Category Archives: Music Scanning

SmartScore NoteReader is available…How does it compare?

As I talked about scanning in my Technology in Music Education workshop yesterday, I noticed that SmartScore's NoteReader had been released on the App Store on the 15th. The app itself is free, but if you want to export any of the data, you have to pay $9.99 for the premium upgrade.

SmartScore NoteReader is an app that allows you to scan and then play music (for free), and then (as an In-App Purchase) to export data a number of ways (including e-mail and Dropbox) so that you could import that data into SmartScore Pro X2 or any number of music notation programs, such as Finale, Sibelius, MuseScore, and Notion.

SmartScore NoteReader allows you to take a picture(s) of a score, import a picture of a score, or import a PDF to recognize. In comparison, NotateMe's PhotoScore In-App Purchase allows you to take a picture (or a series of pictures) of a score, but importing a picture (on iOS) requires working through other apps, such as Mail. At the moment, NotateMe does not allow you to import a PDF. As a result, in terms of working with existing documents, NoteReader is easier to use than NotateMe/PhotoScore.

I have only done a few scans with SmartScore's NoteReader so far, and initial trials indicate that NotateMe/PhotoScore is more accurate than NoteReader. On a one part score, SmartScore's NoteReader scans with equivalent accuracy to NotateMe/PhotoScore–when all staves scan. NoteReader dropped staves that NotateMe/PhotoScore did not. PhotoScore also does a better job of handling lyrics–more lyrics are accuate than on NoteReader, although there are errors with lyrics on both apps.

On a single line band score, I would estimate that NoteReader is scanning at 75% accuracy while NotateMe/PhotoScore is scanning at 95% (or greater) accuracy. In a multi-page choral score, NotateMe/PhotoScore stays at 95%, while NoteReader's accuracy diminishes greatly (50% or less).

I am using the same set-up for scanning for both apps, with an iPad “document camera” stand and an iPad 4. It is possible that a closer photo could yield a more accurate “reading” from NoteReader; but I have noticed that NotateMe/PhotoScore tends to be a little more accurate when you don't zoom in very close to the page! Additionally, I would assume that the better the camera (in other words, with a newer device or an iPhone), the better the resulting accuracy of the scan. So, if you scanned with an iPhone 5S, you might have higher accuracy with both programs.

The current setup for scanning

Again, these are preliminary tests, and both apps are in their first weeks (or days) in the App Store. Undoubtedly, there will be app updates in the weeks, months, and years to come. It is exciting that you can scan music on your iPad (or iPhone, or Android) device without the need to purchase a scanner.

In terms of accuracy, NotateMe ($39.99) plus the PhotoScore In-App Purchase ($29.99) is currently the winner, by a large margin (particulary when dealing with multiple parts). In addition to scanning, NotateMe also is a handwriting-based music notation app which allows you to edit those scans after they have been recognized by the software. NotateMe's ability to “Open In” feature is useful when exporting the data to another app (such as Notion). Both apps allow for the use of Dropbox.

In terms of built-in useability (selecting existing images, using PDFs) and price, SmartScore's NoteReader (free, $9.99 In-App Purchase to export data) is ahead of its competitor. At 1/7 the price of the NotateMe/PhotoScore package ($69.98), NoteReader might be worth purchasing. And remember…both SmartScore and PhotoScore are very expensive desktop programs, each costing nearly three times the price if you were to buy both of these apps!

And if you want to just TRY these apps, NotateMe does have a “lite” version called NotateMe Now (allowing for one score at a time) which DOES include PhotoScore, and SmartScore's NoteReader is a free app (until you want to export data). So…if you have an iPad, iPhone, or Android device (note: the camera on the iPad 2 and the original iPad Mini are not high resolution enough to work with some apps, such as NotateMe), at the very least download the free versions and see what these apps can do!

Note: In the image above, I show what happens when you export the MusicXML file generated by these apps into another app (in this case, I printed these to my printer from Notion for iPad). Compared to the original score, both apps could not determine an existing multi-measure rest (there were 3 in the original file). NoteReader dropped the first and last staves of the original; NotateMe/PhotoScore's greatest issue was the addition of a second note to a number of notes in the score. Both scores picked up key signatures, clefs, and time signatures changes (meter changes) in the original score, and both can play back what they have processed from paper to digital notation. Just remember…whenever you scan in music, there will be clean-up. The important question at that point is: 'How much clean-up do I have to do here?”

 

My First “Real” Test of NotateMe’s Full PhotoScore In-App Purchase

Although I have had the full version of NotateMe's PhotoScore In-App Purchase, I haven't had much time to work with the app. We had a long family vacation, I am continuing to work in the basement, and I was getting ready for my sessions with the Wisconsin Center for Music Education this week.

I'm currently in a hotel, ready to work with teachers tomorrow–and an evening (or few) away from home gives me an opportunity to finally work with some of the apps I have wanted more time to work with.

I just finished scanning a two-part choral score that I purchased for my students at the end of last year. I won't say what the score is, but I would guarantee that most middle school teachers either have performed this piece or will perform it in the near future, as it is a very popular song from a very recent animated movie.

I chose to scan the score on my iPhone versus my iPad for two very important reasons. First, this is a hotel, and like all hotel rooms, lighting is not great in the room–so I could use the flash for the pictures. Second, I figure the iPhone has a better camera than the iPad (this is always true…the best camera ALWAYS goes into the top-of-the-line iPhone. In my case, we're talking both a 4th Generation iPad and an iPhone 5, neither is the newest, but the iPhone's camera is still better than the iPad's).

Ultimately, I am very impressed with the results. Like the PC/Mac version of the software, The Notate Me PhotoScore In-App Purchase does a good job reading most notes, diacritical markings, and yes, even lyrics. When I export from NotateMe into Notion on the iPad, the accuacy is amazing–I would say in the 95% range or higher.

Like other music readers, the app does occasionally miss stave groupings (e.g. reading voice parts and piano as continual vs. combined staves), but this may be because of the bad lighting in the room. I will try this again in the future.

However, like other scanning products, PhotoScore does get confused in a choral score where there are occasionally two staves, three staves, and four staves (when empty staves are hidden). I don't know if there is a way to encourage any scanning software to fill staves systems from the bottom up, versus the top down.

Let me put this another way: if you have an iPad (or iPhone), and you want to enter music into any software program (NotateMe, Notion, Finale, Sibelius, MuseScore), this app and its plugin should be considered a must-have. Without doubt, it is a pricey combination…$39.99 for the app and $29.99 for the plug-in. At the same time, you don't need to buy a scanner, and remember that PhotoScore Ultimate (Mac/PC) is a $249 option. Granted, the desktop/notebook version does have a editor embedded (And you can use NotateMe to edit), but as a Finale user, I have always found it easier to simply pull the MusicXML from PhotoScore into Finale. This holds true with the NotateMe version of PhotoScore….you may want to export the file to DropBox and open it in whatever app you wish, be it Finale, Sibelius, Notion, Notion for iPad, MuseScore, or any other app.

Musitek, the makers of SmartScore (paired with Finale, but not owned by MakeMusic) also has a scanning app for Android and soon iOS. My “hacked” HP Tablet running Android doesn't have a good enough camera for me to test that app and compare it with NotateMe's PhotoScore (also available on Android). I my experience, PhotoScore has always been more accurate for the music I scan (choral octavos) than SmartScore…and PhotoScore imports text (sometimes incorrectly, many cases of “the” are recognized as “tne,” for example). However, the SmartScore app will be a $10.00 In-App Purchase, so it will be worth purchasing at any case (SmartScore Pro X2 is a $299 program). The SmartScore app will also handle PDFs, whereas NotateMe's PhotoScore cannot handle PDFs at this time (something I hope for, as all of my music has been converted to PDF files). When the SmartScore app is released for iOS, I will certainly purchase it, and may even write a head-to-head article.

All I can say is that I wouldn't hesitate for a second to spend $39.99 on this app and another $29.99 for the PhotoScore IAP if I had a recent iPad and wanted to scan music…choral, band, or orchestral.

Referral Link: NotateMe (full version)

You can also download the free one-staff NotateMe Now, which comes with a free PhotoScore Now feature that scans one part at a time.

 

The Future is NOW (NotateMe Now)

In January of 2013, ThinkMusicTechnology stunned the music technology world, trying to raise funds to make an app that would convert handwriting to music notation. That fundraising attempt failed, and at last notice, that app was no longer being developed.

In the 2013-2014 academic year (roughly one year later), Neutatron released an app called NotateMe which converts handwritten notation to music. Additionally, they offered a single-staff app called NotateMe Now for free. The free app allowed people to decide whether they wanted to buy the complete app, and it also offered a wonderful tool for education (the teacher can create a score and share it with the free app that students can download). I used the free version with students in 2013-2014 to write compositions and to have my classes complete melodic dictation exercises.

The full version of NotateMe isn’t cheap ($39.99), but in my opinion, is money well-spent. Neuratron has been adding to the app over the months, and MusicXML import is now included in the app, as well as additional pens, ever-increasing accuracy, and more.

Neuratron is about to blow the market wide open.

I grew to know Neuratron from their music scanning app, PhotoScore. I am a Finale user, and I have been disappointed by the accuracy of SmartScore, another scanning app, that is bundled with Finale. I purchased the full version of SmartScore, but did not buy the latest update. I downloaded the trial version of the latest version, and for music I use (typically 2-4 part choral music), the latest version of SmartScore (X2) was no more accurate than the previous version I already own. I purchased PDFtoMusic, which is a great tool to convert a PDF to a MusicXML file if it was “printed” as a PDF from a notation package, and I also purcahsed PhotoScore ultimate to convert regular PDFs to MusicXML files. I find–again, with my music–that PhotoScore is the most accurate, including scanning of text (there is always editing to do).

For a long time, Neuratron has stated that they are bringing PhotoScore capability to NotateMe. This evening, NotateMe Now has a PhotoScore Now component. This is brilliant…you can scan a single-line score into NotateMe Now. I happened to have a single-line band score at my house, so I scanned it. The results were AMAZING. In a “easy” band score (Level 1.5?), there were only two errors, and even diacritical markings were scanned! This is all on my iPad!!! No scanner needed. Just click…

Let’s say you have a student who wants to hear their part…they take a picture of it, it gets imported, and they can hear it. If something gets scanned in wrong, you can change it BY HAND. This is life-changing for the musician, folks.

At the moment, there is no way to scan an existing PDF or to access a picture in your camera roll…you have to take the picture yourself. I am sure these will be addressed, especially with the In-App Purchase version that is coming soon to the “full” version NotateMe. The full version of NotateMe with the In-App Purchase is set for imminent release, as soon as it is approved by Apple. I don’t yet know pricing, but you can bet that I will immediately buy that In-App Purchase. Yes, Neuratron, take my money.

If you want to buy the full version of NotateMe, consider doing so with this referral link (I earn a commission on the sale that comes from Apple’s 30%, not the developer’s 70%): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/notateme/id699470139?mt=8&uo=4&at=10l9SE

NotateMe Now is available free here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/notateme-now/id783567215?mt=8&uo=4&at=10l9SE

And yes, Android friends, this is a Android product, too. My Android device (a hacked HP TouchPad) doesn’t handle the app well, but I am sure that any current Android device can handle running NotateMe or NotateMe Now (I don’t have any referral system with the Google Play store).

The future is NOW! Isn’t this exciting?

 

 

The Fujitsu ScanScap SV600: Update

I continue to scan music with our new scanner, and I have two additional tips;

  1. When scanning a larger score (band/orchestra), it helps to buy a piece of plexiglass to put over the pages to keep them flat. There can be glare caused by the plexiglass on a reflective surface (think the colored cover of a band score), and in that case, you can remove the plexiglass and scan with it. With the exception of the cover page of a score, I am using a sheet of plexiglass on nearly every scan, as I have noticed that to software does a much better job of picking up the corners on scanned pages (previously I had to make more adjustments of black seeping into corners). I do not notice the scanning glare having any impact on musical scores themselves. As with all scans, the resulting image is directly related to the quality of the image that was scanned.
  2. I am now scanning everyting in landscape mode, and then using the software to turn pages. Middle school band literature averages about 30 pages (including conductor scores) per song.
  3. I am taking the time to save each band song in a folder, both as a complete score (conductor scores and parts) and as individual parts. It takes longer to save these files by instrument than it does to scan. One tip: I use Preview (Mac) to copy parts out of the master file (Command + C), then make a new file (Command + N), save the file (Command + S), and then close the file (Command + W). When you follow this process, there is very little clicking. With the first file (often the conductor's score), I create a new folder–and all my next saves go into the same folder. To save time with parts, as I am prompted to save each new file, I select and existing part, double click (or click and drag) the part name I want to replace, and then type over it. This way, I do not have to type the title of the song for each part. Example: If I have saved “American Rhapsody Flute,” I can click that file when I want to save the Oboe part, double click “Flute” and then type “Oboe.” If this is confusing, I can make a video of this later.
  4. The video below shows my new hints with the SV600. It is nice to be able to finally scan larger sized documents. My Canon P-150 is better for choral music (but requires you to cut the music), whereas the SV600 is non-destructive.

 

Fujitsu ScanScap SV600 Scanner

About a month ago, I saw TUAW's post about the SV600 scanner, a scanner that looks a little bit like Wall-E (the robot from Pixar). You place documents (or items) underneat the scanner, and the head swivels, blasting a LED light and capturing an image. You can scan two pages at a time (even with band/orchestra scores), but then you have to use Fujitsu's software to deskew the pages (and separate them). There is a little “waviness” to the end scan when using the software solution–but I have seen MANY photocopies of music that were not as clean or easy to read. It takes time to go back and edit each page with the software, which often fails to detect a clean edge between the paper and the black mat that comes with the scanner, and at times the software “misreads” where the dividing point is between pages. Ultimately, single page scans work best (logically, they are flat).


However, if you are used to having to copy pages first, and then scan those pages, this process is simpler, and could save you time. I hope that newer versions of the software (you have to download Mac versions) will do a better job of border recognition, allow for mass editing (setting the same margins for all scanned pages), or even “track” a five line staff to make sure that staff lines are straight.

The SV600 lists for $900, but can be purchased (delivered) for $650 or so, and is the first relatively inexpensive solution for scanning larger size music on the market.

I have not been paid to write this post, nor do I get any kickback from Fujitsu for writing it. I saw the scanner on TUAW, brought it to the attention of my principal and made the case for the scanner with the intent of obtaining it in a future year; I must have stated my case strongly, as my principal was kind enough to order it for this budget year with some remaining funds (the scanner can be used by all music classes as well as other classes in our school, but is housed in my room for safe keeping).

As with all scanning projects, I encourage you to scan what you NEED to scan first, and then slowly start working through your library. If you begin with your immediate needs, you will achieve your goal over time.

As for choral music, I still prefer cutting the music and then scanning it with a small sheet-fed scanner (my personal scanner is the Canon P-150, although the P-215 is the current version), but for full-size music, the SV600 is hard to beat for functionality and price point. The TUAW video that introduced me to the SV600 is displayed below.

 

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