Finale, Sibelius, or something else?
  • marymezzomarymezzo
    Posts: 204
    I have an old version of Finale, but before I spend money to upgrade it, I'd like to hear members' thoughts
    on various programs' strengths. I'm looking for ease of use and the option to write with stemless notation
    when desired. I'd be using it almost exclusively for vocal music.

    I'm grateful for your thoughts and recommendations. Thanks.


  • sdtalley3sdtalley3
    Posts: 93
    Hi marymezzo,
    I've been a long time Finale user, that being said, I had to upgrade or get a new program from Songwriter 2012. While I have gotten used to many of the new features that limited my capabilities in the ways I did not like, The only major drawback for me in the version I use now (Finalev26) is the audio that is used for vocals; it sounds inferior to past versions. I still haven't attempted to make music using stemless notes, but this is an option available.
    Thanked by 1marymezzo
  • Dorico and LilyPond are the market leaders in every way.
    Thanked by 1marymezzo
  • Mary, I use Dorico and I LOVE it. It has a few strengths as far as stemless notation is concerned:
    1.) it is the only program that supports truly open meter. You do not have to have a time signature (or create a really long time signature and then hide it). You can simply enter notes and then add a barline once you're ready.
    2.) stemless noteheads are very easy to achieve. You have two methods: A.) enter your notes, select all and then simply press the "hide stem" parameter in the properties panel, or B.) you can create a custom set of noteheads that are stemless.
    3.) these custom noteheads allow a certain degree of flexibility; for instance you can see i created an anglican-style rectangular reciting tone in one example. I simply edited the default glyph for a double whole note.
    4.) the default output is wonderful. Just like you can often "spot a finale score" (and lilypond, for that matter) you can also spot a Dorico score, IMHO. And that is a good thing 99% of the time.

    I will concede that it takes some getting used to, since the conception of the program is very different from the others, but I truly love it. The forum is very active there, too, and you can interact with the developers directly and the help you receive from the forum is top notch. (Not unlike this forum.)

    I'm going to attach a few examples of what I've been able to accomplish in Dorico so you can judge the results for yourself. (Please note that you cannot yet do square note notation, so the example that has a bit of this is an imported graphic which Dorico does support natively.)
    Thanked by 1marymezzo
  • The sound files on Finale are quite terrible for both voice and organ. It is almost comical when I have an organ accompaniment written that should be played with a light registration, but it is full organ on Finale. I just remind myself that the sound files on Finale are only to give me a general idea. If I want to know how it actually sounds, I will print it and go play it on the organ the next time I practice.

    I have the most recent version of Finale, and doing stemless notes is very easy. Once you have the music typed out with stems, go to the staff tool, and then right click the staff you want stemless. Go to staff attributes and under items to display, uncheck the box for stems. When writing the melody out first, you will have to play with time signatures to group notes correctly, and then hid the barlines and time signatures, but it is fairly easy to do.
  • sdtalley3sdtalley3
    Posts: 93
    I wasn't happy about organs for accompaniment either.
  • MarkB
    Posts: 374
    I use Noteflight.com. It's entirely web/cloud based and can be used in the basic version for free, so you can try it out. There is an option to remove stems from notes.

    The cloud-based feature means you can access your scores from any computer connected to the internet, and you can share files with others who have Noteflight accounts. Scores can be downloaded as pdfs and printed.

    There are options for annual subscriptions to get premium features, such as an unlimited score library, or you can pay for a lifetime premium membership. Around this time of year they have offered discounts in the past.
  • marymezzomarymezzo
    Posts: 204
    Thank you, guys, for the fast and informative responses!

    Serviam, I am no Finale master, so learning a different way of doing things in Dorico would not be a major issue. It does sound like Dorico is a bit friendlier when it comes to non-metrical music, and that's certainly a selling point.

    I use the Meinrad fonts when I'm setting square notation, so that front is covered.

    I'll see what I can learn online about both Dorico and LilyPond before I make a decision. I have seen loads of LilyPond scores and actually hadn't heard of Dorico until today.


  • m_r_taylor
    Posts: 156
    I was first a Finale user way back, then a Sibelius 6 user. I recently chose to purchase Dorico - got the crossgrade discount - because I saw the original developer of Sibelius had left that company and started Dorico himself, and it seems like it is continually moving forward on development. The creator said that they may even consider adding chant notation capabilities (though it is not a current development priority)! In addition, the default look of Dorico looks professional enough - I've never, ever liked Finale and Sibelius' base engraving rules and fonts. Though it's certainly possible to achieve nice looks on them, I don't have the time to learn the ins and outs. I'd rather have a good look right out of the box. I have barely used it yet - it's going to take a little while to get used to engraving. @ServiamScores, the open meter capabilities sound FANTASTIC. I can't wait.
    Thanked by 2marymezzo CHGiffen
  • Mary, check out the Dorico YouTube channel. They have tons of videos there that demonstrate new features and how to do various things.
    Thanked by 1marymezzo
  • bangerman
    Posts: 31
    Definitely take advantage of Dorico’s 30-day free trial. You will need the full version to use all of the features mentioned above. Skip the $99 Elements version. I had installed it hoping it would allow a basic amount of customization, but it’s extremely limited, which I guess is the point.
    Thanked by 1marymezzo
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,142
    Sibelius 7 gives similar results to ServiamScore's, and one can assemble (non-oblique) neumes in the make symbols/edit noteheads menu. For multiple stanzas like the attached it's an attractive alternative to Gregorio.

    As an aside, in stemless notation remembering to globally turn melody stems downward before hiding ensures that the slurs go on top!
  • davido
    Posts: 311
    I use Lilypond and MuseScore. Lilypond has a very steep learning curve, especially is you want to do any larger projects.
    MuseScore is a FREE! it’s not bad at unmetered notation: you hide the initial time signature then go into measure edit mode and change the actual number of beats in the measure to what you need. You can cycle through, changing every measure in the score. A little simpler than a custom time signature for each measure.
    Thanked by 2Don9of11 marymezzo
  • Sibelius 7 can't do anything close to what Dorico can. Aspects of the program like slurs and note spacing are fundamentally broken, ugly, and unmusical. At least with other programs you can customize them.

    I really don't see a purpose in buying Sibelius any more except for its compositional tools, which were excellent the last time I used it.
    Thanked by 1marymezzo
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,598
    MuseScore is easy to use and free. Granted, it may not do everything you would want. I have owned Finale for years and still find it difficult to use. It is too expensive and I forget the details of how it works when I don't use it regularly. Is it intuitive? You be the judge but I sometimes think it isn't.
    Thanked by 2Don9of11 marymezzo
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 379
    I use MuseScore too and it's free! I like it and its easy to learn and there is a nice forum for help if you get stuck on something. Doing unmetrical notation is easy once you learn the steps. It does not do square notes, so if you're looking for that feature you may have to try something like Gregorio.
    Thanked by 1marymezzo
  • marymezzomarymezzo
    Posts: 204
    Thanks, all!

    I have downloaded MuseScore and will play around with it because free is always a good thing. I'll also check out the Dorico vids.
    Thanked by 1Don9of11
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,142
    James (if I may call you that) has made me curious about spacing; here at least you can compare apples to apples:
  • Yes, of course. I used to use a compositional nom-de-plume but that stopped a while back and now my editions are out there.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,643
    In your position: Dorico

    I got Dorico when it came out, and got v. 2. I've never really worked with it much because of time, and because of my ingrained finale habits. The worst for me was their step-time system, which was opposite Finale's (press the MIDI keyboard note, THEN the time value on the keypad). But I've heard that since 3.5, there's an option to reverse that and do it Finale-style.
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  • Jeffrey is correct. You can choose note before duration or duration before note.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,937
    @ServiamScores

    My post was not clear. I do not use a music app to set noteheads to create chant scores. I use a layout app - text blocks for setting type. All music elements are simply moveable graphics whether note heads (neumes), staff, episemas, etc. The example I posted was created with InDesign.
  • I have MuseScore2. Free is indeed good. There is one thing about it that is really annoying me at the moment---if I enter, say, four eighth notes in a row for two syllables, each bearing two eighth notes, it engraves them all together in one bar. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to break up the bar. This is driving me well and truly nuts.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,415
    If you're comfortable enough with using Finale, it is not a problem at all to write stemless notes. There is an easy way to achieve it, in fact. To get stemless notes for a particular staff, you can uncheck "Stems" box in the Edit Staff Attributes box for that staff, and you can do this either before or after you have entered the notes.

    For other tidbits on how I set chant in stemless notation with Finale, see my comments and worksheet in:

    https://forum.musicasacra.com/forum/discussion/12198/the-great-debate-finale-vs.-sibelius/p1

    Thanked by 1marymezzo
  • davido
    Posts: 311
    Anna,
    First, can you upgrade to the current version of MuseScore (3.2.5)?
    Then, I think what you want is to change the “beam” of the eighth notes (“bar” refers to measure). The default beaming can be changed via the beaming properties panel. Select the note you want to affect, then double click the beaming style that you wish the note to have.
    Thanked by 1Anna_Bendiksen
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 379
    Anna, there are a couple ways to take care of this. If you right click on the time signature you will see "Time Signature Properties" and you will see toward the bottom of the window, 1/8, 1/16, and 1/32 notes. If you select the vary last note and click on it, say for 1/8 you can break the beam bars. You also have the "Beam Properties" in the left hand palate which allow you to beam or break the beam.
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    Thanked by 1Anna_Bendiksen
  • It worked!! Deo gratias!! Thanks so much for the guidance.

    I am beaming :-)
    Thanked by 2Don9of11 CHGiffen
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 836
    I've been using Finale for so long, it would be tough to change platforms at this point. I also spent the money on the Medieval font which looks quite nice for chant notation and fixes the meter issue, but...

    My biggest issue with Finale is with the lyrics tool. It has never been improved in all the years I've used it. Since I mostly deal with choral arrangements and hymns working with Finale lyrics is quite tedious. For example, importing lyrics from a word document and the font automatically changes to Finale lyrics, which I don't like. Then after changing to the desired font for verse 1 the process has to be repeated for all subsequent verses. Why? There's also a glitch I haven't figured out where lyrics will simply disappear (which is why I never type them directly into a score, but copy and past from a word document where I can use spell check and hyphenate, etc.). It seems that the developers are only concerned with instrumental music.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Now that my beaming problem has been fixed, I am wondering whether there is a way in MuseScore2 to add notes---not the musical variety, but my thoughts as the author, e.g. "I was inspired to write this hymn after seeing the anguish my pet iguana experienced from liturgical choice X on the Feast of St. Francis." Or perhaps I simply need to keep separate files.
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 379
    Anna, I think you mean "comments"? There is away, read through this section on "rehearsal remarks"
  • Don9of11, thanks so much for responding. I'm seeing a way to add rehearsal marks but not seeing a place for comments, though...
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 379
    Anna, There is no option that I know of for you to add comments like you would for a word document or editing a PDF. You could use the Staff Text option or Text Frame option as a work around. I guess it would depend on what your comments might entail. For Staff Text, highlight any note and then double-click Staff Text in the palette window. (See first image) The Text Frame is another option but not really what you are looking for (see second image)

    Another option is "Layers" but I don't know how they work. If you take a look on the musescore forum you might find some other work arounds.


    I just saw this on the musescore forum. Maybe this is what you are looking for?
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