I’ve had an interest in playing piano for a long time — a time mostly spent with wishful thinking that I could play rather than actually learning something. Though, over the course of trying to learn, I’ve had opportunity to try out a few computer-based music notation apps. I think I’ve finally found what I’ve been looking for in MuseScore.
NoteWorthy Composer, Mozart, Finale NotePad, all of these I’ve used to some extent or another. NoteWorthy’s fast and efficient, Mozart is elegantly designed, and NotePad (was) free and easy. But, of course, they all are for-pay, or, in the case of NotePad, limited in the feature department (now both).
But I just recently found out about MuseScore. Around since 2002, MuseScore in its purest form is a free, open-source clone of Finale (or, indeed, any other notation software). The mechanics are essentially the same: click to add and move notes and rests, etc. and play back the notes straight from the sheet music (via SoundFonts — so it sounds better than straight MIDI).
It has many of the capabilities of Finale NotePad (last I checked), including MIDI input and multiple note layers, as well as features that only come with more upscale products, like time and key signature changes, clef changes and unlimited staves.
Of course, I wouldn’t be me without some negativity:
MuseScore has a tendency to misinterpret what I’m trying to do (or rather I’m doing something wrong). Sometimes the methods of selection don’t make sense. For instance, you have to enter a special “Note Input” mode in order to insert notes, but you have to exit it in order to move notes around.
Playback is difficult due to the lack of an “indication bar” in the status bar that has functionality for skipping forward and backward through measures. Although the current measure is displayed, the only “rewind” option I can find goes back to the first measure which is sometimes cumbersome when trying to scrub through a particular section.
This is remedied, however, by a keyboard shortcut to accomplish the same thing (Ctrl+Left and Ctrl+Right, although I prefer the mouse to do this) and a “Play Panel” that can set the start time.
My only other real complaint is the particularly noticeable load time. On Windows, when I timed it by running it for the first time after a cold boot, it took 38 seconds from icon click to main screen. Subsequent starts take about 13 seconds. I have yet to install it on Linux.
MuseScore is soon to release version 1.0. It’s licensed under the GPL and is available in the usual Windows, Mac, and Linux flavors.
Mind, though, that “the tools don’t make the talent” and all that. I still can’t play piano.
From now on, thanks to the miracle that is autopublish, Freakin’ Cool App of the Week will attempt to be updated on a regular basis — hopefully at least every other Friday.