Musical Notation Software—Is there life beyond Finale?

Here’s a question that I received from a fellow organist:

Do you have a music-writing software program that you would recommend for organ music? I tried the 30-day free download from Finale and I was just starting to learn how to use the program when my trial period expired.  I would like to be able to continue writing duets and special arrangements for my students, but I can’t afford $600 for the Finale program.

My experience with music notation software is limited. I used NotePad, the freebie version of Finale for awhile and then upgraded to their PrintMusic product. It gives me pretty much everything I need for creating musical compositions…and the off-the-shelf price is only $120. But if that is still more money than you want to put out, you can go the ultra-cheap route and check out the free versions like NotePadMuseScore, M C Music Editor, and Notation Software. The price is great, but you know how it goes—you get what you pay for. I found NotePad awkward and limiting—only a slight step up from hand writing my musical compositions.

In searching the internet I found a music notation software review that rated 10 programs under $125. The front page looked promising, but the reviews were skimpy and extremely non-informative. (And am I being too cynical to say that I don’t trust everything I find on the internet?)

So, my wonderful readers, help me out here. I may be considered foolish, but I trust a random reader much more than a random site with lots of advertising, so please submit your response to any or all of the following questions:

How has your experience been using music notation software?

Which program(s) have you used?

How much did it cost?

Was it worth it to you?

When it comes to music notation software, what’s your recommendation?

. . .

You can leave your comment below or at the Discussion page


4 thoughts on “Musical Notation Software—Is there life beyond Finale?

  1. I have used Finale since the days where computers were just getting into Windows. It was very cumbersome (but powerful!) but it’s become much more user friendly since Windows has improved. I haven’t used Sibelius, because I have learned to do what I need to do pretty easily with Finale. I know that most of the composers/arrangers I talk to use Sibelius. Is it because it is less expensive (is it?) or what? I have a “lifetime membership” with Finale because I bought it while I was teaching in the early 90’s and now I upgrade for very little cost, so it would be foolish for me to switch, I believe. But it’s interesting to see other good programs come out to compete with this giant in the musical software industry. In summary (and with the benefit of experience), if I were composing A LOT, I’d invest the $600 in Finale or Sibelius (if I knew about that program or trusted friends to ably advise me — maybe I could get a trial version.) I’ve had experience with a few free programs and compared to Finale…well, they just don’t. I get too frustrated because I know what a good program will do.

  2. I prefer Sibelius to Finale, but I still get frustrated because Sibelius staffs the pedals separately from the manual. When I try to score the pedal on the same staff as the greats, it is really difficult to properly voice the two lines.

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