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Free Music Notation Software

Guest Author - Allan Harris

The other day one of my students was looking for a free notation program or one that was low cost. After a search on the web I found one called MuseScore. And it’s an open source program (free).

Usually I’m leery of open source programs, because although they are free, there is typically little or no documentation that comes with them. Or a lot of times, the documentation is hard to understand.

With MuseScore, I was pleasantly surprised. In fact a lot of the keyboard shortcuts (keys you can press instead of using the mouse) are the same as for Sibelius, a rather high end notation program that I use.

MuseScore is available for Windows, Mac or Ubuntu. And you can download the current version at: http://musescore.org/.

Once you install it to your hard drive, you can input notes from your computer keyboard, or from a MIDI keyboard if you have one. The program lets you hear the notes as you’re inputting them, and if you make a mistake, you can use the up and down arrow keys to move the note to where you want it to be.

You can use your computer’s built-in synthesizer to play back what you’re composing and hear the different instrument sounds.

When you first set up a new file, you can choose the instruments you’d like for your score. The main categories are:

• Woodwinds
• Brass
• Pitched Percussion
• Unpitched percussion
• Guitars
• Vocals
• Keyboards
• Plucked Strings
• Strings

And each of those categories contain many instruments. For example, the “guitars” folder has 16 different instruments; everything from 12-string guitar and bass guitar to mandolin, ukulele, banjo and even sitar.

On the home page for MuseScore, you’ll find six videos to help you get started with the program. For the most part, these are great videos – easy to understand. If you live in Britain you will be familiar with the terms minim, crotchet, etc. If you are familiar with American terms, you will be use to the terms half note, quarter note, etc.

Overall, as I said before, I’m surprised at the maturity of this open source software for notation. It looks like many people have taken great pains to contribute to its development, and the videos are very good.

In a future article I will cover how to make a lead sheet (melody and chords) using this notation program, because that’s something that a lot of musicians need to know how to do. And with this program you can make great looking lead sheets.

All the best,

Allan,
BellaOnline’s Musician Editor
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Content copyright © 2014 by Allan Harris. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Allan Harris. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Sabira Woolley for details.

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