Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Disclaimer: this has nothing to do with serialism. Honest.
I'm curious about different people's experiences with how they notate. Specifically, do they still write by hand, or do they use a software package, and if so, what?
I used to write things out in pencil, then work laboriously to produce a final copy in ink on transparency paper, using an electric eraser to remove mistakes. Of course, this was the 70's and early 80's. I then just bagged that approach and wrote things out in pencil, using a xerox machine and getting the score bound. Fairly inexpensive, but still time-consuming. I even would spend some free time during my fellowship on my extracurricular activity of notating scores.
In the early 90's I got very interested in computers, particularly the use of software to notate music. At the time, the dominant application was Finale (Macintosh), and using version 3.2 I was able to get some fairly lengthy scores notated using my computer. It was legible, could easily be backed up, and changes could be made on the fly (which was much better than using an electric eraser and boring a hole though the manuscript). By version 3.5.2, Finale was a really elegant application. I even wrote a paper on it for a MIS class, extolling its virtues.
Subsequent versions of Finale have left many of us in the user community cold. It works, but much more slowly, and has become less elegant in my opinion. It still allows me to get the job done, and in some ways much faster than before. I'm currently using Finale 2005b, and the best feature IMHO is its ability to dump a notated score into MP3 format. Playback varies---I have a lot of playback kinks to iron out with one score before I can post an MP3 excerpt on my site---but it's pretty good. Not as good as real musicians, of course, but beats silence.
There are also a lot of composers who speak highly of Finale's competitor, Sibelius. This is kind of like the Mac vs PC argument, and ultimately goes nowhere, but there are fierce debates between both user communities as to which application is best. I should say that there are days when I would love to try something else, as sometimes Finale just doesn't behave itself, or else cannot do what I need it to do. But I've also heard much the same from Sibelius users on the Web, so I think each program has its pros and cons.
So to my question: how do you produce finished manuscripts: pencil or software?