Tuesday, 8 March 2011

MuseScore: Free music composition & notation software

MuseScore is a free cross-platform WYSIWYG music notation program, that offers a cost-effective alternative to professional programs such as Sibelius and Finale.
You can print beautifully engraved sheet music or save it as PDF or MIDI file.

Some highlights: Screenshot

  • WYSIWYG, notes are entered on a "virtual note sheet"
  • Unlimited number of staves
  • Up to four voices per staff
  • Easy and fast note entry with your keyboard, mouse, or MIDI keyboard
  • Integrated sequencer and FluidSynth software synthesizer
  • Import and export of MusicXML and Standard MIDI Files
  • Available for Windows, Mac and Linux
  • Translated in 35 languages
  • GNU GPL licensed

We all run into this problem: You have a part to play but you need to insert a few bars of a line borrowed from another instrument, or you need to transpose the Eb Horn for your F Horn, or you need to move Bass Baritone to Treble Clef Bb, all sorts of little tasks that shouldn't need hundreds of dollars worth of software to do them, and they don't, because MuseScore does all of this and more, for free.

But is MuseScore up to the job? I think so: I was reminded of MuseScore a few days ago reading about the Petrucci Music Library plan to convert the complete Goldberg Variations into a free and open format for download and study; I figure if MuseScore is ready for Bach, it will pretty much do anything our ensemble might require.

And there's more, much more, because MuseScore is "free software", meaning it isn't owned by anyone, it is owned, built, improved and supported directly by the people who use it everyday. That's you and me and thousands of other people; it's like a great software barn-raising, you don't buy free software so much as you join it, you become part of a greater community of musicians, developers and developer-musicians who all work together to solve the problems, help each other, teach each other, address the issues, set the goals and add the features. So the software stays focused and current, and, the best part, you get a say in the matter because you're part of the team; everyone is welcome because that's how it is done, and that fact alone is more than worth the price of admission :)

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