Notation Software

Good Notation Software for composers is like a good word processing program for writers

You don't have to compose with notation software. If you are faster by taking a pen, scratching mystic symbols on dirty paper, go on. You might forget it otherwise ;-)

But if you have to write an musical score for a symphony orchestra, you would be better off with a good notation software, because others have to read and play it. Yes, changing from handwriting to a notation software may take some time, but then you have perfectly professional scores.

Though the notation functions of the big MIDI sequencing programs became quite professional overtime, you may want to use software that is specialized in notation.

What does it have to offer for the money?

  1. All musical Symbols. Like you want to have all the characters and special signs in your word processing software, you want to have all  musical symbols in your notation software.

  2. All the different ways to notate music and even let you switch between some of them like notes, tablature, chord symbols etc...

  3. "Intelligent" behavior in writing scores. All of the "laws", written or unwritten, of how to write a musical score that is easy to read, should be implemented in the software. It should give you perfect looking sheets with no tedious editing work.

  4. Auto Compose or Arrange tools. This "intelligent" feature lets you save a lot of time and might be a welcome source of inspiration for the professional composer or arranger. It produces arrangements or chord progressions to a given melody, or a score from a given chord progression etc...

  5. High Quality Playback of the score. Today, you don't have to rely on cheap soundcards and squeaky sounds in order to listen to your score. You can get almost perfect quality if you want to.

Since quite a while two programs fight for the top position, that are hard to beat. Finale and Sibelius, both for Mac and Windows. By the fact that they even try to persuade you to cross grade to their program, you can see how hard this battle is fought.

Now, what differentiates them from the rest?

They simply have all the functions built in, that you eventually might need. I don't know exactly why, but what I have seen is, that rather jazz oriented people seem to slightly prefer Sibelius, while Finale dominates the classical sector.

Both have a full set of functions and now also built in virtual instruments to hear what you just have composed. The sound quality is baffling. Very close to the original, and I certainly don't say that lightheartedly. You would not have expected that from a notation software.

After a look under the hood it's no wonder why, because both programs come with "state of the art" sound generation.

They both come fully equipped with a special edition of Kontakt, one of the best software sampler around, made by "Native Instruments". It's fed by one of the best orchestral sound libraries, Garritan. So it's no wonder why they sound so good.

In case you don't need all of these functions or just want to spend less money, you can try Overture, Vivaldi or Encore. These programs are a notch simpler but also get the job done, if you just need to write music score sheets.