PC Register - September 1999

SmartScore for Windows


By Gary Hartman

Did you ever wish you could scan music into your PC and play it back with a minimum of fuss? SmartScore will allow you to do just that, and also will allow you to playback, transpose, and print entire scores or individual parts. This is the equivalent of "optical character recognition (OCR)" for music, and is a great tool for musicians interested in scoring music. SmartScore (32-bit code) builds on the success of Musitek’s popular MidiScan program by adding significant capabilities and increasing accuracy.

SmartScore comes on a CD-ROM with an installation "key-disk" (my only serious complaint with the product) allowing up to five installs/reinstalls on your PC. What this means is that if your system changes to the point that you need to reinstall SmartScore (i.e., component swap-outs, new hard drive, etc.), you are allowed to do this; however, if you upgrade more than five times you won’t be able to reinstall SmartScore again. I realize that the purpose for this is to forestall inappropriate duplication and installations on multiple machines, but as a consumer I hate this! This is especially frustrating in today’s times of quickly-changing technical requirements, since upgrading of PCs to maintain currency is needed more frequently than several years ago. Musitek should consider an alternate solution for registered users.

A 134-page user manual and "Quick Keys Map" are included with SmartScore. The manual contains a chapter on "Installation and Quick Tour", which provides an overview of product capabilities, music editing, and scan correction processes. The manual/tutorial was helpful in learning the details of editing in SmartScore. -

There are a couple of ways that SmartScore can be used to get music into your PC: scanning and import of Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) files. Music scanning is fairly painless through the direct-to-scanner TWAIN interface. Up to 24 pages can be scanned at once for creation of a single SmartScore file. On my PC, I was able to scan several pages with no problems, but my system crashed when I tried to scan seven pages (this also happened a couple of times during editing). The scanning process allows auto-cropping and auto deskewing, which helps correct alignment of music. Scanned music is initially saved in TIF format, but is resaved in SmartScore’s format (Extended Notation For-mat) with an ENF extension once the Recognition process is complete. This Recognition process only takes a few seconds. You are then presented with a split screen of the TIF graphic on top, and the ENF (SmartScore format) on bottom, where you begin the correction (ENF-editing) process. Both views (TIF and ENF) are linked, so that if you scroll on one, the other also scrolls. SmartScore does a remarkably good job at recognizing scanned music, including dynamics and articulation markings (I was amazed!). However, like any "OCR-type" recognition, it is not perfect and there will almost always be some corrections necessary (SmartScore frequently confused the "flat" and "natural" signs).

Instrument assignments are made automatically, but may be changed through the MIDI editor. Editing the ENF file is fairly easy, once you get the hang of it. Editing is possible through the Windows interface, but sometimes requires searching through multiple menus. Efficient editing really requires that you learn the "quick keys" (reference card provided); this is where I had a little trouble, since the quick-keys are not all intuitive {e.g., the quick-key for inserting/deleting a tie is "V", the quick-key for vertical alignment is "Y", the quick-key to split voices is "K’, etc.). Also, using the mouse to click on specific notes during editing can be a little tricky, requiring a fair amount of precision. After a little practice, my editing speed increased as I began to learn and appreciate the power of the ENF editor. Up to 32 staves per system are supported, and lyrics, titles, and musical dynamics and articulations are read and interpreted correctly. The editing tools include most things you’ll need (except for guitar chords and tablature...a hint for future upgrading) for sheet music scoring, including: ties, flags and beams, stem direction, accidentals, rests, barlines, clefs, time and key signatures, slurs, tuplets, chord clustering, tempo markings, crescendos/decrescendos and trills, and voice splitting/assignment.

SmartScore has a Transpose feature for changing either key or pitch, and allows repeats and multiple endings. As good as SmartScore is, careful and accurate editing is necessary to result in a nice-sounding MIDI file (a couple of misplaced rests or notes, inaccurate time signatures, and missed sharps/flats/naturals can really mess up the sound!).

MIDI files can be imported into SmartScore, and then saved in the ENF for-mat for editing. Realtime input from a MIDI keyboard is also supported, and a metronome is included to help keep you in time. Voices and parts can be separated and saved as a separate file, making this a great tool for practicing vocal harmony. MIDI editing may be done in one of three views: overview, event list, or piano-roll format. The MIDI editor allows modification of velocity and duration of notes, key, tempo, and changing MIDI instrument assignment.

Bottom Line: There’s not another product quite like SmartScore, leaving it in a class by itself. In spite of the minor problems mentioned above, SmartScore is an impressive and useful product with the potential to save a lot of time transcribing and scoring music. If you’re into music, you’ll really appreciate the capabilities of SmartScore.

System Tested On: IBM-compatible PC with a 133 Mhz Pentium; Windows 95; 64-bit PCI-bus SVGA video card; 32 MB of RAM; 4x CD-ROM drive; Sound Blaster AWE64 Gold sound card; mouse

Minimum System: Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows NT, Intel Pentium 90 processor, 16 MB of RAM, SVGA display, high color video drivers, 4XCD-Ref drive, MPC compatible sound card (e.g., Soundblaster), 29 MB available hard disk space.

SmartScore is available from Musitek Corporation for $399. Technical support is available is available by phone (toll number), e-mail, or on the World Wide Web at http:/ /www.musitek.com.

Musitek Corporation, 410 Bryant Circle, Suite K, Ojai, California 93023-4200; phone (805) 646-8051.