Hands-On Review:Finale PrintMusic!


Review: Finale PrintMusic!:

By Coda Music


This fine online publication recently reviewed Finale Notepad, the free download version of notation software from Coda Music Technology (CodaMusic.com). Since we liked Notepad, and because we're toying with putting notation software to use in some of our instructional columns, we decided to check out the company's more advanced packages.

Coda's Finale PrintMusic! notation software, which lists at $69.95, adds features not included in the free Notepad download, yet is far less expensive than Coda's top-of-the-line scoring programs - Allegro and Finale 2002 (which will set you back at least a couple of Benjamins apiece). After spinning the oh-so-orange CD-ROM that we found glued to the inside of the owner's manual, and putting together some fine-looking sheet music, here's what we found out about PrintMusic!


Once Again, It's Easier than It Looks

Notepad was pretty intuitive, even for someone who is admittedly, not an expert sightreader. So was PrintMusic! We expected that though, since they're built on the same platform. PrintMusic's setup wizard easily helps you select instrumentation, key and time signature, pick-up measures, etc. Getting started takes only minutes before your first page of finely transcribed music begins to take shape.


Of course PrintMusic! comes complete with templates, sample documents, and excellent text tutorials - even video tips. The 94-page owner's manual is full of increasingly advanced tutorials. Don't be a fool, go through these instead of trying to figure it out on your own. Even if you get it without any help, you're guaranteed to understand the program better if you accept all the expert advice in the manual.


Guitarists Will Love this Program

Guitar chord diagrams, single-note lead lines, and simple charts are a breeze with PrintMusic! You can even play a melody (or guitar solo) directly into your score using the program's built-in "MicNotator" (single notes only, and you'll need a microphone routed to your soundcard, not included with the program). This might be the single most useful feature of this entire program for guitarists - especially guitarists who don't read as well as they'd like to. You can use this to see what the printed version of your incredible guitar solo actually looks like. You can use it to double-check your transcribing skills or, if you're like some of those lazy college music majors we've been meeting lately, you can use PrintMusic to do your transcribing homework.


And here's another amazing plus that I don't think the people at Coda have even thought about: You can scan sheet music directly into the program (you'll probably have to clean it up a little, as with any scan), then have PrintMusic! play it for you. And with the appropriate degree of MIDI knowledge, you'll be able to slow the piece down as much as you want.


That means that by using this feature you can now learn intense pieces of sheet music that only Steve Vai could read, without having to bother Steve to come over to your house again and teach it to you. The guy has to rest, y'know. Now get back to work on "Flight of the Bumblebee."


Another cool thing: You won't have to use stuffy-looking fonts on your pages either - after you purchase PrintMusic!, you can download a much more casual jazz font just like all the hepcats in your nearby college jazz band are reading. Unfortunately PrintMusic! doesn't do Tablature, but I bet the people at Coda are working late into the night on an affordable tab program for all you tab-crawlers out there. Stay tuned.


Scoring Your Multi-Instrument Masterpiece

With PrintMusic! you can create single or multiple instrument scores, up to 24 staves at a time, so if Brian Setzer still had his Orchestra together, and you wrote a tune for them, you could include parts for the entire band on one score. Then you could break that overall score out into separate documents for each player. How cool is that?

And beyond that, the folks at Coda have built in a feature they call "Layering" which allows you to add harmony parts within a stave of each instrument's part. Essentially then, you can double up (or more) the voices of that one instrument right there on that part.


PrintMusic! will play your tune back to you as you write it too, and you can choose to play every instrument on the score, or mute and solo individual instruments as well. And it's all MIDI assignable, as well.


Compatible with Cakewalk, Vision, Performer, and other Sequencers

Because PrintMusic! can handle standard MIDI files and their playback data, you can create music in your favorite sequencing program, save it as a MIDI file, then open in PrintMusic!, where it will turn into standard musical notation. So if you can't read or write music notation but need to get a transcription to another musician or a publisher, PrintMusic! will do the work for you.


The Features Just Don't Stop

Entering lyrics or sharing them with word processing programs is no problem. Transposing instruments is no problem. Adding specific musical articulation or expression instructions is no problem. You can cut and paste any number of measures to another section of your score. You can "Save as a Web Page" then publish your music to the web directly from PrintMusic! for all the world to read and hear.


It just goes on and on. Overall, we've found PrintMusic! to be an incredibly valuable tool for a very reasonable price. And actually, the learning experience that comes along with creating music notation in PrintMusic! is more than worth the price of admission. Even the musician with only a casual need for notations of their own or cover music will find that their total understanding of music - not to mention their ability to sightread - will jump by leaps and bounds after only a few uses. Advance yourself. Get PrintMusic!