Composing : Best notation software by Roger Hewett

Roger Hewett

Best notation software

Hi fellow musicians/composers!

I'm in the midst of an orchestral arranging project, the first of several lined up for this year. However, I replaced my Mac last year, rendering my trusty Sibelius 7 software apparently useless. Avid, the Sib's developer, no longer seem to offer the product without an annual 'subscription'...something I'm trying to avoid like the covid. It's expensive to operate that way when I'm not dependant upon it for more than a small handful of projects a year. I moved away from Finale several years ago for a similar reason.

What are you using these days?


Jonathan Price

You moved away from Finale cuz it was subscription-based, or it's just expensive? You can get an upgrade-from-previous version for $120 at Sweetwater. It might not be the best recommendation for someone starting out, but since you've used it before, and I'm guessing you have a previous version, it might be cost-effective and relatively painless. I'm running Finale 26 on PC and, like you, I only need it a few times a year, but I haven't had an issue.

Joanna Karselis

Still on Sibelius here; when I upgraded to 8, 18 months or so ago, the upgrade came with one year of subscription included, then I just cancelled it. It worked fine. Might be worth checking with their customer support if that's still possible to do.

Roger Hewett

Thanks guys! Yes Jonathan Price, I'm going back a bit for Finale, but I was tired of trying to keep up every year or so, especially when it was overtaking my OS, which would have caused other problems. It was also a complex beast compared to Sibelius, which I found a little more intuitive. I tried again yesterday...the Sibelius problem seems to be a 64/32bit issue with their license control app.

Thanks Joanna Karselis! That's a good idea. My Sib 7.5 is still operational on an older Mac Mini I have, and my laptop, but I really wanted to get it up and running on my iMac from last year.

I'm taking a serious look at Steinberg's 'Dorico', which I have not heard of. Downloaded a trial version yesterday. If it fails, I'll go for Sibelius again, following Joanna's suggestion.

Joel Irwin

When I moved to a new Dell Precision, a few months ago, I stopped the license on the old desktop and restarted it on the new one. I still compose with Sib 7 on this new desktop under win 10. I am dealing with one very irritating issue where every so often, everything seems to freeze up and clicks don't work. But apparently they are queued for after about 10 seconds everything comes back and executes. Happens to me a couple of time an hour. Other than that sib 7 works fine.

(This freezing problem did not happen on my previous win 7/64 desktop which essentially had the exact same software applications installed - so I am assuming it is a win10 related issue. I am assuming also that being not on sib 8, this problem on sib 7 will continue and I am currently 'just living with it')

Jonathan Price

Let us know what you think of Dorico. I've heard good things and, if I were starting from scratch, that might be where I'd go. I've got too many learning hours invested in Finale to switch, especially since I only use it when live musicians are involved, but I'd love to hear about Dorico anyway.

Joanna Karselis

I tried Dorico a while ago and found it really hard to adapt to from Sibelius. It just didn't feel natural at all and really slowed my work stream down, so I abandoned it after a couple of days. Be interesting to know how you get on with it!

Roger Hewett

Joanna Karselis ...that was my first impression on opening it last night! I'm not sure if I have the capacity to learn another complete software from scratch! I will take a closer look, (I have a 30-day trial) but I have my doubts!

Thanks Jonathan Price. I'll keep you posted!

Cheers Joel Irwin! Sadly I can't compare with a PC situation. I will maybe have to resort to reclaiming my MacMini for Sib 7.5 but it's a real drag to not have it running on my main comp.

Joel Irwin

Last time I checked, which was many months ago, it required separate costing licenses for each of my desktop (for my studio) and laptop (which I take on the road and for demos). That makes it pricey. Most of my software has a 2 machine license. I can't remember if dorico needs an iLok. I used to shy away from anything using it, but now I may soon start using it for EWQL (I purchased and installed in March, but haven't got around to using it). I also concur that the decision is not a 'start from scratch' but should I/you migrate from Sibelius to Dorico. Is there a 'value added' or is it just a parallel migration.

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