Updates to Sheet Music Scanner!

I recently heard from the developer of Sheet Music Scanner, and the app has recently been updated to allow for the scanning of triplets and sixty-fourth notes and rests.

Sheet Music Scanner has long been a “Best Buy” for iPhone or iPad, offering pretty decent scanning of songs without the ability to recognize triplets. My workflow would always start with Sheet Music Scanner, and if that didn’t work well, I would move to PlayScore 2, or Notate Me (with the PhotoScore add-on). But many times, Sheet Music Scanner held its own.

I haven’t tested the new capabilities very much; but I did send a score with a lot of triplets (Robert Ray’s “He Never Failed Me Yet”) and sure enough, some triplets had been recognized. But let’s be honest…throwing a score like that at an app that has never had triplet scanning before is a little like asking someone who just started jogging to run a marathon.

At any rate, this app is a wonderful example of iOS and where we are at. There are very few “exciting” new apps that enter the market. Changes are not revolutionary, they are evolutionary at this point. And the best tools just keep getting better and better.

And do keep in mind that when you buy this app, you are supporting an individual programmer who has made a wonderful productivity app for musicians and music educators…at an incredibly affordable price. If you haven’t purchased Sheet Music Scanner…get it today. It is absolutely worth having. Not only can you play back sheet music out of the app, you can export the resulting MusicXML file to any notation app on any device for further editing. As I said earlier, this is my first stop in scanning music, and it is often the last.

Rhythm Impostor

I have been very happy to use Mr. Jay’s Music Room Rhythm Impostor resources over the past few weeks. It definitely is pop culture (though the popularity of Among Us is fading), but it has students decoding rhythm in a fun way.

While I am mostly happy about the resources, which are free, the rhythms seem to fade in at times and I even have a hard time discerning if a rhythm is correct.

Today I created my own (first) Rhythm Impostor game, figuring out what sounds to use, what fonts to use (I went for the same font through the entire video), and how to make things different. All of the video work is done with Luma Fusion (iPad App) and I had a very fulfilling time figuring out how to do things such as making the characters spin or having text emerge from the right hand side of the screen (Titles in Luma Fusion don’t work that way).

Once you have figured out how to create the video, making subsequent videos will take a fraction of the time.

If you want to use this, there is a link in the video that will take you to a PDF Checklist that students can use. This can be printed, but it is even better in a Classroom Management System such as Seesaw or Showbie (I’m not sure how Schoology handles writing on a PDF, as I haven’t used it for two years).

This resource is absolutely applicable for students in grades 3-12, provided that they have learned the “syncopa” rhythm (eighth-quarter-eighth).

There are some other great resources I have come across this year that I will share in future posts. They make music class incredibly fun, even in a year that we can’t really sing or make much music.

Say It Ain’t So…

A number of the Apple Blogs are announcing the impending death of Music Memos, a wonderful little app that was created for musicians. I have had a lot of fun demonstrating the app at music education conventions.

It was created by Apple as they realized that a lot of musicians were recording ideas in Voice Memos. The Apple team thought they could provide a better resource in Music Memos.

Not only does the app act as a recorder, but it also analyzes the chords you are playing and adds bass and percussion to your playing. You can edit the chords later to match what you actually played if the app makes mistakes. And at the end of it all, you can export your recording to GarageBand.

I hope that the analysis and bass/drums features of Music Memos are absorbed into something else, such as Voice Memos or GarageBand (iOS). I actually e-mailed Tim Cook (CEO of Apple) today to ask for that every thing.

I have had some fun making some ukulele play alongs with the app, adding bass and drums. Things don’t always line up, but that was part of the j0y of the experiment/experience. I was going to make a whole series, but life has been a little crazy in 2020. Here are a couple of examples. I decided to use Public Domain songs to avoid all the licensing issues.

I would guess that most people didn’t know this app existed–and it simply wasn’t used as Apple thought it would be used. Eventually you decide to stop funding the development of a project, regardless of how cool it is.

I’m going to miss this little app!

InTune Intonation Trainer Update!

It has been a while since I have blogged here. There have been a few big changes in the world of technology, particularly the new M1 Mac computers…but we’re a good distance from those changes impacting music education.

And while I’m at it…it is December…so a very Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate Christmas!

One of the tools that I used as a middle school teacher–that I would also use as a high school teacher–was Dale Duncan’s S-Cubed Sight Singing Method. I highly recommend it (and S-Cubed is also included with MusicFirst’s Practice First, I believe).

One part of S-Cubed that I was never comfortable with was Dale’s approach to helping students hear the difference between sharp and flat. I don’t deny that students need to learn how to sing in tune–I just never wanted to demonstrate singing flat or sharp. I come from a school of thought that you never want to practice something wrong, as practice makes permanent.

So instead of singing sharp and flat for my students in that phase of S-Cubed, I used an app, as a game, for the whole class…and that app was InTune. Basically, it plays a note sharp or flat…and you tell the app which you think it was. You get three chances to be wrong…and I’d track both the level and score that my classes obtained, and post them. This was only over three of four classes, as S-Cubed moved on to other topics. Students responded well to this approach, and scores always went up in each class over the days we played the game. This wasn’t InTune’s intent, to be sure, but it worked.

As for the app itself, the description says this:

InTune began as a way for researchers to test pitch discrimination, the ability to differentiate pitches that are close together. But then researchers discovered that musicians improved the more often they played – 3x faster than those who didn’t. Download for free and see if InTune works for you!

I don’t doubt it, and quite honestly, why not have your students of any age try the app?

InTune has just undergone a significant update. This includes a new look, improved sounds, the ability to shake the device to hear the sounds again (two pitches played one after the other), and new languages.

Multiple instruments are offered as an in-app purchase. This would be great for a musician who played that particular instrument.

The app itself is free…so download it today (look for InTune on the Apple App Store (I do not believe that it is available on Android). And if you like the app, buy one of the instruments (at least) as a way to thank the company for the app!

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/