Music Preparation & Engraving

What is Music Preparation?

Music preparation is, quite simply, preparing written music for performance or publication. The latter is often referred to as engraving.

Before the advent of the now-ubiquitious personal computer, music preparation was quite laborious. Music for performances was copied by hand on manuscript papers using pen and ink usually, but sometimes it would just be notated out in pencil. Engraving was even more labor-intensive using specialized tools that basically etched on metal templates before going to the printer.

In the late 80's and early 90's computers and software began making the process far less difficult and time-consuming. Although early software entries at times made it seem like it was more difficult than doing it by hand. By the mid-90's software was getting more and more usable, productive, and user-friendly. Today, most copyists wonder how they could ever have done it any other way.

Music Notation Software

Many music notation software entries have come and gone over the years. The market for this software is small and somewhat of a niche for developers. So, unlike other software titles for other uses, it isn't easy to bring a piece of software to market, continue to develop and support it, and turn a profit at the same time.

Over the years, programs like Score, Encore, Composer, and others have come and gone. Today, there are two primary titles, Finale and Sibelius. Both are written for the PC and Mac platforms and both continue to be developed, adding new features and occasionally streamlining and improving old ones.

Note: apparently the death knell most likely has sounded for Sibelius. The parent company, Avid, sold off many of its subsidiaries which, interestingly did not include Sibelius. But they did fire the entire Sibelius design and support team, and that obviously does not bode well for the future of Sibelius.

Curiously, the design team has taken residence at another company, Steinberg, and they have publicly stated they are working on a brand new notation program. Time will tell.

ThomaStudios Music Preparation

ThomaStudios uses both Finale (mainly) and Sibelius on Macs exclusively, for music preparation and engraving. Both offer the ability to create simple to complex scores, generate the scores and parts for printing, and both can play back compositions using instrument samples and sounds. True musical realism is fleeting at best in both programs, and they will never replace live musicians.

While it's tempting to get into the pros and cons of both Finale and Sibelius, let it suffice to just say both programs have their own strengths and weaknesses (some of them downright maddening!). And leave it at that for this space.