Using Sheet Music Apps Part II – Scanning the Music

As discussed in Part I, the first step in using an iPad sheet music app is loading the music:

Most sheet music apps work with PDF files. These days it’s possible to buy music in PDF format, but for most of us with existing paper music collections, it’s simply not practical to hope to find PDF versions. The answer? Scanning. Printers that include scanning capabilities have become quite affordable and are available for PC or Mac. The software that comes with the printer/scanner can usually create PDF files in just a few easy steps. It is very important that the scanning software be able to combine multiple scanned pages into a single file (it is usually a checkbox or option that you have to select in the software).  It’s worth getting a machine that has a document feeder so that you can scan a whole song in just one operation.

So let’s get right down to it!

Step 1 – Load the pages onto your scanner

The photos below show the Epson Workforce 610 that I use, a printer/scanner/fax all-in-one that includes a document feeder. (Click on any of the photos for larger views.)  It is fairly inexpensive unit that, for the most part, has been trouble free. The WF610 also allows you to scan directly from the glass instead of the document feeder, which is a capability you’ll need when scanning pages from a book.

Workforce610 small Scanbed small


The first step is to simply load the document feeder, as shown in the next 2 photos.  You’ll note that the pages are oriented with the top edge feeding in first.  

Feeder small Feeder2 small


If you don’t have a document feeder, you would start by laying the first page face down on the glass with the top edge facing left, as shown below:

Scanbed2 small

Step 2 – Start your scanning software

This step will vary depending on your software, but for this post we’ll focus on Image Capture that comes with Mac OS X. After it’s starts up, we need to adjust just a few settings. Some of these will only need to be set one time, but it’s good to get into the habit of checking them each time. With most printed music, choosing to scan black & white at 150 dpi usually gives the best results. In Image Capture, these two settings are called “Kind” and “Resolution” as shown in Figure 1. Scanning in color or at higher resolutions will certainly work, but will result in larger files, which may cause slowness or or lag when page turning in your app. Even though NextPage is optimized to handle large files, it’s always best to keep your files as small as possible. After you’ve made these changes, they will remain that way every time you run Image Capture.


Figure 1

Next, we need to give our scanned document a name and specify a location, shown in blue Figure 1. We also want to be sure the format is set to ‘PDF’. I have entered the song name “Alive” and chosen to save it directly on the Mac OS X Desktop for this post, but normally I scan directly to a Dropbox folder (we’ll talk more about Dropbox in the next post). Image Capture will remember the last location you selected, but you will of course want to change the file name for every new song. Most often, the name you choose here will be used as the song’s title inside your app. NextPage, for example, uses the name you specify during scanning without the “.pdf” extension tacked on by Image Capture.

And finally, AND THIS IS SO IMPORTANT, we check the box that says ‘Combine into a single document’. By doing this, every page we scan during this session will be placed into the same PDF file until we change the name to something different. So the 5 pages we are scanning in this example will all be placed into a file called Alive.pdf, whether we use the document feeder to scan them all at once time, or do individual page scans from the glass. (Most of the support questions we receive from NextPage customers regarding paging not working correctly are due to the pages being scanning into separate PDF files, which NextPage sees as separate songs! After we tell them about the “combine” option and have them rescan their music, all is well.)

Step 3 – Scan

If you are scanning from the glass, your software may try to do an overview scan to give you a preview of the page, and Image Capture does exactly that. This will give you an opportunity to make sure the whole page will be captured as indicated by the dotted outline box in Figure 2.  Your scanning software may not always properly detect the edges of the page, so you may need to adjust the boundaries. When you’re ready, click the Scan button.


Figure 2


Figure 3

At this point you have a file ready for loading into your app using iTunes Sync or Dropbox, which we’ll cover in the next post.


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  • Tim Valentino

    I like the demo score! :-)