HELP! required ASAP, again!!

DsSis has just thrown us a huge curveball for Christmas, just when we thought we’d finished the kids’ shopping.

She says she wants a copy of this:


Avid Sibelius First software – Version 7 is apparently what they use at school.

She says she wants it for writing music without having to draw it out on manuscript paper. Seems an expensive way to save time and pencil lead, if you ask me. But DON’T ask me, because I am the iDunce, remember? And Tone-Deaf-Dad to boot.

Several questions then.

1. Does any one of you have any experience of this software?

2. What does it do?

3. What else does it do? Yes that’s a serious question.

4. What are the alternatives / competition?

5. Version 7 is for Windows 7. My PC is still Windows 7, but all the laptops in the house are Windows 8. Version 7.5 of this software, specifically for W8, seems to cost around four times as much as the version Jess dumped on my Amazon wishlist.


Aw cripes, I can’t get my head around any of this, and wouldn’t know what to advise if my life depended on it … (and with the mood DsMam is in at the moment re Christmas, it just might)!


Any help, anyone?


10 thoughts on “HELP! required ASAP, again!!

  1. Yes, I know a bit about it-in fact I have a copy of a much older version of the full version of it which is a bit hard to get the hang of – I suspect that this version is a bit easier to get the hang of. Setting it up is a bugger, but it is good when it works.

    It’s basically software for generating music notation – you can do this by literally dragging the notes onto the page with a mouse, or if you are very good, by using keyboard shortcuts. You can have multiple staves of music so could in principle write a whole symphony. You can also connect a keyboard via usb and play the music in directly (i.e. it notates whatever you are playing – you have to tweak the settings carefully though to get it to do it accurately).

    Then the clever bit – it has a built in bank of midi instrument sounds and can play back the music you have put in with good approximations of the real instruments – so the symphony you have written on it will be played back to you and will be a pretty good approximation of what it would sound like played by a real orchestra. If you’ve connected it to a good keyboard, you can get it to play the music back via that as well (i.e. as a keyboard controller).

    The nice thing is, is that it is quite intelligent – so if you are writing guitar chords, it can play them back with a strumming sound to make it sound more accurate. It can also convert standard notation to guitar tablature and also automatically transpose instruments to concert pitch if needed.

    It’s also pretty good for pop, jazz etc music (i.e. easy to program in drum patterns etc)

    In short, it is a great tool for a musician, and useful for someone who is learning about composition as it really does let you experiment and learn as you go – but from experience (admittedly quite old experience) there is a bit of a learning curve with it and it is a faff to set up, but if she is serious about learning music craft and the nuts and bolts of composition, it will be pretty invaluable.

  2. Richard: You lucky devil! My Niece is a BBC video editor, she talked me into taking a class in Avid video editing, my only experience was in film editing. The Avid program was so easy to learn and so intuitive that I soon had it. If you go to
    there’s a series of Avid Sibelius tutorials that looks fairly straightforward, you and your daughter might want to go through them together. The Avid program reminds me of the program that Gustavo Dudamel, the conductor of the LA Philharmonic promotes, it’s El Sistema, the famous Venezuelan musical education program which now involves numerous youth orchestras throughout South America. Google it, there’s lots of info about it. I’m so glad that El Sistema seems to be spreading worldwide.

  3. I can’t really help you, Rich – back in the days when I used to have a job (stops to wipe tear from eye) we used to sell a nicely-priced music software system called LUDWIG which was very popular, but as far as I know is only available in German (and thus would only really be of any use to you if mrs. gordonimmel was on call 24/7). So really I’m just dropping by to say I think it’s thrilling (seriously!) to hear Jess is that interested in music to want something like this. Well done you and Julie!

  4. I bought Cubase years ago and still make occasional use of it, although it’s over-complicated and there are timing issues when recording on Windows XP. I also bought kit to take MIDI signals in from keyboard and guitar, a mic for audio input and a sound generator for MIDI output. Not inexpensive.

    Given the range of possibilities for creating music, editing it and producing output that Liam says are in Sibelius (which sound similar to Cubase), it could be a rabbit hole for Jess to get lost down. I’d suggest you get her to create a ‘business case’ for the purchase. You could even pretend to be SrAlan….

    But seriously, try to get her to explain to you what she wants to do with it (it’s definitely more than producing notation), how she will use it (are there any other bits of kit she’ll need to put information into it or get sounds out?) and where Sibelius will allow her interest/ability to take her. It sounds like she’s interested in more than simply saving time in getting music schoolwork done but there’s no point in opening the bank vault unless she’s seriously interested in composing. If she is, you are obliged to indulge her every whim, because a) the more music-creators there are in the world, the better the world is, and b) you are her wonderful, heroic Daddy.

    Have you tried taking Jess to a shop that sells these products? If there’s one anywhere near you (there are Dawson’s shops in Manchester, Huddersfield and Leeds), they probably have a nerd who can understand her requirements and sell you the right thing, or at least give you an idea of the alternatives.

  5. If it is purely just music notation she interested in, there are quite a few free bits of software you can get off the web — musescore (available for free from gets good write ups – it won’t quite have the bells and whistles of sibelius but it would do the basic job -reviews suggest you can do midi input via a keyboard too which is useful – maybe you could download and let her play with it and see how it meets her needs to begin with – after all, it’s free!
    If she really is serious about learning about music writing though, sibelius would be a good investment.

  6. Thank you everybody. That’s all good info, and I’ll be trying to bottom it out with DsSis this week. Will keep you informed.

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