Having been trying notation software for years, i’m always stunned how every one of them fails in some way on another to be an efficient all-around tool for writing music. It almost feels like every developper on the market says "ok, we’re gonna create this great program but we’re gonna include that one flaw that will mae sure to piss some of our users off.
I’m a polyvalent music writer myself. I write orchestral music as well as electro, chip tune and mostly progressive metal which includes harsh guitars as well as powerfull drums, orchestral sections and synths. Now I havn’t tried every notation software on the market, but I’ve tried a lot of them and all of them have they own personal way of failing at letting me work efficiently.
The first one is of course Guitar Pro, which has been the tools by default used by many rock musiciens but allows to do almost everything. Sadly, in it’s last version it has become more and more bugged, unstable and won’t allow the use of any kind of plugins, giving only two choices : the standard Midi synth that doesn’t work well in the latest versions or it’s awfull own audio engine that comes with tadaaaa, about 2go of sample for hundreds of instruments.
So I tried Sibelius later one. It’s efficient enough for note entry, but although it allows to use VST plugins, it is insanely complicated as you have to create your custom engine that maps the desired instrument to the matching plugins. Writing guitars is also a joke. To have both tablature and standard notation for a track (which is how most of us guitar players like to work), the manual simply tells you to create two different tracks and then copy data from one another to have them match the same notes. It might as well just tell you to go fuck yourself. Writing drums, while possible, Is also a pain since it requires you to memorize all the keyboard combinations to write all the required note heads.
I briefly tried Finale. Found it so unintuitive and ugly that is didn’t spend more than one hour on my hard drive.
Then I tried Notion, which was recently bought by Presonus. Presonus being a serious company when it comes to audio software (Studio One is the best DAW out there IMHO), you’d expect some serious work to update the soft and fix it’s major issues. Sadly, there seems to be only one or two guys on the project with really rare and unsatisfying updates. It allows you to work with VST plugins in an easy way which is nice but it also quickly become unstable. Using some plugins like guitars is possible but requires some complicated configurations to get the right octave to play. Finally, while it allows to write drum parts using it’s included soundset (which sounds awfull by the way), it won’t work with external drums VST since the pitches and note heads are not mapped correctly.
Finally, I tought I’d checkout Dorico. Found the UI decent enough and I like some options like the ability to create different sections with only some active instruments but I find score writing counter-intuitive, probably because the tutorial videos only covers the most basic functions and the manual found zero entries for almost all subject I’ve searched. Then comes the VST2 activation. Oh god why ? Seriously, having to make some weird edits in obscure configuration files should have been banned since 1998. I know you guys from Steinberg wan’t to force plugin developer to update their products to VST3 but that shouldn’t be the user’s problem, just do a freaking menu that displays all VSTs and allows to check/uncheck the required ones and blacklists them when they seem to be causing instability, like every other program does it. And finaly, there’s NO possibility at all to write correctly formatted drum parts. Zero, nada, error 404 function not found. Are you serious guys ? You put a Notation software out there and you completely leave out an instrument present in almost all contemporary musics ? So Dorico is made to write classical music only ? Jazz, pop, rock, electro and pretty much every musician that has been writing music in the last century just isn’t cool enough to work with Dorico. And it has been more than one year since the official release and it’s still not here ?
So, this is my tought on the notation software market, and sadly I can only conclude that there will probably never be a real decent software for those who don’t limit themselves to orchestral music. I’m not asking for the perfect software, perfection only existed in Steve Jobs’ crazy mind, but just for a software that does all basic things today’s musicians need.