Music OCR – “What’s My Note?”
A big thank you to Chad Felton for bringing this app to my attention…
The world of Music OCR (Optical Character Recognition) has really advanced in the past three years. I have used Music OCR to get music into a digital format for years, with the intent of creating accompaniment files. I suffered for many years with the poor quality of the (formerly) embedded scanning program in Finale, SmartScore (made by Musitek). I don’t want to be mean about it–but if you used SmartScore Lite with Finale, you know what I mean. While the most recent version of SmartScore X2 is greatly improved, some time ago I moved to PhotoScore Ultimate (by Neuratron). The most recent version of Finale (25) removed scanning as an option altogether.
Some time ago, Neuratron introduced a notation program for mobile devices, NotateMe, and eventually embedded PhotoScore functionality in the app (as an in-app purchase). The end result was a $70 (overall) app that often scanned as well (or better) than the full version of PhotoScore Ultimate on a computer, which is a $250 purchase. The most important difference (to me) is that the computer version of PhotoScore can scan a PDF, while the mobile version requires a paper copy to scan.
A couple of other mobile scanning apps have been released, such as an app by Musitek called “NoteReader” (I really can’t recommend it), and a few apps that scanned music and played it back, such as Sheet Music Scanner. I didn’t really see the functionality in scanning music to hear it–I need apps to do more than that. There are also apps like MusicPal and iSeeNotes that don’t offer enough functionality for me to recommend them.
As I have written about in the past, Sheet Music Scanner added the ability to export MusicXML files, and that changed its functionality for me–and opened the door to scanning music for many new people as there is no longer a price barrier. Better yet, Sheet Music Scanner can open an existing PDF. The app can’t recognize everything yet–but it is amazing how well it does for less than $5.
Musitek has released a program called “Music-to-XML” for $99 that scans music and exports it to a MusicXML file. I have not tried this program–I have other programs that do this, and my experiences with Musitek’s products while improved from the past, are less positive than with other products. Unless I am sent a trial version–I will likely not be trying Music-to-MusicXML. If you were going to spend $100, I would likely send you towards the $70 NotateMe/PhotoScore solution for mobile devices.
As I mentioned in the open of this post, Chad e-mailed me and asked if I had seen “What’s My Note?” Basically, this is an app that scans a page of music, and as you touch notes, it plays back your notes. I bought it (only $1 at the current time) and I tried scanning a couple of things. I did not tax the program too heavily, but it accurately scanned and played back notes that I touched. The following video is their promo video from their website:
I’m not overly enthused about the app’s tag line: “A new app for choral musicians who don’t read music well.” That said, I find myself a little more open to this type of music scanning for playback versus Sheet Music Scanner’s original purpose, as you can touch YOUR note and hear YOUR note in context of the larger score.
Some immediate thoughts: The app makes more sense on an iPad (the larger the better) than on a phone, as you have more room to touch (you can “zoom in” on a phone, but then there is a lot of scrolling). The bad part about that is that phones have better cameras than iPads. The app is available for Android, too. I wish the app allowed you to open existing PDFs rather than having to take pictures of everything. I also wish that that it would allow the option of playback so you could sing along with the printed notes as an option (Sheet Music Scanner’s original function). Finally, I wish that you could do something with the recognized music after you had scanned it, such as exporting it.
If you have a mobile device and need the greatest possible accuracy, NotateMe with the PhotoScore IAP is still the way to go for $70. If you want to try mobile scanning with greater success than used to be possible with SmartScore Lite without breaking the bank, buy Sheet Music Scanner. What’s My Note? takes a different approach to scanning, and and there are likely some choral musicians that will benefit from being able to touch their part to hear it. I will keep all three of these applications on my devices.
P.S. This video from “What’s My Note?” is fun (and the song is included with the app):