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Choir Man

Music Notation Software

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Greetings to all, as this is my first post please be gentle on me. I want to buy some software to convert the ideas in my head to music that is readable by others, rather than my appalling hand-written scribble. I would like something to write for Organ + SATB + occasional other instruments. Other requirements would be the ability to enter a separate lyric line for each vocal part. Also if it can save the finished article as pdf file that would be useful.

 

What software does everyone else use for writing music? I know there are a number of different packages out there, but what are your experiences?

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I have Braeburn Software (www.braeburn.co.uk) which occasionally issues updates and was written by a musician who knew and understood what we need. Cheaper than Sibelius although word reaches me - accurately or otherwise - that schools, particularly sixth form colleges - like their students to use Sibelius. I don't know why.

 

Malcolm

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Sibelius is really very good, and I use it all the time; compositions, arrangements and worksheets for use in lessons, very user friendly.

 

However, I don't 'like' my students to use, because they come to rely on it as a compositional tool, and it isn't that. I view it (and strongly encourage them to) as a word prcessor for music. It doesn't help with the composing, but it jolly well makes it look good when you've finished it, and it has a large amount of flexibility built in.

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Sibelius is really very good, and I use it all the time; compositions, arrangements and worksheets for use in lessons, very user friendly.

 

I also use Sibelius: I got a discount as I use it for church but it's still very expensive. There are various levels of Finale (see http://www.finalemusic.com) depending on what you need.

 

There's a free one which looks very promising: I have downloaded it but haven't had time to get to grips with it. However if I didn't have Sibelius I would try it first.

 

I also have Braeburn's Music Publisher and it's very good for what it does, but lacks automatic formatting so is really only good for very simple stuff.

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I've used Finale since 1997 and I'm now on 2004. However I am considering swapping to Sibelius were it not for the cost!

 

If you want a simple piece of software download a demo version of Noteworthy composer. There is some control over formatting but not as much as in the big boys (although I have not played with version 2 very much yet).

 

As for PDFs, the big 2 ought to export to pdf. For other software you can download free utilities which 'print' to a pdf and I do this all the time even from Word and Excel (2003). I use pdf995 but there are others.

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Yes, forgot to mention that Sibelius does save to pdf, and I have emailed pdfs to people, which worked well (no reason why it shouldn't!).

 

I have also cut and pasted parts of Sib scores into Word documents to use as work sheets and exam questions at school; a handy tool. I suspect Finale does the same. I used Finale for a while before Sibelius was out for PC and Mac (I spoke to so many people at Sib c1996/97 who swore it would never, I repeat never come out on those platforms, 'the programming was too complicated', and I persuaded my then school to purchase an Acorn Risc computer!)

 

Does anyone have any experience of it working with Linux?

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If you have a qualifying student in the family, Sibelius Student is a cost-effective way to acquire a cut-down but adequate version of 'the beast'. It is 'limited' to 12 staves, and doesn't automatically print parts from a full score, but there is a way of doing that manually. The ability to 'play back' is a great way to check for mistakes, duff notes, incorrect accidentals.

 

But, of course, putting notes on a score is still a time-consuming pastime. And it's so easy to lose that idea just before it's fixed onto the stave.

Finding a MIDI file, importing it and editing it can be a great time-saver.

Repetitive stuff, like the Widor 6, is so easy to do. There's a vogue for endlessly repetitive 'atmospheric' music at the moment, and I just wonder whether it was a case of 'ctrl-C', 'ctrl-V', 'ctrl-C', 'ctrl-V', 'ctrl-C', 'ctrl-V', 'ctrl-C', 'ctrl-V', 'ctrl-C', 'ctrl-V', 'ctrl-C', 'ctrl-V', 'ctrl-C', 'ctrl-V', 'ctrl-C', 'ctrl-V', 'ctrl-V', 'ctrl-V', 'ctrl-V', 'ctrl-V',... ... ... ... ... zzzzzzzzzzzzz :huh:

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I use Sibelius too. I find it very useful most of the time, especially in terms of automatic layout for simple tasks, but it can be irritating if you want to really fiddle with the layout manually, as it doesn't like letting you do that. It's a trade-off, I guess. I have used the Braeburn software but found that it took too much time to achieve simple tasks.

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There's a free one which looks very promising: I have downloaded it but haven't had time to get to grips with it. However if I didn't have Sibelius I would try it first.

I forgot to put the link to Musescore which is free and looks to me to be well worth trying: http://musescore.org

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If you can live without a GUI - that's to say, you are prepared to handle all music files in text form - then Lilypond may be what you want; sort of like TeX for music. Free, an active user community, responsive developers, and a ferocious determination to produce better output than any of the competitors. There are also independent projects that provide GUI (and MIDI) input and editing, but I haven't investigated them. It can also be integrated with TeX for producing music examples within a text document.

 

I've used it, for instance, to produce a percussion part for Misa Criolla that the players asked keep as they preferred it to the publisher's, and to generate transposed organ parts for use in a performance of some Purcell at low pitch.

 

Here are a couple of examples (which were throw-away parts, and so have none of the manual tweaks that could be used to improve the quality to publication standard):

Trumpet Tune from King Arthur: source text; pdf

Misa Criolla Sanctus: source text; pdf

 

Paul

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I think I've read somewhere that you can purchase Finale at a generously-discounted price if you're a church musician.

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Guest drd

I use Sibelius, and formerly Capella - in fact I still use both almost equally. Both produce very good results, Sibelius is the more 'advanced' of the two - but Capella is very much cheaper and definitely worth a look. In the UK it is sold by Software Partners near Warwick.

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I also use Sibelius - 'works well for me and links neatly with my publisher. 'Agree with Guilmant about the students though - I also tend only to suggest it to them as a notational rather than compositional tool.

 

A

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I also use Capella. It does everything you have asked for except pdf output at a fraction of the price of Sibelius and is very easy to use. Software Partners will also sell you two very useful and inexpensiver priniting utilities, FinePrint and pdfFactory, the first is great for transforming any document done as A5 pages into booklets for printing and folding on A4 paper, pdfFactory will turn your document into a pdf.

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Guest drd

... and I should have said that there are any number of freeware or shareware applications around for download which will also convert documents to pdf.

 

(They do this by creating, on installation, a pseudo printer - so it does not matter what format the original document is in, provided it is printable it can be converted to a pdf. You simply select the pseudo-printer as your print destination, rather than your real printer(s).)

 

Fineprint will do a bit more, too - for example I use it to print A4 pages on A3, thus making the creation of easy to read service booklets for choirs quite straightforward with a duplex printer.

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I use the German PriMus: simple to use, flexible and reasonably priced. Customer support is quite amazing: in most cases I become an answer within 30 minutes. The program is available in English. There is also a built-in scanning and recognizing feature.

 

http://www.columbussoft.de/?lang=en

 

THanks for this, it lookds quite good, particularly the 'lead sheet/worksheet' options. These are a little fiddly in Sibelius and involve much trial and error! However, not all the web pages are in English, and it doesn't work on a Mac; here endeth my interest in it!

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I have been using Finale since 1997 and am very happy with it. I have no plan to switch to other notation software such as Sibelius.

 

I think Finale is still regarded as the best notation software in the market. But with its steep learning curve, many new users go for Sibelius instead.

 

Finale comes in different versions. I would recommend the "full" version, not Finale Allegro or Finale PrintMusic, etc.

 

Educators and church musicians can purchase the software at the discount pricing.

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Another Sibelius user here! The software is so easy to work with, I can't recommend it enough. The only con is the price.

 

As already mentioned, Capella is quite good.

 

Does anyone have any experience of it working with Linux?

 

I can't speak for Sibelius, but it's worth noting the scoring applications already available for the Linux platform (free of course): Rosegarden and Lilypond

 

EC

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I don't want to burst anyone's bubble here, especially as I am a big Sibelius fan, but it's not regarded as the 'best' nonation programme by many in the industry. That honour falls to Score. It held domination for a long time, especially as it was a DOS programme (remember, pre-Windows?). However, its prblem now is that it still only runs in DOS, though it doesn't need a particularly powerful computer to run it.

 

However, I would agree that Sibelius is at the moment the most user friendly, and as one previous contributor commented, most of the smaller publishing houses (and a couple of the biggies who out source some of the engraving) use Sibelius. Its also had some ringing endorsements from John Rutter and some big players in the film industry.

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I don't want to burst anyone's bubble here, especially as I am a big Sibelius fan, but it's not regarded as the 'best' nonation programme by many in the industry. That honour falls to Score. It held domination for a long time, especially as it was a DOS programme (remember, pre-Windows?). However, its prblem now is that it still only runs in DOS, though it doesn't need a particularly powerful computer to run it.

 

However, I would agree that Sibelius is at the moment the most user friendly, and as one previous contributor commented, most of the smaller publishing houses (and a couple of the biggies who out source some of the engraving) use Sibelius. Its also had some ringing endorsements from John Rutter and some big players in the film industry.

My history: Finale about 17 years ago (that was really unfriendly), Composers’ Mosaic (from Mark of the Unicorn), Igor Engraver, Sibelius (since version 4). I have hundreds of Mosaic and Igor files that I can no longer use. At least Sibelius seems to have established itself so that files will always be upwardly compatible. One of the reasons I avoided Sibelius for so long (apart from its cost) was a reluctance to follow the herd and problems I'd seen with the original Sibelius 7 such as its very poor handling of grace notes. It is still not perfect, although I am gradually learning how powerful it is.

 

Some really dreadful Finale output made its way into print (chiefly in the area of musicals) in the last 15 years but I think it has been forced to improve since Sibelius began to take market share in the USA.

 

I am, I think, grateful that I haven't had to learn Score or Lilypond although the Lilypond text-based entry would be extemely easy to enter on, say, a pda or iPad if one was out and about.

 

Something I don't think any notation program has solved is some way of dynamically having similar parts share staves in the score, eg three trumpets playing chordal stuff with the same rhythm can happily share a staff but when they have polyphonic music they need a staff each. To bring this back to organs :blink: a similar situation would be to have lh and pedal share a staff when the pedal part is simple as in the original printed version of ClavierÜbung III or in many anglican anthems and services. I find I'm printing pages with not many notes spread across many staves.

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Something I don't think any notation program has solved is some way of dynamically having similar parts share staves in the score, eg three trumpets playing chordal stuff with the same rhythm can happily share a staff but when they have polyphonic music they need a staff each. To bring this back to organs :blink: a similar situation would be to have lh and pedal share a staff when the pedal part is simple as in the original printed version of ClavierÜbung III or in many anglican anthems and services. I find I'm printing pages with not many notes spread across many staves.

I've never had any trouble doing that with my old copy of Finale 2000. You just put each polyphonic "voice" in a different layer on the same staff. Gets very messy with more than two though, obviously. The reason I got Finale was that, in those days, it was so much more customisable than Sibelius. You could tweak pretty well everything: length and thickness of note stems, their position relative to the note head, the thickness and design of bar lines, spacing of accidentals, thickness and spacing of beams, you name it. I was into early music so needed to be able to produce prefatory staves, super-and subscript accidentals, ligature and coloration symbols and design my own musical characters. Finale could do this; Sibelius could not (though it may be able to now). The downside was that Finale's default spacing options for the actual notation were naff, though I believe they improved that in later versions. However, Sibelius was always a much easier programme to use, particularly when it came to entering the notes and for that reason alone I would recommend it, at least so long as you don't need to indulge in any unusual notational quirks. How customisable is Sibelius these days?

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