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Best Music Notation software for SATB that's not over the top?

I used to use Finale years ago but that is very expensive and I don't need to write orchestration these days, just original pieces for choir.  In the past there was a software call Rhapsody that was perfect for the job but it is no longer made and was sold to the company GVOX. I have their replacement Master Tracks PRO, but even with them sending me a choir template I cannot change the note stems up or down and it is very un-intuitive even for a computer geek like myself.
 
The software I am looking should be just for Choir SATB with accompaniement. I have a Yamaha CVP-301 Clavinova. Is anyone aware of a simple Choir music notation software thats not over the top and doesn't cost a fortune but does the job?
Replies (36): Threaded | Chronological
on May 23, 2011 7:23am
Charles,
I use Finale Print Music which I think would suit your needs.  It's very user friendly, has good online help and a very good music scanning program.  I don't know what the current price in dollars is, but my copy cost me 79 English pounds.
 
Another possibilty is Noteworthy Composer.
 
Regards,
David
on May 23, 2011 8:00am
Hi Charles,
 
I have been using MOZART - the Music Processor since many, many years. Not for SATB only, but very simple to use. Ridiculously easy learning curve.
 
I have not upgraded since several years, but my version Mozart Vituoso 7 is more than enough.
 
You can download a FULLY functional trial from www.mozart.co.uk
 
I fell in love with it.
 
Nariman H. Wadia,
Chairman,
the Paranjoti Academy Chorus of Bombay, India.
on May 23, 2011 8:00am
Charles, I would still recommend Finale 2011 to you. I do lots of choral scores, and the newest software has a much-improved lyric capability, saving hours of "touch-up" time to fix word collisions. I hear you re the cost, but this upgrade was worth it.

Ben

on May 23, 2011 8:28am
Take a look at www.noteflight.com.  It's a free, bare bones, online program.
on May 23, 2011 8:31am
"Finale Print Music" or "Sibelius One"
 
They are beginners' version of two of the most solid and widely-used software in the publishing industry. 
on May 23, 2011 9:03am
Muse Score is a free program that works very much like Sibelius.  It also works with a MIDI keyboard, mouse, or keypad for entry.  The web site is:
 
 
I have no affiliation with the company that makes it, and I've only used it a little bit (I do use Sibelius and Finale sometimes).  It's worth a look if you want something that looks good and doesn't cost much (anything, in this case).
 
LK
on May 23, 2011 10:33am
Charles:  Both Finale and Sibelius have more limited, less expensive versions.  I can almost guarantee that you will NOT find a notation program ONLY optimized for choral music.  The market is simply too small!
 
A colleague used Noteworthy Composer to produce scores for his church choir.  It, too, was bought by another company and it was also originally only available for Windows, but it may still be available at a higher price, but still not as much as the full-featured versions of Finale or Sibelius.
 
For what it's worth, our former department head looked for a period of years for a cheap or freeware notation program to adopt for our department, and never found one that was not unacceptably limited.  We started with Professional Composer (a real dog of a program), went to its successor, Composer's Mosaic (no longer supported), spent some years with Finale (until they failed to support the new OSX for Macs), and are now using Sibelius.  I can say that 90% of our students HATED Finale, but are now able to use Sibelius pretty much out of the box.  But any complex programs have learning curves.  I uttered many, many bad words learning to use Mosaic!!  My older son started with Music Construction Set on the Commodore 64, became a Sibelius demonstrator when he was in college, and was still using Sibelius 2 quite happily until I got him Sibelius 6 for Christmas.
 
You still can't get something for nothing.  Do you qualify for the educational versions?
 
John
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 24, 2011 3:02am
I've been composing everything from a Symphony to large and small scale choral works for about 15 years using Noteworthy Composer (http://www.noteworthysoftware.com). It costs $49 and is easy to learn. there is a large nwc community on the net to help as well as many free scores published in the format. You can import from midi and it has a separate lyric editor that automatically lays out the words under the score line. I have found it much easier than Sibelius or Finale to use over the years. It has limitations of course, but these can all be overcome apart from one - it will do triplets but not duplets, pentuplets etc.
Hope that helps,
PS I have no affiliation with Noteworthy other than being a satisfied customer.
 
Best wishes,
 
Geoff Allan
on May 24, 2011 5:29am
Hi Charles,
 
Sibelius software is the most powerful and easiest to use (much more intuitive than Finale).  I have been a Sibelius user for years and have watched many of my composer friends make the change from Finale and never look back.  Sibelius First ($129) is the basic version that will allow you to use up to 16 staves:   http://www.sibelius.com/products/sibelius_first/index.html
 
The full version will really allow you to do anything and if you qualify, you can get an educational discount:
 
 
You can download trial versions of both to find out which you would like. 
 
Best,
 
Jake Runestad, composer/conductor
 
 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 24, 2011 6:07am
I myself use for many years Sibelius - it sure is the most easy to use, and I think it's also the best. The price is high (about 700 € and the upgrades are about 150). The printed manual (more than 700 pages) is the best ever.
If you are looking for something much less expensive, try out Harmony Assistant (85 USD)or the even cheaper Harmony Assistant (25 USD), which you will find under
www.myriad-online.com
Their manual is only online (but - at least partly - printable).
By the way: the programs from Myriad are good - much better than their low prices indicate.
Hermann Schroeder
on May 24, 2011 7:32am
Charles,
I have used Sibelius for some time now, starting with v. 2 and use v. 4 now.  The notation input is relatively easy:  right hand on the mouse and left hand on the keyboard.  Dynamics and other nuances are easy to input and adjust.  The lyrics line up well and self-adjust for longer syllables.  While you say you want a limited program for SATB w/accompaniment, down the road you will wish you had capability to add other instruments, either solo or ensemble.  I'm just sayin'.  As a church musician, I am constantly transcribing hymns and adding instruments or doing limited arranging for the choir.  Further, you can print/extract parts for each voice/instrument.  Works great for me!
Joy,
wfm
on May 24, 2011 3:18pm
And improvements since Sibelius 4 (they're now on Sibelius 6) include magnetic layout, which isn't perfect, but which cuts down about 90% of the manual adjustments of dynamics and other things.  Also Panoramic View, which I've seldom used, but which might be useful to others.  And one I really appreciated is that bar numbers can now be set up in a single place rather than chacing all over the map as in Sib4.  Chord symbols are now different as well, although you can still use the previous "legacy" chord symbols if you choose.  And probably plenty else that I just haven't come across, or never used back in Sib4.
 
Unlike Finale, Sibelius never brings out a new version until they have actually made significant improvements, so you don't pay the yearly "subscription fee" for upgrades that Finale asks for.  And most importantly, one of Sibelius' Senior Product Managers (and the man who WROTE the manual!) has a presence on at least one mailing list, and actually answers questions, unlike the folks at Finale, who hide!
 
All the best,
John
on May 25, 2011 7:54am
Hi,
 
www.musescore.org gets my vote!
 
MuseScore is open source (FREE), very stable, and works much like Finale and Sibelius.  I use it nearly everyday.  It will also import and export a variety of file formats including MusicXML.
 
You may find that one of the commercial products will work better for large orchestrations, but for SATB, I think you will find that MuseScore will do everything you will want.
 
Clarence
 
on May 26, 2011 4:09am
Hi,
 
I use QuickScore from www.sionsoft.com about 25 years now.
Much easier than Finale.
 
You could download QuickScore's demos and give it a try.
Excellent help from Mr. Cris Sion (owner/developer) if necessary
 
Success,
Nico Hoogeboom
The Netherlands
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 27, 2011 5:37am
I know people have their personal preferences about "Oh this is 'more intuituve' than that," and frankly I sometimes feel like an outcast in the music notation world for saying this, but I find Finale's products to be the best. I think they are the easiest to use (except for tulets, good Lord), and the best sound sampling, easiest interface etc, though thats probably because this is what I've "grown up" using.
 
I would recommend Finale Songwriter or Print Music. Neither are too expensive (I think Songwriter is $40-ish), and since you only want SATB, it should cover your needs.
 
-Josh
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 27, 2011 10:23am
I have only used Finale and am now using version 2010.  I usualy have to whip out a choral score or two each week, and I find it works extremely well.  In the old days there was a learning curve, and it may be less easy to use in a Windows setting, but on the Mac, I don't know how one could possibly have fewer steps to use.  I think it would be very easy for someone who is new to the program.  I often create choral scores and then audio files for my choir members who aren't able to get to all of the rehearsals.  I use woodwind sounds rather than the choral sounds.  I make a file using clarinet for all of the voices, and use oboe or English horn and a louder dynamic for the highlighted voice.  It is a much nicer sound to use than the midi piano sound files, and my choir loves them!  With the human playback feature, the sound is quite lovely and musical.
 
Nan Beth Walton
 
P.S. Josh, I feel your pain about the tuplets, but those have become a lot easier to use in the latest version, I think. I have my own methodolgy worked out which makes it go rather quickly.
on May 27, 2011 11:51am
Thanks for everyone's input. I used Finale in Grad school for my Masters in Music Composition and I did notice that Finale Songwriter is only $49 and also allows you to download a 30 day trial version, so I went ahead and downloaded it to test it. I am sure I will have an easy time with it because of prior experience using the full version for orchestration. SATB should be a lot easier. Thanks again everyone for all your ideas and sharings!!!
on May 28, 2011 7:25am
RoseGarden is powerful and absolutely free of charge. It's in the repositories so you can install it via synaptic.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 28, 2011 1:42pm
Derek:  Would you mind translating that last sentence into English?
 
All the best,
John
on May 30, 2011 3:28am
Google is your friend. I, like everyone else who answered, was simply assuming that you used the same operating system as I do.
on May 30, 2011 6:46am
Having just looked up "Rosegarden" on Dogpile it is a music notation system for Linux.
on May 30, 2011 9:46am
Derek:  Actually those of us who use notation programs professionally and monitor the mailing lists for those programs do NOT assume that anyone else uses the same operating system we do, because we know perfectly well that it isn't true.
 
And I still have no idea what "the repositories" are, or what "synaptic" might be.  But if they're Linux-specific I'm sure I'm not the only one, and RoseGarden wouldn't be usable anyhow.
 
All the best,
John
on May 30, 2011 6:52am
I have to side with Joshua McHugh. Everyone has their own perferrences. I was introduced to Finale and love it. The changes occurring with the upgrades have been great. I don't get every upgrade, but when there are significant changes I do. The latest version has classroom teaching aids like flashcards. Although you currently just have a limited need, the future may hold changes for what you need. The thing I like BEST about Finale is that it WILL compose music in SHAPE NOTES which is what my church uses. I'm also looking at using this for some beginning sight-reading instruction for my students. Even if you don't get Finale at this point, it is definitely an option to keep in mind. And if  you ever do decide to go that way, with Finale, Sibelius, or any other, do look into the educator's discount. If you qualify, it's not hard to get.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 12, 2012 8:44am
LOL, Jack!
on January 13, 2012 3:19am
I've been using Finale since 2003. It did take a bit of learning, but it's great.
On a Mac.
I've made 100's of choral scores.
 
Andrew
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 14, 2012 7:02am
Jack -- the best laugh I've had since 2011!
 
Craig
on August 13, 2012 8:33am
Unfortunately, there does not seem to have been a full, unbiased review of notation editors in many, many years. Finale & Sibelius seem to have won the marketing wars.
 
Our program, MusicEase, is available for both Windows and the Mac. It easily flips back & forth with just several mouse clicks between standard and shape note music. (You can specify which shape is to be associated with each scale degree.)
 
Transposable sheet music (vocals + piano) for over 2,000 P&W songs were created for Integrity Music (Hosanna! Music songbooks, iWorship, WorshipLeaderAssistant, MusicKitchen, etc.) and also for Brentwood Benson's The Praise and Worship Song Book with over 600 songs (melody only) using the professional version.
 
Several years ago one user, Dennis Scott, emailed us the following:

As the Holiday season approaches, I find myself entering even more music into what has become my primary music notation software package - MusicEase. Even though it's a busy time of the year for our choir, the simplicity of MusicEase makes changes and new arrangements very easy. For most songs, I can enter notes, chords and lyrics in around 15 minutes.

I realized that I now have over 4,000 songs in my MusicEase folder. They range from basic one page tunes to scores containing up to four staves and numerous pages. Your program takes everything I dish out.

Before I found MusicEase, I worked with Encore, Finale and Sibelius. Encore was the most flexible, Finale the most difficult to learn (and frustrating because nothing seems logical) and Sibelius, though better than Finale, still tough to work with. MusicEase has logical keyboard keys to do things (I hate using a mouse). It's just a great program to work with.

And those few times I've had a question, you responded via email very promptly and with the right information. That says a lot in these days of sloppy customer service.

So, I just wanted to say Thank You for MusicEase. I look forward to using it for many more years.

Dennis Scott
 
The music in our Christian Virtual Hymnal (providing transposable, customizable sheet music for over 3,500 pd hymns plus the full orchestral version of the Messiah) was also created with MusicEase.
 
In sum, MusicEase allows you to quickly create professional looking music without knowing music copyist rules (it generally positions most common notational elements correctly automatically) but allows you to easily change thiongs when you want something different. (E.g., to flip the stem direction, just position the cursor on the note and press the appropriate short key.)
 
A free evaluation version is available - http://www.musicease.com
 
 
Best regards,
Gary Rader
 
 
 
on February 18, 2014 4:30am
I can recomend a new program called ScoreCloud, witch is free to use notation program! You can check out this cool video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RB73xKZfszw to see what its about, or just visit www.scorecloud.com for more information! 
best regards! :)
on February 18, 2014 8:21am
FYI, "free" in this case means "free while it's in beta, until March 15, after which we'll charge a monthly fee [subject to change at any time], which if you don't pay you'll lose your scores, which are saved in the cloud. In the meantime you're required to register your personal info on our website in order to use the program, and if you don't the program crashes, at least in OSX." 
 
Applauded by an audience of 2
on February 19, 2014 6:27am
A friend who is just starting to transcribe work to software found "Crescendo" for free on line. The company uses it as a loss leader to sell their other products. I use their excellent sound file converter and compose with Sibelius.  So far, she's happy with "Crescendo." I can say the printed output looks good, but I can't download and test it on a Mac. 
on February 20, 2014 5:27am
i have used Sibelius for over 13 years. It's simply the best. But they sold themseves to profiteers and no longer provide online advice. BUT you can find almost anything you need by
Googling for Sibelius users' free support - help comes in from all over the place. I bought a Mac G4 Powerbook, 17", in Dec. 2004 and still do most of my writing in Sibelius 4
installed in it. Also have a 2011 Mac Book Pro - solid state drive - and have Sibelius 7 in that, but S4 takes care of most of my needs.  Just guessing here, but you can probably buy
an older version of Sibelius, 5 or 6, for not much money --- look around online. 
on February 21, 2014 5:03am
Just mentioning Lilypond to get it on the thread. Lilypond! There :-)
Free download at http://lilypond.org/
 
There are scads of templates and copypasteable snippets available. Drawback: wading through pages of enthusiastic documentation to find the one little tweak you want! Josh, it does fabulous tuplets though ;-)
 
You write directly in C++, there's no graphic interface (unless you download one from a 3rd party, also usually free; Rosegarden rides on top of Lilypond for instance). Fantastic if you enjoy being a code-writing nerd and just want to bang out some delicious-looking few-pagers. Can get unwieldy though--you can do just about anything with it, which is both a plus and a minus!
It takes me about the same amount of time to do a two-pager in MuseScore as in Lilypond. I like the Lilypond way better for readability and ease of export to other formats. But MuseScore's MIDI keyboard note entry was simpler to install and get working smoothly.
 
Has anyone tried Scorio?  www.scorio.com
Good luck & let us know what you end up going with!
 
p.s. LOL(a) Jack! yep the #2 is the go-to app  ;-)
on February 21, 2014 8:19am
From the varied replies above, I would make the general suggestions that Sibelius and Finale have held the two horse race for a long time, but have priced themselves out of bounds for most reasonable pockets. As a result there is a genuine explosion of development for the mid-low price band, and I think we are seeing many workable options emerging, and people more willing to try existing ones.
No one seems to have mentioned Notion, so I thought I would add this to the thread as it has a couple of good things going for it.
Desktop version is $99, but for me, the winning feautre is the iPad verison ($14.99) which is a standalone, functioning notation program that can output approximately finished scores, even if you don't own the desktop version. Great interface, and reasonably short learning curve.
Notion imports and exports Music XML files (and MIDI), which makes it compatible with colleagues running Sib or Finale - other programs mentioned above may also do this, but for me its an important thing to check.
It also has a good sound palette, and although that's not a high priority for me, it may be for others.
Here's a review -
 
I found this a really interesting thread to read, and will look at some of the alternatives others have mentioned :-)
 
 
 
on February 23, 2014 11:43am

Creating nice looking SATB for a reasonabe price:

I am not sure if this has been brought up previously but it is now possible to create SATB with just a text editor and using the ABC file format (http://abcnotation.com/). The ABC notation system has been around for a number of years but traditionally was used for notating folk music – only single staff systems were used. Version 2.1 of ABC specifies how to create multipart ABC files.

The Open Hymnal site (http://openhymnal.org/) contains a number of hymns notated in ABC (all available for free). These hymns display just like the hymns in hardbound hymnals – generally 2 staff systems for SATB with lyrics.

A very nice open source program called EasyABC (http://www.nilsliberg.se/ksp/easyabc/) wires a number of other free programs together with a visual interface so you can load an ABC file and see the corresponding printed music (and print it if you like) and the ABC at the same time in 2 adjacent windows. Available for Windows and the Mac.

Here's an example of such a printout of an SATB hymn from the Open Hymnal using EasyABC:

http://openhymnal.org/Pdf/A_Mighty_Fortress_Is_Our_God-Ein_Feste_Burg_Isorhythmic.pdf

And the price is right here - all the above mentioned are free. Nothing else is needed.

The MusicEase notation editor (http://www.musicease.com) has recently been updated to import multipart ABC files from the Open Hymnal Project. Not sure if any of the other editors mentioned in this thread import ABC.

 

Best regards,

Gary Rader

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