The great debate: Finale vs. Sibelius
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,041
    I would like to hear comments about any of you who have used Finale or Sibelius and why you prefer either.
    I am thinking of switching.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,283
    I have used Finale for years. I tried Sibelius a bit a few years ago, and I didn't care for it.

    It seemed to me that it was similar to the difference between Windows and Mac, with Sibelius being the slick Mac product and Finale being the difficult to use, but better for business, Windows-like software.

    Of course, this past year I switched to Mac, and have gotten used to software that "just works," so maybe.

    Finale seems to market more to the classical music, serious scoring nerds, while Sibelius seems more geared for film and video game scoring and studio musicians. I don't know if anything about their features backs that up, or if its just a marketing difference.
  • CGM
    Posts: 437
    I've also used Finale for a long time - I think 23 or 24 years, at this point. I'm used to it, and I'd never switch - too many files over too many years to convert to some other software. Finale is not exactly easy to use, but once you get used to it, it works fine. It's very flexible and very powerful - it can notate almost anything you can think of, if you're willing to be patient and try all the different tools. I think it's the "industry standard" software. It's used by Wynton Marsalis's people and by John Williams's people, and all sorts in between.

    Complaints: they put out an update every year, and files are not backward compatible. So something you make in Finale 2015 cannot be read by Finale 2014. If you're working with someone else, swapping files back and forth, you can only do that if you both have exactly the same version of Finale. And Finale doesn't give you the option to downsave to previous versions of the software, either. This is an obvious marketing ploy - to get you to buy the annual update (which is usually $100).

    The problem with the annual updates (aside from cost) is that they typically add new features which you may or may not need, and every update either changes the way some old feature works, or renders non-functional some feature that you used to find critical for your workflow. So with every update, you have to re-learn how to use some portions of the software. That's a real headache, especially when you discover what no longer works, which used to work perfectly, and which you relied on.

    Frankly, if I weren't already wedded to the software, I'm not sure I would use it. Adam's comments above are the first I've heard from someone who uses Finale and Sibelius and prefers Finale. Everyone I've ever talked to who has used them both has eventually switched to Sibelius exclusively. I'm told that it's easier to use and the user interface is faster, and it doesn't have version-compatibility issues or backward-save problems of the sort that are built into Finale; nor are features/workflow constantly changing from one update to the next (and Sibelius releases far fewer updates). I prefer Sibelius's fonts (although the optional-to-install Engraver font in Finale is quite nice, too). I haven't used Sibelius myself, so I can't speak from experience as to what it's like.

    If I were going to make my first investment in a professional engraving software package, from what I've heard, I'd go with Sibelius, unless, as Adam says, you're a real "scoring nerd" and you intend to employ a lot of super-complex and/or non-standard notation. Whichever you choose, there are plenty of people on this forum familiar with each, and we can help you through the inevitable "how the #$%^&* does this work???" questions that will arise. Please ask!
    Thanked by 1ZacPB189
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,100
    used finale at first, but switched to sib. serious musicians also use sib. i am a good example. it rox, is intuitive and very easy to learn.
  • I tried both in our media labs when I had music theory assignments in college. I ended up purchasing Sibelius my last year of grad school so I could still have some sort of transcription/composition software.

    Sibelius is much easier to use right out of the box. Most of the things I needed for my workflow were instantly accessible. There are some special things that I've had to look up, but between Sibelius and GABC, there's nothing else I need.
  • stulte
    Posts: 227
    I used both in college on my school's computers. I never invested in either. Nowadays, I use for my notation needs. It's free and I can access my scores from anywhere online.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,478
    Finale 2014 can save as Finale 2012 (there was no 2013). That's new.
    I've been a Finale user since v. 2.6 (mid '90s). It's hard to find people who have used both. I haven't.
    All notation programs are slaves to their past. Finale has a slightly longer past to be a slave to than Sibelius, so radical changes to the basic givens of the program are harder to do.
    Several years back, Avid (current owners of Sibelius) laid off their development team. Yes, some development is still going on. But from a business PoV it may prove to be a fatal mistake, because the lot got snapped up by Steinberg and are working on a notation program that, if it comes to market, will make both Finale and Sibelius obsolete. Daniel Spreadbury, one of the developers (lead?) has a blog where he discusses progress,
  • Caleferink
    Posts: 282
    Sibelius for me. Why? That's what they had at my university, and I just simply grew comfortable with it.
  • For me, each engraving program is just another tool on my workbench. I use Finale, Sibelius, Score, WinScore, Berlioz and Graphire Music Press. The two goto programs, though would be Finale and WinScore—the first for it's versatility, and the second for (so far, anyway) unrivaled excellence in printed output.

    Especially in the versions since the introduction of the ScoreManager, Finale has really excelled in management and production of score for large ensembles. I often have to arrange for ensembles ranging from brass quartet/quintet thru full orchestra, and invariably the common thread is that it needs to be done right now, and be ready to play from without a lot of rehearsal—if any. For all of it's warts, I highly commend learning Finale as an investment of time that will pay dividends.

    I'd like to contest a couple of points posted above:
    Complaints: they put out an update every year, and files are not backward compatible. So something you make in Finale 2015 cannot be read by Finale 2014. If you're working with someone else, swapping files back and forth, you can only do that if you both have exactly the same version of Finale. And Finale doesn't give you the option to downsave to previous versions of the software, either. This is an obvious marketing ploy - to get you to buy the annual update (which is usually $100).

    As of Finale 2014, the file format was changed completely to a new XML format that will allow interoperability between all future versions of Finale for the foreseeable future. So, Finale 2015 will be able to open a Finale 2014 file, and Finale 2014 will be able to open a Finale 2020 file, and so on. (Citation Here)

    Also, to create a bridge to the prior format, as already mentioned, Finale 2014 can save to Finale 2012. It'll be interesting to see if the next version will also contain the same feature to export to Finale 2012.
  • Lilypond. But I was a Sibelius user (long story but I don't currently have access to it). I was able to produce really thorough Schenker graphs with it, and anything else I needed. If you are willing to make the effort, however, Lilypond is quite beguiling.

    As for Finale, personally I can't make one note stick...
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    Having been a Score user for ever, this year I finally got both Finale 2014 and Sibelius 7.5. As an unbiased new user, I found Finale very easy to use and with an excellent user's manual and introductory material. I found a few things in Sibelius to like, but not the user's manual. So I'm using Finale for most new notational things now. Since I also used a DAW for midi sequencing, neither is satisfactory (to me) for that purpose. But it is pleasant to hear sounds, optionally, in either, as the notes are entered, Score being a silent, visual program always.
    Thanked by 2Adam Wood Gavin
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 784
    I've always used finale and see no reason to switch. It's not necessary to upgrade every year. Finale also offers some lighter versions of the program for a lot less money depending on what features you are looking for. Of course they also offer the full program at a significant academic/theological discount. I just wish they would offer a Gregorian font for chant.
  • Richard R.
    Posts: 654
    But in case you were wondering, here was your (pricey!) option circa 1960-70:
    1332 x 1704 - 408K
    1336 x 1742 - 352K
    Thanked by 2Earl_Grey Heath
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,100
    I forgot to mention that for engraving music with autographic recognition, InDesign is it.
  • I'm very comfortable with Sibelius, but then again, that's what we were required to use during my music degree in college. I think it's always been pretty intuitive and has become second nature to me.

    At GIA, we use Finale for all engraving of music. From what I understand, we have always used it, and most major American-based publishers (GIA, OCP, WLP, Augsburg, etc.) are all Finale houses. Editorial at GIA says it is much more customizable than Sibelius. The entire company is a Mac house, if that makes any difference or not.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,582
    I think everyone (for the most part) is just comfortable with the program they used first.

    For me, this is Finale.

    If you're looking for your first music program, I think it should probably be Finale since I believe Sib is not going to release any new versions of their program... so learning Finale now might make living in 2025 easier.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,041
    Thanks for all your responses. I have used Finale for 20 some years, but what is frustrating is that they only offer support for the latest version - you can't even ask an online question for any version older than 2013.
    So I have problems with it that I cannot solve.
    Also there persinickety features which are problematic that they have never fixed.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,041
    Also, the company forum-'support' site has not worked correctly for two years. If this is how they treat their customer (a 20 year customer at that) then maybe it's time to move on.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,637
    The company that developed Sibelius was acquired a few years ago, and in 2012 the original development team was laid off, so product improvements may be slow in coming.
    more at:

    The developers went to another company:
  • mrcoppermrcopper
    Posts: 640
    If you are comfortable with facebook, both finale and sibelius have active groups where a question is often answered more quickly than on the official fora.
  • vansensei
    Posts: 83
    I use Finale simply because I'm much more efficient with it and it's working for my computer well. I feel like I never have enough RAM for Sibelius. Maybe it's because I'm running a very low-budget Toshiba, but that's my experience with it.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    For those who don't use it much, MuseScore has been good to me. I try to use lilypond when I am able, but sometimes I just want a normal scoring program, at which point I use lilypond.
  • mahrt
    Posts: 505
    I used Finale before Sibelius was available, and I have a lot of files in it. I am familiar with the routines and except for revisions in a new version that require different commands, it is easy to use. However, I find the note-spacing somewhat awkward and always have to go in and move notes around. The one thing that I find difficult to do is to write Gregorian chant in stemless note heads. It is easy to eliminate the stems, but you have to specify a measure for each phrase. Thus I sometimes come up with a measure like 17/8, and then discover that I had miscounted and should have used 18/8. Very clumsy.

    Does anyone have an easier solution?
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,338
    I use MuseScore and have the same issue with chant as Dr. Mahrt, it may be a universal 'glitch'.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,068
    ... but you have to specify a measure for each phrase. Thus I sometimes come up with a measure like 17/8, and then discover that I had miscounted and should have used 18/8. Very clumsy.

    Does anyone have an easier solution?

    Actually, there is a much simpler solution, one that I use regularly: one note per measure (all in, say 1/4 meter). You have change the document options to shorten the space before and after music in bar and change the mininum measure width. Make barlines invisible. Once everything is more-or-less entered as you want it, you can combine measures making up a "neume" (or syllable with more than one note) by highlighting such a measure group and changing the time signature (e.g. combine a 3-note syllable from three 1/4 measures to a single 3/4 measure, deleting any extra empty measures that arise). Also, you can add barlines back at the end of any measure requiring them. I engraved my Dominican tone St. John Passion this way. It wasn't that difficult at all. Of course, I already have some chant skeleton templates for doing this.

  • artdob
    Posts: 24
    I've used Finale years ago and found it clunky in Windows. Suspect the current version is much improved. I've been a Sibelius user for over a decade and find it intuitive and easy to use. I have not used it (yet) for chant notation, but have run into the awkward meters as noted in mahrt's post above when composing organ pieces based on chant. Will have to give CHGiffen's suggestion a try. If someone has suggested document setting options for that approach specific to Sibelius, I'm interested in learning your techniques.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,478
    When I do chant in Finale, I make my measures a workable size (3/4-5/4), then invisiblize all barlines except the ones I need for phrase markers. I just did a project involving Medicaean chant (alternatim with polyphony) and rectangular noteheads, but I could only hint at ligature.
  • mahrt
    Posts: 505
    CHGiffen. Good idea! I will try it. Thanks
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    Thanks GHGiffen! I'll be trying that too if I need to do any modern notation chant in the future.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,068
    Because of the interest in how I go about setting chant in stemless notation using Finale, I'm attaching a "stemless worksheet" based upon my stemless notation for Kathy Pluth's "The Morning Star is on the Rise" (translation of Nocti succedit lucifer). The worksheet shows, stanza by stanza, the process I use, beginning with the entry of notes in 1/4 time (1st stanza), through various steps until the desired appearance in the final stanza. Notes on Layout and Document Options are also included at the end of the worksheet. The final version of Kathy's setting is also attached, so that one can see the finished result, as well as the square note 4-line staff traditional chant notated edition.

    If there are any other questions, feel free to ask me.
  • Francis, what do you mean by 'autographic recognition'? I suspect I know what you mean, but would like to hear your explanation.

    I've never used a program such as InDesign and suspect that this coming year I'll not have spare hours to invest in learning one, but one never knows.

    I love your hybrid notation, by the way.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,068
    A couple of other things which I use in my way of setting chant with Finale:

    I set no display of rests in empty measures (so that an empty measure is just that, completely blank), so that I can use an empty measure (which, with the settings is quite narrow) as a "spacer" when needed.

    Also, sometimes for a syllable with several letters and two (or more notes), the notes may seem too widely spaced over the syllable; to remedy this, I sometimes just add an extra beat or two to the measure and add in a (hidden) quarter note rest or two - or sometimes (especially with just two notes), I use the Note Mover tool to move the second note closer to the first note.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,771
    Chuck's method works with Sibelius too. Here's a quick test (should have refreshed my memory first):image
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,100

    Autography is the art of handwritten music, (or calligraphic writing) or better said, handwriting that is artistic. This really is the essence of what monasteries did when they created illuminated manuscripts. The visual appearance of the music is made to be just as beautiful as the audible performance and the content.

    In todays digital world, we all lose the personal touch. When I compose something in Sibelius, well, unless it has my name on it, anyone could 'claim that it is their own work', except for the human ability of recognizing a composer's particular musical voice (you might also call it the 'composer's language'.

    So, I am hoping to create music that is visually beautiful, recognizably unique and my hybrid notation is an example. I started working on the drop cap for that piece which I will attach here. If you zoom into the vector work, you can see how the detail is accomplished.
    Thanked by 1Patricia Cecilia