Want to compose the next musical masterpiece? You can do it on your Windows computer. There are plenty of options for writing sheet music on Windows. Here, we list some of the best free music composition software and web apps so that you can start scoring music today.
Looking for the best app for listening to music? See our comparison between Spotify and Apple Music.
Created in 2007, Noteflight is one of the oldest browser-based music notation solutions. It has an intuitive interface that lets you easily compose with your keyboard and mouse. Noteflight’s age is an asset – you can find inspiration from the free sheet music created by other composers on the Noteflight platform or the 80,000 scores of sheet music from Hal Leonard with a premium plan. Meanwhile, transcribing music via MIDI instruments is not included in the free plan.
- View and listen to community sheet music
- Easy-to-use interface
- Default instruments don’t sound the best
- 10 scores allowed on free plan
Flat.io is browser-based like Noteflight, but newer and shinier. Compared to Noteflight, Flat.io also boasts a sizable community, while having a markedly cleaner website design. Surprisingly for a free application, the instruments sound excellent compared to the standard quality instruments in other free apps – we could even say they are viable to use in a final product. Plus, if you hate subscriptions, you can rejoice – the premium version has a lifetime purchase option.
- Can view and listen to community sheet music
- Mobile app available
- 15 scores allowed on free plan
Good to know: if you ever need help identifying a certain song, these methods could help you solve the mystery.
MuseScore is free without any limitations whatsoever, making it stand out in a field of mostly paywalled software. It has advanced notation features comparable to those of the most expensive paid software, as well as input via MIDI, keyboard, and on-screen piano keyboard. While the MuseScore default instruments are equally as bad as some other options, you can download new sounds.
- All features are completely free
- Customizable with plugins created by a passionate community
- Instruments don’t sound the best
4. Sibelius First
Sibelius First is the free version of the high-end Sibelius music composition software. You get most essential features of the premium version, with some limitations, such as no advanced notation tools and lower quality instruments. You may find the interface more confusing than the Web-based options. For instance, Sibelius’s keypad interface is great if you have a keyboard with a physical number pad but not very useful if you don’t.
- Advanced customization and composition features
- “Wildcards” feature makes adding text easy with variables
- Interface may not be intuitive for some users
- Can only use four instruments in a single score
LilyPond is unique and for advanced users. Unlike some other programs, LilyPond is not a graphical music editing tool. You cannot, for example, click and drag to move notes around and see the score change before your eyes. Instead, you need to write a text file using LilyPond’s special code and compile it (like a programming language) to the result: sheet music. This approach results in a steep learning curve that may or may not be worth it, depending on your needs.
- Text-based editing makes complex composition more efficient
- Portability allows for music to be writteb anywhere a text file can be edited
- Only generates a PDF, so you can’t play previews of your music
Want to compose from your mobile device? Check out the best music-making apps for iOS.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is MIDI?
MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It’s the protocol that allows physical electronic instruments (like a musical keyboard or guitar) to connect to other devices. MIDI lets you connect an instrument to your computer, play some notes, and have your computer understand the notes you’ve just played. When used with the music composition software and web apps we discussed here, MIDI makes composing music feel natural: just play some notes that sound good to see them written on the screen.
How can I learn musical notation?
Can I convert audio into sheet music?
Image credit: Pexels. All screenshots by Brandon Li
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