Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Comparing Notation/Engraving Programs for New Music

I propose the design of a comparison survey of the present music notation/engraving program landscape; should there be interest in such a project, this is an open invitation to make suggestions as to its form and content.

This is an interesting moment for notation software in that we are not limited to Finale and Sibelius, for — as good/bad/ugly/useful/useless as those two programs may be — no single program has (or even should have) universal functionality or flexibility and having the additional options provided alternative or auxiliary software is a very good thing. At the moment, there are some interesting new-ish programs available as free or commercial software and a couple of older programs with useful features have become available as legacy items.

The comparison ought to have two components, the first a comparison chart (this program can or cannot do this) with some evaluation (how easy or well the program does this or that) and the second, if possible, a comparison of output engraving from the individual programs based on a model piece, with a lot of hoops to jump through and hurdles to jump over, including both graphic-only output with graphic+ audio output.

Among the features that ought to be investigated are (1) complex rhythms, including nested tuplets, broken or partial tuplets, aligned and non-aligned polymeter scores, and non-measured or "spatial" notation (all of the above with and without playback); (2) microtonal accidentals, whether of a fixed set or of your own design, and playback; (3) continuous linear items like crescendi/diminuendi, portamenti/glissandi, accellerandi, and their playback; (4) house style capacity, including choice of fonts, symbols, and layout flexibility; (5) graphic capacity, including cutaway scores, insertion of graphics, export of graphics including ps and pdf formats; (6) playback capacity, including midi and audio commands, generation of midi and audio files; (7) input methods: text or command line, computer keyboard +/- keypad (and a description of the keyboard layout used), mouse/pen/joystick/etc., midi keyboard, midi or audio file, import from (and export to) other engraving software or earlier versions of the same software; (8) general interface and workflow design.

Any additions, corrections or suggestions about this would be most appreciated, as would any suggestions for a model piece.

1 comment:

dfan said...

Nice list. I think another important feature is non-standard key signatures (e.g. F# + Bb), as well as differing key signatures per staff.