Best MuseScore alternative in 2022

25.05.2022 Ben Maloney Music tech

MuseScore is one of the leading players in the field of digital music software. Offering a broad functionality encompassing various aspects of sheet-music handling, the service can be bested by few other services as far as providing such a complete package is concerned. 

However, these few alternatives do rival MuseScore for quality and practicality, and can ultimately compete with it for the coveted status of digital hub for all your music-making. They also specialise in particular areas of sheet-music interaction, so if you use MuseScore to meet certain needs, you might find them better fulfilled by these similar apps.

Let’s check out what these alternative applications are, how they compare to MuseScore, and how they might just provide the sheet-music service that you’re looking for.

About MuseScore

MuseScore is fundamentally a notation-writing software. It enables users to create their own high-quality sheet music for all manner of instruments and ensemble settings, for free on a computer application. Comprehensive score-writing tools, realistic digital playback, MIDI integration and a range of other features are included. 

These utilities place MuseScore’s PC service in the ring along with services like Sibelius and Dorico, which are premium, professional providers of composition software. These two fetch for hundreds, however, making it quite extraordinary that MuseScore provides the tools that it does for absolutely nothing. 

Expanding its function beyond solely score-writing, MuseScore also provides an app for Apple, Android and Amazon devices. This is called ‘MuseScore: sheet music’ and through it users can find, read, learn and play titles created by other MuseScore users, who are essentially fulfilling the role of an independent publisher.

This content comprises original compositions as well as arrangements and transcriptions of pre-existing works.

This makes MuseScore a resource for obtaining and reading sheet music digitally, not just creating it. This material is available on subscription, however, and there’s a range of tiers here, from 39.99 per year for the basic tools and core materials, to 214.99 per year for absolutely everything. 

Below you’ll see a list of features (for all the apps we’re looking at) that breaks down in more detail just what MuseScore offers. Beyond that, we’ll weigh up the pros and cons of MuseScore, and use that as a jumping-off point towards the other apps that can be considered as effective alternatives. 

 

Core features

 

  • Free, open-source PC/Mac application enables users to write notation for a variety of instruments and ensembles, and facilitates MIDI integration as well as file transfer between MuseScore and other programs through MusicXML and MIDI
  • Accessible online and through an app compatible with Apple, Android and Amazon device - the app offers a sheet-music sharing platform, on which paid subscribers can share, source, save, read, learn, and play sheet music mostly uploaded by other users
  • Range of e-reading and performance tools, such as MIDI playback, looping, tempo and key adjustment, auto scroll, and the option to export sheet music as PDF, MIDI or MP3  

 

Positives of MuseScore

 

  • As a notation-writing software, MuseScore is entirely free and entirely functional - it’s hard to look past this remarkable accessibility given the cost of other services of a similar type and standard 
  • Through its website and through the app, MuseScore offers users access to an enormous digital library of sheet music, spanning a diversity of instruments and genres
  • PC program and smartphone/tablet applications are refined, user-friendly and adaptable, and will prove a valuable sheet-music resource for all kinds of musicians 

 

What could be better

 

  • The freely accessible service, which is a massive asset of the MuseScore brand, only extends to the score-writing software - any musician who is not first and foremost a composer will have to pay for MuseScore’s offering 
  • Those that do pay unlock access to a library that, while large, is mostly populated with materials that have been created by other users - official editions published by professional institutions, the kind of content that the majority of sheet-music marketplaces and digital libraries offer, are there, but only for the most popular pieces
  • Score-reading technology that the app offers is also on the far side of a paywall, so app users have to pay to access not only the musical content but also the MuseScore e-reader

MuseScore alternative #1: nkoda

nkoda provides a legitimate alternative to MuseScore not as a notation software, but as a sheet-music resource. It’s more pressing to consider options in this remit though, as more musicians will utilise MuseScore as a supplier of materials than a creator of them. 

nkoda is a digital sheet-music library. It facilitates virtual access to content, and empowers musicians to interact with it as practically and as naturally as possible. The service carries out its mission through two apps as opposed to one, each specialised in its purpose. 

The nkoda music library sees to the content side of things, while the nkoda music reader is geared towards interaction with that content. Both can be compared directly with MuseScore’s app.

Let’s consider the library first. MuseScore offers users access to a wealth of sheet-music materials, but most of these are transcriptions or arrangements of pre-existing works that have been uploaded by other users. Editions that have been professionally published are available only for the most popular public-domain works.

nkoda’s library, on the other hand, is populated entirely by titles that have been licensed from and provided by the world’s leading publishers - Breitkopf & Härtel, Ricordi, Chester Music, Faber Music, and around 140 more. By paying nkoda’s subscription fee, you’ll get immediate and unrestricted access to the finest sheet music in the world.

As for the reader, this is a new app development from nkoda, which offers cutting-edge score-reading functionality. Read, organise, practise and perform all this music using the reader. Enjoy efficient management and go digital with your music-making using the app’s intuitive and flexible interface. 

In case the library doesn’t have what you’re after, you can upload as many of your own PDF files as you like, and bear in mind that the app is entirely free. You don’t have to pay anything for this tool, whereas you have to subscribe to MuseScore to access not only their music but also their score-reading technology.

 

Core features

 

  • Instant access to 100,000+ titles from the catalogues of 140 publishers, including scores, parts, playbooks, educational texts and more, for all skill levels, genres and instruments - guitar, bass voice, trumpet, ukulele, harmonica, and over 100 others
  • Cutting-edge score-reading facilities suitable for practice and performance, including annotation toolkits and widgets - you can also manage and share personal materials through playlists, and make use of offline storage and unlimited uploads
  • Access to a thriving worldwide community of musicians, including publishers, educational institutions and performing organisations 

 

Positives of nkoda

 

  • Opting for nkoda means that you’re instantly supplied with over 100,000 premium titles of sheet music, editions from over 140 of the world’s leading publishers - as soon as you enter the menu
  • You can access nkoda’s score-reading technology without paying, and because users are able to upload unlimited sheet music files from elsewhere to the nkoda cloud, you can freely make this your personal library of digital sheet music  
  • nkoda is available on iOS, macOS, Android and Windows, and with cross-platform compatibility, you can access your sheet music from anywhere

 

What could be better

 

  • Despite the high tally of publishers who have licensed their materials to nkoda, you won’t find content there from some major players in the game, such as Hal Leonard and Henle
  • You’re also restricted to what’s in the library, so if what you’re looking for isn’t there, then you’ll either have to wait for nkoda to license and digitise it, or find and perhaps buy the work in question elsewhere and upload it to the music reader yourself
  • It still ranks among paid products, but unless you’re happy with public-domain content only, which will massively restrict what you can play, then you’re always going to have to pay something

MuseScore alternative #2: Piascore

Like nkoda, Piascore offers an alternative to MuseScore when it comes to securing sheet music. It’s a resource for materials, it’s a score-reader, and it’s free. But in exchange for a lack of a price tag, users must be willing to sacrifice access to the kind of abundant and diverse content that MuseScore and nkoda offer. 

In other words, Piascore will appeal to those dissatisfied with the financial implications of MuseScore, who are just looking to play core repertoire digitally, without commitment.

The app offers users access to mostly classical public-domain works, which are provided by the International Sheet Music Library Project (IMSLP). Users can browse and download these titles in the app, and export and print them out of it. 

Because such pieces are out of copyright, you don’t have to pay anything for this setup. Many musicians will be quite content with free access to essential works.

These works can be read, played, marked up, and organised in the Cloud or in a personal setlist. The app tosses in a metronome, too, and paid upgrades are available, including MIDI piano keyboard, chromatic tuner, and content-sharing with other Piascore users.

 

Core features

 

  • The Piascore app offers users free access to content in the public domain and the software to read, play and annotate through a highly responsive e-reader
  • App includes a metronome, and tools such as MIDI keyboard, chromatic tuner, an iTunes-based audio player and a voice recorder - some of these constitute in-app purchases 
  • Other features include sending music to print on nearby devices, and enabling automatic, adjustable scrolling and hands-free page-turning - move to the next page with a Bluetooth pedal, or even as acute a gesture as a wink

 

Positives of Piascore

 

  • Some of the add-on tools aside, it’s an entirely free service, so you can break into the world of digital content and practice without paying a dime 
  • Although you can only enjoy access to public-domain works through IMSLP, many musicians will find that they don’t need anything more than that, or at least not often enough to warrant a subscription
  • The app interface is impressively streamlined, and the e-reader offers a range of really practical features and a slick annotation mode

 

What could be better

 

  • There’s the obvious flip side of the app’s sheet music being limited to items in the public domain - you can’t access anything that’s in copyright, so popular music, for instance, is off the table
  • Users of Android and Microsoft devices will be left frustrated, as the app’s only available on those bearing an Apple logo - iPhone, iPad and Mac
  • With its interface, content and brand in mind, Piascore certainly leans towards pianists, though they doubtless make up the majority of musicians in need of digital access to sheet music

MuseScore alternative #3: Flat

Shifting away from the part of MuseScore’s remit that concerns sheet-music procurement and e-reading facilities, and toward the creation side of things, an alternative score-writer that’s well worth checking out is Flat.

MuseScore’s great asset when it comes to notating is its cheapness and accessibility, and if you’re a user looking for another option, chances are you’re not dissatisfied with that. It makes little sense, then, to look to heavyweight - and expensive - software competitors like Sibelius and Dorico. 

It seems more relevant to consider an alternative that's still free, but whose distinctive interface and unique combination of features might appeal to you more. Flat fits that bill, a no-nonsense score-writing software celebrated for its ergonomic platform, idiomatic notating mechanisms and emphasis on collaboration.

Accessible via web browser on PC, tablet or smartphone, Flat’s software can be utilised for absolutely nothing. There are subscription models available (pricing plans range from between 8.99 per month, through 44.00 per year to a 175.00 one-time fee), but there is a free version that comes with the core features that are way more extensive than you’d expect them to be.

Certainly they include all the desirable features of Flat that would convince you that it’s a viable alternative to MuseScore. Let’s take a look at what these are.

 

Core features

 

  • Notation software offering cross-platform access via web browser on any device (or Apple app) - integrate MIDI, listen to digital playback, work offline, customise layout and restore any previous version
  • Basic service is free, but you can subscribe to unlock customisable and studio-quality instruments, advanced playback settings, automated transcriptions, YouTube/Vimeo/Soundcloud uploads and more
  • Real-time collaboration allows multiple users to access and edit the same score simultaneously

 

Positives of Flat

 

  • Users work on their Flat scores online through a web browser and their work is saved constantly to the cloud, so no program downloads are necessary - switch seamlessly to offline mode if necessary and progress will be saved as soon as a direct connection is restored
  • The flagship feature of Flat is doubtless its collaborative function, especially great for students - as with Google Docs, multiple users are able to access the same file simultaneously and make real-time changes visible to all contributors
  • You can print full scores, a set of parts or individual parts with ease 

 

What could be better

 

  • The sound samples of the virtual instruments are not high-quality, but the paid version of Flat offers excellent samples 
  • The biggest drawback of the free version is that users can save a maximum of fifteen scores to the cloud, but few users will need to be working on more than that at any one time
  • Flat’s software seems to have difficulty handling longer pieces of music smoothly, but its smooth interface really comes into its own with shorter pieces 

So, what is the best alternative to MuseScore?

 

Of the four apps considered here, nkoda is the only one that offers unlimited access to a digital sheet-music library filled entirely with premium, officially published content. And it is also the only one to combine this kind of access with a free digital score-reader.  

If you’re a musician who could do with this combination of resources and features, then nkoda might well be the app that revolutionises your practice. 

nkoda is a service that aims to be everything to every kind of musician - no matter their instrument, preferred style or level of skill. The subscription fee itself stems from nkoda’s desire to batte digital piracy by reimbursing publishers and their hard-working artists for the music that they provide. nkoda aims to sustain a global community of musicians, and it wants you to be a part of that.   

Convinced that it’s at least worth a try? Start your 7-day free trial now. Or not? Take a look at this app comparison article, in which we consider nkoda alongside other apps such as OnSong, OKTAV, Newzik and forScore.

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