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DR. S

Notation Freeware

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I've used Finale's Notepad but it's $9.95 now instead of a freebie. There's a free 30 day trial so you can still try it out for free. I upgraded to their Print Music version when I found it marked down for clearance at a computer store. Most people shouldn't need the powerful versions of these programs.

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Most of the freeware programs are VERY unfinished, although some have promise. MusScore is probably the most finished of them. Definitely worth a try. It does some things very nicely. You'll just have to try it and be sure to spend some time with it. Unfortunately, it's one of few free programs that do not use Lilypond for printing.

If you're going to enter music by keyboard, study the section on note entry carefully and give it some thought. You need patience to find out how to use any of these programs to good advantage. If you get inside the heads of the guys who wrote it, you'll be able to write much faster. And save your work often. There isn't much that won't make it crash.

I don't need much, but I found Finale Notepad woefully inadequate, although it might be useful for extending the free trial time on Finale products. I tried PrintMusic, but I was busy, and by the time I got the small problems worked out, such as getting Help to work, the trial version expired.

EDIT: Removed this sentence: "With practice, this might be one of the few programs that is better than pencil and paper." [Most of these programs are VERY slow to use. Sorry, I confused it with another program.]

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While not familiar with any freeware, I have used Band in a Box for ten years. I found it very limited and have moved to Sibelius 5.

I am amazed at what I can now do. Yes, it is expensive but is of great benefit to me as a teacher.

Again it appears that you only get what you pay for!

Busker

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But sometimes you get more than you pay for. I'd give MuseScore a try. I think any one you try, including the expensive ones, needs a pretty thorough trial before you decide. They all have major quirks, and in most cases some annoying limitations.

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Again it appears that you only get what you pay for!

Busker

I expected someone to make that comment. I guess my current hair pulling, eye gouging experience with MS VISTA rubs that in - should have paid extra for XP64, but the retailers did everything possible dissuade me from doing that. Actually, one could argue that I should have paid the $2000 to get a Mac that is as powerful (harware-wise) as my $500 HP. Then at least I'd have a useable system, as long as I don't need to do too much interfacing with the real world. My son, the fanatical MAC user, spends an awful lot of time sitting at my PC, especially when surfing the net, streaming video or editing video. I just want to get my contacts and calendar transferred from my old XP system and understand how the folder and file search system works now.

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I've heard very good things about LilyPond from the folks in the ABC Users Group. If I wasn't already using Sibelius 5 I would look into it. (I have BarFly--Mac only--for dealing with ABC files and love it but find it most useful for simple lead sheets that don't need to be print-ready. You can do a lot with ABC but a lot more with a good typesetting program!)

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Many people buy expensive software when the cheaper light versions are quite adequate for their needs. Music notation is an example but so is audio recording and editing, photo editing and video editing. For casual use, a cheaper light version from a big name seller may be easier to use than most freeware.

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Many people buy expensive software when the cheaper light versions are quite adequate for their needs.

Maybe, but check the list of features. They tend to lack things such as key signatures. And I'm only half joking. Seriously, if you want to change key signatures or time signatures, you may need to spend the big bucks. If you want grace notes, you have to pay extra. If I remember correctly, one of the most popular programs requires you to pay an extra $175 if you need double dots. If you can find a program that won't put one measure on the last line and stretch it out over the whole line, then go for it. EDIT: No, I just checked. It's not an extra $175, it's an extra $480!

And here's the kicker. Find me a program--any program--that will allow you to add a note and readjust bar lines. If you need to add a quarter note smwher in the middle of a piece, without changing the lengths of other notes or rests, you're just flat out of luck. Imagine a word processor that would not let me change "smwher" in the last sentence to "somewhere". Would you pay for a program that wouldn't do that?

I haven't done a thorough evaluation yet, but on the whole, from what I've seen, I'm not impressed with these programs. Please, somebody prove me wrong.

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I haven't run into any problems with PrintMusic but I just write out simple fiddle tunes or copy a tune and change the key. I don't use double dots but I could use as many as ten if I wanted to. I use grace notes. You get rid of that last line with one measure by adjusting the measure spacing and number of lines until it looks right. That sort of adjusting applies to trying to make good page changes too. As for playing with bar lines, you're sort of stuck with a time signature unless you change it.

Can you write it out faster with a pencil and staff paper? You betcha for simple violin music. It won't be as pretty and easy to read though. For more complicated stuff the program has a lot of features that cut down some of the drudgery. I've seen plenty of printed music that is hard to read and annoying but the you can produce a good printed product with these programs. Whether it's worthwhile dealing with the learning curve and the drudgery of doing it is a different issue.

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As for playing with bar lines, you're sort of stuck with a time signature unless you change it.

I don't want to change the time signature. I just want to add a note in the middle of a tune. OK, I write out a tune and notice later that I've left out a note somewhere in the middle. And I don't want it to shorten all the other notes in the measure to make room for it. It should know how to adjust the bar lines. The rhythms can be pretty complicated, so you may not notice until too late. You're just out of luck. You have to erase all the music from the mistake to the end and start over.

Can you put it in later? I don't think so. I've never seen a major program where I could figure out how to do that. A turnip is smart enough to do that, but these programs can't. I've seen some programs turn adding a note into an awful mess. Please tell me you can do that easily.

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Anyone ever try MusScore or any other freeware notation software?

How about the "Student" versions of the big boys like Sibelius and Finale? I'm sure they have their limitations but wouldn't they be adequate for most stuff? And the cost around USD$100, which isn't too much.

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I don't want to change the time signature. I just want to add a note in the middle of a tune. OK, I write out a tune and notice later that I've left out a note somewhere in the middle. And I don't want it to shorten all the other notes in the measure to make room for it. It should know how to adjust the bar lines. The rhythms can be pretty complicated, so you may not notice until too late. You're just out of luck. You have to erase all the music from the mistake to the end and start over.

Can you put it in later? I don't think so. I've never seen a major program where I could figure out how to do that. A turnip is smart enough to do that, but these programs can't. I've seen some programs turn adding a note into an awful mess. Please tell me you can do that easily.

You may already know that in Sibelius this can be done via cut and paste; you highlight and cut all the notes from the mistake, insert the missing note(s), then paste the cut notes back in after the addition. Not ideal, but a heck of a lot easier than re-entering everything. I agree, an "insert note" function would be quite useful.

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Finale PrintMusic can fix it that way to but you'll lose anything associated with measures rather than notes because you'll be moving parts of measures rather than all full measures.

My ears don't overlook mistakes as badly as my eyes so I don't add many measures before playing it back as midi to listen for mistakes. You can slow down the tempo to make it easer to find and fix the clinkers.

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I have been using Melody Assistant X for many years and it is very easy to use and will reversen engineer any midi file too. There is a free version and also you can pay twenty dollars or something to upgrade for full use. The only drawback is that you have to deal with some obnoxious guy in France if you need tech support (via email).

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Hello

I use the freeware MuseScore and I'm very pleased with it. I use it for viola scores, string quartets, voice and piano, duos and trios for strings etc. Musescore is more user friendly than LilyPond because of its graphic interface. You can import *.mid files, and export to *.mid, *.pdf etc.

Give it a try before purchasing another software!!

Luc

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I'd say the lack of comments shows that not many people are using these programs, and even the few people who are using them seem to have little passion for them. Most people are still using a pencil because it's better. If you need a better appearance, I'd suggest trying a quill pen.

Maybe we can goad someone into doing better. Whatever program you try, give it a good chance and work with it to learn how these beasts work.

By the way, I edited my first reply above, because I had it mixed up with another program. I'm just trying these things myself.

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What "lack of comments?" This topic has generated more comments than most recent topics in this forum, and a number of people have made recommendations on products.

Regarding your earlier comment about speed of entry, I find Sibelius note entry to be pretty speedy if you take advantage of all the shortcuts and have a number pad. Much faster than my hand-notation and a lot better looking!

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What "lack of comments?" This topic has generated more comments than most recent topics in this forum, and a number of people have made recommendations on products.

Well, a few comments, yes, but I thought some of the recommendations look just a little brief and generic.

...I find Sibelius note entry ...Much faster than my hand-notation and a lot better looking!

Now that's a recommendation I can get excited about. Thanks, I'll try it. Do I have to get the expensive, full-blown version for fast entry? The table of features suggests that the less expensive version might be crippled in that respect.

EDIT: Holy smokes! The full version is $600.

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Why not give MuseScore a try before spending your money on a product that might not be better? It is completely free, and open source. If you're not pleased with MuseScore, you can still purchase another program. But in my experience, MuseScore is a very complete software. I like it a lot.

Good luck!

Luc

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Yeah, cost is the big drawback. I paid somewhat less than list for my copy on Amazon but think it was still around $400 (that was for Sibelius 4, I've since upgraded to 5 and see that 6 is now out...). I haven't worked with the student version; it seems to have some significant lacks but the cost can be deducted when upgrading to the full version. There's also a demo download available from their website that might be worth playing around with; I think I'll grab 6 to see if it's worth ugrading from 5 (which I'm pretty happy with).

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The inexpensive versions have keyboard entry. The Finale web site has a four page detailed comparison in pdf format of what you get with each of their packages. List price for Finale is $600. PrintMusic lists at $99.95. Nobody pays list price with plenty of discounts on the web and academic discounts if you qualify. I paid less than $50 a few years ago for my version of PrintMusic. Street price today is around $60.

If you aren't writing or arranging for a symphony or doing film scores and that sort of thing you probably don't need the full package. The package I have would be quite adequate for a typical high school band or choir teacher or church musician.

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