ScanScore

This summer, I was contacted by the team at ScanScore about their latest update to their program, which was first released in 2018. ScanScore comes from the same company that makes Forte, a music notation program. I have never reviewed Forte as I haven’t personally used a Windows computer since 2008.

While I would have loved to review Forte, and the company was kind enough to offer a copy so that I could do so, I couldn’t do so. I have mentioned Forte on this blog in the past.

As previously mentioned, the team from ScanScore asked if I would be willing to check out their app. My immediate response was, “Sorry, I don’t have a Windows PC.” They were quick to reply to let me know that ScanScore is written for Windows and Mac, and there is even an iPhone app. Don’t get too excited about the app…it uses the phone an image scanner, and your computer still needs to do the heavy lifting on the ScanScore app. There are also different versions of the app if you need fewer features (from $39 to $179).

I use scanning, but I do so in very condensed bursts of time–preparing scores for my classroom, my own choirs, or for other choirs. If I’m making a ukulele lead sheet, I’ll do so from scratch most of the time (ukulele is my main focus outside of school these days). I haven’t really needed a scanning app since last January, and with choirs at school suspended for this academic year, I may not need to scan anything this academic year!

I have existing scanning tools that work very well for me. They include:

  • PhotoScore (by Neuratron) (Mac or as a part of NotateMe on iOS) ($249 Win/Mac, $70 iOS)
  • PlayScore 2 ($22.99 year)
  • Sheet Music Scanner ($3.99)
  • PDFtoMusicPro ($199)

If I need to scan anything, these apps are where I start. Sheet Music Scanner is step #1, then PlayScore 2 is step #2.

I have used PhotoScore, both on iOS and Mac less and less, and much of that goes back to problems with Mac OS Catalina. The last version of PhotoScore stopped working on Catalina, and an upgrade to PhotoScore that works is $99. I have struggled with the concept of paying $99 for an app that I use a few times a year. The accuracy of PhotoScore is very good most of the time. But every one of these apps will require clean-up work.

PDFtoMusic Pro is a wonderful app if you have a PDF that was published by a notation app. If so, PDFtoMusic Pro will generally read that PDF and convert it to MusicXML with great accuracy. If the PDF is a picture (scanned), PDFtoMusic Pro won’t work at all.

You’ll notice I don’t have SmartScore listed–I used to be an owner of SmartScore, but PhotoScore proved to be more accurate than SmartScore, at the same time that SmartScore’s upgrade prices drove me away. So I can’t offer you any current insights on SmartScore. Sorry.

So…where does the new application, ScanScore, come in?

First, it is more affordable than PhotoScore, and attempts to recognize lyrics, as does PhotoScore. Second, it allows you to use your phone as a scanner and to send the image back to the program. And it brings your scan to an editor after scanning, much like PhotoScore.

So, how did it work? Again, I’m not in the scanning mode right now, so I’m creating an artificial comparison (something that really isn’t crucial to me on a need-to-get-it-done-as-quickly-as-possible basis). I decided to take a a version of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata from IMSLP, and to see how the programs did with it.

Here’s the original:

I scanned this with the various programs, exported the results as MusicXML (no corrections), and opened the MusicXML files in Notion. Here’s ScanScore…you can see that it didn’t handle the triplets, and did attempt to import the text:

How about some other programs? Here’s PhotoScore from my iPhone (I had to save the PDF as a photo first). It gets more of the triplets, less of the text. Measure 5 is an issue on all of the scanning applications. The Mac version might handle this a little differently, but again, I’m struggling to justify the $99 upgrade.

Here’s Sheet Music Scanner, the $4 app on iOS. Sheet music scanner doesn’t handle a lot–triplets is one of the things it doesn’t do…but if you think of the piece in 12/8…it works.

Since the original was computer generated, how about PDFtoMusic Pro? Overall, things look pretty good, but measure 5 is a mess.

And finally, how about the program that seemed to handle it the best–as a scan? Here’s PlayScore 2. It does strange things with the left hand, putting the whole notes in different voices.

How about some conclusions?

First, I’m glad ScanScore is out there as another option, at a lower price than some other competitors.

Second, it is nice to have another product that is attempting both Musical OCR and text OCR.

Third, expect clean-up with any scanning app. I like to do that clean-up in other apps that I already use (Notion, Finale) rather than in an application (which is offered in ScanScore, PhotoScore, or PDFtoMusic).

Fourth, I like the option to use a phone as a scanner.

And finally, I’m pretty sure ScanScore will take a look at this article and try to figure out what happened, learn from it, and improve the product. The score is from https://imslp.simssa.ca/files/imglnks/usimg/d/d0/IMSLP218185-PMLP01458-Beethoven_Op_27_No_2_I.pdf and as a free PDF resource, anyone is free to download it and try on their own software.

There is a lot of different types of scanning that will favor one score over another, and different scores offer different challenges. A lead sheet has different scanning challenges than a band director’s score, and a choral score has different challenges than a orchestra quintet. Sometimes, if I have to scan something, and Sheet Music Scanner or PlayScore 2 don’t work well, I’ll try other options. In other words, it is nice to have multiple options when you are doing a task.

Interested in ScanScore for your Windows PC or Mac? Visit: https://scan-score.com/en/