Monday, January 09, 2012

Why Sibelius Will Forever Suck Compared to Encore

This is my Encore work environment as captured from the 23" 1920x1200 Apple Cinema HD Display that I use.

Is there really anything I have to explain? The operation of the user interface is obvious just by looking: You click on the palette that has the item you want to add, and then you click on the score to add it. Nothing could be simpler. Back in 1993, it took me less than 15 minutes to figure out how to use this interface, and I only ever used the manual for a reference guide. I needed to do that for only a few weeks.

By contrast, Sibelius 7 uses Tabs, so you have to click on the tab, then the item, and then the score: At least one more click to do every task. But it's worse than that, because what items are on which tab is not always intuitively logical.

See that long expressions palette on the left? Double-click on any button on that palette, and you can Edit the User Expression to whatever you want - this is where I create my analysis symbols &c. - and then place them on the score. After placement, you can change the cursor back to the arrow nib, and then move the placement of the item to wherever you want.

See the Arrow, Eraser, and Pencil icons at the top left of the score page? You click on those to change the function of the cursor. By contrast, Sibelius requires you to open a preference pane to change the behavior of the cursor.

Just to the right of those icons is the sequencer transport: Record, Play, and Stop. With Sibelius, you have to go to the appropriate tab first, adding a click to a click just to play. Also, Encore has a real MIDI sequencer that you can work with, while Sibelius has, "limited playback capabilities" even though it comes with three discs worth of sounds.

If I want to edit the properties of a note or notes, I can just click and drag the cursor to highlight what I want to edit, and then use the notes drop down to tie, slur, beam, flip stems, &c. The first time I tried to do this with Sibelius... the score moved. That's right, the cursor is defaulted to drag... which is a drag. Then I had to go to the aforementioned pref pane to fix it.

See at the bottom where there are shortcuts to the most common transpositions? I never did figure out how to do that in Sibelius, and Sibelius doesn't even play 8va/8vb clefs. Seriously, they are just there, "for show." So, my bass part here would be up in the cello range with Sibelius if I just imported this score as a Music XML file.

Sibelius does not use the main program status bar for anything except for File, Edit, View and Help basically. There are no equivalents of the Notes, Measures, or Score drop-downs as there are in Encore. This makes many tasks boatloads of needless extra work.

If I have tasks associated with measures, I again highlight what I want to change, and then I get an easy to understand list of operations I can perform. Note also that the dropdown menues teach you the keyboard shortcuts. Sibelius' anti-intuitive and user-hostile interface works very hard to keep everything hidden and secret. I have zero tolerance for that kind of crap.

When I need to do any score formatting, there's a drop-down for that too. I don't have to explain anything, do I? Clear as the Caribbean. See those MIDI functions at the bottom? Nothing like that in Sibelius (And, there's a MIDI tool on the tools palette at the upper left too: You can change MIDI settings at any point in any part by using that). Sibelius is a midiot.

To view or not to view? I can highlight and hide staves and control points here, and I can change from page to linear view too. Sibelius uses a slider for resizing, which is the ONE THING I liked about the program.

Since Encore uses the multiple floating palette paradigm, the Window drop-down is important: You can open as few or as many as you want, even ALL of them. I have every on I need visable, because if you click on the palette's title, it will cange to the next non-visible palette. That still tickles me, and I use the short Clefs palette at the lower left for that.

You'll also notice that the Staff Sheet is checked.

I keep the staff sheet out to the right of the score, but like all floating windows, you can put it anywhere. Clicking on a name opens an edit box, I can play, mute and solo parts/tracks here, also adjust the size of the staves and their transposition. This is what I looked in vain for in Sibelius.

You also assign MIDI channels and programs here. Again, Sibelius is a midiot.

I'm betting that this one post is enough to teach anybody how to use Encore. Meanwhile, the student of Sibelius hasn't gotten past the first tutorial.


It's 2012. There is no excuse for anti-intuitive and user-hostile GUI's anymore. There is also no excuse for a music notation program not to have a decent sequencer. I actually had less trouble with Finale. At least it used some floating palettes; Sibelius only uses one for the notes.

I think a successful false advertising lawsuit could be brought against AVID for calling Sibelius, "easy to use." The fact of the matter is, Sibelius is THE MOST DIFFICULT OF ALL NOTATION PROGRAMS TO USE. And if you need a MIDI sequencer, you can't use Sibelius at all.

I think Ill put this at the end of every post for the rest of the year.


Blogger Minicapt said...

Now imagine a 27" screen.


3:21 AM  
Blogger Robert Wafle said...

Did you sell your copy of sibelius?

5:43 PM  
Blogger Hucbald said...

Nah, I just tossed it.

5:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haha, awesome article.

The only nagging question is: Does Encore now have the ability to display more than one page of the sore at a time?

That's the only thing that I would have loved. Also a feature like the "hyperscribe" that Finale has could be something useful when entering long phrases.

12:37 AM  
Blogger Hucbald said...

I've never used the feature, but if you have a wide enough monitor you should be able to size the score and put it in page view to get two pages at once.

The thing for me is the MIDI implementation: I create MIDI files - highly detailed with durations, dynamics, and tempo changes - in Encore and then export them to Logic Pro X and record them into the Synclavier. Without this ability, a notation program is useless to me. So, Sibelius is useless.

8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, Synclavier, and name I haven't heard in a while.

Don't get me wrong: Encore is my first choice (by far!) because of the abilities you mention in your article as well as, most importantly, the fact that IT RUNS INCREDIBLY LIGHT on a modern computer.

Even on an i7 8-core or Xeon (E series at that) based monster workstation, Finale or Sibelius have serious lags with simply scrolling or navigating through the score.

Encore is zippy lightening fast! It runs light like a feather, even when I have up to 60 or so parts in the score.

I can literally get a lead sheet out for the band to practice in under an hour, depending on the complexity of the music of course, but the point is that it is very, very fast to work with.

The parts extraction features works perfectly well for me, even though the parts to score link that Finale has is not yet available, which is not a big deal for me.

Hyperscribe is a self-timed step entry that you can control the "relative" tempo when playing notes in Finale while tapping the tempo with even a footswitch. But this is not a big deal for me yet, because in Encore I just hit ENTER, start the recording click and play on! It truly is "compose and notate as you play".

I also use it for the same reason you mention without the Synclavier step. I use Logic Studio (9 at this point due to the plugins I have as well as the Nodes I use), and Encore is my first step when preparing a project. I compose, edit the midi elements (yes, even tempo) and then export to Midi into Logic. It's a much more organized and user friendly sequencer (yes, it is a fantastic, "in your face, there's nothing to hide" sequencer) to start with. The high resolution sequencing in Logic then lets me re-perform the parts.

It's a perfect pair really!

7:06 PM  

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