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So you are a composer, right?
You have written hundreds of scores for movies, documentaries, series, albums and singles.
But, you did all of that, a long time ago, way before computers were around, right?
Remember those Bach scores you had to learn while at music school?
Do you remember how many pages those had? Papers and papers everywhere!
And now, you are looking for a way to “digitize” all of those old school papers into the computer.
Is there a way to do that?
Can you somehow convert those old and rusty score papers into digital files that your computer can easily read?
Is there a way to “scan” them?
There is! It is called Optical Music Recognition!
And in this article we will review the 6 best PDF to MIDI converters using optical music recognition.
What is Optical Music Recognition?
Optical Music Recognition, also called “OMR” is actually a field of research that studies how to use computers to read music notation scores and transfer them into a digital file readable by the machine.
Engineers have developed software that lets you import (or upload) a PDF of a score, let’s say a score you have printed or even written.
Once this has been imported, the software will “read” the notes and their associated durations and “convert” the information into a digital file that can be read by the computer.
These digital files can be MIDI, which is the most famous music type file, as well as MusicXML.
Once these scores have been converted into MIDI, you can actually load these into your favorite DAW or sequencer.
When you load the MIDI files, you can associate your virtual instruments to each of the tracks and “playback” the material, just as if you had the orchestra right in front of you.
Top 6 PDF to MIDI Converters Reviewed
Smart Core by Musitek
Smart Core can easily import any kind of music score format such as a PDF file, a scanned file or even a picture of the score, and convert it into MusicXML which is the standard file type for all music notation software.
This will let you “translate” your score into a format that is universally “spoken” across platforms.
The included SmartCore player lets you share your files with friends and bandmates so they can playback the score for free!
This program is capable of recognizing complex symbols such as cross-staff beams, intra-staff voices, key and time signature changes, ideal for the most demanding progressive-oriented pieces.
You can create a chord structure using graphical drag-and-drop methods in order to add new parts, repeat, rearrange, and relink without touching the original notes or affecting the passages.
- Easy to use MusicXML converter included.
- Drag-and-drop arrangement capabilities make it very simple to operate.
- Every single music notation symbol is included.
- Not available on older versions of Windows and MacOS
Bottomline: If you are looking for a software suite that can import music, write music and share it with friends, musicians and producers, easily and confident of the proper notation, Smart Core is for you.
Sibelius by Avid is one of the most famous scoring software on the market because it is used all across the world by famous producers and music makers.
On Sibelius Ultimate you can compose, arrange and publish scores of any size, no maximum instrument count and no limit on the length of the piece, ideal for music soundtracks and cinema.
If you are composing music for guitar, you can have access to full guitar tab notation for six, seven or eight string guitars.
The software is capable of writing notation for all instruments, such as melodic, percussive, strings, horns, etc.
When working with scores that have several parts and tend to be long, Sibelius is capable of numbering the pages automatically or even lets you customize the numbering system used, ideal for users trying to publish their material in books.
- All instrument styles of clefs, tabs, and notation are available.
- An unlimited number of staves can be assigned to any score.
- Every single notation symbol is compatible with the writing style.
- Only four voices per octave are available.
Bottomline: If you are looking for industry-standard music notation software that is also capable of publishing, exporting, and sharing sheet music, Sibelius is a great option.
Audiveris is a free and open source optical music recognition (OMR) software capable of importing scanned music scores.
The program can import files that are in PDF format (scanned scores), or also JPG, PNG, and TIFF for actual picture files.
Once imported, Audiveris will convert the score into the standard MusicXML file format as well as the OMR format.
Audiveris features two different visualization modes for operation such as Logical, Physical or a combination of these, depending on the user.
The software presents different colors on different sections to display entities and the type of entity recognized, such as bars, cleffs, accidentals, rests, flags, etc.
The imported scores can be edited and modified prior to converting into the MusicXML format, perfect for that last minute double check!
- The software is capable of identifying accidents or notes not captured and actually inform the user
- If there is a musical accident such as a missing rest, it will identify it in another color.
- Very fast optical recognition algorithm due to its large community of developers constantly improving the operation.
- Handwritten scores are not supported.
Bottomline: If you are looking for a free alternative to optical music recognition software and you are okay with a bit of “programming”, Audiveris is worth considering!
ScanScore is a software developed for musicians, composers and producers trying to find an easy yet effective way to scan their sheet music and turn it into digital.
One of the most important features of ScanScore is that it is available on computers, tablets, and even phones, making your file scanning and conversion operations “portable” so you can use it while on the road, in your tour bus, or plane.
The software lets you edit the notes after being scanned, in order to modify the score as needed.
You can also transpose individual notes, groups of notes, bars, sections, or even the whole score, ideal for arrangers who are pitching new songs to artists and clients.
The digital score can be transcribed to be used for another instrument or different voicings, making it very versatile for music producers.
You can playback the score with the embedded virtual instruments in order to “check” the accuracy of the imported file.
- Playback system can easily find errors and identify them
- Output files can be MusicMXL or MIDI
- Easy to operate playback system
- No MIDI output file compatibility
Bottomline: Great software for producers and arrangers trying to import a music score while “on the road” and easily apply simple edits before conversion!
SharpEye is the OMR software developed by Visiv, available only on Windows systems.
This program is capable of reading a scanned version of a music score and converting it into MusicXML, MIDI or NIFF files that can be later imported into any sequencer.
It features a function that lets you search for lyrics or chords after scanning, for faster navigation within the GUI.
The editor, included in this program, lets you also mute, delete, move or cut certain parts as needed. When editing, the software automatically scrolls to the edit point for easier navigation within the score.
The recognition algorithm is very precise and capable of capturing dynamics (ppp…fff), grace notes, chords and even accents characters from the lyrics.
Input scan and output file are shown in two different windows for easier recognition of printed notes and their associated MIDI notes.
- The software shows a warning on each bar that does not make musical sense, so the user can fix it.
- Drag-and-drop importing operation makes it very fast.
- Very lightweight software, ideal for older systems.
- Does not recognize handwritten music.
Bottomline: If you are looking for a more affordable solution for optical music recognition and you are working on Windows, SharpEye will do the job! Solid, simple, and accurate.
PlayScore is a mobile app capable of scanning sheet music directly from your phone or tablet, available on Google Play (Android) and the App Store (iPhone).
The application scans your sheet music on paper by taking pictures with the camera of your phone and digitalizing the music.
The scanned music score is converted into MusicXML and MIDI formats that you can export and insert into any sequencer or DAW.
The application lets you playback the score with simple embedded virtual sounds.
The included editor lets you change the tempo of the song in real-time, create loops, remove parts and rearrange the passage after it has been scanned.
All music notation is readable by this software, examples include bars, notes, rests, cleffs, dynamics, articulations and even tremolos.
- The drag-and-drop editing function makes this task extremely fast.
- Scanned documents are archived within the software for easy access at any time.
- Fingering for piano and violin is available upon playback.
- Not available on computers.
Bottomline: Great option when you are looking for a phone app that can convert sheet music into the digital world while you are at the practice, on the road, or right before a show!
Let’s assume you are looking for the industry Standard software for sheet music composition that also serves as an optical music recognition program…
In that case, your best bet will always be Sibelius by Avid. There is a reason why Sibelius is used all across the world!
Now, if you want a solution that is completely portable, all from the phone, effective, fast, and easy to use, you must download PlayScore. Your band practice will improve 100% after using this tool with your bandmates and musicians.
Last, but not least, if your goal is to find an optical music recognition (OMR) software that yields accurate results when scanning and the least amount of errors, you must get SmartCore. The solid results will confirm this selection!
Hi, I’m Jennifer I’m a passionate singer and an audiophile from Detroit, MI.
I’m on a mission to help music creators to create fine music that help them position uniquely in the saturated music space.
Follow my blog for regular content :-)