How to digitize a large sheet music collection: focus on specialized machines


by Aurélia Azoulay-Guetta

For a music institution, the digitization of the music library has become a major topic in recent years. The health crisis has accentuated to an unprecedented degree the absolute necessity to be able to remotely access all musical material and distribute it to all who need it.

Although 90% of symphony orchestras and opera houses today are equipped with copying and scanning machines*, these are not always fully adapted to the specific needs of a fast and quality capture of a large quantity of scores, often annotated, bound and in large formats**.

This is why we decided to highlight the feedback from our librarian friend Ivo Schmid, from the Zurich Chamber Orchestra (ZKO), who took the gamble of investing in a scanning machine adapted to the needs of the orchestra. Thanks to this initiative, the music library is now 100% digitized, for the greater comfort of the team and the musicians. We will then build on this testimony to open up the field of possibilities…


Ivo Schmid, librarian of the Zurich Chamber Orchestra

“We made the decision to buy a second-hand scanner. The model is called ZEUTSCHEL OS 1200, now called OS 12002 Comfort.

I am very happy with my scanner:


  • I can see the score whilst I am scanning it (no need to turn it upside down) and at the same time the result on the screen.
  • The software ‘Perfect book’ recognizes automatically the size of the score, very few corrections are necessary.
  • I can scan the left and right pages of a book at once.
  • I scan a double-page in less than 3 seconds (black&white).
  • No need to work with Acrobat or other software after the scan, the whole work is processed and organized in a folder.
  • Once you get used to the software, it is easy to use.

However, there is a slight disadvantage compared to a traditional scanner/copy machine: to be fast and comfortable I decided to choose a scanner without a glass that flattens the paper you have to scan, which means that staff lines are not always 100% straight. To avoid this, there are some (very expensive) models that have an automatic glass to press flat each page you have to scan.


In general I am very happy with my overhead scanner. I could not imagine myself working with a traditional scanner/copy machine.

My scanner was 9 000€ (used) plus software ‘Perfect Book’ 3 000€, plus Computer and Screen (Windows).”

To go further….

From Ivo’s testimony, we can see that these machines specialized for capturing bound music material can be of great help in the daily life of anyone in charge of a large collection of sheet music./p>

For those who can afford it, there are ultra-perfected and automated models integrating flattening windows and page turners.

Budgets then rise significantly. Here are a few examples of prices for Qinedus scanner models :

  • The Qidenus Robotic scanner in A2 format: 93,000 euros excluding VAT.
  • The Qidenus Semi-Automatic or MASTERED scanner in A2 format is 65 000 euros excluding VAT.
  • The Qidenus SMART Qidenus scanner, manual version in A2 format, is priced at 30,000 euros excluding VAT.

However, there are other high-performance, less ‘robotic’ machines that can meet your needs. Let us mention two of them:

  • The Elarscan A2 180° or V-format scanner. The price of the device is 18,000 euros excluding VAT.
  • The Bookeye 4 V2 kiosk. scanner. The price of the Bookeye 4 V2 kiosk scanner is 16,000 euros excluding VAT.

Finally, and after much research, we realized that it is also possible to rent such machines, which can be very advantageous financially if the scanning process can be concentrated over a few months.

As an example, the rental of a Qidenus MASTERED in open A3+ format is 2,000 euros per month for a minimum period of 3 months. An interesting option to explore and to confront with the geography concerned.


Conclusion

For mass digitization of music libraries, specialized scanning machines remain the best choice. This option requires a significant initial investment (if rental is not relevant), but in the medium term it will allow you to build a centralized and quality digital library.

There is also an increasing number of mobile tools and technologies that make digitization possible. For example, the amazing Shine Ultra device was launched last month. It is full of great promises thanks to its automatic curve flattening technology. Another model, the Iris Scan, already seems to be up to the task of digitizing black and white A4 formats.

For quickly scanning on the spot, Newzik’s integrated scanning tool remains the best option, as it is directly associated with the app’s PDF editing tools and annotation toolkit, and the result can be shared with all members in one click.

We will follow all these technological advances very closely!

*Newzik study, 2020

** We underlined the complexity of a good digitization of scores in our previous article “How to digitize paper scores” that we warmly invite you to explore.