Tech Reviews: PlayScore 2

Dale Wills
Thursday, April 1, 2021

Dale Wills reviews PlayScore 2, the latest addition to the Playscore family.

For anyone not familiar with this little piece of technical wizardry, this app allows users to scan a score and hear playback almost instantaneously.

For those already familiar with this miracle device, previously scores were photographed from your phone or tablet and uploaded. PlayScore 2 now allows users to import PDFs directly into the app and to include multiple pages in the upload. It recognises a huge range of markings including dynamics, articulation, ornaments (really well!) and repeat marks.

If, like me, you have spent a good deal of the last year trying to coordinate choirs and ensembles remotely, while also trying to mark, plan, make resources and do all of the hundred-and-one other things which seemed so much easier in face-to-face teaching, this app is a time-saving gem.

The PlayScore website promises to spit out individual audio files for each part in a choral score, plus the accompaniment. In the interests of giving this a fair road test, I trialled this feature with a Palestrina score (with the original four clefs – I’m happy to own my geek status) and a modern score. The results were unfailingly accurate and easy to produce.

For ease, the app allows the uploader to share scores between users. If my whole choir were to download the app, they could play back the files directly, and even use them as backing tracks to record their parts. For the more technically minded, the app also allows users to export scores as xml files, which can be loaded into any notation software, or MIDI files, which can be loaded into DAWs. This latter feature has proven particularly useful: my GCSE class had a fantastic day of making dance remixes from the MIDI data the app lifted from Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata.

The app will also happily produce backing tracks, with a reassuringly realistic-sounding piano. This allows students to practice their parts at varying speeds – a feature which the exam boards will doubtless pick up on in the coming years.

The PlayScore website points out that the app does not support handwritten music, or the pretend handwritten fonts of so many jazz and music theatre scores, although I did have some success with old copies of the English Hymnal. PlayScore offers a range of subscription options, starting at £3.99 per month, or the heavily discounted £19.99 per year. Given the amount of time this app has saved me over the past few months, this feels more than justified. And anything we can do to be kind to ourselves at the moment is surely worth it.

Starts at £3.99 per month or £19.99 per year