Worth Your While? A look at music typesetting software

For hundreds of years, printed music has been prepared mostly by engraving metal: scratching or punching the notes and ledger lines and all the musical elements into the metal plate (and it was done backwards so that when the paper picked up the ink from the depressions, it would appear correctly). This was a very skilled trade.

Along came music typewriters with noteheads and stems and dynamics markings rather than the alphabet. Typing required less skill than metal engraving, but the pages looked clunky.

Next musical symbols became available on press-down type, which was a time-consuming method of setting music (I set one piece of music this way and have no desire to do it again), but the quality was better than that of the music typewriter.

The problem all these methods have in common is that if you made a mistake, you often had to start over from scratch.

Enter the computer. This machine has revolutionized the music publishing industry in just the last decade. It is now possible for you to spend ten minutes typesetting a descant on a Saturday evening, print out copies, and hand it to your sopranos Sunday morning for rehearsal—and no one will mistake your handwritten A for a B-flat. Or say the instrumental obbligato you wrote needs to be scored for B-flat trumpet, clarinet, saxophone, French horn, and flute—put it into the computer once and you can print out each instrument's part in the right key with a click of a button. Or perhaps your congregation will no longer have to sing a new hymn or song with only the words in front of them.

In this short article I hope to convince pastors, musicians, and other worship leaders that music typesetting is not only possible, but a worthy investment of time and energy when used appropriately. The two widely different uses for music typesetting in a church are for congregations or musicians, and I will first discuss the possibilities for each use and then get into an overview of what music typesetting software programs are available.

For Congregations

My last article (RW 40) talked about the importance of a clear and understandable worship program, or bulletin. Since music is a part of worship, it also should be presented in a clear and understandable form. Most of the music congregations use is from printed hymnals or supplements, and the publishers of those books have already spent the time and money preparing a decent quality page. If you are going to present a new hymn or song to a congregation, I would assume it is a worthwhile piece that you intend to use more than once. So it should be presented as such. You can accomplish this simply by carefully cutting and pasting a printed copy and reducing it to fit the space available. Or you can start from scratch and use a music typesetting program to prepare the song for a worship program. Many contemporary hymns and songs should be presented with the melody only, and after a little practice, you should be able to use the computer to typeset such a song in ten to fifteen minutes.

Many congregations have prepared their own hymnal supplements of hymns and songs, and it can make for a more attractive publication to typeset the music and text so that each is presented similarly, just like the hymnals and supplements you could purchase. I wouldn't advise this for a large collection, however. A congregation 1 know of in Indiana is typesetting their own hymnal, and it has turned into a five-year project!

It's not necessary to do this typesetting yourself or within your own congregation. Someone at your local college or high school music department can probably direct you to a person who is proficient at using music notation software. You will pay a little money, but if you only need a few pieces of music typeset, it will be much less expensive than purchasing the programs and learning them.

For Musicians

Musicians, however, may want to invest in their own music notation software, for it can make their lives much easier. Just take the example of preparing instrumental parts. You've arranged the tune ANTIOCH ("Joy to the World") for a brass quintet. You now need to transpose the parts for the E-flat trumpet and French horn. Push a few buttons in the music program, and there you see on the screen the transposed parts. (I once was having coffee with a composer who was writing out parts for instruments, and found out the next day he had transposed them in the wrong direction. Had he done this on computer, he would have simply changed the key signature, and the music would have been corrected. As it was, he had to start over.) It is important to encourage musical creativity within a congregation, both in those who compose hymns and songs, and those who sing and play them. Such an emphasis reminds people that theirs is a creating community and that worship is not only created from the work of dead or unknown people.

Hymn descants for choir or instruments are a simple way to start and are a perfect example of how quickly this music software can work. Our music typesetters can input the text and music for an average descant and have it printing within a minute.

Choosing Software

If you feel you could make good use of music typesetting software, here's what you need to know.

Decide first what use you will make of a music typesetting program. If you will only need to do an occasional descant or congregational response, you will do better to choose one of the low-end programs, such as MusicShop, that are simple to learn but that might take longer to work with to get the right result than a highly complex program.

The high-end level of music typesetting programs, such as Finale (which is available from music stores at a "Church Musician" discount), Encore, and Nightingale, offer you unlimited flexibility and control over the entire printed page. But that flexibility and control come at a price, both in the purchase cost and in the time spent in learning to make the software work for you.

A middle ground is available in Finale Allegro, which has many of the same tools and capabilities as Finale but is not nearly as complex (you won't be preparing long orchestral scores with it, but not many church musicians do anyway!).

Your computer will need a minimum of 2 MB RAM for the low-end programs, and 4-8 MB RAM for the high-end (more is better if you don't like spending your time watching the screen slowly redraw). Most programs allow different ways of entering music: by using the regular computer keyboard to indicate notes and note values, or by hooking up a MIDI keyboard to your computer (MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, a computer language that allows MIDI-capable instruments and computers to talk to each other).

A MIDI keyboard will allow you to play the notes on a regular keyboard and see them appear on screen. After you get over the "wow" factor of seeing such a demonstration, realize that in real-life situations music is almost never instantaneous, and "clean-up" work is almost always necessary to make the music presentable.

My personal experience is with the program "Finale." Our company has used it to typeset thousands of hymns, choral octavos, and instrumental arrangements. It is the most widely-used program among church musicians and school musicians, but it also is a complex program. The difficulty level is mitigated somewhat by the helpful manuals and on-line tutorials, a necessity these days for almost any such program, but be aware that learning a program like Finale takes time.

The whole point of a church musician or pastor purchasing music typesetting software is either to make her work simpler or the worship experience more understandable. Such software can do both, but it is important to decide where your resources are best used. Most people do not include the value of their own time when making purchases of computer equipment and software. It takes time and effort to do this work, and such time and effort comes at the cost of not doing other work. But the satisfaction of doing something right and beautiful can be rewarding to your congregation, choir, and you.




Encore (Mac, Win), MusicTime (Mac), MusicTime Deluxe (Win)

Passport Designs, Inc., 100 Stone Pine Rd., Half Moon Bay, CA 94019; 1-800-443-3210; WWW:http://www.mw3.com/passport

Finale (Mac, Win), Finale Allegro (Mac, Win)

Coda Music Technology, 6210 Bury Dr., Eden Prarie, MN 55346-1718; 1-800-843-2066;
WWW: http://www.codamusic.com/

Nightingale (Mac), MusicPrinter Plus (DOS)
Musicware, 8654 54th Ave. NE, Redmon, WA 98052; 1-800-997-4266

Personal Composer (Win)
Personal Composer, 3213 W. Wheeler St. #140, Seattle, WA 98199; 1-800-446-8088



Church musicians and pastors do need to be aware about copyright infringement. Copyrighted music cannot be reproduced without permission. Licensing agencies such as Christian Copyright Licensing, Inc. (CCLI) and Licensing allow the reproduction of many contemporary hymns and songs for congregational use only, and can save a lot of paperwork. But when arranging copyrighted works for choirs or instrumentalists, you need to contact the original copyright holder for permission to reproduce the music. A church, of all places, should not break the law, even if it is easy or expedient to do so. The copyright law exists to protect the creators of original ideas, and without their fair compensation, they might be less able and likely to create the new resources that will help keep worship alive.

Most publishers are happy to grant annual licenses to churches directly, but most also have gladly turned to the intermediate agencies to handle much of their correspondence. The arrangement saves hassle on both churches and publishers.

Two General Agencies

CCLI, 17201 NE Sacramento Street, Portland, OR 97230; 1-800- 234-2446,1-503-257-2230

Most evangelical and commercial church music publishers belong (including CRC Publications).

Licensing (Logos Productions Inc.), 6160 Carmen Ave. East, Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076-4422; 1-800-328-0200, 1-612-451-9945

LicenSing (Wood Lake Books Inc.), 10162 Newene Road, Winfield, BC V4V 1R2, CANADA; 1-800-663-2775,1-604-766-2778

Begun by those more interested in music for mainline and liturgi-cally-based denominations. (CRC Publications belongs to them too.) They also offer workshops on music in liturgy, and their quarterly newsletter gives balanced suggestions for hymns based on the lectionary.

Two publishers who have decided to keep their solo approach

G.I.A. Publications, 7404 South Mason Ave., Chicago, IL 60638; 1- 708-496-3800

They claim they do better with their own licenses, though some are convinced they would do better under the two general agencies above. My church subscribes to both CCLI and GIA. Excellent contemporary psalm resources.

New Dawn Music, PO Box 13248, Portland, OR 97213-0248; 1-800-243-3296<.p>

Includes many Catholic publishers in the U.S. and abroad.

David Schaap is president and founder of Selah Publishing Co., director of music at St. John's Episcopal Church in Kingston, N.Y, and a consultant to the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada.

David Schaap is president and founder of Selah Publishing Co., director of music at St. John's Episcopal Church in Kingston, N.Y., and a consultant to the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada.


Reformed Worship 44 © June 1997, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.