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Music writing software


Well-Known Member
I do a lot of transcription of horn parts for the bands I am in, and also do a bit of songwriting, for which I use the excellent Noteflight, an online service. However I would like a stand-alone version for my laptop so I am not dependant on an internet connection, and so I can also store more than the 25 scores allowed by Noteflight before you have to pay for an upgrade.

Any suggestions? Sibelius is way over the top for my simple needs, and a serious lump of money too. Anyone got any experience of Musescore, Musicmaster, Capella-start, or any other free/low-cost, simple programmes?

I would add that one of the best things about Noteflight is the ease with which I can transcribe from one score into Bb, Eb or concert pitch, so that would be a crucial feature.


ex Landrover Nut
Café Supporter
Just north of Munich
Bill, I don't have experience of the others, but Musescore will do what you need. It has it's quirks and limitations, but you get used to the quirks and the limitations are becoming fewer with each update.

Make sure you check the installation notes and install Lame correctly as well. Otherwise installation is a no brainer and includes the manual. You don't need to install Lilypond, even if you think you do.

Once you get used to it, note entry is quick. What helps a lot is that the manual is good, unusual for freeware.... You do need to know the correct musical terms though - e.g. the distinction between a tie and a slur - otherwise you may not find them in the manual. Triplets etc. are well handled, once you get used to how it works, but are difficult to edit/correct.

Creating parts, adding an instrument or voice are quick and easy. So is transposition. The printed scores are very good and clear.

Adding lyrics is also quick and reasonably intuitive.

It'll play back as you go along and recognises repeats etc. Sound quality is dependant on the midi files you have loaded, I haven't experimented with these.

Big bonus is that wikifonia has musicxml and musescore versions of the tunes/songs in there, and these go straight into musescore without hassle and are editable there.

Importing midi files works, but not well (e.g. staccato notes are imported as non-staccato notes of half duration). Midi creation is good.

I find the biggest pain is that you have to keep switching into and out of note entry mode. And it's irritating to tell it the key you want a new piece in, to open it up and find it's got the key signature wrong. And sometimes..... Stuff that's in the score doesn't make it to the printer, but it's usually things like tempo changes or expressions in a multi-bar rest. It can get confused in the middle of a score. So save versions regularly with new names. It's telling that there's a main menu option to reload the current score and you'll use it more often than you expect... Another real irritation is that it doesn't display the whole page on your screen - it always cuts a bit off the bottom, so you end up scrolling unnecessarily - but it does display pages side by side - so if you're following a playback the display jumps all over the place as you get to the end of a page and move to the next one.

Price is right as well.


North Lancs
I'm not 100% certain but I don't think Finale Notepad allows you to write in one key and transpose to other keys.
I use Finale Printmusic and have only tried Notepad briefly on a friends laptop.

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