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By Jonathan and Ben Finn
Published in 2002 by Sibelius Software Ltd., 66-68 Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 1LA
www.sibelius.com Tel: 01223 707100 (Sales and information: 0800 458 3111) Prices below.
In 1987 the Finn brothers set out to write a computer program which would not only take the drudgery out of writing music on manuscript paper but would be both intuitive and pleasurable to use. Named after an even more famous Finn, the program has gone from strength to strength, won many awards and now has an outstanding reputation worldwide. Although originally written for the Acorn computer, it has been available for Windows and Macintosh machines since 1998 and is now used by schools, music colleges, composers and publishers in over 100 countries.
Sibelius 2 is a major rewrite of the program incorporating over 200 changes and improvements without adding to its complexity – in fact improving its user interface. An interesting new feature, called Arrange, does just what it says. For example, it will turn a piano piece into an arrangement for orchestra, band or choir in an instant. It will also do the reverse and produce a piano reduction from an orchestration. While this may not give us symphonies of the standard of the original Mr. Sibelius, it could be very useful for a teacher needing a quick arrangement for the school band or choir.
The manual has also been completely revised but still lives up to the standards set by the previous ones - the best I have come across for any software product - being clear and succinct with a refreshingly light hearted style. It starts with a Quick tour tutorial section and this is followed by a new, very helpful How to section, which briefly shows how to set up scores for different types of music. The major part of the book is the well-organised Reference section, which one can dip into for greater detail of techniques or to find the solution to any music engraving problem.
In the new version the authors have made a great effort to extend its educational applications with sample worksheets and exam papers, plus templates that help teachers produce their own very quickly. However, if the program is to be used widely in school it is well worth buying the extra pack, Teaching Tools – “designed to make it as easy as possible to use computers in your music teaching.” This is an excellent resource for any music teacher. It comprises a Teacher’s Guide of over 200 pages, 20 Student Skills booklets and a CD-ROM that contains numerous exercises, worksheets and music files.
The Teacher’s guide, again brilliantly presented, clearly indicates the level of computer skills and the musical knowledge required for each of the exercises, which range from those appropriate for KS2 to those suitable for KS4 and beyond.
Why buy Sibelius? First and foremost, the speed and user-friendliness of the program puts it streets ahead of its rivals. It really is easy and fun to use and it is so encouraging for students of all abilities when they can both see and hear their compositions and correct them effortlessly. Secondly, its versatility means that it can be quickly learned by beginners but it will also do everything that the most advanced composer might require.
Equally important is program development. Over the years the publishers have asked musicians, teachers and composers for suggestions for improvements and have incorporated more and more requested features into each new version of the program, particularly this latest one. “The best just got better” - John Rutter, choral composer.
If you would like to see for yourself how the program works you can contact the company for a brochure plus a free CD-ROM which clearly demonstrates all its main features. Downloads are also available from the website.
Prices (exc. VAT) Multi-user site licences also available
Sibelius 2 - £506
Educational discounted price - £339
Upgrade from earlier version - £149
Upgrade of educational copy - £119
Teaching Tools pack - £49
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