Scanning, scanning, scanning

I’ve stated, over and over again, that as a music educator and musician, the iPad has had a tremendous impact on my life–mostly in the form of PDF music readers such as UnrealBook and ForScore.  In fact, I’ve become such an Apple Evangelist that my graduating seniors made an “iChoir” poster with their senior pictures as a parting gift.

I’m rapidly approaching the point of having scanned all the music at our school, as well as all the music in my possession.  The purpose is to have this music/these resources on my iPad for my own use, and this is game-changing.

My approach to scanning has changed a bit, however.

Most of my scanning has been done through Smart Score, which is the scanning partner for Finale.  I updated to the full version, and scanned scores as TIF files, and then later used Mac Preview to convert those multi-page TIF files to PDF files.  The positive here is that TIF files are multi-page, and should I ever need to make a Finale file from a TIF file, I’ll have those resources available (I keep both versions).  Scanning was more time-intensive, partially because it worked best to “customize” the cropped borders on each page, and Smart Score would crash on a regular basis.  When I contacted Smart Score, they suggested that I limit scans to smaller number of pages (my general rule became not to scan more than 30 pages at a time, resulting in “stitching together” larger vocal books).

But as I continued on this project, I quickly realized that I was scanning items that I didn’t need in TIF format.  I found that if I scanned at 300 dpi with Mac Preview, I could scan more quickly to PDF, albeit creating separate PDF files for each scan.  I use the “Text” setting, which looks terrible in overview mode, but actually results in a good scan which ignores many things such as light pencil marks or even some “do not photocopy” warnings!  Some of my oldest music–such as beginner piano music–resulted in looking better as a result of scanning, as much of that old music is literally falling apart.

So, how did I patch many pages of PDFs together, such as books with 300 or more pages?  I found an inexpensive app called PDF Suite on the Mac App Store.  Unfortunately, you can only stitch one PDF together at a time (otherwise the program messes up trying to open the next set of files), but the program glues the PDFs together much easier than using Preview’s ability to drag-and-drop files graphically.

Still, I found that many PDFs were very large–not that UnrealBook or ForScore could not handle them.  So I looked to another solution–PDF Shrink–to make the files smaller.  There was a trial version, and I communicated with the company (Apogo) to find the best settings for PDF Shrink, and here is what the company suggested:

  • I would recommend that you try the following settings in PDF Shrink. Click on the “New” toolbar button and the click the “Advanced” button.
  • Color & Grayscale Images – select 150 dpi, JPEG, Medium quality
  • Monochrome Images – select 200 dpi, Flate

The end result for files created through the Smart Score/TIF procedure was a definite decrease in file size; however, for files created through Preview/Text/300 dpi, the result was even more astonishing in compression.

I had worked with Preview to create some different compression filters, but simply stated, PDF Shrink seems to be the way to go.  For a stack of recent scans (Preview/Text/300 dpi/stitched with PDF suite), about 200 pieces of choral music, the size of the files after PDF Shrink are less than 250 MB, and every bit as legible as the original files.

As a final note, I’m not sharing these files with anyone, we don’t have a 1-to-1 initiative, and these are for my own use.  I do think we have a coming crisis, whereas schools are going to go 1-to-1, and current restrictions with copyright are going to cause schools problems.  The issue will be that schools cannot legally scan and distribute PDFs of music, even if they own a printed copy for every digital copy they want to use.  Digital music costs just as much per copy as a printed copy.  Schools do not/will not have the budget to re-purchase all their music in a digital format.  So, either copyright language will have to change to allow schools to convert paper resources to digital format, or publishers will have to offer subscriptions.  My greatest fear is that every publisher will create their own app, resulting in students trying to navigate through four or five apps in a rehearsal.  For example, Padrucci is out for the IMSLP.  I have no qualms about Padrucci being its own app, but in the long run, I’d want to be able to export the image files to another app, such as UnrealBook or ForScore (perhaps this is already possible–I don’t know as I haven’t purchased the app yet).  The use of a universal format–either PDF or MusicXML–is the way to go.

I do want to see composers and publishers get paid for their work–which is why I say that no one should ever use more digital versions of a song than they have physical copies in storage.  But this isn’t copyright law as it stands–but it should be.  I’m encouraged by the coming music agreements with iCloud–for $25.00 a year, Apple will legitimize every file on your computer, and give money back to the record labels and artists.  I’d love to see the same thing for printed music.  $10 or $15 per year per student would cover all the costs of their music, and send money back to the music publishers and composers.

I’m fully aware that many music educators currently break Copyright Law with no intent to pay music publishers and composers.  I don’t support this, although I fully understand that some schools get little or no budget with which to purchase music.  I’ve always made it a point to buy the music that we use at my school.

On a similar note, I don’t understand why publishers are okay with the legality of lending music, either.  It seems to me that if one institution borrows copies from another institution, the music publisher and composer are losing out on that transaction, too.

I’d also like to see music publishers “wake up” to the digital age and perhaps sell compositions with licenses in packs of 25, 50, 75, or 100 in either PDF format, Music XML Format, or even a PDF format geared for the dimensions of the iPad (a bit larger font, as the amount of “digital paper” used is a “moot point.”

And finally, why digital music costs just as much as printed music is beyond me.  The same goes for PDF versions of existing textbooks.  Sure, it may keep your pricing consistent, but it sure is putting more money into the hands of the publisher while not giving anything additional to the composer in the process.  If this sort of thing continues, I see no reason for many composers to abandon the publishers altogether and sell just to the consumer.


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