Computerized music notation

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    carl-swanson on #252578

    I’d like to know some things about computerized musical engraving. There must be articles about this someplace, and I would be very grateful to be pointed in that direction. I’ve never done it before, so I know nothing about the systems that are available or how to use them. So my questions are:

    1) What are the best systems (for me, that means easiest to learn!) for computerized notation?
    2) How long does it take to learn how to use them?
    3) Do these systems allow you to put pedals and pedal diagrams? Bowing indications for string instruments? Phrasing lines? Also- and this is really important- do these systems have an autocorrect system that can be turned off? Auto correct on my computer drives me nuts, and I don’t want a music system “correcting” what I want to put down.
    4) How much do these systems cost? What kind of equipment do I have to have in order to make my own musical engravings?

    I’m a MAC user. So I need something that can be used on a MAC.

    carl-swanson on #252580

    I thought of another question. If you know how to use one of these computer programs for notating music, how much time does it take to do one page of music? Say something like a difficult classical piece.

    catherine-rogers on #252588

    I use Finale but some people prefer Sibelius. They are both very good. There is a bit of a learning curve, but there is also a lot of good help on the internet, and Finale has an online manual (which is part of the program) that I consult when I don’t know how to do something. There may be classes available online; there are lots of online user groups for Q&A.

    Finale does not have anything I would call autocorrect, although it does not allow you to put more beats into a measure than is proper. There are ways to force that, though, if you need to. It will play back what you’ve written so you can hear if it’s correct.

    Finale is kind of expensive but once you’ve bought it, the software upgrades are usually free or cheap. All you need is a computer (desktop preferably, and the larger the monitor, the better to see what you’re doing, plus you can zoom in for closer view) and a printer. I’m a Mac person, but it’s available for either system. My biggest problem has been knowing what I want to write but not knowing the correct term for it, which makes it difficult for me to search the manual for help. You are much more knowledgeable than I, Carl, so you probably won’t have any trouble.

    Look at Finale’s website and read about its features. Many famous composers and arrangers love it.

    balfour-knight on #252590


    There was a nice article about this in a former issue of Harp Column, I cannot remember the exact one. Anyway, it sounded so troublesome and complicated, I could not imagine doing it myself! You are brave to get into this technology, I must say.

    I consider it remarkable that you obviously wrote out by hand your wonderful new editions that are published by Carl Fischer. That has always been the traditional way, of course, but I hate to put pen to paper so much, that my harp arrangements are only simple ones for students and hobbyists, published by Angi Bemiss, Simply the Harp in Atlanta, GA. Angi is a genius at doing my hand-written ones and her own arrangements on computer, but I do not know which system she uses. I do know from watching her do it that it would be very frustrating to me, though!

    Wishing you the best of luck with this,

    carl-swanson on #252591

    Hi Balfour and Catherine- I’m an expert at cut and paste. All of my editions that have come out with Carl Fischer were prepared with buckets of whiteout, an eraser, and pencil or pen(in blue, black, or red). I make all of my changes in my editions like that, and that’s what goes to Carl Fischer. They do the actual engraving, and I then wade through numerous sets of galleys, proofreading each set that I get 20 to 25 times! It’s a travail of Hercules. I thought I might look into learning one of these programs so that I could do the engravings myself. I’m horrible at using a computer for anything at all. So my stomach is in knots just thinking about trying to learn this. But I also see the advantages. My next project-which I’m most of the way through right now- is another piece by Tournier. One of his major works. It is known today only as a solo piece for harp, and is played by all serious harpists. But Tournier went back to that piece 10 or 15 years after he wrote it and added a violin and cello part. It took me several years, but I found two manuscripts of those parts, and I just finished making a full score(harp, violin, and cello) of the piece, doing it my usual way of cutting, pasting, and writing by hand. It made me think that maybe it is time to learn to do this on a computer. I did contact Kim to ask about that article in a previous HC. I’m waiting to hear back from her.

    wil-weten on #252592

    I use the completely free open source program MuseScore. Nowadays it has grown into a very versatile program. There’s an active community helping out with any question one might have. I usually just google my question and I find a helpful answer.

    MuseScore works on a lot of platforms, including Mac.

    As to the learning curve, like all music notation programs, it takes its time to learn the details, but there’s a nice and short introduction to get you started. You will learn the rest bit by bit on the go.

    As to pedals and pedal diagrams, I just play the lever harp, so I’ve got no experience with that.

    As to pedals: yes you can put them in.

    And yes, to pedal diagrams. Google: “pedal diagram musescore 3” and it shows you some information.

    And yes to: Bowing indications for string instruments

    And yes to Phrasing lines?

    As to auto correction, I can’t imagine MuseScore teasing me with autocorrection.

    I refrained from putting links in this post, as the automated software of Harpcolumn often deletes my post when I do that (or when I try to edit a post). I mentioned this quite a few times to their admin and in the end just gave up.

    billooms on #252593

    I’ve used Finale (on a Mac) for a long time. Others prefer Sibelius. If you want to have professional quality music engraving (i.e. ready for publication) then I would encourage you to pursue one of these two programs. They have a learning curve that can be a challenge. Finale has on-line video tutorials. Look at some of those and see if it’s something you are interested in pursuing.

    Just because you have a program capable of making pretty pages, it doesn’t mean the notation is correct. Either of the programs allow you to violate all sorts of traditional notation rules. There are times when I wish there was some auto-correct option.

    Time to create a sheet of music depends on the complexity. A simple page with a grand staff can take as little as 15 minutes for a clean final copy. More complexity takes more time.

    As for equipment — a computer, a printer, and the software. But it’s much easier if you also have a midi keyboard that connects to the computer via USB. Basic keyboards can be had for around $100.

    wil-weten on #252594

    In edition to my earlier post: All (or perhaps, practically all) music notation programs can work with pieces made with any other music notation program by using the xml (or mxl)format.
    So, can could make a draft, export it into xml and have somebody else who uses a different music notation program to further revise it.

    charles-nix on #252595

    One thing I’d identify is whether you want finished score to transmit to a publisher — or if you want finished score to play from.

    Finale and Sibelius are great at mouse entry of notes, graphic display of final product, and having fairly (mostly?) good-looking score as final output. They are expensive, and can do mostly anything if you can figure out how.

    If you want accurate note entry and editing, and ability to enter other basic music signs, one of the free programs will work just fine, and be much easier to learn. MuseScore is mentioned above and is the most common.

    You also might find that a combination approach of getting (maybe playing from a MIDI keyboard) the notes in, then adding phrasing, pedal markings, and effect notations in on the final copy by hand will be the fastest to get ready for a publisher. You can still send them the notes played in an electronic format, and let them pick up the rest the same way they are now.

    (One side mention, for anyone else later on reading this thread, is my personal favorite: Lilypond. It produces professional-quality scores with very little tweaking needed. It is very consistent in resolving spacing issues, and output is much superior (IMO) to any of the above. You can easily customize how it makes decisions about absolutely any spacing issue, and application will have consistent appearance throughout the score. It is also free, and under continuous development, and for nearly any OS. The original developers were classical musicians, who loved the appearance and elegance of early 20th century hand-engraved scores, and wanted to implement a modern method. However, it is not a good option unless you know or want to learn to write code, because it is a programming language for music typesetting. It has excellent documentation, and the language is not much more complex than HTML, but it is still programming code.)

    charles-nix on #252596

    Forgot to comment on a couple of the questions:

    You can probably start using pretty quickly. A full-on complex classical score takes a while to learn how to do. The note entry is straightforward for all software. Phrasing, and other notations, will take most of the time, followed by hand-adjusting clashes where it puts two or three different elements on top of one another.

    I don’t know of any music score equivalent to auto-correction as far as note entry goes. However all programs will determine the horizontal spacing of the notes based on their value and time signature. You can crowd or stretch them later, but this can lead to some oddly crowded or extended measures at first.

    billooms on #252597

    In reply to Wil: Yes, it works to transfer via MusicXML. I regularly use the .mxl file generated by Finale and send to someone who uses Sibelius.

    catherine-rogers on #252609

    Carl, I would just add that, whichever software you choose, it’s always easiest if you have a friend you can contact (call, email, whatever) who is comfortable (if not proficient) with the program when you have a question. That is what I did when I first started and still do if I am really puzzled. I’m sure anyone here would be more than happy to help if you need assistance. However, I think once you get started, you will find it all fascinating and enjoy the process. Best always!

    Tacye on #252610

    I have never done it, but I believe both sibelius and finale allow you to start by scanning a clean copy of an existing piece of music and running auto-recognition on it – then you ‘just’ need to edit out the mistakes from the auto-recognition, put back everything it left out like dynamics and make the edits you wanted to. It might be worth trying.

    carl-swanson on #252612

    Hi everyone- I just read the two articles from previous Harp Columns about using Sibelius and Finale. OH MY GOD! There is no possibility that I could learn to use these. I can see myself paying $1,000 or more for all of the programs and equipment and then having a stroke or heart attack from the frustration of not being able to figure it out. I will gladly pay someone else to do this if I need to.

    catherine-rogers on #252623

    Dear Carl, I can only add that if I can learn to do, ANYONE can!!

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