Author Topic: February, 2016: What notation package do you use--and why?  (Read 6461 times)

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Ron

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February, 2016: What notation package do you use--and why?
« on: February 03, 2016, 08:17:58 AM »
To start off:

In the last century, when I noticed the fancy boxes in my favorite computer store that advertised, "Create your own music," etc, I was intrigued. I had many years before abandoned my dreams of composing, as I had no way of testing out my compositions. So, I bought a box called "Cakewalk." I was thrilled. I could finally write scores easily and have them play back. What a great revelation. It wasn't long before I signed up for theory and composition classes at a local university.

But, Cakewalk is extremely limited for the serious composer. It can not create tuplets other than standard triplets, for example. And, my university prof was insisting on professional-looking scores even for basic exercises and Cakewalk could not produce all the nested brackets and braces required for an orchestral score. I bought a fine-point india ink pen and carefully drew in the required lines.

The professor used something called Finale and that's what the other students in the classes were using. I was offered bootleg copies of the program, but I turned them down, saying, "A professional pays for his own tools." Stuff like that.

Off to a big-name music store where the software specialist told me that I could get Finale for half price as long as I could produce a student card. That I could--and a week or so later I was the proud owner of Finale. Within a year of that, Gary Garritan came out with his GPO (Garritan Personal Orchestra) and I was hooked.

I've looked at other packages (like Sibelius) at different times, especially when I got frustrated with the MakeMusic folks, but none of them could come close to what I could do in Finale. I've upgraded to every new version and expanded my Garritan holdings over the years. I've been a MakeMusic beta tester for the past several years, getting to know may of the developers. They actually listen to people like me and are honest about Finale's shortfalls and have plans to fix them. Most of those conversations I can't share because I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, but I feel very positive about where things are going.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2016, 09:17:27 AM by Michel.R.E »
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Michel.R.E

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Re: February, 2016: What notation package do you use--and why?
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2016, 09:46:21 AM »
I forget the name of the very first engraving program I used.
It was on an old AT or XT machine, in 1981 or 82.
You actually had to place staves and clefs on the work area using your mouse.

It DID play back, but in an incredibly rudimentary fashion, and only with external sound devices.

Then I switched to something called Musikator, which also worked with external devices only (I had an E-Mu Proteus, a couple of Roland Sound Canvas, and some others I can't remember). The playback was FAR better (actually in some ways, superior to Finale's playback), but the engraving left a lot to be desired.

I switched to Finale at version 3.1, which I guess would have been around 1990?
For a few years I used Musikator for playback, and used Finale for engraving (in those days, in Windows 3).

I've tried other software, like Sibelius, and even some DAWs, but my mind doesn't work that way. I am too used to how Finale functions by now.

and GPO was the first sample library I ever purchased with Finale 2005.

I've gotten pretty good (at least I think so) at getting what I want out of Finale and the sample libraries I use.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

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winknotes

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Re: February, 2016: What notation package do you use--and why?
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2016, 12:32:26 PM »
My first exposure to notation software was Encore.  It was very limited compared to Finale.  Once I discovered Finale I made the switch in version 3.2 I believe.  I've been a Finale user ever since.  I've looked at Sibelius as well but I just can't bring myself to take the time to learn a different workflow at this point.  I'm willing to live with things about Finale that aren't pleasing which mostly has to do with playback.  I'm hoping GPO5 will take care of that though. 

I've also used DAW's from time to time.  I bought Cakewalk several years ago and upgraded to Sonar but stopped using that again in favor of a more traditional workflow just dealing with notation.  I'll occasionally use Reaper now by importing a midi file saved from Finale and try to do some performance tweaking but again it's tedious and something I lose interest in pretty quickly. 

I had some external roland devices and sound canvases, Proteus II VST module, then finally landing on GPO and recently VSL SE (the lite version of their large libraries). 

I am following progress on the Steinberg notation product being developed by the former Sibelius team.  Might be another offering to consider at some point. 
Steve Winkler
Finale 2011
Windows 7 64-bit
Garritan GPO4, JABB
VSL SE/SE+ Standard
Reaper (sometimes)

MikeL

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Re: February, 2016: What notation package do you use--and why?
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2016, 01:04:53 PM »
My first music software was for my Commodore Amiga back in early '90s. The Amiga only had three voices so pretty limited. I think the software could write up to sixteen instruments but only played three at a time. Also sine waves only! Can't remember what it was called.

I had a couple of "loan" copies of Sibelius, finally took the plunge and bought v7 when it came out.

The debate about Sib vs Finale reminds me of windows vs OSX. It's what you're used to so stuck with Sib although haven't gone to v8 and worried about future given what Avid did to their previous developers. What I want more than anything is to produce good looking print.

Also discovered Notion for the iPad. This is a great little program that only costs $20 (plus extra for more instruments). Works well on the touch screen. has a bright and cheerful sound and, importantly, produces XML so I can import into Sib and finish off.

Then discovered Noteperformer. This was a game changer for me. It plugs into Sibelius and does a much better job than all the gB of sound files at playing how you want the music phrased. makes you pay proper attention to slurs, dynamics, articulations.

I also have the free version of Studio One as a DAW but I have only used it to play with the balance of orchestral pieces. Get Sibelius to export each instrument as a wave file, import into Studio One and then play with automation to bring out the different instruments.

 I know quite a few composers who buy expensive sound sets and spend literally hours crafting each measure, each note to get the best, most realistic sound possible.

Still an optimist I want something easy to use, that produces a reasonable sound that I can use to get real players interested with.
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flint

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Re: February, 2016: What notation package do you use--and why?
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2016, 05:18:32 PM »
I did pen+ink copying long before considering becoming a composer.

In college, our Computers in Music class used Professional Composer, which had serious formatting issues. I used Encore for a bit, before learning Finale around 1994 or so. I've used Finale since then, and since 2006 have bought the upgrade every other year.

Friends have allowed me to use their Sibelius (at their home) and I find the process frustrating and counter-intuitive, with an inferior end product. I can simply look at a Sibelius score and determine from sight that it was done in Sibelius due to the ugly engraving.

The debate about Sib vs Finale reminds me of windows vs OSX.

You have to consider who the developers/manufacturers are designing their product for. Macs are basically designed top to bottom for the ignorant and lazy person (ie., people who don't know how a computer works and don't want to know how to work it - the want it "just to work"). Hence, Macs allow a thin veneer of customization ("Look, I can change the color of my desktop!"), but any even moderate real operational change requiring a much higher level of expertise; PCs are basically completely user-configurable.

Sibelius vs. Finale is much like comparing Microsoft Word and InDesign - InDesign (Finale) is a full-featured professional layout program aimed at skilled design professionals with precision output; Word (Sibelius) is designed for the low-to-no-knowledge user to easily slap crap on a page by people who care just enough to get it on the computer to begin with.


« Last Edit: February 03, 2016, 05:23:01 PM by flint »
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sandalwood

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Re: February, 2016: What notation package do you use--and why?
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2016, 08:59:09 PM »
I started trying to write music a couple of years ago as a fresh beginner, using all free stuff. I notated music in the free version of a relatively modest program called Anvil Studio and exported a midi file to the free version of another program called Synthfont which basically allowed me to assign my free soundfonts to each voice and export a wave file. To obtain a score, I used the free Musescore.

Every time (very few times) I posted a piece, Michel would ask me which program I was using. Then one day, Musescore's failure to correctly configure some vicinal flat signs must have really annoyed him that he told me it was time to switch to Finale.  So, that's how I came to acquire Finale and the GPO4.

I also have Notion 5 which has "preset rules" for GPO4, VSL, EWQLSO, MPK, etc. As to engraving,  it is more basic  and "automatic" compared to Finale but very intuitive and practical to use. I also have the MPK (the older Miroslav) but actually I was contemplating a staged move over to the VSL territory. The unexpected emergence of the GPO5, however, hopefully will make all such plans unnecessary. OK, some good choir and soloists, maybe, and a couple of things more. They should first be deserved by writing good music, of course.

saltamontes

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Re: February, 2016: What notation package do you use--and why?
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2016, 04:23:05 AM »
In 2011, I booked a studio session to record one of my compositions.  I needed to provide lead sheets for the composition and I didn't want to handwrite all the parts so I bought Finale PrintMusic.  It worked marvelously well, especially when the tenor sax man convinced me that alto would work much better and I was able to produce a new lead sheet in less than two minutes.  I was happy for a while with PrintMusic but soon found things not available to me (the first thing was not being able to customize guitar tunings).  Thus, I upgraded to Finale 2011 and have upgraded with each new edition (albeit reluctantly for 2014).  Lately, I have used Finale extensively as I have been developing educational materials which requires utilization of nearly all functions of the program (text, graphics, notation, etc.).  I am mostly happy with the program although it is quirky at times and lacks some much needed functions.  Finale is quantum leaps ahead of the notation by hand of Debussy's Golliwogg's Cakewalk assignment I did for orchestration class in 1975.  Who remembers using whiteout to correct manuscript errors?
« Last Edit: February 04, 2016, 04:36:57 AM by saltamontes »
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MikeL

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Re: February, 2016: What notation package do you use--and why?
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2016, 01:40:57 PM »
I am gathering that most on this site use Finale which I haven't looked at before.

My main issue with Sibelius is breaking out individual wind or brass parts (e.g. Flute I and II) out of a multi voice staff or the opposite i.e. combining Flutes I and II into a single staff. It will do it but then needs some review and tinkering to get it right.

Does Finale do this well?
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Michel.R.E

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Re: February, 2016: What notation package do you use--and why?
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2016, 01:57:27 PM »
like any computer program, if you ask it to do complex tasks, there will probably require a certain amount of vigilance on your part to catch errors that might creep in.

I fiddle and tweak my scores endlessly until the layout is exactly as I want it. For simple music Finale has some default settings that are quite satisfying, and easily configurable. Sibelius, likewise, has some simple out-of-the-box settings that permit it to make a quite passable score from very rudimentary music.

But get into complex spacing issues, with lots of expressions, articulations, various lines and symbols, notes that reach a certain distance away from the staff either up or down... and you WILL have trouble getting any engraving program to make it look good.

There are rules, but there are exceptions as well for engraving. The difficulty is knowing when to apply the rule, or when to seek out an acceptable exception.
I don't think any computer program can do this at this time.

one needs to remember that a large part of musical engraving is artistry, and the esthetics of how it looks rather than the purely mechanical/mathematical layout of a score.
It might look better to have a dynamic precede the note to which it is attached when spacing is tight, or if a subsequent indication is taking up extra room. You might stack expressions and various types of lines one way in one example, but in a completely different order in another context.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2016, 01:59:44 PM by Michel.R.E »
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

RJB54

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Re: February, 2016: What notation package do you use--and why?
« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2016, 01:06:52 PM »
I started out with something called 'Score' which was originally a mainframe based application which required you to enter the score as a text based script (!). As you can imagine it wasn't easy or quick to get music into it.

Next I used an application called 'Personal Composer' which I though was pretty good at the time (early 90s). Unfortunately, the app went moribund when the main (or perhaps only) programmer died.

Next I moved to 'Finale' and pretty much have stayed there ever since, although I have tried 'Sibelius' and didn't like it.
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mjw58

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Re: February, 2016: What notation package do you use--and why?
« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2016, 03:59:58 AM »
I remember looking at something called Personal Composer, but I ended up with Encore.

I used Encore until a publisher I used tried to convert Encore files til Finale. They had to do a lot of work on the files to get them right so I purchased Finale.

I have been using Finale ever since.

Now I'm using Finale to compose music but the playback sound isn't too good so I,m learning cubase to get better sound.

I haven't tried any other program after starting with Finale.

I am gathering that most on this site use Finale which I haven't looked at before.

My main issue with Sibelius is breaking out individual wind or brass parts (e.g. Flute I and II) out of a multi voice staff or the opposite i.e. combining Flutes I and II into a single staff. It will do it but then needs some review and tinkering to get it right.

Does Finale do this well?

Yes I think it does. If I remeber corectly. If you want to extract say Flute 2 from a multi voice staff you can spesify a lot of things:

  • what voice to extract. Top or bottom
  • in mesures with only one voice you can specify wether to play the notes or to use rest
  • to automaticaly make multimessure rests

There's probably some work you have to do to get it right but Finale does the main tasks.


Morten
Compositions: Wind band, Brass band and Fanfare
Platform: Windows 10
Notation: Finale 25
DAW: Cubase 8
Instrument: Bassoon, Euphonium
Day Job: TEGG Technician

ttw

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Re: February, 2016: What notation package do you use--and why?
« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2016, 11:03:06 AM »
I used a couple of free packages back in the 1990s (pencil and paper from the 1950s). I got the beginning program for Encore (I don't remember the name) real cheap, used it for a while, then upgraded to Encore. Encore seemed to sort of fade with no upgrades so I got Finale Notepad (which I still use a bit) because it was free. I used Notepad for many generations then Make Music offered a student price on a full Finale which I accepted. I've used Finale since then.

I tried Sibelius and Igor when they were babies but neither was really better than Finale, only different.

FossMaNo1

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Re: February, 2016: What notation package do you use--and why?
« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2016, 03:06:10 PM »
Well, I know this is last month's topic, but it's such a good topic that I have to chime in!

I started with a combination of Passport's Master Tracks Pro (A sequencer which I still love over everything else on the market -- they are supposedly going update it sometime in the near future) and Passport's Encore. I used MTP to write, and Encore to engrave. All this was before Windows 95. When I upgraded to Windows 95, suddenly Encore stopped working as well, so I went to the local music store to upgrade it. Back then Encore was going for about $100. When I got to the store the salesman said he didn't have Encore, but he did have Finale and he could sell it to me for the same price I would have paid for Encore. I still remember what went through my head at this: This guy has no idea what he is doing! You see, back then Finale was selling for upwards of $600. The word, "Done!" came out of my mouth before I knew it and I've been using Finale ever since. I haven't always upgraded to stay current (right now I'm using Finale 2012), but I am very happy with my purchase!
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saltamontes

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Re: February, 2016: What notation package do you use--and why?
« Reply #13 on: June 23, 2016, 04:13:48 PM »
Speaking of Finale, for those new to this program, Berklee Press has a useful book, "Finale: An Easy Guide to Music Notation."  I have only reviewed it online but is appears to be well-organized and written in a very practical, progressive way.  If I were new to Finale, I would certainly utilize it.  Of course, it ALL is in the online manual which has both reference and tutorials, but often a printed book is more accessible than the digital format.  The members of the Finale Forum are simply incredible in answering questions and solving problems.  They are particularly patient with beginners....
Hold gently the hearts of those you love. For once they are gone, you will shed a thousand tears for each one you caused and the memory of each callous moment will be your companion.   Saltamontes

MikeL

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Re: February, 2016: What notation package do you use--and why?
« Reply #14 on: September 09, 2016, 03:59:33 PM »
Anyone hanging out for Dorico?
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