Sibelius First 8 is affordable music notation software with an elegant, easy-to-use interface. The full version costs $600, but a perpetual license of the First version is less than $120. You can also pay a $5 per month subscription fee. The less expensive version limits you to 16 staves and doesn’t include guitar scale diagrams, but we had no problem using it to notate complex scores that looked great on printed paper. Sibelius First shouldn’t bottleneck your productivity unless you are notating scores for a large orchestra with a wide variety of instruments.
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.
In its latest version, Sibelius added a unique and useful cloud sharing feature. Using this feature, you can upload scores to the Sibelius Cloud to share with other users. You can also generate a URL and send it 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, Sibelius can’t export as some popular graphic image formats, such as JPG, BMP and GIF, but the new cloud sharing feature more than makes up for this.
Sibelius First comes bundled with two companion applications that improve its 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.
Sibelius First 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.
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