Free notation and sequencing programs.

Discussion in 'Computer Corner' started by Cornet Nev., Mar 2, 2008.

  1. Cornet Nev.

    Cornet Nev. Member

    I recently had a trawl round the net and found a few basic notation and sequencing programs.
    All these programs are free and are available from these sites. I have checked as best I can and they seem safe, though you may later find the odd tracking cookie associated, these are relatively harmless and easily removed.
    There is one site that I issue a small warning for later, regarding popup ads..

    The first is a quite useful notation program that is simple to use, works in "Midi" format, can be connected to a "Midi" instrument, and although can be a bit slow for writing because of the way each note is entered, if writing in step time, it has many tracks available. So that symphony is not beyond your grasp.

    The next one is a complete "Midi sequencer" type program that can handle audio as well as midi so you can write new stuff to go along with any previously recorded audio tracks. Very good value for free isn't it?

    This one is really a demo program put out by Finale to showcase what the full but expensive program can do. you can write music in it but only in Finale format.

    All of the above programs do have one small drawback, any music written in notational form cannot be printed off. However the first two will save files in Midi format that this next program can read and use, if you need to print off a score for other musicians to play from.

    Many more free and shareware or demo programs are available from here. However do be aware that this site is loaded with popup adverts, so I recommend only viewing this site with Firefox and with AdBlock Plus installed.
    Any one tried these before? any comments regarding ease of use etc. Remember they are all free ware so do not expect the same abilities as say Sibelius or Finale.
  2. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    Couple of inaccuracies here. If you have a look at this: you will see that Finale Notepad can both print sheet music and export MIDI files. Certainly the facilities for editing print layout are pretty limited and basic, however the other thing that needs to be borne in mind is that while the full version of Finale is unquestionably expensive, there are other intermediate versions ("PrintMusic" and "Allegro") which are more reasonably priced. "PrintMusic" in particular is priced at around £80, (there may even be cheaper trade-up offers from Notepad) and is perfectly adequate for producing professional-quality sheet music, provided that your notation requirements don't extend to complex avant-garde styles. I know of at least one DTP company that produces all it's brass band scores and parts on PrintMusic (or used to, at any rate)
  3. brassbandmaestro

    brassbandmaestro Active Member

    What do you people out there would be the best software music notation programme to buy?
  4. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    Bit too much of an open-ended question, really. A few too many "depends", for a start; like, depends on, what you want to use it for, what's your budget, what do your colleagues use, etc.

    Also depends on who you ask ... most users of professional-level notation software tend to be almost pathologically loyalist in their opinion, and its almost impossible to get an objective answer as to which is "the best", even if there is such a thing ...
  5. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    Such as yourself, Gareth;)

    Agree with your findings on the Finale Notepad thing. Yes, you can print and export, as I've done so. It's pretty basic, but I know people who use it all the time for small ensembles, church groups, school bands etc. I was chatting to Steve Saunders (ex BBCSO) a while back about it and he's arranged the music for a whole show using Notepad. I think it's a very good and noble thing of the Finale team to provide a free version. Wish Sibelius did....
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2008
  6. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    Have I tried to deny it? ;)
  7. brassbandmaestro

    brassbandmaestro Active Member

    Ah Sibelius, now if they were to do what Finale have done hmmmmmmm....
  8. on_castors

    on_castors Member

    Not looked at it for a long time, but Noteworthy Composer: used to be a good cheap way into Notation software - shareware so you can give it a trial, and then about $39 to buy which is only just over 20 quid, lightyears away from the price of more serious software like Finale or Sibelius!
  9. Leyfy

    Leyfy Active Member

    I love Finale - I've used it since university. The best feature for me is the 'speedy entry' which allows you to type in the note values rather than the tedious 'point-and-click' approach. Apparently one version of Sibelius did this, but I've never found it. Just upgraded to Finale 2008, which I admit is pricey but luckily I get an educational discount.

    I find Sibelius very frustrating to use. We've got it on all the machines at school and I honestly have tried to use it. I was asked if I wanted a free copy for my work laptop and I said no!

    The only advantage I have found that Sibelius has over Finale is it is much, much better at converting tabs. Finale sometimes asks for Guitarists to play on the 63rd fret, or re-writes the entire thing on one guitar string! LOL

    For basic, free notation software though - you can't beat Notepad.
  10. alanl58

    alanl58 Member

    No-body has mentioned "Capella" and "Capscan", "Tonica", "Playalong" and "Cappricio" from Software Partners. Although they are not free they are not too pricey and complement each other well.

    Frankly I don't know how any "private" buyer can afford "Sibelius"; far too over-rated IMHO.

  11. Cornet Nev.

    Cornet Nev. Member

    Whoops about Finale notepad, I haven't used it except as a converter for reading Finale pages generated in programs later than my 2006 version. Earlier versions of notepad did not print or convert to Midi, it appears they now do. Oh well You live and learn. However I was more concerned about thoughts on total freebies rather than any share ware or other paid for software.
    Incidentally, I have also Sibelius 3, but having first started with "Print music" I upgraded to the full Finale as soon as I could afford it, I much prefer Finale if only because of the speedy entry option. I feel Sibelius may only be comfortable to use for someone proficient on a midi key board, or at least can play a piano, and then get used to a midi device from there. All other means of entry in Sibelius I find tedious.
  12. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    I use Sibelius all the time and my piano skills are next to awful. At the risk of getting technical, I use a combination of numeric keypad and mouse with my computer keyboard over to the left so I can go for a two-handed approach. Before Gareth and I get into a Sib/Finale debate;), I think that they are both quite different, so if you have mastered one, the other seems quite difficult and alien to use. My gripe I mentioned earlier is that Sibelius don't make a free or cheap version. The student version is ok, but it's a bit like buying the 'from' car in the showroom - lots of blank bits of plastic where there should be buttons for aircon and satnav!

    I personally use Sib because I always have and the publishers I am currently working with use it. It works perfectly for my uses, but it would be completely perfect if it worked on linux!

    Anyway, back to topic - there is a freeware notation progamme out there called Lilypond, which has been discussed on this forum elsewhere. If my memory serves me correctly, it wasn't very well recieved due to being very complicated.
  13. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    You have to learn the input syntax and type it in, rather than using a "point/click" or midi entry system. It's like having to learn a programming language, and if you cock up the syntax it's a bit like debugging VB code. Produces nice output, but by George it's laborious. But then again, it's free.
  14. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Seeing as the title mentions sequencers, I guess I should mention Reaper - shareware, though, not free - and Audacity for people that want wave editing, which is freeware.
  15. BrianT

    BrianT Member

    I think it's unreasonable to expect something for free - there are centuries of man-effort in Sibelius. You don't expect manufacturers to give away instruments for free, and there's just as much craft and expertise (just a different sort) putting such a complex program together as there is building a musical instrument. I treat the purchase of Sibelius the same way I'd approach the purchase of any musical instrument - does its cost justify the things I could do with it that I can't do now? With Sibelius, the answer is a resounding yes.

    BTW the conflict between Sib and Finale users strikes me as a bit pointless. Nobody would say to a published author "you didn't use that word processor to write your book, did you? You should have used x - you'd have written a much better book." Clearly a nonsense argument. I've used Sib for years now, and I'm going to stick with it because it's familiar not because it's necessarily better than anything else - I just don't want the learning curve of learning again how to do things I can already do.

    Just my tuppence...
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2008
  16. mclaugh

    mclaugh Member

    "Centuries" might be a bit of an overstatement, but allowing for hyberbole, Finale has been under continuous development since at least the late '80s, so there are "centuries" of man-effort behind it as well, yet Coda put out a free version of Finale.
  17. alanl58

    alanl58 Member

    I didn't say I expected it to be free, but there are other software programs which are just as functional, but at less cost.

    What I said was I could not understand how any "private" buyer could justify it. Ok if it is your "business" or your are "studying", but for ordinary individuals it is over-rated. Yes if you want to drive a Porche, but most people only need a Ford to get them from A to B! Only my opinion though....

  18. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Nope - you're quite right (IMO ;) )'s exactly the same thing as people 'buying' the top of the tree versions of, say, Cubase or Sonar when the LE or SE editions will probably be more than adequate. More often than not all the extra functionality is just gloss that - albeit impressive - just isn't really required by the average punter.

    But then, is Sibelius really marketed as anything but a professional tool? (apart from the student edition...)

    The Adobe CS suite springs to mind as being a parallel here - repro houses quite often require file formats specific to various bits of software (all of which cost £500 to £700), but there are other bits of much lower priced software that can generate the goods....

    Back to music and audio, there are arguments for and against Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, Nuendo, Samplitude, Sequoia or the hardware equivalents like Sadie (RIP :( ) and Pyramix.

    Sometimes it's also about the perception of the software & hardware that you use - I meet it all the time, unfortunately - but IMO it's not what you've got it's what you do with it ;)
  19. BrianT

    BrianT Member

    I think the maths is OK - I imagined say 25 people working for four years = one century of effort. If the market for Sib were bigger then they could probably set the price lower and sell more copies. But music composition\typesetting is a fairly niche market, so the price has to be higher or they wouldn't get the revenue. And quite sensibly they charge what the market will bear and don't undersell themselves...
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2008
  20. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    ... and the next time you're having a bad day with your chosen notation software, have a look at this ... - click on the English icon (small union jack), then on the "download" tab. Click on "Music Engraving - Video and Pictures", then scroll down 'til you reach the "Download the complete video here." link.

    [Sorry, a bit long-winded; if anyone more technical than me knows how to link more efficiently, please feel free.]
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2008

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