How to Convert PDF Files to Music Score

by Garrett Unglaub

Whether you have printed music sheets, or music in PDF format on your computer, transcribing pages of notes into Sibelius for editing is a pain and can take days or even weeks. For the digital composer with a scanner, however, SmartScore is here to convert your printed pages and PDFs into music scores.

PDF to Music Score

Step 1

Download SmartScore. If you are not ready to buy, there is a free demo available with restrictions (See "Resources").

Step 2

Install the program. According to the manual, an Internet connection is necessary during installation. The manual also recommends turning off all antivirus and firewalls.

Step 3

Follow the installation steps. Enter the serial number and register the product.

Step 4

When the installation has finished, open SmartScore. You should see the Task Window. This opens when the program starts and has the buttons you need to recognize scans and PDF files. If the task window is not open, you can open it manually by pressing "Ctrl-W."

Step 5

Press the "Recognition" button. It has an orange arrow pointing down with a small note in the left hand corner. Alternatively, you can also go to the "File" menu, and select "Recognize." The "Begin Recognition" window should open.

Step 6

Click "Add Files to List." This will bring you to Windows Explorer and allow you to browse for the files you wish to convert.

Select the files you wish to convert to editable music score, then press the "Begin Recognition" button.


  • Check the box marked "Text" if you would like the program to include lyrics.
  • Check the box marked "Hymnal Fonts" if you are scoring from a hymnal (with stubby flags and short stems). Other specialized settings allow accurate transcription of triplets, pedal marking, bowing marks, tablature notation, percussion staves and more.
  • Preview the PDFs to make sure the pages are straight and the notes are readable before scanning.


  • Always save your original files and make backups when editing.

Items you will need

  • PC or Mac
  • SmartScore Software
  • Scanner (for printed pages)
  • PDFs to convert
  • Music Scoring Program such as Sibelius

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