What music notation software to buy

Posted by: Chris G

What music notation software to buy - 06/15/09 11:50 PM

I've just composed a ragtime song and I find myself in need of some music notation software so I can print up a nice looking score. I have the different parts of the song recorded in MIDI using Cakewalk, which is great for recording and editing but it's notation printing has too many limitations, for example it does not allow repeat symbols to be entered. My usual mode of composition is to enter a few measures at a time using a keyboard, quantize and then fix up note lengths where necessary.

I'm starting to look at Finale and have downloaded a trial version of Print Music, which costs $100. It seems like it can do almost everything I want except that there does not seem to be an easy way to move notes from one clef to another, am I missing something or is that only available in the full version for $600.

In any case does anyone have a recommendation for notation software that works well when the mode of entry is playing a MIDI keyboard or importing midi files and does not cost an arm and a leg?
Posted by: Andre van Haren

Re: What music notation software to buy - 06/16/09 04:44 AM

I use Sibelius for many years by now. I tried Finale before and never liked it. In my opinion Sibelius is much easier to use.
Posted by: Boira

Re: What music notation software to buy - 06/16/09 05:00 AM

I'm using Sibelius too.
Posted by: RogerW

Re: What music notation software to buy - 06/16/09 05:33 AM

It should also be mentioned that the new Sibelius 6 is a HUGE improvement over older versions. In contrast to Sib 5, this time they focused on improving the notation features instead of playback and the result is astonishing!

There is a cheaper limited version of Sibelius called Sibelius Student that should have all features you need to write down your ragtime songs. But unfortunately this still seems to be based on Sibelius 5. If they release a new version based on Sibelius 6 that adds features like magnetic layout, then I would definitely recommend this. I've also seen a scaled down version called "Sibelius First" in several web stores, though this product is not listed on Sibelius home page and I really don't know anything about it.
Posted by: Andre van Haren

Re: What music notation software to buy - 06/16/09 07:19 AM

I would love to have sib 6 because of magnetic layout for my orchestral scores, but I believe that the student version if it is going to be based on sib 6, it will not be able to create large scores.
Posted by: RogerW

Re: What music notation software to buy - 06/16/09 07:49 AM

You are right, Andre, the student version is limited to 12 staves per system. This is nowhere near enough for orchestral scores. But for someone like the OP whose main interest is writing for the piano, it should be enough. But if you already use Sibelius to write orchestral scores, then I suppose you already have the full version. In this case I can warmly recommend buying the upgrade to Sib 6!
Posted by: Andre van Haren

Re: What music notation software to buy - 06/16/09 08:25 AM

I will look into this, thanks!
Posted by: Steve Chandler

Re: What music notation software to buy - 06/16/09 09:56 AM

Originally Posted By: Chris G

I'm starting to look at Finale and have downloaded a trial version of Print Music, which costs $100. It seems like it can do almost everything I want except that there does not seem to be an easy way to move notes from one clef to another, am I missing something or is that only available in the full version for $600.

OK, I'm not sure what you mean by moving from one clef to another. Does that mean you want to have a treble clef in the bottom system (or vice versa), or cross stave beaming, or move notes around between the two staves. If the latter you can only do it in simple entry mode, not in speedy entry mode. In simple entry you just grab a particular notes click and hold and move it where you want it. Entering a clef change is easy enough with the clef tool and cross staff beaming is possible, but I don't like Finale's implementation of it so I don't use it.

Sibelius may be worth a look. Finale has benefited from their presence in the market. I have too much invested in Finale, having been a user for almost 2 decades, to change.

Good luck.
Posted by: Chris G

Re: What music notation software to buy - 06/16/09 10:27 AM

Thanks for all the replies! I have downloaded a trial copy of Sibelius and will be trying out Sibelius First also. So far I like it a lot better than Finale - it seems easier to use and does a much better job of importing MIDI. The problem I was running into with Finale which I don't see with Sibelius is that when I imported a midi file it did not do a very good job of splitting the notes between the upper and lower clef, Even when I had the left and right hand on different MIDI tracks to start with it ended up creating a grand staff with most of the notes in the upper clef. The trial version of Finale Print Music came with some helpful tutorials which among other things showed you how to select a set of notes and with a couple of clicks move them from the upper to lower staff or vice versa, unfortunately that feature is only in the full version of Finale. Sibelius imported the file perfectly and I did not have to make any chages to it apart from ading repeats.
Posted by: Pukino777

Re: What music notation software to buy - 06/16/09 12:26 PM

Just to be fair to both professional alternatives: both of them, speaking about Finale and Sibelius, are excellent and there is no winner, you should try both for a while to find out which fits you better.
I like sibelius more, its because its more intuitive for me, since I have no time to look to the manual often.

But what ever you choose, the real goal is, not to be disturbed by the program e.g. by findig out how do I this or that, or gosh, why did I lost the typed score :-) So you can concentrate to the music.
Posted by: Chris G

Re: What music notation software to buy - 06/17/09 10:53 AM

I've downloaded trial versions of Finale Print Music, Sibelius 6 adn Sibelius First and used them each of them to format the same score which started off as a midi file with separate tracks for the left and right hand. I ended up liking the Sibelius products a lot better - the user interface was easier on the eye and I was able to learn it more quickly. It did a better job of selecting accidentals when I imported music, for example my piece is in Bb and there is a D7 chord at one point which Finale interpreted as D Gb A C, Sibelius had D F# A C which was what I wanted. I also liked the look of the Sibelius printed output better so in the end it was an easy decision to go with Sibelius.

I have yet to run across a feature that I need to have that is not in Sibelius First so that is what I will be buying, if I outgrow it I can always buy the full product later. Thanks again to everyone who responded.
Posted by: RogerW

Re: What music notation software to buy - 06/17/09 11:25 AM

As a devoted Sibelius user since a long time ago, I congratulate you on an excellent choice!

Regarding the accidentals, when importing midi files they might sometimes be way off, especially if the piece is in a key with many sharps or flats. If this is the case, add the correct key signature, then select the whole score and use plug-ins->accidentals->simplify accidentals. This usually tidies the score up quite a bit. Though I'm not sure if this feature exists in Sibelius First.
Posted by: Pukino777

Re: What music notation software to buy - 06/17/09 11:28 AM

Just one more note.
Converting midi files into score is not the primary function of notation software. As a composer you will mostly create new scores in native format (sibelius or finale), which contains vital information for the program, so midi is not as important. Midi is more for playback for sequencers. To export and share sheet music PDF is the gold standard.