SmartScore Pro X Box, rests on a MacBook Pro a Harmonious Match For a Whole New Musical World Photo: Eric Ortner
I’ve recently purchased a copy of Musitek’s SmartScrore X Pro . I Primarily bought it to publish a few songs that I am referencing in a forthcoming article about wedding music from the time of the Renaissance. I didn’t want to run into any copyright infringements for reproducing 500 year old music from relatively modern sources and thought that I should look into some music OCR programs to simplify the process of reformatting and arranging them.
I decided to purchase SmartScore X Pro after I did some extensive testing on demo versions of it and Neuratron’s PhotoScore Ultimate, along with the less expensive limited editions of the SmartScore. While testing the demo versions I used the same cleanly scanned sheet of five line choral music from a book published in 1948. I found that SmartScore recognized the notes, articulations and dotted rhythms much more accurately than PhotoScore. However, I noticed that PhotoScore did a better job of recognizing lyrics than SmartScore. Who cares about the lyrics, I thought, I need this to recognize music not text anyway, right?
In my initial tests, I found that SmartScore was much easier to use than PhotoScore. This reviewer felt that the keyboard shortcuts were much more intuitive than PhotoScore’s. I also found that in PhotoScore you had to go back and forth several times to the same menu items to do rather mundane tasks like adding dots to half notes. Now, not surprisingly, all of the music OCR programs seemed to have problems with dotted rhythms and staccato articulations, but SmartScore seemed to handle it best. I did like the way PhotoScore laid the original music directly behind the vectorized version better than PhotoScore’s method of comparison, but since it wasn’t as accurate I decided it would still be more labor intensive in the long run to use PhotoScore.
So this week I finally received my version of SmartScore in the mail and I diligently began recognizing, editing and arranging “The Match That’s Made” by William Byrd. As I expected SmartScore Pro X did a great job recognizing the music, but the lyrics were a complete mess. This ended up being a bit more of a problem than I expected because of the way that the lyrics are tied together with their corresponding notes. You have to select the notes with the Lyric tool and then click into the text below the staff to edit them. It actually ended up taking me longer to clean-up the unrecognized lyrics than it did the music itself. However, this tedious task actually helps you ensuring that the lyrics line up with their corresponding notes during reformatting.
Another issue that I had was that the program kept recognizing dynamic markings as lyrics and I found it somewhat difficult to remove them. I ended up taking out most of the dynamics completely for the time being. Dynamics were also an issue when reformatting the layout. When I reformatted the systems to fit on an 8.5×11 sheet of paper to be aesthetically pleasing, the dynamic symbols like fortissimos and pianos would stay in the same place they were originally placed; and in some cases move completely off the side of the page. Pretty annoying!
Another issue I had related to a Hand of God error that seemed like it would have been easy to rectify, but it turned out to be quite a tedious fix. Somehow I didn’t import one of the original document’s pages. It was the second last page of the piece and I didn’t notice it until I was just about finished reformatting everything to fit on a letter sized paper. I found it very difficult to merge the two additional missing systems from one recognized file to the other. To get the copy and paste to work I needed to format the new scan to the exact number of measures per system and same part names as the edited file. Even after I did manage to paste the extra page into my main file it caused a lot of problems with text styles.
The limitations of the text styles manifested themselves in other ways. Even before merging the two documents together, the text styles kept defaulting to the original fonts after the file was closed and re-opened. The fact that the fonts kept defaulting to incorrect styles was particularly annoying in my example because Renaissance Madrigals tend to be similar to canons. Therefore, my example held 5 completely separate lines of lyrics per system. Most users won’t be won’t be as hindered by the program’s lyrical limitations as I was in this scenario. I am also disappointed with the size of the automatic page numbers, which I found to be way too large with no apparent way to adjust their size.
Probably the biggest issue I had with this program was that it seemed to be a little unstable. I am running SmartScore X Pro on a MacBook Pro with Mac OSX 10.5.8 and 2 gigs of memory. I found that SmartScore would crash frequently for what seemed like no reason.
Despite SmartScore Pro’s shortcomings, I am still very pleased with this progam’s overall performance. I was very impressed with its ability to scan renaissance music in modern notation. Those familiar with music from the renaissance will understand that it was written without any real time signature. This means that every part contains measures with a differing number of beats. However, SmartScore’s recognition preferences gives you the opportunity to adjust for this. It’s playback features also allow to play music as written so the differing time signature’s between parts didn’t throw the playback off. Most user’s won’t appreciate this feature, but this reviewer certainly does.
Once I discovered how to use it, I really appreciated Smart Score’s “Nudge Mode.” It made it very easy to manually adjust note spacing. Since the lyrics were tied directly to the notes they corresponded with you could easily hold down the shift key and slide the notes. The nudge feature made it very easy to move text around within a staff so that it was more legible to the reader. Nudge mode also was great for adjusting legato or slurs as well as fine tuning the space between lines and measures in order to accommodate lyrics or long passages.
SmartScore X Pro also gives the user the ability to add changes in velocity within the music, as well as the ability to record directly into the program from a MIDI instrument. I haven’t really had the opportunity to use these features yet, but they seem like they should be fairly robust.
Upon completion of your final arrangement you will appreciate the ease of creating PDF files for print or distribution. The resulting PDF files print quality is commendable. The resulting file was completely vector with no noticeable post script errors. User’s are also given the ability to save the file as ENF, MIDI 0, MIDI 1, NIF or XML formats.
In conclusion I am generally pleased with my purchase of SmartScore X Pro. It certainly simplified the process of scanning and reformatting sheet music. I believe that it will be a great aid in practicing music that I am unable to find recorded samples of because it turns the printed word into MIDI. It will also be easier to modify mistakes in purchased music. Although, the program speeds up the process, be prepared for a bit of a learning curve when first using the program and expect to still spend some time editing and reformatting the recognized product. On a scale of 1-5 I give it a 4.