Saturday, January 22, 2011

Finale 2011, music creation on a tablet

Finalein Portrait

Inspired by this post over at techinmusiced, I decided it was time to see if entering music in Finale is any easier with a pen.  He’s reviewing Symphony Pro, music notation software for the iPad.  There are many music readers for the iPad, but this is the first really robust app I’ve seen for creating notation on the iPad.  I thought, “hey that’s neat, maybe I could use my iPad to write some stuff.”  Then I realized that Windows tablets already run a great notion program called Finale. 

I had always figured pen input would be nice for entering music, since I had to handwrite so much of it in school. With Finale and a pen, all you have to do is pick your note value and then tap on the staff where you want it.  Faster that having to color in the notehead, right?  Well, not much faster actually, the screen shot of Minuet 3 came out of my memory and went into Finale in about 15 minutes on my HP 2730p with an active Wacom digitizer.  The active digitizer is essential to the experience as you can see what note the pen is hovering over before you tap the screen to lay the note down.  I did try Finale NotePad on my Archos 9, thinking it would make a nice little music journal, but it was a pretty frustrating experience.  The resistive screen is just not accurate enough for note placement at any reasonable zoom level, and without the hover detection of an active pen, you have no idea where the note is going until it’s down.  Then it’s equally hard to grab again to drag to where you do want it. 

Minuet3 JournalAs for jotting down a quick idea, I think Windows Journal’s staff paper template might be better, because you can just scribble away and translate it to notation later.  This version of Minuet 3 took all of 5 minutes and is just as readable as any Musical book I’ve played out of (I’m looking at you, Brigadoon).  Journal can output a TIF, and the scanning software that comes with Finale can import music from a TIF, but I haven’t successfully pulled that off yet.  Perhaps that will be my next project. 

It would seem that the best way to get music into Finale is still just to plug in the keyboard and play it in.  I’m pretty sure Finale has an onscreen keyboard (of the musical variety) floating around in the tools somewhere, but I just don’t use Finale enough to know where it is or to want to bother looking for it.  The thing is, I just don’t write much music anymore.  I used to arrange some stuff for students, but as I’m doing more private teaching and less ensemble work, I don’t really need to arrange things anymore.  So while I did finally decide it was time to get back up to date with Finale 2011, I haven’t really had a chance to use it much. 

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