Notation software?

Hi all,
I’m evaluating Scaler (and liking what I’m finding!) and have a few questions.

I’m currently using Ableton and Bitwig, and neither has native notation tools. I was thinking about buying Reaper because it includes notation. I know there are also some tools specifically designed for notation, but I’m not that familiar with them, and am also trying to avoid subscription services (e.g. MuseScore). I have used Noteflight occasionally just out of curiosity.

The software I’m looking for should be able at least to import/export MIDI. Working in conjunction with Scaler in some way is a big plus.

FWIW I am not a pro nor a sight reader, but I do like the ability to write using notation. I haven’t done it in a VERY long time, but figure that if I’m actually learning some theory via software (or, just composing), notation might as well be a part of that.

Any suggestions appreciated.


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MuseScore is available as a standalone download and does not require a subscription.


Thanks - they have three paid plans, but I don’t know how much I’d get out of them. Guess I could try it.

Select without Muse hub. MuseScore is free. (Pro is charged, but there is no functional difference.)


Just downloaded. Thanks.

I think Muse Hub is needed to download instruments, though?

I have recently been trying Dorico (SE, free version) and liking it a lot.

Musescore comes with sounds of various instruments, but not enough? If you are looking for high-quality tone reproduction, you may be dissatisfied.

For example, there is a way to add free SoundFonts.

Also, MuseScore4 can play VST sound sources, so I think you can play sound sources used in sclaer2 and DAWs (if you own them). I think there are also some free VST sound sources.

I don’t use MuseHub so I’m not sure.


Thanks - I’m not looking for high-end output from Musescore, specifically, but MuseHub seems to be the way to get instruments & seems like the way to go if using Musescore to sketch out ideas or compose.

Thanks for the link to SoundFonts, too - I’ll take a look.

That said, Abletone Suite, Bitwig and the many free plugins (eg Spitfire) likely provide more “sounds” than I’ll know what to do with anyway :slight_smile:

yes, for just composition - Musescore and its basic sounds are generally good enough, when you’re ready to really hear it - export the MIDI into your DAW and go from there. the harder part is getting nuances that you might have written into the score to work with your choice of sounds - most times regardless - you need to tweak the MIDI for your specific instrument for any articulations or CC’s used to get it to do what you want. even with the Musehub instruments, you’ll still find in the latest version, areas for improvement.

imho - use Musescore for notation, then when you’re happy there, export into your DAW and tweak as needed on the instrument tracks to get the final performance you want.

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Thanks - sounds good.

I’m not much of a composer, so don’t anticipate running into any particularly difficult things… mainly, I assume I’ll be using “standard” things like volume (and easing in/out), vibrato, tremolo, staccato, etc… mostly these seem fairly straightforward to reproduce in most DAWs.

I am kind of curious how well Reaper’s notation works in terms of turning notes and markings into MIDI. With my limited experience, I’m not the best judge of that.

I use Musescore.
The software is separate from the service. The service is not required in any way to use the software.

Personally, I find the notation approach much easier to deal with the fussy bits without really getting into the weeds with the DAW. You don’t have complete control over every aspect but it does a really good job at playback for at least 95% of things.

Not all VST work well with Musescore. Some don’t work at all. I can only personally confirm that the sound fonts and the Spitfire Audio free stuff works dependably. Scaler runs well within it but somewhat oddly. I would say that the new Musescore sounds are at least comparable in sound to the BBC SO Discover (The free ones) and also offers more instruments (most notibly, solo instruments.)

Your use may vary but I recently moved over to Linux and cannot use any VSTs or computer based DAW for the time being. I have actually found Musescore to be more productive. I am no longer just fiddling with all the virtual instruments and just focusing on the composition.

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Might not be what you’re looking for, but I purchased (thus a one-off cost with no repeats) a program called SmartScore. I bought the ‘intro’ version for about 60 euros.

This is software designed to read in handwritten or printed scores and create a midi file output. It uses “OMR” which I only recently learned is “Optical Music Recognition” (seemingly a close neighbour to OCR that powers everything else of this nature). Thus it gets from score to piano roll (or midi file) in my DAW in minutes.

In my case I used a paid PDF score but I can confirm that it will squirt out an entirely faithful midi ‘capture’ of everything written. They claim that it’s very happy with handwritten sheets too - when you use the program it becomes clear that the first step is to calibrate the optical scan of the page/file as the first part of creating the output file.

As I say it may not be what you’re looking for, but it would allow one to simply score by hand in either a music book or (as shown but I haven’t tried) by scanning in hand drawn stuff.

They make two further (paid) versions, one that handles guitar tablatue or chord diagrams, and the top tier which allows for full orchestra and complex scoring.

And no, I don’t work for them or am associated with them in any way. Like many here, I’m just busy exploring this new world of possibilities :slight_smile:

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I would also have a look at Studio One. It’s a wonderful DAW (one of the best imo) and includes good tools for notation (it’s from Presonus, the makers of Notion…which between has a free version on iPad with which you can do a lot of things)

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When using Studio One, editing in both score view and piano roll tends to mess up the score, which is unfortunate. It’s an enharmonic problem. MIDI doesn’t distinguish between C# and D♭, so I’m prepared to never go back to the score once I edit it on the piano roll.

Studio One’s score view is useful, except for the small details.

Notion, also from PreSonus, works great with Studio One, but is incomplete as a score editor.

I think MuseScore is the best for writing music efficiently. It’s free, has a proven track record, and has plenty of help.

However, even if I write a beautiful score, MIDI doesn’t express nuances, so if I send it to a DAW, I keep it to the minimum notation.

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I’d been a longtime user of mainstream DAW technology (Ableton or Reaper) and the workflow methodology that goes with it, until MuseScore 4 landed.

After preliminary experimentation, I’ve figured out a strategy using MuseScore’s library of sound fonts, FX, and support of VST plugins like Scaler, Arturia, Vital, SURGE XT synthesizer and virtual instruments for ideation, composition, and arrangement, reserving the DAW environment for the last stages of production.