First published on December 26, 2007
Last updated: November 20, 2013
Update: I can also recommend MuseScore, which is also free and has a community of downloadable sheets.
The few times that I’ve tried to compose or transcribe music for the piano, I’ve always written on blank staff paper. But what if you’re serious or good enough to want to share your music? (Ahem, I’m not, but I still looked into it anyway :D) There are some good software programs that enable you to create sheet music digitally. It’s much easier to share and duplicate a digital file than messy scribbles.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many good free programs, especially ones with a friendly graphical user interface. (If you’re creating music for sale then you should probably be looking at paid alternatives.) I’ve been experimenting a bit with Final NotePad (runs on Windows or Mac) and think it’s quite good.
Some highlights from my brief testing include:
- It’s easy to add crescendos, ties, rests, sharps, key changes, slurs, repeats, and even glissandos. All you need to do is click on the appropriate tool and then click on the appropriate place in the score:
- You can preview how your piece sounds
- There’s a handy text tool as well as a free-form line shapes tool to create things like double bars and pedal marks
- The program is quite well documented
- You can create sheet music for many instruments using up to 8 staves
- There are no watermarks when you print your composition
Difficulties so far include:
- I don’t think it’s possible to change the time signature mid-piece or after you’ve created the document
- Creating pedal marks takes a while and is difficult to copy (would be handy to have a pedal tool)
- There’s no direct to PDF export, although you could just download a free PDF printer
If you find the features in the free Finale NotePad too limiting, you can always demo or purchase the more high-end version.