I found an easy and free program to notate and share new music called MuseScore. Did I mention it was free? All of my mass parts were notated with this program. It is pretty easy to use with a lot of drag and drop options and there are some nice youtube tutorials on the home page to help you get started.
In college I learned how to notate by hand. I took an orchestration class where I arranged music for full orchestra on staff paper that was almost the size of a poster! When I’m composing a new song, I still rely on good old staff paper and pencil. It’s just easier to scribble out notes and edit while sitting at the piano. Distributing your music is entirely different. You want to be able to share with people something legible, clean, and preferably professional looking. Finale was the program we used in our music theory program at KU, but it retails today from $300-$600 (Amazon) depending on the version. I have heard great things about Sibelius, but I’ve not ever used it. The full pro version retails on Amazon for $479.99. Both programs have smaller editions available as well as educational discounts for teachers and students. I’ll include affiliate links at the end of the post for all in case you end up making a purchase and would like to give worshipmusicministry credit. Amazon might buy us a cup of coffee. 😉
I would imagine that both Finale & Sibelius have many more options and abilities than MuseScore. To be fair, it’s been close to ten years since I’ve used Finale, so I would think there’s been tremendous improvements in what was the standard notation software when I was using it. For what I’m doing now sharing music with a praise band, I need something inexpensive and user friendly. I don’t have an abundance of time to relearn a new piece of software. I’m also not notating something for a bunch of instruments or need individual parts. That being said, there are a lot of pretty powerful tools available in this open source program.
First of all, if you have a midi interface and a keyboard, you can play in the notes. I don’t have that kind of setup and I’m not that skilled on the keys anyway, so I go in note by note. There are some short cut commands that make this faster. I love the fact that there is a midi plugin for playing back what you’ve written. This helps with funky rhythms that a lot of contemporary music has. I like all of the drag and drop features that make the user experience pretty easy. I was used to a tool box in Finale where you selected a tool and then clicked on a note or measure to insert it. In MuseScore you often just drag something like a line break or an articulation to the note or measure where you want it.
Another handy feature is the ability to export it to an Acrobat .pdf file. This is great for e-mailing a copy of your sheet music to a friend who may not have MuseScore on their computer. I know that you can export a score into individual parts for instruments, but I haven’t had the need to do that yet. Basically, I am notating a melody line and inserting my chord symbols above so that band mates can play along and read the melody. If you need to transpose your music this is easy too! Just change your key signature and all of your notes will transpose automatically. The way I’m entering chord symbols as text, I do have to manually change those, but it still is saving me a ton of time in not having to notate the entire song all over again.
You have the ability to change the layout of your score and adjust how close your lyrics are to the staff and how close your staff systems are to each other. Here’s a tip: don’t settle for default fonts. One thing that makes my scores looker more professional and clean is just changing fonts. I’m not a fan of Times New Roman. I use Arial for my staff instructions and then find something else for my titles and footnotes. Lately, I’ve been using Century Gothic. I read somewhere that it uses the least amount of ink compared to any other font. I try to save as much ink as possible.
For the average worship leader out there who needs to be able to share a new song with the band, this is a perfect program at the right price! If you have experience with any of these programs and would like to add your opinion, leave me comments here on the blog so that we can hear about it.
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