I have photos and scanned images of music notation (in JPG format, but I could create any other format as well, if needed).

Now I need a program that

  • examines the music on the picture
  • generates a "fresh" scalable digital representation of it, so that it's scalable without quality loss
  • is gratis

I don't care about

  • the internal ditigal format.
  • the operating system. I could use Android, iOS, macOS Sierra, OS X El Capitan, Linux, Ubuntu or Windows, or something web-based.
  • 2
    I didn't downvote, but while I find the titular question interesting, I am not convinced "and generate a digital representation of it, e.g. as a PDF" is a reasonable requirement. OCR for some specific information is only useful if that destination format stores that specific information. As it stands, you could just as well take the sheet music image and directly embed it into a PDF file without any OCR. If you want to vectorize it, you can use a general purpose vectorizer rather than anything sheet-music-specific. So, it is not yet clear what the sheet music OCR should actually produce, ... Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 20:25
  • ... and how that specific information retrieved from the OCR should be output to the destination format beyond what is already in the original image file. Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 20:27
  • @O.R.Mapper For example, I am happy with any "beautified" output, e.g. MusicXML, lilypond notation, so yes, as you say, something vectorised.
    – minseong
    Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 5:31
  • By "vectorised", I meant a direct conversion of the original image to a vector graphic, as can be done, for instance, with Inkscape. As per your comment, this is not what you want. Also based upon your comment, it would seem that the final conversion to PDF is mostly tangential to your question; what you actually seem to be looking for is some OCR for sheet music that generates MusicXML, Lilypond, or something comparable. Would you mind updating your question accordingly, also to make it easier to find for future visitors with the same issue? Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 7:38
  • 1
    "that isn't a blurry, warped photo" - you are not stating that in the question. As it stands, Inkscape fulfils your requirements. And probably, it would even serve to remove the blurryness and straighten warped lines. The crucial aspect of what you are looking for, though (as confirmed by your comment on the answer) is that before vectorising anything, the scanned data needs to be interpreted as musical data. Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 8:03

1 Answer 1


This is really two steps...

1st -- "Sheet Music" >>into>> "Data" (i.e. Music XML)

Open Source!

Shareware/Trials/Commercial Software:

  • Capella Scan
  • Photoscore
  • Sharpeye
  • Smartscore
  • List item

Note: special 'exception', PdfToMusic will 'scan' PDFs generated by music programs into MusicXML

2nd -- "Data" >>into editor>>export to>> PDF

Most scorewriting programs, including Finale, Sibelius, and MuseScore.

Most music sequencer programs, including Cubase, Logic Pro, Digital Performer, and SONAR.

  • 1
    Just the first step is fine for me, but thanks for such a developed answer!
    – minseong
    Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 7:10
  • @theonlygusti -- You're welcome. :-) Would you please mark my answer correct then? Thanks. Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 6:05
  • 1
    A note for anyone looking at this answer in 2022: MuseScore now supports this on their website (only caveat is that the file must be pdf, which is easily accomplished by a number of free tools online and offline), so both 1st and 2nd steps can be accomplished with MuseScore. musescore.com/import
    – trve.fahad
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 16:14

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