Finale?

I’ve been poking around a bit more to see if it’s really worth all the time and effort I’m putting into developing DrumBurp as a drum tab editor. In reality, I’d much rather have a way of creating real drum notation instead of tab, but let’s walk before we run eh?

I came across Finale the other day, which comes in a range of products from NotePad (about 10 bucks) up to Finale itself (Finale 2011 is retailing at $600, which is a bit much for me). Anyway, I thought I’d check it out and downloaded the free demo of Finale Notepad.

In a word, it’s gorgeous. It produces really fantastic looking drumset notation. So does this mean I’m abandoning DrumBurp? Er, no. I’d love to use Finale, except… it’s got the same big problem as everything else I’ve encountered for writing drum music: entering the notes is unutterably, painfully, brain-meltingly slow. I don’t mean the program is slow – it’s like lightning – I mean that the input methods themselves make me feel like scratching my eyes out.

Yes, it lets me enter any conceivable composition of notes, rests, and decorations, but 99% of the time I don’t want to. I just want to write out a piece of drum music! Most of the time I’m probably just writing something using snare, kick, ride or hihat, and crashes. Maybe some toms on the fills. Finale decides which drum you want to “hit” by where you position the mouse on the staff. Unfortunately, since it has about 15 million possible drum noises it’s really difficult to pick the one you actually want. e.g. snare, snare flam, rim shot, ghost note are all on the same line, and are distinguished by moving the mouse up and down infinitesimal amount. Absolutely pixel-perfect mouse positioning in order to choose between snare and woodblock (woodblock!) is not my idea of a good time. (Also, there doesn’t seem to be any visual distinction between open and closed hihats, but that’s not really my big problem).

The other problem I have with the input method is that I have to tell it how long I want each note to be. This leads to an interminable sequence of mouse movements or key presses – pick note length, enter note, pick note length, enter note, pick note length, blah blah blah. I know that this information is important and looks great in a finished score, but is there no easier way for me to get this data into the computer. How about helping me out? You’re the computer, I’m just a drummer.

So, I’m not giving up on DrumBurp. I’d love one day to be able to generate real drumset notation like Finale does, but it’s more important to me for the time being to be able to get the information into the computer in the first place. I noticed though that Finale will import MusicXML -maybe DrumBurp will export to this format at some point in the future so that some other program can do the “make it look nice” part, while I concentrate on the “write it down” bit.

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