Although the world of music notation software is dominated by the two heavyweights, Godzilla and Mothra (I’ll let you decide whether Sibelius or Finale gets to be Godzilla), there are plenty of other products out there, many of which have a more specialised focus. For example, Notion is basically a live performance and playback tool that happens to do basic notation. And there are a number of open-source notation programs, including Musescore (which is a pretty blatant “homage” to Sibelius; you know what they say about imitation…).
But one of the most interesting current developments in music notation software is the arrival of Noteflight, a Boston-based start-up company under the directorship of Joseph Berkovitz that is developing a simple notation editor in Adobe’s Flex technology, which allows them to run it inside a web browser using the ubiquitous Flash Player.
Although the product is in closed beta at the moment, the demo videos on the site make for interesting viewing. Again, it’s good to see that Sibelius has acted as, shall we say, “inspiration” to the designers of Noteflight in a number of areas, though it certainly also has some new ideas of its own.
One of the neat things about Noteflight is that all of the files created by users live “in the cloud”, i.e. on Noteflight’s servers, and not on the users’ local disks. This makes it trivially easy to share files with other users, and you can apparently choose whether you want to allow these files to be edited by other users, which could prove to be an interesting way for people to take others’ pieces and adapt them, or even collaborate on them. With Sibelius’s Scorch web browser plug-in, it’s really easy to share Sibelius scores on the web, and you have the choice of allowing other Sibelius users to download and edit the score in their own copy of the software, but the immediacy of being able to edit the score directly in the browser looks to be quite cool.
A number of comments about Noteflight have been popping up around the web. From Wired:
Harvard professor Dr. Ingrid Monson is already using it to share projects with her Jazz History class. “Noteflight is a godsend to anyone teaching music,” said Monson in a statement. “It’s very easy to use, and saves so many error-prone steps compared to putting music online with other notation editors. To me, the most valuable feature is that whenever I revise one of my scores on Noteflight, the music in my tutorial Web pages changes instantly without my having to do anything else.”
From Flex RIA:
The online app loads fast enough. Overall, it has a very professional look and is also helpful and user-friendly enough for novices not to feel lost.
Noteflight seems to have little of the power or flexibility of the established fully-fledged desktop applications, but as a tool for creating simple musical scores and allowing others to edit them online, it shows a lot of promise. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for this product as it leaves beta and becomes open to anybody to give it a try.