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Part 2: An Extremely Brief Foray into Music Scanning (Music OCR)

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Don't bother.

OK, I'll go into more detail: there's only one free application that's currently being developed, Audiveris. OpenOMR (Optical Music Recognition) hasn't been updated since 2013 and there's no available documentation.

I tested using a PDF I downloaded of Darius Milhaud's Suite for Clarinet, Violin and Piano, Op 157b. Specifically, the third movement, "Jeu," which is just a clarinet and violin duet. It's not an exceptionally high-quality PDF, but it's not terrible. My scanner is an Epson WF3530 which easily meets the hardware requirements for Audiveris.

Audiveris likes 300dpi JPG images -- I couldn't get it to work with other file formats and higher-resolution scans didn't make any difference. The result was ... it scanned the name of the piece right. (I can't find my screenshots. Sorry about that. I think I have them on my work PC. The program is very difficult to install and I really don't want to reinstall on my home computer.)

So, I tried a trial of the top-of-the-line $400 Musitek SmartScore X2 Professional Edition. It likes 470dpi BMP images, which my scanner can easily handle. The result was better than Audiveris, but nothing to write home about. Here are a couple screenshots. The top yellow part is the scan, the bottom white and pink part is the SmartScore interpretation. Double-click to enlarge.

musitek1.JPG

musitek2.JPG

I think it's possible that if I had a very large-print score and/or I had one that had exceptionally clear type, it'd come out OK in SmartScore or even Audiveris. I also think that I could probably tweak a bunch of settings and make things better, but I could also spend about an hour and a half playing the parts into my computer through my MIDI keyboard and get a perfect result. Which is what I eventually did. Also, Audiveris is supposed to be getting an update to "support even poor-quality scores." Unfortunately, it looks like the last updates are over a year old, so I wouldn't hold my breath.

If you do want to try scanning in music, there are a lot of companies that have music OCR packages. I strongly recommend that you download their trial copies and test really, really hard before you buy.
 
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pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
According to Wikipedia, music OCR started with MIDISCAN in 1991, which eventually became SmartScore, the product I tested.

I seem to remember that, with standard OCR, they got about 90% accuracy and they've been trying to get that final 10% for the past dozen or so years and haven't quite gotten there. (Hey. I actually just made up that number, then I checked. I'm just about right.) It's similar with other analog to digital things, too. Hey, Siri on my iPhone and iPad misunderstands me rather often. Handwriting recognition on all my machines often screws up my Os and 0s and other letters.

I'd be willing to bet that there are an awful lot more iDevice users than OCR users and I know Apple throws a lot of money into iDevice R&D and the iDevices aren't perfect. People that want to scan music are probably even a smaller percentage of the population than standard OCR users, so a lot less money's being thrown at Music OCR, thus the technology isn't that great. Yet.

I did read reviews from other folks regarding a few different music OCR packages. Some people did have good success. However, as I said, I can probably make a 100% perfect score relatively quickly by playing it in with a MIDI keyboard. I'd bet someone that can play more than a couple notes at a time on a keyboard could really cut down that time. Heck, if I had more practice, I could probably cut my time in half or less.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
One problem with scanning in music is that you automatically get shunted up to a larger sized scanner with normal sheet music charts. Here, I'm not talking lead sheets or the like, but rather the larger format on which printed parts are routinely delivered.

Jump up to musical scores, and you can end up with even larger chunks of paper. When we digitized the Walt Stuart collection back in 2012, the original intent was to use Brother sheet fed scanner/copier/printers/fax machines to do it all. That rapidly ran aground when we found almost all of his stuff was done on large size score paper, and Jim Brugman (the mastermind behind the project; I was just a mule used to transport and do some of the photography) moved to custom made copy stands to do the bulk of the work.

(I still use the printer, an excellent low-cost piece of equipment with an A+++ scanner and radio network capabilities, for my main printer, saving the laser equipment where permanence is desired. The Brother may be an inkjet, and it may be a perfect bitch to clean (after a ream or so of paper, you need to swab off all of the feed rollers in the thing), but it's perfect for most uses.)

I have seen musicians work off of a chart displayed on an iPad and it's not a pretty sight. For viewing at anything approaching performance distances, the large format (and I still don't know what it's called, thank you very much) is the minimum to use - the big band charts that I've had arranged often used the score sized paper instead.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Somewhat on the same topic, Terry, when I was inputting the parts for Jeu, I had my MIDI keyboard directly underneath one of my monitors and I was displaying the PDF score on that monitor. I had musescore opened on my second (center) monitor and I had something else opened on my third (far left) monitor. I did get confused, on occasion, which part I was playing. The two monitors I was playing with are both 1080p and I could see the full page, but the page was resized down by about 20% or so -- the built-in Microsoft PDF viewer doesn't give the exact percentage, just zoom in/out buttons. Now, if I rotated my monitor, I would have seen a nice, full-sized page that would be magnified a bit. However, I'd have to do a bit of re-cabling so I could do that.

I still like the idea of using an iPad as something for your music stand. I do think you're right that it's a bit small. It's only a 9.7" screen, after all. However, there are much larger tablets out there: a 17.3" one from HP for $469. Or, going all out, is Panasonic's 20" 4K tablet for a mere $6,000. (Actually, there are even larger ones that are monitors that also run Android at much lower prices, but none of them are 4K displays.)

EDIT: Large format sheet-feed scanners are expensive. FWIW, if you were doing music OCR, you wouldn't be using sheet-feed. You'd be scanning a page, editing it, then going to the next page. A single-page large-format scanner can be pretty inexpensive.

EDIT 2: The Acer hybrid 21.5" monitor that runs Android 4.0 is $169 used, or less. Do note that it's only a 2-point touchscreen, not 10. However, if you're just flipping pages, you really don't need more than 1-point :).
 
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SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
When we went on our Disney cruise in fall of 2013 (I think), we were impressed with everything about the cruise save the music. I think that all of the musicians used iPad as part of their acts. Most were using for just the words of tunes (one of the duos had a rep of over a couple of hundred songs - I know because we listened to them for two evenings), but a pianist who performed in the "grand hall" of the ship (a very impressive location, by the way - a four deck cavity located in the center of the ship with two grand staircases) was (literally) huddled over her full sized iPad as she tried to work her way through a bunch of tunes that she obviously was not familiar with, just from the way that she played them.

This speaks both to the legibility of the music display, and to the auditioning process that Disney employed. I've known any number of pianists who could reel through a lot of "standards" with no music at all, and could competently perform the same tunes with a clearly displayed lead sheet.

She could not, and from the over-reliance on the iPad, it was clear that she was not a pianist of this quality. Score a negative for the Disney audition process.

However, most competent musicians can perform music clearly displayed on music with a run through or two - either they can, or they aren't "professional". In my cruise ship days, this was assumed of me, a pencil-necked geek of a saxophone/clarinet player if ever there was one. While she certainly wasn't a pencil-necked geek (being actually very comely/attractive), she obviously played well enough in the audition, but couldn't see the chart to deliver during the cruise. (Poor lighting was also a factor - Disney doesn't like to display their princesses in a high light environment.)

I've tried the iPad for music, and found it wanting. I've also tried one of the devices that used to be advertised through the AFM paper, one belonging to my friend Jim. The device itself was the size of a sheet of typing paper, but the image was substantially smaller. Quite aside from the cumbersome page turn system employed (a DS or DC was even more cumbersome), the visibility of the image was rather on the difficult side (even considering the built in illumination of the device).

I've seen (but not played off of) a computer monitor that displayed a full two page display of music, at what looked like full typing paper size. It was a computerized system that was run from a central computer system, and it allegedly was "quite reliable".

As the computers used appeared to be of the Windows persuasion, I am somewhat skeptical of that claim. Quite aside from the cost, transportation, setup and teardown of the system, a minor computer glitch could mean the complete end of your multi-thousand dollar performance, with no manual backup to salvage the disaster. (No stand lights or sheet music containers were in evidence at the performance.)

Call me old fashioned, but I feel that computerized sheet music in any form still isn't up to the demands of performance. Those who soldier on with lead sheets might get by, and you can always shift to tunes you already know if you work off of head arrangements. But, when you need to shift to a particular tune and it isn't there, whether from computer failure or missing in the box, you fall short of what's expected of you. Missing in the box you can guard against ahead of time - power/computer failures, not so much...

For the present at least, electronic music processing is a good tool for composing, and backing up your music collection. Given a larger image LCD panel device (something I've yet to see), performance may be an option at some point in the future. But, not yet.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Yup. I definitely don't have a problem with scanning music as a backup -- no OCR or anything; just a backup. I also know that, depending on your license, you're allowed to make a backup copy of each part.

I was thinking about a centralized "server" to server up music pages to a bunch of "terminals." I think that's just too complex. Now, having a 17" flat panel on your stand. I can go with that. The 17.3" HP weighs 5lbs. It's also an IPS display, which means a sharper picture that can be viewed at from more angles. However, I'd want to mount the monitor onto a stand, so it doesn't fall over and break. If you're in an environment where you think you'll break the monitor, it's probably a good idea just to go with the printed music.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
That's only the tip of the iceberg. Then you have to consider transport. For one, it's not a big problem; just buy a decent case and there you go. For a ten piece group, you've suddenly got a big block of stuff to safely move from Point A to Point B. And, it's almost a sure thing that others in the group won't be as careful as you while the moving is taking place.

I also saw the teardown of the group that used the flat panels. They would have occupied about 1/4 of the space in my trailer, just for the monitors. True, the music boxes take up a good deal of space as well.

But, it's hard to damage a music box system - and I've seen people that looked like they were trying, really hard, to do just that. It may break a box, but the charts come through intact.

And, you can stack stuff on them without many worries. In my trailer, the full band (twenty odd file tubs of music in hanging folders) made up the bottom deck of the trailer, and everything else went on top. (My smaller group system is a bit different, but it handles just the same.

(The one problem that I encountered with the music box system is that all of the commercial office supply folks have stopped carrying the thicker, black $10.00 retail plastic versions of same. The thin black plastic boxes worked, but are much more fragile, and they have even stopped carrying those, only stocking the very flimsy clear plastic versions in their stead. Now, you have to order the heavy duty ones from a commercial business supply house instead.)

I can just hear the first person to put their toe through one of these monitors - "I really didn't mean to do it...", right before they signed the payout sheet and put their hand out for their share.
 
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