Composing Music

12 Excellent Free Scorewriters – Compose, arrange, print, and publish music

A scorewriter (often known as notation software or music notation processor) is software used with a computer for creating, editing and printing sheet music.

For a musician to be able to read, understand, and play music, a composition needs to be in written form. A system of notation is essential for musicians to be able to play music as intended by the composer.

In the field of music composition, Sibelius and Finale are held in high esteem. These scorewriters are widely used by composers, songwriters, and arrangers for creating sheet music, including the score for an ensemble and parts for individual musicians. Unfortunately, both Sibelius and Finale are proprietary software. They are very expensive applications; the cheapest perpetual license for Sibelius sets you back hundreds of dollars. And neither application is available for Linux.

Fortunately, there is a wide range of open source scorewriters which are supported in Linux. This article recommends cost-effective alternatives to Sibelius and Finale. The software featured here is released under open source licenses, all are available to download at no charge, and generate music scores which are engraved with traditional layout rules.

MusicThis article does not limit itself to software with a graphical user interface. One of the benefits of using software which doesn’t depend on a graphical interface is that you can create and edit music on any type of device, even small handheld devices.

To provide an insight into the quality of software that is available, we have compiled a list of 12 high quality free Linux scorewriters. Whatever your requirements, one or more of these applications will meet your composition needs.

Linux Scorewriters

Let’s explore the 12 scorewriters. For each application we have compiled its own portal page, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, screenshots, together with links to relevant resources.

Open Source Scorewriters
RosegardenSophisticated MIDI (and audio) sequencer and notation editor
MusescoreGraphical WYSIWYG music score typesetter
LilypondProduce musical scores that are engraved with traditional layout rules
Impro-VisorEducational program designed to help musicians compose and hear solos
TuxGuitarMultitrack tablature editor and player writen in Java-SWT
DenemoMusical score editor intended primarily as a frontend to Lilypond
music21Toolkit for computational musicology
FrescobaldiLilyPond sheet music text editor for KDE4
mupVery feature-laden application for producing printed music
GregorioTools for Typesetting Gregorian Chant
CanorusGraphical music score editor written for the Qt4 toolkit
Aria MaestosaMidi sequencer/editor

Besides scorewriters, there is a wealth of open source Linux multimedia applications available to download. We maintain our curated Links Directory. For multimedia applications, check out our Multimedia section, or see our complete compilation of curated links.


    1. I seriously doubt any professional musician would want to learn TeX – I wouldn’t want to inflict that on my worst enemy.

      Please remove Gregorio.

    2. For writing books, booklets and scores I use MusiXTeX. But for studying I prefer to write with a program that has sound output.

  1. Have you looked at PMW by Philip Hazel? It has its origins in PMS for RISC OS, and it’s input script is really simple to get to grips with.

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