Some time ago, I blogged about a couple of apps that could take a picture of your music and play it back for you. To be honest, I can see some use for such a feature–but I needed a scanning app to do more. I need scanning apps to be accurate and export MusicXML to another program.
Well, the developer of Sheet Music Scanner took that feedback and kept working on their app. To make a long story short, I have been pretty sick (when you hear the new episode of our podcast, you will know what I am saying) and I also was a bit dismissive of the app after trying it out originally. I put off testing of the new features when I should have been looking at the app with an open mind.
Once again, I made a foolish mistake. Lesson learned (once again): never assume that because something doesn’t meet your needs that it cannot improve to meet your needs.
This weekend, the developer of the app released the newest version, which includes a couple of amazing features:
- It works on iPad or iPhone (it always has, but I just wanted to mention this)
- You can open a PDF from an online storage location (iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive) and recognize the score. No other scanning app for iOS deals with PDFs.
- You can export to MusicXML.
I have been putting this to the test with some choral music. I have been pleasantly surprised by the results. For example, here is a Mozart score from the Choral Domain Public Library:
After saving the score to Dropbox and opening with Sheet Music Scanner, the app took about two minutes to process the seven page song (it moves as fast as 5 pages a minute on my iPad Air 2). I then exported to MusicXML and opened the score in Notion for iOS:
I did edit the first measure which ended up having an additional half note, no time signature, and no key signature (the key signature began in measure 4). That editing took all of 20 seconds. The end result was a highly accurate scan–with the exception of the multi-measure rests on the next pages.
There are a number of things the app does not do (yet), such as: triplets / tuplets, percussion notation, dynamics, also double sharps, double flats and grace notes. These are all on the developer’s roadmap over the next year.
It also doesn’t scan lyrics, and after initially being disappointed in that, I wonder if that isn’t just a blessing in disguise? As the app just “gives you the notes,” doesn’t that make it a better teaching tool rather than a tool for copyright infringement? The app also doesn’t include diacritical markings like accents, staccatos, etc. And to be honest, if you need to add those, use Notion and its new handwriting feature.
I did try a 37 page double-choir Bach score, which the app crashed on. I don’t blame the app–I have seen live choirs crash on the same literature!
Here is the amazing thing: the app is $3.99. You will have to do some clean-up, and you will need to do some editing. But this is a developer who has figured out how to scan music, in an industry that has been developing similar products for 20 years or more! There is no doubt that NotateMe with the PhotoScore In-App Purchase is more accurate than Sheet Music Scanner, or that it scans for more things–but the NotateMe package is $70 (already a better investment than computer apps that do the same thing)–and Sheet Music Scanner is $3.99.