Finale Allegro


Music scoring/notation software

Finale Allegro is an amazing music scoring program with so many features it boggles the mind. I am using it — along with the previously-reviewed Transcribe! — to transcribe blues harp music, which is only a fraction of its capabilities. To be honest, there is a steep learning curve if you’ve never used a scoring program before, but I found it to be more intuitive than programs which cost many times more. It’s like learning to use CAD programs. There is no easy way. You have to trudge through the manual and just try things every time you want to do something.

That said, once you get started, there is so much you can do with this program. There are wizards that help you quickly create a blank sheet with staves. The wizard lets you choose the type of instrument, time signature, key, and font. You then add notes and rests to the staff by choosing from a palette the duration and clicking on the appropriate line or space on the staff. There are also keyboard shortcuts that facilitate this. Each time you add a note you hear the note via a built-in synthesizer. You can play the score you entered via a “play” button. You can change the duration of a note by choosing a different note from the palette and clicking on the note you want to change. You can alter the pitch of a note by dragging it to a different position on the staff or by selecting the note and using the cursor keys. You can add rests, accidentals, and tuplets in a similar manner. You can create chords or add notes to a chord and change its pitch.

Another really nice feature is the ability to import MIDI files which are instantly displayed as a musical score that can be edited. You can also export your score to a MIDI file. And once you are happy with your creation or transcription, you can of course print a hard copy or export to a pdf to distribute to your fellow musicians. One plus is the abilty to automatically create tablatures of your music — simultaneously, in a separate staff below your main staff. Unfortunately for me, the program doesn’t have a built-in harmonica TAB, but it is possible to create a custom TAB (though, I’ve found it is easier to manually add TABS with the lyrics tool).

All this and much more for $200. And there are lower-priced, limited versions for as low as $9.95. Quite frankly the $200 version is overkill for my purposes. You can try the free demos to see which version is right for you.

-- Laral 04/16/09