Sibelius Student

from Technology & Learning

Sibelius Student is the latest in a long line of music education software products from the UK-based company. Basically a scaled-down version of the flagship Sibelius music notation software, Student sells for hundreds of dollars less than the full version without stripping away the most useful features.

System Requirements: Windows: XP/Vista; 512MB-plus RAM; 100MB hard disk space; CD-ROM. Mac: OS X 10.4 or later; 512MB-plus RAM; 100MB hard disk space; CD-ROM drive.
Price/Grade: $99 per unit; 3-12.
Pros: Incorporates the most popular and useful features of the full version of Sibelius (including MIDI data input) without the full version's price tag.
Cons: Limit of 12 instruments per score. No small concert band or small jazz band templates. No built-in scanning support.

Any Sibelius-family notation file can be opened and edited in Student as long as the score has 12 staves or fewer. This allows teachers to create assignments in the full version for students to complete using the Student version. The low cost of the Student software also makes it a cost-effective alternative for teachers to use at home when preparing lessons and worksheets. Missing from the program, however, is the ability to import MusicXML files, though Student will export to the MusicXML format.

Two of the more intriguing features imported from the Sibelius full version are the fully loaded Ideas Bin and the ability to synchronize video to a composition. The Ideas Bin is essentially a filing cabinet for musical ideas and is loaded with short musical motifs that can be pasted into any composition, allowing almost anyone to create interesting and unique compositions. Student comes with around 300 clips, though new clips cannot be added.

Using the video tool, a user can time-sync video to a composition allowing for real-world applications such as creating a synchronized soundtrack to a student-made video. While students compose, they are able to see the video in real time on the screen, letting them coordinate hits in the musical score with visual cues in the video.

Note entry and editing with Student is very easy and intuitive. In general, users should find Student to be more user-friendly than other competing notation products. Most commonly used actions are found in the well-planned pull-down menus, while the vast majority of actions can also be executed using special key combinations along with input from a MIDI keyboard.

While Student is very good, it is not perfect. Primary among these issues is the lack of ready-made templates for concert band or small jazz band ensembles. There is also no way to create and save custom templates.

But Sibelius Student is an excellent music notation software program that's more than adequate for all but the most demanding of musicians. Whether used in a lab environment or as a study aid, Student shines at helping students learn to write music and have fun doing it.

Chad Criswell teaches instrumental music for Southeast Polk Community Schools in Iowa and operates a music education Web site,