No matter if you’re a composer, amateur or professional, you need to use music notation software. But if you are clinging on to pen and paper for dear life, you might be wondering why everyone else seems so hooked on these novelties. That’s why we decided to take a quick look at the advantages of music notation software, as well as list some of the best options on the market.
Neatly looking scores
How many times have you tried playing something that somebody else has written by hand and found it as hard to decipher as ancient hieroglyphs? Or even worse, tried playing something you’ve written yourself and couldn’t quite make out? When using notation software, every single note will be accurately placed, in the exact size and shape. Every word in the lyrics will be placed precisely where it should be, while chord symbols, dynamics, and other text all have different fonts that make them easy to distinguish.
Music notation software has made it possible for composers to self-publish and introduce their beautiful scores to the people. Sure, sometimes you may want the freedom that pen and paper give you, and some people think better that way. But once you’re finished, you’re going to want to digitize it sooner or later!
The joy of playback
We’ve all been there. Sitting at the piano, trying to play all the parts we’ve just written, feeling like we don’t have enough fingers. And as we focus on playing everything, we forget to listen carefully to what it actually sounds like.
But if you give music notation software a chance, this won’t be a problem anymore. A simple Play command will let you listen to what you’ve written. This way, you can hear the whole thing, or isolated parts. It’s an incredible tool that makes the composing process much quicker.
The only issue is that instrument samples can oftentimes sound very soulless, so to speak. Even if you can export the audio as an MP3 file, this is not the kind of software you would use to produce music. For that, you will need a DAW (digital audio workstation). You could, however, export your “product” as a MIDI file, so that you can work with it in your DAW.
It’s worth noting that most composers find it essential to use the piano, too, when writing music. For instance, if you just want to listen to a certain harmony, you’re better off with the ebonies and ivories. The playback feature is more valuable when you want to hear the bigger picture.
Different music notation software
So now you see that music notation software can be of great help to you. Time to list the best examples on the market!
Sibelius is very popular and user friendly. It is, together with Finale, the most used software out there. If you want to try it out, you can download Sibelius First, which lets you have up to four parts in one score. This should be more than enough if you, for instance, only compose piano music, SATB choir music and other scores that don’t need more than 4 parts.
If you want to be able to really customize your scores to the extreme, then Finale is the go-to software for you. It offers ultimate control and really makes your composing feel like proper craftsmanship. Frequently used by some of the world’s finest musicians.
There are quite a few music notation apps that are completely free, which is great. There is one problem, though. Many of them are absolutely horrible to work with. So, if you want a good app that does most of the things that Sibelius and Finale do, you are going to love Musescore.
It’s very similar to Sibelius, but there are some things you can’t do. If you’re only writing music for fun, it should meet all your needs. But if you need it for work, you should probably choose Sibelius or Finale instead.
The advantage of Noteflight is that you can use it in your web browser when you’re on the go and need to write an idea down quickly.
Hopefully, this short guide will help you find the best music notation software. It’s definitely worth spending some time learning how to use one. Eventually, it will be easier for you to composer and produce quality sheet music.