Scanning a music collection

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Rodney

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Scanning a music collection

PostSat Oct 19, 2013 11:04 am

I'm starting a huge project of scanning a collection of several thousand "photoplay music" arrangements, since I really don't have room for more filing cabinets of paper copies. The originals will be going to an archive. These scans will be used for scoring films, and I'll only print out the pieces and parts that I need as I compile new film scores.

I thought I'd put out my my plan, in case anyone who has done this before has advice before it's too late to change plans... starting over again wouldn't be fun.

    I plan to scan each piece, with all of its instrumental parts, into a single PDF file. If one publication has multiple pieces, I'll make separate files for each. PDF seems to be a pretty stable format, and is likely to be usable for decades.

    The file will be named with the title of the piece, adding a number (or the composer?) if there are multiple pieces with the same name. (Serenade or Dramatic Tension, for instance, show up a lot). If there are catalog numbers included in the title (Agitato No. 4), I'll add those too. The original collection has serial numbers that I could use instead, but I think the title of the piece is more evocative and useful.

    I'm planning to scan black-and-white at 600 dpi. Music doesn't have a lot of subtle grey. High-resolution grayscale and color slow down printing considerably, and may add half-toning artifacts that I don't want.

    My scanner doesn't seem to want to let me do scaling, so I'm planning to set the size of the PDF file at the size of the original (usually either 7 x 10 or 10 x 12), and I can use "scale to fit" when I print pieces I need to my laser printer. I may look further to see if I can turn on scaling somehow... since having the files at a resolution and page size that matches my printer is attractive.
Here is a sample of a piece from a different collection scanned in this way... these "Motifs" are the shortest silent film cues I've ever found, and might make nice ring tones :D

Thanks in advance for any advice!
Rodney Sauer
The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
www.mont-alto.com
"Let the Music do the Talking!"
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Michael Mortilla

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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostSat Oct 19, 2013 3:19 pm

Hey Rodney. Great idea! I was given a few thousand pages of Photoplay scores and some other original scores and collections that a silent film organist (from the period) had collected (and composed) and had given to a university professor who didn't want them. Same reason as you: no more room. I may start to scan mine as well. I'd suggest a hand scanner over a flatbed. Way faster, IMO.

I think 600dpi is overkill, however. After about 150 you don't gain much. 300 will be required if you want to import them into Finale (not sure about Sibelius).

If I do this, it might be both fun and useful to exchange titles and see if we can supplement each others collections. As long as they are PD, it might also be useful to post them online for others, if you are amenable to that.

I also have a few thousand more pieces of sheet music from the period I need to scan. Maybe this will light a fire under my butt to do so.
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Rodney

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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostSat Oct 19, 2013 4:38 pm

Yes, I sprang for a rather pricey but production-grade scanner that can do both flatbed and auto-feed of up to 11 x 17 pages. I wanted to be able to hand place some pages (anything delicate or torn, and the "booklet" style parts you usually get for piano and 1st violin) and then be able to autofeed the rest and have it all go into one PDF file.

I started with a collection of Lancers, Quadrilles, and Portland Fancies. So far so good, and for those pieces where I could use the auto-feed, it is HUGELY faster than hand placement. Like, ten times faster.

I think 150 is a bit low, but I might as well do test scans of the same page at 150, 300 and 600; print them out; and see if I notice a significant difference. I want to be able to sight-read these in dark conditions, and I don't want image quality to be an issue. I have an arrangement of Victor Herbert's "Whispering Willows" intermezzo that's missing a piano part. I found that there are piano parts on the web (it's public domain), but they're scanned at such low resolution that it's actually hard to read them.

Sheet music -- with its art covers -- obviously is another thing entirely, and should be scanned in rich, high-resolution color (though I'd argue that color is bad for the interior music, though it looks authentic it probably doesn't print well.
Rodney Sauer
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Danny Burk

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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostSat Oct 19, 2013 5:01 pm

The most resolution you can pull from a high-quality printed page is about 300 dpi. Scanning at that will save time and storage space. For printing purposes, it would be convenient to set scanning and printing at the same res...most desktop printers use either 300 or 360 dpi. If you know which one you have (Epson and Canon both use 360 by default), scan at that and then you won't have to change res for printing.
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Rick Lanham

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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostSat Oct 19, 2013 6:08 pm

600 dpi is great for scanning photos, sounds like overkill for this, as others have said...

Rick
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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostSat Oct 19, 2013 6:29 pm

It's a very nice idea, Rodney. I seem to recall that when I was failing to learn to play the banjo well there were programs that could take sheet music and turn them into decent MIDI files.

Bob
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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostSat Oct 19, 2013 7:10 pm

I used to scan a lot of sheet music although that was a while ago now, but I seem to remember scanning things at 200 dpi and it seeming that anything higher just wasted time (although this was long enough ago that printers weren't as good and screen resolutions much lower, so you could get away with having less).

I also didn't use black and white but greyscale. If you can manage to do black and white, I'm sure it'll save a lot of time, but the few times I tried to do it just black and white, smudges on the music sometimes completely obscured notes, and small lines like note stems and the staff itself would disappear in places. If you do do it black and white, it might at least be something to keep your eye on. If you have to keep checking to make sure things like that haven't happened, it could end up taking longer.

And I think if you're considering scanning at a higher resolution to make the music more readable, using greyscale helps readability much more than 200 vs. 600 dpi (but I can't say how much longer one would take than the other).
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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostSun Oct 20, 2013 1:14 pm

I'm sure you'll get many different opinions. Testing the scans at different resolutions is the sensible way to proceed. You'll determine which dpi is sufficient for your purpose.

I don't see what's gained by scanning at grayscale - it's usually used for pictures or other B&W source material that has variable contrast. I've never seen generic silent sheet music like that. If any of your music are the type of pop pieces that have a front page photo hawking a film you could scan grayscale for the cover page.

.Pdf reader software such as Adobe or Foxit has the option to scale the output when printing, so it seems like an extra step to scale the original when scanning it.
-Rich
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Andrew Greene

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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostSun Oct 20, 2013 1:23 pm

I always do my orchestra scans at 300 DPI B&W, the results are usually fantastic.
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BenModel

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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostSun Oct 20, 2013 1:46 pm

I've scanned my photoplay cues at 300dpi as well. It's usually when you're getting into reproducing for publishing that a higher scan rate is needed. I was asked for 1200dpi TIFFs for the silent era sheet music book I was hired to do by Schirmers/MusicSales.

Ben
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Rodney

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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostSun Oct 20, 2013 4:29 pm

Heavens! I remember now. Did that Schirmer book ever come out? I sort of lost track. I'm finding that I really like a lot of the Schirmer "Galaxy" pieces I've come across. They're technically from the classical literature but are mostly unknown and are excellent for more serious films. Most were re-orchestrated by Otto Langey.
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BenModel

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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostMon Oct 21, 2013 8:51 am

Oh, heck no. In spite of being a pet project of the guy who owns MusicSales, this thing has dragged on for years. (He approached me about the project in 2008!)

All this stuff should go on a server/website as a resource for people looking for it. Most people looking for photoplay cues have to go to a library's special collection and pay for scans, if there aren't any © and/or donor restrictions.

Ben
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Rodney

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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostMon Oct 21, 2013 10:34 am

Test Scans: I chose a piece by Irene Varley, Capricietta. It has six hand-placed pages, and nine auto-feed pages. Here are the results:

600 dpi, black and white. Scan time: 2 min 26 sec. File size: 2.6 Mbytes
300 dpi, black and white. Scan time: 1 min 56 sec. File size: 1.2 Mbytes
300 dpi, greyscale. Scan time: 1 min 55 sec. File size: 8.5 Mbytes

I will not leave these here forever, but if you're curious, here are the files (and you get a free piece of photoplay music!)

600 dpi, BW
300 dpi, BW
300 dpi, Grayscale


(This piece appears in our score for The Mother and the Law, and here's what it sounds like played by the Mont Alto quintet.)

I printed the first page from each, and I really can't tell the difference between 300 dpi and 600 dpi, even under close examination of small type. (I'm printing these on a Xerox Workcentre M128 laser printer/copier, which can print at 1200 dpi, but it looks like that's not required for this project.) The difference in file size is important too. I do not like the output of the grayscale image -- the muddy gray background could be adjusted in a program like Photoshop, but I don't want to have to do that. The original owner's rubber stamp shows up on the grayscale scan, but these stamps (and stray pencil marks) are not helpful for my purposes.
Rodney Sauer
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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostMon Oct 21, 2013 1:00 pm

If you're scanning color sheet music covers, i would also use the descreen option at 300dpi will give you a nice image. My 2 cents!
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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostThu Oct 24, 2013 4:32 pm

[quote="Rodney"]I'm starting a huge project of scanning a collection of several thousand "photoplay music" arrangements, since I really don't have room for more filing cabinets of paper copies. The originals will be going to an archive. These scans will be used for scoring films, and I'll only print out the pieces and parts that I need as I compile new film scores.

What a wonderful idea! We must all keep up with the computer age!

I found that a 300 DPI scan is more than sufficient to do B&W and storing on PDF is easy-peasy.

I scanned a lot of my music with the basic intention of taking it one step further. You see I am basically a one finger, right hand, read the top note on the stave only whilst the left hand fanudges a "suitable" chord, musical interpreter. Hardly a playing skill that brings out the best in music. :) So I bought some software that is supposed to do an OCR of what has been scanned and then play the music. Unfortunately the OCR does not work 100% - more like about 65% and one has to tediously re-write those parts of a rather novel score the computer has decided to foster. Maybe I was doing it wrong, or my scanner was not the best for doing OCR? Of course, when you have the score done correctly, it is absolutely wonderful to have the whole piece played for you. (It works with orchestral scores as well!). I have a whole collection of interesting music that I have never really heard played properly.
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Donald Binks

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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostWed Jul 16, 2014 3:33 pm

I know this comes quite late after your post, but at www.sfsma.com we're actually shooting the scores with a digital camera instead of scanning, and it's working quite well. There are apps that turn the photos into pdfs automatically, and then it's just a matter of titling the files and posting them.

Best,
Kendra
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Rodney

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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostThu Jul 17, 2014 7:10 am

Donald Binks wrote:
Rodney wrote:So I bought some software that is supposed to do an OCR of what has been scanned and then play the music. Unfortunately the OCR does not work 100% - more like about 65% and one has to tediously re-write those parts of a rather novel score the computer has decided to foster. Maybe I was doing it wrong, or my scanner was not the best for doing OCR?


I have found music OCR to be incredibly frustrating... it's such a logical, graphical, and clear medium of notation, it should be possible for a computer to do pretty well. But I suspect there's just not a big enough market for a company to expend the testing and revision to make it reliable. I've used SmartScore (a plug-in that comes with my music notation software, Finale), and it usually takes longer to fix the errors than to just enter the music in Finale from scratch.

It does best on extremely simple pages (like jazz lead sheets) but those are trivial to enter from scratch. The first software that can reliably transcribe a complex piano part with multiple voices per staff into a notation file should have considerable success in the market. Such as that market is.
Rodney Sauer
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Michael Mortilla

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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostThu Jul 17, 2014 8:35 am

OTOH, you have a job that has not been replaced by a computer. Some might see that as a positive... I'm rather proud that a scanner and a piece of software can't do as well as a human. Sure, some tasks are mundane. Creating music is not one of them in my world. Having lightening fast transcriptions bypasses the process of actually learning and understanding the music, it's underlying structures, and any "meaning" it might have.

"Art" produced via shortcuts last about as long as it takes to view or hear it. Once the sound or light dissipates, so does the work. It becomes trivial, useless, and meaningless.

Celebrate the fact that you can't scan polyphonic music!

It does best on extremely simple pages [which] are trivial [emphasis added] to enter from scratch.
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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostThu Jul 17, 2014 4:01 pm

I have found music OCR to be incredibly frustrating... it's such a logical, graphical, and clear medium of notation, it should be possible for a computer to do pretty well. But I suspect there's just not a big enough market for a company to expend the testing and revision to make it reliable. I've used SmartScore (a plug-in that comes with my music notation software, Finale), and it usually takes longer to fix the errors than to just enter the music in Finale from scratch.

It does best on extremely simple pages (like jazz lead sheets) but those are trivial to enter from scratch. The first software that can reliably transcribe a complex piano part with multiple voices per staff into a notation file should have considerable success in the market. Such as that market is.


Having virtually re-written a number of scores I am starting to know what it must have been like to have been Beethoven! :D
I have tried utilising a higher dpi scale, but to no avail. I too use "SmartScore" and even if the score is in pristine black upon white it has trouble. Maybe I am meant to just make up my own music? But, I don't wish everyone to leave the room with their hands over their ears! :D
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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostThu Jul 17, 2014 4:18 pm

Michael Mortilla wrote:OTOH, you have a job that has not been replaced by a computer.


Yes, but since that's a job that I don't typically get paid anything for, I'd as soon have my computer do it.

The typical instance is that we're playing a series of historic music cues in a film score, and several of the pieces are for clarinet in A, but one in the middle is for clarinet in Bb. Perhaps the film is tightly scored, so the clarinetist would like to not change clarinets, so he asks if I can transpose the part -- even though it puts it in a weird key, it's easier than changing instruments twice.

In a nice world, I'd scan the page, the computer would OCR all of the markings into Finale notation, then I'd have Finale retranspose it from Bb clarinet to A clarinet.

But instead I have to type the music note by note into Finale, add in all of the original dynamics, slurs, and articulations, and then transpose it. So, some basically brainless grunt-work that a computer could theoretically do in a few minutes takes me an hour. I know, I know, it's a first-world problem; but I could think of more creative things to do during that hour...
Rodney Sauer
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Michael Mortilla

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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostThu Jul 17, 2014 4:46 pm

Rodney wrote:...that's a job that I don't typically get paid anything for...


But it is a job that will bring income at some point (assuming you don't play for free). I don't see the various jobs of composing, arranging, orchestrating, etc., as separate from the score being commissioned. Then again, I am creating original works exclusively and make my living as a composer, so my perspective is a bit different.
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Rodney

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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostThu Jul 17, 2014 5:09 pm

Michael Mortilla wrote:
Rodney wrote:...that's a job that I don't typically get paid anything for...


But it is a job that will bring income at some point (assuming you don't play for free). I don't see the various jobs of composing, arranging, orchestrating, etc., as separate from the score being commissioned. Then again, I am creating original works exclusively and make my living as a composer, so my perspective is a bit different.


Yes, I get paid for the score. But I don't get paid any extra if it takes me several hours longer to create the score.

It's kind of like the transposition of parts -- I like that I can compose for all instruments in concert pitch, and then have the computer transpose the parts into Bb or A as needed. If the computer didn't do that work, and I had to do those transpositions by hand, yes, I'd have more work. But it's not work that I particularly relish, nor that earns me anything more than letting the computer do it. And the computer is usually more reliable at that kind of work anyway.

Anyway, if someone comes up with good music scanning software, I'll get used to it very quickly. But I'm thankful for the transcription software that is available already.
Rodney Sauer
The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
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Andrew Greene

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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostWed Oct 08, 2014 4:38 pm

I'm going to revive this and ask a question: What kind of scanner are you using Rodney? I'm currently in the market for an 11x17 scanner so I can more easily scan oversize orchestrations. Any recommendations would be appreciated!
Andrew Greene
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Rodney

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Re: Scanning a music collection

PostWed Oct 08, 2014 6:47 pm

Andrew Greene wrote:I'm going to revive this and ask a question: What kind of scanner are you using Rodney? I'm currently in the market for an 11x17 scanner so I can more easily scan oversize orchestrations. Any recommendations would be appreciated!


What I ended up with -- and it wasn't particularly cheap, but so far it's been a true workhorse -- is an Epson DS 60000. It can scan sizes up to 11x17, connects by USB to my Mac, and can scan directly to PDF files. It has an autofeed, which doesn't help on the booklet-type scores, but is so incredibly fast on the single-sheet scores that I relish coming across those. Zip! On autofeed it can scan both sides simultaneously. The flatbed scanning is much slower, since it seems to want to do about two seconds of adjustments before each scan, so those jobs plod along a bit slower.

The software is a bit finnicky, but I was able to create a set of presets -- three for the larger scores like the G Schirmers and Carl Fischers (flatbed, 1-side autofeed, 2-side autofeed; scale to 94%) and three for the smaller scores like dance arrangements and Belwins (ditto but scale up to 106%). That results in PDFs that print pretty well on letter-sized paper. I scan at 300 dpi black and white, and the resulting files are pretty compact but look great when printed on my laser printer.

These parts often have bold pencil markings that I don't want on the scans, so I also bought a case of 24 "pink pearl" erasers, and keep a vacuum cleaner nearby to suck up the eraser detritus.

Another option that might work for you is a used Xerox Workcentre Pro. I've had one for years, because it can copy 11x17. According to the manual it can also scan 11x17 and is supposed to be able to save the resulting files as PDFs, but after a lot of work I could not get it to talk to my Mac. Don't go this route unless you've got a serious IT person to help, but it could be cheaper (and you'd get a nice low-cost-per-page high-volume copier out of the deal).

Good luck...
Rodney Sauer
The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
www.mont-alto.com
"Let the Music do the Talking!"

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