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Shortcuts: Time Is A Barometer For Success, Part One of Four

Mike Lawson • Archives • January 5, 2007

Time is precious for a music educator. Within the academic school day, rehearsals, concerts, planning, research, teaching, tours, festivals, committees, and extra duties all have to be taken care of. But the right short-cut technology can make all the difference. This article, along with the next three, will present some (hopefully) helpful technological time savers for those feeling the crunch.

When I first got into technology in the early 1980s, I quickly recognized its unlimited potential for instruction and lightening the burden of endless responsibilities that an orchestra or band director deals with on a daily basis. Here are some of my favorite music and business software applications that can make a difference.

Music Scanning Applications
Word processing and music notation software have made a big difference in how we manage our time. But scanners and their related software applications have introduced “warp” speed to the creative process. Scanning recognition for both word-oriented documents and music scores has improved over the years and can save you countless hours of inputting by hand with over 99+% accuracy. In 1992, my first scanner had a list price of $2,200. Today, scanners have significantly higher quality and retail for under $100. Music scanning software has improved with every upgrade for nearly 15 years and is now the fastest way to import a score from scratch into a notation software application for further editing, printing and audio playback. I suggest downloading demos from the manufacturer’s Web sites listed below and trying them with a school scanner before making purchases.

There are two major applications to select from: SmartScore by Musitek (www.smartscore.com) and PhotoScore by Neuratron (www.neuratron.com). Both products are available in several editions for both Mac and PC platforms. Imagine being able to scan a published music score or part and then being able to convert it to a MIDI file that can be opened up in your favorite music notation program in a matter of minutes. Professional versions of these applications will provide articulations, text, dynamics and other printed musical nuances beyond the basics of entry-level products. Musitek (www.musitek.com) offers a series of five different versions and pricings for educators, church musicians, guitarists, pianists and MIDI users (www.smartscore.com/five/default.html). The songbook versions scan up to three staves and transpose and print entire songs seconds after scanning. Fretboards and chord symbols are recognized then converted as keys are transposed. There are pre-set styles for automatic drum accompaniment, though new patterns are easy to create. The piano edition displays two staves with no lyrics. Their MIDI edition converts sheet music into either their proprietary file format, ENF, or Standard MIDI file format for further editing in the user’s desired MIDI software application. The guitar edition is the perfect tool for guitarists and other soloists, with a one-stave limit and no text or lyrics. The professional edition is the “Cadillac” of the industry in terms of features, speed and accuracy. And best of all, it is user-friendly for printing music, scanning, playback, key/clef transposition, part extraction, page reformatting, auto-drum grooves, karaoke, CD burning, integrated MIDI visualization and file conversion, including support for PDF, Finale

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