Music notation software

Just came across StaffPad via SB, music notation software for tablets. Looks very cool.

I used Sibelius pretty heavily in college, dabbled with Finale a bit as well. Looks like Sibelius is now a subscription app à la Adobe CS 😕 so I probably wouldn’t reach for it now. There is a free tier, but it’s pretty limiting. Finale’s not a subscription app, but it’s an eye-watering $600 for the most recent version. I’m all for paying for software when it’s worth it, but that seems steep.

StaffPad is $89.99 in the Mac App store as of right now, which seems very reasonable considering the features it offers. The handwriting recognition in particular looks pretty nifty, though I wonder how accurate it would be in practice…

My music notation needs are generally very intermittent (nonexistent at the moment…), so I’ll probably stick to LilyPond for now. It’s free, open source software that’s a lot like LaTeX but for music, does the job and can achieve some pretty complex notation. I do wish it was easier to control the text and notation fonts, but you can’t have everything. A huge upside of using LilyPond is keeping scores in version control via Git, which I think I’d miss if I moved to something with a more traditional UI.


Tall, elegant time signatures

I recently came across a tall, one-per-system time signature style I hadn’t really seen before in Drei Volksliedsätze by Schönberg, published by Edition Peters (c) 1930.

Tall time signature in Drei Volksliedsätze by Arnold Schönberg

I searched around for some info about their purpose but didn’t find a ton of information. Some say that they are useful for conductor’s scores, others say that they’re useful when a time signature changes frequently throughout a piece. Most examples I’ve found are a lot more ungainly (but definitely more legible) than the tall, elegant time signatures in the Schönberg.

The usage isn’t consistent in the three songs. The first of the three (Schein uns, du liebe Sonne) has a standard one-per-stave time signature and is in 4/4 throughout. The second (Es gingen zwei Gespielen gut) is in 6/4 throughout and has a tall signature. The third (Herzlieblich Lieb, durch Scheiden) is a little nuts. It’s got tall time signatures and starts in 3/4, then packs 5 meter changes in to the remaining 21 measures.

The texture of the final two pieces, both rhythmically and harmonically, is much tighter than the first. Because of that, my feeling is that in this song cycle they’re maybe meant to encourage singers to read across the staves, to become more attuned to where they fit in as part of the whole. Would like to ask someone more knowledgeable in this sort of thing to see what they think.