Sheet Music Scanner Update

Sheet Music Scanner

If you want to scan music on your iOS device (Music Optical Character Recognition), there are only two options worth investigating.  Both represent a minimal commitment versus traditional scanning.

Traditional scanning required a computer, scanner, and specific software in the $250 range.  There are two “major” scanning programs: Neuratron’s PhotoScore (8) and Musitek’s SmartScore X2.  From personal experience, I recommend PhotoScore as the best solution, although SmartScore X2 has improved dramatically.  If you are working with an existing PDF generated by a notation program, you may also want to check out PDFtoMusic Pro, another $250 app, that converts existing PDFs into MusicXML files.

If you have a mobile device, the leader in the category in Neuratron, whose app NotateMe ($40) can be used to write music by hand–but in my opinion, its In App Purchase (IAP) of $30 that adds PhotoScore to NotateMe is a game changer.  In many of my trials, my iPhone scans as accurately as Neuratron’s desktop/notebook program, at 1/3 the overall price.  There is also a free version of NotateMe, called NotateMe Now, which will let you try a single staff, as well as to scan a single staff.  It is also important to mention that NotateMe is also available on Android, and Neuratron really likes the Android platform.

Still, for some users, $70 for an app is too hard to swallow–even it if means a significant reduction in work load.

That is why Sheet Music Scanner took me by surprise when it added the ability to export a MusicXML file.  Sheet Music Scanner is a $4 app that allows you to convert music to be played.  That didn’t really meet any of my needs as a music educator, although I can see how it would be valuable to “amateur” musicians (i.e. musicians without college degrees that had to take years of theory).  This summer, the app added the ability to export data to a number of formats, including MusicXML, and this changed my entire view of the app.  It also turns out that Sheet Music Scanner can scan from photos, or open a stored PDF for scanning.  As of today, Sheet Music Scanner is the only iOS app that can handle recognition of a PDF (NotateMe requires a physical copy to actually take a picture of).

That app was updated today, and now allows for scans of longer documents.  Early on, I tried a 37 page Bach cantata, which crashed.  The program will now handle that document.  Additionally, the app now allows for transposition.  You can change the key on the fly; and furthermore, if you export the transposed song, it will export in that new key, too.  I just tested this on the same cantata–and it worked.  Sure, there are things I need to fix.  I am okay with that.  No matter what program I use, clean-up is required.

Ever have a song that you needed transposed on the spot?  Here’s your solution!

I also love that I can open a document from Dropbox to Sheet Music Scanner to Notion on my iPad.  This is one step closer to a world where a “traditional” computer isn’t needed.

Again, there are things that Sheet Music Scanner does not do yet (e.g. triplets) and may not do (lyrics).  That’s okay.  Most directors that I know want to scan music to do one of three things (they are not avoiding buying music–for people that do that, there is already an existing invention called the photocopier that has been used for the purpose for many years):

  1. Make rehearsal or accompaniment tracks
  2. Re-voice or re-arrange material for students (difficulty, voice change, instrumentation needs)
  3. Create assessments from literature in green note/red note software

If you want to scan with as much accuracy as possible, Neuratron’s products are what you will want to use.  For example, our orchestra teacher needed a bassoon part from a movement of one of Beethoven’s symphonies written for a Bass Clarinet.  With PhotoScore (on my iPhone), I was able to scan that part with a high degree of accuracy, including diacritical markings (accents, staccatos, dynamics), and my editing time was mainly entering multi-measure rests, adjusting some slurs, and adding symbolic crescendo markings.  There were only a few actual notes to correct.  Re-entering the score by hand would have taken hours–I was able to do it in less than 45 minutes with the NotateMe app, Finale, and Notion (I like to mass edit in Finale, and to do final editing with Notion).  This is a very different function than making a set of rehearsal tracks for a choir.

Remember…MakeMusic just removed SmartScore’s scanning out of Finale 25.  You likely need a way to scan music.  And I don’t know about you, but SmartScore lite always resulted in a mess for me.  Here is a $4 solution to replace that program with something that is already better.  Need more accuracy?  Neuratron is available.  I don’t feel bad about endorsing both products–in a world with eight well-known notation programs (Finale, Sibelius, Dorico, Notion, MuseScore, StaffPad, Noteflight, and Flat.io) and many less known programs, there is certainly room for two or three scanning apps.

If you don’t own it yet, Sheet Music Scanner will be a wonderful tool in your app collection, and it would be my “App of the Year” for 2016.  The developer keeps improving the app and $4 is a cup of coffee in today’s world–go download it today.

As always, app links in my blogs are usually referral links that send 7% of the total purchase price (out of Apple’s 30% of the purchase price) to the “referrer.”  The developer receives the full 70% of the revenue from their app–so when you purchase from a referral link, you financially support this blog whose content remains free and not behind a pay wall.  Thank you for using these referral links!
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