Software Tools (and Toys) Part II

It’s time to reappreciate the original software: paper. –Dale Dauten

Why shouldn’t we give our teachers a license to obtain software, all software, any software, for nothing? Does anyone demand a licensing fee, each time a child is taught the alphabet? –William Gibson (b.1948)

Here are some more software titles. Some of these can make your musical life easier, some can help make it more fun, and some will even help you with practice. Whenever possible, I try to list the free, open-source stuff because that is the model that makes the most sense to me. Here you go. Enjoy!


Noteflight: This is a free notation program that is pretty new, but very useful. For some of the more advanced features you have to pay but you can do a lot before you get to this point. I’m just now beginning to explore this and it looks great so far. And it’s free! Great tools for sharing music, and the web site is superb. This one is going to be around for a while, I bet. You may need to look no further for your music writing software. You have to register to use it, but it’s a small price to pay (and the only price to pay!). Highly recommended.

Sibelius: This is one of the grandaddies of notation software. It’s a fantastic, powerful piece of software, but it’s expensive. It allows you to enter and print music as simple as a 4 measure melody or as complex as a piece for full symphony, turntable, and singing dogs, or whatever you dream up. And with some exceptions (like the singing dogs), the program comes with instruments so you can hear what your composition sounds like. Out of the box these sounds are a little cheesy, but you can buy (of course) upgrades to get a full range of symphonic instruments. You can transpose w/ a click of the button, scan in printed music, and there are 1,700 quizzes built in that come with the program. This is just a brief glimpse of a few of its features, but if you’re interested check it here. There is also a free viewer called Scorch which allows you to view uploaded scores for free.

finaleFinale: Another of the biggies. Finale is said to have better scanning capability than Sibelius, but I haven’t tested this myself, so I’m not sure. No scanning system is perfect (yet), but they’re certainly getting better. Finale is very similar to Sibelius. You can check it out here. Finale has several different versions and this makes for a little less expense, especially if you don’t need all the power necessary for full-on symphonic orchestra reproduction. There is also a free viewer, and their Notepad works great and is only ten bucks.


All of this software won’t necessarily help you practice, but they’re fun to work with and you can actually create something original that you can then play along with. Many of these are cloud-based, meaning they exist entirely online and you don’t need to download or install any software, a fantastic idea that’s gaining a lot of traction. Your files can be saved either in the cloud (usually) or on your own machine (definitely).

aviaryAviary: This company offers a bunch of free tools but the one that interests us here is their audio editor. It’s a track-based program in which you can create loops, record stuff of your own and manipulate it in all kinds of ways. A fantastic and powerful tool/toy that will suck you in and have you spending all kinds of fun time creating music.

bojamBojam: An open-source ethic drives this very cool tool. This site allows musicians to collaborate no matter where in the world they make music. If you’re stuck in rural Alaska (like I was) and want (need!) to play with others, this is the perfect tool. Also great for the recluse who still wants to be social. There’s a vid demonstrating how this works on their home page.

ejameJamming Audio: Another online collaboration tool that lets you play with others in real time. Haven’t tried this one, but it clearly harnesses the power of the Internets to connect people in meaningful ways from all over the planet.

Okay, that’s all I have time for now, but there’s a lot more to come, so stay tuned. If you know of any sites you like, shoot me an e-mail and let me know. I’m always psyched to check out new software.

Have fun and good luck!


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Great resources – thank you for sharing this information!

  2. Amauri Garcia says:

    Considero que songblommlatino debería poder traducirse al español como alternativa, latino significan lenguaje en el idioma solicitado.

    1. Gran sugerencias! Hay enlaces a las versiones traducidas de la página del blog ahora. gracias!

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