A Few Questions...

I just got a new macbook and I'm looking into buying Finale 2010. Before I do though, I wanted to ask a few questions to make sure I get everything working the way I want to..

First of all, have there been any problems with Finale 2010 working with Snow Leopard? I will be ordering both at the same time, so will it help/hinder anything if I install one before the other?

Second, how large should my MIDI keyboard be to facilitate all the available drumline sounds? I was looking at a 25-key keyboard, but I would rather pay extra for a 49 if it will work better.

Third, does VDL work better with Finale or Sibelius? I know the debate between the programs is unending, but if VDL works better with one than the other, that would settle it for me!

Finally, is there anywhere I can see the VDL features included with Finale compared to the features of VDL 2.5? I want to see how much I would be missing out on with VDLite!

Sorry if these have been asked before (I'm sure they probably have been..), but thank you for answering anyways!
1) Here's the official word on Snow Leopard from Finale: http://makemusic.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1724

2) As far as as the MIDI keyboard goes, that depends on your budget, whether or not you mind doing octave switches to reach every sound (since instruments like the SnareLine and such use virtually the whole 88 key keyboard). I personally use the 49 and have been pretty happy with it. If portability is an issue, the Korg Nano is a pretty neat little thing.

3) The Finale vs. Sibelius thing really just depends on your preference. I use Sibelius because I've always found that the interface is more intuitive, and they always tend to be ahead of the curve when it comes to adding new features (dynamic parts, magnetic layout, etc.) where Finale tends to be a year behind, or more. That's just my experience, and I'm sure that some of the Finale buffs could add their own vantage point. For first time users with no bias, Sibelius seems like the most logical choice.

4) VDL Instrument list for Finale 2010: http://downloads2.makemusic.com/finale/2010/VDLInstruments.pdf

I found that just by looking at/searching the Finale website. Hope this all helps.
Thank you so much for your help!

I have been using Finale for about 4 years now, so I don't think I want to switch away from it unless there are any huge compatibility issues. Plus Finale comes a little cheaper..

As of now is there any kind of discount for upgrading to the full VDL 2.5 from the lite version included with Finale 2010?
The only way you can get any sort of discount on a upgrade would be upgrading from VDL2 to VDL2.5. Otherwise, you have to pay full price. However, for what you get, $200 is a steal.
You may want to check with MakeMusic to see if they're offering a bundle deal to buy the full version of VDL with Finale 2010. They may not be publicly displaying this, but it's possible you may be able to save money by purchasing VDL directly from MakeMusic when updating your Finale software. Contact their sales department and they should be able to give you the best options available.
On the Finale vs. Sibelius front:

Let me begin with this - I started on Finale back in 1998. I grew up on it, and love the program. This past summer I wrote for a corps and a marching band with wind arrangers that use exclusively Sibelius, and from my student package at my university, I actually had both on my computer, though I only used Finale. So I arranged for those two groups using Sibelius, and did this at the same time I installed VDL 2.5. I now consider myself very well-versed in both Sibelius 5 and Finale 2009.

What I can say in the never-ending debate between Finale and Sibelius is that the differences are practically all preference and ease of use related. I have found that I think Sibelius tends to be a little easier to do the basic stuff with (entering notes, chords, dynamics, text) but have in general found Sibelius to be more difficult in some of the more advanced things (page layout uniformity, audio units set-up, multi-layer use) as well as finding Finale more customizable to my personal preferences. This is just my opinion based on my experiences with both.

When I'm writing using VDL 2.5, I now prefer Sibelius for two reasons.
    1 - Finale has trouble (at least through 2009) playing back diddles at some tempi, and when you have a grace note attached to a diddled note (think Cheese or Flam Fives) the diddle does not play back. Sibelius has no issue with this so far.
    2 - Mid-staff instrument changes are more intuitive and easier to execute. (i.e. Marimba moving to BD & Tamtam for impact and then back to Marimba).

In general, when I write using VDL 2.5, I now cater to the preference of the other arrangers I'm working with. When I have my choice, it depends on my mood, but typically I'll go with Sibelius. Hope this helps you!
Thanks for the insight, Michael!  It's always nice to get the perspective of someone who is well-versed in both major brands of notation software and has a balanced view of both.

It's funny that you mention working with the more advanced features of both programs, because I have always thought that Sibelius was easy to use, once you understood the concept of House Styles.  Having also come from the Finale world myself years ago, I found that the initial work done in learning about default positioning, text styles, engraving rules, etc. saved my hours of formatting time compared to Finale.  I haven't used Finale since 2006, so I'm sure things have changed a little.  Moreover, the new Magnetic Layout feature in Sibelius 6 is a game changer in the world of page layout. The additional time saved with that feature alone is pretty amazing.

But you're right - what it really boils down to is preference, or perhaps just working with what you already know.  For instance, Hans Zimmer swears by his PC and Finale.  Steve Reich and David Arnold (recent James Bond films) are on the opposite side of the fence. 

Thanks again for sharing, Michael!
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