The bane of any students life is paying for software, especially specialist software, and poor music students seem to bare the biggest brunt. We have to pay for instruments, sheet music, text books, lessons in 3 other languages, then music notation software. Sibelius Ultimate is £1000! That’s a bloody big outlay, especially when you’re on a budget and your coursework only demands you write for a few individual instruments at a time.

Why have 40gb of sound samples when you’re only required to write for 2 or 3 instruments? The problem with Sibelius is, although brilliant (James Horner wrote the entire Avatar soundtrack in it), it’s a hungry piece of kit, needing a minimum of 4gb or RAM to simply consider launching. Try and load more than 4 instruments sounds to play simultaneously and you’re talking more like 8gb or 16gb of RAM if you want to get any work done in the foreseeable future, and it is HUGE! It’s actually bigger than any Windows installation.

Being a free piece of software, Sibelius First will be ideal for students, new comers and church organists who will only use it periodically to conjoin music and arrange for a single instrument. How many church organists do you know that are a one man band and play 20 instruments at a time?

Though I am a little dubious about this move by Avid, because knowing companies like a do, they’ll most likely only give you the very basics, and I don’t think Sound Essentials is included in the free pack, so if someone wants to record in high quality, they’ll either have to do it through a stand alone sound canvas, or find a compatible sound pack, which could completely null and void Avid’s responsibility if something goes wrong or your computer ends up with an STI (Surfing Transmitted Infection).

As I use Sibelius Ultimate, I have no inclination, or need to install First, however, I am very impressed that there is a free option that will allow students to produce simple scores without the need to spend a huge chunk of their loans on a single piece of software that may, or may not, help them in their later course.

Why would an amateur musician require such a complex piece of software when all they’re doing is dabbling? Music should always be affordable, and it’s an absolute joy for millions of people the world over. It should be accessible to the masses, and although First is basic, it allows the amateurs, the students, the occasional composers and the arrangers to create high quality, professional looking scores that are actually legible (hand written scores are a nightmare to read), and to share up to 10 scores online, print, save and amend.

It may not sound overly exciting, but when something so specialist comes along, making it accessible to the masses, it is kind of a big deal, especially given that the latest version costs more than some people earn in a month.


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