I received this question from a WorshipMatters reader:
I’ve heard good things about both Finale and Sibelius as far as notation software goes. Now, I understand that, perhaps depending on the needs, one software might be better than the other. Is it possible to give a quick run-down as to “which should I (i.e. my church) choose if it wants notation software?” Does it matter? What are the different strengths/weaknesses?
Let me start by telling you I’m a Sibelius fan.
Here’s my story. I used Professional Composer in the early 90’s for notation and then switched to Finale in the early 90’s. Not too long after I moved to Covenant Life Church in 1997, I got Sibelius for the office just because it seemed easier than Finale to use. It was. Significantly. But I kept using Finale at home. So I was able to compare them. Every year I’d receive a brochure from Finale, advertising the new version. I hesitated to upgrade because I noticed that each version just kept getting more and more like Sibelius. One year I broke down and ordered the newest version of Finale, but couldn’t get my keyboard to work with it. At that time Sibelius was offering a “switch from Finale” upgrade for $149. I switched. When I installed Sibelius, my keyboard worked right away.
Sibelius is at version 5.2 now after about eleven years. Each version continues to improve on what started as a great product. It’s very intuitive, and there are many automatic functions, like spacing, that make notation easy. And the on-line and hard copy manuals are very helpful and easy to navigate. You can program Sibelius to use keyboard shortcuts for just about anything, and the third-party plug-ins (over 100) simplify a great number of operations. The regular version of Sibelius goes for $600, but if you’re a student or educator, you can purchase an educational version for $329. They’ve also introduced a student version (gr. 3-12) for $99 and Sibelius First, a stripped down version of Sibelius, for $129. They also have products for ear training, sight singing, and training children. You can check out all the products here.
But here’s the great news. If you’re using Finale and are tired of going through multiple layers of commands to actually do what you want to do, through Sept. 30 you can switch to Sibelius for only $99. No matter how long you’ve been using Finale, I guarantee that if you spend a couple hours on Sibelius you’ll be happier and have more time for other things than notating music.
In the interest of full disclosure, Finale has its strengths and there are things Finale can do that Sibelius can’t. If you’re really serious about notating very complicated music, or have been using Finale for ten years, Finale might be better to go with. But Sibelius was created by a couple guys in England who wanted to make computer notation easy so we could spend less time thinking about the process, and more time creating music. I think they succeeded.
What do you think?
(If you want to see more notation options, check out the Wikipedia entry on scorewriting programs.)