Sibelius vs. Finale: How To Choose?

By • September 17, 2008

I am constantly asked for guidance in choosing which of the two preeminent music prep software packages to adopt. There are other programs available, of course, but I would be leery of adopting upstarts, no matter how sexy the features, when there are veterans available. The race does not always go to the swift, since few users with careers built on software will want to master more every few years; neither do they want to abandon a body of work done in one format because it didn’t go the distance. Plus, unless one is musical hermit, one must deal with colleagues, and thus it pays to use what others use. So, from these tests alone, it boils down to Finale or Sibelius. Would that it were as simple a matter to distill it further. Space does not remotely permit an in-depth comparison at the moment, so let’s confine ourselves to the big picture.

This weekend one of my alma maters (San Diego State) played Notre Dame, a contest which, historically, would have seemed such a mismatch as to be impossible to schedule. However, the state university which has struggled throughout its history to become a big fish in successively bigger ponds going up against one of the great white sharks of college football history is a perfect allegory for Sibelius’s struggle to encroach on Finale’s turf. While the Aztecs ultimately lost, it wasn’t a blowout. Sibelius and Finale are like that. The latter has the longer history and hence the larger user base, but the former has the position of upstart and the mantle of innovator. So how does one choose?

One clue is that the documentation for Finale dwarfs that of Sibelius. All that extra verbiage exists to explain something, and is evidence of how Finale has survived on its “jack-of-all-trades-and-master-of-some” depth of features. It has always tried to be all things to all people, offering mixed blessings of power and flexibility purchased by a steep learning curve. Beyond its fledgling years, I have never worried about finishing a gig because Finale couldn’t do something. Plus, as I was a copyist before the first mouse came along, the good news was that Finale let me put symbols, as by hand, wherever I wanted. The bad news was it made me put the symbols, as by hand, wherever I wanted.

When Sibelius made its American debut at a NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show some 10 years ago, and despite its unavailability for the Mac, I saw its potential and grilled its “people” for hours, Its approach was to do more of the thinking for the composer/copyist while limiting some of his options, while using a radically different code structure which sped up processing considerably. This gave it a reduced and simpler learning environment, making it attractive to newbies.

On the broadest levels, the struggle ever since has been each one pushing away from its comfortable extreme by incorporating features and approaches from the other in an attempt to grab market share, This has proven to be a net gain for all of us, as competition does wonders for the pace of development. If it weren’t for Sibelius, Finale wouldn’t have interactive score and part views within one file and, without Finale pointing the way, Sibelius wouldn’t have a scroll view giving more practical access to just the material desired.

If you insist on specifics, Sibelius’ strengths include a slightly more authentic and traditional look to its output, but you might have to remind yourself to notice. Its playback algorithms sound a bit more realistic. And its structure holds somewhat greater potential for my personal holy grail of a completely touch-typed score, a boon for both the visually-impaired as well as anyone who truly thirsts for speed and efficiency. However, the company’s history does not make me confident that it has the vision to pull it off anytime soon. Part of its power comes from placing graphic symbols by hanging them on notes (not just by absolute spacing within the bar,) which often requires the use of the old invisible “dummy note” routine.

Finale’s strengths are a much deeper set of features and, consequently, more ways to get things done. If you’re willing to do the requisite homework with FinaleScript, third-party macro programs (to automate tasks and manage details,) and Finale’s seemingly bottomless pit of skills, you can get it to do most of Sibelius’s tricks, and a lot more.

Ultimately, any solutions to the “Less Filling!/Tastes Great!” software debate really hinge on defining what kind of user you want to be. If you relate to your software as simply a toolbox to accomplish a finite set of gigs, you will probably want one that is smaller, less complicated, and requiring less time and learning to accomplish those so you can get on with life’s other pursuits. If so, Sibelius might be your cup of tea. On the other hand, if you look to your software as a source of personal and musical power, then you must decide whether you are the sort who would rather take the time and effort to become Superman rather than Batman (superheroes both, but hardly interchangeable.) If so, Finale may satisfy your craving for power.

Either way, you’re in for an adventure. Make your choice and dig in!

Comments

By Goran on August 31st, 2010 at 7:25 pm

I have been using Finale for several years, and it keeps getting better. I have never been interested in Sibelius until now, and the sole reason is the ReWire support feature. I’m going to call Make Music (the Finale company) and see if they have plans to incorporate this feature. If not, I’ll switch, if so, I’ll stay.

By CrankCase on September 6th, 2010 at 3:06 pm

If only it were possible to use VSTi plugins with Sebelius, and assign instruments to particular staves, that would be the icing on the cake. It’s a real pain having to learn how to fiddle around getting it to work with a DAW in order to use the samples of choice. I want to compose, not be a computer geek. Also unfortunate that the in-built Sibelius sounds are so lame. And also lame that once a score page is set up that it’s so difficult, if not impossible, to reconfigure.

So I just hope the Sibelius (and maybe even the Finale) developers do something in this direction.

By Joe2aT on September 20th, 2010 at 11:28 am

Which program reproduces the most life-like orchestral sound? I’ve compared the musical examples on each website and I find Finale with its Garritan is the most realistic. When I listen to violin lines on the Sibelius it sounds like just one violin playing instead of 32. Additionally, Finale has the “Human Playback” feature (trademarked) that further enhances the orchestral-hall-like sound quality. I have a new concerto written in the Romantic tradition that needs that lush sound of Rachmaninoff. As i can never hope to become expert enough in either program to fully command them, I will have to hire an expert who works commercially to do this project for me. If anyone feels capable enough please post your email here and I will reply. I am in the Glendale California area.

By Joe2aT on September 20th, 2010 at 12:00 pm

I am confused. On the one hand nearly everyone here agrees that Finale offers the better playback sound quality with its Human Playback SmartMusic. Yet, on the other hand, I keep reading about professionals who consistently choose Sibelius. Why on earth would pros choose a system with the inferior sound quality?

By Ron Hess (the Chart Doctor) on September 20th, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Joe: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. At a certain level, one type of composer (say, with a budget for a sequencing assistant,) orchestrator (with the chops to hear what he sees,) or copyist (who doesn’t produce audio for anyone except his own curiosity) may not need bells-and-whistles playback. The notation’s the thing. Or the opposite may be true, where the audio comes first. This may dictate choice of weapons. And just as there are strata of users who contribute to blogs, there are those who may not take or have the time to. This discussion string is by no means scientific or exhaustive, just anecdotal. However, as a point of investigative departure, it sure beats silence. Really, REALLY try to concentrate on what you want or need the software to do and then buy accordingly. Good hunting!

Ron Hess
The Chart Doctor
ronhessmusic.com

By Peter Roos, San Francisco on September 21st, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Sibelius is brilliant – very intuitive to learn, and it can do anything I throw at it. I use it to write film scores and I love every minute of it. And printing picture perfect scores and parts is a piece of cake.

@CrankCase: Sibelius can handle all VSTs. In fact, I use it with all the Eastwest libraries – from Symphonic Orchestra (platinum plus). There is a soundset for EWQLSO so indeed you don’t need to be a computer geek to write music. Just set up the score, load up your instruments, and you are good to go. You do need a pretty powerful computer though to run a full fledged orchestral score with keyswitched instruments and all the mike settings, but that is the topic for another discussion. 😉

@Joe2at: if you are looking for life like wonderful orchestral sounds, you can’t go wrong with Eastwest, especially if you love the big lush Hollywood sound. With Sibelius you can compose a score without leaving the notation environment. Then when it comes to putting on the finishing touches, for best results it pays to export to a DAW and tweak midi notes, automate volume, EQ, maybe swap patches, etc.

By Aaron Blecker on September 30th, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Personally, I use Finale PrintMusic, but have tried Sibelius, and I think that Finale is the way to go. Plus, if you’re not really serious about composition, you can purchase one of the many “lite” versions that they offer. Finale NotePad is $9.95; SongWriter $49.95; PrintMusic $119.95; Allegro $199, and Finale $600. You should pick whichever one best suits your needs. There is a comparison chart at finalemusic.com of each software in a convernient table. Take a look at it. Sibelius is $599, and it has no lite versions except Sibelius First, but I think that Finale’s lite versions would be better. Do whatever fits your needs.

By jonnybutter on October 21st, 2010 at 4:28 am

Don’t know if anyone is still here, but….

I was a paper-and-pencil composer for many years. Tried Finale in the very early (Coda) days, and was baffled, and checked it out occasionally thereafter. Finally bought Finale 2009 a bit over a year ago, and have found it to be a rather frustrating experience. I think the bottom line re: choosing between Sib and Finale is that it depends on what you use them for.

For orchestrators, copyists, etc., there is certainly a case to be made for Finale – it does produce very beautiful results, and you can tweak absolutely everything – and of course, Finale is MUCH improved as compared to earlier versions. But for people who want to use a notation program for direct composing, I think Sibelius is the better choice (I have only used the demo of Sib., but plan on crossgrading). It is far more intuitive for a composer. Someone mentioned Macromedia vs Adobe above, and I think there is an apt analogy there: Macromedia Flash vs Adobe After Effects. Or, to use a sequencer analogy, Finale is more like the old (pre Apple) Logic, and Sibelius is more like the late-and-lamented (Studio) Vision, or Digital Performer. In either case, the former is powerful, but makes you conform to the app’s way of thinking, rather than the other way around.

The best thing is to have both, but for composing directly, it’s hardly a contest for me – it’s Sibelius.

By Steve Innis on January 6th, 2011 at 12:38 pm

I too found Sibelius elegant and intuitive, but a key feature (for me) was missing: the ability to hyperscribe (or whatever Sibelius calls it) while tapping in a pulse. It’s so great to read a part into Finale, tapping the quarter notes (or any specified value) on, say, a pedal, and just slow down when the going gets rougher…or for that matter, race through a page or two of half notes. With Sibelius I had to choose a tempo for the entire hyperscribe session (for a complete individual take, that is).

Was I missing something, or has that feature been added in the latest version? Or can someone tell me definitively it is not and probably never will be a Sibelius option? As a pianist, it’s a real dealbreaker for me. Thanks!

By Manny on February 14th, 2011 at 4:47 am

I became quite proficient with the early versions of Sibelius, but most of the time, when I want to score something fast, I always end up with Finale. I do prefer the midi instrumentation and feel of Sibelius (it seems to transcribe midi files more accurately), but I work faster in Finale, so I guess it’s Finale for me.

By Nick on April 22nd, 2011 at 3:03 pm

There are a lot of responses on here. I’ve read most and would like people to respond with which program they prefer and one to three primary reasons why.

Thanks

By ollie on May 14th, 2011 at 1:09 am

is started off pretty young with finale notepad 2008 back when it was free. was awesome at the time. then i bought sibelius 5 and it is just so much cleaner, logical and easier to use than finale. finale is just so messy and i noticed very little differences between notepad and the full version. when i went back to try finale, i simply couldn’t use it. but sibelius has its little problems that stuff you up a lot. sibelius 5 had really goods sounds, with a separate sound player (kontakt), which was integrated in sibelius 6. the sounds are simply not as good in 6. one of these tiny problems is that in the drum kit sounds on both 5 and 6 the snare drum is whisper quiet. little problems liekt his can really stuff you up. sibelius should really take a good look at these things and release a perfect notation software.

By DAVID GODINO on May 15th, 2011 at 3:48 pm

I AM A CAKEWALK USER FOR OVER TEN YEARS [AND HAPPY WITH IT] BUT AM NOW LOOKING TO MOVE ON TO SOMETHING ELSE. THE RESPONCE TO THE DEBATE OF FINALE VERSUS SIBELIUS WAS VERY ENLIGHTENING. I AM TEMPTED TO BUY BOTH BUT DREAD THE LONG LEARNING CURVE TIME TO GAIN PROFICIENCY. PEACE

By pleasenot on July 19th, 2011 at 10:57 pm

SIBELIUS!!!
Pay no attention to the Finale fanboys(and girls).
I am a composer/educator/performer in classical/avant-garde/jazz/rock fields.I have used (professionally and for fun) musicprinter plus in the early-mid 1990s then onto Finale and Encore in the late 90’s.I’ve also used notation features on Cakewalk,Logic and Cubase.

Nothing I’ve used prepared me for comprehensive simplicity of Sibelius.Things that took me weeks before went to days or hours.Just for my own personal amusement I’ve tried to push it to the impossible but have always found a way to do something,usually quickly.

I remember when Sibelius came along many pro musicians laughed me off when I mentioned it to them.Now many have taken it on themselves.

My own personal opinion on those who swear by Finale are biased by the enormous amount of time they spent learning it.I believe that they imagine this time spent translates (somehow magically in their imagination) to a more “powerful” application.Maybe you too should waste untold hours to learn this application!

Have fun.

By Kelly Johnson on September 30th, 2011 at 10:40 am

I’m a physically isolated, though serious musician. In this new music notation culture, is it common, or practical, for the composer to enter the rudiments of the score in one of these programs, and then pass the file on, for hire, to a more experienced notator, or professional copyist, for finishing touches (and for elements I could not figure out)? And if this is the case, what program/version, might be best? From reading this whole thread (it took hours!), I’m leaning toward Sebelius. thanks, Kelly Johnson, New York State

By nickpot on October 9th, 2011 at 6:38 am

In my honest opinion, I think both Finale and Sibelius are good products, but at the same time I think both are really overrated. MidiIllustrator Maestro 2 is way better than both with regards to notation options, accuracy, interface customization and lots of other features like the step by step practice mode [that works like Synthesia but way way better], two hand piano conversion, chord generator and a lot more things you won’t expect a music program does. I’ve tried both programs and I fell in love with MI. Plus add the fact that MI is super lightweight at only 8mb, atm there are only a few bugs I’ve discovered. I suggest you to try the product trial and you’ll know what I mean. It’s also MUCH CHEAPER. MI Maestro is a very good program for composing and learning. :]

By Jel Jongen on October 17th, 2011 at 7:08 am

What you need to do is check out Sibelius 7 and you will find that it’s slow and unworkable.
I’ve been a sibelius-user for some time now and i’m seriously considering to buy Finale

By Mephi on October 19th, 2011 at 3:17 am

As a graduate student I was using Sibelius while my classmates were using Finale. Most of them struggle with so many bugs. Their work required more time. Here are some things I found in Sibelius

– it is faster to play a score
– It is easier to select several staffs and hear only the ones selected.
– When scoring for harp, I just breeze writing the pedaling
– sharing a file on the web with Scorch was a great choir experience.
– I started to enjoy the power of Sibelius while creating plug-ins.
– Enjoyed the Shenkerian analysis plug-in

I have been using notation software since Music Printer Plus. I also used Encore, Finale and Sibelius. There is a feature that I still miss and no software has done it again. For Music Theory Classes I loved MP+ that played the music chord by cord so I could hear the progressions and retrogressions slowly and show my students. But what I have not seen again was the ability to play same chords, one by one BACKWARDS !!! That is a feature I miss. It was very handy for composition and for Music Theory.

I have found also that the creation of music symbols for contemporary music has been faster and easier in Finale.

I think I agree, for traditional music handling I would suggest Sibelius, but for contemporary I will go with Finale.

By AnotherDave on December 31st, 2011 at 5:56 pm

I bought Finale PrintMusic for $110.00 this week and was excited to get a couple new song compositions in and listen to them and turn them into sheet music and MP3s. But Finale PrintMusic is really a terrible piece of software. The whole user interface simply does not employ good design principles. As the first Dave said on January 16th, 2010 at 2:01 am, it is an edge-of-the-seat blood-pressure-raising experience.

It is everything I hate about software: no explanation of anything that you can do in the dialogs, no feedback when you change something, unpredictable and inscrutable. Why would I pay another $600 to the same company for supposedly something better? I don’t trust them.

Examples: (1) It took an hour to figure out I couldn’t hide stave portions that contained only rests. That pushed a short song onto two pages. (2) The staves and fonts somehow all became different sizes on different pages (even on the same page!)and I have no idea how. (3) There is no way I can figure out to set an absolute size for the staves, and the dialog box that purports to do so completely sucks, nothing behaves as I think it will. (4) For some reason I’m getting “Can’t Undo” in the Edit menu for almost everything. No going back from mistakes. (5) It is extremely dangerous to click one of the tools in the tool bar and touch anything on the screen. Very unpredictable software.

No way. If neither Sibelius nor anything else out there is any better, I truly will give up composing. Or at least writing down any of my compositions in a computer. I don’t need to go insane over this stuff. But I am going to seriously check out every YouTube video I can find on Sibelius before plunking down $599.
I will say I am extremely pleased with the choral backup parts I wrote to my melody in FPM this week, and I like listening to the result with cello, flute, and, strangely, trombone filling in for the rather weak choral sounds.

Thanks everyone.

By AnotherDave on February 9th, 2012 at 9:14 pm

This is me again. I promise everyone here that I will never use Finale PrintMusic again no matter how desperate. I would not wish this unmitigated disaster on my worst enemy or most ardent rival. Truly, friends, spare yourselves the grief that will come upon you using this…this…this … ! Use a pencil and a notebook.

So because I got excited coming up with some stuff, I entered a song, then didn’t save it before starting to enter another song. Finale PrintMusic is merciless against this kind of mistake. You have sinned. You will pay. In the second song, I just entered an 8-bar melody, then I hit the little MIDI play button to hear if it sounded correct. Big mistake. It got to the end and kept going through blank measures, so I hit the stop button–and then it started playing the last tone on and on forever. I hit everything to try to stop this, but it wouldn’t. Then I did File > Save to save my work and it saved it. Then I had to close Finale to stop the ongoing tone. Finale did not prompt me about the OTHER file I had forgotten to save. So both files were COMPLETELY LOST–the File > Save did not work after all. Good thing I recorded them on the webcam/iPhone! Because if I don’t get a melody down right away, it disappears forever, I forget them too quick.

I am telling you, I have worked with (indeed, installed, configured, and troubleshooted) countless software programs of all types, most of which have many problems. This one is the worst, by a great measure.

By Adrian Heath on February 12th, 2012 at 10:11 am

Can I take up the curious idea that Finale’s thicker manual means it can do more!

I used Finale 2003 and sibelius 4 in parallel; I had to consult Finale’s manual, say, 3 times an hour; Sibelius’s only 3 times a week.
So, I think Finale’s manual is thicker because the programme is less well designed. I found Sibelius at least 3 times faster to use, for the same result.

And please let me know exaclty what Finale can do that Sibelius can’t. Have the real power users even tried to do the same in Sibelius? I doubt if Finale will leave them the time!!

By djbowyer on February 22nd, 2012 at 9:06 am

Have been using Sibelius and have tried Finale in the past. Can only speak to Sibelius. I love using it and it’s easy for me! I spent some time learning from a book by Tom Rudolf. I’ve also purchased the Sibelius Reference Manual, which stays by my side every time I use Sibelius. I use Sibelius as a concert band teacher and composer. I think it is the easiest most intuitive of the two, but honesty I haven’t looked at Finale for a few years. I use Sibelius for common notation including dynamics, articulation and expression. Key changes, meter and other necessary elements of notation are very simple in Sibelius. I have recommended Sibelius for my students, however I do not know all the details about the different versions of Finale and Sibelius in regards to people just starting out, looking for less expensive, scaled-down versions.

By Scott on March 19th, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I am looking at Sibelius 7 and it says will not work on Windows XP. What’s up with that?

By graham answerth on March 31st, 2012 at 4:11 am

I once owned a friendly dinosaur in the guise of a Yamaha CX5. It was clumsy and didn’t have many features, but it was built like a tank. Built 1980. 64 kb.

eg. to change tempo, one typed TEMPO = 123
to change length of note from sustained to staccato, one typed LEN -255 [max length] and staccato could be anything shorter, eg LEN -150
to use rits one typed in RIT =1 up to 255.
You could determine the length of a fermata; any length from 1 to 255.
To change the sound of an instrument on one staff, type VOICE = whatever. 1 to about 400.
My grade 2 kids could load it and compose. So easy. Finale SUCKS, a nightmare, and the gurus don’t make it any easier by the convoluted rubbish written. I’d fail a grade three child if he or she wrote some of this rubbish.

I am a disillusioned teacher.

By jeff04 on April 19th, 2012 at 11:34 am

Both these programs are expensive. Making the wrong choice could be
painful. So I read a lot of threads comparing the two. The common
theme seems to be Finale can be buggy and combersome but Sibelius is not
as powerful. (I once heard a student claim the Finale Player ate
her homework.)

People seem to choose Finale because it is more established.
But as a Software Engineer by day, older programs set off alarm
bells with me. Like car design, older is not necessarily better.
The bugs people speak of suggest to me the Finale software could be
complicated and difficult to maintain or improve. Going forward,
this could be a much more of an issue when adding new features. I also
noticed that the idea that Sibelius is less powerful/professional
seems to come more from non-users. Few Sibelius users actually
express serious dissatisfaction.

So I bought Sibelius 6. FWIW, here’s my experience after working
with it for a year. I hope some find this useful in their
decision making. Its a big program and there are still features I’ve
yet to explore. My requirements may be much less than a full-time
power user but so far its done everything I wanted and more.
No major screw ups, inabilities, or lost work.

My main requirement concern was to be able to score and play
complex odd time signatures (progressive rock). So far, 5/4, 11/8,
no problems. It has nice GUI features like Cut and Paste that are
a real time-saver, keyboard shortcuts, and a good users manual.
To be sure, some of its assumptions about how to do things or what I
want are not always to my liking (like how the stems are grouped in
11/8 or what drum notehead I need). But these things are corrected
with a few extra clicks. I doubt any notation program will suit
all users’ preferences.

A big plus for me is the ability to playback what’s written.
I believe Finale can do that too. I’m not a Mozart so being able
to listen to complex harmonies, quickly make changes and repeat,
has taken my compositions to a new level. If I want to hear it
slowly, no need to change the score, just adjust the playback speed.

From what I’ve read Finale’s package seems to include better
orchestra instrument sounds for playback. Probably, but I
personally didn’t make that my primary criteria for selecting
notation software. Some of the instrument sounds included with
Sibelius, like piano (lite), drums, nylon string guitar, sound
pretty realistic to me. I’ve dabbled with the strings, they’re OK
but aren’t going to fool you into thinking
they’re real strings. The electric guitar sounds suck, probably the
thing I like least. But that’s a very complex sound to render well.
(Not sure Finale would do it any better.)
I suspect if you need high quality, realistic sounds you will end
up buying/installing 3rd party sound packages regardless of which
notation program you buy. I haven’t tried that yet.

Sib 6 comes with a basic sound mixer. Each instrument has a separate
channel with volume, reverb, pan, and instrument specific controls.
Its certainly not Pro Tools but quite reasonable for auditioning
a score. You can even select an instrument sound that’s different
than the one you’ve written for without changing the score. If I
want to hear what the guitar part might sound like on a keyboard,
just select a keyboard sound on the guitar channel.

I’m running on a 3 year old laptop with an Intel Core-Duo 2.2GHz,
Windows 7, 64bit, 4GB memory. No added sound card. For the
most part there’s no problem playing back guitar, keyboard, bass,
drums (that’s actually a lot of simultaneous notes). There are
some occasional minor play back glitches in complicated high speed
parts but I think a hardware upgrade would fix that. I’d guess a
big orchestra piece would want fast hardware too.

Since I haven’t worked with Finale, I can’t say feature-for-feature
if its better or worse. But I can say that I’m satisfied with
Sibelius 6. Its allowed me to hear and refine my music and put it
down on paper without major problems.

By Jim McLean on July 21st, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Both programs are great. The issue over which is most powerful has lost weight given the power and sophistication of modern PCs (including MACs). I tend to find Finale just that bit “clunkier” than Sibelius. It is like comparing Cakewalk’s Sonar to Apple’s Logic recording software. Logic held the position of the most powerful, widely used and comprehensive software in the market. However, Sonar is just that little bit more user-friendly. I find that with Sibelius…for some reason it lacks the perceived “gravitas” of Finale, but does the job just as well and slightly more intuitively.

But again…an experienced Finale user who knows his way around the program would probably never wish to change, and why should he?

By Roddy on October 7th, 2012 at 3:27 am

As a long time user of Finale I am about to update. My currrent version of Finale has developed major problems since updating to Win7 so I am looking hard at Sibelius. My problem is that some of my band members use Finale while others use Sibelius so which way do I go? In the interim I have been using a freeware program, MuseScore, which I am told is similar in use to Sibelius. It has worked well though it does have shortcommings. Before finaly deciding is there anyway that files can be shared between Finale and Sib.? Using xml files works to a point but there are always some errors.

R

By Emilio Le Roux on November 18th, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Thanks to all for sharing your points of view about Finale and Sibelius.

I’ve made my choice for a composing application some time ago, and it’s Notion. Its interface is very user friendly, confortable and efficient, its scores are beautiful (although traditional) and its playback is simply unsurpassed. Not only it provides a very quick and realistic feedback of what you are writing -including articulation, multi layered dynamics and so on- but it is possible to actually use the sound as an end product with no much work than writing a nicely detailed score.

The only problem is that it doesn’t cover all the score edition needs, specially when talking about contemporary notation. There’s little customization.

still, Notion is so efficient as a composing tool that it’s worth using it for most part of the job, even if you have to re-edit the score in another program. And that’s why I read threads and more threads about the big guys, finale and sibelius, and also alternatives like the open source MuseScore, which also makes great scores. But I haven’t found the software that will fulfill this workflow.

I think I’ll end up using Finale, if what I really want is to be able to use both old and new engraving techniques, and also because the standard it became. But I am not pleased having to choose between applications that are very expensive, yet very inefficient and outdated, just because there’s no better choice. I am only sure about one thing: the ultimate notation software isn’t born yet.

By Joe on November 22nd, 2012 at 7:54 am

I’m an arranger of music for guitar. I use the piano [which is my main instrument] to write the melody-chord arrangements and then use the guitar to edit the music. I am interested in purchasing a music notation program that allows me to input the notation using the Midi and input fingering on the score. When I review both the Sibelius First 7 and Finale programs, I conclude that both programs omit the feature that would allow for fingering in the score.Perhaps I missed reading this feature in the overview of both Seberlius First 7 and Finale.

By Tyler on December 29th, 2012 at 12:03 pm

I have been a Sibelius user since 2003. I am a composer/lyricist and have spent a good amount of time working in the copy world. I have also read each encyclopedia user manual that comes with the new update of Sibelius. (It takes hours and isn’t fun)

I bought Finale 2010 on the advice of others that it was faster and easier to use, hoping that I would be able to easily switch between the programs based on who I was working with. I have had so much trouble. Finale is simply Greek to me. I don’t know what it is but I can’t seem to get into it. Any advice? At this point I’m going to start with the programmed tutorials because none of it makes sense to me.

Also, I was taught old school pencil and paper so the idea of Midi is foreign to me. I’d love to know if it is actually efficient for people. I can’t seem to get past the idea that I would spend just as much time fixing all of its mistakes as I would just inputting the notes through quick keys. Thoughts?

By Nancy on January 8th, 2013 at 2:15 am

Hi, I was looking for online course on music programs through which I can improve my knowledge in music and music softwares. I found this online course : http://www.wiziq.com/course/3200-master-sibelius-7-software
Help me by reviewing this music software course, so that I can make a decision to join it.

By Tobester on March 11th, 2013 at 8:56 am

I keep a copy of both programs. I receive files in both formats and it helps me deal with them by having both. Having said that, I never voluntarily use Finale for anything I compose. There is nothing that Finale can’t do. It’s not an inferior program feature-wise. It’s just that the learning curve is borderline unreasonable. Unreasonable for someone who has to crank out finished works and who is use to doing it by hand (i.e. pencil and paper). Sibelius is set up to work like the way a pen and paper composer thinks. Finale is set up to work like a computer geek thinks, endless drop-down menus to get the simplest things done. Not intuitive at all. I can do all the things I need in either program but I can tell you it took me quite awhile to learn and use the manual repeatedly to get simple things done in Finale vs. Sibelius where it’s very intuitive. Having said all that…… I don’t find the facelift of Sibelius 7 intuitive at all. Finding where everything went is frustrating and is not easier than before. I know the features I want to access in Sibelius 7 because I use them constantly. Finding them in the new UI, however, is a giant pain in the ass. Similar to my gripes with Finale. All in all, using both programs, I still favor Sibelius by a longshot for ease of use. Not to mention professional engraving. Finale’s engraving looks dated, comically simplistic and cheesy. And yes, aesthetics do matter to the performers, the conductor and the patron.

By J.lombana on April 23rd, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Hi. It’s fantastic that this tread is going on for this long. Does anybody knows if Sibelius can be loaded in more than a single computer? And what about its performance in the apple Lion OS?

By Paul Johns on May 17th, 2013 at 8:52 am

Both Sibelius and Finale allow installation and registration on two computers: Windows, Mac, or one of each.

By Sebastian on July 25th, 2013 at 3:35 am

What about other alternatives like FORTE? There is more than just sibelius and finale.

By Julian on August 28th, 2013 at 5:41 pm

I’ve been using Finale since 2008 and I love it. The ONLY thing I don’t like is how visually unappealing the sheet music output is. They really need to get on improving that.

By Chuck on September 18th, 2013 at 3:35 pm

My Finale crashed after a software update, and Finale has been ‘dancing’ for four years – refusing to solve the problem. They blame me for their update…go figure.

Should I switch to Sibelius, or even Forte?

By Robert Loeber on October 2nd, 2013 at 1:13 am

Printmusic 2011 can be compared functionally wise with Finale 2003.
I used Finale 2003, which I got from my education at that time, but it became very unstable on Windows 7. I decided to go the cheaper way and buy Printmusic 2011, which turned out be be in fact an improvement over my old Finale 2003. It runs reliable, and has most of the features of Finale 2003. So most users should consider Printmusic 2011 first, before spending a lot of money on the ‘real thing’.

By Jaco on July 22nd, 2014 at 4:57 pm

I prefer Encore by Passport and have been using it for 30 years. I was forced (literally) to use Finale for a long drawn decade due to the insistence of the schools I was working with, but Encore did not miss much in terms of features, but would let me get things done in a fraction of the time it took to sutmble and gobble-di-gook through all the Nile Delta quagmire of Finale “features.”

There is no such thing as “an upstart” yet in this industry. That’s an illusion. Encore, in fact, is among the most commonly used notation software in the market.

By John Morton on April 3rd, 2015 at 7:55 am

I recently added Finale 2014 with previous experience on Encore and MuseScore. My first impressions are that the oft-quoted steep learning curve is due to the poorly thought-out user manual and guides, rather than the program itself.

When exploring an unfamiliar feature, links open up pages with other unfamiliar terms, and so on and so on. There’s a tendency to forget what one is looking for.

What manuals need is a simple how-to-do-it approach i.e. if you want to do ‘this’ do ‘that’, no matter how often the material would be repeated. The removal of the large amount of unnecessary verbiage in the existing manuals would compensate.

There could still be side-links to technical matters for those interested.

Most composer/arrangers need to get on and use a program with minimal interruption to their day.

If the playback of imported files works OK I might continue writing in MuseScore, with its easy interactive features and its stability, especially with copy/paste and transposition, and do the demos with Finale’s Garritan instruments.

By steve gregoropoulos on February 11th, 2016 at 4:15 pm

I’m a composer and arranger who works with very large scores and ensembles. Since Finale 2014 my experience with Finale has been a nightmare. Basically it comes down to: 1) Finale now crashes all the time on scrolling playback and you lose anything you haven’t saved – this is a known bug, and 2) on a large score (say 90 minutes for 20 instruments) the “speedy entry” slows down to a snail’s pace, where you have to wait about ten seconds after entering each note, another ten to add an accidental, etc. I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone and computer with Finale and it comes down to bit depth. I’ve read similar complaints from other composers. Will Sebelius solve this. Can I type rapidly in measure 2000 in an orchestra file in Sibelius? Really it’s make or break for me!

By Roman I. Drozd on July 31st, 2017 at 12:27 am

From many years I compose in Encore (for small forms), Finale or Sibelius. I tried even on Notion. Encore is much faster than Sibelius or Finale (playback system is horrible). I suppose, the future for score composers is in the software like StaffPad – I mean in software very intuitive, fast and unifying habits of score-paper composers and score-PC musicians. I tested StaffPad for Microsoft company, because MS Surface Pro 3 or 4 was created for graphic designers and composers too. Unfortunately StaffPad for now is only for Windows Platform, not for OSX or iOS (iPad Pro). Just I’m testing Steinberg Dorico for both platforms. Main creator of Dorico is Mr Daniel Spreadbury (creator of Sibelius). But, I underline, I see the future of music notation software in the StaffPad – you need 2 hours for composing. Main creator of this incredible soft is young and good composer – David Haern.

By Jon on December 9th, 2017 at 8:30 am

I used Finale for a few years. One day, my computer did an update. After that, Finale wouldn’t load due to its “not being compatible with the update.” My computer is a Mac. When I tried to log in to Finale’s website, my account had disappeared. I contacted customer support and provided them with my product code, receipts, and images of the wrapping and manuals/product literature. Customer support decided to stop communicating with me and the situation was never resolved. Ultimately, I paid for a software that I now do not have, and customer support basically said, “f**k off!” I think the Finale software is a fine product, but I cannot rally behind a company that essentially steals my money and then turns its back on me. BEWARE!!!

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