Music Scanning with PhotoScore 8 and NotateMe for iPad

psasbundle8dvdpackIf you have ever worked with a group of musicians then you have run into the same issues I have – you will at some point in time need to take printed sheet music, turn it into digital notation and tweak it in various ways. Maybe it is because a part is too hard for your student, maybe it’s because you don’t have the correct instrumentation, or you need a different instrument to cover a section of the piece but the music isn’t in the correct key. Maybe you just need a rehearsal recording and you don’t want to play in all the parts yourself. Maybe one of your students arranged a piece of music and now the students in the band need parts printed out for their instruments even though the basic arrangement was only a quintet.

The nice thing is, these days it is getting easier and faster to get this job done. Neuratron LTD has released their latest and greatest of PhotoScore. PhotoScore is now at version 8 and now it comes with NotateMe Ultimate. NotateMe Ultimate is for those of you, with a touch screen computer, who want to handwrite music but have it turned into computerized notation. NotateMeNow and NotateMe are for iOS and allow us to handwrite our parts out on our iPads/iPhones so we can do this anyplace we happen to have a few moments. NotateMe and NotateMe Now for iOS also have a PhotoScore plug-in available that simply is as amazing as PhotoScore on a computer (well, pretty close anyways)

THE SCENARIO: I am always looking for the fastest way to get my marching band arrangements into my computer so i can do things like I mentioned above. I wanted to share with you what my latest findings are with the new PhotoScore 8 update running against the iPad version of PhotoScore inside of NotateMe. The results are pretty amazing….

EXAMPLES: Let’s take a look at just one part, the Quads part. The marching percussion music has always taken me the longest to get input into the computer so I think this is a good example. Now, for those of you who have ever worked with marching band music you will know that it is pretty small. The size is a factor in getting scanning software to recognize what it is trying to read. The quality of what you start with is always an issue as well – it used to be that in order for me to have ANY hope of PhotoScore working well I had to scan all my music as TIFF files at 400 DPI. Why is that an issue? Well number one – time. It takes longer! Number two – size of files. The quads part alone as a TIFF is 900KB whereas the PDF with ALL the 18 pages of parts in it is 1.5MB.

So here you go… Take a look at how this software works with the new updates. Three different ways to get to the same outcome – Here are the scanning results without any touch up. This will show you how extremely accurate this process is!

FROM A TIFF: I started the old fashioned way – On my Laptop running PhotoScore 8 reading a TIFF file that I scanned with the scanner sitting on my desk next to me. (which, may I add, means that I HAVE to be sitting here at my house to get done)
TIFF Version

FROM A PDF: Next I used my Laptop running PhotoScore 8 and opened the PDF version of the part. PDF Version

FROM MY iPAD RUNNING NotateMe and the PhotoScore Plug-in:
iPad Version

So as you can see, every which way you do this there will be some clean up to do. The part that astounds me is that with the exception of one added flat for some reason – EVERY SINGLE NOTE IS CORRECT! With the exception of the iPad putting the tuplets early every time EVERY SINGLE RHYTHM IS CORRECT! (Usually I will get a few rhythms and notes that need fixing when I do this for let’s say a flute or clarinet part.)

You can also see that using the 400DPI TIFF still is a better outcome than trying to read the PDF version. To be fair, my PDF files are scans done on our copier at school. I think that Neuratron says you should be using PDF’s created on a computer, printed straight from a Notation app. I have actually had real good success though with many of my PDF’s working well enough that I don’t need a separate TIFF file for every part. Again, marching band music is small so that causes issues!

Here’s what are still issues no matter which way you do this –

  1. Multi-measure rests are hardly ever read correctly. Not a problem on the desktop because it usually only puts in the wrong number of measures which is quickly fixed with a double click and typing the correct number. On the iPad you can see that the multi-measure rests were just skipped. Again, not too hard of a fix using NotateMe and my finger I can add a measure quickly by double tapping and drawing in a whole rest. Of course if there are a lot of rests you may just want to bring the file into a regular notation program and add the measure there.
  2. Accents – I was very surprised that the iPad did not fair very well here. Usually the iPad picks up most accents and staccatos. Marcato accents frequently are read as “A”
  3. Rehearsal Marks – Almost never read correctly. Again though these are better added later in a regular notation app even though you can do it at this stage.
  4. Percussion Parts that have bar and 2 bar repeats – again, never works. Simply add them later.
  5. Layout of the new digital version – if you for some reason NEED the new version to be played out exactly like the original then you can see that using the iPad doesn’t give that to you right away. Simply use Notion and set up your page layout options.

Here’s what works well –

  1. PhotoScore 8 and the the PhotoScore plugin inside of NotateMe for iOS is extremely accurate at notes and rhythms. I usually have very few notes or rhythms per part to fix (maybe 3-6)

Here’s how I clean it all up –

When using NotateMe on my iPad I find that I can fix many of the issues using my finger (or a stylus). It does take a bit of getting used to it but so does working with any notation app. I simply delete anything is wrong and redraw that measure if it is notes/rhythms. For the multi-measure issue I double tap and draw in a whole rest unless there are a ton of measures for some reason in a particular part – then it gets done in Notion. I will fix articulation issues inside of NotateMe because it is just so darned fast and easy to do here. I will also fix the tuplet issue inside NotateMe because after fixing it once I can simply copy and paste it every other time.

When using PhotoScore on my Laptop I will delete all the really wild issues, then I will use the option key to copy a few things like bar lines and whole rests so the 2 bar repeats can be added later and I don’t forget about them! I will not usually add in the accents, staccatos and marcatos in this app – that gets done way faster in Sibelius or Notion.

(SIDE-NOTE: I will say that when using PhotoScore on the laptop it is very nice to have the original piece of music in a split screen view to refer to instead of having to go back and forth from the paper original to the computer screen. When using PhotoScore on iPad you have to refer back to the paper sheet music to make sure all errors are corrected.)

NO MATTER WHAT – One of the last steps is to take all the individual parts and combine them into a score. That always gets done in Notion or Sibelius. I save XML files out of PhotoScore, import those into Notion and then if it is a transposing part I will transpose the part to concert pitch after which I select and copy the entire part. Then I switch to the full score and paste that part in.


It appears as though the first list above far outweighs the 2nd. In reality the first list is a bunch of quick and easy to things to cleanup. It is the 2nd list that used to take forever to accomplish when entering note by note! Here in 2015 this process takes so much less time. This process can be done ANYWHERE too! As you can see from the above examples – the iPad isn’t quite as good as PhotoScore 8 on a computer but it’s pretty darn close!

If you are a musician with an iPad I would be downloading NotateMe Now immediately because it is free and will let you run PhotoScore on a single staff piece of music – like a flute part.

PhotoScore is one of those pieces of software that is constantly up-to-date, year after year. If you have never tried it out, it is time to take the plunge!

NotateMe Icon SmallNotateMe Now – Free /PhotoScore inside of NotateMe Now – Free for one stave musicNotateMe –

NotateMe Icon Small NotateMe – $39.99 / PhotoScore Plug-in IAP – $29.99

PhotoScore BoxPhotoScore 8  – $249 (Free demo available)

As always – all links to software on my blog are affiliate links. That means that I get 7% of Apples 30% share of an app purchase. The developers still get their full 70%. These links are simply giving a little back for my time to write about my experiences. Hopefully by my blogging I save the rest of you some time or maybe money or maybe give you new ideas.


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