Music OCR

Has anyone reading this site had any experience with music OCR (optical character recognition) software? Any brands you recommend or do not recommend?

For those of you who aren’t software nerds, music OCR software is software that converts a scanned piece of music to machine-editable music.

I don’t need handwritten or playback capabilities, and though shape-notes would be nice, it isn’t a need. Ability to recognize text / lyrics would be incredibly nice, if at all possible. The specific application is converting a scanned hymnal to a machine-editable format. It looks like two of the leaders are Neuratron PhotoScore and SmartScore, both of which have insanely expensive full versions for $250+ and stripped-down versions that don’t do lyrics.

Are there any less-expensive third options that offer lyrics and music with decent quality for less than $100?

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13 Letters to the Editor

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  1. I use Finale that has a program built in (I can’t recall the name of it because I haven’t used that part of the program) what I use and was recommended to me as being much better is Sharpeye. It appears it still costs more than you want and it certainly takes some editing after you scan. It also depends on how well a certain piece scans and lyrics seems to need edited most of all at times. I got mine from (EDIT: 8/5/2011: Broken link removed) They handle distribution in the U.S. However there is also a website in I believe the U.K. which is the official one. You can download a demo and try it.

  2. I use Finale for a living and have never used the music scanning feature. My experience has always been it requires more editing to “fix” the scanned music and make it presentable than it is to just re-enter everything from scratch. Just my $0.02 worth.

    • Well, with SmartScore lite, and having to re-enter all the lyrics, it would be harder. Thanks for your input!

  3. Daniel, I am new to the software stuff… I found a free program (open software) that I am using. The open office stuff is really good and compares well with Microsoft Office. I have no experience with Finale, or anything like it, to be able to tell you if it compares well. But hey, it’s free. Try it and see if it will do what you need it to.

    Let me know if it will work for you.

    • I love Open Office, and I’ll give that a try. Thanks!

      • have you tried it yet?

      • I’ve downloaded it but haven’t had a chance to really give it a spin yet. 🙂

    • I’ve been experimenting with this for several days now, and no matter the file size or format or resolution, it seems to get halfway, then freezes (including if I wait for hours).

  4. Finale comes with SmartScore lite – I agree with Shawn that it takes a lot of time – I’ve tried scanning hymnals with no luck – the qualities of the originals need to be very good.

    • Yes. I have Finale w/ SmartScore Lite already, and it’s not the greatest of quality, but it kinda works … if you don’t need lyrics!

  5. I use the Finale Print Music software package both at home and at church. It contains all of the features you listed above and more. Our church has the 2009 version and paid $89.99 for it. I recently purchased the latest version, 2010 and paid $99.99.

    I have not run into the problem that Shawn spoke of regarding the quality of scanned music. Obviously, if you are scanning directly from a bound book, your quality is not as good. But if you are scanning from a flat piece of paper, I have found the quality to be great.

    Here is the website I order from –

    Hope this helps, Daniel!

  6. Yes, some music takes longer than others in Sharpeye, but it does have some editing tools that once you learn them can fix things fairly quickly. You can also learn what settings to use to get better results, but even so some work out better than others. Sometimes I have photocopied first. I have the full Finale 2009, but haven’t used the scanning portion. Even so, I don’t know how the stripped down versions compare.