Free music notation software (create your own sheet music): Finale NotePad

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:
    Tools available in Finale NotePad
  • 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:

29 Responses to “Free music notation software (create your own sheet music): Finale NotePad”

  1. sudir says:


  2. stephen clark says:

    I love music

  3. Scott says:

    Hi Peter, my daughter loves notepad but is frustrated on creating pedal marks…how’d you do it?

  4. Peter says:

    Hi Scott, I couldn’t find a pedal tool, but used the line tool instead to create the three lines that would make up a pedal mark (doesn’t look so smooth if you need continuous pedaling).

  5. Meghan says:


    I have a tocata I composed while in a composition class at college. I downloaded finale notepad onto my home computer (as I can’t afford finale) but I can’t get it to save as anything but a .mus file. I am planning a concert in the fall, and need to print the music for my pianist…but my printer is down, and my work computer (complete with adobe) won’t read it. HELP!

  6. Trae says:

    it sucks if you try to use it to write music for drums

  7. anja says:

    i love the finale tool bar but its hard to use can you help me pete?

  8. Peter says:

    Sorry, I don’t offer support on that software.

  9. Kira says:

    Hey, I can’t seem to figure out how to put in a ritard. Does anyone know a way to put that in there? I am not finding it.

  10. Dave says:

    Kira – in Notepad, try using the text tool. It won’t interpret the tempo change, but it will sort of look okay.

    There are different levels of Finale depending on what you want to do with it. For the full version, try to get it under an academic or religious license – very much cheaper.

    I’ve been using Finale for over a decade, and I don’t need musicians to hear what my music will sound like in real life. Each version gets better sounding and easier to use.

  11. Cher says:

    I know that Finale is great and all, but I tried to get it as a free trial for 30 days. I went through about thirty minutes of downloading and clicked the icon. Somehow, the thing was messed up and said it was missing a certain component. I’m not too serious about selling the music I make, I just want it read to me. Isn’t there some free site that just reads what you write down? I don’t care if it doesnt save or print. I just want it read!

  12. rae says:

    oh my. this websight has helped soooo much. my friends and i just started a band, and i was stuck with writing music… so thanks soooooooo much!!!

  13. Jacob says:

    i think this webpage is dumb… uber dumb.

    Reply from Peter: too bad :(

  14. bob saget says:

    i think its very cool

  15. Luna says:

    Hi There, I have a fairly simple piano solo on CD that I want sheet music for. However on the CD there is no composer’s name and no information that could help me find the song. Is there any way that I could get this piano solo from the CD to sheet music?

    Reply from Peter: Sorry, I know of no such software.

  16. Alex says:

    How do you download the software?

    Reply from Peter: You should get it from the Finale website, although it doesn’t look like Finale NotePad is free anymore :(

  17. Jas says:

    Hey Peter, (btw nice website.) do you happen to know of other softwares such as Finale Notepad, but free to download and use? I’ve just started writing songs and it takes quite long to write it down on paper. hope you can answer my request? :D

    Sorry, I do not know of any decent ones, and it has been a while since I looked. If you find any, please post about them here. On the bright side, Finale NotePad is only $10, and there is a free trial available.

  18. Luke M. says:

    Hey Kira, the rit. tool is in the expression tool with all of the dynamics.
    You’ve probably figured it out by now, but just in case anyone else wanted to know too, that’s where it is.

  19. Allen C. says:

    I love Finale Notepad =). I happen to notice that Finale Notepad 2008 is freeware now. It’s awfully similar to 2009. You can download it at:
    Just enter the given serial number at download and it’s now freeware! (Note: Finale Notepad 2008 is NOT compatible with Finale Notepad 2009 files)

  20. Michelle says:

    If anyone is still looking…. I found Finaly 2007 here:
    and it’s free.

  21. unflores says:

    here are some free free alternatives:

  22. ?????? says:

    Whoever hates this webpage is stupid and a jerk, Jacob.

  23. Ricardo says:

    Hope you guys like it.. free of course…

  24. Bryan says:

    Is this free for all the music lovers out there that are very hoping to be a good musician someday and I am also doing some arrangements now so this software is just what I need….
    To work on my own piece..
    Thank You!

  25. lisa says:

    thanks for the info…Imma try it all out and give my discredits if needed…

  26. Rick says:

    Well my friend, your site does look great and the freeware looks great for my purposes. I am a 58 year old forced into retirement handicapped to the lungs. I have too much time on my hands; I have a guitar and a piano. I plan to play for both God and myself. I still don’t know how to download the freeware as normally I end up with a join and pay or 30 trials. I use several freeware and I donate what I can during the year through PayPal.
    Now that you have my email, would be so kind as to send me the download link

  27. Rick says:

    Just finished reading the Update:

    Update: Sadly, it doesn’t look like Finale NotePad is free anymore. You can download a 30-day trial, however

    Well that’s one on me lol


  28. Mazha says:

    It looks like it’s free again (as of 15 Feb 2012).

  29. Uneva says:

    LUNA, if you’re still around, and still want a way to download your CD to sheet music, you might want to give Notation Software, Inc. a try. They’re not free, but for $60 you get an awful lot to work with.

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