The Whole Note: We’re in this for the Duration

Polywriter, Deluxe Music Construction Set, Professional Composer, Notator, MusicPrinter Plus, HB Music Engraver, MusicWriter, Graphic Notes, Score, Personal Composer, Copyist, Capella, Amadeus, Encore, MusicTime, Rhapsody, Igor, Overture, Concertware, Nightingale, NoteFlight, MagicScore, Dancing Dots, MusicProse, Musicator, Graphire Music Press, Noteworthy Composer, Notion, Sibelius, QuickScore Elite, Berlioz, MusicWrite, Vivaldi…Whew! The list seems endless. In my 22 years with MakeMusic, I have witnessed the launch of many music notation software programs. A handful are still here.

I remember when, in 1988, three much-touted new notation programs came out: Graphic Notes, HB Music Engraver, and Finale. Because music software was primarily Mac-based at the time, Apple Computer shows represented an ideal place to launch new entries in the field. That year Apple hosted a huge showing of music applications in Nashville, at the Grand Ole Opry Hotel, complete with a great concert and multimedia presentation. I was a young musician, attempting to find my place in the business world, and it showed in my passion as I touted our wares – and I was certainly surrounded by kindred spirits doing the very same thing.

Belmont University hosted a notation program “show down.” Score, Graphic Notes, HB Music Engraver, and Finale competed. We were all given a piece of music to enter and format in our respective applications but given only a half-hour to complete the task. Quality was most important but how long it took to get that quality was also important. Graphic Notes and Finale did themselves proud that day (with Graphic Notes’ presenter traveling all the way from Australia to do so).

Since then there have been many more shows, from NAMM shows in Anaheim, California to the Musikmesse in Frankfurt, Germany.  Back in the day, Musikmesse Hall 8 always housed the publishers. The Finn brothers (Sibelius’ founders) would hang out there when Sibelius was getting off the ground. Leland Smith, programmer of Score, would actually sit in his booth programming (seriously). And Kurt Haas, who had a fine music application called Amadeus, was always very kind to me and to the fledgling notation program I represented. We’d see Capella, which was a popular product in German-speaking areas, and one year we saw a program called Berloiz (obviously French even if Sibelius is not made in Finland), which showed some impressive sample scores and then was never heard from again.

Of course many of these products aren’t here anymore. So from some perspectives the competition might not have benefitted everyone. Personally I think that Finale has always benefitted from competition; it’s always caused us to push things just a little more and make things even better. I think we’ve similarly helped others in the same way. I recall one company whose live demonstrations frequently made fun of Finale’s ability to switch between page view and scroll view, suggesting this was complicated and confusing. Then, years later, they added scroll view as a much-requested feature. That said, I’m sure they have similar stories about us.

So, what is the point of all these musings?

I’d like to say THANK YOU to everyone involved in all the notation applications mentioned above – and to any I’ve unintentionally overlooked. Together we’ve created something new – desktop music publishing – and provided countless musicians with better tools to share their music with the world.


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