Think for a moment about the programs on your computer for a moment. Which programs are on your computer that are truly irreplaceable?
My answer to this question has changed over the past two years as the apps on my iPad have gained more functionality, and as the number of quality solutions for some types programs have multiplied.
Microsoft Word may have been an indespensible program in the past, but services such as Google and programs such as Pages (free with a Mac and also free via iCloud.com) and Open Office has changed our reliance on these programs.
I mainly use my Mac for four tasks these days. Those tasks are: editing music in music notation programs, scanning music, creating concert programs, and dealing with video. In these four categories, I have several programs that I use consistently. For video, I use iMovie and Handbrake. For scanning music, I use my Canon P-215’s own software. For creating concert programs, I use Pages. When it comes to music notation, I am likely to use Notion or MuseScore (and will perhaps jump back on the Finale bandwagon with the next release).
But when it comes to taking a PDF and scanning it with music recognition software, I have ONLY one program of choice: PhotoScore Ultimate. Neuratron just released PhotoScore 8 and AudioScore 8, and I have been working with these programs today. AudioScore takes audio and converts it to digital notation (transcription), which is a feature I seldom need. I can definitely see how arrangers and composers could benefit from a transcription program. Most of my work requires me to import existing printed music into digital notation, and thus PhotoScore has been a lifesaver for me.
I have tried all of the music recognition apps, and PhotoScore (even in Version 7 which was originally released in 2011) has been far superior to any other solution. The one exception would be PDFtoMusic Pro, which takes a PDF generated by a music notation program and converts it to MusicXML. This is a highly accurate process, but chances are you are trying to recognize a scan you (or someone else) has personally scanned on a scanner or photocopier versus recognizing a printed file from a composer.
If you use Finale, Notion, or MuseScore, PhotoScore is for you, too. Yes, PhotoScore is the “bundled” software that comes with Sibelius (albeit a lite version), but you can save any PhotoScore document to a MusicXML file and then edit it with any music notation program that opens a MusicXML file (even Notion or Symphony Pro on iOS).
Neuratron turned the recognition world on its head last summer as it introduced the ability of its Android & iOS app to take pictures of printed music and to use the PhotoScore in-purchase app to convert the music to digital notation. For $70 ($40 app, $30 add-on), we are now able to scan music “on the fly” without the need for any additional hardware. I have been a pest in the past months, regularly asking employees at Neuratron when we would see the next version of their desktop programs. Sibelius and the Sibelius Blog leaked news of the coming update earlier this year, but there was no specific ETA for the updates.
Well, today was release day. You can go to Neuratron’s website (Neuratron.com) and purchase PhotoScore Ultimate (and AudioScore Ultimate) today. The prices:
- New purchase of PhotoScore Ultimate and AudioScore Ultimate: $369
- New purchase of PhotoScore Ultimate or AudioScore Ultimate: $249
- Any upgrade of PhotoScore Ultimate or AudioScore Ultimate to its updated version: $99
- If you own and update both programs from previous additions: $119 for both
- If you add AudioScore to PhotoScore during the update, you can get it for just $50 (80% off – limited time offer)
- And if you bought the program on April 11th or more recently, you get the upgrades for free.
In my honest opinion, the $249 I spent on PhotoScore Ultimate 7 (same price as version 8) was the best $249 I have ever spent on music technology for my Mac. It has saved me over a thousand hours of note entry in the time that I have owned it. While there will ALWAYS be scanning errors, PhotoScore Ultimate runs circles around its competition–and even lyrics are recognized. And if something doesn’t scan well, it is usually indicative of the quality of the printed music itself rather than a problem with the program.
PhotoScore 8 has a lot of improvements “under the hood,” but the biggest change is that NotateMe (the main app for Android/iOS) is included in the program (which, incidentally is just over 80MB on my Mac). There has been another handwriting recognition app in the news lately that only runs on the Microsoft Surface–and that program has received an overwhelming amount of promotion directly from Microsoft. With this update, Neuratron also adds the ability to handwrite notation via NotateMe to the Windows platform.
I am currently working on making rehearsal tracks for a fall musical production, importing songs from a PDF of the musical. As I was about the begin the next song, I used the same PDF in both PhotoScore Ultimate 7 and PhotoScore Ultimate 8 to create a MusicXML of the song. As should be expected, PhotoScore Ultimate 8 was significantly more accurate than PhotoScore 7, but cleanup was needed in both scores. The editing screen hasn’t changed much, and I find that I personally edit faster in a traditional music notation program than using PhotoScore’s own tools (or NotateMe, so I simply export PhotoScore’s initial scan as a MusicXML file and open that file in another app.
In the following comparisons, I imported MusicXML files into Notion and then removed everything but the notes and articulations (I have been placing all lyrics into any document I have worked with over the past three years, and Notion’s main weakness is lyrics. It is easier to delete all text and lyrics and re-enter versus trying to edit what imports via a MusicXML. I am hoping this changes in a future version of Notion). You will notice that PhotoScore 8 does a much better job with the same PDF, making 60% to 75% fewer errors. As you can see in example 2, if the original score has bar lines that are hard to see, PhotoScore will have a hard time seeing those measures are pat of the same staff unit, and will put all of the voices as if they were one continuous single staff.
Unfortunately, I do not have the original score on hand to take a picture of the score with my iPhone with NotateMe/PhotoScore IAP and then to do a comparison of those two solutions. I will have to write an article about that at a later time.
Here is the big question: do you need PhotoScore Ultimate 8? If you are a musician who wants to convert PDFS of music to digital music, yes, you do. NotateMe/PhotoScore on Android/iOS does not yet allow for the import of PDF files. And of course, you can use a scanner with PhotoScore (this is how it was originally used), but the Android/iOS app may be a better solution for scanning smaller works. If you are scanning a lot of pages, you will want to invest in a auto-feed duplex scanner like the Canon P-215II, scan your music as a PDF, and then import it via PhotoScore Ultimate 8.
If you already use PhotoScore Ultimate, the $99 upgrade will pay for itself in a few hours of work (you will be saving yourself at least 50% of your current corrections).
Is the addition of NotateMe to PhotoScore a good thing? Absolutely. But without a Surface Pro, my main tool for NotateMe will be my iPad, and I still prefer to edit my PhotoScore scans in other software.
If you would like to see all of the information about PhotoScore Ultimate and NotateMe 8, see: http://www.neuratron.com/v8.htm.
And as a reminder, AudioScore Ultimate was updated to Version 8 as well. Again, my workflow does not need transcription software very often. However, if you do use transcription–and particularly if you own PhotoScore Ultimate already, you can add AudioScore for a limited time for just $50 (this is normally $249). You can learn all about the AudioScore changes at http://www.neuratron.com/v8_as.htm.
You can download a free demo of either program at the websites listed above.
Thank you, Neuratron, for once again making my life easier with your programs.