This review of Finale 2012 assumes that if you are already using Finale or Sibelius you will probably be staying with those products. Instead this review will focus on the new user who has not yet made up their mind on which music notation software program to go with. Since the entry costs of Finale 2012 for a new purchase are so high, it makes sense to know if the program makes sense for your particular situation. Read on to find out whether Finale 2012 is the right choice for you.
Entering notes into Finale 2012 is easy and can be done in many different ways, with or without a MIDI keyboard, and it also offers the ability to add notes based on your own audio performance. Hook up a mic, pick up your instrument, and play your notes right into the selected staff. Changing staves and switching parts to different instruments has been greatly improved using Finale's ScoreManager, which takes care of instrument transpositions, key signatures, and staff types for you.
Finale 2012 is as full featured a music notation system as you can find. Pretty much every option you could need is available. Complex time signatures, customized articulations and dynamic markings, custom music symbols, unlimited number of staves, custom staff styles, custom noteheads, and dozens more make it the perfect choice for composers who need (or might one day need) to use notation techniques other than the basics. Keep in mind though that advanced notation techniques also require a bit of a learning curve to get the hang of using in a score. One significant downside to FInale is that it is so packed with features that beginners can often get lost in it's many menus and spend lots of time digging through help files trying to figure out how to do something simple like turning off measure numbers. Finale 2012 has improved a lot in this regard over its previous versions, and Finale's list of features continues to grow, making it a very complex program and fitting all of those features and options into the interface in an intuitive way has been an ongoing process for the company.
One of the biggest selling points for Finale 2012 for some musicians and music educators is its integration with the SmartMusic practice program. Music created in Finale 2012 can be loaded into SmartMusic to allow a musician to practice along with an accompaniment track. See our reviews of SmartMusic for more information on that product. SmartMusic files cannot be created in any of the other Finale product lines, nor in any competing music notation programs so if being able to use your compositions in SmartMusic is a factor Finale 2012 is your only real choice.
The general MIDI sounds that come with most music notation programs are less than realistic in most cases. Finale 2012 provides a full set of Garritan sound fonts that are sampled from real instruments and give your music a much more rich and realistic sound. Your compositions can be exported as MP3 or WAV files using these high quality sounds. If realism is important in your playback files Finale 2012 is the way to go. Other versions of Finale like Printmusic and Songwriter do not include the Garritan sounds.
The decision to spend over $400 on a new installation of Finale 2012 is not a light one. The program is expensive but it is well worth it if you need the power and flexability that it provides. Remember than educational discounts can bring the price down significantly if you are a student or school faculty member. If the budget allows, almost anyone can benefit from this full version of Finale 2012, but those that want to go with the Finale product line while investing less money may want to consider Finale SongWriter, PrintMusic, or even their free Notepad 2012 to get started. All of the Finale products are upward compatible so any files created in the other versions can be opened and edited in Finale 2012 should you choose to upgrade in the future.