MakeMusic has a long and venerable history of making great music notation software for professionals.  One thing that is often forgotten is that they also do a very good job of packaging their music writing software into very effective consumer level products as well.  Finale Songwriter is no exception to this rule, and the latest version of the program adds features that help it maintain its value in the midst of many other competing products.

Finale Songwriter is essentially a more conservative version of the Finale 2010 music writing software that is used all over the world for producing printed music.  Songwriter is a very much stripped down version of Finale 2010, but considering that a full version of Finale 2010 sells for around $500 where SongWriter is available for only $40, one would expect that something would have to be removed.  That being said, MakeMusic made the user interface in SongWriter look very much like that of Finale 2010, making it easy for someone to move back and forth if need be.  Songwriter can open any Finale file, but it cannot save files that have more than eight staves.  This is perhaps the most limiting factor of the software, as for most amatuer musicians the tool set that SongWriter provides will be more than adequate for most people's needs.

Features of Finale SongWriter
Unless you are planning to write a symphony SongWriter will be more than adequate for most home user music writing tasks.  It's features include:

  • Support for guitar tablature
  • Input via MIDI device
  • Import/Export to MIDI and MusicXML file formats
  • Save as WAV or MP3
  • Full set of the standard music notes, key signatures, and time signatures (no compound or complex meters)
  • Slurs, ties, guitar chord maps, triplets, dynamic markings, etc.
  • Drum Grooves for automating percussion notation
  • Rhythmic and slash notation available
Drawbacks to Finale SongWriter
  • No part extraction-  what you see is what you get, you cannot extract instrument parts to individual files for printing (use PrintMusic 2010 if you need this feature)
  • No custom staff styles-  five line staves or TAB staves only
  • Limited selection of instruments and ensemble templates

For the price a home user cannot beat the simplicity and utility of the Finale SongWriter Music Notation Software.  While it does not pack the features of its bigger siblings it is more than capable of holding its own against the competition and is currently far superior to freeware and open source offerings like MuseScore.  If you are in the market for a cheap, easy to use music writing program look no farther than Finale SongWriter.

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