Future of notation software

Recommendations concerning notation and publishing software in a non-partisan environment.
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Fred G. Unn
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Future of notation software

Post by Fred G. Unn » 29 Oct 2019, 12:23

Hi all,

For those of you that teach at universities, what notation software are most of your students using? One of my undergrad classes got sidetracked on to the topic of notation yesterday and I was pretty surprised at how the notation landscape has shifted in just a few years. Out of 10 students in the class, 8 used MuseScore, 1 used Sibelius, and 1 was pencil/paper. All students were Juniors or Seniors and are Jazz majors intending to have a career in music.

Just a few years ago, I would have expected the breakdown to have been split between Finale and Sibelius, perhaps slightly favoring Finale (in Northeast USA anyway). This is a very small sample size obviously, but students are more likely to use what their peers are using, and none were using Finale. All said cost was the primary factor. Why pay for a notation program when you can get one for free? None had even heard of Dorico, so I gave them the whole Sibelius - Avid - Steinberg story. I had brought in a pretty complicated piano transcription I had done in Dorico for analysis, and all were pretty amazed when I told them I had done no layout or spacing edits at all other than a little bit of casting off to make rehearsal letters begin systems.

If fee-based notation programs are losing the education market, then the next generation of musicians coming out of school seem unlikely to be interested in paying for software when they are already familiar with a free program. Development of Finale and Sibelius seems to have slowed substantially, but Dorico is quite actively still in development and of course that takes money. I'm curious how any of those 3 are planning to reach an education market that seems to be moving fairly suddenly to MuseScore.

What software are your students using? Does anyone else also see a fairly sudden shift toward MuseScore? Any thoughts on how this might change the future of notation products in the near future? Just curious if anyone else has seen this fairly sudden shift in the education market as well.

ykaj
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Re: Future of notation software

Post by ykaj » 29 Oct 2019, 13:08

I live in a third-world country, so my context is wildly different... I work full-time as a music teacher, and either Dorico or Finale, in their full versions (and Sibelius' perpetual license, too), would cost approximately two months of my full wage. I have never, in many years, seen a single student who has bought any type of license to use any music notation software: they all resort either to Musescore or (frequently) to piracy. Even more striking: teachers (myself included) usually do the same.

The thing is that for most tasks, Musescore does a fine job. Many of my students won't ever have the need to do more complex stuff to the point of worrying about their software. When this is the case, one is more prone to pay a professional to do such notation, rather than buying software to do any one-off job.

I know notat.io is more directed towards professional engravers, who have very compelling reasons to invest money into their software, and that's perfectly fine. Nonetheless, as the question is posed towards educational uses, I think the answer is simple: Musescore is fine for the vast majority of teaching/learning-related stuff. For everything else, students will either shamelessly pirate pro software or hire a pro to do advanced notation.

P.S.: I'm a proud Musescore user for simple stuff; for professional notation, I use lilypond. I have used pirated Encore and Finale for several years, but those days are long gone.

Schonbergian
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Re: Future of notation software

Post by Schonbergian » 29 Oct 2019, 13:33

In my view, Finale is only good for those interested in the kind of endless tweaking we do, as the default output is borderline unusable. MuseScore is almost as customizable, provides much better default output, and is free, so why would a part-time engraver not interested in minutiae ever want to pay for a product that doesn't help them?

OCTO
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Re: Future of notation software

Post by OCTO » 29 Oct 2019, 13:36

I taught notation and composition back 10 years ago at a high-school and all used MuseScore, since it was installed on all machines.
MuseScore of today is even more capable to do a good job for that purpose, even more.
Freelance Composer. Self-Publisher.
Finale 25.5 • Sibelius 2019 • MuseScore 2 • Logic Pro X • Ableton Live 10 • Digital Performer 9 /// OS X El Capitan, (side system: Debian 9, Windows 10)

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John Ruggero
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Re: Future of notation software

Post by John Ruggero » 29 Oct 2019, 15:39

This might explain the lack of activity at Finale and Sibelius. There are not enough sales to justify continued development. It also makes the Dorico story even more heroic. I hope they have a good marketing plan. They'll need it.
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Fred G. Unn
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Re: Future of notation software

Post by Fred G. Unn » 29 Oct 2019, 16:18

My class breakdown seemed to be:
Finale - too expensive
Sibelius - hate subscription services (and can't afford perpetual license)
Dorico - what's that?
MuseScore - free and everyone else uses it

I'm not sure how any of the first 3 are going to compete in an education market that is now apparently being dominated by MuseScore. Most of these students grew up in an era where a $10 iOS app is considered expensive, so there's no way they are shelling out $300 for an educational version of a notation program. Most musicians get comfortable with one notation product and have very little incentive to switch or learn another. For that reason I assume Finale and Sibelius will continue to stay afloat for a while off of upgrades (and Sib obviously has subscription revenue) but I can't imagine this bodes well for any future development of either. Maybe it's different in Europe, but virtually no one I've spoken to in the US outside of a small notation community has even heard of Dorico. They certainly aren't going to pick up sales from a demographic that doesn't even know they exist.

I actually really like Dorico, and have mostly made the switch to it. It's focus on better engraving I think is great, but some of its jazz and popular music features are poorly implemented or were non-existent at release so it is going to have a tough battle for market share in those communities. I'm curious what sort of advertising or outreach they are doing as I don't think I've seen much outside of FB. Anyway, it sounds like I'd better at least learn to be competent at MuseScore if that's the way the whole education market is currently going.

benwiggy
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Re: Future of notation software

Post by benwiggy » 30 Oct 2019, 18:57

Sibelius came to the fore in the UK with shrewd deals for academic institutions, supplying seat licenses at attractive prices when there were no free alternatives. Students were taught with Sibelius, so they bought it themselves. I have no idea whether that will work for Dorico: if lesson are taught using Dorico, then the students may buy it and continue to use it after they graduate.

I suspect Dorico's primary market is commercial music, where time is money. Dorico is all about saving time; getting parts out quickly. So music theatre, film scoring, and conventional publishing is going to pay to get the job done fast.

The open source revolution is a blessing and a curse: it's a great example of collective altruism; but at the same time, people now 'demand' free software. I've seen countless posts on tech forums "Can you recommend software that will do something that is crucial for me. Oh, and it must be free." And when you tell them the software doesn't exist, or must be bought, they get upset or angry.

The worry is not just the devaluing of software, but the devaluing of creativity. When no one pays for software, or fonts, or music, or images, or films and books: then there will be no professional software developers, musicians, photographers, actors, authors. These are all things we will do in our spare time, outside of our jobs. And if people won't pay for those things, what will our jobs be?

OCTO
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Re: Future of notation software

Post by OCTO » 31 Oct 2019, 09:40

benwiggy wrote:
30 Oct 2019, 18:57
I suspect Dorico's primary market is commercial music, where time is money. Dorico is all about saving time; getting parts out quickly. So music theatre, film scoring, and conventional publishing is going to pay to get the job done fast.
That worries me greatly. I hope that the speed and film-scoring will not be featured, although it is welcomed.
benwiggy wrote:
30 Oct 2019, 18:57
The worry is not just the devaluing of software, but the devaluing of creativity. When no one pays for software, or fonts, or music, or images, or films and books: then there will be no professional software developers, musicians, photographers, actors, authors. These are all things we will do in our spare time, outside of our jobs. And if people won't pay for those things, what will our jobs be?
It is not a secret story that the most of artists lived quite poor... ;)

What you say is not always true. There are great examples of software that are completely free, and indeed there are many people who truly like working on free-software projects, as altruism or whatever. And yes, you can run all your business today on a free software if you want. Not speaking about the Linux kernel found everywhere, and it is free. The crucially security-concerned software is just based on the Linux kernel - developed for free (airplanes, satellites, security alarms, medical equipment, communication systems, military...).

Free software, such as MuseScore (MS), can create an income if people are promoting it smartly. Such would be paid support or in the case of MS - job as a professional engraver. The problem with MS is that there are to many bad examples (or non existent great examples), so people think MS is not capable to notate anything professionally appealing.

OTOH, the commercial software is a double-swarded product: if a company goes in bankruptcy it affects customers greatly. Also, business is always trying to get income for any reason, and thus not telling their customers the whole story. The "Make Music new versions under the hub" is an example of taking peoples money for almost nothing. Or with slight improvements that are promoted as crucial. Subscription is another luring-people-into-nothing and sudden software breaks (that make your documents behave weird) or "forgotten to pay bill" that stops you to continue on your score in a critical moment - is just a nightmare.

If you look at any publishing software, or textual software, you see it as "almost done" - there is not so much to develop it, except the stability or additional options. But with the music notation, there is NO ONE SINGLE SOFTWARE that excels in all domains. It is because the notation is very, very complex. It is both notation, composition, graphic design, playback, community, features, artistry, … Just remember MakeMusic's idea of "whistling into the mic and get it as score" as an example where a notation software can take its place.

Personally, I am not against nor pro having commercial or open-source or free software. I just want ONE software that will make my day less stressful and more pleasant. I need just ONE, yet I don't see it yet.
Freelance Composer. Self-Publisher.
Finale 25.5 • Sibelius 2019 • MuseScore 2 • Logic Pro X • Ableton Live 10 • Digital Performer 9 /// OS X El Capitan, (side system: Debian 9, Windows 10)

benwiggy
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Re: Future of notation software

Post by benwiggy » 31 Oct 2019, 10:08

OCTO wrote:
31 Oct 2019, 09:40
That worries me greatly. I hope that the speed and film-scoring will not be featured, although it is welcomed.
It worries you, but it is welcomed? The whole point of computers is to do things faster. Getting (beautiful) music onto the page as easily as possible is surely the object of using software. Otherwise, use metal plates! :lol:
OCTO wrote:
31 Oct 2019, 09:40
It is not a secret story that the most of artists lived quite poor... ;)
If you read 19th-century romanticized Histories. There are plenty of people who manage to make a living from creating.

To make a similar point, why would anyone buy sheet music when they can get it free? I know many many musicians that given the choice between a beautiful, scholarly edition for £3 and an ugly, terrible edition with mistakes for £0, they'll take the free one, every time. Who would be a professional engraver when you are competing with people who do not charge anything?

OCTO
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Re: Future of notation software

Post by OCTO » 31 Oct 2019, 13:26

I agree with you, it is not debatable.
It worries me IF Dorico would stay on that line, so to speak, to be fixed on film, theater, jazz music sheets. I am not rich to buy Dorico to support their development (Steinberg/Yamaha is a Nasdaq listed company, not a charitable foundation). When Dorico seems to achieve what I need in notating my music than I will for sure buy it. And I hope it will!

And about the other thing, it is not romanticized. There are not so many rich composers of contemporary music (not counting film).
I personally live ONLY on composing, even not engraving, nor arranging. Just on my own works.
I know two composers in my domain (contemporary music) that live quite comfortable, or even rich, based on their music only. The rest (99%) are either living just ordinary, surviving or having other jobs.
benwiggy wrote:
31 Oct 2019, 10:08
I know many many musicians that given the choice between a beautiful, scholarly edition for £3 and an ugly, terrible edition with mistakes for £0, they'll take the free one, every time.
Yes, the time of large publishers is now approaching to the end. It was a total monopoly 100 years back, but now there is a large number of engravers and "engravers" that pollute the market. And what will happen when all these published scholarly editions of Bärenreiter, Henle and Breitkopf enter the public domain? You will have all these scores scholarly edited, proofread and beautifully engraved available for free at any time. The publishers don't have solution for the future…
But I totally agree that the publication level is low, and people use terrible scores. And everyone using pirated software out there on the Internet can become "engraver", offer a "job" or to put PDF for download. It is insane indeed.
Freelance Composer. Self-Publisher.
Finale 25.5 • Sibelius 2019 • MuseScore 2 • Logic Pro X • Ableton Live 10 • Digital Performer 9 /// OS X El Capitan, (side system: Debian 9, Windows 10)

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