For anyone interested in doing serious standard notation work, Finale has always been the professional standard. (I know many schools prefer Sibelius, but it's kind of like the Mac/PC thing - schools use Macs, the real business world doesn't; almost every professional copyist/arranger/music director/composer I know uses Finale).
I've used Finale for a long time, and I upgrade it every other year. I don't do it every year, because the additional features typically aren't big ones from one year to the next... and I don't do it less often because they discount the software if you're within two years.
So last night I replaced Finale 2010 with 2012. First the bad stuff.... they no longer offer upgrades on CD as a standard; you have to pay an extra $10 plus shipping (with tax, that brought the cost of my upgrade to just over $200). The standard upgrade is now online only, which I did on my home computer when I got home last night. It's massive - it took almost 2 hours to download and install through a DSL line.
The good stuff: I've only played with it for a couple of hours so far, but they seem to have really streamlined it. I didn't notice any video glitches (brief screen flashes were common for me with 2010; the internal processing looks to be far more efficient).
There are a LOT more instruments included in the Garritan vst files. It's pretty cool to be able to write euphonium and baritone horn parts and have them sound right. At first listen, the patches for a few instruments like cello seem to have been re-sampled, and sound truer than in the last version.
2010 had a number of templates, so you could chose SATB choir and it would properly label the staves and assign the patches. But if you created your own ensemble, you were limited to a choice between choir oohs and ahhs, and depending on the clef used I sometimes got weird results - which left me with a choice between loading SATB and deleting staves or playing with patches and editing text. But now you can select individual voices, and the choices have gone WAY up, now including baritone, mezzo-soprano, contralto... even yodel!
There's plenty of stuff I'll never use - I can't really see myself writing for kazoo at any point in the future. But the greatly expanded percussion choices might come in pretty handy.
I still don't like the way percussion playback works. If you select snare drum, the many choice (light sticking, cross sticking, rim shots, rolls, etc) are still done with mouse-over on the note head. To me this seems pretty tedious, as I have to alter every note as I place it. I think it would make a lot more sense to have a standard default, and allow editing on the notes after the fact. In addition, some of the mouse-over choices for snare didn't turn out to actually be snare, which meant the vst playback was silent if I was a hair off with the mouse on entry.
The setup wizard now includes a tablature section with many choices, including a couple of sitars, vihuela, dulcimer (in three tunings), requinto, etc. Guitar tab options include several tunings: drop D, double-drop D, open D, open G, and DADGAD in addition to standard. While I don't use tab often, I'm sure those features will be helpful for a lot of guitarists who compose.
VST files include lots of new world instruments like Irish Bazouki, folk instruments like hammered dulcimer and blues harmonica, and old instruments like recorders and viola de gamba.
The software is expensive - if you're not upgrading, the base price is $600. But if you need to compose/arrange regularly, it's a big time saver. I used to do hand copyist work back in the day, and I can crank out in an hour charts that would have taken me a couple of days with pen and ink.
This version also includes a repertoire section that I don't remember from previous releases, with ready-to-print piano, piano/vocal, and some instrumental selections from classical, patriotic, early jazz, and folk genres.
Things I haven't played with yet, but look intriguing: there's a score manager that should let you change instruments on a single staff, automatically adjusting the playback. That should come in really handy writing for ensembles where a musician doubles. It apparently embeds sound files, so you can send compositions to folks who don't have Finale, but they'll still be able to hear the playback. And there's now support for Roman numeral notation for harmonic analysis. Their 'what's new' page also lists instant capo chords, which will display a second line of chord symbols to be played when a capo is used.
Also, I saw a press release this week that MakeMusic (Finale's onwer) is acquiring Garritan. I'm guessing that means even more vst choices will be in future editions.
So far, I'm really impressed with what they've done.
Post your reviews of instructional material for guitar or bass. Reviews of books, your favorite bands latest CD, how to videos, live band performances and other instructional websites are all welcome.
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