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Monday, February 27, 2017

Software Review - MuseScore 2

Where do I start? This isn't the typical software that gets reviewed. MuseScore is a musical score composing program. I'm really enjoying playing with it, so I thought I'd post this here in case someone else is looking for this kind of software.

Screenshot from the MuseScore website.
I've messed around with arranging music compositions off and on for years. I originally did it on sheets of manuscript paper, by hand. It took forever and wasn't easy to read. So I found a music font and did a drag-and-drop, cut-and-paste version. It was just as laborious and only slightly easier to read. Then I got involved in other things and dropped that hobby for a while.

Last summer I picked it back up. I was asked to play the accompaniment for a choir piece. I wasn't happy with the version and neither were most of the singers. I found other versions of the same hymn, but they weren't what the chorister wanted, so I offered to make a mashup version.

The song was seven or eight pages long, much too long for my previous methods of composing. I went on a search for software, because I figured that in the last twenty years, someone had to have invented a much nicer way of doing it. I tried messing with some of the music composition and audio mixing software I have, like GarageBand, but none of them could generate a written score. Enter the internet. I found several programs and tried them out. I bought myself a cheap midi keyboard. In the end, I kept MuseScore instead of the others I found. Even though it was mostly a drag-and-drop entry, it was easier to use and more intuitive than the others. It also has a great set of help forums.

It produces a nice, clean copy. It's got a lot of features buried in the program. I'm just scratching the surface of what I can do. I love that I can create not just piano scores, but full orchestral scores, or choir and accompaniment. It also breaks each song into individual parts so I can print out just a vocal score, or the flute part, or whatever parts I have.

I've used it for four different arrangements now, plus at least a dozen simplified versions of songs for my piano students. The interface is simple enough you can jump in and be creating music within a few minutes of installing the software. I've found plenty of tutorials and help forums for more complex questions. It's a very robust piece of software.

And best of all, it's free. Yep, totally free to download. Available for Mac or Windows or even Linux.