Optical Character Recognition (scanning) for notated music?

Aloha guys,

While looking in the attic of my church, some members found
a bunch of printed music tuck away in a cupboard. A lot of it.

Mostly lead sheets with melody/chords/lyrics etc

I figured that this would be a perfect job for ‘OCR’ work
(optical character recognition/commonly know as scanning)
but I am not very informed about the current state of the technology
when it come to creating viable MIDI files.

So my first step before hitting the almighty ‘Yahoo/Bing/Goog’ search engine
is to ask you guys.

So guys, when it comes to OCR for music notation, sup wit dat?

Major TIA (thanks in advance)

A good option is Photoscore (Neutraton). Works well with Sibelius and Finale. I am a Sibelius user, but I know a lot of Finale users that are using this program


Lite version comes with Sibelius, and the full version(ultimate) is a different product (more advanced options). You don’t need to own a Sibelius license to buy and use the full version.

Works very well with printed music (computer or tradicional printing), and vary a lot with handwriting music (sometimes it is very good, and sometimes a complete mess).

Here is an alternative (smartscore):


I am interested in the options for this but for the iPad as well. I had seen a few jazz guitarists playing and one used an iPad to display all of the sheet music and set lists they used. When looking into it, several programs did not have some of the nice features that are listed in links you’ve attached here. Have not yet decided but these have even more than I thought might be available and change my thinking.

I know this much, There is a lot of effort in scanning loads of sheet music, titling, sorting and really getting it so it is organized… so the choice you make needs to accommodate everything your looking for.

Aloha M and thanks for the link.

I will check this out next week.

Funny thing is before C7, I did all my score work in Seb but I
never needed this feature so I never ran across it.

I’ve got some research to do on this, so a major ‘Mahalo’ to you
for showing me a direction.


With OCD you mean:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • On-chip debugging
  • Office of Civilian Defense
    … or something else?

See … I feel your pain. I hate using acronyms in any forums when they are not totally unambiguous and widely recognized by community. Now, even if I should recognize acronym ‘OCR’ (beacuse I’m computer scientist and used OCR countless times), I had no glue what the topic was about just by reading the title, because optical character recognition isn’t something we come across in DAW world on daily basis.

Another example of using acronyms in this forum was a topic about Steven Slate Drums … For days I clicked the topic, because I thought it was about Solid State Drives. Yes … I’m a ‘moron’ … and should apologize Immortal for being one.

Sorry guys,

I changed the subject line.

Ma bad. :frowning:


the info provided by Makumbaria has set me on a path
that looks very fruitful.

LOL :slight_smile:


I used to use a program called Capella scan. I used to scan sheet music in and it would save it in MIDI format

It seems that none of you people have really worked with either Photoscore or any alternatives.

I personally haven’t tried SmartScore, but any version of Photoscore has proven to be hardly usable for me, to say the least.

You certainly don’t want a software that makes you correct gazillions of mistakes, taking up more time than it would take to just quickly input your scores. Or a program getting even the basics of a clearly scanned printed score wrong (e.g. how many lines per system).

I am quite surprised how little research and development effort has been put into music OCR compared to text OCR, which seems to be working rather fine by now in most cases. Actually noone I know of actually uses any of the music OCR systems, although for many of them (including myself) they would be awesome tools of they would just work properly.

I did (Photoscore lite version). I’m not a power user (I prefer to write things from scratch, using Sibelius). Photoscore works good for me when I used, but I was scanning printed music only (not handwriting).

Am I misinterpreting these types of software ? I think they will scan sheet music into a scanner and convert them to PDF files and play them as MIDI files?

Some of them will identify guitar chord diagrams as well?

And finally, they can be viewed on the computer or iPad?


That’s the idea.
This was meant for printed sheet music. Not manuscript.
When this tech first came out it was a ‘flakey’ at best.

I am zeroing in on a couple of approaches.
When I find a solution, I’ll post.

A major ‘Mahalo’ to you guys.


Looking forward to that. The most versatile versions of these can get pricey and must have a learning curve, I wonder how much curve I have available to start with one of these. My head is getting filled up lately with chord tack and basic midi

You can also convert a PDF into a editable file in Sibelius, Finale , Encore, and so on

Another use is to scan a complete score to be able to extract the parts (after exporting your results to a music score software).

I have used Smartscore only a few times, but it has worked very well as long as I scan from the original and it isn’t faded. It doesn’t read very accurately on photocopies of a score. It will playback your score in a midi file, but doesn’t have a transpose function. However, if you want to transpose something you scanned you can import the midi file into Cubase, transpose it, and if necessary re-score it in it’s transposed state.

It looks like photoscore and Smartscore are the front runners. I tried searching a few others but these two just keep popping up in the top 10 listings

Yes, there are not so many options out there.

Here some related software (but not OCR):


The main goal here is to “clean” a midi file , transforming a regular midi file into a score more suitable to read.


Watch this video to understand:


PDF to music Pro:

Works only with PDFs created with a notation software (scans from a book doesn’t work). It is not necessary to know which score editor created the source file. This program transforms a PDF file into MusicXML format, useable in most of the professional score editors.



Problem solved!

A while ago I donated to the church an old Mac G4 laptop for use by the kids.
The laptop also has Cubase AI4 loaded on it.

The church has decided to go the ‘biological’ route and hire
a local high school student who will stop by each day after school
for an hour or two and start inputing the notation/lyrics.

I have already taught her how to step/insert MIDI events
and next week one of the members is donating an old keyboard
so she can ‘play-in’ other stuff.

Tanx for all your suggestions guys.

Sending much Aloha and a major Mahalo.

Great! A person inputting the notes is even better than an OCR! :smiley:

Try playscore. It is an app (iOS or Android). It will turn a page of music into MusicXML from a photo or from any other image. Certainly as accurate as any other omr.