NotateMe (more thoughts)


I have been working with NotateMe for the last couple of hours.  If you missed the previous post, NotateMe is a new app from Neuratron (the makers of PhotoScore, the scanning software that comes bundled with Sibelius, and incidentally, I also use as my primary scanning app for Finale and Notion files–saving scans as MusicXML files).  Last January and February, ThinkMusicTechnology made a huge splash in the music technology world (particularly with the iPad), showing an app that would convert hand written music on the iPad to conventional printed music notation.  They were attempting to raise funding for a Kickstarter project that failed, and it turned out that their promo video was a concept rather than a full project that utilized Good Reader and Sibelius in the process, ticking a number of people off (particularly people at Sibelius).  ThinkMusicTechnology is still working on their app.

Well, Neuratron surprised everyone (I don’t know anyone that knew anything about it) and released a similar app to the ThinkMusicTechnology concept app.  Neuratron considers their music notation recognition app to be in “beta” and is  charging 1/2 price for the app at the moment.  Future plans (“future” seeming to indicate sooner than later) include bringing their two “desktop” programs, PhotoScore and AudioScore to the iPad via this app as well.

The app takes a short while to “learn” your notation style; and I had troubles having it recognize rests with beams and half rests; otherwise, the program did very well.  On occasion it would miss a note, and it didn’t like dual-voices very well (what scanning software does?).  There are special gestures that do special things; I think  “Apple-like” help menus on each screen (think iMovie/iPhoto) could be useful.

NotateMe also exports into MusicXML perfectly.  What I wrote imported exactly into Notion (on the iPad).

Now–I don’t think that you are going to write a symphony, or even a complete piece with NotateMe.  But there are plenty of teachers who need to write short exercises in music notation, and would prefer to have that notation be “printer-clean.”  With NotateMe, users have to learn a few gestures (this takes moments) and they can be using the app, whereas “pro” apps have a learning curve.   So—many music teachers (think elementary and choral in particular) could use this app, write out a short excerpt, and be ready to go.

I don’t know if things have changed very much since I was in college, but I can tell you that NotateMe would have worked for most of my collegiate theory projects (with the exception of my class in practical arranging, which needed Finale).  Furthermore, what better way to practice handwritten notation than by writing it?

If the app will eventually cost $30, some people may be driven away by the cost.  The app economy just doesn’t have many $30 apps, even if they are worth it.  If people avoid NotateMe, they will most likely go to Notion, which is $16 and can do far more.

You can’t enter text (at the current time) in NotateMe, and as I mentioned, multiple voices don’t work very well (at least not yet).  But the projected cost of $30 for NotateMe matches the proposed cost of ThinkMusicTechnology.  I wish those fellows the best, but the need for their app to be nearly perfect just increased, because Neuratron has a major  head start.

NotateMe works on your phone as well as on Android.  I didn’t buy the program on Android (I still have an HP TouchPad, now running Android Jelly Bean), but it is good to see an option for Android users.  NotateMe works best with a stylus–I still love the Boxwave Evertouch, but I have been told that the Maglus (my other favorite stylus) will have a fiber tip available this month (I’m very excited for that).  You can also view a score as it would be printed (no printing abilities yet) and play the score as well.

The PhotoScore addition to NotateMe could potentially change my workflow forever.  Right now, I’m tied to a notebook computer mainly to scan and recognize scores so that I can get them into a music notation program without entering scores manually.  If the NotateMe PhotoScore component can replace a scanner (you use your iPad’s camera) and the computer program–and still have a high degree of accuracy–a lot more musicians (teachers, students, professionals) will be able to capture their music.  I just wonder about pricing; PhotoScore isn’t cheap (but I have found PhotoScore on the computer to be worth the investment), so I wonder how much the iPad component will be.

I have been wondering what Neuratron has been up to as there hasn’t been an update to PhotoScore for some time (2011)–I now know.  My guess is that they will release a new version of PhotoScore around the time of the NotateMe PhotoScore component–but we’ll see.

Additionally, Musitek (the makers of SmartScore) has also promised mobile software this year (the year is running out).

At any rate, the abilities of the iPad just increased for me–thank you, Neuratron!  And if you have any interest in this app, get it now at the reduced price.  Even as a “beta,” it is a unique app worth having.



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