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Music writing software?

15 Aug 98 - 07:55 PM (#34944)
Subject: Music writing software?
From: Barbara

Mick asked the question in the Irish Tune thread. What is out there to write out and play a tune.
I use MusicTime. My brother uses Cakewalk.
Musictime will turn MIDIs into sheet music and vice versa. You can enter music with the cursor as notes on staves or play it on a keyboard. You can change the time sig, transpose, speed it up and slow it down. When I bought it, it cost about $50 US, but I bet it's more now. My version, 1., has some quirky bugs. Like it gets the measure number wrong, and won't change it. Makes it hard to add or delete measures.

I know there's more. What do you use, what does it do, cost, and why do you like or dislike it?

15 Aug 98 - 09:25 PM (#34957)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?
From: Joe Offer

Say, Barbara, how does MusicTime turn sheet music into MIDI's? I haven't had any luck with programs like that myself, and have found it quicker to transcribe tunes by hand into Noteworthy Composer.
Noteworthy is shareware - Click here to get to their Web site to download the program. The registered version is well worth the $40 fee, but the shareware works pretty well for free. I have had some trouble converting Noteworthy MIDI files to ABC with Alan's MIDITXT program, but Alan promises to fix that.
About the only big thing that I don't like about Noteworthy is that they don't have the musical version of "word wrap" - the staff continues in a vertical line, from the beginning to the end of the song. I need a monitor that's three feet wide and three inches high. They seem to be talking about fixing that. Of course, if you're working on an orchestral piece with 8 staffs of music or more, you probably wouldn't want to wrap your staffs.
The MIDI program I found easiest to use was the music part of DeskMate, that I got in 1988 with my Tandy computer. The ex-wife got it in the divorce settlement - I didn't want to keep a Tandy just for the music program, and the ex is very proud to have a 1988-vintage computer that she doesn't know how to use.
-Joe Offer-

15 Aug 98 - 10:02 PM (#34964)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?
From: Barbara

Well, Joe, that's a good question, and I don't know the answer. I can tell you what I do, but not what MT does.
MIDI to sheetmusic: I use my file manager to stick the midi file in the Musictime directory (drop and drag), then I open MT and in the tune file, I click down to the option that says MID file. (You know like how wordprocessors give you different choices of format? i.e. *.wpd, *.wri, *.txt?) Well, this program gives you choice of *.mus, *.mid, etc, and when you choose *.mid, it converts it to sheet music and prints it out on the screen that way.
To go the other way, I just save it as a '.mid' file instead of *.mus.
Cool, huh? Simple enough for idjits like me, even.

15 Aug 98 - 10:09 PM (#34966)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?
From: Joe Offer

Yeah, Barbara, but what I'm trying to do is get the notes from the sheet of paper into the computer without entering the music by hand. I dried a shareware program that's supposed to work with my scanner, but it was so inaccurate it was quicker to do it by hand. Jon W. spent actual money for the full version of that program, I think; and he didn't have much luck, either.
-Joe Offer-

15 Aug 98 - 10:15 PM (#34968)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?
From: Barbara

Oh, I see. You meant sheet music in the hand, hard copy, not already in the machine. I just type it in, the long way.
On the other end of the stick, MT has a program, Passport, that promises to take a tune you hum or whistle into the mike and turn it into sheet music, but I haven't tried that yet.
That is to say, I have it, but I haven't learned how to use it yet, so I don't know if it works.

16 Aug 98 - 04:00 AM (#34995)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?
From: BSeed

I haven't seen it in the catalogs lately but various Mac mailorder houses used to list a program called Practica Musica, and the descriptions indicated that the program would do all that and more, including arranging, suggesting melodies to go with harmonic patterns, etc. --seed

16 Aug 98 - 04:02 AM (#34996)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?
From: BSeed

oh, by the way, I have a program called ConcertWare Music Studio, came with a MIDI keyboard, worked with system 7.0 but I haven't been able to make it work for 7.5. There may be an upgrade.

16 Aug 98 - 08:01 PM (#35058)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?
From: John n Brisbane

I am a NoteWorthy Composer user and find it excellent value for money.

The one thing it doesn't do - and neither do any of the other similar programs that I know of - is to generate the guitar chords used in an actual MIDI 'performance' file.

But I finally found a semi reasonable answer. The latest version of Jammer (shareware) has a routine which translates the chords for you from any rhythm track on the MIDI file. It is labelled 'Chord Recognition' and works beautifully, once you've determined where the rhythm track actually resides. There is quite a range of display options, but basically it produces what looks like a spreadsheet with the chord name in the appropriate position in the measure. I have found it really useful when I have been stumped by the structure of (say) an unfamiliar or unpredictable Celtic tune. And for those of us who stray into other musical forms you can always look at the jazz chords in 'Midnight in Vermont'.

I guess it should only be a matter of time before someone publishes a simple media player that displays the guitar chords, karaoke style. I gather that the MIDI data is typically there - it's merely a matter of harvesting it.

Regards John

16 Aug 98 - 08:13 PM (#35064)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?
From: John in Brisbane

Postscript to the above. As far as I'm aware Jammer will not allow you to write music in the conventional notation sense - it is not a score editor. It is just the Chord Recognition function which I find so useful.

Cheers John

16 Aug 98 - 10:40 PM (#35082)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?
From: Bob Bolton

G'day all,

I'm not too sure that the device to read sheet music into a music program isn't the musical equivalent of an urban myth - but it should be almost as possible as a good OCR reading of wordson a page. I seem to remember that Dave De Santi of Wongawilli Bush Band and the Illawarra Folk Festival got some software that promised all this.

I haven't heard any more of it (and I don't remember it coming up in his 1997 workshop on computer programs for musicians) but I'l give him a nudge and find out how close such things are to reality.


Bob Bolton

17 Aug 98 - 01:32 AM (#35091)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?
From: Bob Bolton

G'day again,

I got a reply from Dave De Santi (referring on to Duncan Chalmers who seems to be the current computer/music scanning guru of the Sydney Folk scene - will buttonhole Duncan when I next run into him):

"Duncan Chalmers had done some work with reading from sheet music and then tidying up. We did talk about it the Computers and Music Workshop.

There were a number of softwares - MusicScan, MidiScan with varying features.

Duncan might be able to comment."

I have not tried any of these as I don't have a suitable scanner at home. Until now I have just keyed the tunes into MusicTime and regarded it as part of the learning experience, but a workable music scanning package could seduce me away from that view.


Bob Bolton

17 Aug 98 - 02:45 AM (#35100)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?
From: Alan of Australia

I've tried Musicscan or MIDIscan (forget which) and found it to be less than perfect. Although I'm not really a keyboard player, I can get a MIDI file much more quickly and accurately by playing it on my MIDI keyboard using my sequencing software to capture it and save as a MIDI. Even if the scanning program worked well I think its value would be doubtful if you are only trying to capture a melody.

The sequencing software I use is called Musicator Audio which is (was??) distributed in Australia by Roland. It prints scores in very fine detail, much finer resolution than the screen is capable of, transposes guitar chords if you transpose the piece, etc etc. It's also a hard disc recorder allowing up to 16 tracks of audio to be recorded and mixed down just like a recording studio (but get a BIG hard disc).

It wasn't cheap, and there are probably better and cheaper programs around now but it's what I've got and it does the job well. I'll post the URL of their web page later if it's still there.


17 Aug 98 - 06:54 AM (#35102)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?
From: alison


Yes,I like Musicator, although mine isn't as fancy as Alan's version. It still does a great job.



17 Aug 98 - 10:05 AM (#35113)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?
From: Big Mick


Thank you so much for starting this thread. I have always wanted to know about this kind of software. I downloaded a shareware program called Muse but I am having a little bit of a time learning to use it. I hope this thread keeps up for a while, so I can get a fair amount of comparative data before I purchase something.

Keep up the great discussion folks.


17 Aug 98 - 11:12 AM (#35124)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?
From: dick greenhaus

Some thoughts- Pianoscan will read scanned single-voice music and convert it to MIDI--but it's a nuisance to use. Too much editing.

Noteworthy Composer works well;

MusicEase, IMHO, may be a bit easier. My personal pet is the old SongWright, but that's no longer available.

ABCMUS is a fine ABC player, and does a creditable job of setting chords to the music.

17 Aug 98 - 11:21 AM (#35125)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?
From: rosebrook

Muse was one of the programs I considered when looking into downloadable (?) software to change tunes into sheet music. My decision was to go with ABC2Win. It can be found at:

The program is easy to use (obviously, it *must* be for me to be using it!) You can download it free, and to have printing capabilities it's very minimal ($20).

I have had a blast searching the web for tunes (in abc format) that I have been wanting to learn. I find a collection of tunes or an individual tune, and download it into the ABC2Win (easy as pie - - no, easier than that....easy as cobbler...) and from there, I can slow it down, speed it up, manipulate it so I can learn it easily. My favorite site for finding tunes used to be at (I wish I could that cool trick where you just "HERE" in hypertext and it links you there, but ...):

Here you'll find a llllooooooonnnnnnnnngggggggg list of tunes in alphabetical order and takes a long time for the page to load, but it's a comprehensive list of tunes. However, since Alice mentioned this site in a different thread:

I have been going there, typing in the name of the tune I'm seeking, finding the tunes in gif (sheet music) form and just hitting my print button.

I hope this information is within the scope of the what you were seeking Mick.


17 Aug 98 - 11:33 AM (#35126)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?
From: Jon W.

NO JOE, I didn't pay good money for that piece of software. I got the demo version of MIDIScan (by Musitek), and tried it out. I gave it a fair chance, I think. There were four reasons I chose not to continue using it: 1) It was oriented towards much more complex scores that the simple folk melodies in which I am interested. 2) It's pretty picky about having a good copy, of the correct size. 3) The scanning isn't really very accurate (much worse that OCR even) and then you have to go in and edit it by hand to fix the wrong notes, etc. The editing software is nice (thoughtfully designed) but just not worth the hassle on the simple tunes I was inputting. 4) The price is too high, $299 for the full blown version, $99 for the version that allows only 2 staves (i.e. meant for piano music).

About the same time, I learned ABC notation and discovered that of the various ways to enter music, it was for me the easiest (if you are sticking to a single melody line). I use ABC2Win to convert to sheet music (though there are some drawbacks like not being able to control the number of measures on a line very well). For my usual use, which is to enter music and then play it, I just use a text editor (or word processor) to enter it and PLAYQABC to play it, or ABC2Win which incorporates PLAYQABC. I also used Noteworthy Composer before I discovered ABC and found it to be pretty satisfactory. It's a good way to get a nice printout, nice sounding playback, and be able to print lyrics aligned with the sheet music. It will import MIDI files and export them, although the timing is weird in the exported files.

There are also some good tablature programs out there for entering guitar, banjo, mandolin, and other tab. One I've tried (demo version on the net for download) is TablEdit. It seems to be fairly feature rich and works well, and will import ABC and MIDI files. It will play MIDI through the sound card or even without one, through the PC speaker.

Jon W.

17 Aug 98 - 03:21 PM (#35140)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?
From: rosebrook

Thank you Jon W. for the quick HTML lesson.

If this works right, the links in my post above would be as follows. To find out more info about ABC2Win, you would go HERE and then to go to the great big long list of tunes available on the web, just click this handy link And finally, the cool link that Alice in Montana shared is (cross your fingers) find tunes here

I don't know HTML and have never tried to do this before, so I hope it worked, and I hope someone can make good use of the links.


17 Aug 98 - 10:26 PM (#35181)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?
From: Duncan Chalmers

G'day all. I have been using Midiscan. I find it reasonably good. The comments about having a clean copy are valid. I find witha good clean copy and if necessary a tiff graphics editor to remove unwanted blemishes a good midi file can be easily generated with 90% accuracy. The downside is that the midifile tends to be too clinical and lacks any lilt that celtic music I'm interested in needs.

If any of you would like further info my email address is and I will try to answer as soon as possible. regards Duncan

17 Aug 98 - 11:32 PM (#35189)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?

You want Recording Session by MidiSoft. You can use your mouse to place the notes on the stanzas or you can play a midi instrument into the sound card and the software will auto-notate. It also auto-notates midi files from other sources. Pretty cool.

18 Aug 98 - 04:07 AM (#35210)
Subject: RE: Music writing software?

I also choose the ABC path. It is relatively easy to take a sheet of music, Joe and type in the ABC equivalent. It is almost as if you were trying to describe the music to a friend over the telephone.

You can write multi-voiced music with it, including chords. The only thing you can't do (at the moment, anyway) is to have different tone coloring in the different voices.

As has been mentioned, there is a LOT of music in ABC. Especially if you are into Celtic. For some reason the people who collect Celtic tunes have been the ones to set up website with ABC files.