When we last took a look at PlayScore 2 in our review of optical music recognition software in January 2021, it was at version 2.70 and holding. Since the beginning of 2022, though, there has been a steady drumbeat of updates, beginning with PlayScore 2.8 and continuing through the most current release, PlayScore 2.89 for iOS and Android.
In John Hinchey’s review, he had noted that lyrics, chord symbols or multi-measure rests were not supported, but said that “PlayScore 2 gets a big thumbs up. For exporting to music notation software for editing, it is fast, with impressive accuracy — as long as the chord symbols and lyrics aren’t an issue.”
Now, though, all of those limitations have been addressed in the most recent versions of PlayScore 2.
What’s more, with the back-to-back releases of Dorico for iPad and Sibelius for Mobile last summer, PlayScore 2’s deep integration with iOS makes it easier to have a complete OMR-to-music notation software workflow, all from within a mobile device.
These updates are free for existing subscribers to PlayScore 2; a subscription costs $5.99/month or $26.99/year for the professional version.
Let’s see what’s new.
What’s new in PlayScore
PlayScore 2 has always been able to export scores with the original formatting, dynamics, articulation, ornaments, grace notes, and tremolos. Now, by using the OCR built into iOS, lyrics, guitar chords, multi-measure rests and directions of all kinds are added to the list.
Because PlayScore 2 uses the iOS text engine it can immediately take advantage of improvements as Apple introduces them. And because it exports in MusicXML it works with any engraving program, Dorico, MuseScore, Sibelius or Finale – even StaffPad. A demo video shows an example of PlayScore taking a scanned file with lyrics and sending it directly to Dorico, all within the iPad.
Because PlayScore 2.89 uses all available processor cores, it is now much faster — about 4 pages per second, according to the developers.
PlayScore 2.98 adds the much-requested count-in feature for accompanists. The count-in sounds a bit like a metronome, but because PlayScore knows the time signature, and understands pick-up bars, strong and weak beats, and grouping, it can beat out the bars as a human would. You can set the app for as many lead-in bars as you want so you have time to be ready with your instrument.
Because of the count-in feature and because of its greater accuracy, PlayScore 2.89 improves the experience of creating interactive practice tracks.
Rehearsal tracks are created by adjusting part volumes so that one’s own part plays on its own, or stands out from the others at a higher volume, or using a contrasting instrument.
An individual singer or player can do this for their own part, or it can be set up for all four parts by the choir director. This latter method can be particularly cost-effective for an amateur choir, because it requires only the director to have a subscription to PlayScore 2. The choir members still use PlayScore 2. They can see where they are in the score as it plays, and can adjust tempo and set up loops but they can do all this just by downloading the free app, whether on iOS or Android.
One small improvement is the addition of the recorder instrument. With this and the harpsichord, the app is now useful for baroque sonatas and trio sonatas.
The percussion clef and a range of percussion heads is recognized in 2.89 and exported to MusicXML. The developers say that playback for percussion is coming in a future update.
Poor image support
PlayScore 2.89 adds two extra controls that allow you to compensate for some poor and unusual image types. PlayScore 2 covers a wide range of image types and quality but inevitably there are limits. The new controls effectively give you a second chance where an image or parts of it are very faint, over exposed or particularly densely written.
The next immediate release, coming out early April, according to the developers, adds two important new features.
Vocal part separation
A lot of vocal music is written on two parts per staff; for instance, the soprano and alto share one staff, and the tenor and bass sharing a single staff. Some conventions call for the two parts are written with opposing stem directions: up for tenor, down for bass. But other conventions call for the two parts two are shown as two heads on the same stem (we spoke about this with Dan Kreider in this Scoring Notes podcast episode about hymnal engraving). Further, in some instances, the two conventions are mixed.
PlayScore 2 has been able to adjust the volume of these parts independently, but only for music written stem-up/stem-down. In the next release PlayScore will be able to separate the parts however they are written.
PlayScore 2 has always been able to handle changes of time signature, clef, and key signature wherever they occur in the music. It can also figure out the time signature if you snap a page in the middle of a piece. The app can also recognize measures written in a free style, as happens in more modern music.
The next release will add the “polymetric” format found particularly in some religious music. Here the music effectively has two or more time signatures (sometimes written, sometimes not). The app will be able to understand this format and play and export it correctly.
Further in the future
According to the developers, their road map for PlayScore later in 2022 or 2023 includes:
- OCR support in playback for items like accelerando and ritardando.
- The ability to better handle scores where system size varies by allowing the user to join up staves interactively.
- Percussion will be supported for playback using a high quality sound font.
- A version of PlayScore 2 for the PC.