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Topic: Music Notation Scanning Software

  1. #1

    Music Notation Scanning Software

    Several years ago I experimented with the above. The purpose of this software was to allow you to scan a sheet of music which the software then reads and converts into a midi file. This file can then be played back with a midi player and/or read with any notation editor software for further modifications. After testing several different products I concluded that the resulting midi file contained so many errors it was not worth the effort. Considering this type of SW is still being developed today, I have to assume that over the past few years these types of products have improved.

    Has anyone have any recent experience with this type of software that is producing good results? If so, what is the product name and what is your scanner type?

  2. #2

    Re: Music Notation Scanning Software


    I have Photoscore Professional 3 which is a scanning software for Finale / Sibelius. It works great on simple scores such as a score for solo instrument without too much notation. On these types of scores I would guess it is about 90% accurate - getting almost all the notes right, but perhaps missing a key signature or time signature, perhaps misreading text or dynamic marking, etc.

    It doesn't do a great job on complex scores such as a full orchestral score using harmonics, lots of text, frequent key changes, etc, where it is about 40% accurate. It gets most of the notes right, but there is a lot of editing involved - for example, note might be put on an adjacent stave, key signatures might be interpreted as notes, text and hairpins might be inaccurate, harmonics will be shown as another note, etc.

    For some reason, it often seems to have problems reading time signatures so the number of notes in a bar doesn't add up without some re-editing. I like the fact that this software can also read PDF documents.

    My two cents is the software is useful for most music but it will take a lot of re-editing on complex scores.


  3. #3

    Re: Music Notation Scanning Software

    Yes, they have improved, but I still find them pretty much unusable. I have Smartscore Pro v3. I'm doing scan-to-notation (Finale import) instead of scan-to-MIDIfile.

    On the plus side, Smartscore now gets 98-99% of the notes correct. (Previous versions got maybe 80% correct). It seems able to scan even quite small music well (e.g. church hymnals and some orchestral scores). It has extensive editing capabilities to clean up errors and scanner artifacts. It handles clean second generation scan copies as well as the original, so I can photocopy score pages and feed them through my scanner's sheet feeder.

    On the minus side, recognition ability gets progressively worse on other notational elements. Accidentals 80%. Time signatures 50%. Expression marks (e.g. staccato) 30%. Text markings (e.g. "Andante") 5%. Worse yet, it often gives 'false positives' on these elements- interpreting an accent as a accidental, or whatever. You're best off to tell it not to scan anything but notes, but it still can mistake other notation elements for notes.

    Also forget about even the best quality handwritten music. When I tried to scan a Hal Leonard Real Book (the ones with the 'handwritten' but very neat notation), Smartscore totally lost it. It gets really confused on chord slash notation in pop/jazz charts, and it can't be configured to ignore such stuff.

    I though I would take the messed-up scans and load them into Finale to clean up the errors (since I'm more familiar with Finale), but that's a real PITA. If Smartscore dropped a beat somewhere all subsequent bars are messed up. So Finale imports pretty much have to be perfect coming out of Smartscore.

    BTW, think about the statistics for a minute. 90% recognition sounds great until you realize this means, on average, 10 items out of 100 will be wrong. Think about how many notational elements are on a page of music, and how much time you will spend hunting down mistakes and fixing them. Unless you need to do something really simple, like maybe scan a church hymn to transpose it, you're probably better off getting it in the computer by some means other than scanning. At least until recognition gets to >= 99.99%!

    - Steve

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Dorset, UK

    Re: Music Notation Scanning Software

    Nevertheless I've found Smartscore really useful. I found it faster to correct mistakes by importing the raw midifile into my sequencer and making the corrections on the piano roll window, with notation showing.

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