Feb 5, 2012

Encore and Sibelius

Back in the early 1990s, when music notation software had just become available, I bought Finale and Encore, and after working with both, settled on Encore. It seemed quicker and more intuitive, with fewer actions required to perform routine tasks. I used Encore to chart some clarinet duets to use with my students; the duets eventually became a booklet. I also made transposed, compatible versions for alto sax and flute. The book was then picked up by Mel Bay Publications and published as the "Easy Classics" series, with additional versions for trumpet, tenor sax, and violin, and with piano accompaniments (written by my mom and my sister). A year or two later, the company asked me to produce versions for viola and cello. I did so and sent them in, but these books never were actually published. Then - a few months ago - I got an email from the company asking if I was still interested in seeing them published, and if so, could I provide digital files.

Unfortunately, Mel Bay no longer accepts Encore files, only Finale and Sibelius. Fortunately, I have been working on a different project for which I have been learning Sibelius (current version: Sibelius 7). Sibelius' user interface is similar enough to Encore that the transition was easy.

I really did not want to recreate everything from scratch. So the problem was: How do I get old Encore files into Sibelius? The first thing I tried was exporting the files from Encore into MusicXML, then opening the MusicXML files in Sibelius (MusicXML is a format designed to facilitate the transfer of music files from one music notation program to another). Although this procedure worked OK, the original formatting was lost, necessitating extra work on my part to restore the format.

The next thing I tried was using PhotoScore Lite, the note recognition program that is included with Sibelius. I exported the Encore files as PDFs, then read those PDFs with PhotoScore Lite (since PDFs would likely be cleaner than scanned versions of hard copy). This worked well, preserving the original format. Unfortunately, Photoscore Lite does not pick up articulation marks or text, only notes - meaning more work on my part, putting that stuff back in.

Finally, I bit the bullet and purchased the upgrade to PhotoScore "Ultimate." This was really the best solution. It reads the PDFs pretty accurately, although occasional errors still occur. Although I still have to proof and revise each file, my time spent was cut to about 25% of either of the other methods I tried. So for anyone faced with the problem of transferring Encore files to Sibelius, that's my suggestion.

Sibelius is working well for me, though it has its quirks.

I'm rather fond of Encore; there are some things it does better/quicker than Sibelius, such as manually editing staff or note spacing, or selecting non-contiguous elements. Encore was developed in the early 1990s by Passport, and in 1998 became the property of GVOX. For 10 years, very few improvements or updates were made, and Encore fell out of favor with publishers and with serious users. Since about 2008, GVOX has made a renewed effort to support and improve the program. I think it still has potential.

I admit that it has been years since I have tried to work with Finale; I understand that it has been improved quite a bit in the last few releases. Eventually I'll find the time to try it again.


  1. Perhaps you can help me. I am looking to print a drum instruction book. Haven't weighed all of the options for printing (on demand, local and sell to students, iBook). I used Sibelius First and Pages to handle creation and formatting. Now I'm considering upgrading to Sib7. Do you think that one app can handle formatting (page numbering especially) and exporting to pdf to create a semi-professional looking publication?

    1. Bob,
      I'm not an authority, but it seems to me that should not be a problem. Sibelius certainly will number pages, and will export to pdf. Once your files are in pdf, you could work with it in any way you want (adding cover created elsewhere, or whatever). Hope that helps, and good luck with the book!