Composers and arrangers, you know the problem. Sure, you’d like to be able to immediately hear every note you put down on a score played by real musicians, but it’s just not possible. You need to turn out a quick demo, or make a rehearsal CD for a singer, and that means turning to your notation software to produce the sounds. Finale and Sibelius have both gotten a lot smarter about rendering a score in a way that sounds more musical, but the built-in sounds are pretty awful.

Sibelius 3 tried to address this problem with its Kontakt Silver and Gold sound libraries, followed by Finale adding support for SoundFonts (also supported natively on Mac OS X). These options were an improvement, but they were still relatively limited. I wrote a tutorial a year ago for Keyboard Magazine (full article online) explaining how to integrate the superb Garritan Personal Orchestra with notation software. As you’ll see from the tutorial, though, the integration was awfully tricky at the time.

Now the good news: both Finale and Sibelius have added more robust, integrated sounds. Finale 2006 fully integrates Garritan Personal Orchestra. Various add-on libraries are now available, as well; like Sibelius, Finale integrates a copy of Native Instruments’ Kontakt sample player. You can upgrade to the full NI Kontakt, and add on the full GPO orchestral library or a jazz & band collection.

This week, Sibelius unveiled its own line of add-on sounds for Sibelius 3, 4, and G7, called (wait for it!) Sibelius Sounds. As with Finale, Sibelius users can opt for a special edition of GPO. Sibelius will also offer a Rock & Pop collection. The G7 guitar notation software will include a free selection of sounds for that market (guitars, of course, but also keyboards, vocals, and drums). As before, Sibelius also offers a “Gold” edition of the built-in Kontakt sounds included with Sibelius. The new sounds are scheduled to ship this month.

Here’s where you come in: On paper, at least, this really levels the playing field between Sibelius and Finale as far as included sounds. But let’s really test it. Composers, instructors, and arrangers, if you’re interested in helping me test out the Finale and Sibelius sounds on your actual scores and sharing the results, please email me.

See also:

Garritan Personal Orchestra