Summer 2018 reading list from Scoring Notes


If you follow our blog regularly, things may have seemed a little quieter than usual over the past couple of weeks. With the beautiful summer weather and thrilling World Cup action, it’s true — “grill & chill” has outpaced computer display time recently.

With all of the excitement in the world of music notation software and related technology in the first half of 2018, though, hopefully you’ll permit a brief slowdown as we recharge our batteries and get ready for what is sure to be an interesting second half of the year.

And, if you happen to have missed some of our news, tips, tutorials, and reviews from the last several months, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered with this post with a summary of what’s been happening so that you can take it to the beach.

Photo: Sand In Your Eye

Before we get to that, though, a word of thanks for reading — today, and always. It’s such a pleasure writing about this field for our community. As I’ve traveled and talked to many colleagues, it’s heartening to hear how people have learned more about their favorite software or discovered something new by reading this blog or the many insightful comments we get.

I also realized how many posts we have here, stretching nearly a decade between Scoring Notes and its former iteration as Sibelius Blog, and from our many contributors — not only me, but our incredible team of authors that has shared their expert knowledge with the wider world. It truly takes a village and I am so grateful to them!

To that end, going forward we will be trying to re-share more of that content on social media. There’s some really great work that gets written and shared when it is first published, but then falls down the memory hole. So look for some posts that you may have missed the first time around that could give you a step up in your work.

It hasn’t all been rest and recreation; behind the scenes we’ve been keeping an eye on developments in the field. Before too long we expect you’ll be reading about the latest and greatest.

For now, though, enjoy these posts from the first half of 2018!

Notation product updates

Dorico 2 was released in May — a major update to Steinberg’s music notation software, with new features across the board in many areas. Smart staff management, slash notation, bar repeats, a new handwritten music font, a new system track, support for large time signatures, automation in Play mode, video support, and much more rounded out an impressive release.

Dorico 2

Before that, we covered Dorico 1.2 in a three-part review. The last of those parts was a look at the new percussion features that arrived in December, along with refinements made in the Dorico 1.2.10 update. And playback aficionados must read Andrew Noah Cap’s thorough review of Dorico’s playback capabilities and the wide variety of needs it attempts to address — from engravers preferring simple playback, to those wanting adequate sound rendering without thinking too much about settings and post-editing, to those that expect playback and editing functionality that is comparable to MIDI editing within a DAW.

Sibelius saw significant progress in 2018. Using a new version numbering scheme to reflect the year and month of the update, Sibelius 2018.1 included improvements to how users perform common tasks in Sibelius like placing slurs, hairpins, other lines, ties, special barlines, and a new note editing feature. Sibelius 2018.4 saw new features and some longstanding requests addressed, such as multi-edits for text, a new note spacing rule affecting multiple voices and other cases, deleting and adding bars at the beginning of the score, and smarter ties. Sibelius 2018.6 was mostly geared toward the availability of the free tier, but a few improvements made their way into this release in the areas of note spacing, grace notes, multi-text entry, tied notes, and more.

MuseScore has been updated twice so far in 2018. The MuseScore 2.2 update introduced a new default soundfont and other playback improvements, a handful of other new features, and hundreds of bug fixes and user interface enhancements. MuseScore 2.3 featured the brand new MuseScore Extension facility to allow additional packages of features to be easily delivered and installed without the need to update the program. These extensions can include new instruments and sounds as well as new palettes and other enhancements.

Wallander Instruments released NotePerformer 3, a major update to its plug-and-play sound library for Sibelius. The update was the first major update since the release of NotePerformer 2 in March 2017. For the first time, NotePerformer 3 opened its doors to Finale and Dorico users as well.

An instance of NotePerformer 3 running in Finale

Soundslice, the impressive web-based learning software and music player, has had several updates in 2018. In visiting at NAMM with founder Adrian Holovaty, we take a look at their new Channels feature, and an online music notation editor.

New product reviews

We reviewed Logitech’s MX ERGO trackball, a highly recommended ergonomic, customizable pointing device that works with Mac and PC and can be configured on a per-application basis — a must for power music notation software users.

Unlike the other elements of a Sibelius score — which can be transferred through exporting and importing house styles — there was never been a good way to transfer your mixer settings between scores… until now. The UltraMix plug-in by Ozie Cargile does that, and lots more, besides.

And if you like UltraMix, you’ll want Graphical MIDI Tools, a Sibelius plug-in by Santiago Barx that cleverly and ingeniously takes full advantage of Sibelius’s extended features such as colored objects, custom text, hidden MIDI messages, and more. It uses those features to superimpose a temporary sequencer-like frame on any given selection, and then gives the user the ability to draw in automations to manipulate the data in a way never before seen in a Sibelius tool. Moreover, there are additional windows to adjust velocity and note duration in piano roll-like fashion.

Graphical MIDI Tools

We reviewed the nkoda sheet music subscription service, which launched earlier this year on the iOS App Store. With an incredible library of scores and parts, and a promising application, nkoda could quickly become an indispensable resource for composers, students, teachers, and performers.

The GVIDO music reader aims to change the way music is read by merging the old with the new. It’s a dual-display hinged device that can show two facing pages with a large display size for each screen, using e-ink technology. Our hands-on review explores whether the product is ready for the consumer market.

If you use desktop software on a laptop, read our quick take on two keypad apps for iOS that offer notation software support: Sibelius KeyPad for Mac and NumPad.

NAMM 2018 coverage

Once again, we were on site at the 2018 NAMM show in Anaheim, California, bringing you interviews, rich media and other coverage from the floor.

We reported from Daniel Spreadbury’s Dorico presentation at a gathering of the Society of Composers & Lyricists at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. A few days later, we followed up with Daniel and John Barron to chat about the past year of Dorico, and what’s next on the horizon. Included: 45 minutes of audio.

Our visit with several MakeMusic representatives Gear Fisher, Michael Johnson, Michael Good, and Mark Adler resulted in an extensive talk about SmartMusic and Finale, including a new web-based notation tool.

The W3 Music Notation Community Group met and discussed the next-generation MNX standard for encoding music notation, and we had full video coverage.

We spoke with Steve Morell, founder & CEO of NiceChart, the new online service that specializes in producing customizable sheet music on demand.

And, as mentioned already, we visited at NAMM with Soundslice founder Adrian Holovaty, to take a look at their new Channels feature and an online music notation editor.

MOLA 2018 coverage

Everything was up to date in Kansas City, Missouri — home of the 2018 Major Orchestra Librarians’ Association (MOLA) conference. We were there!

I spoke with Aurélia Azoulay, Newzik‘s head of marketing and international development and Netta Shahar, their orchestra specialist, to talk about how the app has progressed based on their real-world experience, including collaborations such as those with the l’Opéra de Rouen Normandie.

Newzik’s Aurélia Azoulay and Netta Shahar

We talked with Steve Reading from Scores Reformed, a publisher that produces new editions of out-of-copyright works.

We also got a glimpse of nkoda before it was released.

In anticipation of the conference, we interviewed librarian Paul Beck about his life and work, and heard in his own words what it means to perform the essential function of the librarian in today’s musical world.

Tips and tutorials

Free summer school!

We introduced DJA’s Notes, a new series inspired by Darcy James Argue‘s Facebook posts, which offer some quick, basic steps to improve the appearance of notated music, especially from a jazz/big band perspective. In this post, learn how to group instruments correctly and change what the notation software may do by default. In this installment, learn how to left-align chord symbols in all three major commercial music notation software programs, in order to avoid confusion on the stand. And in this installment, we learn the dos and donts of one- and two-bar repeats, numbering repeated bars, and how to lay out the music correctly so that the intent is clearly conveyed.

DJA’s Notes

Composer, arranger, and orchestrator Jeremy Levy shared his pro tips on using the macro program Keyboard Maestro to make the most of Finale. Examples and sample scripts included!

Arranger Jon Burr took us through some of the technical details that are helpful to know about as you’re installing and working with Garritan libraries and Finale, in order to get everything working together correctly.

Cloud Sharing (in Sibelius 8.7 and later) identifies a score using a hidden file ID that is created when a score is saved or exported in Sibelius. It is important to understand that if you make a copy of a score outside of Sibelius, the file ID will not change. Bob Zawalich discusses where multiple variant copies of a score are generated from a single score, and how to use Cloud Sharing with such a score.

In this video tutorial, we’ll cover how to create composite time signatures in Sibelius, including what Elaine Gould’s Behind Bars book calls “meters of mixed denominators”, like 6/8 + 2/4. Finale and Dorico handle this with ease, but in Sibelius it takes a bit of effort.

Neil Radisch collects tips from across many aspects of Sibelius into a tutorial on creating aleatoric music notation. Some are less commonly used Sibelius features, while others are hacks to stretch Sibelius beyond its originally intended use. You’ll want to bookmark this post and keep it handy!

An essential element of Sibelius’s dynamic parts feature is the ability to make certain changes in a part without affecting the score. This extends to the ability to have different names for instruments in parts than what they are in the score. This useful feature has its intricacies and comes with a few caveats, so we’ll explain what those are and how to make the most of the available options.

The Check Pizzicatos plug-in ships with Sibelius and it has saved me many minutes of work on many scores, and saved many minutes of rehearsal time. Its sole purpose is to locate suspect arco and pizz. markings in your score.

Originally appearing as a document that composer David MacDonald created for his weekly master class, this bullet-list of score preparation and production notes will improve the quality of your performance materials in no time. To it we have added relevant links from Scoring Notes and other sources.

Other news, interviews and tidbits

In January we escaped the urban jungle of New York City and headed to the beautiful campus of the University of Nebraska to discuss collaborations, music preparation, and more with talented students in the music and theatre programs.

At the University of Nebraska

Ultimate Guitar, the online community of millions of guitarists that creates and shares guitar tablatures, acquired MuseScore in February, the company that produces the free, open source desktop software of the same name, as well as a commercial sheet music sharing service.

In February, Avid announced its board of directors had terminated the employment of Louis Hernandez, Jr., former chief executive officer, “due to violations of Company policies related to workplace conduct.” Jeff Rosica was been appointed chief executive officer.

We prepare all of the orchestral music for Carnegie Hall’s Link Up educational program, for students in grades 3 through 5. It’s deeply satisfying taking a masterwork by a great composer like Stravinsky and revisiting it by setting the notes anew. It wasn’t just the grade school students who were educated during this process!

Steinberg product marketing manager Daniel Spreadbury was in New York City in June promoting Dorico. We caught up with Daniel before his demo at Yamaha Artist Services. Listen to our engaging 40-minute conversation, in which we discuss his time in New York, the new features in Dorico 2, the development process, and much more.

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