Music Scanners (Sheet Music Scanner)
I was recently contacted by the developer of Sheet Music Scanner, who graciously offered a download code to the app. The app currently sells for $3.99, and is currently on version 2.1. The app works well–scanning one page of a time. It allows you to save a scan, as well as to export audio to MIDI (with the intent to open the file in GarageBand).
My immediate feedback to the developer was that I was surprised there was no MusicXML format, and they were surprised to hear that request. In fact, I was the first to request it. That really surprised me–and it made me think about my usage of scanning, which is likely different than the average iOS device owner.
You see, once I have music scanned, I want to do more with that music than simply listen to it or export it to GarageBand. I typically want to import it into a music notation program and to do other things with it (clean it up, edit it, export it as a higher quality audio file, etc). I think most music educators would follow my case use. But what about the millions of iOS musicians who don’t care about music notation?
As I have said, Sheet Music Scanner works very well–one page at a time, and it is priced right. My only “gripe” is MIDI, as a single line of music imported into Notion with a split point of middle C for that melodic line (although that setting may be in Notion and not in the MIDI file–but there are no options as you open a MIDI file into Notion). I will discuss a further MIDI trial a bit later in this post.
In partial summary, Sheet Music Scanner is a solid app, particularly if you want to scan more than one part at a time. If all you need is one part, NotateMe Now is still the leader by allowing editing and a price tag of “Free.”
The realization that many people might not need music notation software but still a need to scan led me to look a little further in the App Store, and sure enough, I found another app that was similar to Sheet Music Scanner. This app is called iSee Notes Pro and is also $3.99. This app, however, has not been updated since December 2014, and only can be used in landscape mode.
I decided to do a little test comparing Sheet Music Reader, iSee Notes Pro, and NotateMe (full version with IAP). That video appears at the end of the post. I found a public domain version of “America, the Beautiful” on Wikipedia, printed it, and used that as the test material. I figured that “America, the Beautiful,” would add a greater challenge as a four-part arrangement than a single melodic line–but not too much challenge being both homophonic and unison rhythm (homorhythmic is not a word that spell check appreciates).
Sheet Music Scanner was surprisingly the most accurate. It can only scan one page at a time, is the slowest in recognition, and lacks the ability to export a scan via MusicXML file. MIDI import may work well into GarageBand (I have not tried it), but Notion imported each line of the piano score as a separate MIDI track (a piano track at that). See the image below. Again, I am a huge supporter of MusicXML–while it is not perfect–which is still the best way to share accurate music data between notation-based programs.
You should save your money if considering iSee Notes Pro. The landscape requirement ended up scanning part of our oak kitchen table, and the application actually tried playing the wood grain. While the app does allow multiple pages, it seems to ignore key signatures. Additionally, the app hasn’t been updated since 2014. It is dangerous to send any money towards an app that hasn’t been updated in more than a year (in other words, iOS 8 had just been released when this app was last touched–and we are currently on iOS 9.3).
NotateMe has been one of my favorite apps for a long time. Surprisingly, it had scanned errors when Sheet Music Reader did not. I don’t know how to explain that. Altogether, this is a $70 app, but with that $70, you can scan multiple pages and voices (The free “trial” version, NotateMe Now only allows for one voice at a time), wth higher quality sounds, the ability to edit the scan in the notation editor, words are scanned (although not always correctly), and you can share documents via MusicXML.
I don’t know how any of these would do in reproducing “swung” music. That would be a situation where you would want NotateMe, and then to export to Notion, which can add swing to a song.
If you are a music educator–NotateMe is still the app to purchase (with the added In-App Purchases). That said, having Sheet Music Scanner around for an additional $4 seems like a no-brainer.
And if you are a musician wishing to scan and then hear your music, and you need to hear more than one part at a time, then check out Sheet Music Reader.