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Free Music Notation Software

Free Music Notation Software is Appendix B in a 31 part series on musical notation and basic music theory. Now that we have a handle on basic music theory, let's look at some free music notation software as well as some other options like Finale which you can purchase.

I have found that a pencil and an eraser can be just fine sometimes, but you can do better. With the help of software for music notations, you can compose songs, listen to them as you write the notes and make adjustments in no time. Here are a few free offers you might want to try.

NOTE: As with all free music notation software there are limitations. Generally the idea is to eventually get you to want a more functional product that you have to pay for. However, all of the free options are great if you are learning and want to practice.

If you are serious and want to bypass this, then skip down to the Finale Notation Software offered at the bottom of the page.


Musescore is an excellent free option.

*You can have an unlimited number of staves
*Note entry is fast with a keyboard or mouse
*You can have up to four voices per staff
*It's available for Mac, Windows and Linux
*It's translated into 47 languages
*Has an integrated synthesizer

*See video below for more info

LilyPond is another free music notation software.

LilyPond is a music engraving program, devoted to producing the highest-quality sheet music possible. It brings the aesthetics of traditionally engraved music to computer printouts.

Finale NotePad is another free music notation software! Find out how fun and easy it is to transform musical ideas into beautifully printed music by downloading NotePad 2011.

*Full compatibility with Finale and PrintMusic 2011 files
*Enhanced lyric spacing and improved lyric entry
*Expanded multi-user support

There are some limitations, but this is an excellent version to practice on before you decide to buy one of the Finale packages below.

Finale NotePad 2012 is coming soon.


Ok, now that we have experimented with free music notation software, let's take a look at professional software. Some use Sibelius, but Finale Notation Software is the industry standard and I highly recommend that you consider this family of software if you are looking to purchase.

Below I briefly describe each package that Finale offers. Again, NotePad above is free and can give you a feel before you buy. One thing is for sure, if you are getting into composing and arranging, Finale's products are worth the money.

Songwriter is a great inexpensive option and may be all you need if you are a songwriter. The major advantages it has over the free NotePad version are:

*video tutorial (this is huge)
*input notes and rhythms in real time
*advanced functionality in adding lyrics and various markings
*drag and drop dynamics and tempo markings
*Can save as Audio File to create CDs ( MP3, WAV, AIF)

*For reviews, more info and to purchase click icon

PrintMusic is the next step up. The major advantages over Songwriter 2010 are:

*notate as you play a single melody acoustic instrument
*scan existing sheet music with FREE SmartScore Lite software by Musitek (included)
*directly convert SmartScoreTM and MidiScanTM scanned music files into Finale notation files
*open SharpEye scanning files via MusicXML (SharpEye is currently Windows only)

*For reviews, more info and to purchase click icon

Finale is for the serious composer/arranger/educator. It is expensive but the functionality is mind boggling. Just scan the comparison chart above and you will see how limitless this product is.

Here are the major advantages over PrintMusic and Songwriter:

*shift lyrics right or left by syllables
*hides signatures and accidentals on individual staves (e.g. , percussion staves)

*creates lyrics all at once and click onto the score one syllable or verse at a time
*can mix fonts, sizes and styles
*analyzes chords from notation across one or two staves

*customizes fretboard diagrams and save in transposable groups
*notates bends, stair steps, double bends, pull-offs, hammer-ons and releases

*Orff Instruments in Set-up Wizard
*creates SmartMusic Accompaniments (SmartMusic subscription required to practice with these files in SmartMusic)

*ready-made, customizable music education worksheets included Includes solfege, instant Tonic Sol-fa conversion plus most Band, Orchestra, Choral and Church music set-ups

*colored noteheads
*Finale AlphaNotes font puts note names inside noteheads, benefiting beginning readers
*Finale Numerics font makes it easy to type in Roman numeral or harmonic analysis

*For reviews, more info and to purchase click icon

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