Got it for Christmas--now what?!

My son is a freshman on a very good high school drumline, thinking of DCI for the future, and after reading about VDL2.5 on, begged for it for Christmas. Fast forward to Christmas day when his big and only gift was VDL 2.5, he realizes that it is not a stand alone product. He thought he could use it to compose and then hear some cadences, perhaps see the liner notes.  What it looks like is that we are stuck with a $200 mistake that we can't afford. What are the options?  Are we wrong-is there really some way to compose using VDL2.5?  We missed the line in the spex that you need other programs to use this.  It isn't all that clear to the layman (and we recommend larger warnings on your site to keep other novices from making this mistake)  I thought it contained another program (Kontact) that allowed you to do write the music and that would be all that was needed.  We are so bummed, our kid was really depressed on Christmas, and could have used that money for new drumheads and equipment or the next BOA trip.  If any of you has a great idea that isn't too costly on how we can help him to use this to at least write and hear some cadences, we would be really grateful and you would be our hero. 
I'm not sure about the area that you live in and what the work situation is like, but when I was in high school, I worked at the local grocery store to pay for my percussive needs since my parents didn't have much money. Perhpaps your son could do a little workin to help out :)

As far as the Sibelius vs Finale thing, I've used both and like both. Many of the people on this forum aren't just drummers, but hardcore geeks :) We tend to be quite loyal to software that we are used to as well as respect these programs as if they were a peice of fine art.

My geeky side is resisting telling you this, but at this point in the game funcionality should take precedence over beauty. Meaning go with the cheaper things for now to see if your son is interested in sticking it out for the long haul, then make larger investments. I always cringe when I see parents buy a kid a 2,500 dollar drumset to have him lose interest 6 months later....

Finale and Windows are slightly more complex than Sibelius/Macs from a user standpoint, but there is plenty of info here on this forum and plenty of knowledgeable people that are willing to help out if you encounter any snags. Plus it's fun to have a challenge to work out the brain every now and then :)
Sorry to hear about the flooding.  Nice save on the drum set.

I second the Sibelius.  I also agree on the advice that J Mattson gave: survey the situation and go at it if your son is really in to it.

I like ";Coach's"; idea about the free trial version for PrintMusic.  The kid's always on the drums or recreating marimba music using our old piano, or scouring the internet for clips of other drumlines and hacking it out for himself.  I haven't  checked messages because our basement flooded--yes everybody. the vintage Ludwig set is ok and everything else was above ground.  That was the first thing to be rescued. The carpet's a goner, but easily replaced compared to his set, right? :)  So,  now we can pay for new drywall, carpeting AND notation software.  Oh boy. 

You guys are so funny---clearly either Finale or Sibelius dedicated. I'm afraid I might have to buy both, lest half of you stop speaking to us!  We'll get there.  In the mean time, I will be checking out that trial...
Music is expensive, but you dodged a bullet by having a kid who plays percussion instead of having to buy a french horn.  But if your kid is talented, then you can't put a price on it.  If he's just going to dabble in it, then it's probably a bad investment.

Setting up a home recording studio to properly write music and then make recordings is not cheap.  It's also not for basic computer users.  A proper setup would have Sibelius (not Finale =p) to write the music, VDL2.5 for the sounds, and a MIDI keyboard to enter the notes into the computer.  Sibelius 5 with edu discount is $250, a basic MIDI keyboard is $100, and your computer will probably need a RAM upgrade to 2 GB for another $50 or so.

I say take an honest look at the situation: if a kid comes from a musical background, is near the top of his class in music, always seems to be humming a song or jotting things down on staff paper- I would spend the money for the setup.     
Comparing NotePad to Sibelius is like comparing Corvettes to VW Bugs.  NotePad is a very limited FREE version of MakeMusic's notation line and doesn't have even a fraction of the possibilities that FINALE (full version has)  You can try the demos of PrintMusic or Allegro for 30 days without registering the programs.  This will give you a much better example of what Finale can do.  I think trying to accomplish this with NotePad is why this is seeming so difficult.  Try those demos out and we can certainly help you get going with those as well.  I wouldn't base your decision on working with the free version of NotePad.  All in all - it does really depend o what works best for your workflow, and we will help you get going with whatever program you choose to use.

Spent the weekend in a mind-dizzying array of forums, manuals, help menus in an attempt to use VDL with Finale Notepad, and conclude that Sibelius is the way to go for a more novice user who doesn't know what to plug in where.�� If anyone else got this for the holidays, and I did see some similar ";Help!!"; posts out there, if you know something about computer music programs, you could probably do what Drumcat suggested for fewer bucks.�� But when you account for your TIME and Pepcid, Sibelius is soooo much cleaner and simpler judging by the demo version.�� ";If only"; they would let you have a free 2 week trial to be sure--or heck, a 1 day trial.�� Or let you try to use VDL in the demo to hear how great it sounds.�� (Or can you?�� I couldn't.)�� I am very close to buying it--and if I do, I hope to have good news to report.��
--drummer's mom

check your personal messages...
Drumcat you got it right again--we weren't interested in using OUR already-purchased VDL single-user license for the school.�� We just want to see firsthand, in person what Finale or Sibelius looks like before every buying more programs, and anyway,�� it would have to be demonstrated by the person/band director, who would have his license (I assume the licensee is allowed to have someone watch him use the program :) ).�� ��I have no idea right now whether or not our school has VDL library or any music writing programs, but assume they have to have something.�� Currently, it is closed for winter break for another week.��

We understand we have to keep our VDL working via our own computers by our licensed user (ie son).�� ��There is a lot of ";sharing"; out there in the world of computer programs, and but we are stating up front that we are being respectful of the licensure issue--so no worries Fliggity and thanks for your warning.�� You have no way of knowing us, but we're ethical folks.�� We (parents) will probably be having to help our kid figure out some of it at first but that is in terms of software troubleshooting for a 15 year old user--not doing the composing or enjoying anything but his demonstration of a finished product.�� ��Our goal is to make sure he can get started, then stand back and let him solo.

Owen Taylor, we are thinking along the same lines too--thanks for the encouragement to try writing now that we have the sound library.�� Hey--he's already stepped into the puddle.�� He can't get out without getting his feet wet now!�� Might as well go for it and give it a try.��

I haven't looked yet, but maybe there is a forum for younger users (HS/DCI) to share ideas and encouragement on their compositions, maybe hear each other's work....

drummer's mom��
I encourage him to write as much as possible!  If he has the ";drive"; for it, he will love it.  Maybe some exercises/cadences to start out.  He will find out fairly quickly if he likes to write, or mainly play/perform.  If nothing else, the time he spends notating music will deepen his understanding of rhythm in music and make him a better percussionist & overall musician.

Best of luck...we are here to help.
Glad to hear things are looking better on your end.  Given your mentioning of all the Cavs drum guys on the staff at your son's school, it sounds like they probably are very knowledgeable about current things (like the helpfulness of something like VDL).  I would think you might even be able to speak to your son's band director about purchasing VDL for the school.  As I understand the licensing, since you have already activated the license on your home computer, you would not be able to transfer it to a school computer.

Again, I am glad things are more calm now and I wish you guys the best with this in the future.
I'm not sure this is applicable here.  I think their intention is pretty clear, and that's to check out the programs at school, and see what to use at home. 
Jim had posted this in a previous post.  Thought it might have some relevance here:

[It's also worth noting that unless your school purchased a site-licensed version of VDL, this is a single user software license. Meaning, only one individual person is permitted to install and use the software. If your tech person authorized it under his name, technically as far as NI is concerned, he's the licensed user. If this was not the intention, he would have to notify NI directly so they could arrange for the license to be transferred to your name.

There is a FAQ about the number of machines you may authorize the software on here:

It is worth noting however, that the single user license still applies. For example, you are not permitted to authorize the software for use by a band director and a percussion instructor. Both individuals would require their own license.

Hope this info helps a bit. Tapspace may be able to look up your serial number, but we'd need to know exactly who it's actually registered to first. This may or may not be the individual who made the purchase. If you need some extra assistance, please send me a private message through this forum, and I'll do my best to look further into it for you. Ultimately, it may be NI that will have to authorize any changes though (if necessary).]

One quick thing from me.  If he has alot of knowledgable staff working with his band, they might also have some insight on notation software as well.  That way he could get some hands on approach. 
Thank you all for your excellent advice.�� First, I want to be clear that we agree [u]we[/u] were bone-headed in not understanding the fine print, as everyone is correct, it does say some notation software is needed.�� Not being at all versed in music writing lingo, we were just not absorbing everything when looking into it.�� (I work in a complex medical field and have the reverse issue when explaining in medical terminology to patients--it's just a mindset thing.)�� In hindsight, I do wish Tapspace had a more obvious disclaimer to protect novices from our own stupidity (bigger and earlier in the spex), but they have been nothing but nice to us about all of this.�� We certainly have no argument with them, and everyone has been extremely kind in their assistance.�� Now that we are in for a penny, so to speak, we are in for a pound. That is, the license was activated so we cannot return the product.�� We either use it or lose it.�� Might as well forge on, so long as it is affordable.

To Cobybos who said it might be too complex for a high school freshman, I agree.�� Our thought was to invest in it now, and let him work with it through the next 8 years of HS and college.�� It's a tough field, and who knows if he will be able to continue in percussion after college.�� But�� to his credit, he busted his heiney and make tenors as a freshman--he is just a very very motivated young man, wanted to be on drumline since age 5 and he did it.�� His high school is extremely fortunate to work with many Rosemont Caveliers staff and alums and his percussion teacher is also a very well known guy in the percussion world.�� (If I named any names, my teenage son would either kill me or die of embarassment, so I'd like to avoid any of that.)�� ��

After winter break is over, my son plans to ask his percussion instructor and the band director what programs the high school has and whether he could access them.�� To Dave Ratliff who suggested this --we agree and were thinking the same thing.�� But I wasn't sure with the licensure issue if he could use the VDL at the school since we already loaded it on our home computer--will look into this--don't want to break the law or anything!  If they have both, it would be nice to try them first to decide. 

To Drumcat-- bless you!�� Thank you for your very good natured advice.�� We are going to be trying your suggestions and working on it this weekend.�� I will continue to use the forums for technical advice as needed.
--drummer's mom
I thought about this post some today.  I bet the ";very good"; high school program your son is in probably has a computer or two with a fully working copy of either Finale or Sibelius loaded on there for your son to get his feet wet with the arranging/composing side of things.  I know the school I teach at has Sibelius on a handful of machines.  Again, this might be a way for him to get his feet wet with working with some notational software. 

I think drumcat is right on as far as the very detailed list of how to get a albeit somewhat limited but also very inexpensive way to get the notational side of things lined out so that Christmas is not ";lost";.  Drumcat is a very good source of information and if you follow his instructions, I bet you guys will find things will work out just fine.
OK, I looked...  yes, you can do it.  There are some tools that you'll need to collect.

#1 -- Virtual Drumline.  Got it.

#2 -- Grab Finale 2008 Notepad for free.  Link above.

#3 -- I'll assume you're using windows...

#4 -- the Finale Template

Here's the very, very basic rundown of what happens.

Install VDL.
Install Bome's Keyboard.
Download 08Notepad.  Run it, and when it asks for which softsynth to use, you'll use VDL.  On the Input, use Bome's.
Get the template.  The template is what makes all the different kinds of notes look right.  There may be 15 or 20 different sounds that are spread all over, but they all are notated on one ";note"; of music.  The template compensates for this, and enters the notation correctly.  Open that in Finale.

So now you have the tools and everything going.  You click on a note on the virtual keyboard, and that's feeding into your notation program.  The notation program is playing back using VDL, and as such, you should be getting the correct ";noises"; on playback.

Whshew.  It's a lot to digest.  When it comes down to it, this is the shortcut-free way of getting running.  Get your feet wet on this.  You will find that it makes some sense once you have the complete set of tools.  The catch is that these tools are not necessarily stellar on their own.  That's ok; the old axiom ";you get what you pay for"; applies, and for the most part, the only catch is that your son will have to spend some time understanding the basics, and (it really is important...) read some of the instructions in the notation program help files and manual.

I absolutely guarantee you that all of the information needed to do this stuff is in this forum, and it's also in the FAQ -- a better organized source.  It's also printed in the VDL DOCUMENTATION.  If you have your son read that, he'll get a great start on figuring this stuff out.  Christmas can be saved yet!  ;)
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