SOPP267: May I ask you if a software program you are using to create your musical compositions is somewhat intuitive or what I’d call, “user friendly"?
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 267 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Heidi and she writes:
May I ask you if you use a software program to create your musical compositions? If so, I would be interested in knowing what you use, and if it is somewhat intuitive or what I’d call, “user friendly". I own Sibelius but haven’t used it since taking Theory in 2009.
Hope all is well with you both,
V: Oh, this is a question about Sibelius that we have.
A: Yes, because we use Sibelius.
V: Did you try anything else before Sibelius, Ausra?
A: Well I did try Finale because these two are the main musical programs. Of course nowadays there are many more created.
V: Like MuseScore, NoteFlight, probably Composer, there is a software called Composer. What else did I try? Those few are somewhat known to me, but yes, Sibelius and Finale are the main ones and the most expensive ones.
A: That’s true; the price just goes above the sky.
V: But the features that Sibelius now has also makes composing really not only fun but relatively fast process I would say because when you connect MIDI keyboard to the computer you can directly input your notes onto the screen and either adjust the rhythms with your mouse, select on the keypad, or you can use what they call flexi-time input with the metronome and you can actually either improvise or play it from the music real notes and real rhythms and it would appear magically on the screen.
A: Yes, true. And you know since we are using Sibelius for many years now I think it’s improved a lot in this particular field of making things easier.
V: The reason it is so expensive of course is that it has so many other features that not everybody needs. It has complete library of Sibelius sounds. You could create orchestral pieces and they would sound like orchestra. You could create piano pieces that would sound like piano. And various samples, right? Not too many people need everything, right? Only the most professional composers which keep creating variety of pieces for a variety of instruments and samples need those features. You could even create cinema scores with this. That’s why it’s so expensive I guess.
A: So really if you want to get Sibelius you need to look at what kind of computer you have because Sibelius also takes a lot of space. So if your computer is not a new one it may slow down the whole system a lot. That’s what we have at our school and our computers are not the newest ones so I had even to uninstall Sibelius in my classroom because computer worked too slow.
V: Right. Would you switch to Finale now?
A: I don’t know. Probably not, I’m used to Sibelius. But in terms of any musical program you use you need to use it on a regular basis. Because for me for example I don’t use it as often as Vidas does and every time when I have to go back to it I feel that I am starting everything from the beginning.
V: But starting from the beginning, is it difficult Ausra? Intuitive?
V: If I wasn’t around could you figure it out on your own?
A: Yes, of course I could figure it out on my own but it would take me probably a lot of time because each little version there is something completely new. For example the fourth Sibelius is so much different from Sibelius number 6.
V: And we have Sibelius Ultimate which is basically just a small variation of Sibelius 8, but with Ultimate they increased the prices extremely and we don’t know why because the features are not that different from Sibelius 8.
A: I know.
V: And they want to incorporate this subscription model when you pay monthly or yearly subscription fee and use this program relatively inexpensively then but I didn’t want to pay subscription, I wanted to have entire software on my computer indefinitely so I bought it for a higher price. But for educational discount, they offer educational discount and since we both work at Vilnius University that’s what we got. So guys, please choose the tools wisely. If you’re not sure if you will need professional software like Sibelius or Finale for your compositions or transcriptions or whatever you will need do you think Ausra they need to invest right away. Like $400.00, $500.00, $600.00.
A: Well I don’t think so if you don’t need it for your daily use maybe you could just try to borrow a program from your friend or to use it in a library somewhere because I think musical libraries might have it for use.
V: The only reason actually I’m using Sibelius over free versions of MuseScore which is available freely on the internet is that I can really input notes in real time with a keyboard. There is one more software which I know can do this which is called Composer which only costs about $100.00 or euros so it’s less expensive but to my knowledge Sibelius does it more user-friendly way. That’s why I’m still sticking with Sibelius although other software is cheaper.
A: So if you are professional then get Sibelius but if not then just experiment with other programs because I think in most cases you can experiment with them for free until you decide what you really need and what you really want.
V: And of course some versions of Sibelius has this other feature called PhotoScore Ultimate which we haven’t discussed before is that you can scan music like a sheet of paper or PDF or even hand-written score from your sheet of paper that you have written before and it will produce rather clean looking musical notation on the screen which you could adjust and correct. But now it does a really good job in comparison of what it was capable to do a couple of years ago.
A: I remember how much trouble I had when I had to put in the Sibelius harmony exercise book which was published in the mid-twentieth century and I could not scan it anyway. It was about ten years ago.
V: And you could not even play it in real-time because we didn’t have keyboards with us.
A: So I did it just manually. It was an all summer project.
V: Umm-hmm. Luckily you had entire summer and you had me too.
A: True, because at the end of that book I asked for your help because it was driving me crazy.
V: Yeah. Ausra do you think that people could compose with a pencil and sheet of paper today?
A: Of course, why not?
V: You don’t really need computer.
A: No, you don’t.
V: But what happens if you want somebody to play your pieces? Would they agree to play from your handwriting?
A: Somebody may agree, it depends on how nice you write.
A: But of course it’s better for people to give a printed score.
V: Right. It’s easier on the eyes.
A: Yes. And in that case you show more respect for people.
V: Yes. And if you show your autograph like handwritten score to a person and ask them to play your piece it’s just one more reason for them to say “No.”
A: That’s true.
V: And because people will generally play something old and not new, right? Pieces that were written by masters rather that living people, right? In general, but not always. Then of course you have to do everything you can to facilitate this process for them to make it easy.
A: That’s right.
V: OK guys, please keep sending us your lovely questions. We love helping you grow. And remember when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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