The technology of scanning converts a piece of sheet music into a digital media that can be read by music software. Scanning, the musical version of OCR (optical character recognition) has been around for years. The technology has come of age and is a viable way to input music from printed sheet music into music software in general and music notation software in particular.

Why Use Scanning Technology?
If you are using music production software then you might be interested in scanning technology so you can take a piece of printed music, say a bass or piano part, and scan and convert it into a sequence. The more common use of scanning technology is to save time inputting notation into Finale or Sibelius or other music notation software. Scanning can be a fast way to input parts from printed sheet music.

Three Scanning Technology Options
There are currently three scanning technologies. They include:

1. SmartScore Lite and SmartScore Pro – for Mac and Windows computers and is integrated with Finale Notation software
2. PhotoScore and PhotoScore Ultimate – for Mac and Windows computers and is integrated with Sibelius notation software
3. SharpEye – for Windows computers. The software costs $169.00 and SharpEye Music Reader converts a scanned image of printed music into a MIDI file, a NIFF file, or a Music XML file.

Required Hardware
You will need a flatbed scanner to scan the sheet music you want to convert. You don’t need a high-end scanner since music is typically scanned in black and white or grayscale and at a relatively low DPI (dots per inch) of 300. Most scanners will work for this purpose. Do check with the software company’s website for recommended scanners. I have had good success with Canon and Epson scanners. The one I am currently using is a Canon CanoScan LiDE 25 that I paid less than $50 for. It is a no-frills scanner, but does the job nonetheless.

Sibelius’ recommendations for scanners 
SmartScore’s recommendations

Sibelius = PhotoScore
Sibelius ships with a free, lite version of PhotoScore. This version can do basic scanning, but there are significant limits. For example, the current shipped version does not recognize triplets. So, if you want the most powerful scanning option for Sibelius, I recommend that you purchase the full version of the software, PhotoScore Ultimate.
There is an excellent help file posted in the Sibelius website, written by Bruce Munson.

Finale = SmartScore 
Finale notation software ships with a lite version of SmartScore. You will get much more accurate results if you upgrade to the full version of SmartScore Pro. The best place to get familiar with scanning in Finale is to view the tutorial video. Launch Finale. From the Help menu, choose QuickStart Videos. Then select Getting Started > Importing Music > Scanning.

Scanning to MIDI
If you want to convert sheet music to MIDI to import into Music Production Software, then scanning software can be a solution for you. There are several options to choose from including Musitech’s MIDI Edition and Neutron’s PhotoScore MIDI.

It may take some time to get the right hardware and tweak the software settings to get accurate results with scanning. I have found it is worth the effort.