Importing Instrumental Parts Scanned In NotateMe Into Notion Using Just an iPad – Tutorial

notatemelogoNotion Large IconSmartMusic LargeSmartMusic InBox Large

Most teachers use their summer time as a chance to rejuvenate and relax while at the same time planning and preparing for the upcoming school year. As a music teacher who likes to take advantage of the technology available to us today, I am deep into the prep work for my fall Marching Band Show. Currently I am working on the music. I wanted to share some of that process because the tools we have available to us are exciting. These tools open doors to new ways to teach, assess and improve our students/ourselves.

CURRENT PROJECT: My end outcome is that I want my marching band students to use SmartMusic to record playing assessments. This allows me a chance to hear each and every individual student, give them feedback to improve as an individual and then I also use those assessments to hone in on issues to work on with the full group.

THE PROBLEM: SmartMusic has an extensive repertoire for band students but my marching band music is not included in that list.

THE SOLUTION: Thankfully MakeMusic allows us to use Finale to create our own SmartMusic assessments.

THE PROCESS: Of course that means that we have to take each instrumental part and get it into Finale in the first place. Because Finale and I do not get along – I have other programs that allow me to work much faster – I utilize the XML file format. XML allows me to work with other music notation programs to create the digital sheet music that will then smoothly import into Finale which will translate that into SmartMusic.

As complicated as this process sounds it really is so much easier these days! In fact, much of the work can now be done using simply an iPad allowing me to work wherever I want to. I do not have to be sitting at my desk at my house or God forbid, the school! So here it all is….

STEP ONE: Using my iPad I scan each part into NotateMe working with the PhotoScore plugin. Neuratron has just updated the desktop version of PhotoScore to version 8 so this process can also be done using a regular computer. I’ve not yet figured out which is fastest, the computer or the iPad. Each works so darned well now that I think you are going to win no matter which way you go!

STEP TWO: Using NotateMe on my iPad I go through and carefully check for the following items – Time Signatures, Key signatures, Multi-measure Rests and then notation issues. If any of these, which I call the Big Four, are messed up then trying to import the NotateMe XML into another music notation app is going to be more work. Honestly, I don’t even worry that much about articulations, dynamics and for sure NEVER worry about markings such as rehearsal letters, tempo or style. Those items are faster most times to fix later in another app once all parts are imported.

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 5.07.48 PMSTEP THREE: I then take advantage of NotateMe’s XML export feature to dump the now digital sheet music into Notion on my iPad.

STEP FOUR: I double check that all is good once I open the music in Notion. Again I check the big four – I often find I missed something in NotateMe like a key signature change. Sometimes I find that measures of rests did not all import correctly.

STEP FIVE: If it is a transposing instrument I then transpose the part to concert key and then select the entire part and copy it.

STEP SIX: Then it is time to open the full score and paste in the individual part. You really must pay attention because if you missed one of those big four items in the above steps then when you paste in the new music EVERY SINGLE STAVE is changed and is now WRONG! Time signatures will be in the wrong spot, key signatures will be messed up etc… In fact – if you messed up the measures it is absurdly hard to fix it after pasting into the full score. I will just undo the paste, exit out of the score and go back to the individual part to fix any of the big four issues.

STEP SEVEN: Importing from NotateMe into Notion using the XML format messes with positioning of dynamics so you have to select the entire Notion score, tap the more option, tap the attachments option and select the auto position.

STEP EIGHT: I now go through the entire score to figure out where I have missing dynamic issues, to input rehearsal letters/numbers, set correct tempos and any other final details.

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 5.07.37 PMSTEP NINE: Then I export the score out of Notion as an XML file, Import that into Finale and save it as a SmartMusic file.

STEP TEN: Assign playing tests to the students

STEP ELEVEN: Listen to the playing tests and give immediate feedback!

This all sounds like it might take forever but in reality I can have a song completed in one day and STILL not get my wife too upset at me. 🙂

I’ve recorded this process in a nifty YouTube video for you to see the process of taking the scanned NotateMe music and importing it into your score. That is the part that takes a little bit of thinking so I figured a video may help some of you. If you have questions please contact me and I will see where I can help.


Notion Large IconNotion -Download on App Store (Just make sure you know that the Saxophones are an IAP for .99 each – STUPID)

notatemelogoNotateMe – Download on App Store (Make Sure to get the PhotoScore IAP too though)

SmartMusic LargeSmartMusic – Download on App Store

SmartMusic InBox LargeSmartMusic Inbox – Download on App Store

Finale – Web Site (as they do not have an app for the iPad yet for Creating Finale files)

Music XML – Can’t download this as it is built into various apps like Notion and Finale. It is owned by Make Music though.

Creating Music Notation on an iPad

Notion Large Iconnotatemelogo = AMAZING

Ever run into the scenario where you pull out a piece of music that you really want to perform for your next concert only to find out that the keyboard part has been lost?

Ever have a budding young bass guitarist who is learning how to read notes and play that bass but you know that if you handed her tabs to go along with the notation things would go a whole lot faster in rehearsal?

My answers: Yup and Yup!

My response: Use a couple of apps, my iPad and an external MIDI Keyboard along with my Camera Connection Kit and an hour or so later I have the problem solved!


I took the actual paper copy of the bass part to the piece of music, used the outstanding app NotateMe Icon SmallNotateMe along with the PhotoScore plugin and took a picture on my iPhone of the bass part. NotateMe and the PhotoScore plugin turned that picture of the sheet music into digital notation. Using my iPhone and my finger I cleaned up and fixed a few small errors. Then I exported that as an XML file into Notion Small IconNotion for iPad. Notion is a full featured music notation app for iPad as well as desktop computers.

I did the same for the guitar part just for the fun of it because it is so stinking fast and easy to do!

Here is what the Bass guitar part looked like after I imported it into Notion and set the instrument as a Bass Guitar (Notion automatically had the TAB turned on for me already but it is a quick tap of a button to turn off as you will that I did for the Guitar part) Now I’ve got my bassist taken care of.


On to the lost Keyboard part – for this I hooked up my Camera Connection Kit to my Novation LaunchKey. The LaunchKey is bus powered by the iPad so I didn’t have to worry about additional power cords or batteries.

Then in Notion I added a piano part, tapped on the first measure, and then the record button. Then I played the right hand in real time while Notion (on an iPad mind you!) recorded it. During recording you get these little blue lines but as soon as you hit the stop button those blue lines get turned into music notation! I have come to discover that doing this on an iPad is giving me just results that are just as excellent as on a laptop! Then I repeated and recorded the left hand. While recording the left hand I set the split point so that it wouldn’t mess up the RH part. I had a couple of weird errors afterwards so I fixed those quickly by tapping and selecting and erasing and changing – easy and quick!

After all that this is my score I ended up with on the iPad… You can see that it looks fantabulous!

Notion ScorePRSunset

The last and final step was to hit the share/export button, elect Export PDF, select Individual Parts and then Email. I sent myself a copy to print in the morning and I also sent my bassist a copy of her new sheet music that now included the TABs.

If you have NOT used NotateMe you really must! There is even a totally free version of the app called NotateMe Icon SmallNotateMe Now that allows you to experience the PhotoScore plugin as well FOR FREE – the limitation is that it only works with one stave parts. So a trumpet part could be scanned in but a piano part could not.

If you have not decided whether or not Music Notation on an iPad is ready yet get your gift card out and buy either SymphonyPro Small IconSymphonyPro ($9.99) or Notion Small IconNotion for iPad ($14.99) (warning – Notion does take about 2GB’s of space on your iPad because of the amazing sounds used in the app!)

Xenon Labs does also have a version of Symphony for iPhoneSymphony for iPhone that works very well and is only $4.99

The Full version of NotateMe is $39.99 (NotateMe is actually an app that allows you to handwrite music notation)
The PhotoScore Plugin for NotateMe is $29.99 (Yes, I fully understand that some of you may have choked on your pancakes upon seeing the price of these two apps – let me put it into perspective for you though – I used to do this same thing with a REAL computer, a REAL scanner and the $250 version of PhotoScore for computers. The scary cool thing is that it seems like this almost works better on my iPad!)

Symphony for iPhone – Free! Music Notation App for the palm of your hand!

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 7.56.50 AMOK People! This is a no brainer!

There are a couple of music notation apps available for iPad currently. One of the main choices for anyone seriously looking for a great app has been SymphonyPro Small IconSymphony Pro by Xenon Labs, LLC. This app has been out for a while now and has matured into a wonderful way to work. Now Xenon has released Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 7.56.50 AMSymphony for iPhone  (normally $4.99 and worth every penny of that!) BUT currently it is on a very short sale – it’s a good sale too – FREE!

Unfortunately, Xenon is breaking one of my cardinal rules of selling an app. They really have no web site showing off what the iPhone version is capable of currently. I am sure they are working on one but for now you have to read what is offered to you on the iTunes Store.

Let me highlight a few significant items for music educators:

  1. This app works with Music XML – that means you can start a score here and transfer it to another app like Symphony Pro on iPad, Notion on iPad or even Sibelius/Finale/Notion on desktop!
  2. This app will allow students to pull MIDI files off the internet and put them into notation files! This is a wonderful way to find transcriptions that others have done but are not available in sheet music yet.
  3. You can hook up an external device like a MIDI keyboard and speed up entry of notes!
  4. You can even record in real time!
  5. You have up to 15 instruments, 45 staves and 4 voices per stave at a time to work with!
  6. You can make staves invisible to view only what you want to view at any given time – as you can imagine, this would be very helpful on a smaller screen.
  7. There are chord, lyric and even annotation tools available
  8. After your students are done creating they can use AirPlay to play their masterpiece through AirPlay compatible speakers or an Apple TV (or the AirServer/Reflection apps) – Think about it – NO WIRES!

Can you tell I’m a bit excited about this? 🙂

Symphony Screen Shot

New Notation App (If you like Tabs) – Tabular Mobile

Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 9.28.25 PM

Not sure if I missed this because I am not really a guitar and tabs person or if it just needs more publicity but the end of April a new app was released that is pretty awesome!

Chromatic Labs has developed Tabular Mobile: A modern tablature editor for Tabular OSX Small IconMac OSX and Tabular iOS Small IconiPad and I’m here to tell that it works very well, is easy to use and is a great starting point!

I have had to work with guitar players that just do not read music in the past and sometimes it is just easier to give them tabs or sometimes I have a student who is just learning how to play bass guitar that actually reads music who would actually learn faster if they read tabs. I don’t like working with tabs because there is usually no indication of rhythms and that just messes with my brain. I do see the advantage though for some people, some of the time. With THAT being said….

Some how I ran across Tabular tonight. It is a few months old now but I have not seen ANYONE talking about it! Which is disappointing because the iPad version is FREE and the app works very well. There are restrictions, with the most serious issue being that the number of measures you can add is restricted to 100 in the free version. You are also restricted on how many documents, tracks and custom tunings you can add. If those things are going to hold you back then the upgrade is $9.99 which is a fair price for what you can do with this app.

Tabular Bass PartI dug in and started creating a piece, an original composition so be warned! I found it extremely easy to find my way around the app and to start adding music. You really must have a good understanding of the notes on a stringed instrument to use the app though.  Of course if your goal os to transcribe something you can already play then it will not be an issue. The way you add notes is to simply select the length of note value you would like, whole/half/quarter etc… and then to tap on the fretboard. Then you tap the plus button to add another note and repeat the process. The biggest issue I had with the app is that you are allowed to add too many beats in a measure. To be fair though there is an colored indicator  under the measures that do not add up.

Once a measure is complete you tap the right arrow and another measure is created. Pretty simple. There are all sorts of sweet guitar and normal musical symbols/articulations/slides and other things in the menu along the bottom of the screen. I added a bunch and then printed the part out. I was given several options in the share menu…. one was to email, another was to Message and then I could Print. If sharing by email you can send a Tabular file (for working on in the desktop version), a PDF (which I choose), ASCII, or MIDI files. You can see the printed PDF looks pretty darned good! Scroll down, cause there’s more!

Tabular Bass Part Printed

After plunking out a bass part I started digging around in the menu up in the upper right of the screen (The one that says Bass and has a bass icon) – This is where I started to wonder what the future plans are for this app…. when adding more tracks you are given some icons like a flute, piano, trumpet, saxophone as choices that don’t make much sense in a tabs app. This is also where you select which sound you would like and again there were some interesting choices like pan flute. I didn’t find a piano sound though, strange given that there is a piano icon.

I also found another limitation of the free version – 3 tracks.

Tabular - Drum PartsI was very excited to find out that the app supports drum tab! Honestly, after laying out a drum part in this app I am in love with the drum notation! It is easier than Sibelius! I have never enjoyed doing drum parts in Sibelius or Finale just because it takes me WAY longer than all the other parts, like flute, clarinet or whatever. In this app it was WAY quick!!!!!!! You are given a menu to chose which instruments you are going to need notation for – I selected a BD, SD, HH, High Tom and Low Tom. Then the entering of notes is just like for guitar except that you have this nifty instrument picker for each note value…. so for instance while entering the first 8th note I simply selected that I wanted an Open HiHat and a Bass Drum to sound. Notice the pink arrows below? For the HH and SD there are several versions of those sounds as indicated in this screen shot by the o’s next to the words. If you tap on the o next to the HH it becomes an x – that would mean the HH would sound closed. If you tap the o next to the SD it becomes an @ and then it would sound muffled. You can see the changes very quickly in the tabs.

If you tap the little hamburger icon in the bottom right you are given options to Undo, Redo, Copy, Paste and many other choices as well…. they all were very easy to figure out once I found them.

Of course the Play button allowed you to play the song…. which you can listen to at the bottom of this post. I hope that eventually they add AudioBus and InterApp compatibility. As it stands, in order for me to share the audio with you I had to record it into GarageBand on my MacBook then upload it to SoundCloud. I think the audio quality is pretty good – Of course I remember back in the day when QuickTime first gave us a MIDI synth built in on our desktops! Boy, was THAT exciting too! (Didn’t sound as good then though!)

I like the way each part looks individually but I could not find a way to look at or print all three parts at once though.  I love the fact that I can see the tabs right along with the standard notation! It is possible to hide the staff and it is possible to replace it with just the rhythms! Which of course means that I could play form it without gripping too much!

For the price, you can not beat this app for being able to whip out some tabs for some reason or another. I love where they have started, a very solid and smoothly working app that gives us a chance to create tabbed notation for free on the iPad!

I am going to keep this app in my sights to watch for these improvements….

  1. Being able to see more than one part at a time
  2. The addition of AudioBus and/or InterApp Audio
  3. I really think that I should not be allowed to add too many beats in a measure. It might even be nice if the rest of the measure automatically filled up with whatever rests I needed to finish it – so if I had already entered a quarter note and two 8th notes then it would show a half rest. As soon as I entered an 8th note I would see an 8th rest and a quarter rest. (MINOR)

Here are the two PDF parts for you to see the quality of the printed parts (feel free to steal the music and perform it at your next concert, just mention my name in the program and send me a video of the performance!) –

Tabular Bass Part | Tabular Drum Part


Here is the audio of the file from my SoundCloud –

Music Notation on the iPad – SymphonyPro Updated!

There are only a handful of apps on the iPad that are actually useful for music notation on the iPad. Tonight that list grows by one.

SymphonyPro     SymphonyProV3SymphonyPro has been updated to a version that is actually useable! I have really wanted this app to be useable ever since it came out but every time I have tried it in the past there have been too many bugs. The developers really wanted this app to work too though and have stayed hard at work. With this update I was actually able to get the app to work. It did the job very well in fact! There are still a few issues – The interface for instance has been updated to be iOS7 comparable but it is actually way too light in several areas and this makes it difficult to see! I also had an issue when inputting a clarinet part and the transposition of the key did not work very well . I was able to find a work around though because SymphonyPro works well with MusicXML, so with a quick export of my score from SymphonyPro into Sibelius I had the issue fixed. In fact this sort of situation is exactly the scenario I see many people using the iPad for – starting musical scores and ideas on the iPad then transferring them over to Sibelius, Finale or Notion on a regular computer.

Let me make a list of some of the areas I thought was very useful in SymphonyPro –

  1. I could input and edit the music with very intuitive taps on the touch interface.
  2. I was able to use a MIDI keyboard to help input music along with using the virtual keyboard/fretboard.
  3. I was able to record that MIDI keyboard live (required some editing but could be faster)
  4. When recording live there are nice quantization options and the ability to turn tuples on or off.
  5. Nice selection of articulations, dynamics, and other musical markings like chords, text and lyrics
  6. Editing through use of normal copy/paste, insert/rearrange, along with undo/redo was possible.
  7. I could play back the score to listen to it.
  8. Exporting of the final product had several options – Music XML, PDF, Picture, AAC, and even MIDI! SoundCloud is even an option – Lovely job there guys, thank you!

There are still some areas that need improvement –

  1. Layout of the score – not nearly as nice as in Sibelius (See the two PDF’s I have below for comparison
  2. Trying to export a Picture resulted in the app freezing up (To be fair I was using my iPad1 so that may have been the issue?)
  3. Transposition of instrument parts still has something funky going on – I thought it was working correctly when I started but after finishing the entire score I noticed that at some point my clarinet part started displaying in concert pitch and I could not fix that issue. (and yes, I know about the “Concert Pitch” option in the score menu – did not work AT ALL!) Plus when I imported the XML file into Sibelius my clarinet ended acting like it was setup for an Eb AltoSax.
  4. Multi-Rest and Rehearsal markings

NOW FOR THE EVEN BETTER NEWS – All this capability comes at a very small price in storage demands! This app only requires 209MB’s! This is awesome news for those of us working with a 16GB or 32Gb iPad!


Comparison of SymPro vs Sibelius
Comparison of SymPro vs Sibelius
Meadowlands SymPro – Click to see the PDF from SymphonyPro

Meadowlands-Sibelius – Click to see the PDF from Sibelius that I imported from the MusicXML file out of SymPro. I edited the transposition issue quickly and added rehearsal markings is all I did here.

There are two other very important apps that are available on iPad for music notation you should know about as well….

Notion Small IconNotion Music, owned by PreSonus Audio Electronics, has both a desktop app and also an iPad app that is rock solid! I love that the desktop app is only $99 and that it works hand in hand with the iPad app, which is only $15 (Which is quite a bargain, if you are familiar with prices for music notation apps!) The problem with the iPad app is that it requires you to have 1.18 GB of free space on your iPad and that is only for the basic sound set! Now don’t get me wrong – these are going to sound awesome, but unless your iPad is of the 64GB or 128GB version you very well are not going to want to spare that much space!

Then there is NotateMe Icon SmallNotateMe from Neuratron– This is an amazing app that is well worth the price! You get to handwrite the music and it turns it into printed/computerized sheet music! I was more than willing to pay the $22 full price for this app because it is so amazing – handwritten music notation – any idea how much THAT costs on a regular computer? PLUS they even offer a free 1 staff version! works very well through the Safari app so this is another great option.

There are other apps that are fun to play with – ScoreCloud Small IconScoreCloud Express lets you sing/play/whistle into and it will tell you the notes you are singing and is on a spring time sale for only .99 cents! (You should only sing one note at a time in this app by the way – meant for mono-phonic music!) TomChord Small IconTomChord on the other hand will recognize chords you are playing or from a song in your music library!


All of this comes at the same time as a new blog entry from an upcoming music app from former Sibelius developers who are now working at Steinberg –


Very Exciting Prospects in iPad Music Notation

I was contacted by developer about their app Symphonix Evolution. This is one more app entry into the music notation category.

This app does something new that I have been waiting for in a music notation app. It allows me to hit the record button, play the keyboard and then I get music notation! This is the really exciting news! I’ve been waiting for this capability since I bought my first iPad. I just figured that it would be either Finale or Sibelius that would make it happen first!

The bad news is that the notation that is the result of such a recording makes me remember the first time I ever saw a music notation app back when I was in college (think late 80’s!) Now don’t get me wrong, we were pretty excited about the capabilities back then as well! The problem is that there are some weird rests that end up needing to be edited out. There are some weird rhythms that show up too, things that no musician would want to read. Of course technically these things are all correct, that’s exactly what I played – it’s just not what I want to see. Software notation programs have come a long ways since the 80’s! Now we are spoiled! We get to use Sibelius, record a part, and have Sibelius interpret it for us into a sensible piece of music.

What makes me so excited about what is going on here is that if Symphonix Evolution can make this happen then I KNOW Finale and Sibelius are hard at work doing their magic too!

Back to Symphonix Evolution. I think that this app holds promise for use in a music class. It is a 16 track sequencer, MIDI is fully supported, Music XML support is coming soon as well. You can also input notes one at a time to get exactly the look you want from the beginning. There is much potential here. Here is a YouTube video that talks about some of the features.

I will also say that this app does not feel like a polished app. There were many times I was left frustrated about a button that would not work well (probably because of my fat fingers) or else I had to sit there pushing a few different buttons to try to figure how to do something. There were times I just couldn’t figure out how to do something, which after using the app for a while I’m sure would not be a problem. But students in a music class are going to have the same thoughts and frustrations as I did.

One other downfall I believe is that the app is $12.99. This is a pretty high price in my eyes.

I’m not sure where this app falls in my list of useful or not useful. Of course in my situation, I own Sibelius. So if I want to create music notation I am going to be doing that on my Mac. If I had students that did not own Sibelius though I might suggest this app. It does not take up the absurd amount of space that Notion does, that’s for sure! Of course this app does support MIDI files. That means there are a zillion MIDI files on the web that students could be downloading, importing into Symphonix Evolution and turning into musical notation for further study. All on an iPad!