Thursday, July 14, 2016

Taking off with Noteflight

In my undergraduate years back in the early 90's, we worked extensively with Finale and Finale Allegro. I became quite adept at using the programs, on the old Macintosh desktop computers, but the cost was quite prohibitive when I moved out into the teaching world. Some places I taught would own programs, some would not, and I soon settled into a full time job teaching in parochial schools with literally a zero budget. Since my husband was a grad student and I was making considerably less than a public school teacher, money was tight, so we did not purchase this program. When music was needed, I often hand wrote parts for my kids or used Finale Notepad, which was free at the time. When I got the job teaching in State College, I was given a copy of Sibelius which had been purchased for my predecessor, but never really found the time to dig into it and learn it, since it was different and a bit more complicated than Finale. 

Another teacher in our district suggested I download and start using MuseScore, which I have found to be a helpful tool for quickly making needed parts, like I did this spring when we performed "Men of Ohio" by Henry Fillmore in the original 1929 parts. The 1st clarinet part is in the  range of the mid-altissimo, going up to a G3, which is beyond the range for most 8th graders, especially if playing in tune is important to you. I learned by trial and error to enter the parts and transpose sections down the octave, so my students could have a more successful experience. The new update makes MuseScore even easier to use, and I enjoyed working on my assignment for this class in it.

Another free notation program is available free online at This is a web browser based notation program, which allows you to quickly and easily create music, play it back, and share it with other users. As an avid Chromebook user at home, I often prefer using browser based programs due to the improved speed, partially due to a weird medical condition that I have (that few believe is real until they see it in action and can't explain it any other way)  that tends to slow down machines. Browser based programs are not affected by my strange magnetic blood. 

This program was easy to use, intuitive, and even less fussy than MuseScore. Though I haven't yet spent a lot of time with it, I enjoyed using Noteflight very much, and would definitely suggest it to my students for their composition projects. The new interface does a nice job of leaving everything handy without being cluttered, which makes it easy to move back and forth between different things needed for notation, such as note length, articulations, lyrics, chord symbols, etc. The playback feature allows you to easily hear if you have made mistakes or are missing something, and like other programs, it's easy to click and move measures, copy and paste, and add needed markings to the score.

Below is the score for the assignment we were given. I've added the voice part as a violin part since the voice option isn't actually available on the free version, so you'll hear a different timbre if you listen to the score being played.

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