An electronic tablet that displays music may seem like a revolutionary concept, but it will come as no surprise to those music historians that take the long view. Ever since methods of displaying and disseminating text have been invented, refined, and popularized, those methods have soon been adopted and modified by those seeking to display notated music.
For centuries, those methods of displaying music have involved some manner of placing ink to parchment or paper. When computers came around, the music made the leap to being shown on a screen — although still as means of approximating what the “final” (i.e., printed) output would look like. That printed output looked much better, naturally, and was certainly much more portable and practical for performance and study purposes.
As tablets such as iPads have become ubiquitous over the past decade, displaying music has quickly gained a following for many owners of these devices. Apps like forScore and Newzik are godsends for gigging musicians, who can leave the cartons of songbooks at home and instead toss their iPad into their bag, with thousands of songs easily fitting onto a microchip.
Still, even the largest tablets barely meet the threshold of a display size comfortable enough to be read at a reasonable distance from a music stand, or by aging eyes. Whether because for centuries we’ve been accustomed to reading music in book format — seeing two pages at once — or the discomfort of looking at a backlit screen, or simply because of the familiarity of working with pencil and paper, the overwhelming majority of people reading and performing notated music still do it the old-fashioned way.
The GVIDO music reader, released late last year after years of development, aims to change the way music is read, by addressing all of those obstacles. It’s a dual-display hinged device that can show two facing pages. Although the display size for each screen — about 8 x 10.5 inches, with a diagonal display of 13.3 inches — is smaller than a letter-size or A4 page, it has a feature that automatically detects white space in the margins and zooms the image to the edges of the display, making the effective display size very close to that of those customary page sizes.
Those displays aren’t the familiar backlit displays common in most tablets. Rather, they utilize E Ink Corporation’s Carta e-paper technology, giving the screens an appearance much closer to that of an e-reader such as a Kindle, and thus being much easier on the eyes (and suitable in venues where screens would be inappropriate). And there is an included “pen” for marking up your music — but more on that in a bit.
From a conceptual standpoint, then, the GVIDO (pronounced “Guido” and named after Guido d’Arezzo, the eleventh century monk credited with the invention of music notation) checks all the boxes for a device that is poised to make converts of performers using printed music. But before you say “shut up and take my money,” you might want to know a bit more…
…and, since we’re on the subject, let’s talk price.
You read that right. As you lift your jaw off the floor, though, take a look at Onyx’s BOOX Max2 e-reader, a single-display 13.3″ device which came out around the same time as GVIDO and costs $800. Although the BOOX is more functional than the GVIDO, $1,600 for double the screens doesn’t seem wildly off by comparison. And since we mentioned Kindle: the display of Amazon’s newest, largest iteration, the Oasis, maxes out at 7 inches — barely half that of one GVIDO screen — and it goes for $250, not exactly pocket change.
So while $1,600 will probably be a disqualifier for almost everyone interested in the GVIDO, when you consider its peers in the market — keeping in mind the uniqueness of the dual-display — it can be justified, or at least rationalized. Also, the makers of GVIDO have informed me that they will be offering an interest-free financing option on their web site, which may make it a little bit easier for consumers to purchase.
In any event, let’s review what you get for those 16 Benjamins — or, if you like, 160 Alexander Hamiltons.
(Here I will mention that GVIDO provided me a new unit to evaluate, but in case you are wondering, no, I don’t get to keep it permanently.)
Bezel, size, weight
Each display has a bezel of about 1 inch on the bottom and outside edge, and about 5/8 inch on the top and inside edge, giving each display an overall size of approximately 9.5 x 12.25 inches. When opened fully, the GVIDO spans 19 inches wide, so its proportions will seem perfectly at home on any music stand. At 23 oz (650g) it’s easily transportable, and at 0.5 inches in depth it’s nearly exactly the same overall measurements as the sheet music for a certain popular Broadway musical (speaking of Hamilton).
The GVIDO comes with 8 GB of onboard storage, the same as the above-mentioned Amazon Oasis, but significantly less than the 32 GB found in the Onyx BOOX. However, about 3.3 GB is used by the GVIDO system, so there is only 4.7 GB available for scores. There is a microSD slot which can be used for additional storage.
Accompanying the GVIDO in its sleek black packaging are a micro-USB cable for charging and data transfer, a sleeve case, the required pen, three spare pen tips, and a little tweezer-like gadget for pulling the pen tip out of the pen. Over time, GVIDO says that the tip will wear down and require replacement.
Actual physical controls are fairly minimal and, with the exception of the page controls, are all contained on the right display. At the bottom there’s a small home button and a smaller menu button. The power button is off to the side.
And that’s the extent of what can be controlled on the GVIDO by your fingers. It’s crucial to note that everything on the screen can only be accessed by using the pen. That includes not just marking up the score or jotting handwritten notes, but menu selection, navigation, and entering text in search boxes and data fields. When you think about how accustomed most of us have become to touching our screens, it feels unusual and awkward to reach for the stylus to perform these basic tasks.
In response to a question about this, a GVIDO representative told me, “The reason for not adding a finger-sensitive touch panel is to make it easier to see the e-paper. If you install an electrostatic panel, the resolution will be reduced, and the color will change. The score will be blurry. There is also a method to attach an electrostatic panel to make a panel with high resolution and make it easy to see with side lights, but this sidelight technology is not established for a screen this big. Also, the price will be considerably higher. However, since there are also inquiries that the score cannot be opened without a pen, we are planning to provide some kind of alternative method in the near future.”
Presumably the sidelight technology referenced in the above statement is akin to that which is found in Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite or Oasis, which indeed are half the size of the GVIDO display.
Navigation and display features
Since we’re on the subject, relying solely on the pen to navigate the GVIDO is fraught with a more fundamental concern besides ease of use: what if you lose it? It’s not a commodity like a standard pen or even something fairly easily replaceable like a stylus or Apple Pencil; the GVIDO’s pen is proprietary to the device, costing $50 to replace and only available through GVIDO’s online store.
Moreover, there’s no convenient place to securely attach it to the device, although there is a loop to hold the pen embroidered in the soft sleeve case that accompanies the product.
Powering on the GVIDO takes about 30 seconds; you’re then taken to a home screen from which you can access your scores. Various viewing options are provided: in addition to listing all of your scores, you can choose from recently viewed or recently added scores, or search by composer or artist — provided that you’ve tagged the scores appropriately.
You can also see your set lists, an essential feature for using an electronic device such as the GVIDO. Here, the device’s dual-display is much appreciated, as there is ample room for viewing lots of information without navigating between many menus.
Upon choosing a score to display, the score will open with the first two pages showing by default.
Turning the page is achieved by tapping the one sensor on the right bezel of the device to turn the page right, or either of the two sensors on the left bezel to turn the page left. I found that it wasn’t strictly necessary to make physical contact with the sensor; simply hovering my finger within about 1/2 inch was enough to trigger it. A small green light in the upper left of the device flashes on when the page is being turned.
The smaller of two buttons at the bottom of the GVIDO brings up the menu settings in whichever mode you are in. While in a score, you can chose the pen size and shade, enter score information, adjust the display information for the score, create a bookmark, and navigate larger scores via a horizontal slider.
Entering text, such as score information or bookmarks, is done through an on-screen keyboard, which unfortunately can only be controlled by tapping with the pen, making such tasks rather tedious:
Tapping on Score display settings offers helpful viewing options, which can be set on a score-by-score basis, or globally via the GVIDO Settings menu.
Among my favorite settings was the Zoom feature, which automatically detects the margins of the score and removes them, allowing for a bigger and clearer view of the music. Users who wish to preserve the recto/verso layout of printed music, with the odd pages on the right and even pages on the left (evidenced by page turns in parts) will want to set the Initial score display to First page only.
On the other hand, using the GVIDO does not mean that you have to be bound by the same conventions as printed music. Should you wish to display the pages out of order — most useful if you are navigating repeats in the music with da capo, del segno, coda, etc. — you can do so by setting the Page display order to Custom. From here you can insert, duplicate, and re-order pages as you wish.
Finally there is the Score View Ahead option, which is a little disorienting, but if understood by the performer could come in quite handy. Basically it allows you to display the next page of music well in advance of turning the page, without losing your current place.
In other words, say we are using the First page only display option so that your first display has a blank page on the left and page 1 on the right. When you tap the page turn in an ordinary settings, you would be taken to page 2 on the left and page 3 on the right. But in Score View Ahead mode, tapping a page turn keeps page 1 on the right and shows page 2 on the left. Tapping again keeps 2 on the left but replaces 1 with 3 on the right.
So, the sequence is:
blank / pg. 1
pg. 2 / pg. 1
pg. 2 / pg. 3
pg. 4 / pg. 3
pg. 4 / pg. 5
Obviously a feature like this is demonstrates the unique nature of the GVIDO’s dual displays (although single-display apps can somewhat do this by showing half-pages at a time). This can mitigate quick page turns and, when used by a performer accustomed to the feature, ensure a smooth, uninterrupted performance.
Pressing the larger of the two bottom buttons returns the user to the home screen. Creating set lists is a straightforward, though somewhat tedious task; you can’t drag-and-drop items to re-sort them.
If you want to re-order the scores in a set list from the home screen, you must tap on the menu dots and selecting from a list, and then repeating that action over and over if you wish to change up your order.
A slightly better experience is found by tapping Show all, which brings up a screen showing all of your set lists. Tapping the menu dots there and tapping Edit brings up yet another screen, from which you can sort items more easily using up/down triangles and also add additional scores to the set list using arrows.
In general, once one becomes accustomed to navigating the GVIDO, it is easy enough to maneuver around, but don’t expect as satisfying an experience as with any modern tablet. The E-ink is slow to refresh and the user interface lacks certain efficiencies that might help compensate for the lag.
Among the reasons to use the GVIDO is the ability to make annotations. Being a greyscale device, however, those annotations are more-or-less limited to what you could do with a series of pencils of various weights. There is no highlighting, color choices, text entry, shapes, or even a library of musical symbols from which to choose, all of which could be useful on a modern digital device.
You don’t need to do anything special to start annotating; just start marking up the score with the pen. As you might expect by now, though, the experience will not feel the same as using a pencil or even one of the modern styli like the Apple Pencil or the Surface Pen. There’s a delay as each mark is processed, and it’s best not to go too fast when making a marking.
I got good results using one of the dark grey options, which helped differentiate my markings from the printed music:
You can erase any marks by flipping the pen around as one would with a pencil. There is also an eraser option available from the menu as well as a white-out option.
Annotations are saved in a Note group. Each file can have up to 100 note groups — helpful to create alternative bowings, or perhaps one group with performance marks and another with editorial indications. Although it is not possible to display multiple note groups simultaneously, it is possible to create a new note group by duplicating an existing note group — essentially a “Save As” feature — by selecting Create new with current notes. Note groups can be synced with the GVIDO Service.
Intriguingly, there was a Share with a group option, but when selecting it I received a message saying that “This feature will become available in a future software update.” Of course, if the GVIDO is to be used in any sort of collaborative or ensemble environment, this would be essential.
The annotation feature was made less useful, unfortunately, when used with the custom page order feature described earlier. I was excited to create a custom page order for a particularly confusing piano-vocal score to a show tune which had multiple repeats, a D.S. and a coda. Creating duplicate pages was easy enough, but when annotating them — for instance, to cross out sections of music which didn’t apply or to apply markings which only applied to a specific pass — I found that the GVIDO duplicated my markings across all copies of the page.
Notice how the markings I applied to my 8th page — a repeat of p.2 — were undesirably applied on the 2nd page as well.
Hopefully the ability to duplicate pages with separate annotations within a file can be added as part of a software update in the future.
When viewing a score created by a software program such as Finale, Sibelius, Dorico, MuseScore, etc., the GVIDO is pleasing to read — generally more so than reading music from a tablet.
Presuming the music is prepared at an adequate size, there is no strain on the eyes, although I wished for more contrast between the background and the items on the page. The grey background is similar to the early Kindles; there’s a reason why the higher-end Paperwhites are the future. The GVIDO could benefit from a lighter “paper”.
In ordinary lighting conditions, there is no problem reading the GVIDO, but because it has no backlight of its own, ambient light is necessary, just as it is while reading printed music.
Items on the page appear sharp and clear at a distance, but when viewed closely, the pixelation of the display becomes more apparent. Unlike printed music printed on a low-dpi setting, the GVIDO employs anti-aliasing like one would find on any other display to help smooth out the edges.
The GVIDO is noticeably less successful when viewing scanned music, music with a smaller staff size, or, worse, a combination of the two. While some scanned scores are legible, they are not as comfortable to read. Any skew in the document is exacerbated by the display, especially when it comes to staff lines. Certainly the higher quality the scan, the easier time the GVIDO will have in displaying the music, but lower-quality scans are much more of a chore to read on the GVIDO than they are on a printed sheet of paper.
The device itself is well-constructed and fits easily on a standard music stand. Its carbon fiber hard case is light but very sturdy. Although for understandable reasons I chose not to test this, the manufacturers claim the GVIDO is sturdy enough to weather a fall from the height of a music stand, should this unfortunate calamity occur:
Files and syncing
The sole file format that can be displayed on the GVIDO is PDF. The GVIDO does not have any ability to read MusicXML files or any other music notation format.
Files are loaded onto the device either by syncing files with the GVIDO Service (membership is included with the purchase of the device; registration required) or by connecting the device with a computer via the included micro-USB to USB cable. On Windows computers, the GVIDO mounts like any other hard drive and you can copy files to it. Mac users need to install the free Android File Transfer app; a minor hassle for the less technically savvy, but not a deal-breaker.
Files appear on the GVIDO only after you disconnect the GVIDO from your computer.
The GVIDO Service also has scores for sale through partnerships with major publishers:
These and any scores you choose to sync from your device appear in your Library. In addition to syncing your scores, the GVIDO Service will sync any annotations (note groups) that you make.
Notably, while you can browse thumbnails of your score online, you cannot actually view them in their entirety, nor can you download them to your computer from the GVIDO Service. Instead, you need to go through a rather cumbersome process of exporting them on the device and then connecting it to a computer with the USB cable. (Scores purchased through the GVIDO Service, as well as password-protected scores, cannot be copied at all.)
This closed, rudimentary system is a severe drawback if the GVIDO is to have wider appeal in today’s market. Not being part of a larger cloud-based ecosystem which includes e-mail access or any standard storage services, the GVIDO user will be frustrated when a colleague e-mails the latest piece or uploads it to Dropbox. Where an iOS app like forScore or Newzik would make quick work of grabbing the file and opening it, the GVIDO user will have to go through the extra steps of downloading it to their computer or uploading it to the GVIDO Service, and then back again to sync it with their computer.
The GVIDO is clearly being sold as an up-market device. A leather cover is offered in three color variants at $300.
A three-pedal foot switch is also $300. It can be connected to the GVIDO either via Bluetooth or USB, and the function of the pedals can be customized by connecting the switch to your computer and changing the settings. The foot switch can be used to navigate the set lists and select scores. This is the preferred method for navigation when used in a performance as it eliminates the need for the pen.
Unfortunately, the GVIDO Foot Switch is not compatible with any other devices, and vice-versa; you can’t use a more mass-market, reasonably-priced page turner such as the PageFlip or AirTurn with the GVIDO. Still, those for whom price is no object will at least appreciate the option to use a foot pedal.
Conclusions, recommendations, availability
I wish I could be enthusiastic about the GVIDO, but as it is right now, my enthusiasm is limited to the potential for its future descendants and not the current device, for two main reasons: price and the closed nature of the system.
I don’t see any problem in reading sheet music today that is solved by purchasing a $1,600 device. The GVIDO’s marquee feature, the dual E-ink display, is not enough to overcome its limited utility as an electronic paper reader. Musicians would be much better served spending their hard-earned funds on just about any other piece of technology. The interest-free financing option may lure a few customers who don’t have all the cash on hand, but it’s still a lot of money.
The decision to make GVIDO virtually independent of any common technologies is also a non-starter. From the proprietary (and obligatory) pen, to the walled-off GVIDO Service and lack of support for any mainstream cloud service, to the proprietary foot switch, GVIDO is sending the wrong message. Now, you might say, the Apple Pencil is proprietary to Apple iPads, so what’s the matter with GVIDO doing the same? The answer is because Apple is Apple, with millions and millions of users and a global reach. Besides, I don’t need a Pencil to operate an iPad, and even I did, I can walk into any Apple Store and pick up a replacement. If you’re at a gig and misplace your GVIDO pen — good luck.
Even if the price was lower and the system more open toward common standards, the technical drawbacks of the GVIDO are obstacles too great to overcome. Several times I encountered problems where the device would freeze — not at all ideal in the middle of a performance situation — like in this instance where I simply wanted to zoom in and change the display order, and I had to restart the device, which took more than a minute to get my score back up on the screen. A very awkward silence indeed…
Even when everything ran relatively smoothly, it still felt like old technology. If I were using this in 2010 — the year of the first iPad, and before mass adoption of cloud storage services, I’d be wowed. But in 2018 the GVIDO is well behind the times.
Why then, devote 4,000 words to reviewing a device that I can’t recommend? Well, as mentioned, there is potential; all hope is not lost here. This is very much a first-generation device that could lead to better things to come.
I don’t know what the business model is or how many units GVIDO expects to sell at its current price point, but if GVIDO can somehow sell enough units to stay afloat, and pour enough resources into research & development to make a device on par with more cutting-edge e-reader technology, there may well be a future for GVIDO.
It is very difficult to develop both software and hardware and to do both well, especially at the consumer level. Apple does it; Microsoft is fairly new to the game, having mostly been a software company for its entire existence (and still it’s an open question whether their hardware will be a long-term success). iOS developers like forScore and Newzik certainly recognize the challenge and are more than happy to follow wherever Apple takes the iPad, choosing to focus solely on creating software to take advantage of the latest hardware improvements.
So for GVIDO to be successful they will either have to make great strides in the evolution of both a unique hardware product and the tech that runs it, or focus on one or the other. There is something very natural about reading music in book form with two pages side-by-side; we’ve done it for hundreds of years. Representing music that way electronically is something only GVIDO can do for now. Whether or not that’s a compelling enough raîson d’etre will depend on creating a device that can be both adopted by more consumers at a lower price point and fostering interoperability with the broader technological world.
Price: $1,600 USD or CAD; £1,500 GBP; €1,700.00 EUR; ¥180,000 JPY; currently available from gvidoscore.com in the USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Japan.
In the box:
- GVIDO music reader
- micro-USB to USB cable
- Sleeve case
- GVIDO Pen
- 3 spare pen tips
- Pen tip puller
Optional accessories: A leather cover in three color variants at $300; a three-pedal foot switch for $300.
Thank you Philip for this detailed review. Given the limitations you mention in terms of luminance, resolution, compatibility and price, it seems possible this may not survive to a second generation, however I remain of the view that this is the way forward. I’m thinking of an entire orchestra with displays synchronised with the conductor’s score, sync’ed to a film recording session for example. Rewind the movie, and the scores all scroll to the correct page, or scroll the conductor score and the movie goes to the scene, along with the musicians’ parts. I’d buy that!
Indeed, Derek, it may only be a matter of time. Glad you enjoyed the review!
Thank you as well for this very interesting review.
Although the manufacturer claims a high sturdiness of the device itself, the displays I came to know to with ebook readers were very, very damageable. When you for instance accidentally lean on them with your elbow you can be definitely sure that it will break – or if it falls to the ground in a peculiar angle or so. It might be that it falls ten times without any scratch, but the eleventh time it will break. So it happened to me three times in a few months, and when you check at ebay, you will find tons of ebook readers with broken displays, all of them with displays from E Ink Corporation’s Carta…
So: Are there any options for insurance of these delicate devices provided by the manufacturer? If not, I would anyone advice not to waste their money on GVIDO – sorry…
Wolfram: Thanks for this information. I was not advised of any insurance options offered.
Interesting, thanks for the review Philip. I have my doubt about the feasilibity for the reasons you indicate (if you lose your pen 30 minutes before a recital, you’re dead in the water). Quick questio though: can you turn pages like this (either manually or with the footswitch):
1 and 2
2 and 3
3 and 4
4 and 5 – etc.
which would allow you to look ahead at the next page while you’re still on a page, so as to avoid surprises. Thanks!
Hi Peter. Interestingly I don’t think it is possible to set it up in quite that way. But the Score View Ahead mode (described in the post) is basically a more sophisticated way of doing that.
Oh … gotcha. Had to read it again, I get it now. So your eyes are going from right to left to right, back and forth. Hmm … guess you can get used to that, but it’s a bit disorienting. For $1,600 I’d like the thing to have the option to have it as I desccribed, as well.
The eink display wouldn’t update quick enough to slide the page over. I’d like an option that let me press the pedal at the bottom of the right most page. The left most page would get updated immediately and the right most page would get updated after a delay so I could finish playing it.
…that seems to be the job of „Score view ahead“ mode (just search above). It effectively does what you whish, but in a special dual display optimized way.
Very interesting Review, thank you for this deep insight! I followed the development of the Gvido some time now. Sad to see that it still needs so much work that it is questionable that it will geht the chance to get this done. I was out, too, when I saw the price tag some months ago, but the real killer is the closed Environment.
For the moment, my Surface pro does the Job reasonable enough for me and by the way also runs Finale, Sibelius, Dorico and nearly anything else I might need. The Gvido would still Need me to take a Laptop with me. Anyways, I still admire the possibilities and effort that went into it and somehow feel sad that its usefulness does not equal the price for me.
Hi Waldbaer. Thanks for your comments. I think your impressions are an accurate reflection of the possibilities and limitations of the product.
The gvido is light enough for choir. I also like the screen. It seems to have more uniform illumination than sheet music because of the screen’s matte finish, I have an iPad Pro 12.9 and its screen is pretty shiney and it’s heavier and smaller so it can tip over my music stand. The gvido‘s weight is spread out over a larger area so it doesn’t cause tipping. The limitations you mentioned were evident when I first got the product but, after a few weeks, I got used to them and, oh myyyyyy….., paper sheet music began to feel clunky and archaic! The gvido can be slow but digging through sheet music an be slow.
Even on my iPad Pro 12.9″ (2017) and forScore’s Crop/Zoom feature, maximum removing white spaces around, sometimes I can achieve not just comparable, but even a bit larger size of sheets, than in my original books or A4 prints from Sibelius (especially after adapting a bit sheets for iPad’s 4:3 screen proportions). Sure, I’d like the biggest iPad had 13.5-14″.
Now about device. So many drawbacks… First of all, I will never use any reader without backlight. Backlight is absolutely must for me. I was so many times in poor lighting conditions, practicing for hours in college/academy’s rooms in the early mornings or late evenings, damaging my eyes (yes, the electrical light in many rooms was poor and not enough). I even thought sometimes to bring from home my table lamp and socket extender, which is crazy. That’s why no way for me for devices without backlight. For many years I was watching monitors (mostly reading and typing texts) for 10-12 hours per day. No problem with that. Thanks God, still no need optical glasses. What is the sense to not having backlight? Just because it digital? No, that’s not enough for me, I would better use regular paper sheets then, instead of paying $1600.
Another thing – lags, lags, lags everywhere. Lagging screen, lagging processor, lagging pen…
$1600 – my goodness, I would better buy two iPads Pro 12.9″ (2017) and put them to work in pair thanks to Dual Page mode in forScore, which is so much more powerful and convenient tool. And two iPads – that’s not just two readers, they are multifunctional computers with great color screens. Color is good to make annotations.
Despite I’ve always been “Windows” guy and Android user, I’ve bought iPad Pro 12.9″ (2017). I was considering Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Book, but in the end I’ve realized that for today the iPad Pro 12.9″ + forScore (nothing even close to it on Windows or Android) + Apple Pencil + AirTurn PEDpro (or something from PageFlip) is the best and ultimate solution to work with sheet music. I don’t need fully-functional OS like Windows on my tablet, for me that would be not an advantage, but drawback. For Sibelius and all other desktop stuff I have my Windows laptop connected to big monitor.
So, I don’t believe in such devices like examined in this article as sheet music readers. They really look outdated already upon announcement.
I bought a GVIDO— a while back, and it surely came with the limitations that you outlined above.
The proprietary foot switch uses mainstream technology since it pairs with my iPad; it’s essentially a Bluetooth keyboard that provides up and down arrow keys. So gvido simply made a proprietary Bluetooth keyboard. I wanted to make my own Bluetooth device so I could randomly access pages (“remote control”) but the GVIDO hardware wouldn’t recognize my proprietary keyboard. They should have used low power Bluetooth (BLE) instead but they didn’t; like, even though I don’t use my GVIDO foot switch that much, I’ve had to replace its batteries several times already. That’s probably because users have to bend down— and turn it off after each use, and I forget to do that. It also takes a lot of work to turn on the foot switch and connect it to the GVIDO when I turn things on.
It was nice to hear that GVIDO wants to provide something besides their pen. Having used the pen and push buttons, I usually put down the pen to use the buttons and then I need to grab the pen again… That’s a tedious workflow! They should have provided a joystick and an easy way to randomly access pages during a practice session.
Scanning sheet music for the device is difficult. The pages have to be 8 by 10.5 inches, use indexed gray scale colors (I use 8) and have a resolution of 150 dpi for acceptable page turning performance. It took me a while to figure out how to get that result…. so I told technical support that they should have shipped software that turned images into PDF based scores.
With all that said, I like my GVIDO more than I hate it. I use it when singing anthems at church (“what a pleasure”) and when I play my piano at home. Those are the “sweet spots” (IMO) for my GVIDO because the outlined limitations don’t get in the way; I even told GVIDO support that they should start focusing on their product’s strengths instead of pushing fantasies.
The $1600 price tag will surely stop mass adoption but I don’t regret the purchase; the thing decluttered my music stand and it also made it very easy for me to carry my sheet music around, wherever I go.
Will the GVIDO survive? I don’t know. I’m hoping that early adopters— like myself, get discounted replacement hardware that fixes the “pen issue” and the “processing… please wait issue.”
Having another eink color (like red) would make annotations easier to see; showing a warning that tells me that I should turn the page (like, “the next page isn’t the next page” indicator) would be great.
But, like I said, I have no regrets.
Hi Michael. Thanks for your detailed comments and replies to other readers’ comments. They are very informative! It’s good to hear about real-world use of the GVIDO and your perspectives on its pros and cons.
Wow! Great review. I was really close to purchasing, foot pedal and all. Now, I think I will see how the next software update goes, and if they make it any easier to get pdf’s onto the machine. Thanks again.
Getting PDF’s onto the machine and managing them is still problematic.
Like, I sing in a choir and decided to put a bunch of pieces into a set; the most recently used list became useless since the GVIDO updates the most recently used list each time the next piece in a set is accessed.
So, when I went home, I was forced to navigate over all those pieces in the recently used list to find an unrelated piece that I had practicing before going to choir practice.
It seems like the GVIDO should simply be more aware and just remember the last piece that I played in a set and the GVIDO should only put the set name at the top of the recently used list and potentially indicate the last piece that was played.
To remove a set list, the GVIDO forces you to separately remove each piece in the set list and that’s tedious.
Creating PDF’s still remains a lot of work since scanning and creating suitable PDF’s is left as an exercise for the artist to figure out.
Okay, I know it has been more than a year since anyone commented here – but since this review still shows up when anyone googles “Gvido”, I think it’s only fair that someone should offer a balance to many of the negative comments made. Disclosure – I own a Gvido, bought second-hand, one month old, from a guy who “couldn’t get it to work properly”… for US$800. My gain, his loss. I’m a brass player; big bands, jazz combos, brass bands, musicals, rock/funk bands, indoors and out. Here are my thoughts after 10 months and over 200 gigs and rehearsals…
1. People are complaining about “no backlight”. So… how exactly is the backlight on those paper scores working out for you? I already had a light for my stand for indoor/night gigs – it cost me $9. It shines a light on my matt Gvido screens – all other pads shine a light in my face. Also, I can use it outdoors in brilliant sunshine (park gigs, garden bars, etc.) when even white paper scores can have an uncomfortable glare – and iPads are useless.
2. “The pen is a hassle because you have to put it down to press the menu/home buttons then pick it up again”. Really? Here are a couple of snazzy hacks… a) use your other hand, or b) press the buttons with your pen. You’re welcome.
3. “There’s no holder for the expensive pen, so it could easily get lost”. Well, I’m sure you own other small items of worth that you succeed in not losing. You don’t need the $300 OEM case… I bought an A4 zip-up conference folder in black PU for $12 that holds my Gvido, has a loop for the pen, and opens happily to sit discreetly on my stand behind the Gvido. The pen is never more than a few inches away from the Gvido at all times.
3. “It’s a drama to get scores into the Gvido”. Well, maybe the first time. When not in use, my G sits by my PC, USB’d and charging. If I want to add new scores, I scan, open them as slides in PowerPoint (surely everyone can get PowerPoint happening), make any notes and changes I feel like (cropping, adding text box reminders, cut-and-pasting), then save the slide as PDF into a folder I call “Gvido Scores PDF” (yes, PowerPoint has a “save as PDF” toggle). Note – if you’ve already marked up your paper score, then you just scan, open in .ppt, and save as PDF. To get them into my G, I just drag the PDF files into G’s upload folder, then unplug. The G is charged (I get about 20 hours of “screens on” per charge) and the new charts are showing in “Recently added” and “All scores”. For those complaining about grayscale and resolution issues… since when are your paper scores coloured or even grayscaled? Just scan in black and white. The end. Gvido lets you add any “grayed” scribbles with the pen for contrast if you need it.
4. “Next Page”. No-one here (including the reviewer) noticed you can customize views/turns on EACH SINGLE SCORE (you just press the small menu button and choose “Score display settings”). You can choose wether you want the auto page change sensor (or your pedal) to turn pages STANDARD (1,2 then 3,4), SLIDE (1,2 then 2,3) or SCORE VIEW AHEAD (1,2 then 3,2 then 3,4). 5 seconds to change – I’ve even done it on the fly during sets.
5. “I’m having trouble finding scores at a later date”. “All scores” gives you a toggle to list by “Title”, “Composer”, “Artist”, “Recently viewed” or “Recently added”. If you can’t find a score in 10 seconds, it was never there.
6. “I’m a (Windows/Mac/iPad/Android/Samsung/Finale/Sibelius/Whatever) user, so the Gvido is useless/not future-proofed because it is standalone”. Well, you’ve missed the point entirely. The G is a reader for PDFs. You may as well say you wouldn’t use a USB cable or printer or music stand or paperback novel if they weren’t branded Microsoft. The G has the biggest easy-read matt screens available – and they don’t need to “improve”, any more than drumsticks need to improve… they do the job as well as you could ever want. Everything else the G does is a bonus. All the other options DO NOT have screens this good. As a universal PDF reader, the G is no more a “closed off” system than your scanner or your printer. You can use any hardware or software you want – just export as PDF when you’re ready, and save to any cloud provider or storage system you feel like.
7. The Gvido is damned near bulletproof. It weighs next to nothing, it has a freaking weapons grade carbon fibre shell (okay, I haven’t fully tested that part), and the whole unit can flex. Mine has taken a fall (with the stand) from around 2 metres off a riser onto concrete… and bounced. Not a chip or scratch anywhere. It didn’t even switch off or lose its place. No glass-screened pad can compete with that.
8. “The Gvido is too expensive”. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s not too expensive. Mercedes, BMW and Maserati sell family cars that are really expensive. They are only too expensive if you can’t afford that level. Gvido gives you dual synced matte screens, displaying music scores in 1:1 ratio. Nothing else does. All of the valid options offer “more value” by offering other functions (iPads are also colour touch-screen media playing computers). So far, no other option is as good for reading music scores in any environment.
I was an early adopter and page turning still feels sluggish at times; I wish they could optimize page turning some more, perhaps by making the piece “read-only” so, while I couldn’t add additional notes, the page rendering engine would have less work to do when a piece was opened or in use.
And I wish it let me create page turning associated with an item in a set list instead of the piece itself or perhaps a set list item could be associated with a set of specific page turns that were stored inside a piece itself; that approach would also let me choose alternative page turning sequences for a given piece.
Like, I use mine at church and I’d love to have set list items that showed me different sets of pages in a program without having to extract and duplicate program pages into separate pieces.
This feature would also let me use different page orderings for practicing and performance.
Another area of improvement would be: the gvido would show me annotations that indicated that I needed to press the turn page button to see the next page since i sometimes forget to turn the page until its too late.
The page turn pedal is also huge and hard to shut off.
I have more positive than negative views about my gvido but it’s hard to recommend it since its a little sluggish and the workflows could use a little more polish.
Thank you Jeff and Michael for these user perspectives!
Hans Dieter Ulrich
I strongly advise anyone to NOT buy the GVIDO. I purchased one and lost the stylus within days. There is NO substitute device, which I knew, and the device is literally a dead paperweight without the stylus, which I also knew. But the stylus is the size of a small pen and has the weight of a micro-SD card so misplacing it is not just likely, it is inevitable. A replacement cost $50 with $120 shipping. That’s right $120 shipping. PLUS, you are responsible for import duties which means no matter whenever they ship the device, you will not se it until it clears customs and you have the inevitable back and forth with the US Customs Office which is incredibly tedious. There is only ONE feasible use for a device like this and that would be to have it sit on your piano for practice with the stylus super glued to the top of your piano.
Let’s start with the dumb stuff – why is there no way to attach the stylus to the device? A magnet? Must I apply velcro myself? I guess I do. Why is there no easily accessible way to operate the device manually using the buttons? IF you have the stylus, you can change all the settings to manual. it is incredibly difficult to do, but it can be done. But you don’t know that until you have lost the stylus and go searching online for a manual solution. The online instructions start with, “Using the stylus…..” because you CANNOT change the settings without the stylus, which to remind you, you have already lost. Just stupid, not awkward programming, not an unexpected glitch….just stupid, stupid. When contacted in Japan, GVIDO’s response was, “You must not lose the stylus, we told you that.” Very helpful, not.
Now on to actual practical improvements that are necessary for a true e-reader to survive. To start with, they need to program the ability to display 4 pages or 8 pages to make it more universally adaptable and so that if you are playing a song with 4 pages you can forgo turning pages altogether. It is a tiny, and very simple change to the programming that iPad and most laptops have long ago made.
You cannot be serious about the loading protocol. To upload to the website, then download to the device is tiresome and time consuming. Plus the meta data is read differently on their website so you have to manually rename every file as you upload. Then you need to check it on the device and in some cases, rename them again. The renaming on the device is super, duper slow and I mean sloooooowwwwwww. You need to be able to download or read directly from a Dropbox file.
It is insane that a music tablet cannot read music notation software. Literally idiotic.
So I reiterate, under no circumstances should you buy this device….new or used. Don’t even accept a loan of the device lest you try to use it at a gig and drop the stylus. Do not be tempted y the false logic of, “Well that’s an easy thing, just don’t drop the stylus.” You absolutely WILL drop the stylus and in time, short or shorter, you will lose it and then your are well and truly f…ed. This is not a minor problem, it is a life-threatening fatal defect.
Wow, that settles it. Thanks for the warning! Seems like a great idea got into the hands of the wrong developers.
yes; that’s a bit shocking that they dont have those wacom pens in the us.
have you tried getting one here:
I still like my gvido but I think it’s sweet spot is “at home,” and on my piano.
if there was a less than 10 lb, 24″ monitor in the marketplace for sale, i’d surely swap out my gvido for that.
I have mine for just a year now, I didn’t read this review before :-).
I knew there is no backlight, and in one of the comments above, someone argues that paper doesn’t have a backlight too.
That’s true, but paper is black and white, the gvido device is ‘dark’ beige, the contrast is much lower than black and white. Also reflection from surrounding light can be enoying.
The comment about always using the pen is a little bit silly, I don’t see someone do that when turning pages while playing.
The interface is slow and very limited, but that mostly depends on the way you want to use it. I make a lot of changes in scores I manage using musescore, and it’s not easy to replace a score by a new version.
If you have hundreds of scores, it’s really hard to keep them in an orderly way, tags don’t help much.
An option to allow selecting scores from one set into another would already be a great help. I already sent a dozen of enhancements but without much feedback.
And that is my biggest disappointment; the lack of support. There hasn’t been an update for one year now.
I’ve seen in the past what happens with companies who don’t update their software.
Since I have an ipad pro, I hardly use the gvido anymore. If my pad is on the piano rack, and I want to make some changes to a score, I edit the score on my pc, save it as pdf in the appropriate icloud folder and when I walk to my piano it’s already there to play.
I still use it when I play the piano in an elderly home (first time next week again after one year of lockdown, yes :-)!) because I can view two pages at a time. It is useful then when you have a predefined order of songs in a setlist,
but it’s too slow to search for scores randomly. (A concised view where you have like 30 scores on one page would help).
Do I regret buying it: no, do I recommend it to someone else: no.
Luc, thanks for sharing your practical and informed experience with us.
This experience has been pretty much my experience although I’m a little more sensitive about the pen since I need it when pairing my page turning pedal, and other admin stuff.
In my case, I recently added a dell 38” monitor and a macbook pro M1 to my digital piano set up and it rocks and rolls!
I’m guessing that the gvido folks wont survive on our tepid enthusiasm; they need customers with deep, compassionate enthusiasm.
On top of that my gvido isnt growing with me; like, i’m adding an apollo x4 to my digital piano set up soon and it surely wont work well with gvido.
Perhaps if I used my gvido more, the company would ship another update; the last major gvido update was a major improvement but since gvido stopped selling replacement pens in the US— at a reasonable price, gvido’s future looks bleak.
Most importantly, I havent purchased any music from gvido’s online music store and I dont have any plans to do so.
On the hand, I’m really curious about getting into piano playgrounds, and that’s another reason why my gvido would remain on its shelf.
Besides that, COVID must have hurt gvido as well since there are fewer opportunities for live music and folks are learning to play their pianos online (piano playgrounds) with ipads, etc…
So I’m not sure they still have a large core market for their product.
It will be interesting to see where battery powered micro led screens go.
It is strange that there has not been a review of Onyx Boox Max Lumi on your site so far. It seems to me that this device is much more interesting than the GVIDO reviewed in the article, primarily by the price and the absence of some disadvantages characteristic of GVIDO. For example, there is a backlight of the screen with an adjustable glow temperature, you can use a third-party Bluetooth pedal, the screen is sensitive to pressure not only with a stylus, but also with fingers. Not a closed proprietary “OS”, but Android. It would be interesting to know your opinion if you have come across this device.
I think most people simply use iPad Pros when they need a single 13” screen.
It’s true. I use a 12.9-inch iPad myself. Nevertheless, GVIDO was reviewed on the site, but the device I mentioned, which has fewer disadvantages, was not reviewed. That’s why it surprised me. Being an adherent of the iPad and forScore, I’m still interested in being aware of what other solutions there are. And this site periodically, not often, but talks about them.