Convert PDF to MusicXML

Most musicians have a bunch of pdf files containing sheet music. If you have ever tried to import them into the music notation program of your choice you surely encountered some problems to do so.

This is because PDF files must first be converted into the common MusicXML format before they can be imported into programs such as Dorico, Sibelius, Finale or MuseScore.

With ScanScore, there is now a simple solution for this problem available.

In this article we explain how to use ScanScore to convert PDF sheet music to MusicXML files.

In recent years MusicXML has become the standard format for digital sheet music. MusicXML contains more than just an optical recognition of sheet music. It contains a variety of important information, including

  • Pitch and duration
  • Ornaments, tempo and volume
  • Instrument sounds and playback
  • Number of voices and staves
  • Layout options
  • And much more

MusicXML is therefore the ideal format for digitally preparing sheet music and processing it with music notation programs such as MuseScore, FORTE, Sibelius, Finale, Capella, Notion or Dorico.

But how do you convert your PDF sheet music into MusicXML?

That’s exactly why we developed ScanScore, which closes this gap. ScanScore can scan PDF files containing sheet music and read all musical information to create a MusicXML file that can be read by other notation software.

Here is a detailed instruction on how to convert PDF scores into MusicXML files with ScanScore. This may seem a bit complicated at first sight, but we promise you that once you try it, it will be very easy to do.

For more information about ScanScore, please feel free to contact ScanScore Support.

Instruction: Convert PDF to MusicXML

1) Install ScanScore

First of all, of course, you need ScanScore to be able to scan the PDF file. Install ScanScore and check if ScanScore is up to date.

Even though ScanScore usually finds new updates automatically, you should check regularly for new versions. You can do this by clicking on “Help” -> “Check for updates”.

ScanScore is available for Windows systems (although a version for Apple products is currently being worked on and will be released soon). There is also the ScanScore Capture App available for Google Play Store as well as Apple Store. This app works as a supplement to the main program and turns your smartphone or tablet into a mobile scanner.

2) Import PDF file

Once ScanScore is installed and updated, you can begin importing PDF files.

Open ScanScore and select “Import Image/PDF file(s)” from the four icons. Now open your PDF file in the file manager.

ScanScore now starts its magic and reads the sheet music from the PDF file. After a short time it is done: ScanScore has scanned the PDF file and converted it into a digital and editable format.

3) Correct errors

When the PDF import is complete, you will see two versions of the sheet music document: on the left there’s the original image from the PDF, and on the right is displayed what ScanScore has detected from it.

No recognition software is perfect, so it’s possible that recognition errors have occurred into the sheet music.

However, ScanScore makes it quite easy for you to find these errors and correct them immediately. The program automatically marks these areas that are underlined with blue or purple dotted lines.

Thus, you immediately recognize where the errors are located. And you always keep a good overview because the same position is always displayed in the left and right document.

Now you can start correcting the errors using the toolbar of ScanScore.

You can use ScanScore’s toolbars to adjust notes, but also to edit time signatures, ornaments, repetitions, tempo, clefs and much more.

A useful function for error checking is also playback: click on the Play button and follow the cursor on either side to detect and quickly correct any remaining errors.

Note: In order to always keep an overview, we recommend the zoom feature of ScanScore. For this purpose, simply use the magnifying glass icons of the toolbar. It is practical that the left side of the document always zooms in exactly to the place that you want to have a closer look at the right side and vice versa. This way you can go in detail to find errors without losing the overview.

4) Create MusicXML file

As soon as the score is flawless, you can continue with the next step: Now everything is ready to be exported as a MusicXML file.

All your corrections will pay off: MusicXML stores all the necessary musical parameters down to the smallest detail, making them accessible to other programs.

Exporting as MusicXML is very easy to perform in ScanScore.

Click on “File” in the menu bar and then select “Export MusicXML”. In the file manager you can now specify the location and the file name.

Tip: We recommend that you set a certain structure for the file names so that you can always find the files and keep them in order. For example, you can use the following scheme: “Piece_Composer_Part”. It could go like this: “WaterMusic_Handel_Trumpet.”

Congratulations! You have successfully performed a conversion from PDF to MusicXML with ScanScore.

If you want to learn more about ScanScore and its features, please have a look at this video.


Can ScanScore read all types of sheet music PDF files? – Yes, as long it is standard western style sheet music. ScanScore also reads chords and song lyrics.

The scan result in ScanScore also depends on the PDF file and its image quality. But independently of this, with ScanScore it is quite simple to correct recognition errors quickly and easily.

Is ScanScore compatible with other music notation software? – Yes, via MusicXML you can import your scanned scores into virtually any modern notation apps. These include MuseScore, Finale, Sibelius, Capella, FORTE, Dorico, Notion and others.

Which ScanScore products are available? – The ScanScore product range consists of three products. All of them are identical in their functional range and scanning capabilities – except for one crucial difference:

  • The basic product ScanScore Melody is available at a very reasonable price. However, this version only reads scores with one staff, such as lead sheets, orchestral parts or simple songs.
  • With ScanScore Ensemble, partitures with up to four staves can be scanned and further edited: For example SATB choirs, piano sheet music or band arrangements.
  • ScanScore Professional is the ultimate solution without limits, ideal for complex orchestra or big band scores.

Does ScanScore replace other notation programs? – To a degree, yes. ScanScore offers at least the basic functions you find in music notation software like Dorico, Sibelius, MuseScore, Notion, FORTE, Capella or Finale. You can edit notes, transpose, play the score and print it out.

However, you will notice that ScanScore quickly reaches its limits for advanced editing. This is because ScanScore specializes in recognizing musical data, which is a highly complex task in itself.

That’s why ScanScore lacks some features that professional notation apps include, such as

  • Extended layout options
  • Extended print functions
  • Create parts
  • Further customization

That’s why ScanScore is best suited as an ideal supplement to high-end music notation software in your digital music setup. ScanScore is fully compatible with the following programs through the MusicXML interface:

  • MuseScore
  • Finale
  • Sibelius
  • Notion
  • Dorico
  • Capella


We hope these instructions were useful for you. Once you get used to converting PDF to MusicXML with ScanScore, it’s pretty quick and easy. This is why we believe ScanScore will be an important addition to your music software tools.

Here is another final list of the steps:

  1. Install ScanScore
  2. Import PDF file
  3. Correct errors
  4. Create MusicXML file

If you are interested in more info about ScanScore, please visit our ScanScore blog.

Do you have further questions or need help? Then please contact the ScanScore Support.

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