Review of SmartScore X Pro

SmartScore Pro X Box, rests on  a MacBook Pro a Harmonious Match For a Musical World Photo: Eric Ortner

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.

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16 Responses to “Review of SmartScore X Pro”

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience. I have found answers to questions interesting me.

  2. Ed McCly says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience! I too am looking for music scanning software and have been playing with both the SmartScore and PhotoScore demo versions. I agree 110% with your frustration that the SAVE feature is disabled. It is a very complex piece of software to try and learn in “one sitting;” it would be nice to save your work and continue the next day. I’d much rather see a fully functioning version of software that runs for 10 days or so and then quits.

    I did learn one interesting thing in my tests to far. Although SmartScore has its own internal PDF reader, I had much better results converting PDF to TIF outside of SmartScore and then opening the TIF with SmartScore.

    Ed

  3. harmoniousmusic says:

    I’ve noticed lately that if you can get a solid original scan at 500 DPI SmartScore does a remarkable job with 98% accuracy most of the time. It is also helpful to improve accuracy if you use an image editor that has the capability of adjusting levels manually (like Photoshop), so that there is a high contrast between the paper and the ink. Then import the final Tif you saved out of the image editor into SmartScore.

  4. Karl LaFong says:

    Thank you for doing a thorough review of SmartScore. Many “reviewers” take a cursory look, kick the tires and never even rev the engine or drive it around the track.

    You mentioned occasional crashing on your Mac. Our experience indicates that Mac owners using SmartScore X on Leopard (10.5) or Snow Leopard (10.6) ought to have 4GB of memory. We noticed you have 2GB. This is very likely the cause of the crashing you experienced.

    We continue to improve SmartScore and without saying too much, expect to release an extension to the product line in 2011 that will take it well into the next decade, if not longer. Stay tuned to http://www.musitek.com

    Thank you for your efforts.
    Karl LaFong
    Director, Marketing
    Musitek Corporation

  5. Georg S. Adamsen says:

    Very useful review. I am looking for a music OCR program that handles choral music, including lyrics, well and integrates nicely with Finale.

    I will review your review again before drawing my final conclusion.

    Thank you for your detailed post.

  6. Quincy locksmith says:

    Interesting read. I wish I felt inspired enough to write such good posts onto my own blog. It is not easy.

  7. Katie says:

    Hey, just a note on the crashing thing, I downloaded the demo as well, and I have 1 TB on my computer and it still crashes. So that may not always be the issue. Hope that helps :)

  8. Blanca Rooke says:

    Thanks for a Interesting post; I enjoyed it very much. Blanca Rooke

  9. Bill Rodgers says:

    I have had constant problems with this program. The built in scanning does not work. It was completely inaccurate and the program crashed a lot. When I tried to have these issues fixed by Musiteks customer support they didn’t help me at all and gave me the run around while never addressing my question.

    Don’t buy this program. I wasted money and more importantly my valuable time fighting with the program and staff.

  10. kone says:

    Thanks for the review, I am looking forward to find a way to buy this product or any close location from where I lived, because play along with demo version of these two softwares and I find smartscores easily to use. Any store in San Francisco or Hawaii that carrys this this product will be really much apreciated.

    Thanks

    Kone

  11. Mark Greer says:

    Thanks for your review. I use Sibelius 7 for leadsheets (mostly single notes, one staff systems, and lyrics) and want to scan and convert hundreds of pages of printed lead sheets from an old DOS program and hundreds of pages of handwritten leadsheets as well, and get them into Sibelius. Photoscore light which somes with Sibelius does not support lyrics, so I have to either upgrade my 3.4 version of Smartscore to X 2, or purchase Photoscore 7 Ultimate. I found The demo of Photoscore 7 Ultimate was terrible on lyrics, so was interested that the older version worked for you. Since your review was over two years ago, do you have any update news available? Thanks for your time. Any help on knowing which way to go would be super.

    Mark

  12. Violinist says:

    No, I haven’t purchased any updates as of yet.

  13. Bill says:

    professional X2 recognition capabilities are much better than X. But it’s still a time consuming process to get from initial scan to playback on my ipod. There are recognition errors that must be fixed. And I’ve had many crashes and hangs. I’ve had to find the ‘garden path’ with the features. Many of the features work especially note editing works well, but there are plenty of bugs. The system manager is one of the most confusing pieces of UI I’ve ever seen.

    Bill Rodgers hits the nail on the head about Mustek customer service. They talk a good game “send use the TIFF and we’ll get you an answer or fix the bugs”. But faced with real problems, the rote answer is “most customers love the product; it works great.” I sent them an 18 page score, they had success with 5 pages of it, claimed victory and didn’t answer any of my other questions.

    Also in this day of agile software development, the delay between releases is curious. 3 years? I think they ship a release and head to Maui and leave a couple of people from sales to answer the phones.

    All that being said, I have been able to find my way despite their support and have found the ultimate result very helpful to my voice practice.

  14. Ricard says:

    I suggest you to try PDFtoMusic Pro.
    From a document in PDF format (that you can generate from any software, even from discontinued products), PDFtoMusic Pro rebuilds the original score, and exports it for instance into MusicXML format, useable in most of the professional score editors.
    Sylvie

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  16. Bad service says:

    Good article. I will be experiencing a few of these issues as well..

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