Mike Lawson • Archives • August 1, 2005


A journey of a thousand miles beings with a single step. And all of us music educators who have taken a single step into technology have seen wonders in spite of the obstacles. It can be difficult to start the journey, though, when you’re in survival mode with limited resources. The previous article in this series may have helped you cut through the expensive technology hoopla and there’s more good news. Read on.

Shareware Vs. Freeware
Shareware and manufacturer product demos have certain advantages over freeware because their products usually get upgraded faster and can be superior over to freeware applications because of significant product research and development. More personal technical support is another advantage. There are also more shareware applications available than freeware. The cost for shareware and manufacturer demos can usually be justified once success is imminent, especially when your students are “buzzing” about them. In the case of shareware, the cost is usually rather nominal with a $20 to $30 fee per workstation after you have fully tried it and are satisfied after 30 days of use with yourself or your students. Updates are sometimes free as well, making shareware even more attractive.


The main difference between shareware and freeware is that shareware is not free software. If you continue to use it after the trial period, you must send the author your registration. This is described in the documentation that comes with the software and states the terms on which the software can be used, such as education or non-commercial use, for example.

And with manufacturer’s product demos, you usually have the very best products available in the entire technology industry. You can also try them for thirty-days or longer before making a decision. Knowing which products truly fit your needs is half the battle. Hopefully, you’ll find some good ideas here that will ease you into music technology easier than ever before.

There is another point of view that defines “shareware” as “donationware.” Users may download and use a fully functional application, and then donate money to the author if they find the application useful. Shareware used to be a more philanthropic venture. With the Internet’s use as a viable distribution mechanism, and with the secure technologies available to activate a limited download into a fully functional application after paying for a license fee, “shareware” has now come to be a vehicle for any programmer to sell products commercially via downloads. I consider a “demo” to be an application with built-in limitations that demonstrate the product’s concept and workflow, without giving away any of the core functionality of the product itself.

Most of the products reviewed here are available only for Windows 95 and up unless specified differently with only minimum system requirements for Pentium I or II computers that can be verified by going to the URL for each product reviewed. There are also some Macintosh applications reviewed.

There are far more shareware products available than freeware since these products generate income and the authors can afford to put more research and development into their products than freeware authors. And there is more material out there than I can possibly review here. However, I will attempt to summarize some of the best products for you and identify good web sites that have a wide variety of music shareware products. Shareware technical support is usually available via e-mail only.

NoteWorthy Composer: is a software music composition and notation processor for Windows. It allows you to create, record, edit, print, and playback your own musical scores.

Mozart 3.1: Windows 3.1 shareware) is a music processor for Windows. Using only the computer keyboard, you can create and edit sheet music. This can be printed with high-quality TrueType symbols on printers supported by Windows, and appears on the screen in standard notation as a WYSIWYG display.

MidiNotate: Version 1.1, freeware for Windows 95, 98, or NT converts MIDI files to musical scores. Prints an entire MIDI file as a notated score. Extracts instrument parts, optionally transposed. Displays score to fit window at any zoom level. Highlights notes on screen as they are played. Automatically turns pages during playback. Offers control of tempo during playback. Supports any MIDI sound card, and any number of MIDI devices connected via sound card MIDI Out connectors.

ABC2Win: Allows you to write tunes, view the tunes as publication-quality music, and play the tunes over the built-in PC speaker. Note: the program only supports melody lines in the treble clef.

Muse: members/laurie.griffiths Muse is a music editor. It shows you five line “staffs” to write on Windows 95 and beyond.

Digital Audio Sequencers:
Harmony Assistant for Macintosh Harmony is a versatile music editor/player/arranger for Macintosh. The essential software for music lovers and composers, with automatic accompaniments, drum patterns, and many other built-in tools.

MIDIGraphy 1.4.3 by Masao Maeda: MIDIGraphy is a multitrack MIDI sequencer for the Macintosh that allows you to edit, play back, and record standard MIDI files. It may be good for desktop music use. The internal data structure is defined based on the Standard MIDI File (SMF) specification. By using this software, you can edit any event type that is described in the SMF specification. Requirements: none.

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