From Academic Kids

A scorewriter, or music notation program, is software used to automate the task of writing and engraving sheet music. A scorewriter is to music notation what a word processor is to written text.


All scorewriters allow the user to input, edit and print music notation, to varying degrees of sophistication. They range from programs which can write a simple song, piano piece or guitar tab, to those that can handle the complexities of orchestral music, specialist notations (from early music to avant garde), and high-quality music engraving.

Music is inputted using a mouse or the computer keyboard. Many scorewriters also allow it to be played in from a MIDI keyboard. A few allow printed music to be scanned in using special music OCR software.

Most scorewriters also allow the music to be played back via MIDI. This means that scorewriters have a certain amount in common with sequencers (many of which can also write music notation up to a point), though scorewriters are used primarily for writing notation and sequencers primarily for recording and playing back. Hence scorewriters tend to be used for classical and jazz music (whose musicians use printed music), whereas sequencers are used for rock and pop styles (whose musicians play by ear).

A few scorewriters (principally Sibelius) also allow users to publish scores on the Internet. As a result, these can be used for electronic distribution of sheet music.


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Finale and Sibelius

By far the two most popular scorewriters are:

Both of these are sophisticated and relatively high-priced. Other programs in use (or which have been in the past) include:

File compatibility

Due to the wide variation in features and notations supported, and because scorewriter programs have only entered into widespread use relatively recently, scores created using one program tend to be incompatible with programs developed by other manufacturers. It is therefore difficult to transfer scores between different programs.

MIDI files are often used as a form of 'workaround', because almost all scorewriters can open and/or save them. However, the MIDI file format is designed for representing playback rather than notation, so it only produces approximate results and much notational information is lost in the process.

Various attempts to develop and establish a standard music notation file format have been made, the strongest so far being NIFF and MusicXML, though neither is yet widely supported.


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