Pros / This software has stunningly accurate instrument samples.
Cons / The interface can be intimidating at first glance.
Verdict / Notion 6 is easy to use and has better editing and music tools than any other notation software we reviewed.
Simply put, Notion 6 is the best music notation software we tested. You can purchase a perpetual license for $150, and it comes with the same features you find in programs that costs $600. Because it has so many tools, the software can be intimidating at first, but it comes with everything you need to create simple and complex arrangements for a variety of instruments. Once you finalize your score, you can export it or play it back with instruments from Notion’s virtual instrument library – the best one we found during our testing. The program takes up a good amount of hard drive space when you download it and all the available instrument samples, but there is little reason to consider any other notation software.
We tested how easy each product we compared is to use by first counting the number of steps it took to start notating. We also plugged a MIDI keyboard into a laptop and played a simple melody. Notion had no problem recognizing our MIDI keyboard as the input device, and it automatically chose the laptop’s soundcard as the proper output device.
The tool palette sits directly underneath the score editor window and is neatly organized, so our reviewers had no problem notating a simple melody within five minutes of opening the software. There was only one program, Sibelius First, that was easier to navigate, but the difference was negligible.
Notion 6 is the only software we reviewed that can import video and play it back while you notate a score. The video window has a timecode view that allows you to add markers where you’d like to place sound effects. It also has transport buttons, so you don’t have to leave the video window to start or stop recording.
The software’s other standout feature is its incredible instrument sample library. Notion’s developer recorded samples from some of the most sought-after musicians and orchestras on the planet, including Steinway piano samples played by the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road studios and bass samples by Victor Wooten. When you finish writing a score, you can export a WAV or MP3 file of your composition, and it will sound like it was played by some of the best musicians in the world.
We tested other notation programs that have companion mobile apps, including Forte Home 9, but Notion for iOS is the only one that can edit and playback scores you make with the desktop software. You can also play a melody with the virtual piano in the iOS app and transfer it to your Mac or PC to edit or add to. The mobile app is an additional $15, but when you buy it along with the computer program, you still invest less than $170 for features and tools even programs that cost three times as much don’t have.
Notion 6 is by far the best music notation software for less than $200. It is easy to use once you get used to the interface, and the sampled instruments are the best we heard. We reviewed a few programs that cost less than Notion, but this software can compete with the best composition programs in any price range.