Getting Things Done – Music Reading

By Martin Jansen, Owner of Jansen-PCINFO

I’m in two choirs and cantor at Church.  I also joined Appleton MacDowell Male Chorus and am in Christmas Stars plus All Rise! (Northeast Wisconsin Passion Play.)  As such, I get exposed to lots of sheet music that I must learn.

If you are in any music group, I have a tool that can help you learn music.  It is my secret $5 weapon to import PDF files and listen to scores during playback.

Sheet Music Scanner

I found Sheet Music Scanner when I was desperate to learn a piece of music quickly.  The cost of the software is $4.99 and written by David Zemsky.  It is available for Android and iOS from the Google Play and Apple App Store, respectively.  It is possible to use the camera on the phone or tablet to capture scores, but my preference is to scan scores using VueScan which I wrote about here.

Optimal scans are 300 DPI in greyscale which is easily set in VueScan.  I only scan the pages with music notes, not the front and back covers which greatly reduces the size of the PDF file.

After the scanning is done, I can upload the file to Dropbox, Google Drive or any other storage accessible by the phone or tablet.

When I open the Sheet Music Scanner app on my phone, I am presented with these simple menu of items:

I select IMPORT and then search for the PDF file I uploaded on Google Drive.  For example, I select The Lord Bless You and Keep You and the software immediately starts reading the score.  In a few seconds, the 4 page score is read and presented for playback:

If I were using the camera, I would take a picture of the score one page at a time, using the ADD A PAGE function near the bottom of the screen.  At the very bottom right is the playback button.  Other buttons, from left to right are: Help and Tips, Save, Keyboard and Adjust Playback.  Rotate the phone or tablet to view in landscape mode.  Just the notes are played back, the words are shown but not exportable.

When you adjust the playback you can control the Tempo (speeding or slowing the playback) and Pitch (higher and lower notes).  I will change the tempo, but hardly ever change the pitch as I want it as accurate as possible to practice my part.

You can stop playback at any time by pausing and you can repeat certain measures by selecting that measure for playback.  This is useful for repeating a particularly difficult part of the song.  Repetition is the key to learning music.

When saving the file there are many options to export to different formats.  I exported the playback to an .mp3 file here.  And this is a screenshot of the saving and exporting options:

Music Scanner has its own format with .MSCA file, but the most intriguing for me is the MusicXML format which can be read into MuseScore and other music composition software.  I wrote about MuseScore in this article.

For most music scores, Sheet Music Scanner does a great job of converting PDF files into playable music.  The music can then be saved or exported into several different formats.

PS:  Most scores are copyrighted and should not be copied and shared with others without legal rights to the score.  Use the above instructions only for personal learning.