How to take a good picture and hear your music in seconds
- Photograph a paper score – snapping a screen is not recommended
- Make sure the music is flat and looks straight on the device screen. Make sure the left edge of the music is clear and lies vertical
- Use plenty of light and give the camera time to focus
- Cheaper Android devices do not have good enough cameras for music recognition. You can check your device for free by downloading PlayScore Lite first
PlayScore Lite and PlayScore Pro
PlayScore Lite is a free app (no ads) that lets you play any number of single whole pages of music absolutely free for as long as you keep the app. The recognition engine at the heart of PlayScore Lite is exactly the same as the one in PlayScore Pro. The only limitation is that the music must not have more than 2 staffs per system. For example, a whole page of keyboard music is fine.
PlayScore Pro also adds many additional features. It lets you play music with more than 2 staffs per system (eg a song with keyboard accompaniment or a vocal score). It also lets you save the music as MIDI and MusicXML so that you can share and edit it in any score writing application. On Apple devices you can also create loops and have PlayScore accompany you with the Accompaniment mode feature.
We recommend that you download PlayScore Lite before you purchase PlayScore Pro. Because the recognition engine is the same you will be able to see the amazing results possible with PlayScore before committing to a purchase.
Android users – A minority of Android devices do not have a good enough camera for PlayScore. If you get poor results of see the symbol repeatedly, your camera may not be good enough.
Getting the most from PlayScore
PlayScore is simple to use. As soon as the camera appears you are ready to take pictures. Tap the camera icon to activate the forward facing camera. Now square up a page of music (portrait view is usually best) so that it fills most of the screen and tap the button. Once you are happy with the image PlayScore will return you to the main page. Now tap the eye icon in the centre and wait a few seconds while PlayScore scans your music.
Now use the buttons to play the music. Tap on any bar to hear the music from there.
To change tempo, tap the metronome icon and slide to the speed you want.
Loading and saving an image
If you would like to keep the present image, tap the disk icon. The image will be saved in your images folder. To load a saved image just tap the file icon (see below for information about MIDI and MusicXML files)
Taking a good shot
The better the photo the better the playback. The most important things are strong lighting, good focus and a straight image taken from a flat page.
Tip: it is often easier to photograph the music upright. If you put the music flat on a table there is a risk your device camera will rotate and you will capture the music on its side. Something like music stand is ideal because that helps keep the music flat.
You should get results from any well lit, well focused picture of a page of music. But it is worth a little experimenting with lighting and positioning. Generally speaking the more light the better. But different devices have different characteristics and some, for example the iPhone 6 and 7 are less picky about light.
Focus is equally important, and the steadier you hold your device the better. Some devices take a few seconds to reach best focus, so hold the device steady while it adjusts. You may find it helps to rest your arm on an object such as the back of a chair. You will find that you improve with practice. When you start, try different shots of the same page and get a feel for what works well.
The left edge of music carries a lot of information and for music with more than two or three staffs it helps to photograph these clear and straight.
There is no need to fill absolutely the whole frame with music. Avoid getting so close up that the picture is distorted. Use the screen shots as a guide. Sometimes you can improve results by backing off a little do that the music fills less of the page.
If you find there is something wrong at a first attempt, persevere with more shots. Results will improve.
Types of music
Music comes in all shapes and sizes, and with care PlayScore can read most sorts:
- Normal sized, A4 or larger pages of printed music in good condition are best. If the music is in a thick book it may be hard to make the page flat, and if it is a right hand page the spine can make the left edge of the music hard to photograph clearly. But it is worth taking trouble to make it as flat as you can. A fairly flat page is necessary for good recognition.
- Musical examples in textbooks – If the music is clear this often works well. Take a picture of the general area containing the music. PlayScore will pull the music out of a page of text.
- Miniature scores – These are the greatest challenge for PlayScore, but results can be good if the image is good.
MIDI and MusicXML files
As well as the image, PlayScore creates a pair of music files. These give you everything you need to share your music and to export it to virtually any music notation program.
MIDI (filename extension .mid) – this is a standard MIDI file and should play on any media player. If you simply want to send a tune from PlayScore to a friend then send the .mid file. They should hear it just as you did. However, note that the instrument sound your friend hears will be the one they have on their device corresponding to piano.
MusicXML (filename extension .xml) – most notation apps can accept MIDI input, and some can translate it into notes on the page. But the best way to transfer a page of music from the printed page to a music editing program such as Sibelius or Finale is to export the PlayScore.xml file. Most good notation programs can accept this format. It contains not just the notes, but articulation, dynamics, hairpins and slurs, as well as details of the layout such as stem direction, beaming.
This section explains how to access these MIDI and MusicXML files created by PlayScore Pro when you tap the disk icon.
Apple/iOS devices: Sharing images, MID and MusicXML
The pictures of music you take when you use PlayScore Pro are just like the pictures you take with the regular camera. They have similar names and when you save them they go in the same place as your other photos. Unlike the regular camera though, PlayScore Pro doesn’t save the pictures you take unless you ask.
Saving the photo
Once you have taken a photo of your music, converted it by tapping the eye icon and checked that it sounds ok (just try another shot if it doesn’t), simply tap the disk icon to save. You will see three options. Choose Save image to photos. Once saved you can use the Photos app to print or share music pictures just like any other kind of photo.
Saving MIDI and MusicXML files
When you tap the disk icon you see two options as well as Save image to photos. These let you save the MIDI and the MusicXML created by PlayScore Pro. You will see options to save these files on iCloud or Dropbox (if installed), and as attachments to a text message or an email. This works just like other apps.
These files, MIDI and MusicXML give you everything you need to share your music and to export it to virtually any music notation program.
Note that for safety, whenever you save a MIDI or MusicXML file, the corresponding image is saved to Photos also. You can be sure that if the Save image to photos item is not available the image has been saved there.
MIDI and MusicXML Filenames
The filenames PlayScore gives the MIDI and MusicXML files are based on the image PlayScore used to create them. On iOS devices these are as follows. Note that the number XXXX is the same as the number in the corresponding image name.
Android devices: MIDI and MusicXML
Once you have taken a photo of your music, converted it by tapping the eye icon and checked that it sounds ok (just try another shot if it doesn’t), simply tap the disk icon to save all three files to the following location on your device. Note that the disk icon will disappear once you have saved the files to indicate that they have been saved successfully.
All three files relate to the score you were looking at when you tapped the icon. The files are:
The jpg file is the image of the captured page. It is exactly as it would have been captured through the regular camera app, but with PlayScore the name is PlayScore_XXX.jpg where XXX is a unique number (eg PlayScore_20151006_150741.jpg).
The other two files are the MIDI and MusicXML files described above
Accessing the Android files
On Android phones and tablets the files can be moved and copied freely wherever needed for use by other apps. One easy way to transfer the files to your PC or Mac is via Dropbox but there are lots of other ways.
Using the standard ‘My Files’ app, navigate to the folder below and long-tap the PlayScore files to select them. Once selected they can be moved in a variety of ways using the export icon. If you have Dropbox installed then this will be one of the options.
The folder containing the three PlayScore files is /DCIM/Camera/Scores/