Scanning Music

Scanning and copying music can be a miserable task. The music is typically larger than a standard piece of paper and/or is in a book. Using the expensive scanners that are owned by schools and offices are the most common way for people to scan music, though it still isn’t easy. I don’t even like thinking about the amount of time I’ve wasted trying to scan music on my generic printer/copier/scanner…

One time, I asked my father to make some copies of music for me on his copier at work. I found out his method later: he tried reducing it, but it was still printing on legal size paper. Since nothing was working, he would print it on legal sized paper and then take it to the paper cutter afterwards. My father did this for several pieces of music. Is this really the best way? Is this the fastest method?

Definitely not, though this is the method that many of us have used for years. It takes an incredibly long time and often ends with lots of paper in the trash can (or hopefully recycling can).

For the past several months, I have instead been scanning music with my cell phone. Cell phone cameras are phenomenal anymore, so there isn’t much (if any) of a quality difference. If there is, it isn’t noticeable. There are lots of scanner apps out there and the music can be uploaded straight to your Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, etc. The main reason that I love using my cell phone for scans? The document is automatically resized and prints beautifully on 8.5 by 11 inch paper.

Personally, I actually use the HP Smart printer app. Not a common choice, but I’ve found it very reliable. It can automatically detect the page and take a picture, cropping it to the correct size. I don’t have to click a single button and simply have to turn pages and aim the phone. I can get through an orchestral set relatively quickly and regularly do this while watching Netflix. Once I have the entire document scanned in, I upload it straight to Dropbox. Often from there, I let Hazel OCR and organize the file for me (I promise I’ll explain this in another post!).

Scanbot Pro and Scan+ are also popular apps, and I’ve had varying degrees of success with them. However, the HP Smart app is the one that I keep coming back to. It’s also the one that I introduced our orchestra director to when he decided he was going to scan in scores and direct the orchestra from his iPad. He found it rather simplistic to use and was able to send his scores directly to forScore, a popular music reading app. I know that there’s also a built in method of scanning in iOS, though I haven’t had much use for it yet.

Due to the ease of scanning music from my phone, I’m doing it significantly more often than I would otherwise. Before I pass out music to the youth orchestra I help with, I scan every single part because ultimately, some of it will get lost (and I can print copies if I don’t want to trust them with originals). Recently, I’ve started creating “practice packets” for our inside string players that can be printed on demand and I send all the string players links to a Dropbox folder with all their music about two weeks before concerts. This has made some orchestra members very happy since some of them don’t like to travel to pick up their music but still want to at least look at it before the concert.

Figuring out how to scan music has been a major time-saver for me. I can’t wait until I’m to the point where I can reuse some of the files from previous concerts. I’m sure everything will start overlapping at some point!

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