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Topic: Free Notation Programs

  1. #1

    Free Notation Programs

    Anybody have any experience with Lilly Pond or MuseScore? I'm going to be trying one of them soon and was wondering which is best. I will be exporting my projects from Sonar. Any input appreciated!
    michael diemer

  2. #2

    Re: Free Notation Programs

    I will be exporting my projects from Sonar.
    I am not sure I can help but I need to know what the above statement means. Usually notation programs are used to write music in the standard notation format then export them to a DAW (like Sonar) to manipulate the sounds of the instruments for a more realistic rendition.

    Your statement looks to mean the reverse. Do you mean you want to take a file you developed in Sonar and export it to a music notation program so that you can get a written score? If that is the case then be aware that midi translations to notation software are not the cleanest conversions. Quantization settings can cause less than perfect conversions leaving quite a messy looking musical notation.

    Let us know exactly what it is you want the notation program for and that might help clarify the type of program you need.
    [Music is the Rhythm, Harmony and Breath of Life]
    "Music is music, and a note's a note" - Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong


  3. #3

    Re: Free Notation Programs

    Yes, I'm doing the reverse of what most folks do. For years I have worked in sonar, and produced barely passable scores. but I'm just a hobbyist, so I didn't sweat it. with the advent of decent, free notation, I now want to produce something better. What I do is, I first make a clone of the work, but without any plug-ins. I then correct as much as I can of Sonar's limited notation. Then I would do stuff by hand. but now I hope to export into notation. I would be correcting any quantization etc before export, so as to get as clean a score as I can.

    Sonar's staff view is actually pretty good for working on a piece. It allows unlimited scrolling up-down and forward-back, so you can quickly navigate where you need to go. I do all my midi editing in it. It's why I haven't switched to a DAW with better notation, like DP or Cubase. If I can get a good workflow by using a notation software, so much the better!
    michael diemer

  4. #4
    Senior Member fastlane's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Shelton, Washington State

    Re: Free Notation Programs

    I guess you're saying you do your editing in staff view. If you are already setting your notes within structured measures and not free time for a more realistic natural playback file then I guess that's about as good as you're going to get for exporting into another notation program.

    You'll just have to see if you get a decent import or a least something that is usable and whether the free notation programs are worth using.

  5. #5

    Re: Free Notation Programs

    Hey Michael!

    I know from my experience of importing midi files into Finale, there is a whole lot of editing involved to get the notes to work out. For example, I just imported a midi file version of "Our Day Will Come" into Finale 2012. Here's what it looks like:

    That's most of the first two pages. Now, this looks much better than a lot of files do, and this is working in Finale, one of the best notation programs around. Instruments are indicated only on the first page. Acoustic bass on the top line looks pretty good, but there are extra rests that may not be what the original arranger wanted. Unfortunately, the drums are not very usable, but that may not be something you really need to worry about anyway, depending on your charts. Muted trumpets are down toward the bottom and is all on the same line.

    Now this is using a really good notation program. I honestly can't imagine a free engraving program is going to give you even this much to work with. Many will dump everything all on one line, which would be totally unusable for you. I've tried what you talked about, dumping Sonar midi files back into Finale. In fact, I had to do that recently on a symphonic chart I was working on because I made several changes in the score in Sonar, so I had to correct the score I had been working on in Finale, so I imported the midi file I created in Sonar. It was a nightmare making all the corrections.

    I just wanted to let you know what challenges you may face. It's totally possible. That said, I do have a suggestion. I would suggest trying Finale Notepad. It's free and it can import midi files. It does have some limitations, but this might help you out. You can find it here:


    Hope this helps, Michael!

    Gary A.
    Serenity Musician (Gary A.)

    Lenovo, Windows 10 64 bit, 20 gig ram, 2 terabyte hd., M-Audio, Finale 25, Sonar

  6. #6

    Re: Free Notation Programs

    Thanks Gary! I'm expecting a lot of weirdness when I finally go ahead and try this. My projects are all full orchestra so it should be quite hairy. As I stated, I first will produce an ammended score in Sonar, so that all notes will be the proper values and in the right places. I'm hoping that this alleviates some of the issues I've heard tell of. I am aware of Finale Notepad and will look into this as well. I'll try all three and report on my experiences.

    Also thanks Fastlane for your reply. much appreciated.
    michael diemer

  7. #7

    Re: Free Notation Programs

    Hi Michael,

    My advice would be to try MuseScore. I've tried them both and gave up totally with Lilypond.

    Musescore is not half bad, especially for a freebie. It can produce a good printed output.
    It can at least import MIDI files, and allows you to work on the resulting file much as Finale or Sibelius do, but it hasn't yet reached the levels of sophistication that they manage.
    I use Finale, having been able to take advantage of a special offer some time back, to get me the 2012 version at a competitive price I could afford.

    Lilypond is capable of extremely high quality printed output, but the effort involved in getting there was too much for me.
    Musescore was definitely 'more accessible', IMHO. Certainly worth a try and some perseverance. But perseverance is true of them all.

    Any help?
    Author of MIDI tutorials at http://midi-tutor.proboards.com/index.cgi

  8. #8

    Re: Free Notation Programs

    Thanks John, that is indeed helpful. My sense was that Musescore might be the better of the two, although I'm not sure why I thought that. Perhaps more folks have recommended it to me. So that will be what I try first, and if it works out, I'll probably go with it.
    michael diemer

  9. #9

    Re: Free Notation Programs

    Allegro Data Solutions

  10. #10
    Senior Member tedvanya's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Canada,winter Mexico

    Re: Free Notation Programs

    Hello Michael:

    I am in the same boat, and working in Sonar X3 Studio. As you are saying, the staff view looks fine, but printing it out is very poor, the bars are unnecessary huge, and , at least me, can only select all and print it.
    You are saying that you can export it to an other program? How do you do this?
    I have to give scores to small orchestras and trios, and I am ashamed of the poor quality.
    Which Sonar do you use and how do you export scores?

    Thanks \Ted

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