SM Music Reader is a free and fully accessible Android + iOS app for everyone to read music scores written in MusicXML format, especially for visually impaired users. It also includes a simple guitar tuner and the Metronome. Users with visual impairment can also have access to our free online music sharing library. As a non-profit organization, Sao Mai Center relies entirely on our sponsored projects and financial aids from donors. Therefore, your contributions, in any manner, will more or less help us maintain and develop this app, as well as other useful tools for the blind.
SM Music Reader’s user interface is designed to be pretty simple, with the tabs to switch between different windows set on the top; right below those are the main contents of the active window and its customizing toolbars on the bottom. On the top right of the screen, there is a More Options button to access the main menu of the app.
SM Music Reader for Android currently provides the following features:
- Read music files written in MusicXML format,
- Draw sheet music for exchanging scores among both sighted people and people with visual impairment at the same time,
- Optical music recognition: converting scanned music scores from PDF/JPG files into MusicXML format,
- Play MIDI files:
- Play all, by part, staff, current measure and by highlighted passage,
- Forward, rewind and loop playback,
- Adjust tempo, customize metronome options, volume and select instruments’ voices for each part.
- Support reading with screen readers:
- View the whole part or selected staff,
- Speak note by note and bar by bar,
- Speak in order of by voice (horizontal) and by timestamp (vertically),
- Speak most details of the score like directions, chords, nuances, slurs/ties, ornaments, fingerings/strings, lyrics, etc.
- Read Braille music with the connected Braille display via SM Braille Viewer app,
- Export to Braille music BRF file,
- Navigate to a certain bar or line,
- Set bookmarks,
- Manage your favorite lists and view the file’s details,
- Access Sao Mai music sharing library,
- Guitar tuner,
- Metronome machine.
Using the App
App has three main tabs: score, list and library which is located on the bar at the top of screen.
By default, SM Music Reader saves some example files in its working folder. However, users can search for and download their favorite MusicXML files from the Internet and save them in the “Download” or “sm.music.reader” folder on their devices. Or, read on to the section below to know how to access Sao Mai music sharing library from the app.
Tap the “List” tab to list files stored in the “Download” folder. SM Music Reader currently supports to read MusicXML files with .mxl, .xml and .musicxml extension.
Right below the tabs bar after selecting the List tab, there is a search edit field.
Buttons at the bottom of the screen:
- Download: view items in the “Download” folder,
- All: view all items in “Download”, “sm.music.reader” and all demo songs,
- Favorites: view the favorite items added by users,
- Refresh: reload the item list when a file has already been copied or added but hasn't been listed.
While browsing files, you can tap and hold to open the context menu of the List Window. This menu allows you to add the current file to your Favorites, delete it from the list and view more detailed information about it.
After you have tapped to open a score from the list, it will be opened in the “Score” window. Please be noted that there will be a notification by text and sound of “tic tac” to let you know the file is being processed. Moreover, when the score includes multiple parts (more than 3 musical instruments), another window will open so that you can choose which part you want to read.
After you have opened a score, it will be shown in the “Score” window and some reading/listening option buttons will be shown on the bottom of the screen.
You can tap (or double-tap when using with Talkback) on the score to open its context menu to see more options such as to mark the passage you want to play, quickly jump to a particular line/bar, translate into Braille etc.
Buttons on the bottom of the screen:
- Play options: you can choose to listen to all parts, current part, current staff. You can also customize other settings to select a musical instrument, and adjust the tempo, metronome, etc.
- Other buttons are used to control the MIDI playback, including fast rewind, play, pause, play current measure, play highlighted passage, fast forward and loop playback.
Above those controlling buttons is another line with 2 main items for you to select the part and staff to be read.
Notes for users with screen readers:
- By default, SM Music Reader speaks in the note-by-note mode and in the order of voice by voice,
- Speak all the content details available on the sheet by default,
- Activate the “More Options” button on the top right of the screen, tap “Accessibility Support” and personalize your setting,
- SM Music Reader uses standard gestures of Android, so users can interact with it in accordance with their screen reader’s gestures. For example, swipe right or left to read the next or previous item.
- Some scores are formatted with large page size so its content cannot fit on screen. This causes screen readers to access and read correctly. In this case, the app will alert to change the size level. Choose More options to open main menu, App settings, Magnification and choose the suitable one. 1 has the largest size. Based on the sheet music XML layout is the default choice.
Users can search and download music scores shared from Sao Mai online music library. So, the device needs to have internet access to use this library features.
Please note, we create this free music sharing library to help people with print disabilities and whom support/teach/work with the visually impaired to enhance their music-related studies and career.
After choosing Library tab, right below the main tabs bar, there is an edit field to search scores by title or composer options. By default, the app will list most recent posted or updated scores.
Tap to open the score. Long-tap (long double-tap for screen reading users) to open the context menu with additional options such as reporting error and reading description about the current score.
Buttons on the bottom of screen:
- Home: go back to main screen page as first access to the library window,
- Previous page: list 10 previous scores,
- Search: go to search screen page if there was search results before,
- Next page: list 10 next scores.
Translating and Reading Scores in Braille
Export to Braille music BRF file: from the score content opened in Score tab, double-tap to open context menu and choose Export to .brf file. This will translate and create one Braille music brf file of current selected music part in your sm.music.reader\brf folder on your device.
The app will ask if you want to share the Braille translation result to third-party apps such as sharing via email, messaging apps or copying the result etc.
In order to read Braille score on connected Braille display directly from the app, you need to download and install SM Braille Viewer app; connect Braille display with the device; then, from SM Music Reader’s score screen, send the opened score to SM Braille Viewer from the context menu. Below are step-by-step instructions.
Connecting Braille display with SM Braille Viewer
- Download and install SM Braille Viewer from: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.saomaicenter.brailleviewer
- Run SM Braille Viewer,
- Connect Braille display with the Android device. When connected successfully, SM Braille Viewer will automatically recognize the Braille display. Can open SM Braille Viewer from the notification area and check the device status at the top of SM Braille Viewer’s main screen.
Note, SM Braille Viewer handles the Braille translation and devices’ connection same as Google Brailleback but it runs independently with screen readers like Talkback. Please refer to SM Braille Viewer’s user guide for more information.
Translating and reading Braille music
- Make sure the Braille display connected with SM Braille Viewer,
- Run SM Music Reader and open a sheet music,
- In the Score screen, double-tap on the score content to open context menu,
- Choose Send to SM Braille Viewer. The Braille music translation result will be shown on the Braille display. Use navigation keys of the Braille display to read.
Note, it will translate the current selected music part. To translate other part of a multipart sheet, choose from the parts dropdown list at the bottom of score screen; then, open the context menu and choose Send to SM Braille Viewer.
Open main menu by activating the More options button at the top right of screen and choose Braille settings. It will include:
- Translation method: where to choose how to translate and present the Braille score. Please note, this feature has not been fully implemented according to the international Braille music rules yet.
- Max measures per line for line-by-line formatting method: specify preferred number of measures you want to show on one line.
- Max measures per line for section-by-section formatting method: specify preferred number of measures you want to show on one line.
- Numbering measure: display the first measure number of that Braille line at the beginning.
- Braille table: choose preferred language table to translate MusicXML text elements into Braille such as song title, author’s name, lyrics etc.
Converting Scanned Music Score Images
There are many free music scores available in image-based PDF/JPG files on the internet, but it’s completely inaccessible for either screen reading or mainstream music notation software to read/edit. We have built in the Audiveris optical music recognition engine as an experimental feature in SM Music Reader to convert scanned scores into MusicXML format. To use:
- Have your print sheet music scanned and save in image PDF/JPG format; or, can search for the one from the internet. The clearer and high quality of the file, the more accurate conversion result you should get.
- Copy pdf/jpg score file to your phone, for instance, in Downloads folder.
- Make sure your device has internet access as it will connect to our web server to handle the conversion. Open main menu of SM Music Reader, Tools and choose Import pdf sheets.
- Browse for the file and open it. The app will start uploading the file to our server, processing the recognition and conversion. It will notify the result in a minute or more, depending on how large of your file and internet traffic.
- If converted successfully, choose to download. It will save in Downloads folder on your device.
- Go to List tab, browse for the file and open it to read with SM Music Reader as usual.
Using Guitar Tuner
To open the guitar tuner, choose More options button at the top right of screen -> Tools and select Guitar Tuner.
On the first screen, choose type of guitar/bass such as 6-string, 8-string or 4-string. Sighted users will have a very similar graphical interface with other popular tuning apps. While, users with screen readers will simply have access to start and stop tuning buttons. On the top right of screen, choose More options button to bring more tuning choices for current guitar/bass instrument type such as half-down tune, drop-D tune, open G-major tune. By default, standard tune is selected.
After tapping the start tuning button, pluck the string to tune. The tuner will automatically detect the pitch and read aloud the info such as “too low” (lower than semitone), “too high” (higher than a semitone), sharp/flat with #N cents (higher/lower within a semitone with closest percentage))or tuned (for perfect). #N is the pitch percentage close to the note so normally less than 20-cent value is fine.
Continue to pluck other strings to complete tuning an choose stop tuning. Press Back to return to previous SM Music Reader previous screen.
Go to More options -> Tools and choose Metronome. From the metronome screen:
- Time signature: list frequently-used ones such as 2/4, ¾, 4/4, 6/8, 9/8 etc. Choosing “Combined” to create combined meter signature with the maximum of three units such as 2/4+3/4+4/4 etc. And choosing “Custom” option to set number of main beats per measure (from 6 to 24).
- Play main beats: by default, it plays all main beats. However, users can choose which beat to play or not. Please note, cannot turn off first beat.
- Play beat subdivision: choose value from the list to have the Metronome divide one main beat into subdivisions such as 2, 3, 4 etc. After that, there will be options to turn on/off playing beat subdivisions.
- Tempo: where to set tempo for the metronome by Beats Per Minute (BPM). On the left and right of the button showing tempo value are the Decrease and Increase buttons to adjust tempo by 5 BPM. Tapping on the tempo-value button will let users enter the exact value number.
The line below is the tempo slider control where to show the tempo value in percentage. Can use slider gestures or volume up/down keys to adjust.
Next to that is the list of tempo presets such as Andantino, Moderato, Allegro etc. And the Tap tempo button, where users can tap on it to let the app auto-detect the speed.
- The next line is to choose tempo step and how long it plays by bar. By default, the metronome has one tempo step and plays for the length of 999 bars. Tempo step management feature is used to create a tempo song which has different tempo values such as containing with time signatures of 2/4 and ¾, playing at different speed levels (andantino, allegro, moderato etc.). Each tempo difference is called a step. Please read on to know how to create one tempo song with steps management feature.
- Play/Pause: to start play/stop the metronome. The button is located in between of add, remove and load, save buttons.
How to create a tempo song with first 4/4 time signature playing for first 8 measures, and second ¾ time signature playing for the next 8 measures with Andantino tempo preset:
- Run the metronome tool. By default, it has one step playing for 999 measures.
- Choose 4/4 time signature and on the tempo step line close to the bottom of screen. Click on edit field of the length and specify number 8 to have it play this step for 8 measures long.
- Choose “Add” button located on the left of bottom line to add a second tempo step.
- Specify number 8 to have this second step play for 8 measures long.
- Choose the ¾ time signature and set the tempo preset to Andantino.
- Click the “Save” button on the right of bottom line, fill in tempo song filename and choose “Ok” to save the tempo song. Now, click on “Play” button to hear the whole tempo song.
- To remove one tempo step: choose that step from the step list and click “Remove” button.
- To return to default metronome first screen with one step and length of 999 bars: press and hold “Remove” button.
- To open a saved tempo song: click “Load” button. From here, you can find the remove button next to each song if you want to delete it.
There are several useful metronome settings that can be found by choosing More options -> Settings:
- Sound section: Tempo sound: to choose sound for the metronome. Number of signal measures: 0 to turn off playing the signal; specify other number to have the metronome playing signal sound by number of measures before starting with the main tempo sound. Signal sound: choose signal sound.
- Volume section: adjusting volume for sounds for first main beat, remaining main beats and beat subdivisions.
- General section: set maximum beat per minute for the metronome; keep screen unlocked while playing and option to show metronome information on the notification bar.
Sao Mai Center for the Blind
Address: 52/22 Huynh Thien Loc, Hoa Thanh, Tan Phu, HCM, Vietnam.
You can also subscribe/join the following channels of Sao Mai to discuss and get the latest news about SM Music Reader:
- SM Music Reader’s Homepage, with all updates, user's guides and other related information: https://www.saomaicenter.org/en/smsoft/sm-music-reader
- Sao Mai's Facebook Fan page: https://www.facebook.com/saomaicenterfortheblind
- Sao Mai's Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/saomaicenterfortheblind
- Join our email discussion forum on Sao Mai’s products and activities at: https://groups.io/g/smcb/