Sibelius comes in various levels of membership. Sibelius First offers free music composition, but if it's Sibelius you want to buy, this is a reasonably priced option when compared to the best music notation software (opens in new tab), with an elegant, easy-to-use interface. The most premium option, Sibelius Ultimate, costs more than any of the music notation software we reviewed, but it's designed for professional composers who may find it to be a worthy investment. You can pay for a monthly, annual, or lifetime subscription with Sibelius, which allows you to test the software before you commit to buying it outright. Overall, the right Sibelius software option for you depends on your experience level. For beginners, it's great to have a free option in Sibelius First, but you may find the limitations of this software frustrating as you progress with composition. In this review we focus on Sibelius itself, but we'll note the main differences (opens in new tab) so you can pick the right option for you.
Sibelius music notation software: What you need to know
This notation software supports the best variety of input devices in our test group, including a virtual piano, virtual guitar fretboard, MIDI keyboard and computer keyboard. You can also simply use your mouse to add notes to the staff. When you use a MIDI keyboard for note entry, you can use the Step Time or Flexitime features and not worry about editing note appearances or adding rests – Sibelius automatically does it for you. If you have a hard time getting started, you can choose from 40 premade, genre-specific templates to spark your imagination.
Sibelius offers a unique and useful cloud sharing feature. Using this feature, you can upload scores to the Sibelius Cloud to share with other users. Sibelius First shouldn’t bottleneck your productivity too much unless you are notating scores for a large orchestra with a wide variety of instruments (you're limited to four instrument parts), but you will be limited with your use on the Sibelius Cloud with this option. With the Cloud, you can generate a URL and send your score to musicians and composers, who can then open your score in any web browser. With cloud sharing, you don’t need to export your project to share it, and there isn’t the risk of the exported document being illegible when printed on paper or opened on a mobile device. Unlike Finale PrintMusic (opens in new tab), Sibelius won’t export as some popular graphic image formats, such as JPG, BMP and GIF unless you opt for Sibelius Ultimate, but the new cloud sharing feature more than makes up for this.
Both Sibelius and Sibelius Ultimate comes bundled with two companion applications that improve their note inputting and file sharing abilities. AudioScore Lite lets you input notes by singing or playing a monophonic instrument, such as a trumpet or saxophone, into a microphone. The other companion app, PhotoScore & NotateMe Lite, can take printed sheet music or PDF and JPEG notation files and turn them into editable scores. You have to upgrade to the full version of that app for it to recognize handwritten scores, but we had no problem scanning printed documents from other notation programs and editing them with Sibelius First during our testing.
Should you buy Sibelius music notation software?
Sibelius scored highest in our ease of use tests not only because our reviewers had an easy time navigating the interface, but also because it has the best selection of pre-made and genre-specific templates. This notation software has a good selection of tools and features that can optimize your workflow and that make sharing your final compositions easy. For beginners to music notation, there's no harm whatsoever in trying Sibelius First. This free and easy-to-use music writing software offers a limited introduction to what Sibelius and Sibelius Ultimate can do, but it's a good place to start. For more experienced composers, we suggest starting with Sibelius before making the commitment to Sibelius Ultimate, which is twice as expensive and boasts some features which may only be of use to professionals.