Sampling music writing software

I have Finale 97, but it's long been buried in storage along with the computer I was using it on.  I attempted to compose an opera on it, but I gave up about 50 bars in when I wanted to add an instrument, and it wouldn't let me.  I am currently writing an opera by hand, but people find it too difficult to read, especially to perform from.  I found it an extremely user-unfriendly program.  I wrote a piece for solo cello, but it wouldn't let me put more than three lines on a page, and I had to hand-write certain things, like glissandi.

At one point, I had permission to use the Brooklyn College library, and there I attempted to use Sibelius for the first time.  I attempted to input the first measure of a choral work.  With the third chord, it would no longer let me put two lines on the bass staff, implying that tenors and basses had to sing the same note.  I tried several times on several different computers, but got the same result, which I didn't save.

Noteflight gave me a file that was too big to save to a flash drive after writing fewer than five measures.

David Friedman recommends Overture, but I haven't had an opportunity to try it.  The last time I checked, you could get it for $200 if you provided the serial number of your copy of Finale (which I would have to find), but it was more than twice that if you didn't.  That's a lot of money to spend on a program that may not work for you.

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  • >David Friedman recommends Overture, but I haven't had an opportunity to try it. The last time I checked, you could get it for $200 if you provided the serial number of your copy of Finale (which I would have to find), but it was more than twice that if you didn't. That's a lot of money to spend on a program that may not work for you.>

    They have a demo version available:

    Im not sure but I think you may need to register here first:

    Thanks Bob

    Here you can download Overture 5 and Score Writer 5, updates and demo version.
  • Hi Scott,

    All the good notation programs are tough to use, if one is not practiced at them. I use Finale, and it is tough to use, but I'm used to it, so continue on. I know a lot of people who swear by Sibelius, and I downloaded it and found it tough to use, no surprise there - it's not like Finale. I think notation is too complex for programs to do it easily, and one has to just commit to something and see if you can make it work. Unfortunately, there is no way to do this without buying the program.

    Best in your search -


  • Scott,

    No matter how much you know about notation, you can't just open a piece of software and expect to be able to use it without lots of study. I am not at all surprised by any of the troubles you had. The same could be said about any DAW. I might know a lot about music, but that doesn't mean I could figure one out without knowing the software. Try MuseScore. It's free and you can get sound sets of real recorded instruments to go with it. Though it's best to use what comes with it until you learn the software. With the exception of the free version on Sibelius First (which is pretty worthless), any of the major notation programs will do all of the things you mentioned. And easily. 

  • I'd agree with the MuseScore suggestion. Not the best sound output but it's free and can be transferred to more specialist tools once the principles of notation are better understood. I used it for nearly a year before converting to Finale, which I now really enjoy using.
    The trouble you seem to be having is the same as any musician would have with odd time signatures and unusual tuplets. There is, even for the most seasoned composer, no easy way to write it down.
    (As an aside, your issue with SATB my be resolved with either having separate lines for each voice or, in Finale anyway, using layers to create multiple voices on single voice instruments)
  • Each to his own I suppose. I have been using Sibelius for years and no longer really have to think about the mechanics of writing - which means I can concentrate on what's truly important i.e. composing. It works for me and of course now that it's become second nature to use I wouldn't switch to any other programme.

    In truth I seem to recall it took me about a year of regular use to discover everything I need to know about Sib's capabilities and probably another year for it to become second nature. But of course that didn't stop me working, albeit relatively slowly compared with the present.

    Regarding your comment about Sib not letting you put two lines on the bass staff - there should be no problem writing divisi on one line but of course it's normal practice to give each of the voices e.g. SATB, separate staffs.

    Good luck with your research into what you think will suit your style of working.

  • Hi Scott

    I've been using Dorico since it was released - it's now on version 2. You can either get the full version or the Elements version for approx $90 USD - I also started with Musescore but switched for the same reasons as mentioned above.

    From the reviews it gets a lot of "pro" users reckon it will soon overtake Final & Sibelius as the goto notation software. I think it's great (I switched from Sibelius) but I'm not writing operas.

    You can get both on a 30-day free trial from Steinberg's web site - you can also check out the differences between the  versions.

    I've previously tried the "light" versions of Finale & Sibelius and I think I might prefer Doric light over them.

    Dorico playback sounds are from Halion symphony orchestra but I now use Noteperformer instead as it greatly improves my workflow.

    Dorico has a few issues  - currently doesn't play back trills so you would need to write them out by hand - but these should be sorted in the next major upgrade along with various other user requested features.

    Colin D

  • I've recently discovered Forte Notation ( While I haven't had a chance to try it yet, it may be an option for you. 

    Forte Notation
    Music Notation Software
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