New App – SeeScore

This afternoon I received an e-mail from the developers of SeeScore, a new music reader for the iPad.  SeeScore takes a different approach to music reading, using MusicXML files to display music.  They graciously provided a promo code, and after using the app, I am delighted to share information about this app with you.

The app has five tremendous benefits:

  1. It solves the issue of re-sizing music.  You can use standard iOS gestures to zoom into any piece of music, and the music re-flows to the size you set.  This has been one of the greatest (and understandable) “criticisms” of music reading on the iPad.
  2. You can turn parts on and off.  Ever have a multi-voice score where students get lost?  Here’s the answer…they turn off the other voices, only showing their part and the piano, or just their part.  Think of the potential of this in Band…import the full score in MusicXML for the director and the students, and the students turn off the other parts.  This is incredibly powerful.
  3. The app works in portrait or landscape mode.  If you really need larger music, turn the iPad on its side.
  4. The search bar/fast forward bar is extremely useful for fast-forwarding in the score.
  5. It is extremely fast…as fast as any music reader I’ve ever used–even for large scores.

There are some current (Version 1.0.1) drawbacks:

  1. The app doesn’t remember your previous setting for zoom, although it does remember which part you used last (i.e. you selected one part to view and hid the others, it comes back to that one part).
  2. Sometimes notes are lost underneath slurs.
  3. There is no way (currently) to annotate a score, which I feel is an important feature for a music reader of any kind.  This is a feature that I would request as a musician and as a music educator.  The trick would be a way to have added annotation and text free-flow with the music.
  4. Getting music into MusicXML format could be an adventure.  Taking an existing (copyrighted) score, scanning, converting to MusicXML, and then sharing that file might very well push the music publishers over the edge.  Accurate scanning requires a upgraded app, such as SmartScore.  Although Finale creates and opens MusicXML files, Sibelius cannot export a MusicXML file without an expensive plug-in from Recordare.  There are MusicXML files on the Internet for free, as well as applications such as PDF to Music Pro ($199) [Converts nearly any music file that was created with a notation app {NOT scanned music} into a music XML file].  Basically, if you want that band, orchestra, or choir piece available via SeeScore, you will likely have to recreate the file if it isn’t available online (And again, if you own Sibelius, you’ll need to buy a plug-in).
  5. There is no embedded music player, either of the MusicXML file, or of actual audio files on the iPad.
  6. There are currently no setlists or way to organize/add metadata to music.
  7. The only way to currently get music on the iPad in MusicXML file is through iTunes, there is no way to open a MusicXML from an e-mail to the app, nor is there an embedded browser or Dropbox support.
  8. Currently, Symphony Pro files do not export correctly for use with SeeScore (This, by the way, is a relationship worth fostering).
  9. The biggest drawback for most users will be the price, as the app sells for $17.99.

Is SeeScore a recommend app?  That’s a tough question, but I can say yes, conditionally:

  • Some key features I need in a music reader (e.g. annotation, setlists) are not available.  Typically, I cannot recommend a music reader without that feature.   I won’t recommend a PDF-based music reader without that feature.
  • I’ve had problems recommending music readers like Music Reader, because the purchase of a secondary desktop application is required to run the program.  There are MusicXML resources available on the net, but chances are, to import repertoire you’re using in your classes/studio, you’re going to have to use another program to get that repertoire into MusicXML format. That other program will not be free.
  • The cost of the app is an issue.  In the world of iOS, we’re spoiled by inexpensive apps.  A fully function version of Pages, Keynote, or Numbers costs $9.99 (and can be installed on an unlimited number of family-owned iPads).  Excellent PDF-based music readers like UnrealBook and ForScore are $4.99.  The only working music notation program for the iPad, Symphony Pro, is $12.99.    SeeScore is $17.99, with (as of yet) no educational volume licensing. It’s a tough price to swallow.  If the price were under $10 (which is only $7.99 less than the current price), it would be easier to justify the cost of the app.
  • That said, this is the only app that reads MusicXML files and therefore allows for free-flowing music text.  This is an incredibly promising app, which is why I recommend it conditionally.  If the developers continue to add to the app, and  perhaps work to build alliances with desktop applications that allow for the conversion of music to MusicXML files as well as with other apps like Symphony Pro, the $17.99 may be money well-spent.


Note: This app is for individuals who need actual sheet music.  This app probably isn’t ideal for anyone using a gig book–there are many apps that would be better for that application.

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