|Formatters and editors|
|How does Score store music?|
|Inputting music in Score|
|Editing music in Score|
|Layouting music in Score|
|Limitations of Score|
SCORE is a music notation program. You have certainly heard about Finale, Sibelius and probably a lot of other music notation software. While some programs of this kind offer advanced features like voice recognition or video support (rumors have been spread on an internet forum that there is a musical flight simulator under development for a future release of one program), SCORE manages without such bells and whistles. It's really what you would call a plain vanilla application. While a Windows version has been announced, the current version is still running under DOS. And there are some more things that distinguish SCORE from its colleagues.
Simply speaking there are two different orientations of music notation software. Firstly there are formatters. LilyPond is a good example of a pure formatter. It works like a secretary you dictate a letter and she formats it for you in her own "handwriting" (only that music is much more difficult to handle than text). You enter musically meaningful material and LilyPond outputs a graphical representation. Formatters are semantically oriented programs.
The computer music notation planet
(as seen by NASA's Voyager 2)
If formatters represent the "south pole" of the music notation software globe, then editors represent the "north pole". In contrast to a formatter, an editor, as its name implies, lets you edit every single music notation element by hand. Editors are graphically oriented programs.
SCORE is probably the "furthest north" located program available. It lets you create any constellation of symbols used in music notation. The strength of SCORE is that you can put any symbol anywhere on a page of music, and more importantly, it will stay there.
SCORE represents every item (i.e. a note, rest, stave, beam, slur etc.) by a list of parameters (numbers) that can be freely edited. parameters 1-4 always have the following meaning:
The meaning of the other parameters depends on the type of item. There is e.g. a parameter for the duration of notes/rests, the number of stave lines for staves, size of items, thickness of lines..., to put it in a nutshell: for anything you can think of. This parameter concept makes Score very flexible.
Here is a simple music example...
... and how it looks like in SCORE's parameter representation:
Here the explanation item by item:
There are up to 18 parameters. All parameters that are not used in the example are left out in the table - they would be 0 or not present at all in SCORE's internal representation.
You could enter the music by typing all the parameters which would be pretty much work. For basic music inputting, Score offers an input mode. In input mode you would first input the notes, clefs, barlines etc. and then the durations of notes and rests:
The first line means:
tr= treble clef.
k1f= "key 1 flat", key signature with one flat.
4 4= meter signature 4/4.
f4= f1 (Score's octave numbering is a bit different from the usual one to cover more octaves without having to distinguish between capital and small letters with or without number).
g= g4 all notes are in the same octave unless other octave numbers are given.
b= b flat 4. Note that you enter just b and b flat is meant. Score ignores the key signature in input mode. If you enter bf (for "b flat"), the note is "forced" to show an accidental.
m= measure line.
mh= "measure heavy", ending double barline.
The second line means:
This way you can input music line by line. A third input method would be a "menu stave": You can pick items (notes rests, barlines etc.) from such a stave and copy them to another stave one by one using the mouse.
The input music is not yet justified by Score, the positioning might look ugly. ("Spacing" or "justification" mean the vertical positioning of notes, rests and all other kinds of items.) Score does not perform any automatic operations unless you explicitly tell it to do so. Among those is the spacing algorithm which can be executed using the "
lj"-command. Many people using SCORE love its spacing, however if you are not satisfied with the result, you are still free to position the items by hand wherever you want or use a third party solution that can be heavily customized.
The main user interface of SCORE (version 4) is divided into four zones: On top the "status bar" (to speak in Windows terms), below a command prompt, then the graphical editing window and at the bottom "menu boxes".
SCORE's main user interface
As a DOS program, SCORE has to be very careful with memory and screen vectors. That's why it shows only a preview quality for the musical symbols. However, the position of the symbols is very precise and is guaranteed to be exactly the same as in the final printout. SCORE also offers a so called "show mode" in which it shows the exact outlines of the symbols, which requires more screen vectors and therefore more memory.
One of the most powerful points of SCORE is its heavy use of letter commands. Tasks that in other programs require a series of clicks through nested menu structures are performed by a few keystrokes in SCORE. Sequences of commands can also be stored in macro files. Version 4 introduced a simple menu bar, nevertheless the letter commands are still essential, so new users need some time before they can operate SCORE without the manuals at hand.
In the graphics window you can select items for editing, move and copy them by using the mouse. Contrary to the letter commands, the use of the mouse is not required. SCORE can be operated with the keyboard alone.
SCORE in edit mode
When selecting an item, SCORE enters the edit mode. (To remind the user, edit mode has been entered, the user interface by default turns blue.) The status bar dissappears and instead a list of the item's parameters can be seen. (Compare to those of item No. 8 in the table above.) New values can be assigned or item specific operations can be executed. Some of them can be accessed using the menu bar.
SCORE does not automatically layout and justify your music after input or every time there have been changes. SCORE gives you the full control about what is happening to your music. Therefore if you want to have it to be rejustified, you will have to tell SCORE. Two of the most important letter commands are the justification commands, both for horizontal justification ("spacing") and vertical justification (adjusting the distance between staves).
For page layout and part extraction, SCORE comes with an external tool, the PAGE program.
SCORE has, as any other software, its faults. Score suffers from its age. There are compatibility problems with nowadays' hard- and software, especially MIDI and graphics card incompatibility, also many problems with Windows 2000 and XP which do not have native DOS any more and instead have to emulate it. The good news is that SCORE runs under Linux DOS emulations nearly as good as under those distributed with recent Windows versions.
And yes, SCORE has bugs. As it is a niche application and maintained by a single person (in his spare time, I assume), there are no regular bugfixes. There are also some minor limitations of item flexibility that are due to the design of SCORE's file system, but there are always reasonable workarounds.
SCORE has some more imperfections. But for most of these imperfections, some clever people have written tools that highly improve SCORE's functionality. There are e.g. tools for conversion to MIDI, for making SCORE ready for Cyrillic text, for mass renaming sequentially numbered SCORE files (SCORE stores music page by page in sequentially named files) and many more. Some of them are freeware, some of them must be purchased.
If you want quick results (i.e. want to input your music and print it immediately), SCORE is certainly the wrong choice. If you are ready to invest some time and brain to make your music look good instead of leaving everything to another notation program's algorithms and your computer's CPU, Score will probably be the right thing. In any case, especially if you are not (yet) a music engraving expert, some literature about music notation will be helpful as SCORE will leave more decisions to you than other music notation programs do. One definitely can learn a lot about music notation by using SCORE.
Thomas Weber, March 2006. Thanks to Christoph Lehmann, the members of the SCORE user list (George A. McGuire being one them) and Gordon J. Callon.
© Thomas Weber 2006