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Sheet music software for accordion arrangements

vivdunstan

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Thanks for this new section of the forum!

I thought I’d start a thread about sheet music notation software that folks find helpful. It might be good to share tips / experiences etc.

I’ve been using Notion (available for Mac, Windows and iOS) for a bit over a year now. I tried a trial copy of Sibelius and a few others, but Notion was the one that clicked for me. It can be used for full orchestral scale scores, but I use it primarily to record accordion melodies (with harmonies/embellishments) plus a note of the chords to play at each point. You can do a full bass clef arrangement for a more complex or fuller accordion music notation, but I like this short hand, and most of the time it’s enough for what I want to play, and very compact. Here’s a screenshot:

bergerac.jpg

I mainly do the arranging on my laptop, but sometimes use my Mac desktop, iPad or iPod touch (iPhone minus the phoning), which all sync music between them. My music theory knowledge is um shaky, so I’m spotting music things I recognise rather than knowing what everything is called properly! But it works. And I sometimes use a mini USB piano keyboard to experiment with as I’m arranging. I’ve written more about this in my blog.

As a disabled accordionist, who can only play occasionally now due to progressive neurological illness, arranging like this with computer music software has reinvigorated my accordion playing, letting me have fun creatively working on arrangements, and also do them when too weak to play. I was never keen on writing music by hand/pen/pencil even when my hands worked properly. Now it's not an option, but thankfully the sheet music software gives me a good alternative.

Anyway would be interested to know what tools other people use. Thanks all!
 

debra

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I have been making arrangements and creating sheet music scores for a very long time. I started out using Score, back in the MS DOS times. Later I moved to Capella, but for several years now I have been using Musescore which is completely free to use and has been improving over the past years as well. It is now really at professional level. I have a publicly available collection of arrangements for accordion ensembles and orchestras and by now about 80% or thereabout is written using Musescore.
 

Siegmund

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I am a Lilypond fan, and spent quite a bit of time this past year writing some software extensions for it, to make it easier to write accordion music and hear MIDI playback of it.

The price is right - but I will freely admit the learning curve is steeper than MuseScore's and not everyone wants text entry rather mouse clicking or MIDI keyboard entry.

I wrote by hand until 2006, then started using Mozart (a paid product but a much cheaper one, at the time, than Finale and Sibelius), and only got serious about moving to Lilypond three or four years ago.
 

Rob4207

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I have used a variety of notation programs over the years but have settled on Staffpad. It is a program currently around AU$60 for the Windows version.
Staffpad is available for iPad and Windows and uses a pencil as it's main input. I am using it in Windows 10 on a MS surface pro.
Not being a strong sight reader it has helped my learning a lot to write notation in from scores.
Scores are playable which helps me a lot as I find it hard to 'hear' what notation will sound like. It is the first notation program (out of about 6) that properly picked up and played a passage involving triplet pairs in a score I was copying.
Entry is by pen (in my case a Microsoft pencil) and it works well. Zoom is by pinch or expand so you can get closer for more difficult bits.
It also will import midi and xml and export to those or audio files, either complete score or stems for each instrument. Instruments sounds are very good.
I am enjoying modifying scores to accordion, adapting the bass clef to accordion bass patterns.
 

Siegmund

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It is the first notation program (out of about 6) that properly picked up and played a passage involving triplet pairs in a score I was copying.

I am curious - how does staffpad handle triplets? I've never tried it.

Triplets do tend to require extra human intervention in most software.
If you are playing the music in, you have to have set 'quantization' to a value shorter than any note you actually use (to 32nds, if you want it to be able to distinguish an 8th triplet from 8ths-than-16th) for it to have any chance - which probably means that somewhere else you're going to get a quarter note that turns into a double-dotted eighth because it was played a tiny bit too early or too late.

In many programs, typing in a triplet, as opposed to playing in a triplet, requires first entering a single note the length of the entire triplet, telling it to split it in three, and then repitching the 2nd and 3rd new notes. That IS a pain, and breaks the rhythm of entering the passage.
 

Rob4207

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In Staffpad I have been entering the notes, say 3 quarter notes, then just write a 3 under the central one. The program ties them and plays them correctly. It also does Tuplets if you put a 5 under five notes but haven't had to use that to-date.
Had a lot of issues in other software trying to get these two bars:
1645689764653.png

This is what I got in Staffpad 1645689960190.png
 

Siegmund

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I am guessing that means it refrains from giving you a 'too many notes in this bar' warning until it's sure you are done writing - a bonus of the pencil interface. I can see why most other programs don't work that way but one intended for handwriting might.
 

Rob4207

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To support the creative process and allow speed they have built in tolerance for long or short note counts. It holds a bar in what they call 'pending' if it exceeds the note count and shows it in orange. If it's under then it shows it in grey. The online help suggest that this is tolerance for when you are writing quickly (or drunk -their suggestion) and the assumption is that you will return and fix it at some point.
There's a comprehensive online manual at https://staffpad.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360002333457-Welcome-to-StaffPad if you wanted to hunt down any specific function and see how it's handled.
I should also add that I am in no way associated with this company, just an enthusiast.
 

Tom

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I use abc notation with an online converter at mandolintab.net. It's free and super fast to input the leadsheets I make. There's a learning curve but once you have a template it's easy and handles triplets no problem.
 

Corinto

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Also use abc notation with EasyABC (free) and it does all I need. Learning curve, yes, but not complicated at all, once the basics are known, it's easy and powerfull. Started years ago with abc notation so maybe I don't remember about the learning curve :( ...
 

Valski

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I have been making arrangements and creating sheet music scores for a very long time. I started out using Score, back in the MS DOS times. Later I moved to Capella, but for several years now I have been using Musescore which is completely free to use and has been improving over the past years as well. It is now really at professional level. I have a publicly available collection of arrangements for accordion ensembles and orchestras and by now about 80% or thereabout is written using Musescore.

Hello Mr De Bra,

You're absolutely awesome with your knowledge of everything accordion. Thank you for all of your valuable input.

I have used Musescore in the past, but found the note entry very tedious. I don't write my own music so many of the features are not relevant, but sometimes will write an arrangement. Most of my requirements are to clean up the various sheet music pages that I have acquired over time. Ideally I would like to import these pages into a program so that I could create sets that could be printed as required and would look like they were from the same source.

A few years ago I tried to investigate Sibelius because they claimed that scanning was a feature however no one could confirm that this would work. I am currently exploring Scanscore which claims to make this possible and to enable uploading into Musescore. It's too early to report that this works reasonably well.
 

vivdunstan

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Staffpad is available for iPad and Windows and uses a pencil as it's main input. I am using it in Windows 10 on a MS surface pro.
Not being a strong sight reader it has helped my learning a lot to write notation in from scores.
Scores are playable which helps me a lot as I find it hard to 'hear' what notation will sound like.

Notion on iOS also offers stylus input and I find Apple Pencil works well, though my hand control from the neuro illness is now so poor I prefer not to enter music this way.

Audio playback is a must for me too, and Notion offers that. I find it invaluable for picking up errors in what I’ve entered, and especially in harmonies I’ve added. It means that when I do try it on the accordion the music is much nearer finished.

Loving hearing everyone’s experiences. Thanks all :)
 

JeffJetton

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I started out using Score, back in the MS DOS times. Later I moved to Capella, but for several years now I have been using Musescore which is completely free to use and has been improving over the past years as well. It is now really at professional level.

Seconded. For full, professional-grade arrangements, I haven't found anything better.

I started with Finale back in the '90s. Then I switched to Sibelius. But I've been using MuseScore for over a decade now (I just checked--my oldest MuseScore file is from January 2012!)

It is important to learn the shortcuts. Especially how the numeric keypad corresponds with rhythmic values. I have my digital piano hooked up to the computer I run MuseScore on, which really makes note entry a snap. One hand on the piano keyboard and the other on the computer keyboard.
 

hais1273

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We've used "Noteworthy" for many years. I have little interest or ability in computing generally but I find Noteworthy straight forward and logical to use.
 

Beemer

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I'm pleased that you posted about Staffpad. I use a Surface Book3 and have the Microsoft Pen. How does the program playback sound? Is it by using a MIDI interface or does it have built in sound?
 
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Rob4207

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The default instrument playback is audio and although you can export to midi, I can't see an option to redirect output to midi.
I have a Surface Pro 5 and the playback output is good, although the small speakers do choke it back, but it's ok to hear what you have entered as you write.
Putting it into speakers, a sound system or amp boosts the quality. The program has excellent instrument sounds that come with it, this covers most orchestra groups. I find the default piano sounds are good and stand up to amplification without issues.
If you want additional sounds you can buy them, however the basic sets that come with it have most of the standard instruments (around 55) for orchestra and the ones I've used have been good quality sounds.
Choosing instruments translates into the staff used for input, once you have entered notes then it will play them back using the respective instruments. I purchased an additional sound set for an accordion instrument which is good. Probably the one point to note, the only guitar in the core set seems to be a bass. For guitar I have simply used the piano single staff, but if it was the principle instrument you wanted to write for then you would maybe want to look at buying the additional sound set ($14.00).
 

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