What's a great composing software?

Talk to others about making and writing music on a computer

Postby InspiredPianist » Sun Feb 18, 2007 12:45 pm

I've recently been interested in composing pieces. Of course I write them down on staff paper and make all the right adjustments, but it looks so sloppy. I've been thinking about asking santa ( :D ) for a nice software to write professional-looking pieces with! I was wondering if anyone had any good references for me to look into. Thanks!!
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Sun Feb 18, 2007 1:38 pm

Welcome, Inspired Pianist! :cool:

We have reviewed several music composition packages on our Piano Software Reviews page. Several of the piano learning systems also have rudimentary composition capabilities. These can be found by using our keyword search page to look for the word segment "compos".

There are many other music composition software packages out there. One good shareware package that you can try for free is Noteworthy Composer. You could also check out Finale Notepad, described in another thread in this forum. You can find a link to download it on our Downloadable Music Software page. Right now, Sibelius is probably the most well thought of, but expensive, music composition software, if you're really serious about it. Cakewalk is also a good and powerful package. You can get more information on these at their web sites: www.package.com. Take a look at these and then start hinting to Santa. :D

Edited By Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor on 1171850006
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Postby Stretto » Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:05 am

A lot depends on how much you want to spend, of course, and how much you want to be able to do.

I was interested in the same thing and last year read the websites of just about every notation software I could find available on the internet including the ones listed in PEP's reviews that Dr. Ziegler provided the link for. I didn't see any that looked "bad". All of what I looked at in the lower price range would give a person some really good basics to get started. The only thing I questioned on some of what I looked at, not all, was how professional looking of score you would get.

When I looked at the different choices here are some of the questions I asked myself or some of the things I thought about in deciding what to do. These are probably basic questions a person would ask with any software, of course:

What is the most I want to spend?

Is the software compatible with my computer?

What do I want to be able to do with the software?
For example, do I want to be able to play back sounds like orchestra sounds? What kinds of sounds will it playback without extra equipment or software? Do I want to be able to write music with a certain number of staves? (Some software only gives you up to 8 staves). Does it allow you to write lyrics in the score?

Is the company a reputable or well-known company?
A more well-known company would probably be more likely to have help available on-line, by e-mail, or by phone. A less well-known company I would think may be more likely to close or go out of business or discontinue making notation software perhaps making it harder or impossible to get help with questions.

From what I understood when I checked on it last year and asking around, Finale and Sibelius were the two most recommended. At both of their highest end sofware options, the price is pretty steep and probably does way more than most people just wanting to do basics and get started just for fun and practice composing would need although they have some pretty impressive capabilities if money isn't a factor.

What I ended up deciding to do for the time being is to download Finale Notepad which is Finale's free version so I could learn some of the basics of notation software first before moving up in cost. One of the things I liked about Finale is that their notation software is available in a "tier" system (or various levels) so that you can start out small and at low cost (even free) and move up to more capabilites by upgrading as you want or need. They offer about 4 or 5 packages at a price range from inexpensive on up. If you start out with their free version, they also give you offers on discounts to upgrade from time to time.

Sibelius looks really impressive but with a pretty high price tag. Their is a student version of Sibelius but I don't know too much about the difference between that and Sibelius 4. Sibelius didn't appear to offer as much for lower price options as Finale, however. I really would like to see Sibelius offer a few lower price notation softwares like Finale does. :( Hopefully they eventually will. (That's another thing I was waiting on as far as buying something more expensive was to see if Sibelius would come out with some lower price options of their software.)

One of the biggest capabilities (outside of many others) that make Finale and Sibelius' highest priced software so much more expensive is that they come with the Garritan Personal Orchestra instrument sounds. From what I understand, the Garritan Personal Orchestra provides some of the highest quality sounds available. You could write a piece for orchestra and playback a very realistic sounding orchestra. Also is realistic piano sounds. Just to buy the Garritan Personal Orchestra software separately is pretty expensive so it's probably one of the reasons that Finale and Sibelius' highest priced softwares are so much more expensive.

For myself, I like the idea as I mentioned of starting out small and working my way up which is why I went with Finale's Notepad for now as I can always upgrade without spending a bundle all at once.

Also, I've heard mention from other composers that use Cakewalk and I've heard mention of using Cubase.

Here's some links for the things I mentioned:
Finale Product Overview
Sibelius products

To get an idea for what the Garritan Personal Orchestra is about:
Garritan Personal Orchestra Sibelius Edition
Finale - Garritan Sounds
You can purchase the Garritan Personal Orchestra separately. Their website states: "works with popular notation programs". Here's the link to their website:
Garritan Personal Orchestra

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Postby InspiredPianist » Sat Feb 24, 2007 9:10 am

Wow! Thanks for the information! (Gosh, I love this site! Most that I find were active 5 years ago and pretty useless. Quite the contrary here!)

I had read about Sibelius Student and Finale before and was impressed by both but really doubted that santa could afford anything like that! (especially with these dreadful braces i'm forced to wear on my teeth!)

Thank you soooooo much for recommending Finale Notepad! I downloaded it as soon as I finished reading this thread and had my first song already printed out before going to bed last night!

I definately will keep the information here tucked away for the future when I'm older and can pay for a really good software myself. It really helps to know what's out there and to know what to questions to ask myself to help narrow things down! Thanks!
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