Sibelius is a WYSIWYG scorewriter program, created by Sibelius Software (now part of Avid Technology) for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. It is used by composers, arrangers, performers, music publishers, teachers and students, particularly for writing classical, jazz, band, vocal, film and television music. Sibelius’s primary function is the creation, editing and printing of musical scores. It supports virtually all music notations, enabling even the most complex of scores to be reproduced to publication quality. Additionally, it allows scores to be played back or turned into MIDI or audio files.
Sibelius users can publish their scores from the software via the Internet or iPads. Anyone else using software called Scorch can then view these scores, play them back, transpose them, change instruments, and print them out. The iPad version of Scorch also includes a store containing over 250,000 scores from publishers Music Sales, Hal Leonard, and ScoreExchange.com.
Sibelius claims to be the world’s best-selling scorewriter, with “hundreds of thousands of users in 100 countries”. ‘Lite’ versions of Sibelius (with fewer features, at a lower price) have been released, as have various add-ons for the software. Despite this the software is priced quite high at around 500$, so not everyone can buy it. So, let’s have a look at some open source alternatives to Sibelius and similar scorewriting program Finale.
MuseScore is an open source scorewriter licensed under GNU GPL. It has a feature set comparable to Sibelius and Finale, supporting a wide variety of file formats and input methods. MuseScore’s main purpose is the creation, editing and printing of various types of musical scores in a “WYSIWYG” environment. It supports most types of notation, including jazz lead sheets, and prints or exports high quality engraved sheets. MuseScore’s notation engine conforms to industry notation standards.
MuseScore can natively import MusicXML, MIDI, Band-in-a-Box, capella and Overture formats, as well as its own MuseScore format. It can export to MusicXML, MIDI, and LilyPond file formats. The MuseScore Connect feature allows musicians to publish and share their music on-line. MuseScore.com allows paying subscribers to share their scores created in MuseScore through this feature. An Android version is also available which only allows for the playback of scores.
The latest version of MuseScore is 2.0.3.
LilyPond is a open source computer program and file format for music engraving. Its primary goal is to produce output comparable to professionally engraved scores instead of output that looks mechanical and computer-generated. LilyPond supports experimental musical notation. Its guitar facilities support alternative tunings, such as major-thirds tuning.
LilyPond is mostly written in C++ and uses Scheme as its extension language, allowing for user customization. It uses a simple text notation for music input, which LilyPond interprets and processes in a series of stages. In the final stage, music notation is output to PDF or other graphical formats, such as SVG or PNG. LilyPond also has the facility to generate MIDI files that correspond to the music notation output.
LilyPond is a text-based application, so it does not contain its own graphical user interface. It does, however, have a flexible input language that strives to be simple, easing the learning curve for new users. LilyPond adheres to the WYSIWYM paradigm.
The latest version of LilyPond is 2.18.2.
Rosegarden is an open source DAW program developed for Linux with ALSA and QT4. It acts as an audio and MIDI sequencer, scorewriter and musical composition and editing tool. It is intended to be a free alternative to such applications as Cubase.
Software synthesizer is available as a plugin, and it is possible to use external MIDI synthesizer, hardware or software (such as FluidSynth or TiMidity++) in order to make any sound from MIDI compositions. Recent versions of Rosegarden support the DSSI software synthesizer plugin interface, and can use some Windows VST plugins through an adapter. It can export to Csound, LilyPond and MusicXML formats.
The latest version of Rosegarden is 16.02.
Frescobaldi is an open source editor for LilyPond music files. It aims to be powerful, yet lightweight and easy to use. It is is written in Python and uses PyQt4 for its user interface. It can run on all major operating systems (GNU/Linux, Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows).
Some of its features are – Powerful text editor with syntax highlighting and automatic completion, Music view with advanced Point & Click, Midi player to proof-listen LilyPond-generated MIDI files, Powerful Score Wizard to quickly set up a music score, Snippet Manager to store and apply text snippets, templates or scripts, Modern user interface with configurable colors, fonts and keyboard shortcuts and more.
The latest version of Frescobaldi is 2.19.0.
Denemo is a open source graphical interface for music notation, mainly to GNU LilyPond, a program for engraving musical scores. It helps prepare notation for publishing and lets a user rapidly enter notation, simultaneously typesetting via the LilyPond music engraver. Music can be typed in using a PC keyboard, taken from MIDI input, or played into a microphone plugged into a soundcard. The program plays back via an internal sampler and can act as a JACK/MIDI client.
Denemo can output entire scores as well as excerpts in a number of formats including LilyPond files (.ly), PD , MIDI, WAV, OGG and PNG graphic files. The program allows the user to place links in the music to original source manuscripts/prints (in PDF files) allowing cross-checking of transcriptions. It also allows audio recordings to be linked to a notated score with synchronization via automatically detected note-onsets.
The latest version of Denemo is 2.0.8.
TuxGuitar is an open source tablature editor. It includes basic features such as tablature editing, score editing, triplet support and the ability to import and export Guitar Pro gp3, gp4, and gp5 files. In addition, TuxGuitar can function as a basic MIDI editor using the tablature or staff interface, and as of the 1.0 release, can import and export MIDI files.
TuxGuitar’s mascot and namesake is Tux, the penguin mascot of many games and programs originally designed for Linux. It is written using the Java programming language with the GUI toolkits SWT and GTK. Released under GNU Lesser General Public License, TuxGuitar is free and open source software.
The latest version of TuxGuitar is 1.3.2.
Impro-Visor is an open source educational tool for creating and playing a lead sheet, with a particular orientation toward representing jazz solos. The philosophy of Impro-Visor is to provide a tool to help musicians construct jazz solos over chord progressions. It includes a database capability for creating, saving, and recalling licks, as well as a lick generation capability based on a user-modifiable grammar.
Impro-Visor saves lead sheets in a textual notation, and lead sheets may be created from that notation as well as by point-and-click. The notation was designed to be friendly to the jazz musician, by resembling directly what appears on the lead sheet staff. Recent versions added a feature for learning a grammar from a corpus of transcribed solos. The learned grammar loosely approximates the playing style of the soloist by creating abstract melodies from the solos, which can be re-instantiated into similar melodies through the grammar.
The latest version of Impro-Visor is 8.0 Beta.
8) Power Tab Editor (Bonus)
Power Tab Editor is a free tablature authoring tool for Windows. It is used to create guitar, bass and ukulele tablature scores, among many others. The current version uses the *.ptb file format. It is able to import MIDI tracks, and can export to ASCII Text, HTML, and MIDI formats. In addition, individual sections may be exported as bitmap files.
The program allows for tablature scores to be created alongside standard musical notation. The software achieves this through the input of tablature. Each Power Tab file contains two scores: guitar and bass. Only one score needs to be used for a Power Tab file. For proper playback, it is required that the time signatures and tempo markers be consistent between the two scores. Power Tab also features several tools to enhance appearance, accuracy and playback for the transcribed music.
The latest version of Power Tab Editor is 1.7.