Reading music is something that anyone can learn, and once understood, it becomes such a natural process that it is no longer a conscious effort. However, current methods of reading handwritten musical scores by computers remain far from ideal. A lot of research effort has been invested over the last decades in the development of systems that are able to optically recognize and understand musical scores. Classical optical musical recognition (OMR) has focused on printed scores. However, handwritten music recognition introduces several additional difficulties, with notation varying from writer to writer, and possibly varying in the same score, and with symbols and staff lines written with different sizes, shapes, intensity, etc.

In Portugal, many musical works produced during the last century still exist only as original manuscripts or as photocopies. The preservation of our recent musical heritage entails the digitalization of these works and consequent accessibility in a format that encourages browsing, analysis and retrieval. Unfortunately, the ambitious goal of providing generalized access to handwritten scores that were never published has been severely hampered by the actual state-of-the-art of handwritten music recognition. The current process required to recognize handwritten musical symbols in scores and to put them in relationship with the spine structure is very time consuming, being performed manually.

In this present project, we intend to investigate and develop algorithms to recognise handwritten music scores to obtain a digital, easy-to-manage version of the original scores.

This project results from a joint collaboration between INESC Porto and Escola Superior de Música e das Artes do Espectáculo.


We would like to acknowledge FCT/Portugal for financial support, under the project "Optical Recognition System for Handwritten Music Scores" (PTDC/EIA/71225/2006).

The OMR project was also partially funded funded by the European Regional Development Fund, through the Operational Programme COMPETE (FCOMP-01-0124-FEDER-010159).