Windows 10 and music notation software

by Philip Rothman on July 30, 2015 · 9 comments

in News

Windows 10, the latest version of the flagship Microsoft operating system, has started to become available as a free upgrade to eligible users already running Windows 7, 8, or 8.1. Microsoft is rolling out the update in stages to help manage the demand. A Windows 10 app will appear in your taskbar and you’ll get a notification when the upgrade is ready; CNET, among many other tech sites, has more details on how to upgrade.

Here’s what we know about Windows 10 and compatibility with popular music notation software.



Officially “not supported at this time” along with all other Avid products. As of July 28, 2015, Avid said that “Avid has not completed qualification of Windows 10 and strongly recommends customers DO NOT upgrade to this OS version until qualification is complete. There are also known issues with the current shipping versions of some of our products that will need to be addressed prior to qualification.” You can subscribe to the Avid Knowledge Base article as well as the general status article to receive updates regarding the status of Sibelius and Windows 10.


Finale 2014, Finale 2012, PrintMusic 2014, SongWriter 2012, and NotePad 2012 are all “fully compatible with Windows 10″ according to this MakeMusic article updated on July 28, 2015. MakeMusic recommends that you have the most recent maintenance update available for your program. Earlier versions of MakeMusic’s notation software are “considered legacy programs and are no longer eligible for support,” although it is not clear if Finale 2011 and earlier will successfully run on Windows 10 despite being unsupported.


MuseScore lists its latest stable version, MuseScore 2.0.2, as compatible with Windows 10, 8, and 7.


StaffPad “will work in its current form on Windows 10. However, there are a few interactions that have changed, mostly around the charms and app bar,” according to a July 28 blog post by co-founder David William Hearn on the app’s web site. As the notation product most deeply integrated with the Windows touch-and-pen experience, David further describes the details of how the StaffPad experience changes on Windows 10. He also says that StaffPad’s UI and codebase will be extensively updated in the coming weeks “to fully embrace the Windows 10 design ethos, features and experience.”

Please share your experience using any of these products in the comments section, and we’ll update this post as warranted.


w3cIn a move that may spur the improvement and adoption of open standards for music notation, MakeMusic and Steinberg today announced that they will be transferring development of their respective formats to the new Music Notation Community Group at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). MusicXML is the music interchange format invented by Michael Good and owned since 2011 by MakeMusic which enables files created by applications that support the format to open and save files that are used by other applications. SMuFL, owned by Steinberg and invented in 2013 by Daniel Spreadbury, is a standard way of mapping the thousands of musical symbols required by conventional music notation into a single font.

Although MusicXML and SMuFL are open standards, the responsibility of developing them has been that of their corporate owners, who also happen to be industry competitors. So the move to have music notation formats — upon which developers and users increasingly rely — developed in a more neutral forum going forward is a welcome occurrence for the field. The companies will continue to own the copyright to the standards (meaning they can publish them however they want), but the community group will be publishing them under W3C’s Community Group liberal attribution copyright license, even before they might advance to a more formal standards track. Read the full article →


All keyed up: Keyless instruments in a keyed score

by Philip Rothman on July 23, 2015 · 1 comment

in Tips

Earlier this week we discussed how and when to use open, or “keyless” key signatures in a score. Today we’ll cover a related but separate topic: using key signatures for some instruments but not others, and how to do it in Sibelius, Finale, and MuseScore.

The history

Most often, we’ll encounter “keyless” instruments in a transposing orchestral score with horns and trumpets. The reason for this is historical; when horns and trumpets were of the natural variety (without valves and pistons), those instruments were usually pitched in the key of the composition. The key of the instrument was adjusted by interchangeable crooks, which effectively lengthened or shortened the tubing of the instrument, thus lowering or raising the pitch. Players were limited to playing the series of pitches that occurred naturally in the overtone series. Because chromatic writing did not exist for these instruments, players were accustomed to reading parts without key signatures.

Later, when chromatic pitches became possible with the invention of valves and pistons, instrument transpositions were standardized but the convention of no key signatures persisted. Other instruments that often go “keyless” are timpani and (less often) pitched percussion.


A section from Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, with a keyless trumpet in a passage where the rest of the score is in the concert key of three flats

OK, now that you know the history, how do you do it in your score? Read the full article →

{ 1 comment }

All keyed up: Going keyless in your score

by Philip Rothman on July 20, 2015 · 4 comments

in Tips

During my conversation on the SoundNotion podcast several weeks ago with hosts David MacDonald and Sam Merciers, we touched on a persistent notation problem we encounter when working with scores from well-meaning students or collaborators: a piece written in C major or A minor is not the same thing as one with no key signature.

Now, they may look the same on first blush. Say you’re setting up a new score in Sibelius and want to get right on with composing in concert pitch. You see your options in the Quick Start, choose No key signature and are presented with three options, all of which may seem similar:


Although they look alike, your choice has important ramifications: if you choose C major or A minor, any transposing instruments (like B-flat Clarinet) will display their transposed key signature (like D major) in a transposed score or a part. If your piece is really truly in a key signature, this will be exactly what you want.

But if your intent is to not have any key signatures anywhere, in any instrument, as is often common when composing film scores or atonal music, you’ll need to choose No key (sometimes this appears as Open key/atonal in earlier versions of Sibelius), lest your music be littered with unnecessary naturals.

If you’ve already set up your score with a key signature and wish to change it later, no problem: simply type K to call up the Key Signatures gallery, choose Atonal/No key, and click the first bar of the score (or the first bar of where the open key is to begin).

You can, of course, mix keyed passages and keyless passages in the same score. Doing so is nothing new; Igor Stravinsky and Aaron Copland are just two of the many composers who have found it useful to do this.

A section from Aaron Copland's Third Symphony, transitioning from open key to F major

A section from Aaron Copland’s Third Symphony, transitioning from open key to F major in a transposing score

Do you use Finale? Until Finale 2014, the option for an open key didn’t exist. Workarounds were possible but time consuming, especially if you needed to alternate the key signatures in the same score as described above. Fortunately, Finale 2014 introduced the Keyless signature option, along with full MusicXML support.

Choosing this option, either upon initial score setup or later in the composing process, works much the same as choosing Atonal/No key in Sibelius.


MuseScore users aren’t out of luck, either. MuseScore 2 added an Open/Atonal option, which shows as a non-printing “X” in the key signature palette to distinguish it from C major/A minor. If you don’t see it, be sure that you have selected the Advanced palettes.


In this follow-up post, we cover how to show key signatures on some staves but not on others.


Thumbnail image for Plug-in Developer’s Notebook: The Colored Notehead Style Project

Plug-in Developer’s Notebook: The Colored Notehead Style Project

July 15, 2015

Bob Zawalich takes us inside the process of creating a way to color individual noteheads within a chord, eventually resulting in the development of the Colored Notehead Styles plug-in suite.

Read the full article →
Thumbnail image for MakeMusic acquires Weezic; web-based SmartMusic planned

MakeMusic acquires Weezic; web-based SmartMusic planned

July 9, 2015

MakeMusic acquires Weezic, a Paris-based startup, in order to incorporate its web-based interactive learning music software into the SmartMusic product line, and to open a European outpost.

Read the full article →
Thumbnail image for A modest proposal for a Sibelius app store

A modest proposal for a Sibelius app store

July 7, 2015

A concept for a place where users can discover add-ons, purchase plug-ins, sound sets and more, with installation and updates automatically managed all from directly within Sibelius.

Read the full article →
Thumbnail image for Summer reading list, Sibelius blog style

Summer reading list, Sibelius blog style

July 3, 2015

We’re heading to the beach for a few days. If you’re doing the same, or just taking it easy on your porch, bring along this summer reading list to get up to speed on the year’s news to date.

Read the full article →
Thumbnail image for Recent appearances: SoundNotion, NYU/ASCAP film workshop, MOLA

Recent appearances: SoundNotion, NYU/ASCAP film workshop, MOLA

June 29, 2015

An extensive chat with the SoundNotion team about music notation news, and reflections on presentations at the NYU/ASCAP film scoring workshop and the MOLA annual conference.

Read the full article →
Thumbnail image for An interview with Ben Finn, co-founder of Sibelius [Part 2 of 2]

An interview with Ben Finn, co-founder of Sibelius [Part 2 of 2]

June 25, 2015

In part 2 of this two-part interview, Sibelius co-founder Ben Finn speaks to us about selling Sibelius to Avid, events after the sale, marketplace developments, and the state of the field today.

Read the full article →