Best (free?) music notation software
March 26, 2014 12:48 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for intuitive, easy-to-use music notation software. I already have the sheet music and just need to input it into a program so that it will play a reasonable rendition. I see there are a few online but don't know which one is best. Thank you.
posted by madonna of the unloved to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Finale Notepad is pretty mainstream. I am not sure how easy-to-use it is as I have been using Finale for over 20 years (and thus take my experience for granted), though my students haven't had issues with it on their own for fun.

It's free. Not terribly powerful, but it should be able to do what you want to do. Never hurts to try.
posted by TinWhistle at 1:08 PM on March 26, 2014

I haven't used it, but MuseScore looks like it might fit the bill.
posted by Aleyn at 1:16 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had a teacher who swore by Lilypond. You have to learn a bit of coding to be able to work it, and I could never figure it out, but maybe you're more savvy than me.
posted by winterportage at 1:32 PM on March 26, 2014

I found MuseScore to be incredibly easy to learn and it seems to have all the functionality needed for even moderately complex notation.
posted by dilaudid at 1:48 PM on March 26, 2014

Noteworthy Composer is not free and is only for Windows, but it's very good for quick, easy and hassle-free for note entry with a wysiwyg. Using it feels much like just typing, once you get the hang. Midi support for playback is good.

(Lilypond is powerful and free but definitely not intuitive. If you do want to go the route of a text file to score system like that, and your music isn't too complex, you might also look into ABC notation, which is somewhat easier to use and very widely supported.)
posted by bertran at 1:58 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, I forgot to mention I did randomly try MuseScore but gave up on it because I simply could not find the staccato symbol, and it appears often in the piece. I only inputted a few bars, but I got sufficiently frustrated that I wanted to find something else.
posted by madonna of the unloved at 4:04 PM on March 26, 2014

Keybiard shortcuts for MuseScore

Video tutorial that mentions the staccato is in the Articulations and Ornamentations palatte

(I have used Noteworthy many many times and love it. Well worth the price if you do this often.)
posted by rakaidan at 5:06 PM on March 26, 2014

noteflight is online and free. I haven't used a lot of notation bells and whistles (don't know offhand about staccato) but in general it seems pretty powerful and I find its note entry system less diddly than MuseScore. Imports and exports midi and musicxml formats too.
posted by usonian at 9:08 PM on March 26, 2014

Beware Lilypond. When I installed it on OS X, it completely ruined my system. Any upgrades I did to anything else routinely failed because of it. This was mostly due to it's installer's dependence on very specific versions of cpan and everything went downhill from there. Perhaps things have changed in the intervening years, but you might want to look for more contemporary installer issues before going down that path.

Noteworthy Composer (as mentioned) is a decent enough basic music notation program. For anything beyond simple sheet music, it gets super cranky. It does basic ornamentation like staccato and tenudo, etc handily. IIRC, my frustration was due to cues, codas, compoud meter, odd repeats (like more than 2 endings).

Sibelius (not free, not cheap) is my current tool, but which it is logical and you can score pretty damn much anything, it is far from intuitive. My version has a music OCR app that pulls in music from a scanner and does a fairly decent job turning it into a score. There was some concern when it was acquired by Avid, but from what I here it is being actively supported now.
posted by plinth at 3:21 AM on March 27, 2014

If I was going to install lilypond on OSX, I'd do so via HomeBrew.

I used lilypond years ago, but it produced lovely output for very little effort. You do have to happy working to edit a text file rather than editing the music directly on the screen, but so long as that doesn't bother you, then I'd recommend it.

lets you edit your lilypond files and see the results directly & it's also available via HomeBrew.
posted by pharm at 3:59 AM on March 27, 2014

Musink was featured in the blue.
posted by klarck at 5:59 AM on March 27, 2014

Without wanting to undercut the author of Musink's accomplishment in the slightest (he wrote it using feet & voice input! Now that's dedication.) the samples on the web page don't inspire confidence in the quality of its output: It doesn't seem able to line up notes on adjoining staves that are supposed to happen at the same time, accidentals touch the notes next to them, and there are a whole bunch of other little things that all add up to the point that the music is much harder to read than it should be.

I would use something else.
posted by pharm at 8:12 AM on March 27, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you for the answers! I definitely have some programs to try, and maybe I'll even try MuseScore again, now that I have keyboard shortcuts.
posted by madonna of the unloved at 12:10 PM on March 27, 2014

MuseScore and noteflight are really easy; LilyPond will make your scores look more amazing than pretty much any notation program but has a higher learning curve.
posted by nosila at 2:06 PM on March 27, 2014

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