V.com weekend vote: What (software) do you use for music notation?

September 30, 2023, 3:54 PM · What software do you use for music notation?

This was a question that came up during an online teacher enrichment course I've been taking on music literacy for string players, taught by fantastic teacher Carrie Salisbury and teacher/composer Michael McLean.

Hmm what do I use for music notation - pencil and paper?

writing music little girl composing

Yes, somehow I've worked around the need for notation software for a long time. I'm not a composer - I certainly write more words than I do music notes! But now and then I need to write out an exercise for a student, or I want to write out something in my head. So I'm finally seeing the advantages of being able to write into a tidy template, so that it can be legible, savable and easily shareable.

Which has led me to: which kind of software works best for music notation, particularly for a violinist and teacher? I'm curious about what kinds of software everyone else is using. Also, are there others, like me, who have been on the sidelines for a while, when it comes to music notation software? Others who still use a pencil and manuscript paper? (I know at least one professional composer who composers at least the first draft this way!) Please participate in the vote, and then share your experience, when it comes to notating music.

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September 30, 2023 at 09:01 PM · Love the variety of options! So many industry standard software programs have a scaled down free version. I’m a pencil and paper composer myself, but I like using finale. Even in college with the free version of finale, I was able to complete all my assignments! Doesn’t matter which one you pick - there’s a learning curve. Pick a program and learn how it goes!

September 30, 2023 at 10:29 PM · I use a combination of Finale and MuseScore. I chiefly rely on Finale because it allows me to do anything, and layout/formatting control is really important for me. I use MuseScore when I want to jot something down quickly or publish a composition on the MuseScore online community, as the website only accepts MuseScore files. But MuseScore is great for about 95% of a composer's needs, in my opinion.

September 30, 2023 at 11:20 PM · I got started with Finale back around 1989/1990, then switched to Sibelius because of the massive quality-of-life features that their software introduced. Sadly, Sibelius was sold to a company that ended up purging the original development staff, who then got picked up by Steinberg and now currently develop Dorico, which despite a moderate learning curve is absolutely wonderful.

However, the free open-source software MuseScore has made significant improvements over the past two decades, and version 4 is more than sufficient for most needs, especially that of K-12 and college students.

October 1, 2023 at 12:56 AM · For notation, I use MuseScore for two main reasons: a. it's free, and b. it is also compatible with screen reading software, and I am a screen reader user.

October 1, 2023 at 06:49 AM · I find the lite version of Finale, called Printmusic, gives string music a very professional look. My chief hobby for a number of years was to dig up previously unpublished manuscripts of string quartets etc from a number of sources including the RAM, transcribe them using Printmusic, record my efforts to play them with Audacity and publish the results on IMSLP. Orchestral scores don't fare quite so well.

October 1, 2023 at 07:02 AM · I use Sibelius for composing and arranging, though when I compose I do most of my sketching with pencil and paper first. I have a copy of MuseScore, but I find it difficult to use, and I use it only to share music with MuseScore users. Sibelius is the only notation software in which I have found note entry with the computer keyboard to be reasonably intuitive. (I've used Sibelius for 22 years now, but I used Finale for a few years before that, and I immediately found Sibelius much easier to use when I tried it.)

October 1, 2023 at 09:05 AM · Well, I use both Finale and Sibelius, so I didn't put a vote.

I started with Finale many years ago. But on the music school where I work Sibelius was chosen as the program for the teachers and those teachers who wanted the program got it for a very low pay. Some years later we got an upgrade for free (means paid by the music school).

Results is that I use both programs. Sometimes I am torn on which one to use.

Besides being a teacher in a music school I am also a composer. I have gotten a great experience with both programs. But it can still happen that I make a sketch by pencil and paper as a first draft.

October 1, 2023 at 10:23 AM · Like many of the other posters, I have used several programs. When you want something that is not mainstream, such as lute tablature, then it is usually best to use a dedicated piece of software, or something very flexible like TeX.

October 1, 2023 at 07:04 PM · I have used Lilypond for over 15 years, and still do. Compared to the WYSIWYG programs it is less intuitive, but they too require getting used to, and the fact that I already knew one program has kept me from trying one of them, such as Musescore. The availability of Frescobaldi, an IDE for Lilypond, made working with it much easier.

Pros: 1) As a rule, Lilypond produces beautiful output without any tweaking. 2) The features needed for basic musical input are easily memorized. 3) It has options for unusual things such as lute tablature.

Cons: 1) For some, text input may be cumbersome. 2) If you do need to tweak, you need to consult the manuals.

October 1, 2023 at 10:03 PM · Really loving Dorico!

October 2, 2023 at 02:42 AM · Sibelius, all the way (Mac and iPad) - intuitive, fully customizable, professional results, updated often, and a joy to use.

October 2, 2023 at 03:38 PM · As a B.C. (before computers) dinosaur I learned proper pen and ink professional style music copying. I keep telling myself that my hand writing is faster than my computer entry. I will admit that a program would be a lot faster for transposing and transferring score to parts.

Anyone- which program would you suggest for a Luddite techno-phobe.

October 3, 2023 at 05:21 PM · I swapped from sibelius to musescore 2, managed to rewrite about 1/4 of my scores, then came along musescore 3 - and guess what all my fingerings and so forth moved all over the place, when I complained they said features in the new version were because of comments by me. It is now upto musescore 4, I use pencil and paper. Best os for music is ubuntu studio.

October 3, 2023 at 10:35 PM · As a long-time professional programmer, I feel right at home with Lilypond. Using Lilypond is a lot like developing a computer program, where I write source code, run it through a compiler, correct syntax errors, then execute and test the resulting program. To me, Lilypond is just another compiler: the source code is the text file I feed into it, and what comes out is a PDF file which I, acting as the computer, execute by playing it.

Although I'm comfortable with text files (yes, I'm a geek), you can find programs like Frescobaldi to give Lilypond a face lift.

I've taken faded photocopies with impossible page turns, re-set them in Lilypond, and printed crisp, readable scores that are much easier to play but which exactly duplicate every marking on the original score.

October 4, 2023 at 11:50 AM · As I do not plan on becoming the next John Williams or Michael Torke anytime soon ;-) MuseScore is perfect for my applications. The newer font gives the output a very nice look!

October 6, 2023 at 12:52 PM · I use a goose quill and an inkwell! Does that count? :-)

October 7, 2023 at 01:54 PM · I have produced one or two small things with musescore, but what I have uploaded for vcom members on dropbox (I think) is still ballpoint and paper, so that's what I voted.

Whwn I want to do alterations on musescore, it keeps "correcting" what I'm trying to do - it's very frustrating. I wish it would let me alter a bit and then check things are right in the end - I'm not expressing this terribly well, I know.

But what I really am looking for and haven't yet found is an ocr to convert printed or manuscript music to the software manipulable version.

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