Question about music writing software

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LBrandt
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Question about music writing software

Post by LBrandt » Tue Aug 08, 2017 12:51 am

I have MuseScore, and to me, it's very tedious to use. Of course, it's free. Are there any really good, easy to use, music writing software products that I should consider? I don't mind paying, if it's really good and easy to use.

powderedtoastman
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Re: Question about music writing software

Post by powderedtoastman » Tue Aug 08, 2017 5:10 am

I've found Musescore to be decent once you learn your way around the shortcut keys for the things you would use most often. I tried using a MIDI piano keyboard to enter notes but found a regular computer keyboard and mouse to work better for me.

I haven't tried the paid ones, seems like they have some pretty powerful features but for me not enough to justify the money at the moment.

stevel
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Re: Question about music writing software

Post by stevel » Tue Aug 08, 2017 5:42 am

Well, let me start by saying this - it may not apply to you specifically but I'll say it for the benefit of other readers who may need additional info:

Most of the time, the "steep learning curve" and "ease of use" issues with notation software are because people don't know how to notate music without software!

"The Best" IMHO, despite it's many irritating elements, is Finale. It does everything you'd ever need it to do.

For a long time, it was the only "professional" game in town. However, Sibelius came out about a decade later at a much lower price and touted a "not as steep learning curve". You used to very commonly see comments like "Finale is great but it has a really steep learning curve". But to be honest, I saw nothing about Sibelius at the time that made it any less difficult to learn (and it had its own irritating issues).

The one good thing that came of it is now that Finale had competition, they had to lower their price to compete, and both have been in sort of a "features race" and also it forced the makers of Finale to actually listen to what users wanted and implement the features rather than just writing the program the way they wanted.

I still prefer Finale. But we have Sibelius at our university and I've kind of been forced to learn it. The biggest thing I hate about Sibelius is the look of the program (which was apparently redone right as we got it) - it looks like Playskool or Little Tikes. "My First Notation Program". In fact, a lot of people complained about that.

But I do see what they're going for - a logical typical working order.

The other thing that drives me crazy is the little window with your tools on it is not resizable. This alone is a deal-breaker if I were to be choosing between the two.

However, their idea, not unlike Pro Tools (which are now both owned by the same company) is that you use keyboard shortcuts for most of your work. So if you know your numeric keypad (and still actually have one on your keyboard!) you don't really need to be able to see that window so well.

Still....

The guys who original made Sibelius got hired by Steinberg to make a notation software they could market and maybe compete at the level of Fin and Sib.

It's called Dorico.

I think it's a joke at this point. They rolled it out at a very similar price to the others with, oh, I don't know, about 1/10th the features. There seem to be a lot of fanbois who are really the type who like Dorico because it's not "the other two" and because it's "not Avid" (or whoever now, probably Behringer or something) or just because they hate Apple and Microsoft and want to use Linux, they carry that same mentality over to Dorico.

The default font is actually too bold, and goes the wrong way for published music, but hey, I'm just comparing things to engraved scores...

I think there's also some fanboy support for other things - including Musescore, Notion, etc.

There are some out there that still use more of a "command line" input to create music. Talk about unintuitive!

At any rate, it also depends on what kinds of features you need.

Do you need Guitar Chord Diagrams?

Do you need Tablature?

Are you interested in scoring for other instruments or just Guitar?

Do you need it to look like professionally engraved published music, or is a quick and dirty lead sheet good enough?

Many programs don't even put in the right accidentals when you put in a scale - hell, I've seen some that use flats only!

So there are a number of factors to consider. Finale will do anything you could ever want. So could Sibelius. Your choice of one or the other might depend on which company you hate the least, or whether or not your collaborating with others who use on or the other. While I still prefer Finale, if I was able to buy something new I'd switch to Sibelius for practical reasons just because that's what we use at my work. I could make files at home and email them to myself rather than having to stay in my office extra time to get it done.

But, because they can do so much, they are sort of necessarily complex (and so is the art and craft of notating music BTW). So the real trick is wading through the unnecessary stuff and learning the core stuff you need to know.

And I should add, that really, I think a lot of people buy software like this thinking they're going to input their music in a day by clicking in the notes and have it come out looking perfect.

In a sense, you have to "practice" Finale or Sibelius - learn the program as you use it. It's kind of like the kids who download a free DAW and expect to make their #1 hit Rap record. Then they're on a forum the next day asking about NY compression and "how do I create a track"... (in case you don't know, the latter is a basic that you have to know long before you start messing with compression).

So you need to learn how to set up a score. Then you need to learn how to enter notes and rests. Then you need to learn how to put in ties, and space the music, and stuff like that.

I think some people want to start in measure 1 and perfect that before they go to measure 2 and that's not how you do it (and Sibelius' is designed in the way you should work which is kind of nice).

But also, people want to just make a perfect piece the first time they use it. That's not going to happen either.

You need to do some "demos" first and learn while you do them.

Classical Guitar music often uses multiple voices which is sort of an "advanced" use of the software so you kind of have to learn to do basic monophonic, then block chord work first, before moving on to multiple voices. Workflows can vary, but none of them are going to be "easy" because of the complexities of music notation itself.

If you're "serious" I'd go with Finale or Sibelius.

If you're just a "hobbyist" but can afford it, go with Finale or Sibelius.

I can't speak to Dorico, Musescore, Lilypond, Notion, Encore, or others, but some are PC only, which I don't prefer, some are "command line" entry, which a lot of people don't dig (but some gravitate to it) and others just either don't have quality output, lack features you may want, or lack features that anyone in their right mind should have.

First decide if you need tab and chords, as that will eliminate some.

Then decide if you want click on screen and/or controller keyboard note entry as some may not do one or the other.

Decide if you want playback so you can hear what you notate - some of them have better sounds than others, some don't offer the feature within the program.

You may be able to get by with something less feature laden than the big boys, and some lesser priced ones might be just as feature laden (if not as intuitive).

I tried Notion once long ago and found it lacking, and I tried Musescore once and found it unacceptable. But I'm doing lots of various kinds of things where I need traditional orchestral stuff, modern pop stuff, and things with tabs, etc. So I needed more versatility than some of the others offered for me. I've got a really old version of Finale and it still does absolutely most of what I need it to do. The newer versions really haven't improved much on the notation itself - more on the audio features than anything.

stevel
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Re: Question about music writing software

Post by stevel » Tue Aug 08, 2017 5:55 am

Here's something I did in my old version of FInale a while back - it's marked up with pen because I had posted it here for some notation advice (which I got very helpful responses to).

It's a 1 page PDF and I just checked and it's still up:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5_uiR ... sp=sharing

stevel
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Re: Question about music writing software

Post by stevel » Tue Aug 08, 2017 6:16 am

There was a thread hear comparing 10 programs that included Dorico as the new kid on the block.

I can find the thread but all the dropbox links seem to be no longer working. I had found the PDF online before but a quick search couldn't find it.

It's a comparison of the same pieces printed from each program. There are some problems they left in some that are easy fixes, and some problems in others that can't be fixed and this is not necessarily - let's say, fairly discussed.

But they're really all similar enough not to really matter too much and just seeing hte final printout doesn't really tell you how you got to that point, so I don't know that it's all that informative.

I think John Rethorst might have done it so you could try to PM him here.

Ahh, I found it. Here it is:

http://blog.steinberg.net/wp-content/up ... ograms.pdf

Again, doesn't tell you how much work you have to put in to get it to this point, nor how you enter the music, but at least it gives you an idea of what kind of output the programs are capable of.

Should note that they're not all the same page size so you're looking at different percentages of reduction - so not apples to apples in that regard. What you really need to see is them all with the same staff size to get an idea of how "blobby" or "teensy" the noteheads look.

Other things it doesn't tell you is, if you don't like the tie touching the noteheads as it does in Musescore (note that most others don't) can you change it? Can you change its arc and endpoints?

I realize they probably just put them in with the defaults and let it ride, but if you had a higher note under the tie that collided with it, will the software automatically adjust the arc of the tie to compensate? How does it deal with a tie from a plain note versus a dotted note?

Some software lets you adjust all of these little things globally and on a per case basis (which is kind of what you need).

Others don't.

So it depends on how much control you want over the final product as well.

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Adrian Allan
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Re: Question about music writing software

Post by Adrian Allan » Tue Aug 08, 2017 10:29 am

For me, Sibelius is the software worth investing in.

I find it easy to use and much more intuitive than Finale. Sibelius is more popular in the UK, Finale in the US.

Yes, Dorico looks promising but is limited in features right now.
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bert
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Re: Question about music writing software

Post by bert » Tue Aug 08, 2017 10:52 am

I used to use Finale & Print Music, which wasn't any better than MuseScore, so I don't think that would be a good option then.

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pogmoor
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Re: Question about music writing software

Post by pogmoor » Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:02 am

LBrandt wrote:
Tue Aug 08, 2017 12:51 am
I have MuseScore, and to me, it's very tedious to use.
I (mostly) use Sibelius, but if I was starting out doing guitar arrangements now I think I would use MuseScore. Musescore is a very fully featured program, and it's being actively developed (version 2 is much better than version1). Daniel Spreadbury, the Dorico development team leader paid MuseScore the compliment of including it with Sibelius and Finale in his development blog comparing the emerging features of Dorico with existing software. He evidently regards it as a serious contender, as opposed to some of the also-rans like Notion and TablEdit.

I've used Finale in the past, I've tried MuseScore and I've tried Dorico (and I've tried some of the other lesser-known programs). To my mind the truth is that there is no 'easiest' software. They all require time and effort to learn how to use them - and to learn how to get them to suit your particular needs. Now I've been using Sibelius for a good many years I've got a work flow that suits me. If I used MuseScore I'm sure my workflow would be different but I'm equally sure I would have worked out just as many shortcuts and quick ways of doing particular tasks as I have with Sibelius. I'm considering swapping to Dorico because I think it handles layout better, but I can see that I would need to spend a lot of time getting to know the program better (perhaps too much for my old brain). If I wanted to swap back to Finale or use MuseScore instead I'm sure I would need to spend a lot of time learning or relearning the 'tricks' .

Music scoring is quite a complex task; however you do it (even if it's pencil and paper) there's a lot of learning involved, which may be tedious but is inevitable if you want to present clear, well laid out scores.
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PeteJ
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Re: Question about music writing software

Post by PeteJ » Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:19 am

stevel wrote:
Tue Aug 08, 2017 6:16 am
Other things it doesn't tell you is, if you don't like the tie touching the noteheads as it does in Musescore (note that most others don't) can you change it? Can you change its arc and endpoints?
Nice post, Steve. Yes, you can move the ties around at will.

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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Question about music writing software

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Tue Aug 08, 2017 2:46 pm

Stevel's contribution is full of wisdom and experience, but a little hard on Dorico; nobody who has bought it in it early stages was under any illusion that it would offer a full feature set as though it was a mature decades old system. They are investing, I think anyway, in the hope of encouraging it for the future. Very few if any current users are likely not already to be users of one of the other systems, and are probably still using those all the time too.
I bought it when it came out, to encourage, and have literally only just installed it, because of all the other software I'm supposed to be learning. Will post a thread on it in due course.
Btw a good many of the current owners will like me have acquired it on a cross-grade basis, so the full price does not apply in that situation. Though the main public face of Dorico, Daniel Spreadbury, was publically thanking those who bought it for the full price even though they qualified for a discount e.g. either educational or cross-grade or both. That shows there is an enormous amount of good will for Dorico, and that has to be for a reason - namely, dissatisfaction with the older alternatives. The question remains, how well they live up to that good will.
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Adrian Allan
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Re: Question about music writing software

Post by Adrian Allan » Tue Aug 08, 2017 3:26 pm

^ Also, there is sympathy for the old Sibelius team were treated very badly by Avid - they were all sacked and then snapped up by Steinberg to work on Dorico.

For those who write modernist music, Dorico will be a complete breakthrough, as older programmes were based on the idea of the conventional barline as the starting point for every piece and a tonal key signature. In order to break from this, you often had to use fiddly work-arounds, such as hiding barlines. However, Dorico promises to let people work outside these parameters from the very first note.

The eventual aim will be to have a programme that blends into a sequencer. At the moment I have to export as midi from Sibelius and import into Cubase in order to use my sound libraries. There has never yet been a programme that offers high quality engraving and also high quality (eg East West sounds or Vienna sounds) samples and midi functionality.
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stevel
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Re: Question about music writing software

Post by stevel » Tue Aug 08, 2017 7:06 pm

Adrian Allan wrote:
Tue Aug 08, 2017 3:26 pm
^ Also, there is sympathy for the old Sibelius team were treated very badly by Avid - they were all sacked and then snapped up by Steinberg to work on Dorico.

For those who write modernist music, Dorico will be a complete breakthrough, as older programmes were based on the idea of the conventional barline as the starting point for every piece and a tonal key signature. In order to break from this, you often had to use fiddly work-arounds, such as hiding barlines.
Well see, this is what I don't get. Finale has been able to do this since - gee, almost the beginning (which was decades ago)

I agree that you did have to use "workarounds" in that you had to put in a time signature like 274/4 and just hide the meter so it was all "one measure", or you could use various smaller meters and hide (or parenthesize) them and the barlines (or make them dotted, etc.) to do the same stuff.

They've also supported no key signatures and full chromatic since the beginning, and symbols for 1/4 tones and what not for a pretty good while.

So it seems from my perspective that people are all excited that Dorico can do X, while Finale has always been able to do X, they just didn't know it.

I will say that Finale works "under the hood" different from other programs and Dorico may in fact not be restricted in the same way because it works differently (and this may be true of Sibelius as well) but they've all seemed good at advancing over the years.

stevel
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Re: Question about music writing software

Post by stevel » Tue Aug 08, 2017 7:12 pm

Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Tue Aug 08, 2017 2:46 pm
. The question remains, how well they live up to that good will.
Yes, that is the question. Steinberg is a great company, but there's always a bottom line to be met.

I'm just not willing to invest in an unsure future when alternatives already exist that do the job.

It's kind of like saying, "hey, buy my "Strato-Paul" - I promise in 2 years it's going to be better than a Stratocaster or a Les Paul, and while it currently only has 1 string, 5 frets, and no pickups, I swear it'll be awesome"!

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Re: Question about music writing software

Post by stevel » Tue Aug 08, 2017 7:19 pm

Adrian Allan wrote:
Tue Aug 08, 2017 10:29 am
For me, Sibelius is the software worth investing in.

I find it easy to use and much more intuitive than Finale. Sibelius is more popular in the UK, Finale in the US.

Yes, Dorico looks promising but is limited in features right now.
I'm not sure that Finale is that popular anymore in the US.

We used to use Finale pretty much as the only serious option at our university but over time (and through crafty marketing) we've moved to Sibelius.

To be honest, I don't think anyone at school needs "publisher quality engraving" and the kind of control Finale gives you. One of or composition faculty uses Finale (because he's older and just hasn't changed) and one of his pieces won an engraving award one year - but it wasn't him who engraved it - it got sent off to an "engraver" to do the work (they did use Finale too though).

They wouldn't give me Finale on my office computer. I had to use Sibelius (and had a hell of a time just getting that).

It's in our 25 workstation lab on all computers.

So it used to seem that Finale had the Academic Market (kind of like Apple) and Sibelius was more attractive to the hobbyist and "pop" people.

But now, kids coming into school will have used Sibelius if they've used anything, and never even heard of Finale.

FWIW, since Steinberg does Dorico, I've noticed a lot of my kids think Cubase is some weirdo program as they're more familiar with Logic and of course so far up PT's butt they can't do anything else.

But Cubase is definitely more popular in Europe it seems. So Dorico might make better inroads there and might spread (not sure if Sibelius started that way).

But, if, in the end, Dorico, Finale, and Sibelius are all still $500 with the same feature set, we've not really gained anything but a different workflow.

If they could make it for $250, not what would be something.

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Adrian Allan
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Re: Question about music writing software

Post by Adrian Allan » Tue Aug 08, 2017 7:34 pm

I wouldn't agree with the last assessment of Dorico being the same as Finale. Thousands of users have expressed their frustrations with both Sibelius and Finale and their codes are decades old. Dorico is based from the starting point of a team who are acutely aware of the pitfalls of both programs and are building a new set of codes to meet the needs of modern computers. You say that Finale can do all of those things needed for modern music, but Dorico promises to do it all with zero work-arounds. Finally, being teamed with Steinberg, there is a longer term goal of having one program that can also function as a midi sequencer and an engraving software. With Dorico, you are investing in this future, and lots of people have complete confidence in a team that in terms of their knowledge of engraving is pretty unbeatable.
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