Forte 8: Everyday Music Notation Software

by Todd Hobin and Lauren Litz

Guido d’Arezzo’s treatise Micrologus was published one thousand years ago. In it, the Benedictine monk spelled out music in do-re-mi syllables with notes on a lined staff. It is the basis for the written musical language we still use to this day the world over.

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But here comes the shocker: Many of the world’s most popular musicians don’t read music. Worse, many newbies are learning music by rote, not by reading. They work out the intricacies of a song by watching a YouTube video or by downloading a lyric sheet and TAB. Composition techniques that were once based on the mastery of music theory are trending toward the hunt-and-peck method. Without a full comprehension of the language of music, will popular song soon consist of the same four chords and a vocal “jam?” 

Forte 8 music notation software is easy to use and, more importantly, focused on training with online documentation and tutorials. The basic version is just $24.

If you are already using Finale or Sibelius, you’re in good shape. These programs are the best, most versatile, and complete notation software packages in the world for engraving, for complex scores, and varied, detailed printing options. But for the casual musician, the weekend warrior, for beginners, or pros looking for a fast lead sheet, Forte 8 is the perfect tool. 

The software loads quickly and offers up simple options to begin. You can import, choose a file or template, or select the handy Score Wizard that will guide you step by step through setting up your document. The Input Palette is easy to use. Students will appreciate the instant playback feature. 

Note input is as easy as pointing and clicking on the staff, playing notes via MIDI, or by scanning. There are three ways to scan a document into Forte’s Premium version: import a graphic file, scan from your printer, or use their free mobile scanning app. All three work nicely, and I might add, scanning in a handwritten piece of sheet music works. Character recognition has come a long way, but there are still a few glitches. Forte takes its best guess, then asks you to approve or correct any questionable notes and markings.   

NOTE: Though not available in Forte, the future of pen tablet input is already here. Yes, a little iffy as well, but expect it to be the weapon of choice for old pros comfortable with good old-fashioned paper and pen.

Besides all the benefits of editing via computer, the real power of all notation software is printing scores and parts. Layout and design is basic in Forte, with many choices of font and style. Complex scores and engraving chores might still best be left to Finale or Sibelius, but the real gift that Forte provides, apart from its price, is ease of use. The in-app searchable help files are wonderful, and a concerted effort in free training through readily available YouTube videos, articles, and blogs make this a software accessible to the masses.

Pros, students, or weekend warriors, jump right in, learn, create, explore, and share your art.

Todd Hobin is a singer/songwriter, touring musician, and adjunct professor in the Music Department at Le Moyne College. He is a contributing writer for Making Music magazine and International Musician, and lectures on the music industry and the history of rock ‘n’ roll. His Todd Hobin Band has shared the stage with the greatest bands of their time from The Beach Boys and Kinks, to the Allman Brothers and Hall & Oates. Their double CD set, The Early Years is filled with Hobin classics, and their latest album, It’s Not Over, continues in the same tradition. Hobin has also released the Wellness Suite of new age music. His music scores can be heard in film, TV, and audio books, including King Kong, Shannon Hale’s Goose Girl and Fairest, a novel by Gail Carson Levine, which was nominated for an AUDIE Award. Hobin was the musical director and lead songwriter on the acclaimed, nationally syndicated children’s television series Pappyland. He has written and produced for clients as diverse as Coca Cola, Hershey Park, ABC Television, and Tri-Star Pictures. His latest film credits include, Impossible Choice and My Brother and Me. You can contact Todd Hobin at:

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