Future-Proofing Finale & Sibelius Notation: Considering MusicXML

A few days ago, I was received an email from fellow music engraver Andrei Pricope on an interesting topic – how can we future proof our  existing notation work in Finale and Sibelius? I found his observations insightful, and I thought I would share some of them here. (I’ve paraphrased in some places.) He writes:

“I am a long time Sibelius user, having invested hundreds of hours of my own engraving and thousands of dollars on out-sourced engraving projects. In addition, I have made a substantial investment in both hardware and music notation software.

Recent developments with Sibelius and now Finale signal that both are now at the whim of parent entities, their corporate visions, agendas, budgets and priorities; a situation less than ideal for our community and music-making at large; hence my deep concern about the long-term blind reliance on any particular music engraving solution.

In today’s rapid-changing technology environment, and with the recent dramatic and uncertain changes for both Sibelius and Finale I’ve recently adopted a new system of file archival:

In addition to saving my files in the current version of my notation program of choice, I plan to save and archive all of my music notation files using the MusicXML file format. A number of companies currently support MusicXML, and it meets several important criteria for longevity:

  • It is currently supported by a diverse group of music programs.
  • The file format is essentially ASCII text so MusicXML is platform and OS-version agnostic.
  • It is also fairly mature at this point, which means the files can be successfully imported / translated in the future, hopefully by a variety of programs that support music notation.

In summary, moving forward, I plan to archive my files in multiple formats: (1) The original Finale or Sibelius File (2) PDF files and (3) MusicXML format.”

Thanks, Andrei!

Note that while MusicXML is currently pretty robust, some musical symbols are not universal to all notation programs, and so MusicXML conversion will fail in these cases. An example between Finale and Sibelius are tremolos. Sibelius supports tremolos with up to 5 slashes, Finale supports tremolos only up to 3 slashes. If you save a MusicXML file from Sibelius with 4 and 5 slash tremolos, these trems will not be converted. When the file is imported into Finale there will be no tremolos in these locations.

Do you have any thoughts on ways to future proof your music notation work? Please leave a comment.

2 Replies to “Future-Proofing Finale & Sibelius Notation: Considering MusicXML”

  1. Great idea! Not just using PDF and XML files, which is a super idea, but the very notion of archiving one’s engraved files to begin with is a smart idea.

    Being a Finale user now at the mercy of a marathon training software corporation that has no professional musicians on staff and seemingly only keeping the inventor of XML after the acquisition, leaves me very leery of the future. Especially when the CEO cannot even give a good reason aside from “we had the money to spend” for acquiring MakeMusic to begin with.

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