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"Scoring Notes" article on the history of notation programs

Today (December 28, 2021), the music notation software website Scoring Notes posted an article by Ben Byram-Wigfield on the history of notation software. You'll find it at this link:

https://www.scoringnotes.com/opinion/a-brief-history-of-music-notation-on-computers/

I thought NWC users should be aware of this paragraph, toward the end of the article (the emphasis is my own):

Quote
The mainframes and micros of the 20th century are long since gone; and the software that ran on them are now only a memory. On the Mac and PC platforms, there is a lengthy roll-call of applications that are no longer developed nor maintained: COMUS, ConcertWare, DMCS, Encore, Graphire, Igor Engraver, MagicScore, MusEdit, MusiCAD, Music Write, Music Ease, Musikrafters, NOTEWORTHY COMPOSER, Professional Composer, Personal Composer, SCORE. Even if you can still acquire them, they probably won’t work on today’s OSes.

It saddens me, but this is also how I must now view NWC. I'm continuing to use it for as many tasks as I can get away with, but unless further development occurs, I will have to continue to move more and more of my work to Sibelius. I wish it weren't so.

Re: "Scoring Notes" article on the history of notation programs

Reply #1
Interesting ...

...unless further development occurs, I will have to continue to move more and more of my work to Sibelius....
Can you explain why? My needs for musical notation do not change over time, so I have no need for "further development" (same for e.g. the text editor I use - a version of UltraEdit from around 2005, I think; and quite a few other tools). I see this development in Capella, but all what they do is part "featureitis", part things I simply do not need.

What I would like (but also not really need), is a program with a much larger scope regarding multiple movements; and with intricate sound creation not via soundfonts, but VSTis (which, AFAIK, Sibelius can do). But this is not "further development", in any sense, but a new product line ...

H.M.

Re: "Scoring Notes" article on the history of notation programs

Reply #2
My needs for musical notation do not change over time, so I have no need for "further development" (same for e.g. the text editor I use - a version of UltraEdit from around 2005, I think; and quite a few other tools).
The same for me (UltraEdit included  :) ).
Anyway it disturbs me knowing it's practically abandoned.
And I fear Windows 11, and 12 and... (Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes!)

Re: "Scoring Notes" article on the history of notation programs

Reply #3
And I fear Windows 11, and 12 and... (Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes!)
Why? Since WinXP at the latest, Windows has been the most locked-in operating system out there - there are millions of "no longer supported", but vital programs for and inside all sorts of companies: "Compatibility" will remain the most important feature for decades to come. Moreover, even if some programs start getting hiccups, VirtualBox or the like will keep WinXP etc. alive forever.

H.M.

Re: "Scoring Notes" article on the history of notation programs

Reply #4
I put together a little comparison sheet a while ago - two versions of the first page of one of my chamber scores. One version was done in NWC; the other version was done in Sibelius. Unfortunately, the size limitations on this forum's attachments won't allow me to post it, but if you could see it, even a quick glance would tell you that the Sibelius version is far more readable by a performer. In my milieu (contemporary chamber music) that's important, because rehearsal time is often limited and the music is often very complex. Part of the improved legibility is simply a better font, and NWC has the ability to use different fonts - I'm sure someone like Lawrie could produce a comparable font fairly quickly and distribute it among NWC users, and that would be an improvement. But the font isn't the whole story: it's combined with engraving rules regarding spacing and the placing of dynamics and other symbols that match best industry practice (in fact, Sibelius is industry practice: it's the most widely used software among music publishers). These can be largely matched in NWC, but it takes a lot of time and a whole lot of spacers. Sibelius does it right out of the box.

That's the main reason I'm in the process of switching, but there are other advantages to Sibelius. You can select across staves in systems. All the special notations like 8va lines, arpeggios, etc., that we put in via user objects in NWC are native in Sib, and usually very simple to create. Obbligato staves, cue staves, and cutout scores can also be made very simply; NWC can fake the first two, sort of, but it can't do the third one at all. Sib is compatible with NotePerformer, which gives you far better sound than any work with soundfonts in NWC can ever produce - important when you're submitting new works to calls for scores, which I often do. The list could go on, but I think the point has been made.

I really wish this wasn't the case. I hate Sibelius almost as much as I love NWC. The user interface is simply awful - after almost two years with the program, I still spend far too much of my time at the computer swearing at the Sibelius development team. (Would you believe it's the best of a bad lot ?  I find the Finale and Dorico interfaces even worse.) NWC is still my program of choice for any job where Sib's advantages won't matter, such as whipping out examples for Facebook forums or producing music for friends and family to use that isn't intended for wider distribution. If it could match Sib in a head-to-head reading comparison, I'd be back in a flash. But unless development resumes, it can't. And that is why I am very, very reluctantly switching my professional work away from it.

Re: "Scoring Notes" article on the history of notation programs

Reply #5
I found the original files I constructed the comparison image from, and these are small enough to pass through the forum's filter. You'll have to look at them one at a time, though. These are relevant to the first paragraph of my post of a few minutes ago.

Re: "Scoring Notes" article on the history of notation programs

Reply #6
I found the original files I constructed the comparison image from, and these are small enough to pass through the forum's filter. You'll have to look at them one at a time, though. These are relevant to the first paragraph of my post of a few minutes ago.

Re: "Scoring Notes" article on the history of notation programs

Reply #7
... that the Sibelius version is far more readable by a performer.
I think we only differ in words - I am very much with you that the spacing and sizing algorithms of NWC could use somewhat improved parameters; maybe would then need (I don't know the internals) changes to these algorithms; and, finally, require a few (but hopefully not too many) control parameters for (probably) pages, systems, measures, symbols.

In my dictionary (but maybe only mine), this does (or rather did) not fall under "further development" - because I suspect that the algorithms and parameters and defaults of NWC's sizing and spacing are, or at least were, intentional: "Developing them further" would require a modified specification.

But I can see what you need.

Minimal remarks about the two scores: The 16th beams in the trumpets in m.3 and m.7 are definitely wrong in the Sibelius score. I'm also not sure why both a tie and a slur are necessary in m.9 in trumpet 2. For the overall readability, yes, I have the same problem as an organ player - also there, the score is quite far away from my eyes; but a larger staff size in NWC requires too much horizontal space = too many systems and pages; contracting everything with spacers is not really an option ...

Edit: I have added an animated GIF comparing a part of the two scores. For my eyes, the main difference is the "boldness" of the noteheads. It seems that NWC's heads are a standard (quadratic) ellipse, whereas Sibelius uses an ellipse of a somewhat higher order - thus, the heads still fit exactly between the lines, but are "optically larger". NWC's SwingDings font seesm to do something similar - so the question is: Can we create and use a font from the normal NWC2STDA that has the head boundaries of the NWC2SwingDings font?

H.M.

Re: "Scoring Notes" article on the history of notation programs

Reply #8
It is so interesting to see the NWC and Sibelius scores side by side. Thank you, William and Harald, for making that possible! I haven't had a chance to do a comparison in this way before. I see what you are saying about the readability of the Sibelius score. The notes seem a little chubbier to me, and is the DPI higher for the Sibelius output? It looks crisper, and the background looks whiter on my screen.

Edit to add: William, I really appreciate when you tell us about your experiences! It is something that I have considered, but I just don't have the time right now with my PhD studies to learn a new program. I am always holding out hope that some user adjustments might solve the problems with NWC!

Second edit: Thanks for sharing that article, too, on the history of music notation. It looks like a good read.

Re: "Scoring Notes" article on the history of notation programs

Reply #9
Minimal remarks about the two scores: The 16th beams in the trumpets in m.3 and m.7 are definitely wrong in the Sibelius score.
What are the rules for "half-beams"? It seems that the definitive source for notation rules is "Behind Bars." I assume one needs to buy the paper book ($74 on Amazon) or Kindle version ($41) to use this reference work. Are there references online?

 

Re: "Scoring Notes" article on the history of notation programs

Reply #10
What are the rules for "half-beams"?
See attachment, from "Behind Bars".

By default, NWC does it wrong for the second measure of 3/8 example; and also if you manually fully beam the 6/16 example. However, in the last case, NWC at least does auto beaming correctly by only beaming together the eighth and the sixteenth, but leaving the dotted eighth without beam. And of course and thankfully, one can reverse the fractional beams by using the "Beam group start" option on the sixteenths ... see other attachment for all of this.

It seems that the definitive source for notation rules is "Behind Bars." I assume one needs to buy the paper book ($74 on Amazon) or Kindle version ($41) to use this reference work. Are there references online?
I'd say $41 is extremely cheap for all the information you get (about a full tank of my car - from driving around for this amount I learn much less).

H.M.