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. 
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.     
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...
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'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 :)
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