I have long been searching for a music notation editor that could be used online not only for me to use when not able to get to a copy of Finale or Sibelius, but also to use as a collaborative tool in the same vein as many other music oriented Web 2.0 applications. Now there is finally a solution for creating and embedding music notation in a blog or in a web page without the need for dealing with creating scores in Sibelius and uploading the Scorch files or doing screen captures or PDF's of Finale documents. Enter Noteflight, a new online music notation editor that looks great and makes it much easier to collaborate online.
A usable and full featured online music notation editor has always seemed like a far off fantasy. Noteflight finally fills in this void by providing an attractive and easy to use way to create music from an online interface. Any music created in the program can be shared, viewed, and manipulated by anyone that the composer grants permission to. In much the same fashion as Google Docs, Noteflight has revolutionized the way we look at creating basic music notation by finally doing what no other company would. Doing away with software downloads and addressing the future of music education by moving an important tool onto the web.
In playing with Noteflight a while I discovered that while it is not perfect, it is certainly going to prove useful to teachers and amateur musicians that do not want to spend hundreds of dollars on commercial music notation software to write a simple piece of music. For now at least, Noteflight is free to use (no idea if they plan to charge a fee once the service emerges from beta). In a time when Finale has started charging for Notepad and MuseScore is not quite easy enough for classroom use this free online music notation editor might fill a void in many school computer labs.
Noteflight also has some note entry features that honestly I wish Finale and Sibelius would consider adding. Adding measures to the score is incredibly easy, as well as starting playback from anywhere in the score by clicking the playback button that appears when the user hovers just above any measure. Sure, the other programs also have shortcut keys available to do these same things, but with the Noteflight interface it is intuitive. There is no need to teach a person how to do these things, they just figure it out automatically. In just a few seconds I was able to compose a quick version of Mary Had A Little Lamb that can now be seen, commented on, and edited by anyone. For example, a student could go to the document and add their own bass line to the song. Another could come along and add a few measures, etc. To my knoweldge there is no way to do this kind of collaborative learning with any other music notation product on the market today without the use of third party forums or the like.
One minor issue is that in Noteflight's terms of service it specifically says that the system is not to be used by children under age 13 without parental permission. This seems a bit odd considering that the program could be used by schools to great effect. I hope to do more research into this program and play around with it a bit more in the coming weeks as well as to give their MIDI input methods a try. At the time I wrote this I didn't have access to a MIDI keyboard but it looks like Noteflight does allow limited note entry with the aid of a MIDI device of some kind.
Overall though Noteflight is a solid, and rapidly improving piece of online music notation editing software. Give it a try with a free account and see if it will meet your needs.