Hey all, I'm trying to wrap my brain around software for writing music. Thoroughly confused about what to get. Thoughts on the Finale software? Easy to use with a Yamaha DGX keyboard? I have a mini M box and a Mac. I struggled with the M box for quite some time. Can't get the hang of it. Frustrated. Need some simple software that an idiot can use. :) Just sayin'. Not a computer person here! Thanks.
I've used (and own) most of the notation packages (Encore, Finale, Sibelius). I would suggest Sibelius. It's easier to use than Finale & is just as powerful. You can download trial versions of both from their websites and try them out to see which feels easier for you.
Also, there is a free package available called MuseScore (http://musescore.org) based loosely on Sibelius. It's not as polished as Finale or Sibelius, but if all you need to do is to get parts for musicians, it does the job nicely.
I just downloaded musescore and it seems to work fine for me. Once I master it I may download Sibelius. Thanks for the link.
I never heard of musescore or Sibeleius? I love this website! The brainstorming sure helps. Thanks for the info!
Awesome! Will use the link to check it out. Thanks Steven, appreciate the help.
No matter what program you use, it takes time and patience to create a score that says what you want to say in music. The programs mentioned can produce a lead sheet reasonably swiftly, though you still need to understand rhythm notation. If all you want is a lead sheet (melody, words and chords).
You can use any keyboard with MIDI for any (I think) music-writing program. In fact, some have "keyboards" that relate to the typewriter keyboard. But -- if you already know basics of writing notes, you will find that ANY program will be slower than writing notes. Notes tell you both timing and pitch -- in ten seconds you can write down dozens of notes for a song. With a computer, you have to tell it exactly the right pitch with one gesture, then the right duration with another gesture. You have to find the quarter, 8th,16th, or whatever, select it and click -- several motions, where you can write four quarter notes with four strokes (with a soft pen), four eighth notes with just seven strokes.
But a computer program produces press-quality notes, and they have a system that fixes words to a note, so the words always come out spaced correctly (well, with some fussing and ARRRRGH! moments). But once you get used to them, they are fun, and the best part is you can change key instantly, and better yet than best is that you can EDIT -- change what you wrote without having to use white-out, razor blades or erasers. That alone is worth all the anguish of learning a program. Within a few years, writing with a computer will be almost as easy as doing it by hand.
I'm not a computer person either. Got my first computer so I could write music (Amazing Grace, one verse, took an entire afternoon, and I still hadn't learned a lot of the basics). If anything, just trying to make the thing work will teach you a lot about computers and how they "think."
I wish you well in this new venture!
Thanks Pastor Greg. I'll keep plugging away..er, writing? er, tapping? away. Appreciate the helpful information, humor, and support! All the replies have been informative and insightful. Thanks a lot everyone.
I found a couple of music notation programs for iPad that work fairly well: Notion Music and Symphony Pro. Both offer different features. Notion is easier for entering notes, and offers a keyboard and guitar fretboard for entry. I can't remember if the percussion entry is keyboard or pads. Symphony offers real time record, even from an external MIDI instrument. But its note editing interface isn't that easy to use. At least for me.
While what Greg said is true, it's not the whole story. Yes, one way to enter music into notation software is to manually enter each note. Most people start here, but it isn't the most efficient way. There are 2 other ways to enter music into notation software.
Step Entry: select a note value, then play the note on your attached MIDI keyboard. This is a little more efficient, but still takes time (though I have my iPhone setup with an App that allows me to select note values there and it selects them in Sibelius).
Real Time Entry: The most efficient way to enter music. I usually use this method. Set the tempo of the score/chart and then hit the record button. You get a measure count-off and then play the music you want to notate. I usually go through the verse & chorus melody, then stop and add a repeat sign to those (for a Verse > Chorus > Verse > Chorus form) & then set my start point at the next measure and record the bridge melody. Then copy the final Chorus > Chorus...or whatever the form is. Of course I still have to go back and enter lyrics, dynamics, et al. Sybelius actually allows you to import lyrics from a file and places them into the score reasonably intelligently.
Using real time entry & then the subsequent lyrics, score markings & all, I can usually churn out a lead sheet in 30 minutes. So, there is hope. It really can expedite the process once you get comfortable with the computer & the software you choose.
To Tony's point, I've been using Symphony Pro...it takes some getting used to, but is great for on the go idea sketches. It's evolved quite a bit over the past year and a half. I haven't tried Notion for iPad. I'm going to check that out.
If you go with Sibelius, there is an App that opens, reads, plays & transposes your native scores on an iPad called Avid Scorch. It's free. I also use an App called GigBook. I save my scores as PDFs and then import them into GigBook, which allows me to create setlists and have access to all my music on my iPad. It's really convenient.
Hope that helps give a bigger perspective of what your future could hold in the notation software arena.
Steven - this is a really well-drawn picture of real-time entry. In my Encore 4.0 the note-estimator (which has the flexibility to estimate from quarters down to 32nds) does not know what to do with any note played even an instant before the beat. It treats all such as syncopations -- thus converting an intended whole note to "half-quarter-eighth-sixteenth-tied-together", with a sixteenth tied to the next measure. It doesn't know how to distinguish an intended dotted half from two dotted quarters tied; and if you intend to write a piano part, you have to re-conceive the thing by the computer's way of thinking, for no computer can understand the overlap of thumbs and fingers that is a common part of accompaniment (not to mention the horror of an arpeggio, still the most common background in pop/contemporary music).
To its credit, I must say that because of its bulldog-like tenacity on syncopations, a real-time-enter system can work pretty well with a syncopated melody; but you have to play PERFECTLY if you don't want a big mess to clean up. You will be successful if you enter your song like the dullest, least musical person who ever sang - then it will put the notes on the right beat, and you'll have a great score, quickly.
Greg, yes - that's been a long standing bug in Encore. My first version of Encore was 1.0 and real-time entry was almost unusable back then. I have 4.5 now...mostly to be able to open and print/export old scores. I don't use it for scoring anymore, as it does lack features when compared to alternatives like Sibelius...especially if you do transposing parts. Sibelius makes it really easy to create a concert score and then export transposed parts without any extra work from me.
Both Finale & Sibelius are also much smarter about their real-time notation. I have almost no issues with my sloppy piano playing in Sibelius. I'm not a piano player by any stretch of the imagination. I can pound out melodies and chords - though not at the same time ;-). That plus the long nails on my right hand (for fingerstyle & classical guitar) make it impossible to get anything resembling proper technique or hand position. It's a wonder it works at all with all those obstacles :-)
Sadly, I think Encore has been hampered by it's struggle to survive. Passport Designs was the original developer (versions 1-3) & they went belly-up in 1998. Then the code & rights were bought by GVox, the current developer, sometime around that time & GVox released Encore 4.0 around 2000, finally getting to 5.0 just within the last 2 or 3 years. That's 10 years to go from 4.0 to 5.0. GVox has been slow with updates because they have had financial difficulties themselves. They're doing what they can to keep going, but I'm not sure how long it will be before they too run out of runway.
All that said, I will say Encore is very easy to use & could be a real contender if it got the funding to clean up long-standing bugs and bring its feature set up to par with apps like Finale & Sibelius.
In their advertising, Encore 5.0 didn't seem to have much that 4.0 didn't have, except hopefully removing bugs like slapping a treble clef on my trombone parts -- I've gotten so used to just slapping the bass clef back on I'd hardly know what to do with a bugless program:) When I get the funding, I'll likely get a Finale or Sibelius and a good PDF scanner for my best past works.
Yeah, 5.0 had a couple bug fixes and supports Mac OS 10.7. Wasn't worth it for me, since I just use it to print and/or get scores into Sibelius.
Sibelius comes with PhotoScore which scans hard copies or PDFs. It works reasonably well. I'm not sure if Finale does a similar bundle.
I also believe they both offer crossgrades (basically pay the upgrade price to buy the full version if you're coming from a competing product). I bought Finale as a crossgrade from Encore when they first went bankrupt and then Sibelius as a crossgrade from Finale years later at the suggestion of a friend who is a big time NYC session musician. It's still expensive, but at least it's considerably less than the full price.
Also keep you eyes on MakeMusic (the makers of Finale) they were just offered a buy-out from their investor group. Not sure what that means for the future of Finale.