Notation software

November 1, 2011 at 11:12 PM · I am planning on composing a duo for piano and violin and I am looking for a good freeware or shareware program that I can use. Do you know any good ones?

Replies (32)

November 2, 2011 at 04:13 AM · I just started using MuseScore. It's pretty nice for a free program, but I haven't spent nearly enough time on it for it to be comfortable.

November 2, 2011 at 06:07 AM · :)

November 2, 2011 at 08:06 AM · There have been some threads on this subject with good information. A search might help.

Meanwhile, Lilypond is a very good music formatter ("engraver") with text input. Here is an example of Lilypond input.

\relative c'{

\time 4/4

\key g \major

g4 g d' d e e d2

c4 c b b a a g2


If this doesn't put you off, Lilypond might be for you.

November 2, 2011 at 10:54 AM · Erica: It seems like you can only see the symbols in the tool meny but you can´t actually add a glissando to the score for instance. The program isn´t really freeware is it?

November 2, 2011 at 12:15 PM · Andreas,

be sure MuseScore is

- totally free


- one of the best notation programs available.

There is a fine documentation on the website, there are videos for beginners, and after 2-3 hours of practise it's easy to create perfect scores.

If you have a specific question that isn't adressed in the handbook

you can ask me.

Have fun

November 2, 2011 at 01:12 PM · Thanks Tobias! MuseScore looks good. Even better in that it's free.

November 2, 2011 at 01:48 PM · MuseScore is great--and you can edit text boxes to include any terminology not included in the side-bar menus. When I figured that out, I was in clover.

November 3, 2011 at 01:19 AM · I watched a couple of videos for the Sibelius software and got to thinking that one day music stands will incorporate a flat panel display device. There will be no need for sheet music or stand lights as the music will be displayed on the stand's flat panel from the orchestra's network server. No one will need to turn any pages as this will be done automatically by the software running on the server. Just wondering how long before something of this nature is implemented.

EDIT: Looks like someone beat me to it.

November 3, 2011 at 06:50 PM · Tony

Nice idea, though the price seems steep for what it is. The real issue will be getting them reliable enough for use in performance, methinks. What if it crashes in the 3rd movement??

November 3, 2011 at 06:55 PM · Crashing in the 3rd movement? That would be like an old-fashioned string breaking.

November 4, 2011 at 12:41 AM · I'm still old-fashioned enough to use paper, pen and ink (or perhaps a pencil). It's much less expensive, very portable, and one's internal "ear" and the fingers doing the writing seem to be that much more integrated than when pressing keys and looking at a screen. I also take the view that one should endeavour to have the music intimately in one's head before committing it to paper.

November 23, 2011 at 05:20 PM · Seems that top players are now beginning to use digital music stands in performance:

Giora Schmidt uses his iPad on stage

December 4, 2011 at 02:08 PM · If you read German, or can stomach the automatic translation, the German Wiki page on music notation programs is very informative.

December 4, 2011 at 04:23 PM · Rather than struggling with learning a new computer programme, there is still nothing wrong with writing it out by hand. Manuscripts can be scanned and saved as a pdf which can then be sent via email. Apparently Bruce Brubaker has just recorded a CD of Druckworth's music from a manuscript copy.

December 4, 2011 at 04:23 PM · Rather than struggling with learning a new computer programme, there is still nothing wrong with writing it out by hand. Manuscripts can be scanned and saved as a pdf which can then be sent via email. Apparently Bruce Brubaker has just recorded a CD of Druckworth's music from a manuscript copy.

Tom Connelly mentioned Sibelius, I would also recommend Finale. It has quite a steep learning curve but is excellent software.

I also agree with his comment about paying people, programmers deserve to eat and pay their rent the same as everyone else.

December 4, 2011 at 04:32 PM · I'm using the low end of Finale, which cost me about $10. I doubt you can get a score w/violin line and then piano, but you should be able to do them as separate parts.

December 4, 2011 at 04:46 PM · Handwriting music is fun. Every musician should be able to, but using a decent software is much faster and gives a better result, if you understand that both methods need some practise.

I have learned and practised handwriting in the old way, and I am fast, but using musescore is still faster, and I get a perfect pdf file in a second. No hassle with scanning.

I still do not understand how today one can spend some hundred bucks on finale (oh, I have it ;-) or have a crippeled tool that even costs 10$, when musescore is better than both and free.

December 4, 2011 at 07:48 PM · > I also agree with his comment about paying people,

> programmers deserve to eat and pay their rent the

> same as everyone else.

I'm sorry, but implying that using free open-source software deprives programmers of their pay is totally off the mark.

Understand that the "free" here refers to the freedom to copy and re-use the software, and not the price. Just because the software is available to individuals without cost does not mean that the people who developed it did it entirely on a volunteer basis, nor are the support options gratis as well.

Approximately 65% of web servers on the Internet "serve" their pages while running Apache, a free open-source web server, running on some variant of Linux, a free open-source operating system. There are a number of companies that develop and market enterprise-level products based on this software, and the training and support for it as well.

December 5, 2011 at 04:58 PM · It's also a mistake to think that free open source software development is done purely by amateurs. A fair bit of code for major projects such as Linux and Apache is contributed by employees of companies such as IBM, Intel and Google.

July 19, 2012 at 02:53 PM · For any Sibelius users that haven't yet caught up with the news, Avid is closing down the UK office and getting rid of the development team that was there. The feeling is overwhelming that this is a catastrophic move for the future of Sibelius. Here is a link that Avid have set up to get commentary from the Sibelius community:

July 20, 2012 at 05:57 AM · Lilypond for engraving, Vim for writing.

Message me if you need a good vim configuration file.

July 20, 2012 at 06:58 AM · Using Lilypond for notation is like shifting gears with a wrench.

PS. All Lilypond files I have seen (for example on are ugly, and the spacing and page layout are horrible.

July 20, 2012 at 11:40 AM · There the file you've seen and the file you've done.

Indentation, spacing, color… It all depend on the text editor you're using and how you configure it.

The thing with lilypond is that the final output, the sheet music, is better than with any other software.

There's a steep learning curve, I agree, but it's well worth it.

Edit: It's also much faster to create sheet with Lilypond than with another software and I'm typing at an average speed ~70wpm.

July 20, 2012 at 12:44 PM · Oh, of course I was talking about the music, not the code.

The output of Lilypond, the sheet music, is horrible.

I'd be happy to see at least one page that is ok (I guess it might be possible, but haven't found one until now)

July 20, 2012 at 01:08 PM · I'm a composer and I've used Sibelius and Finale since 2004. In my opinion, Finale is by far the more superior of notation programs available today.

July 21, 2012 at 02:02 AM · I started using Finale back with version 2.x, and really was the only easily-obtained software to create scores that did everything. After upgrading through version 97, 98, I tried Sibelius in its 1.0 version, which despite its rough edges was very impressive because of its note entry method and much more intuitive user interface. Though I've primarily used Sibelius through 6.2, I've been running both programs on my PC desktop and Mac laptop in order to be able to deal with both formats for my orchestration work. I can't speak for the composers, since I don't really compose all that much, but as far as orchestrating and arranging for orchestra and chamber ensembles, Sibelius has been a lifesaver. Unfortunately, the changes that AVID has introduced to Sibelius in version 7 really took the product a step back in terms of usability.

MuseScore has come a long way from its first beta versions, and a number of advancements from being used to create the score for Open Goldberg project have spurred the developers to create and refine highly-demanded features. This past month, I converted the majority of my working scores through MusicXML into MuseScore format, and will be using the program for all of my score editing needs from here on! :)

July 21, 2012 at 04:38 AM · Is it possible to combine chunks of text with sheet music in MuseScore?

Like half a page with instructions

2 rows of music examples

more words, not lyrics?

Or do I have to copy and paste to a wordprocessor?

July 21, 2012 at 07:06 AM · I've had to make handouts for workshops, and rather than doing the text in Sibelius, Finale, or whatever, I exported the music to a high resolution TIF and did the page layout in Adobe Illustrator or Pagemaker.

* This was back in 1999, when PDF wasn't quite as mature, and InDesign had just come out to replace Pagemaker.

July 21, 2012 at 07:59 AM · Ok, thanks :)

July 21, 2012 at 08:11 AM · " Is it possible to combine chunks of text with sheet music in MuseScore?"

Yes, easily. You just open a frame between or beside the music lines and put in text.

But music can exported even in pdf format and then used in InDesign etc. This is better than tiff.

July 22, 2012 at 04:41 AM · Thanks Tobias! I'll guess I'll download it and give it a try then :)

July 26, 2012 at 09:20 PM · Opinion is definitely divided over whether Sibelius 7 is a step backward in usability so I'll have to disagree with Gene on this point. I went from version 4 straight to 7 and appreciated a departure from the endless sub-menus with the introduction of the ribbon. Just a question of getting used to where things have gone from version 6.

For the moment if an open source application offered what Sibelius does for comprehensive engraving then that would be better that being subjected to the vagaries of a profits-first corporation, but in any event a lot of users have got a lot of time invested in Sibelius and will/may want to modify their files well into the future. Here's the link for a recently launched petition that hopes to ensure the future development of Sibelius:

Edit; Just posted on the Sibelius forum - 10 Ribbon features in Sibelius 7

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