above – chord symbols are top of the to-do list. Atonal key signatures I don’t think are coming anytime soon, unfortunately.

    Metaharmony: I don’t think their plan calls for a built-in keyboard.

    Others: Yes, the active pen is key to the app. I’m a big Apple user myself, but I agree with David that the app, as he designed it, would be compromised on current iPads both in terms of hardware and software.

    Thanks so much everyone for your great comments!

  44. Tony Alvarez

    Where can the staff pad be purchased?

  45. Mihkel

    I thought samsungs galaxy note 10.1 already had such a pen?! Pressure and angle sensitive. Or am I wrong?

  46. Jeremy

    @Mihkel, Asbjørn, Barry, Bryan:
    Yes, some Android tablets, or at least Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1, have active styli. The Galaxy Note 10.1’s stylus is the same tech in that of the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2, plus a few other tablets. For instance, I’m using the pen from a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 on my Surface Pro 2 for the moment.

    So I guess that from an input/screen size standpoint, it’d be able to run on a Galaxy Note 10.1. However, that is only one device, and I didn’t think there were too many other Android tablets with active stylus support, in comparison to those available running Windows. Because of that, I’d not be as sure if they’d find reason enough to port it to ‘Droid.

    1. mihkel

      Sure, it would be a massive job, porting it over to android just for one device. Then again, ms surface is also just one device so by porting it, by law of average, the device coverage would be doubled. ;-)
      I know, the real world doesn’t quite work like that. Been using note 10.1 for 3 years as manuscript paper now. Shame there is still no real workable app on my platform for printing music…

      1. Michidar

        Couldn’t we use the note 10.1 as a remote ( splashtop in my case) to control Staff pad on a desktop Win 10 Computer ?

        Don’t wanna loose 60€ trying…

  47. Jordan

    I purchased and played with it last night. There are some glaring omissions/errors:

    1. You cannot save anywhere buy the “Music” library location on your PC. Network locations don’t work (blank), PC locations don’t work (Blank). I’m currently attempting a symlink workaround to get my data into a safe, backed up location (Dropbox, for me).

    2. A music notation program without voices seems pretty short sighted. If you want to include simple SATB, it’s an $8, third party in-app purchase. There seems to be no way to re-label instruments or re-path the sounds (I actually like piano for playing back my vocal comps).

    Regarding the windows-only, it will work fine with non-Surface, digitizer capable machines. I’m using it with a Sony Flip 15″ convertable, which uses the same (n-trig) pen technology as the SurfPro 3. If the app works on the SurfPro2 as well, that means it should work fine with any wacom-style pen.

    @Metaharmony – if you would like a keyboard for testing out prior to scribing, there are several keyboard apps. Pianotime (free w/ ads, $2.49 w/o) works great and with the swipe-in from the left you can switch back and forth between the two apps in a flash.

    I suspect that, without native input/output to Finale/Sib, the transfer of files via MusicXML will be exceptionally poor. My experience to date with MusicXML is that you lose nearly all of your fine formatting on transfer.

    Porting to Android for the limited number of digitzer device users is probably unlikely. Windows makes sense because there is a good chance that convertibles will increase with W10 (which should make the desktop/tablet play together better). If the iPad “Pro” actually comes with a stylus you can expect a port. A stylus was rumored as far back as the iPad2, but now that Steve “my way or the highway” Jobs is dead I guess anything is possible.

    1. Mark Jeffrey

      With regard to Save locations, you can change this in the app Settings. On Windows 8.1 you get to that through the Settings charm. On Windows 10, you need to click the “hamburger” top left in the app. I have mine set to a OneDrive folder, so the music is accessible from other PCs.

    2. Ralfie McCallister

      it’s a shame staffpad is limiting their sales to winblows devices. Once they configure it for the iPad Pro, sales will increase 10k-fold. Shoulda kept their eyes on the pryze….no matter what it takes, youse guys should get it right and do it for the mac peeps. the REAL creative types…..

      1. Terry

        Yep. I have to agree.

      2. John

        Take a look at MusicJOT for iPad which will be released soon.

        1. BlueTrombone

          REAL creative types!? You do know what’s said of opinions, right?

      3. Robert

        It’s spelled sheeps, not peeps.

        1. Janna Glasser

          MusicJOT for the iPad will be released in few weeks. It has been four years in development. Check out the video here:

  48. Nicholas Cooper

    Hello, Will Staffpad run on Apple iPad.
    Thank you.

    1. Hans Nel


    2. J.W.

      No. The iPad’s capabilities’ are too limited for what the developer is achieving with Staffpad.

      1. John

        Check out the soon to be released MusicJOT for iPad.

      2. Alex

        This is B.S. If it’s not enough capabilities even for iPad Pro, then their code/optimisation is a crap. Are you kidding me? Just to make notation and talk about “not enough capabilities”. Even not funny. No respect for developers then.

  49. Neil Sands

    Jordan, you can actually save StaffPad files to other PC locations and other network locations. The way I’ve managed it is to start as if for a MusicXML export, but pick StaffPad format *.stf off the list. It’ll tell you it’s exporting MusicXML but the file that gets created, and that can be over a network if you like, or Dropbox, is an .stf file that can be read by StaffPad.

  50. Jordan

    You can save elsewhere – I finally figured out how to make it recognize the network (no GUI here – it’s command line to find a network resource before you can browse folders – very 1990s). Still, you can’t set the default save/history location, which means no automatic collaboration via other cloud sources like Dropbox, no saving with history, no collections, and no ability to select a chart directly from the home screen.

    It’s a choice between 20th century manual file management and ugly Apple-style Cloud lock-in at its worst. It’s like a brand new Mercedes that has a tape deck or PandoraOne as your only two music options.

    BTW – the musicXML is pretty limited – here’s what a Finale export vs a StaffPad export look like when pulled up in a generic program like MuseScore. Finale is on the Left, StaffPad is on the right – note how none of the text was brought into StaffPad, and StaffPad re-staffed the voice parts to piano staffs.

  51. Laszlo

    I love this app! Great addition to Sibelius. Easy to learn and very mobile. Even $70 is not much for StaffPad..

  52. Tom

    Leaving aside personal preferences for one platform or another, the hardware is present on current iPads to use an active stylus, and such beasts are indeed available (and they work well, too) –

    These provide palm rejection, multiple click buttons, pressure sensing, etc.

    The iPad currently outsells the Surface approximately 30:1. Most musicians who have a tablet have an iPad. Surely the revenue numbers would justify a port to the iPad.

    Barring that, I suspect some enterprising developers will be bringing these features to an iPad app soon. Contrary to what’s stated above, there is no technical reason that this kind of app couldn’t happen on the iPad with an active stylus.

  53. Pete

    Active pen and digitizer tech are key to the experience, but it’s not *just* about the hardware. You need to couple that with solid system APIs that enable inking.

    Windows has direct inking support right in the OS because inking has been important as far back as Windows XP tablet edition.

    Surface is also just really nice and fast when it comes to inking. It’s a built-in priority UX, not an add-on.

    Disclosure: I work for Microsoft (primarily with the pro audio/music creation tech team)

    1. Mike

      Pete – MS needs to buy/invest and/or provide whatever support to help “complete” this ASAP.

      THIS is the kind of transformative technology MS has needed in this space.

  54. Ralph L. Bowers Jr.

    Thank you Philip for bring this to a wider audience quickly.
    This is the type of music entry most have wished and hoped for a very long time. Intuitive hand entry of notation is I believe what most composers and students have sought with digitizing music. Engraving of course will remain with Finale and Sibelius.

  55. Metaharmony

    @ Philip Rothman

    Hi, you do understand when I am talking about a built-in keyboard I don’t mean a physical keyboard right? I am referring to an on-screen keyboard similar to the one that pops up in Sibelius on command – when one does not shave access to a physical one.

    Obviously this device is for outdoors use, and it would help enormously to have an on-screen keyboard to try stuff out (with a simple MIDI keyboard sound), before we notate something, rather than notating first and trying (and correcting) later.


  56. Philip Rothman

    Tony, others: StaffPad can be purchased directly from the Windows Store.

    Jordan, Neil: Thanks for that info.

    Pete: Thanks for the info about the Windows OS and ink support.

    Ralph: I always appreciate your comments and support of the blog!

    Metaharmony: Yes, understood. I don’t think it’s a priority for them, but I can see the benefit. I just wonder if people would then expect the keyboard to enter notes, which is not the purpose of the app as currently designed.

  57. Akos Szilagyi

    So, exporting staffpad files are easy?
    I would like to use later that files in word. Is it possible, and how?

  58. Steven Ledbetter

    Amazing! I do need vocal lines with lyrics, though, for the music that I would be entering here.

  59. Fernando

    tem esse app para ipad ios ….

  60. rerarkas

    @Tom sure, if a musician (or anyone for that matter) owns a tablet it would probably be an ipad, but does it really get used for composition activities or does it actually spend most of its time on facebook or trawling netflix for the next thing to watch? Practically all Windows tablets are full Windows 8 now, so one device could run StaffPad plus any Windows software (composition related or not). So a case could be made that going with Windows means 1. getting what looks like it’s going to be a killer app 2. saving on device purchases 3. reducing complications like networking and file sharing between PC and tablet 4. you can still procrastinate the time away with facebook and netflix :)

  61. Veronique Burguet

    Really a pity that this does not yet exist for iPad… If such version ever gets available (in Europe), please let me know! Thx.

    1. Janna Glasser

      HI Veronique: Please be patient. MusicJOT, the music notation program with handwriting recognition for iPad and iPad Pro, is in beta testing now and will be available to the public soon. It is a robust and complete app, just what you’ve been waiting for.

      1. Alex

        You know, one year passed since you wrote that. And that app still under “Soon” status… And their note’s font on screenshots looks ugly, by the way.

  62. tchab

    Very interesting !
    I will buy once there is a version for android galaxy note ;-)

  63. Oisín

    This looks amazing! Does anyone know if it is files are compatible/interchangeable with Sibelius?

  64. ivan

    Instead Tablet Android 4 ?? Is there an equivalent software? Thxs

  65. Stuart Celarier

    The price I see in the Store is $70. I read in the comments that it had been corrected to the introductory price of $50 but no further comments on price. Did the introductory price expire already? Thanks!

  66. Neil Sands

    Stuart, when the cheaper price first appeared, it said it was for 3 days. So I think you might just have missed the boat.

  67. Stuart Celarier

    Thanks, Neil. I didn’t see that information in any of the announcements. Maybe the mention of the introductory price should be edited out of the top of this post for clarity. Cheers.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Stuart: Good suggestion, I have updated the post.

  68. Alex Karukas

    Has anybody tried this app on the Lenovo Yoga? I know that you can buy digitizer pens for the yoga but I would be interested to know how well Staffpad works on it.

  69. Jean-Francois Chicoine

    Can I get this pre-loaded in ms Surface? Thx

  70. Ralph L. Bowers Jr.

    Jean-Francois Chicoine, that would depend on where and whom you bought your Surface 3 Pro from.
    In most all cases you would purchase your Surface and download yourself from the Microsoft Store the application.

    1. Pete

      @Jean-Francois Chicoine

      If this is just for you, and you purchase your Surface in a Microsoft Store, they can help install any Windows app you want.

      If you don’t have a Microsoft Store nearby, or want to do it yourself, you’ll find installing Store apps is very easy. Just click the link at the beginning of this article while on your Surface.

      If this is more for something larger, like a whole classroom or something, there are folks who can help there.


  71. Jean-Francois Chicoine

    Thank you Pete. I was wondering… MS Surface Pro3 is PRICEY to say the least. The cheapest I found is $849 CAD. 64G w/core i3, can that do the job?

  72. Carlin Lemon

    This is amazing to finally see this – I have literally waited 10 years for this product! I began using a windows tablet to chart out my music all of 5 years ago on an HP TM2T, which had both touch and wacom stylus support. I initially used Photoshop (1 locked layer for my stave paper, and 1 layer for my notation) until I discovered PDF Annotator, which I still use for both writing and editing my music charts. I also use Sibelius when a score calls for it, but otherwise 80% of my needs are covered with my tablet. I also own an ipad mini, Ipad 1, and Ipad 3, but the lack of a digitizer literally cripples these devices for any of this type of work. They certainly have their strengths when it comes to numerous music apps, but notation is certainly not one of them,. At this point Apple is so far behind the game that it will be next to impossible for them to catch up to MS in this field. Their iOS devices still stand a chance if they address this deficiency soon, but for anyone needing the productivity of a full operating system, currently Windows is the only option, and the latest Surface is a fantastic piece of equipment for musicians. Along with the TM2 which I still have, I currently use a Sony Flip 14 and Acer R7 (2nd gen, 15″ screen) for all my music charting – both of which have an active N’trig digitizer, but I do have my sights on the Surface as well. Especially now!

    I am primarily interested in using Staffpad for writing out quick lead sheets. It’s remarkably full featured for a first release, but understandably still missing a couple essential features for me at this point. I need to be able to write chords above the staff (or between bass and treble staves), and would like to see support for multiple endings, winged repeats, multiple measure rests, and preferably a jazz ink font (which might automatically select winged repeats). The ability to hide empty staves would also be greatly appreciated as often only the first line of a lead sheet will require a 2 or 3 stave system. The optional addition of a mini on-screen piano keyboard as someone else suggested would also be useful (not for note entry, but just as an aural aid), as would a mini music player that allowed you to jump backward and forwards 5 seconds at a time when transcribing pieces. My current solution is to run Winamp in the background, and assign the 5 second navigational buttons to the media controls on a 2nd bluetooth computer keyboard. This also allows me to enter text more quickly than the onscreen keyboard.

    I have high praise for the developers and high hopes for this software. Thanks also to Philip for a great review. This literally changes everything!

    Carlin Lemon

    1. Philip Rothman

      Carlin: Thanks for your detailed remarks. I agree, and it appears that the developers do as well, that support for features that make it possible to create lead sheets should naturally be a high priority for a future update to StaffPad, especially chord symbol and lyrics support.

      Thanks also to you and everyone here for reading and for your appreciation of the review!

  73. Melinda Yin

    Wonderful post on an always reliable blog, Philip.
    I’ve only had a day to test out StaffPad on my particular setup:
    I’m left handed and have always gotten around Sibelius with a mouse in my right hand, keyboard in front of me, MIDI keyboard to my right, and my wacom Intuos pen and touch small in my left hand.
    So, while I don’t have a touch screen monitor or Surface, I am used to a digitizer and can highly recommend the Intuos pen and touch for navigating around scores.

    It works pretty well with Staffpad, and I am sure with time my hand/eye will improve so that the recognition will get better. Some advantages I imagine of using a Wacom digitizer over a Surface: you can keep your great big monitors. There are programmable hotkeys on the the Pen itself and the tablet also (I don’t know if the surface pen has those features). There is a side button on the Wacom pen that programmed to “Erase” so I don’t have to even physically flip my stylus pen around to erase my mistakes. It makes a difference.

    However, there is a MAJOR caveat for Wacom-only users, for which I haven’t found a workaround yet. I can’t actually access the Selection features in StaffPad. To select, copy, and paste measures requires the ability to “touch” the measures on the screen. Neither mouse nor digitizer input allows the user to select measures.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Melinda: Thanks for the great comments and question. I’ve checked and the developers told me that although you can select a measure by holding down the alt key and mouse-clicking it on the Wacom, but currently there’s no really nice way of expanding that selection, unfortunately.

      1. Melinda Yin

        I discovered a method today:

        Hold down alt + shift key simultaneously and then tap the first measure of your selection with your Wacom stylus. It will be highlighted. in purple. Keeping the alt + shift keys down on the computer keyboard, tap the last measure of your selection with the Wacom stylus. This allows any number of adjacent measures, even on other staves, to be selected for whatever operation.

  74. Henry

    Wow, looks amazing!

  75. timothy price

    By the time they get the bugs out of it, and it can notate 1/64th notes,.. etc.. it will be ready for the Mac platform:-) Looking forward to it.

  76. Linden

    You could run this on the new Surface 3 for $499 + $50 for the pen. Though you would probably also want the $130 keyboard cover. Then you would have a tablet that could run StaffPad, Sibelius, and Finale!

    1. Andrew

      Or save a little and get an HTC Stylus Scribe pen for about $10 on Ebay (which is also N-trig DuoSense).

  77. Jim Westlake

    A great tool. Though on my old Toshiba Protege they had staff paper that I could write on. Definite improvement over that process before the screen would not accept the pen.

  78. Janet W

    If you read the article on the Verge, where the co-founder of Staffpad/composer, David William Hearn is interviewed, you’ll realise Staffpad will never be ported to the Apple iPad.
    It was specifically written for tablets such as the Surface which have the combination of Touch and active pen integration on the actual screen.

    They initially started development on the Mac with Wacom, but eventually switched to Windows because of the touch integration. Mac OSX does not have Touch, nor will it appear in the foreseeable future.

    To quote the developer of Staffpad:-
    “I love the iPad, but it’s just not the right device for this app.”

    ” I tried really really hard to do it for the iPad when it came out five years ago,” explains David William Hearn, co-founder of StaffPad, in an interview with The Verge. “I just realized that if you’re going to do this then it’s only going to be a bit of a toy.”

    Luckily, Microsoft just released the Surface 3, the cheaper but no less capable version of the Surface Pro 3.

  79. Slava

    Hi, Philip!

    You’ve said that you can drag the handle at the end of the selection to copy the selected notes, but it doesn’t scroll when you reach the end of the screen.

    Although, it of course makes sense from usability perspective to add this behavior so people are able to do that, can you check, whether scrolling with the finger (using another arm) works while dragging with a pen? I think it should work as Windows handles different inputs independently. If it does, I think, it makes sense to add a note in the article, so other guys reading will also know that it’s possible.

    Really nice and extensive review, thank you!

  80. Jorge Hernaez

    AWESOME…!!!!! when will be available for mac..???

  81. Peter Roos

    Philip, quick follow up question: what are the minimum and recommended specifications for the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (in terms of memory / processor)? It’s a pricey device and I don’t want to spend $$$ for a hardware device I’d only use for one app. Thanks!

    1. timothy price

  82. Elliot

    What’s the re-barring process like?

    For years I have dreamed of a notation program where you can do one simple thing:
    write a line of notes before you add barlines
    then draw barlines
    and redraw barlines without a lot of cutting/pasting/changing time signatures / fixing broken stuff

    If they make this possible, I will buy a Surface.

    is this the one??

  83. Michael Beechey

    What is the licencing on the download purchase?…

    how many devices can it be installed on?…I would want to try it out on all my MS devices to see which ones work best.. ex…perhaps putting a wacom tablet on top of a laptop keyboard to avoid visual latency..

  84. Philip Rothman

    Hi everyone…

    Slava: Good idea, but scrolling with your finger appears to be disabled while holding down the pen to repeat a selection across multiple bars.

    Peter: No minimum specs are listed; they say that StaffPad was designed “to work perfectly with the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, however any Windows 8.1 device with active pen and touch support should work just fine” See:

    Elliot: Barlines are predrawn. However you can over-fill or underfill a bar as you like. StaffPad will color the bar to let you know that the beats don’t match the time signature. You can put in the time signature later, and StaffPad will not re-bar the music, by design.

    Michael: StaffPad can be installed on up to 5 devices.

    1. Michael Beechey

      Phillip Roth…yesterday when I went through some of the process of downloading from the ms store…the licencing stated 81 devices..don’t know if that is a generic statement for all apps…..went to look for it today on the ms store and the download button was missing…cant buy it….was that because I started the process and cancelled?

    2. Paul di Francesco

      Could you clarify your reply to Elliot – the last sentence is ambiguous – you can put in the time sig in later but StaffPad wont re-bar to fit?

  85. Melinda Yin

    The alt key + click tip works great, Philip. Thank you for investigating it. It actually opens up a world of functionality that was not possible because the entire copy/paste menu is now available.
    Yes, this method still only allows you to select one measure at a time. Handles then appear on the measure and dragging on the handles result in copying behavior rather than expanding the selection.
    But I don’t find it a deal breaker because I really consider this as an alternative note-input method rather than a full-blown engraving software.
    For those who are considering a Wacom Pen and Touch, you cannot pry it from my side. It retails for only $99; I think there are many advantages over a Surface. There is nothing like it to grab a small staccato on your score and move it exactly where you want it. Just “stab and drag”.

    Michael, there is no actual latency in the wacom device. But it does take some training practice to get used to writing on the tablet and seeing your strokes appear on a screen before you. Somewhat like practicing calligraphy.

    1. Michael

      Melinda…I didn’t mean latency in the tablet, I meant in the moving your eyes back and forth from the tablet to the screen….as quoted by the app author

  86. Dane

    “Apple fanboy”…yawn–keep working on your insulting terms. Does it occur to anyone that Mac people want to give this company some business, rather than show arrogance about which platform is better? Who cares? Looks like a great product! I’m sure that pen technology can be worked into iOS

  87. Neil Sands

    I may be wrong but I think that scrolling with your fingers while holding down the pen is out of the question, because of the technology that ignores your palm if you lean on the screen while writing. I think it basically ignores any touch that doesn’t come from the pen if the pen is touching or even just near the screen. Do correct me if I’m wrong….

  88. Richard Frost

    I contacted StaffPad about the performance of running StaffPad on the slightly higher spec’d “2015 Surface 3″ (quad core atom – 4GB RAM version). My wife teaches and has a need for simpler score creation so she is not writing full opera scores. I asked if the Surface 3 (not pro) was adequate for simpler scores and here is their reply:

    …”However, the new (non-pro) Surface 3 should be perfect for her — I have been testing the app on the 4GB model for the last week, and scrolling, recognition, and basic playback all work fine on this system. Compared to the Surface Pro 3:
    – the file loading for large scores takes a bit longer
    – full orchestral scores with many fast running notes in many of the instruments simultaneously cause playback stutters — the processor can’t quite keep up with this. We’re working on improving this in a future release, but I’m not sure how far we’ll be able to go

    For small scores, I think it would be perfectly sufficient. In case you aren’t aware, the pen is (unfortunately) sold separately (as is a keyboard), so keep that in mind. ” …

  89. Leonidas SAkellarides

    Hi. I am thinking of purchasing the app together with a Smartphone with Windows 8.1 such as Smartphone Microsoft Lumia 532 Dual Sim 8GB. Will it work in such a device?

    1. Asbjørn

      No, you will need a Windows tablet such as the Microsoft Surface 3 or Surface Pro 3. Other manufacturers also make Windows tablets, but make sure to get one with an active pen (the Microsoft Surface has one). It will not work on a Windows Phone.

      1. Leonidas SAkellarides


  90. Stuart Celarier

    Is there documentation or help files? Or a support forum?
    I have been using the app and have some questions. Comments on this blog don’t seem the best way to find out how to use features, current limitations, tips and tricks. Did I miss this somewhere? Thanks!

    1. Christian

      1. Stuart Celarier

        I did. As a software developer myself, I cannot imagine this support model scales very well to hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of users. As a user, I would much rather have developers work on developing the product than answering the same questions over and over. Better models for documentation and support already exist (forum, mailing list, user documentation, wiki, etc.), many of those are free, and they would be more efficient and effective for both developers and users. Would anyone be opposed to me creating a Google Group for StaffPad users?

        1. Michael Pyne

          I have no objection – but I do appreciate the fact that I can contact the developers direct and I have always had a prompt, helpful and informative reply. No doubt, over time, as the user number grows, they will need to handle these communications more efficiently.

  91. Dane

    To say “I don’t judge what OS you use but Apple people tend to be very arrogant” pretty much says that you are judging. Then to go on and say that Windows is the “most widely used platform,” etc. shows the same arrogance you judge Apple users for. And just so you Windows people know, iPads are used for more than just games and surfing Netflix. It helps me to run the DAW in my home studio. It’s an essential app for me to use on gigs as a working musician. I actually have some Office apps on my iPad. If you use a Surface, great! I’m glad this app was designed for that device in mind. As an iOS user, I would just simply love to see this app get ported over (and tweaked, obviously, because of the difference in pen/tablet technology).

    1. Ralph L. Bowers Jr.

      Just one minor point of fact……Windows is the most widely used platform (in business use). In the arts I see far more Mac than Windows PC’s.
      Your other points are spot on.

      1. Dane

        Ralph, I agree with your point as well. Now, Macs are not in the low percentile like they were, say, 20 years ago but yes–Windows is more widely used for sure.

        1. Stuart Celarier

          Keeping it based in fact, according to for March 2015, in the desktop operating system market Windows has 91.2% of the market, and Mac has 7.3%. That’s still pretty low percentage. The mobile operating system market is harder to characterize, since Windows tablets and convertibles are usually classified as desktops (exactly the same operating system) while iPad and Android tablets are classified as mobile devices (iPad and iPhone use the same iOS operating system).

          1. Ralph L. Bowers Jr.

            My observation about use in the the arts stands.

            Why did this devolve into a PC vs. Mac

            As an aside I use Windows PC’s…. seems to always have less issues when running Sibelius or Finale.

          2. Dane

            I’m certainly not about the Windows vs Mac (remember that ALL personal computers are PCs) issue. It’s tired; it’s everyone’s no-win battle plan. Ralph, if Finale and Sibelius worked for you on PCs, great. I’ve had ZERO issues with Finale on a Mac and I’ve used that program for over 20 years. Anyhow–the link I clicked on seemed to show BROWSER use, not PLATFORM use. Something I missed? Anyhow–back to topic: this looks like an amazing product. I honestly don’t need another tablet in my life–not avoiding this app because it’s Surface only.

          3. Stuart Celarier

            I understand about not needing another tablet in your life. However it is not “Surface only.” StaffPad is “Windows tablet with active pen only.” Here’s a list of such devices.

  92. Ron Mills

    This is a fantastic app and a great concept. Having said that I have to add that this app is absolutely riddled with bugs, some very frustrating indeed. To list them all would make this a very, very long comment, and some are crucial to the success of Staffpad.
    The other problem is the lack of many important features – no first/second time bar repeats means printing a realistic score isn’t really possible. No double sharps or flats etc. etc
    The selection of available instruments is also woefully inadequate, and the list of extra ones available for sale is pretty uninspiring.Even so I love this app, it’s much more user friendly than Sibelius or Cubase ,and even with all its shortcomings it’s great value for money.It’s only early days at the moment so I’m looking forward to some updates, and I repeat – it’s still a great app.

  93. Ron Mills

    Is anybody else having trouble getting staffpad to print? I can print single instruments from my score, although the piano part which looks fine in my score was just a mess. As for my full score, only nine pages long, just nothing – it won’t print at all. Both my Samsung and Epson printers are fine printing from any other source so what the problem is.

    1. Vahagn

      Hi Ron !
      are you still having a printing problem?
      how is the smart layout? i am really cearious about all that.
      people saying its crashes a lot.
      i think its just a matter of time , they’ll fix all that.
      over all i think its just an amazing app !!!

  94. Ron Mills

    I’ve just bought the Wurlitzer electric piano from the staffpad store but can’t get a sound out of it. Any ideas? I bought the nylon string guitar yesterday and that works fine.

  95. Joe

    What’s up with the price jumping to $90?!

  96. Ron Mills

    emailed staffpad support about why my Wurlitzer download wouldn’t make a sound and got the solution from David – restart staffpad by dragging down from the top of the screen. The Wurlitzer works fine now.

  97. Sanifu Hall

    Can Jazz (swing) notations be made? What about a hand written manuscript font?

    1. Philip Rothman

      As far as I know, swing playback and font substitutions are not available in StaffPad at the moment.

      1. Sanifu

        Thanks Philip.

      2. Vahagn

        Hi Philip and thanks for your help
        quick question :
        is Staffpad Crashes a lot ?
        I’ve heard from some people that its crashes for some reason and then you loose all your work.
        do you know if its fixable.

        1. Philip Rothman

          It does crash occasionally. But since it’s a v.1.0, I expect that developers will issue updates that will see it become more stable in time.

  98. Vahagn

    Hi every one I am a composer and jazz mysician from Armenia. It looks like many peoles dream is coming through. Since i am planning to get a Surface pro 3 and the Staffpad,My question for now is : how often you are having crashes?, cose I’ve been getting some messages from my friends around the world , that its crashing a lot and you loose the entire score.
    Thanks a lot.
    Love and big respect.

  99. Vahagn

    Hi Everyone !!!!
    any news about cord symbols, pick up bar, 1st and second endings, repeat signs and so on?
    one more quick question :
    is the a Big Band set up?

  100. Joe

    Wait….no first and second endings? Or chord symbols? How do you actually write any music on this besides classical?

    1. Justin

      I think that’s unnecessarily harsh for a first release written by a team of…two? Three?

    2. Edgar Pointon

      Chord symbols will be available in an update. In the meantime, write them in by hand as a text layer.

      1. Edgar Pointon

        … and according to a guy who knows the developer, first/second time endings will be added in the next update, due soon.

  101. Mauro Ciccozzi

    Excellent!!!And good price too.
    Welldone,i need it.

  102. Mauro Ciccozzi

    Excellent,and good price too.
    Welldone,i need it.

  103. Andrew

    I’m really looking forward to trying out this StaffPad – earlier this year I bought an Acer R7-572 with the hope that music writing software already existed and I was disappointed to see that it didn’t. Now it’s here I hope it’ll capture some of the creativity that seems to seep away when I try and get my head around programs such as MuseScore where the learning curve seems so steep.

  104. Ian

    can it be used on an touch screen Desktop running windows 7

    Many thanks

    1. Asbjørn

      @Ian No. It is written using the new platform (WinRT) found only in Windows 8 and 8.1. On July 29, you will be able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, which will allow you to run StaffPad. BUT – you will still need an active pen to allow you to write on the screen. And very few (if any) Windows 7 touch computers have the necessary hardware for that.

  105. d wilson

    Be very careful with this – for folk music with lots of dotted rhythms it is not easy to notate. It often won’t recognise dotted quaver/semiquaver patterns; Note all the demos are single/ beats!!!

  106. Andre Pallat

    Am I the only one that’s having trouble with this app. Despite various attempts and, being as careful as possible, the app. seems to constantly demand clarification of my hand writing and then takes me round in circles insomuch as to be virtually unusable…

    1. Vahagn

      Try to uninstall and reinstall it again.
      I thing you should be fine.

      1. Vahagn

        And one more question: what kined of surface are you using? Is it pro 3 with i 5 proc. ?

  107. Vahagn

    Hi every one !
    Any news about the cord simbols?
    When its coming out?
    What are the next updates?
    And thanks to all creators and developers again and again, to the DREAM COME THRU !!!

  108. Harri

    Thanks for an informative, inspiring article! I was wondering, is it possible to keep it in it’s handwritten form and print it etc? Could make for interesting engraving to blend the two (handwritten and digitally notated).

    1. timothy price

      > > As many of you know, I got a Windows Surface Pro 3 to try out StaffPad.
      > > Unfortunately it is (literally) a bust.
      > >
      > > But first, the good. The handwriting recognition with the pen is
      > fantastic.
      > > This is the one thing that Microsoft has gotten right on this device.
      > > Unfortunately everything else about it is wrong, and that includes the
      > way
      > > the pen interacts with the rest of the OS. The only way to enter text
      > with
      > > the pen is through the clumsy pop-up keyboard. If you have to use a
      > pop-up
      > > keyboard, then why bother with a pen?
      > >
      > > Apps that use the Metro interface work better than traditional apps.
      > Using
      > > traditional apps can be excruciating if they aren’t designed to adjust to
      > > the UI size settings. And many of them aren’t.
      > >
      > > As for Staffpad, it may be possible for someone to develop the magical
      > > looking facility one sees in the promo videos, but I doubt I ever will.
      > > With effort I can usually get it to recognize the notes on the staff, but
      > > rhythms involving more than one beam are basically impossible for me. My
      > > impression is they designed the interface around the writing style of one
      > > particular individual, and all other users are out of luck if they can’t
      > > adopt that style. I don’t seem to be able to. Even more frustrating is
      > > there is no way to see what the heck is confusing it. (There is a
      > > cumbersome UI that purports to do this one stroke at a time, but if it
      > > works I can’t figure out how.) Pen-based music scoring may be the future,
      > > and StaffPad may point the way, but the future is not here yet.
      > >
      > > The final nail in the coffin came today when I dropped the device. It
      > > didn’t fall that hard, but the screen cracked anyway. So fine, the screen
      > > cracked. Perhaps I could live with it, but the entire touchscreen became
      > > completely unresponsive. Compare this with Apple devices where the screen
      > > can be so cracked you can’t see through it, but the touch sensitivity
      > still
      > > works.
      > >
      > > Even worse, my only option for a “repair” is to exchange the device for a
      > > different one for a hefty $320. No screen repair available, and I have to
      > > send it off and be without a device for however long it takes. Compare
      > that
      > > to booking a time at the Apple Store and having it repaired while you
      > wait.
      > >
      > > There are many other annoyances, like the trackpad on the keyboard that
      > > constantly activates links or buttons without having being pressed or the
      > > pen button that is hardwired to oneclick or the crapware that came
      > > installed with Windows 8. (I have since upgraded to Win10.) All in all,
      > > this experience has been an expensive but useful lesson that I must never
      > > think of going back to windows. I’m so glad I still have the trusty
      > MacBook
      > > Pro.

      1. Paul Pauls Jr

        That’s scathing right there my dog.

  109. Ron Mills

    Windows 10 has caused me a couple of problems. Has anyone discovered how to add or remove instruments from a score. Also, I can no longer access settings.

  110. Desirée


    This looks to me a very great program and my question is; is it possible to use staff pad on this computer?: “Dell Inspiron 13 7000” (Series 2-in-1 Laptop)

    I’m looking for a new computer, but surface pro doesn’t have for example so many usb- and hdmi-ports, although it seems very good in other different ways…

    Is there someone who knows if I can use staff pad on this dell computer?

    Thank you!

  111. Kuan He

    I always keep my eyes on your product, it seems extremely awesome! I am a mac user, now that apple release their new iPad pro and i pencil. Do you guys thinking about put this on IOS platform? I will go have one if it is compatible on iPad.

  112. Mike Piper

    So is the magic in the pen or the chip in the Surface Pro 4

    1. Sanifu Hall

      How about both …… :-)

  113. cristian

    Staffpad runs on a Pentium 300 Lenovo® Convertible YOGA N3540 ???

  114. Youlee

    Can I get this on my Samsung Galaxy Tablet?

  115. Anna

    Can I get StaffPad to my Lenovo Miix 2? And if that´s possible what kind of pen should I have?
    Thank you!

  116. Gustavo valdez

    How put Coda a Segno in the staffpad

  117. Janna Glasser

    Hello, all iPad and iPad Pro musicians. MusicJOT, the music notation program with handwriting recognition for iPad and iPad Pro, is in beta testing now and will be available to the public soon. It is a robust and complete app, just what you’ve been waiting for.

    1. Alex

      You know, one year sharp passed since you wrote that. And that app still under “Coming Soon” status… And their note’s font on screenshots looks ugly, by the way.

  118. Martin

    Having trawled through many of the posts the messages regarding needing ability to enter lyrics is one of the next developments but is there any further news on when this is likely? Looking to buy a product for Christmas and as I’m involved in writing for and training choirs . conductors this would need to be coming soon to encourage me.

    1. Philip Rothman

  119. Heidi Kern

    Hi All. Would very much appreciate any input as anything computer-related is not my strongsuit. My daughter is a prolific musician and this StaffPad software would be right up her ally. She has a touch screen Lenovo on Windows 8, but it doesn’t have an active pen set up. So I was thinking Wacom Intuos pen and touch small tablet. Thank you for your input!

  120. smb

    Lost data with One Drive. I upgraded my Surface 4 Pro to a faster CPU (primarily for Staffpad) without a care as the first thing I did was set Staffpad to save to One Drive. But several of my pieces are now missing gigantic chunks. Good thing I still have hand-written versions!

    From now on, I’m using Dropbox. And actual paper!

  121. Nate Carmen

    I heard set this program can work on the Samsung Note. Is this true? Also, what about the Samsung Windows tablet that has an S Pen?

  122. TechAstro

    Everone likes that Android platform..Thanks

  123. Alex

    One simple question, which will instantly make everything clear for me. Can you make this in StaffPad?

    Second and third systems. There are a lot of such improvisational moments with small (cue sized) notes and “unlimited” (irregular) bars in Liszt’s piano compositions.

    1. Alex

      Since nobody answered my question, I make conclusion that this app cannot do that. Then, no consideration for it.

  124. RondaM

    Looks like a great product. Unfortunately, for software meant to be used on tablets if it’s not available for iOS, it doesn’t exist. Too bad it’s not geared toward professional use; there are thousands of us pros who would give it a try on a real tablet.

    1. Janna Glasser

      MusicJot, the music notation app for the iPad, with handwriting recognition notation, will be available to the public in January 2017. It has been in development for the last 4 years. We hope you will look for it and try it.

    2. Sanifu

      I am a professional and the Surface I use is more than a real tablet (it’s a quasi-desktop too)–JS

    3. Robert S

      “Unfortunately, for software meant to be used on tablets if it’s not available for iOS, it doesn’t exist. Too bad it’s not geared toward professional use; there are thousands of us pros who would give it a try on a real tablet.”

      Bwahh! Great to see Apple fanboyz and girlz are still at it. What an incredible skill to be so unknowingly adept at self-parody.

  125. Cellier

    Is it fully working with Samsung Galaxy Tab S and its C pen ?
    Thanks for your answer

  126. Tridip das

    Really.. this app is really awesome and working like apple phone music ap.. thanks for sharing it…

  127. Miguel

    Maybe some of you need a review in spanish!

  128. Stefan W

    I am new to Music theory and “writing notes”. I have a zillion (vintage) synthesizers but cannot read a single note, so age 58 I wanted to do something about that. So I first started to buy “music theory for dummies” and then I realized the vast power of Staffpad. You dive in to the theory in the book and then you start writing notes in Staffpad, you play and you hear the difference you learn / read about chord, pitch, melody, texture and then you start to play around with Staffpad and it all becomes much more “visual” . For me Staffpad is my best purchase in the Windows store for a long time.

  129. Robert S

    Yep – couldn’t agree more. It’s thousands of dollars worth of software for a really good price. My kids use it too – it’s a great learning tool. And it has one of the better orchestral synths I’ve heard built in. (I’ve put its output behind a singer for demos and it sounded like I’d hired an orchestra.) It’s easily my favourite piece of software on my pc!

  130. John Reed

    You should really give MusicJOT a try for iPad.

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