Composer's Toolbox

a blog for the composers and audiences of today's music.

Category: How to compose

MuseScore, Lilypond, and Dorico User Reviews

As part of the music notation software survey (see post Music Notation Software User Reviews), I collected comments from 16 MuseScore users, 5 Lilypond users, and 5 Dorico users.  The comments from respondents who allowed me to publish their feedback are below.

MuseScore, Lilypond, and Dorico User Reviews

I think you will find these comments quite interesting; some reinforce the ideas of strengths and weaknesses of these programs, and others offer new perspectives.  Most users agree that MuseScore is great for beginning musicians and for music that isn’t extremely complicated.  The reverse is true for Lilypond, but those who use it attest to the ability to create beautiful engravings.  Dorico is thought of as the modern day tool that is rising quickly to the top, for its ease of use and functionality (even though some features are lacking).
Take a look and see for yourself!  These are unedited comments.  Some respondents referenced their previous responses in these comments, so they may say something that doesn’t seem to directly address the question.  In order to preserve anonymity, I have left these as-is, i.e. out of context to the respondent’s prior responses.  The result is that while almost all of the comments make sense, some are a little out of context.

Table of Contents

Section 1: What MuseScore Users Think, and What Their Peers Think About MuseScore

Section 2: What Lilypond Users Think, and What Their Peers Think About Lilypond

Section 3: What Dorico Users Think, and What Their Peers Think About Dorico

What MuseScore Users Think, and What Their Peers Think About MuseScore

In all, most users agree that it is the best value–a free program that can create great results for beginning, and many experienced, musicians.  Users say it is easy to use, but lacks playback functionality/quality and is more of a stepping stone to the big names (that aren’t free).
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Please comment on your experience with MuseScore

Musescore has served me very well in several of the projects I’ve undertaken. Yet it lacks something that I can’t put my finger on that I’m hoping to find with finale.
Musescore is easy to use and does the job; however, it’s open-sources nature leaves holes in terms of professionalism and esteem, as well as playback, something important.
Playback could use some work.
Pretty useful, but often has problems when using extended notation.
University assignments and song writing
I find Musescore easy to use mostly, but there are some awkward steps when inputting notes going into/out of edit mode. Generally an exceptional software considering it’s free.
~4 years
Excellent and easy to use.
Absolutely the best, free common notation software that I’ve used. The limiations are inarguable, though. Most common features are easy to use, but some non-elementary elements are hard to find or non intuitive to use. Modern notation is bery limited, but there apparently is a wide selection of plugins online.
limited
muse score is excellent for its price (0) but comes short in terms of features
Having community choirs access scores and be able to learn their vocal parts through an MuseScore group, on the MuseScore app is terrific.
Overall very good
Pretty positive, fairly easy to get the hang of.
pretty good, especially considering it’s free
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What do your friends/fellow musicians say about MuseScore?

they think its a good place to start as its free and easy to use
Many of them also use musescore, and they have neutral opinions of its arrangement availabilities which is its only use for them.
It’s nice, but output sounds are not enough in quality.
They reckon it’s pretty good.
Good as it is free
Have not asked
Musescore is a great piece of software, and it’s free!
Don’t know any musicians who have used it yet.
Good enough for basic and intermediate writing, but lacks of many interesting features.
they like it because it is free, and has a fairly robust template, also is easier to use than Lilypond and a couple of others.
they dont use it
It transforms what non-reading community singers can do to help themselves learn a new piece.
They do like it as well.
Its alright, but there are better/higher end programs out there.
it’s a great free software
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What Lilypond Users Think, and What Their Peers Think About Lilypond

LilyPond users and their peers acknowledge that it is a hard program to learn, but for many it is very fast and effective to use once they get the hang of it.  It has no playback functionality, so some users use other programs for MIDI mockups.  They like that it is free to use.
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Please comment on your experience with Lilypond

I really like the look of Lilypond. Once I learned it, I’ve been able to input music just as quickly (perhaps more quickly) than I did with Sibelius. Lilypond is for engraving only, though — it is not intuitive for composing-at-the-computer. I’m finding opportunities where I may need to score at the computer and move MIDI files into Reason or Ableton, so I may go back to Finale or Sibelius for some projects.
Worth the effort
Does a great job
Coming from a world where LaTeX is the gold standard for document preparation, Lilypond was a very natural fit for music notation for me. It isn’t for everyone, at least not without extra front-end GUI tools… but for me, computer-keyboard entry matters much more than mouse or MIDI entry does. (My previous software, Mozart, was also chosen largely on the ease of typing in music – it justly calls itself “the music processor”, analogizing word processors.)
I love using it. It’s incredibly powerful and gets me farther down the road to a well-engraved score much faster than with other apps.
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What do your friends/fellow musicians say about Lilypond?

“It’s too hard!” “What, it’s all text?”
Great for engraving
Tough to learn unless you have decent technology skills
It’s a niche choice that some of the ‘pros’ don’t take seriously, but the output is clean and beautiful, and the price is perfect.
They think it does amazing work, but they feel it’s too much programming for their taste.
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What Dorico Users Think, and What Their Peers Think About Dorico

These users and their peers are excited about Dorico, but are hesitant to arrive at a final verdict until more features are released.  It is worth noting that between the time of the original survey and now, Dorico version 2 has been released.  This may change the opinions of users and their colleagues if I were to run this survey next year.
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Please comment on your experience with this software

Dorico, while not up to snuff on features with Finale and Sibelius, is much easier to refine parts once they have been entered. The process of entering notes is much different, but can be customized to really enhance the program overall. I’ve been enjoying using it and while there are a few things where I have to pull Finale back out, I think that it has the most potential out of all the current programs on the market.
Fantastic support, fast growth, astonishing lack of bugs compared ot other leading program(s)
it is the first software that allows an output similar to the finest art of engraving
Dorico: only at version 1, but the thought put into it, the intelligent layout, the overall use of it makes it the software I intend to use for the foreseeable future. I especially like the playback possibilities with numerous sample libraries. Popovers are brilliant.
I was using Finale professionally from 2011 until 2017. It got the job done but was always a frustrating and hair-pulling experience. It still doesn’t have “real” support for cues in parts. It’s buggy and slow in daily use. It consistently moves dynamics that are linked in the score/parts when you’re not looking, so no matter how carefully you set everything, the final printing invariably has something wrong.
Switching to Dorico made me enjoy the editing/engraving process. For the first time I didn’t feel like I was fighting with s program that hated me. In short, they’re still adding features but each one that they DO add is miles ahead of the competition.
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What do your friends/fellow musicians say about Dorico?

Not a lot. I was one of the first ones to jump in and really start using it professionally.   I think everyone around me is simply waiting until the program gets more recognition for what it can do, and receives its Version 2 update.
N/A
They like it, although some are not using it as the main software due to some missing features.
Through forums I discern that most people with an open mind love Dorico and see it as the notation software to use going forward; the whiners are going to whine.
From what I’ve seen, the majority of people who try it come away impressed. The biggest issue people have is when they need a feature that doesn’t exist yet.
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Finale and Sibelius User Reviews

As part of the music notation software survey (see post Music Notation Software User Reviews), I collected comments from 48 Finale users and 74 Sibelius users.  The comments from respondents who allowed me to publish their feedback are below.

Finale and Sibelius User Reviews

I think you will find these comments quite interesting; some reinforce the ideas of strengths and weaknesses of Finale and Sibelius, and others expose many cracks in the typical narrative that Finale is clunky and Sibelius is great.  Many users agree that Finale sacrifices some ease of use in exchange for greater functionality, and that Sibelius sacrifices some functionality in exchange for greater ease of use.
Take a look and see for yourself!  These are unedited comments.  Some respondents referenced their previous responses in these comments, so they may say something like “see above” or “as I said previously”.  In order to preserve anonymity, I have left these as-is, i.e. out of context to the respondent’s prior responses.  The result is that while almost all of the comments make sense, some are a little out of context.

Table of Contents

Section 1: What Finale Users Think, and What Their Peers Think About Finale

Section 1a: Please comment on your experience with Finale

Section 1b: What do your friends/fellow musicians say about Finale?

Section 2: What Sibelius Users Think, and What Their Peers Think About Sibelius

Section 2a: Please comment on your experience with Sibelius

Section 2b: What do your friends/fellow musicians say about Sibelius?

What Finale Users Think, and What Their Peers Think About Finale

In general, Finale users are happy with the software, primarily because it affords the ability to make scores as detailed and complex as they like. Many also say that they have invested so much time and effort into the software that switching programs seems too burdensome.
The Finale/Sibelius debate rages on. Most of the Finale users in the survey agree that Finale is more powerful, but Sibelius is easier to use. These users for the most part prefer the power to the ease of use, but some use MuseScore or other programs to supplement their Finale work.
Many users have colleagues who encourage them to switch, but some of the respondents don’t like the quality or capabilities of programs such as MuseScore or Sibelius. Still, others are not satisfied customers, using terse responses that indicate their disappointment with the software.
Overall, most users agree that it is the industry standard, and while it is not as easy to use as other programs, it allows composers and engravers to create nearly any type of notation.
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Please comment on your experience with Finale

I’ve used Finale for 20 years. Generally speaking, I have encountered very few problems. The few problems I have had were easy to fix with the help of their customer service department.
Finale is the primary software I use mainly because I work for a hymn publisher. I started with Musescore and still go back to it every once in a while because it is much easier to move notes around in.
I have been using Finale since 1999. I prize it particularly for the flexibility of its engraving, allowing me to realize any of the wacky notation schemes I can imagine.
I’ve been using Finale since I was in high school (over 25 years). A lot of my comfort level with the program comes from the fact that I have such a level of familiarity with it.
Still finding quicker ways within the program to input music.
Finale has the capacity to do anything you need short of some very heavy graphic notation. It may take some workarounds to get there, but with a little customization and input from the community you can do anything with it quickly.
Finale is a great program but has a high learning curve and is not as modern feeling as it could be (from a user perspective). It does all it really needs to do to create great looking scores.
I’ve been using Finale since 2001. It does more or less what I need it to do (and sometimes I need it to do pretty unusual or heterodox things!).
Finale is the top of the line, I wouldn’t dream of using anything else.
I have been using Finale since version 2.7 in the early 1990’s. It’s very difficult for me to imagine switching to a different notation software when I have so much expertise on one so powerful. That being said, I’m aware of the sunk cost fallacy and am monitoring developments with other platforms, particularly Dorico, as Finale does create barriers for creation with it’s laborious interface.
I have been using it for all of my composition/arranging life (maybe 10 years, +/-)
Although the learning curve is high the ability to customize is great enough to keep me from moving to other programs. That combined with being able to work quickly and not wanting to learn a new piece of software keep me with Finale.
I have used this program for many years, and while it still works OK and produces the best quality results, many things about it are crankier than they should be by now.
Overall Finale is a great program.   I have Finale 25. The Garritan playback sounds are not good. Bass Trombone sound is horrible. I’ve had a lot of playback issues and some times have to use midi sounds.   Some sounds are badly out of tune, especially choral voices.   I’m frustrated that this “professional” program has such poor playback voices.   I started with Finale 3.0 in 1994 and haven’t used any other program.
Handy, though unintuitive. Would like better support to extend techniques.
A bit cumbersome with age, but robust, and extremely flexible with add-ons and some kludges.
I mentioned before that finale gets very buggy the more complex your music becomes. Also dynamics refuse to stay locked.
Not great but it is easy to use and has decent playback sounds and – combined with using musescore for individual parts – is a reasonably decent free option
Finale has some strengths, but for any advanced notation it is very weak. Importing graphics or adding graphics to a score is particularly difficult. I’d also like some way of splitting a part for only a few systems, rather than having to create a whole part and hide it for most of the piece. Most of these problems are not unique to Finale, but they’ve had twenty years to solve them and haven’t done so, so I think it’s unlikely to happen in the near future.
Finale will get the job done, but I think there are probably much better options now. From what I’ve seen of Dorico, it seems like a much more artistically freeing, intuitive program with a faster workflow. I’ve used Finale for 10 years, and even after painstakingly working out the kinks through all that time, I’m not invested. I’m ready for a change.
Which software?
Sibelius was fantastic at one time. Sibelius 5 and 6 were truly astonishing software. After the development team were laid off in 2012, it began a downward spiral from which it has not recovered.
Finale is disappointing due to its unintuitive interface, outdated design, and reliance on plugins for essential functionality, though I’m more pleased with its features and versatility than I was with Sibelius before I left it behind.
I’ve had positive experiences with this software; I can accomplish everything I need to accomplish with it.
Finale has a huge number of bizarre bugs (symbols flying off the page, playback issues, notes that “correct” to the wrong place), but many of these can be fixed by quitting the program and reopening it. I find note entry to be incredibly quick and intuitive, and it allows for a great deal of customization for creating new symbols or integrating music and text.
Does (almost) everything I do
I learned Finale first, and although it’s a loveless marriage, I’m the most familiar with it, which means I’m not likely to change.
I have been using Finale for 25 years. I have tried other notation applications and have always returned to Finale.
Have used it since it was on floppy disks, playback still not great, percussion line input setup and playback are a pain for me, always have been, but in general it fulfills most of what I need and I don’t have the time or need to invest in learning new programme.
No problems
I find finale all too often has compatibility issues with school-owned or older desktop computers. I’ve had corrupted saves, crashing sessions, and entirely too many setbacks. I’ve moved to doing more engraving by hand because of it.
#finalesucks
Finale has gotten me far in my education/career but I find that it limits me from trying more sophisticated/advanced notation options. Additionally, it can be buggy at times and its formatting and parts creation is not optimal (there have been times where I’ve had to manually create parts rather than extract from the score, which adds an unacceptable number of hours to the process of getting a piece ready for performance). However, I must admit that Finale is a useful tool and can be quite versatile if one is willing to put the time in to learning all the ins and outs of the program (as well as the time and effort that it takes to deal with its shortcomings)
I’ve used Finale since 1997. My familiarity with the software almost prevents me from switching to another paid program.
It’s a bit unintuitive, but gets the job done
I am satisfied with the programme, considering its main purpose is to notate music
Does what I need it to do. Enables me to make detailed and complicated notations easily.
I know Finale pretty well at this point. It’s allowed me to do a lot of good things and for the most part it does not hinder my composition methods, however the interface and menu items are very klunky. I keep finding “shortcuts” accidentally that no one else seems to have heard of, my favorite being the one that spontaneously deletes all of the lyrics in your score.
I’ve been using this software since 1992. I’ve used it for various projects of various sizes. I’ve taught a number of people how to use the software. I use it multiple times each week.
I have yet to run into major problems. It works completely fine on my refurbished 2011 MacBook Pro. I use it compose for marching band, rewrite parts, and create comprehensive exercises for my students.
Still the only one suitable for avant-garde contemporary music, but very buggy.
Pretty good, yet if Finale added a better mixer things will be more better
Self taught. Currently using Finale 2003. Haven’t upgraded because this is just a hobby. Might upgrade when I retire from my non-music day job.
Like any notation software, it has it’s bugs and workarounds, but I’m not going to switch because of that. I’m just keeping my ears open to see if any other notation program is trying to up their game (i.g. Dorico).
Finale is quite good, though 1) I feel that I underuse the program possibilities 2) I feel that I use wrongly use some features 3) though I can’t use them better because it takes time to arrange it all — too many items to pay attention 4)some items move from version to version to some other places (I skip some) and that’s daunting 5) finalescript is very helpful, though it must be improved. Really, it makes no more than 5% of what I want it to be able to do.
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What do your friends/fellow musicians say about Finale?

My friends who don’t use Finale say it’s too complicated and/or that they prefer Sibelius. My friends who do use finale, say they love it.
All the hymn/worship song publishers I know use Finale, so it is the industry standard.
Most of my musician friends are Sibelius users, and feel that Finale is illogical and difficult to learn.
Generally see it as the gold standard.
Learning Finale is not as quick as learning Sibelius.
It is the industry standard for musical theatre and although it can be buggy, there are always workarounds and shortcuts.
It is made for a computer in the 90’s, it is expensive, there are other programs that are better.
I think some of them are more satisfied with it than others, but what are you gonna do? There’s not all that many options in the marketplace, and Finale certainly beats the free alternatives by a country mile.
We have a bit of a disagreement, as many prefer sibelius. However, I firmly believe that (while it has a steeper learning curve) finale has a far greater application than other softwares. It is the industry standard after all.
The Finale/Sibelius debate rages on! Typically the pro-Finale camp claims prettier engraving and publisher standards while the Sibelius crowd points to the difficult interface and note entry.
They seem to enjoy using it and appreciate it as a notational software.
Many colleagues use Sibelius and note that it is pretty much the same software. I have many students who use MuseScore since it is free and although it is fairly good the results are usually amateurish.
The main complaint pros have about notation software is letter-sized parts.
Haven’t heard any comments.
None of the people I know use Finale.
Same.
We all now think that it is garbage.
Most people I know prefer Sibelius.
Most people I know find Finale adequate for their needs – more than Sibelius. Several people who I know have moved to Dorico recently though.
With the exception of a few who’ve really, REALLY worked out all the shortcuts in Finale, everyone thinks it’s too difficult and unweildy.
Finale is versatile but lacks features (particularly usability features) that my friends and I feel are essential for creating a professional-looking score and parts efficiently.
Sibelius makes it easy to produce a professional-looking score and parts, but lack of attention from developers has left the program stagnant, buggy, and decreasingly relevant.
Compare it to Sibelius, pretty even split of favorably vs. unfavorably
Many friends say that Sibelius is better than Finale, though having tried Sibelius I find Finale more intuitive (maybe it’s just because I’m used to how it works). Many of these friends also eventually admit, after some hesitation, that Sibelius is more immediately simple and accessible, but Finale is a more powerful program.
Playback and sound samples take too long to load, and learning curve is too great.
Finale is famously buggy and, although significant improvements have been made through the years, still not as user-friendly as other software.
It’s like the debate between Mac and PCs. Finale users are typically very devoted to the software. They may complain about its limitations, bugs, etc. but they rarely use something else. Sibelius, Musescore and others have their devotees. Of course, many professional engravers must be proficient with both. There’s a lot of “buzz” about Dorico, but I think it’s going to be difficult for it to supplant Finale and Sibelius. They are the top dogs and other notation apps are niche apps with a small but dedicated following.
Doesn’t really matter to me I use it based on my own needs and experience, not someone else’s!
Mixed
More of the same.
almost all of them all hate finale. Only sibelius users are happy
They all tell me to switch to Sibelius…
N/A
It’s not easy to get into, and that Sibelius is better
Opinions are devided, some like it some prefer other options
It is not intuitive, too hard to learn.
Whenever I complain about Finale’s “quirks”, my Sibelius-using friends joke about how I should just switch. While I only use Finale for my own music, I recommend Sibelius to most of my non-composer musician friends because it is very user friendly and you don’t need a lot of manual-sifting in order to make an engraving. But I’ve invested too much time in making myself Finale savvy and it seems like it would be a waste to switch now.
Because it has been around for a long time, most users have evolved with the program. I feel certain other programs will supersede it since the company (current owners) don’t seem to be overly interested in upgrading the software.
They prefer Sibelius.
Most of them use it.
Its a good prog.
“Finale is too hard to learn.” I don’t believe them.
There is a steep learning curve and workarounds abound, but at the end of the day it’s still an incredibly powerful tool with great plugins (j.w. and TG tools).
Sibelius is more handsome, but my friends use Finale so that we’d have compatible programs
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What Sibelius Users Think, and What Their Peers Think About Sibelius

In general, Sibelius users are very happy with their use. The main complaints circle around playback issues, layout roadblocks, extended/advanced notation, and the subscription-based pricing. But, despite these issues, most users say Sibelius does exactly what they need and are not interested in switching.
Their peers seem to fall into two groups: other satisfied users and Finale aficionados. Most are in agreement that Finale is harder to use.
I don’t want to draw too many conclusions from this, but one item of note is that Sibelius users’ responses are worded much more casually than Finale users. Perhaps this means that Finale has an older audience, as in my experience those who comment more casually on the internet tend to be younger users. That being said, there are plenty of casual Finale comments and formal Sibelius comments.
Not surprisingly, many Sibelius users are disappointed with Avid’s handling of the product. This seems common in all software (notation or not) when a new company takes over a product. We will see if this sentiment persists in the Sibelius community.
The debate seems clear, and the feedback is not surprising. The two camps of Finale and Sibelius seem entrenched.
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Please comment on your experience with Sibelius

Easy to learn
Very intuitive but playback has limitations
Sibelius has made its well-deserved reputation with its ease of use and compatibility. I’ve learned to work around some of the limitations of it compared with my previous experience in Finale, even though minor frustrations (mostly involving custom page layouts) remain.
Industry leader
Good: easiest score to manipulate visually outside of using Photoshop.
Bad: Requires too much RAM when dealing with multiple or large scores, and playback could be better.
My initial interest was because of a well-known composer’s preference. I have been very impressed with several years of use.
Simply, I can do whatever I want with it from the normal notation to the very complicated graphic notation, also I have a wonderful playback program just made for it called note-performer which I have a vet wonderful playback audio engine encluded.
It’s been an amazing time!
Overall very good experience. User since version 1.2 and will stay with it.
Best experience!
I’ve been with Sibelius for about 15 years now, so I have a lot invested in it. I was nervous, as were many, when they were bought by avid, but I have been pleased with the improvements and customer service over the last several years, no complaints.
The software has a few niggling issues, mainly related to lyrics input, and achieving good looking results is difficult. Compared to other software though the learning curve is much more friendly and it’s easy to get started.
Been using Sibelius since version 1. Its good but its playback is not great. It rarely crashes and gives me what I need.
Once you are set up with your own templates and shortcuts, Sibelius is very useful and quick HOWEVER.. mis-label a file or folder, or build an arrangement with too many staves, and it becomes very slow and laggy and can crash.
The auto save function is fairly arbitrary and doesn’t really work.
I would also say that a lot of the perceived problems Sibelius purportedly has are actually the result of bad musical decisions by composers rather than problems with the actual software. Sibelius is an ENGRAVING application designed to help produce musical notation, not an audio production tool and absolutely not a compositional aid.
Sibelius 6 was a natural upgrade from the Sibelius 4 I used to use. It doesn’t change very much about it, but adds a great deal of options and content. I’ve never been let down while using it, and it feels natural to notate using it.
Historic problems seem never to get resolved. Fine-tuning spacing is problematic. Program tends to undo adjustments made to spacing. There is no way to lock down final adjustments. Otherwise, I have found the program to be easy and quick to use. Sufficient options make it practical for most situations. Documentation is sufficient. Help and support from Avid is seriously problematic. Licensing and activation issues are very deeply flawed. As a professional engraver, I feel the program has made little progress since vs. 7.5. While they keep adding features, the engraving quality in the result is minimal.
Sibelius is faster and easier to use than the alternatives. Finale is better in a couple of areas (playback, page layout), but Sibelius lets me produce good looking scores faster.
I went to Sibelius (at that time it was Sibelius 4) from Finale (and at that time is was Finale 2002), so the jump was from a very outdated program to a more recent. The ease of input is what I prefer with Sibelius, especially regarding key shortcut. Slur is S, Time is T, etc., where Finale does not have such intuitive key commands. Furthermore, the magnetic layout is such a time-saver (and easy to disengage if it needs to be), so for me it’s the logical choice. At this stage of my career, it would take a substantial boost in ease of input and extended notation (my one problem with Sibelius is the difficulty it can bring to non-traditional notation) for me to switch.
It’s great. I never need anything else.
Satisfied. If pricing isn’t an issue, I’m not sure there’s a better option out there.
I’ve used Sibelius since it’s first Acorn version. I’m unhappy with avid’s approach.
Sibelius is good, but from time to time it’s a total pain to make scores look nice (looking at you, bottom align)
About 20 years as editor, teacher, transcriber, consultant, publisher, etc.
I found Sibelius easy to use up to version 5 though less so since then as the update to versions 6-8 made the interface considerably different. Much of it is intuitive and fairly logical, though this may be because I know the programme well. I have tried Notion and liked the sampled sounds but since upgrading to NotePerformer which has excellent sounds I am hooked on Sibelius playback.
I like sibelius. Just moved to 2018 from being on 6 for a long time. The upgrade is nice, but honestly 6 was just fine for me. A few kinks are better, but I don’t like relearning how to use the ribbon
I don’t expect a lot from my music notation software. As a pencil-to-paper composer it’s merely an extension of me. If it’s sucking fumes, so am I, and we get high or low together.
Sibelius is a very good notation software. Despite the somewhat unrealistic instrument range restrictions i love it. What I don’t like is that Avid as company are very slow in preparing their products for the future and therefore ask for too much money i.m.o.
The original Sibelius 7 is still a superb bit of software, inputting being more intuitive (choose the pitch first) than the C++ reboot, which is relatively heavy handed. I tried the “new” Sibelius and gave it a real chance, but realised it wasn’t as good after several months.
Sibelius is generally good and the recent updates in Ultimate are a welcome addition but syncing with sample libraries is a f***ing nightmare. I now only use it as a notation programme rather than a tool for composition.
N/A
Sibelius works well for me right now. It is not perfect but does what I need. I hope that competition from Dorico will inspire Avid to be more innovative going forward. Otherwise, they may see customers leaving.
I use it daily – just wish it had some kind of free-hand graphics tools for advanced notation
Once you know how to use it, it is very fast and efficient to enter music notation. Very easy to just click and drag, hide, delete, resize, etc. almost anything without having to change “tools.”
Sibelius is the best engraving software I have ever experiences
Sibelius works really well for what I need, but I can’t afford frequent upgrades.
I depend on Sibelius
I’ve had a good experience with sibelius. The xml and playback features are my only complaints, but I rarely use them anyway.
It’s been fine for everything except rock/metal guitar-specific notation, where it is severely lacking in options, playback and symbols.
Lacks what I think are very simple to program features that could be incredibly helpful to composers of atonal music f.e. more filters, analysis tools, etc
Having used Finale for many years, moving to Sibelius was much easier/faster. Easier note input, less having to fix major issues when engraving.
.
I like the software, but I don’t like the new subscription schemes being introduced. I’m looking for some new features and new designs that make me excited about using the software.
Is this Sibelius or ‘other software?
I had various copies of Sibelius on PC but made the leap to Mac 27” and Subscription in one go and don’t regret a second! I have not experienced any Sibelius problems upgrading to High Sierra etc. My only gripe is the playback quality after the huge Sibelius Sounds download. But Sibelius does everything I need in a manner that is easy to use and understand.
Been using Sibelius for over 20 years. It could be better but it’s fine
Really goid
I love it – but I do get frustrated with notating extended techniques and creating graphics
Just amazing. Some bugs sometimes, but the 99% of time a real good workflow
Incredible
no comment
good
No thanks
Sibelius is good (definitely better than Finale) but Avid seems to have given up developing the program to its highest potential.
You have to use too many workarounds to address problems that have existed in the software for far too long.
easy to use, great-looking scores; I wish they still allowed for purchase, rather than subscription…
Sibelius is fantastic for a large variety of repertoire but falls short in its support for extended notation and contemporary music. Additionally, some aspects of the program are not as intuitive as they could be.
I love it but wish it was easier to learn.
I’ve been using the software professionally since 2011 and I’ve been nothing but satisfied with it, however the recent changes in subscription and company have put me off a bit. Plus, when Sibelius added the ribbon I had to relearn the software.
I’ve been using Sibelius for over 20 years now, and while it is still one of the best notation programs out there (and I still use it) I feel it is time for me to move on to something more modern (Dorico).
I switched from Finale to Sibelius in 2003. Finale hadn’t kept up with the new MacOs. I’ve never looked back.
Used it for 6 years
The most flexible (and the best looking) notation software that i have used, and i am increadibly satisfied with it.
Sibelius has been my primary notation software since i began composing. It is a tremendous notation software.
(Table of contents)

What do your friends/fellow musicians say about Sibelius?

Easy to learn
No comment
In general, very positive things. There’s a good and knowledgeable community of users who are committed to making the software usable, even while Avid’s support and enthusiasm for the software has been declining.
Best option
They prefer it over Finale.
Not sure.
My friends has the same idea like me.
It’s still a competent and thoroughly professional piece of software.
They use it as well, except for one guy who’s Finale die hard.
Best musi engraving software!
Mixed. I know quite a few people were hesitant to upgrade after the company was sold, but those that took the leap are generally just as satisfied as they were before.
Mostly positive, it’s expensive, but gives good results with work and plays nicely with most sample libraries given a little perseverance.
finale users hate it. Everyone else loves it
I have colleagues who use different software for different kinds of charts, but in general they agree that notation software is notation software – the effectiveness of the score has nothing to do with whichever software is was written in.
“why aren’t you using finale”
“finale is so much better”
“sibelius makes it harder for us, use finale”
“finale is easier to notate with”
“finale finale finale”
Most mention quick learning curve and ease of use at elementary levels.
Same thing as above. There are strong opinions about this, and I really like both major programs, but Sibelius is my go-to software at least for now.
Most of my friends/fellow musicians are either neutral or positive towards Sibelius. In other words, I’ve met a lot of Finale haters, but very few Sibelius haters. Sorry for the casual term.
Most love it. The ones who don’t, love Finale.
Satisfied.
Most are happy with Sibelius but those of us who work at the high end find it restrictive and limited. Those with modest needs and for whom ease and playback are priorities should be fine.
They like it.
It is functional.
Pretty much the same as me
Most everyone I know prefers sibelius, unless they’ve been on finale their whole lives. All the students I know use musescore, and I don’t blame them!
Not much. It works for them. We exchange files and exchange glances.
Some love it, some hate it. It is still better than Dorico a.t.m…but I know lots of people who went for Finale because they did not like the workflow of Sibelius.
They laugh that I’m still using it.
The new pricing structure is a rip off.
N/A
It’s mixed. Some people have strong feelings about notation programs. Others realize the decision is more personal.
They either love it or are craaaaazy Finale freaks
Scores look great when they are made using this software, and you can format your score to look like anything you want, but it is hard to enter free-drawn graphics; you have to do your best with the software’s own lines and symbols. It is hard to learn how to use it and to learn where all of the menu options are.
Some say that it is too buggy to use or too slow. Other appreciate like I do
About the same.
Two camps Finale v. Sibelius. Dorico is coming
Good, user-friendly software
That it’s complex and takes time to learn, but that it’s worth the effort (but not really worth the money it costs) since you get such great results in the end.
Pretty much the same view as me
Most use Finale, but I have gotten a few to switch.
.
Most of my friends use either Sibelius or Finale, and they don’t seem to have any strong opinions on them. I’d like to see some bold changes that shake up the typical notation software mold.
Mixed views/reactions
Most seem to like it although you get the usual complaints about price etc. One is running Dorico alongside Sibelius and likes Dorico better.
The same.
The same
Love it
They say the same
The only real choice
no comment
good
Thanks
Sibelius is best right now until Dorico comes out with its sequencer
It’s OK as long as you aren’t doing anything very adventurous, but even straight forward things require tedious and error-prone work.
Most of them love it; some think it is too easy, so it must not be good enough for them (i.e. they tend to be snobs…)
Most people are quite happy with Sibelius, although composers frequently comment upon the limitations when working with extended notation. Workarounds using graphic design software(for instance) are often used.
They respect it and feel it’s very professional.
The subscription model sucks, and the program has undergone several weird changes. But it’s still among the easiest to use in the industry.
I have several friends who use Sibelius in a professional capacity, mainly orchestrators, and they are mostly content with what it provides.
Those who have used it like it.
The like it as well
The same, every composer and arranger that i know personally use Sibelius!
One of my musician friend has been using sibelius for years, and he hasn’t moved on from that software. It is a really reliable software.
(Table of contents)

The Golden Ratio in Sound Design

I think you will enjoy this guest post by Daniel Y. of yoursound.today, a conceptual sound design and music platform.  He is also an artist and music producer from Bulgaria.

The Golden Ratio in Sound Design

The golden ratio – an aesthetic found in numerous places in visual art and nature, has been eluding many artists from ancient history to the present, and today it finds its place in sound design as well.
The golden ratio equals 1.618… and represents what one can describe as beauty found between the ratio between 2 different objects, dimensions and proportions. But while it definitely strikes an interesting visual aesthetic, can one really hear it? The short answer is yes, and people have already been using it in music composition for a while, even if unconsciously. One look at Mozart’s work and the golden ratio is all over the place, for example in terms of amounts of notes used in his musical scores–scores which are so big that it makes it hard to believe Mozart did it by accident. This leads us to even more strongly recognize his genius.
But that was a few hundred years ago. Today, the golden ratio is finally starting to find its place within sound design and before I tell you how, let me address any doubts again – yes, if done properly, one could hear it. But only when you listen and look for it and compare it to other sounds. While you cannot hear the ratio itself, the distinctive difference is a certain pleasantness and satisfaction that comes from listening to a sound in alignment with that ratio. If you want to quickly measure for yourself before we delve deeper into this topic, I suggest you to quickly open your favourite Plugin and align the Attack, Release, and Sustain of your sound so that it is in accordance to 1.618. (Simply pick a random number for one of the parameters and divide or multiply it by that number.) See if it sounds good to you.
Before I tell you how you can get more creative with it, let me briefly explain how it found its way into my own work. While music is seen as something engaging more strongly with the creative muscle, there is just as much mathematics and physics involved in it. And while various artists such as Leonardo da Vinci are known to have applied both creativity and mathematical analysis in their work, few are those who have done the same in the realms of music. I wanted to do that, so I started rigorously researching the mathematics of music. I found out differently tempered scales, psychoacoustics, and even some interesting ideas regarding to using chance in composition, but nothing really was what I wanted to do. Most people who use math in music usually focus on the composition of the piece which doesn’t always produce pleasant results. But with the development of technology and synthesis, new possibilities arose and allowed for new applications of math. Thus, I started experimenting with the golden ratio in a more fundamental part of music – the sound sources.
So, here’s how you can get creative with it and my personal recommendations:
ADSR – The main and most prominent way to apply the golden ratio is to ensure the Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release of the sound are in the right proportions (1.618) no matter what type of synthesis you use. You can actually pick only 3 of these parameters and leave the fourth at 0 if you wish (except for the attack).
Wavetable Synthesis – While you can use any type of synthesis your heart desires, in wavetable synthesis you can use geometrical shapes and image to form the wavetable itself and those can be images that also follow the golden ratio proportions. I personally use Serum, so a suggestion you can try if you have that plugin is to download an image of a golden ratio spiral and drag and drop it onto Serum’s wavetable section which will translate the image into sound. Interesting timbres are often the result of this.
LFOs – Using low-frequency oscillation on various aspects of the sound can give an interesting effect. To do this, one thing you can do is look at your tempo. If it is 120 BPM that is 2 beats per second and you can simply multiply 2 by 1.618 and set you LFO speed at 3.2 Hz. Then there will be a relationship between the sounds you play and the rhythm of the song.
Effects – Similarly to the ADSR you can create the same proportions using different effects but I recommend doing that with Reverb and Delay effects, as those, especially Delay, can give a specific feel to the sound.
Other things you can do include tampering with the tuning and pitch elements of your patch. This is great if you are working on an FX sound and want to experiment with the golden ratio.
There is still much room for examination of this topic within music and sounds, as we have barely scratched the surface here. While there have been attempts to create a tuning system implementing the golden ratio, there is still no such satisfactory musical scale. Also, the golden ratio has been found in many contemporary pop songs in terms of arrangement. There are many discoveries to be made on implementation of mathematics in sound, and experimentation is the key to that. So I encourage you to experiment!
About the author:
Daniel Y. is the founder of yoursound.today (A conceptual sound design and music platform) and also an artist and music producer from Bulgaria.

ScoreCloud – Software that Notates Your Music

I was approached by Joel Isaakson of the company Doremir Music Research about their latest project, the music notation software ScoreCloud.  I decided to give it a try, not expecting anything either negative nor positive, but I was quite excited once I started poking around.
This is not a sponsored post.  I am reflecting on my own experience, and am not paid to write this.
(For more posts on music notation software and audio gear, check out Best Music Notation Software for Beginners and Best Handheld Recorders.)
Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 6.55.15 PM

ScoreCloud – Music Notation Software

ScoreCloud is a music notation software that notates your music in real-time, based on a “performance” you give.  In other words, if you have an idea that you want to notate, you can sing or play (either MIDI or acoustic instrument) into your computer or device and the software will capture your music, notate it, and allow you to manipulate it into a fully-fledged piece.
What is this useful for?

  1. Learning how to notate your music
  2. Writing down your musical ideas
  3. Seeing how different harmonies work, through the overdubbing feature
  4. Practicing your ear training–have someone sing or play something and have ScoreCloud notate it.  Notate it yourself (i.e. take a dictation), and compare your dictation to ScoreCloud’s.
  5. Other features of the software, eg. easy note input beat-by-beat

How I tested ScoreCloud

Click the link in each step to see the PDF documenting my work.  This is a super cheesy I-IV-V-I snippet (“snippet 19”) in C Major.

  1. Input MIDI via computer keyboard in real time Example 3_1
  2. Overdubbed MIDI via computer keyboard in real time Example 3_2
  3. Overdubbed a third time – adding a bass line Example 3_3
  4. Tested ScoreCloud’s rhythmic dictation skills by overdubbing with a triplet over the barline Example 3_4
  5. Cleaned things up Example 3_5
  6. Sang on “ah” and ScoreCloud notated my voice’s pitches and rhythms (second staff from bottom) Example 3_6
  7. Cleaned up my singing and an engraving issue I accidentally created Example 3_7 and Example 3_8
  8. Engraved (see the next heading)

The result

Click here for the final result as posted on ScoreCloud’s website
Example 3_Finished
Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 6.56.18 PM

Overall

ScoreCloud’s dictation is pretty good; one has to be pretty in-time and in-tune, but it is easy to correct the mistakes caused by lack of synchronicity once one is in the editor.  That is also something worth touching on: the editor is very easy to use, and although it relies heavily on key commands, it makes it very easy to understand what to press and when/where to do so.  It is not difficult at all to use the editing features quickly, without any prior knowledge of the program.
The main features that I would recommend ScoreCloud be used for are transcription, either via MIDI keyboard or audio.  I would not use this for engraving unless I needed a quick print-out or were using this for worksheets, ear-training, student projects, or other short-term educational resources.  I would, however, export it to XML for use in a more robust engraving tool like Finale, Sibelius, Dorico, etc.
Again, I am not being paid to say any of this; this is my honest assessment: ScoreCloud is a promising software that needs a wider audience, so that it can get the feedback and resources needed to become a household name.  I really think that this has the potential to take off, so do download and try it for yourself.  It is a great tool for music educators and composers (including songwriters and bands); I think those two groups will get the best experience from it because it helps those who rely on aural skills to bolster their notational skills.
In short: try it out!  Let me know your thoughts!  Keep composing!
Best,
Dan
ScoreCloud4’s official press release is below.  Again, I am not paid to say any of this.

Addendum

This covers the FREE VERSION.  There is also a PRO version, that features polyphonic audio recording.  I may choose to cover the PRO version at a later time, which will be detailed in a separate post.
Try these other tools:
The studio monitors I swear by
An external DVD drive that works great, but won’t break the bank

Press Release

MUSIC NOTATION JUST GOT A WHOLE LOT EASIER WITH SCORECLOUD 4
 
Doremir Music Research continues to revolutionise digital music notation with the release of ScoreCloud 4.  This update of the award-winning software includes world-class ‘polyphonic’ music transcription, which means you can play on instruments eg. an acoustic piano or guitar and automatically get the music notated for you. No cables, no need for any MIDI instrument to digitize, transform and notate your musical ideas, ScoreCloud 4 hooks up the world of acoustic instruments to the world of digital music.
Co-founder, Sven Ahlbäck says ScoreCloud 4 has the potential of democratizing music notation, “Anyone can use ScoreCloud 4, but it’s particularly useful for those who might find notating music complicated and need a straight-forward, affordable tool for practical music notation”. 
The combination of cutting edge machine learning and cognitive modelling is similar to speech-to-text technology, like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa; simply sing or play an instrument and ScoreCloud 4 will notate the music for you. Save it to the cloud and share it with anyone.
Whether you’re a music creator, composer, student, teacher, choir or band, ScoreCloud 4 is the ideal solution for quick and easy music notation.

Visit www.scorecloud.com for your for your FREE download of ScoreCloud 4.

Music Notation Software Survey

Hi All,

In an effort to gain a deeper understanding of user experiences with music notation software, please complete the survey below if you are a user of music notation software.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

It should take at most 5 minutes to complete.

Thank you in advance!

Dan

Music Notation Software Survey

Best Music Notation Software for Beginners

Pen and paper should almost always be the point at which composers start their journey, in my opinion.  But, it is important to move to notation software once one feels comfortable enough with basic music notation elements.

Here is a list of the best music notation software for beginners.

This list covers beginner composers only, but you might also like my review of the best music notation software for all composers.

Best music notation software for beginners


What should beginners look for in music notation software?

  1. Ease of use
  2. Full functionality
  3. Dedicated support
  4. Decent playback

Ease of Use

Beginners need software that is intuitive, and simple when entering notes and markings.  For example, Dorico offers a great way to quickly input notes, markings, and layouts in general.  I would recommend Dorico for beginners (more on this) instead of Finale, which has a really steep learning curve.

Full Functionality

While simple notation programs such as Finale Notepad allow you to input music for free, they often lack functionality that will allow to to fully explore music composition beyond paper.  For example, they may not allow for large ensembles or mid-piece changes (such as key changes, time signature changes, etc.).  They also may require you to purchase expensive upgrades to get different sounds or features.  It also may be hard to get a polished product out of them–i.e. the formatting may be difficult to manipulate.  In order to get your music performed, it needs to be formatted properly so it can be read well.  Keeping all of these in mind, you therefore need full functionality.

Dedicated support

There are three ways in which support works for the best programs:

  1. There is a detailed, user-friendly manual and an online text- and video-based help library.
  2. There is a dedicated team of software developers and customer support specialists ready to help or answer questions.
  3. There is a community of users who know what they are doing, are willing to help, and post problems that are similar to yours–you shouldn’t be the first one needing a workaround for optimizing staves, for example.

Decent playback

I am very vocal on this blog about not trusting the playback–and this is completely true!  The full story is, though, you need an approximation of what you will hear in real life when you are beginning.  It makes the compositional learning curve a bit easier than having to hammer out everything on a piano.  (But, never make the sound of playback your gold standard in judging your work, regardless of the program you use.)

Paid or free?

There are some great free and low-priced options out there.  MuseScore and Noteflight are great examples of stellar programming being done to make music notation accessible.  However, you really have to be careful.  There are lots of really cheap (both in price and in quality) options out there.  I stick to my list in this article because these programs are trusted in the field by many teachers and beginner composers.


Recommended music notation software for beginners

(The most recommended software programs are nearer to the top.)

Dorico

Dorico’s website

It is no surprise that I am a huge Dorico fan.  This is a fully functional, industry-standard software that can produce amazing results very easily.

The main reason I am recommending Dorico in this section is the ease of note and marking input.  The input system is a bit different from other programs, but once you get used to it, it is a very powerful and intuitive method of entering notes.  Markings are a breeze to put in, with things automatically aligning at or close to engraving standards.

In addition, it is incredibly easy to format your music via the Engrave and Print functions.  The use of Flows allows you to make multi-movement compositions print-ready with so much more ease than anything I have encountered before.

Dorico is still being upgraded by its software developers, so there are more features to come.  In all, this software is incredibly easy to use, which makes it ideal for those getting used to software notation.

Examples of work

Here is a video of a piece I wrote in Dorico, and am still working on.  It is the first scene of my opera.

Here is the score to this scene.

Opera_Draft 2 Full score

Here is a fully engraved version of the first act (both scenes I and II).

Opera_Draft 3 Full score

MuseScore

MuseScore’s website

I am trying to focus on free and almost-free programs (Dorico excepted due to its innovation in the field).  MuseScore is a program that fulfills the requirements of all 4 qualifications listed above while being free of charge for beginners and (currently) $49.00 per year for a “Pro” version:

  • Ease of use
  • Full functionality
  • Dedicated support
  • Decent playback

From what I hear, the community at MuseScore is top-notch, and after reading some of their documentation I am certainly impressed.  It seems to be a mix between Finale and Dorico, fusing different modes of creation with standard practices in music notation software.

Examples

Here is a great example of notation and playback from a user-generated input of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
https://musescore.com/user/20868/scores/36975/embed

Beethoven 9th Symphony Op. 125 Mvt, 2 (Part1) by MusicLord

Here is an actual major (professional) edition of music created with MuseScore:

https://musescore.org/en/node/249356

The above link documents a major achievement–in other words, you can go pro with MuseScore even though it is a free/low-price program (which usually isn’t the case in that price range).

Noteflight

Noteflight’s website

Like MuseScore, Noteflight offers a free and premium version for $49 per year.  Noteflight is geared more towards music education, however.  It boasts a “Learn” feature that allows educators to assess their students and aid them in their compositional journey.  Noteflight has been used by both my colleagues in their classrooms, and by some of my students, which has greatly aided their development as composers.

Like MuseScore, it offers a large community and a boatload of documentation and support.

Examples

Prologue (Magic and Flying Music) from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Sherlock Theme

Music notation software not recommended for beginners

Finale

Finale’s website

I love Finale, and I consider myself a “power user” of it.  However, it is not well-suited for beginner composers, even though it is an industry standard.  Once you get used to music notation software, this is indeed a program worth your time.  It is incredibly fully featured, and allows you to create just about anything you want.  However, it is not as easy to learn as other programs.  Consider it a visual editor for music–it is like drawing on paper, but with a series of menus and tools.  (So, it is more like figuring out a series of menus and clicks; you have complete control but have to figure out how to do things first, which isn’t quite intuitive.)

A middle ground

Sibelius

Sibelius’s website

Sibelius is a great way to get into music notation at the professional level of software, but isn’t quite as revolutionary as the main three reviewed here.  It is by far easier to use than Finale, and is used widely in professional circles.

The new pricing structure, in my opinion, makes it hard to fulfill the requirements beginners really need.  Yes, they are offering (or will offer) a beginner, an intermediate, and a “pro” level tool.  But, I believe that beginner composers should have access to pro tools, especially if it is brand-name Sibelius.  That is, after all, point number 2 in my list of necessary qualities: full functionality.  Unlike MuseScore or Noteflight, which offer pro features at nominal pricing, Sibelius really jacks up the price for the pro subscription.

So, I would recommend Sibelius if its pricing restructure made it more sensible for composers looking to really “get going”.

In conclusion

There are some great options out there.  While there are many free programs, most low-price ones are dismal.  The programs showcased here in the top three (Dorico, MuseScore and Noteflight) are the best bang for your buck, while giving you an easy learning curve and the tools you need to step on the gas pedal hard and start composing on a computer.

If you liked this post but want some more reading, check out my previous post Best Music Notation Software, which covers notation software at the professional level.

Still… don’t forget how important pen and paper are!

Happy Composing,

Dan

How do musicians make a living?

There are many musicians who are living the dream–doing exactly what they want artistically, making enough money to survive, and with nothing else in the way (except maybe tax season).  Whether it is playing their favorite gigs all the time, writing the best music they want with complete artistic control, teaching students and not having administrative hurdles, or otherwise doing whatever they want musically while being out of harm’s way financially, these are the lucky few.

The rest of us?  Well, we typically fall into one of two “camps”.  Some of us prefer to be in one of these two camps, instead of the lifestyle in the above paragraph.  Many more musicians would prefer to “live the dream” instead of being in one of these camps, but they are content with living life in one or another group.

Regardless of where you stand, the two groups can be summed up as follows:

  1. Patching together a musical career in which one makes a living off of music, but doesn’t get to satisfy one’s complete artistic desires.
  2. Having a day job to support oneself, but not being able to make music as often as item 1.  However, these musicians retain full artistic control due to their financial backing.

So, how do musicians make a living?

1. Musicians make a living by patching together a career

Many musicians prefer this lifestyle because one is constantly musical, both out of desire and necessity.  Yes, they do want to make music nonstop, but they also need to take (nearly) every gig they can get to pay their bills.

These gigs can include:

  1. Teaching privately
  2. Teaching at a public or private school
  3. Singing in church choirs
  4. Playing in a band
  5. Playing in an orchestra
  6. Conducting
  7. Part-time music administration
  8. Accompanying dance classes
  9. Composing
  10. Arranging
  11. Orchestrating
  12. Scoring for film or video
  13. Publishing music
  14. Engraving music
  15. Personal-assisting other musicians

Musicians in this model tend to lose complete artistic control while gaining a lot of time spent making music (that still has at least some artistic control), instead of losing the time to a day job.

2. Musicians make a living by having a day job and making music a “side gig”

These musicians spend the bulk of their lives in a “day job” and squeeze music in on the nights and weekends.  These day jobs, however, can include administration of music full-time, or other duty that is not directly making music but helps a support structure for musicians.  It should be noted, however, that these day jobs do not satisfy oneself artistically nor do they help patch together a career–they are the career.

Musicians in this model gain complete artistic control while losing time to their day job, time that would otherwise be spent on music.

3. Hybrids/exceptions

Having two careers is possible, i.e. a patchwork career and a day job.  It is very exhausting, though.  I know those who do it, for example maintaining facilities while gigging, or directing a music school while teaching.  I used to do it, and I burned out after 3 years.  However, these hybrids are rare.  Even the great Charles Ives was more of a day-job person; he was a industrious insurance salesman while being an American maverick composer unlike any other, but his day job forced his music to the side and the attempt at doing a dual-career hybrid led him into bad health.

Which lifestyle is right for you?

The lifestyle you choose as a musician is important, as it must reflect who you are, what you value, and how you want to spend your time.

For example, do you prefer to live gig-to-gig, and have dynamic musical experiences supplemented by teaching income?  Do you love to conduct, but love working with youth musicians as well?  Are you an adept copyist who plays trombone like a boss?  Would you rather shred all day and work in a box office when you’re not gigging?  Is adjudicating, teaching, and playing in musical pit bands your choice of lifestyle?

Or, do you want to support your music addiction through a career you are passionate about (but one that is not related to music)?  Are you a computer engineer who loves to write piano sonatas?  Are you a personal trainer who loves Pavarotti?  Do you value woodworking and writing music like Wuorinen?

In truth, most of us automatically fall into one of the two camps based on the lives we happen to live.  But, it is good to think about this even if you just happen into it.  Some key questions to ask yourself are:

  1. What time of day or night do I prefer to work?
  2. Do I want a regular schedule, or a more flexible one?
  3. Do I want to drive all around the place, or have one steady commute?
  4. Do I have multiple passions (including multiple passions within music)?
  5. What are my thoughts on teaching?
  6. What are my thoughts on gigging?
  7. How is my family life set up?
  8. Where do I want to live (this impacts your ability to live one lifestyle or the other)?
  9. What are my expenses like?
  10. What is my healthcare situation in life?
  11. How long do I see myself doing this, being in this place, or otherwise “putting down roots”?
  12. Am I in a strong musical “climate”/geographical area?
  13. What is my debt burden?
  14. What are my musical strengths?
  15. What are my non-musical strengths?
  16. What is the economy like today, and how do I foresee myself in it going forward, especially if it changes?

In all, make an educated decision that is well-thought and factors in your strengths, weaknesses, hopes, desires, needs, finances, and current situation.  Whether you elect to patch together a living, or have a day job that supports your music “habit”, you may find that you need to switch to the other way–and back and forth again!  There is no strict rule; you can change paths and you can change where you stand on each path–there is no “track” like a corporate ladder when we talk about making a living as a musician.

No matter how much you plan and think you know what is right, there is always an element of chance, surprise, and being plain wrong that may force you to change your plans.  And that is perfectly fine.  The goal is to live a fulfilling life, not to worry about meeting a standard or becoming a billionaire.

Live life, make music, and be happy,

Dan

More on how to compose music here.

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