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#1147064 - 11/22/05 01:58 PM best software for notation/composing?
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
Hi, I'm new to the Piano World Forums. I just got my first home computer ever this spring so probably would have been on here from the beginning if I had one sooner. We were probably one of the few people still living in the dinasour age without one. It's a Dell Pentium, sorry not sure the model, my husband is the one that knows all the computer stuff. I can look it up and get back with you if it would make a difference.
Anyway, one thing I always wanted to do once I got a computer is use it for composing. I don't have a lot of time to research what all I need so am asking for advice. What is the best software for music notation? I want to be able to write my own scores from scratch primarly with lots of good editing capabilities. I also want to be able to play a keyboard and have what I play come up as a notated score with the ability to edit. I also want to write my own workbook, primarly theory, for my piano students . . . would be nice to be able to write some notation and some text on the same page. I also am not super experienced at running a computer, just enough to be dangerous \:D . . . so I need something user friendly without a lot of difficult computer jargon to sift through to be able to figure out how to run it. I took an electronic music course in college but it's been a little over 10 years so I'm sure what I used is obsolete but it gave me a taste for what could be done. What software, equipment, set up would you recommend for someone like me wanting to primarly notate scores from scratch, edit, play on a keyboard and get a printed score of what I played? I've read a couple reviews. The easier software to run sounded like it didn't have the capability I wanted. The one with the capability sounded like it wasn't as user friendly. Any advice would be appreciated.

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#1147065 - 11/22/05 05:57 PM Re: best software for notation/composing?
Steve Chandler Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 3184
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Hi sarabande,

The two best known notation programs are Finale and Sibelius. There are other companies that publish notation software, but if you have any interest in getting published they'll probably want something from Finale or Sibelius. These companies can be found at;


I have usede Finale for a decade and a half. It had a reputation for being powerful, but difficult. It's gotten much easier to use and it's still very flexible and powerful. I do not know anything about Sibelius other than that it has a good repuation also. Sibelius provided the competitive impetus for Finale to vastly improve its software usability.

As for hooking up a keyboard to your computer you'll need an adapter to hook a midi keyboard into your computer's game port. You may need a high quality sound card to hear the included sounds from either Finale or Sibelius. Finale now has Garritan Personal Orchestra sounds (great quality orchestra and piano samples). I'm sure Sibelius offers something similar.

Can you be more explicit about the capabilities you want that weren't included in the user friendly software? This could affect which one of these two (which are very capable) you should choose. I'll be blunt about 1 thing, both companies have their proponents who think the other is crap. It simply isn't so, they're both good.

#1147066 - 11/23/05 10:55 AM Re: best software for notation/composing?
hugo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/20/05
Posts: 63
Loc: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
It'd be helpful to know your budget, too. You can go top-of-the-line for all your gear and software for thousands of dollars or you can dip your toes in gradually for much less.

#1147067 - 11/23/05 05:13 PM Re: best software for notation/composing?
Steve Tiilikainen Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/09/05
Posts: 9
Loc: Falls Church, VA
Originally posted by Steve Chandler:
As for hooking up a keyboard to your computer you'll need an adapter to hook a midi keyboard into your computer's game port. You may need a high quality sound card to hear the included sounds from either Finale or Sibelius.[/b]
Most modern MIDI adapters actually connect to a USB port; USB ports are all-purpose connection points that have caused game ports and serial ports (which are more specific) to fall out of favor. Most modern PCs have sound cards or built in sound capable of MIDI playback as well.

A good, cheap MIDI/PC adapter (MIDI In/Out to USB) can be had for less than $50.
Roland KR-7

#1147068 - 11/23/05 05:23 PM Re: best software for notation/composing?
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
I haven't really developed a budget since I am not familiar with the amount of money it would take. I realize the sky is the limit depending.

To prioritize:

1. Be able to notate scores from scratch and edit. (Being able to write my own theory workbook for students with the capability of written text between notation would be nice but not essential if it would jump up the cost too much).

2. The capability of being able to "play back" what I notated. All I have currently is a 10 yr. old+ Casio (says "Tone Bank CT-650" if that means anything). It's just a cheap keyboard from a wholesale club and it's my understanding that kind of keyboard is in the "better than nothing" status but not ideal. It does have ability for midi connection. - Eventually would like to beef the "keyboard" end of things up to something more suitable. What is best for that end? . . . synthesizer, digital, etc. . . . ? Excuse me for my uneducated wording . . . I have a lot to learn \:\( .

3. Ability to play something and have the computer put what I played into score form (realize there would be editing to do with this).

I need one of those books for "dummies" as I've been in the dark ages for so long. My only saving grace is I have a friend of the family that is a retired computer programmer that might be able to help me sift through how to run it and hook everything up and if I contacted the Prof. in charge of the composition stuff where I graduated, maybe he could line me up with someone who could give me lessons in learning to run it all.

I am trying to get an idea of what software I need and cost so when I'm ready to buy, I know what I need and have the money lined out. Probably cost-wise somewhere between low to mid-range. I understand the keyboard end of things might be a little costly, I'm just looking more at the computer end of things first adding a better keyboard down the road. I don't really like the idea of hooking up and old cheap keyboard to a brand new computer, do you think it would matter?

#1147069 - 11/23/05 05:44 PM Re: best software for notation/composing?
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
P.S. Too be very honest. I am not the type to figure out a bunch of computer jargon to be able to run all of it unless the capabilities were so much more advantageous that it would be worth my while.

For someone like me and computers, the more user friendly the better, but I would have to weigh it against what capabilities I would have to sacrifice.

#1147070 - 11/24/05 06:39 AM Re: best software for notation/composing?
Katey Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/22/05
Posts: 108
Loc: London,UK
I acquired Sibelius recently and I really like it. It can do more or less everything I want it to do re: creating scores. I would highly recommend it.
The skates' songs are calling me to the sea

Pass by and hear my tunes at:

#1147071 - 11/29/05 12:12 PM Re: best software for notation/composing?
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
I'm sorry I never got back with all of you sooner but just wanted to thank you all so much for the valuable information and taking time to post! I am very grateful. With two small children to take care of at this stage in my life, I have little time to do the research on what I am looking for and take one look at this computer before I even open a single window on the internet and a "brick wall" sort of speak goes up when I'm faced with so large an array of information to sift through. Your posts helped me cut to the chase and saved me a great deal of time. If I were to research it soley myself, I probably would never get the software/equipment. Steve Chandler, thanks for the links. Also thanks to you and Steve T. for the tips on hooking up the keyboard, that's another "unfamiliar" thing I have to undertake. Katey, thanks so much for your recommendation of the two. For now, I'll have my reading cut out for me, trying to determine what will work best for me. Thanks again all for helping me get a start in my research. I'll get back to you further down the road after I read up on it all a little more.

My husband just hooked up one of those little Kodak picture printers to the computer and ended up with a big mess, sigh! He thinks he burned up a cartridge. So now I'm a little leary to have him hook up anything else like a 10 year old keyboard, yikes! Maybe I'll have to wait until I can line up someone to help make sure the notation/keyboard stuff is installed properly without . . . "guessing".

#1147072 - 12/21/05 12:28 AM Re: best software for notation/composing?
jbot Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/16/05
Posts: 59
Loc: Kentucky
I second "Katey's" suggestion to get Sebelius. I have both "Sebelius" and "Finale" and use Sebelius exclusively because it is so much more intuitive and easy to use. However, both programs are "full featured" and will probably do everything you wish to do.

#1147073 - 12/21/05 01:37 AM Re: best software for notation/composing?
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
Thanks for the recommendation. I was leaning toward Sibelius because of the recommendations on this thread and also I have a hunch it would be easier to use. Now just for the money, maybe after Christmas.

#1147074 - 12/21/05 08:15 AM Re: best software for notation/composing?
ncsteff Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 15
Loc: NC
Hello all --

Has anybody used the Score Editor in Cubase SX? How does it compare to Finale (2006, preferably)? I expect to be acquiring Cubase soon for my new music studio PC. With Finale, I could install one copy on the studio PC and do a second installation on a laptop, even cross-platform to Mac. Thus I am willing to commit extra funds to "duplicating" notation functionality ... but this would be emotionally easier at credit card bill time if group opinion strongly favored Finale over the notation function in Cubase ...


#1147075 - 12/21/05 12:24 PM Re: best software for notation/composing?
ncsteff Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 15
Loc: NC
Ah, it seems that Sibelius allows two-computer single-user installations also. and also is bundl ed with GPO. Please re-read references to Finale in my previous post as "Finale/Sibelius."

Which brings up another issue -- I expect that either Sibelius or Finale is considerably superior to the apparently troublesome Cubase Score Editor, but are there real differences in functionality between the current verions of Finale 2006 and Sibelius 4? My impression from various forums is that Sibelius is described as more intuitive, although either program would do well. Any *objective* differences to help me decide?

Thanks again,

#1147076 - 12/26/05 06:51 PM Re: best software for notation/composing?
g_s_223 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/26/05
Posts: 55
Loc: London, UK
Well, rather than speculate on the respective merits, you can actually perform a zero-cost evaluation for yourself (given some time).

At Finale's site (listed above) there is a free download of Finale Notepad: this is a cut-down but fully usable version of the full product.

At Sibelius's site, there is a restricted (no-save) version of their full product.

Using these two you should be able to get a feel for what suits you best - they are fairly different.

P.S. Free real-time Finale support via IRC is available, see http://www.finaleirc.com/ .

#1147077 - 12/26/05 08:42 PM Re: best software for notation/composing?
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
g_S_223, Thanks for your imput. I have been actually thinking of doing that - all the trial versions to get a feel of which one would suit me. I don't think I need anything super fancy as I would hate to spend additional money for features I would rarely if never use.

Here is an update which I am in kind of a dilemna right now. I read over quite extensively the two sites Steve C. provided earlier in the thread on Sibelius and Finale. I also read about some others using Noteworthy so I checked that site also. I was kind of ready to go with Sibeius, it just seems like the right choice until I checked the price. It seemed Sibelius 4 was between $400 - 600 depending on the package although I found it listed less on a couple other online "stores" but know nothing about the reputation of those "stores". The only Sibelius package for less was the student's version for about $99. I was wondering if that would suit my purposes. Then Finale had about 4 different packages with some that were more in my price range that would probably suit me. Noteworthy was considerably low and I was wondering if that would work for what I wanted to do. So I'm am not sure what direction to take. I was kind of gung ho about Sibelius until I saw the price. I don't want to get into used software either. Someone asked earlier in the thread my price range so I guess I have a better idea now. I would like to stay below $250 for the notation software itself. Has anyone found a version of Sibelius for that price or less? I think doing the trial versions will be my next step since I am so up in the air now.

Does anyone have any advice based on the price I want to stay at?

#1147078 - 12/26/05 09:58 PM Re: best software for notation/composing?
DCshoesGIRL Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/13/05
Posts: 102
Sibelius was recommended to me by many people....it is said to be the best for all pianist needs.....I plan to get it also.
My music reflects me......and my mood.....[Monica]

#1147079 - 12/28/05 12:25 PM Re: best software for notation/composing?
coda Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/17/05
Posts: 25
A useful link on Notation software is : http://music-notation-software-review.toptenreviews.com/. This reviews 10 notation software products. It doesn't cover either Finale or Sibelius which seem to be the 2 major players.

For now, I've decided to do things the old fashioned way. I'm going to put a bit of money away for each hour of practice and when the kitty covers the purchase price I'll take another look at the software available.

#1147080 - 01/02/06 01:44 AM Re: best software for notation/composing?
PianoBeast10489 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/17/04
Posts: 830
Loc: Virginia Beach,VA
I stick by Finale. Complicated at times, yes, but very powerful.


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