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The Trombone ForumTeaching & LearningComposition, Arranging and Theory(Moderator: zemry) Relative strengths and weaknesses of different music notation software programs
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Andrew Meronek

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« Reply #40 on: Apr 21, 2017, 09:00AM »

I'm not being sarcastic, I would like to see comparisons to get a sense of what the higher expectations are that are not served in some program.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

Since my Sibelius crashed with my motherboard, I can't provide Sibelius 6 score examples currently, but I can provide Musescore, which serves in an emergency pinch.

Does someone have a good, troublesome musical exerpt (in the public domain) that we can have some people here recreate using some different softwares for comparison?

Also, along the lines of the current thread discussion: people are forgetting about PDF format of music, where if a publisher accepts that, it makes the choice of notation software purely cosmetic and a practical choice only of the person doing the engraving.

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Andrew Meronek

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« Reply #41 on: Apr 21, 2017, 09:08AM »

I pity the noob who thinks they can download MuseScore and hammer out a big band chart over a weekend. 

LOL

That's exactly what I'm doing . . . but I guess I'm not exactly a noob in general: I consider myself pretty good at writing big band jazz, plus I'm a controls engineer, so figuring out software is a good chunk of what I do anyway.
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Matt K

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« Reply #42 on: Apr 21, 2017, 09:17AM »

Do any publishing companies accept PDF? My impression of the industry is they want the actual files that generated the score such that they can do stylistic editing.

Also check out the musescore forums. There seem to be several threads about the topic. You'll likely get better responses about how that particular software works and the relative quality achievable of the software. If you want to see what it's capable of, youd want to check over there since they're devotees of the software for the most part. If anyone can engrave properly, it would be them.

Of course, the link I posted earlier contains samples ... though they might not be made by people who know how to use the software properly.

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« Reply #43 on: Apr 21, 2017, 09:40AM »

I think also to compare MuseScore to Finale is somewhat like comparing a Jean Baptiste trombone to a Shires.  You can play all the notes (in most cases) but when it gets to the higher levels of playing the Shires will outshine the Jean Baptiste.

Not to say MuseScore is a lousy program.  It isn't.  It is a good entry level and it's cheap.  It gives output that's good enough for many applications.  But it's not Finale and if the client wants Finale that's what you need to provide.
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #44 on: Apr 21, 2017, 11:22AM »

i would suspect that the output of musescore, in the hands of someone who really knows the software, is good enough. i assume that the issues i've observed are due to user error, but then again, i really don't know. looking at some of the stuff on the link Matt K posted before, some of the note spacing looks off. on the other hand, judging by some of the work my students produced, it is capable of doing a good professional quality lead sheet so it stands to reason that it can do other stuff just as well. it seems to have come a long way since the first iterations which looked suspiciously like a finale 2000 (or 98) copy but clunkier.

Some of my students from when I first started teaching still use musescore (or did last I talked with them or saw their work) and they produce nice, legible work that I'm sure would be perfectly fine for self-publishing. Most of my recent and current students  who started on musescore have switched to finale or sibelius.

Do any publishing companies accept PDF?

Depends on the job, the company, etc. With some smaller publishers (mostly publishing on demand types) I'm hired because they don't have an engraver, orchestrator, arranger, copyist or transcriber on the payroll. For this type of job usually a PDF is all I need to provide, but often they'll want the Finale files in case they need to do anything with them in the future [sidebar: at this point they usually shop around for someone cheaper, find them, aren't happy with the work they did, contact me and try to lowball me to cover their losses... and so the cycle goes.] With some publishers, they require a particular scorewriter because their computer and printing equipment is set up specifically for that so they want the files - when I use my personal printer, printing quality is better from the finale file than it is from a PDF and margins seem more true. Some clients provide me with a template I have to use so that when/if they have to go in and edit things later it's much easier - the templates will often have a ton of shortcuts programmed in that help with this as well, in addition to the specific layout they want.

For a recent job I had this request:

Please use the enclosed template (this was a Finale 2012 template, i believe setup and modified from the setup wizard but I'm not sure.)
Machine must support the following:
Handwritten font (Broadway copyist) in Finale 2012 or later
Title: Helvetica 26 pt
Subtitle: Helvetica 18 pt
Composer: Helvetica 16 pt (Proceeded by "Composed By")
Lyricist Helvetica 14 pt (Proceeded by "Lyrics By"
Arranger: Helvetica 12 pt - (Proceeded by "Arranged By")
Score/Part Information: Helvetica 18 pt (Include doubles under primary instrument/part name.)
Copyright: Helvetica 10pt, please use text inserts provided for copyright information.

Chords: Use ma, mi, dim, mi7(b5) for half dim, put all alterations in parenthesis. We will no longer be using ∆, -, etc... [I was cheering for that, I lobbied for that before because doing "∆" in the Broadway copyist font is a pain in the butt.] Do not use maj or min, this takes up too much space. (again, I was happy about this.)

Show key signature on first line and at key changes only. (I personally hate this. I really, really hate this, but the checkbook gets what the checkbook wants.)

Please do not alter any of the pre-programmed metatools or short cuts (see enclosed attachment for details.) [They had some nice short cuts programmed in that saved me a bunch of time at the end.]


Another useful thing about Finale is the sheer number of exercises and educator files it comes with, not to mention the pre-existing templates which are often publishing-worthy from the get-go. Still, it is a PITA to learn how to use (and still very expensive). If you already know Sib pretty well, just get that. Or musescore if you like it...
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« Reply #45 on: Apr 21, 2017, 11:42AM »

That makes sense. I know when I send PDFs out I'm not always satisfied with the result when it gets printed, but I've also published precisely 0 things. All of my arrangements are for groups I'm in, so there are as many different qualities of print job as there are people in the group I wrote it for.  :/ If I want it to look nice for posterity's sake, I'll print everything myself and get everything taped up myself too.

Off topic, although tangentially related:I think the future - to the extent live music still is played - someone will eventually build something that can be used to edit and display on the fly. SO to that extent, musescore or some other open source program may ultimately take over the market because of its 'free' (as in free speech) XML file type. I love playing stuff from my tablet over lugging around a box of music. But perhaps that's for another thread.
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« Reply #46 on: Apr 21, 2017, 12:48PM »

I'm still of the mind that "you get what you pay for" and , for that reason, am relectant to commit to Musescore. But I can't justify buying Finale, Sibelius or Domico. Hence, my interest in one of the less expensive and less robust packages.
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« Reply #47 on: Apr 21, 2017, 01:06PM »

If you need Finale comparability at a lower price and don't need all the features of finale, you could look at PrintMusic by Finale.  It's only $120 and has the great feature of being able to input  from scanned material.
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« Reply #48 on: Apr 21, 2017, 05:51PM »

If you need Finale comparability at a lower price and don't need all the features of finale, you could look at PrintMusic by Finale.  It's only $120 and has the great feature of being able to input  from scanned material.

At one time I had several of the lower featured Finale versions.  I forget which ones - Songwriter, Notepad, Printmusic? 

Anyway, I decided to use it to notate something I was playing for a musical, and having trouble reading that handwritten script.  I can read clefs all day before I can decipher some of that stuff.

I was doing fine until the first key change, which doesn't take long in a musical.  Dropped in the key change, the whole piece changed.  Say what?  Read the manual.  There was no way to change keys within a piece.  I guess I could have worked around it, did multiple pieces and used a scissors, but it wasn't worth the effort.  I went back to Noteworthy. 
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« Reply #49 on: Apr 21, 2017, 06:07PM »

In Encore I had to highlight a section of bars and change the key in it.  There was a reversal after the section ended.  I wound up with a few dozen reversals to get rid of after trying it a few times.
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Bruce Guttman
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« Reply #50 on: Apr 21, 2017, 06:21PM »

I have an old version of Printmusic and an unfinished arr't of a D Ellis piece.

Nuff said
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« Reply #51 on: Apr 21, 2017, 06:30PM »

At one time I had several of the lower featured Finale versions.  I forget which ones - Songwriter, Notepad, Printmusic? 

Anyway, I decided to use it to notate something I was playing for a musical, and having trouble reading that handwritten script.  I can read clefs all day before I can decipher some of that stuff.

I was doing fine until the first key change, which doesn't take long in a musical.  Dropped in the key change, the whole piece changed.  Say what?  Read the manual.  There was no way to change keys within a piece.  I guess I could have worked around it, did multiple pieces and used a scissors, but it wasn't worth the effort.  I went back to Noteworthy. 

If that was ever an issue with Songwriter, it no longer is.

...Geezer
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« Reply #52 on: Apr 21, 2017, 10:52PM »

Personally, I've found the other finale versions (songwriter, printscore, etc...) useless. Doesn't mean someone else can't get value out of them, I just can't.
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« Reply #53 on: Apr 22, 2017, 12:10AM »

I think we have to consider there is a difference \ line between professional use and personal use. We can't compare what most of us do to what Exzaclee do in his work. Two different worlds.

Anyway I think the development of software has made life easier for all of us. Both for us that read and the writers.  Still I think people with a pencil often are more creative. I feel the computer take away some focus from me. But I'm not the most creative in first place.... :)

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« Reply #54 on: Apr 22, 2017, 05:06AM »

Personally, I've found the other finale versions (songwriter, printscore, etc...) useless. Doesn't mean someone else can't get value out of them, I just can't.

If I was doing your work on your level, I would want THE very best tools for the job as well. Otherwise, why pay for and learn something that would be largely wasted? It depends upon what your intended usage is. For some of us, paper and pencil is still quite sufficient for a lot of small & quick things. It's where I sometimes start, before going on with a little bit more formal notation.

For me, sometimes the biggest advantage of the simplest program is ensuring I get the proper number of beats per measure and/or the ability to change the key signature with one or two clicks. How's that for simple use of a basic notation program? lol

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« Reply #55 on: Apr 22, 2017, 06:03AM »

So far, we have from the ones mentioned basically 3 that are worth the effort.  Leaving cost out of teh consideration right now the order of preference seems to be:

1) finale
2) Sibelius
3) MuseScore


Does anyone have any experience with Encore, Notion, Overture or Score?  Where might they fit into the scheme of things?  Any others of note?

Of course you can get the full blown version of finale for only $250.  First buy Notion ($100) then buy the upgrade from Notion to finale ($150).  Then you will have both Notion and finale and save yourself $350.
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« Reply #56 on: Apr 22, 2017, 06:07AM »

If I was doing your work on your level, I would want THE very best tools for the job as well. Otherwise, why pay for and learn something that would be largely wasted? It depends upon what your intended usage is...

Excellent question.  Let's take a side-trip into the biking world.  Decades ago when I was in that business I faced folks every day who asked why they should buy from me when they could get a perfectly good bike for less than half the price at K-Mart.  Why pay for something that would be largely wasted?

This boiled down to a self-fullfulling prophecy.  These folks thought the seats and position and ride would be uncomfortable, and did not want to spend much just to find that out.  The result was that they paid top dollar.  They paid 1/2 as much for a bike they never WOULD ride.  If they had paid more they would have been riding every week.  In the course of a year or two, cost-per-ride tilted totally to the "more expensive" bike.

I worked with Finale Printmusic for a while.  I should have gone straight to the more costly full version.  I always found out that something either could not be done, or took hours to fudge, JUST when I really needed output for an upcoming event.  

I do NOT believe any of these programs have reached Microsoft Word status yet.  For the last ten years of my technology career that program was the bane of my existence.  Regular as clockwork new versions would come out with features I did NOT need, sometimes clobbering features I DID need.  I would have been much happier with a simpler version that worked faster and correctly all the time.  

Until these programs reach that level of "maturity" I think we need to not just what we intend FOR NOW but what we can reasonably expect.  Going to transcribe some vocal music for quartet?  Going to put together some flexibility exercises?  Going to make up some parts BOOKS (not just individual parts?)  Or, do you favorite groups need such things, but not have anyone who can/will do it?  if this might be you, then the cheaper versions can be a problem.

Or you can use open source, which does NOT put out much in the way of crippled versions, but will likely keep playing catch-up.

On a fixed income, I'm going the open source route.

But the full versions of all the programs mentioned here are all GREAT!

This is a problem I would LOVE to have had back when I had to put together tunes for my big brass ensemble.

Aren't we lucky to have this embarassment of riches!
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« Reply #57 on: Apr 22, 2017, 07:21AM »

So far, we have from the ones mentioned basically 3 that are worth the effort.  Leaving cost out of teh consideration right now the order of preference seems to be:

1) finale
2) Sibelius
3) MuseScore


Does anyone have any experience with Encore, Notion, Overture or Score?  Where might they fit into the scheme of things?  Any others of note?

Of course you can get the full blown version of finale for only $250.  First buy Notion ($100) then buy the upgrade from Notion to finale ($150).  Then you will have both Notion and finale and save yourself $350.

I think that Dorico is soon to be included in that list. I used once Encore, but wasn't impressed by. True, I did not make any efforts to learn the program. I never had any experience with the other 3.
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« Reply #58 on: Apr 22, 2017, 07:27AM »

Dorico - a Sibelius spinoff - looks like it's going to be expensive.
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« Reply #59 on: Apr 22, 2017, 07:32AM »

Like I said in my first response, Finale is a PITA to use. I don't recommend it for people who are just wanting to fiddle around with a notation program. Andrew (the OP) isn't just fiddling around, so the requirements of the fiddlers wasn't what I was addressing. I was addressing the needs of the hobbyist, student and professional that's going to be needing to get practical use out of a program.

My main requirement for recommending anything boils down to one issue: time. That's why I don't recommend finale to fiddlers. Fiddlers don't have the time to devote to getting any real use out of the program and are likely to be the same people griping about how hard it is to use because there is a steep learning curve.

The cheap versions finale seem designed to get you into the big product. It's all good until you find you can't perform some basic function with the touch of a button, or add a key change, or some other function that takes 2 seconds in the full program and takes 20 minutes to an hour to perform in the cheaper version.

If you want to go "cheap" finale, get Musescore instead. Musescore has most of the features you'll need to produce scores, and it'll take less time than it might in one of the cheaper versions of finale. Musescore is better in pretty much every way than printscore, songwriter, and all that garbage.

You want a professional level scorewriter with all the functionality of finale but a little easier to learn? Get Sibelius.

College student? Find out what software they use at your school. Some schools might use multiple platforms - in that case, find out what your composition, theory and/or arranging teachers prefer.

Hobbyist? Find out what your church uses, or other musicians in the band you play in most, or whatever - this way you have someone you can ask questions of. If you find yourself using your scorewriter once a week or more, it really needs to be a good one: (Finale, Sibelius, Musescore, Dorico). Notice there are some other full featured score writers I haven't mentioned because they have a steeper learning curve than even finale and finding people who use them who can help is difficult.

I'll re-iterate, my own personal preference is based upon what I need to work. I feel that the other half of my argument has been largely mischaracterized, however. Finale is NOT the only game in town, and one doesn't need to drop that kind of money on a good scorewriter. I'm not here to shill for Finale, they couldn't pay me enough. I just recommend getting a scorewriter that is actually capable of handling scores, whether you go the expensive or cheap route. A version of finale that is stripped of many of its useful features is going to cost time in the long run, time that would be better spent learning how to use a full featured scorewriter, whether that be Finale, Sibelius, Musescore, Encore, Score, Dorico, or whatever one prefers.
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