7 Best Music Composition Software 2024 (Top Writing Program)

by Chris Von Wilpert, BBusMan • Last updated November 23, 2023

Expert Verified by Leandro Langeani, BBA

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Today there are 67 different music composition software. We spent 110 hours comparing the top 50 to find the seven best you can use to compose your music.

What is the Best Music Composition Software?

  1. Hookpad — best of the best
  2. Sibelius — best free plan
  3. Noteflight — best for online music composition
  4. Notion 6 — best for professionals
  5. MuseScore — best for beginners
  6. Dorico Pro — best for multiple instruments
  7. Forte Notation — best for live recording

Our Verdict — Best Of The Best

Price: Starts at $4.99/month

Hookpad is an intuitive music sketchpad software that simplifies songwriting. We think it’s the best music composition software because of its intuitive chord progression capabilities, good virtual instruments, and streamlined dashboard.

The Best Part:

  • Suggested chord progressions. Hookpad’s chord palette enables you to visually experiment with chords to complete your progressions, and make your harmony richer.

The Worst Part:

  • Somewhat limited sound library. HookPad's sound library isn’t the biggest one out there — although it’s pretty solid.

Get it if you want a user-friendly, streamlined tool to help you compose your first songs, or to streamline your professional songwriting work.

I recommend you get started with the free plan, then upgrade to a monthly Hookpad subscription for $4.99/month.

(free plan)

Best For

Hookpad is best for both beginner and pro songwriters who want a user-friendly tool to help them bring their ideas to life faster.

Top Features

  • Streamlined work. Hookpad helps you write harmonies and melodies quickly, with smart suggestions that fit the mood you’re looking for, or testing with.

  • Tons of in-built instruments. You can listen to what your song will sound like without needing a DAW or an external MIDI platform — piano, guitar, strings, and more.

  • Learn from the best. With Hookpad’s TheoryTab, you can analyze over 13,000 songs and understand the music theory behind them.

  • Sound templates. You get quite a few pre-built band templates, with instruments and rhythms in several genres.

  • MIDI it away. You’re free to export your songs as MIDI files, to develop your masterpiece on your go-to DAW.

Pricing

Hookpad offers seven pricing plans:

  • Hookpad Free: Free forever, for songwriters who want to explore Hookpad’s basic songwriting features.
  • Hookpad: $4.99/month, $49/year, or $149 one time for songwriters who want a comprehensive songwriting solution with a full range of features.
  • Hookpad + Books: $34.98 one-time payment + $4.99/month, $49/year, or $149 one time, for the Hooktheory Book Series, for songwriters aiming to advance their songwriting skills while using a powerful songwriting software.

Annual plans provide an 18% discount.

Try Hookpad today with the free plan.

Our Verdict — Best Free Plan

Price: Starts at $12.99/month

Sibelius is the ultimate toolbox for composers out there. We think it’s the best because of its extraordinary device compatibility, full range of bar formats, and customizable beam groupings.

The Best Part:

  • Pay-as-you-go payment plan. You can start out as a beginner with the free plan then work your way up to the premium plans as you advance.

The Worst Part:

  • Pricey advanced plan. The Sibelius Ultimate subscription is higher when compared to the average competitor, sitting at $199/year.

Get it if you want an all-in-one composition program with a free starter version.

I recommend you download the free version on your mobile and desktop, then subscribe to the yearly Sibelius Artist plan for $99/year.

(free plan available)

Best For

Sibelius is best for all sorts of composers who want a toolbox that will enable them to create more music.

Top Features

  • Solid free plan. Get started free from day one without any previous knowledge, unlike other complex tools out there.

  • iPad and iPhone support. Compose music from the comfort of your couch with the software's iOS device apps.

  • Level-based pricing. Cut extra costs and only start paying after you’ve passed the beginner phase.

  • Easy to enter notes. Write notes seamlessly using your MIDI or computer keyboard and watch the software automatically position them for you.

  • Share compositions like a boss. Share your music in MIDI or audio format and invite others to collaborate on your composition.

Pricing

Sibelius offers three pricing plans:

  • Sibelius First: Free forever, for hobbyists new to music composition who want to start small with up to 4 instrument parts.
  • Sibelius Artist: $12.99/month for composers and songwriters who want a suitable program to compose scores with up to 16 parts.
  • Sibelius Ultimate: $27.99/month for professional producers and composers who want a program to compose scores with unlimited instrument parts.

Annual plans provide up to a 41% discount.

Try Sibelius today with the free plan.

Our Verdict — Best For Online Music Composition

Price: Starts at $7.95/month

Noteflight is an online-only music composition program. We think it’s the best for beginners because of its sleek user interface.

The Best Part:

  • It is fully cloud-based. You'll be able to save and manage your work through Noteflight's website without downloading any programs or relying on a specific device.

The Worst Part:

  • Free version may feel quite limited. You can only create up to 10 scores using the free plan, which is very restrictive compared to some other options in the market.

Get it if you want an easy-to-use composition software for writing music.

I recommend you download the free to get familiar with the software, then upgrade to the Premium Lifetime plan for a $299 one-time fee.

(30-day free trial)

Best For

Noteflight is best for amateurs who want a beginner-friendly user interface.

Top Features

  • Integrated teacher-student collaboration features. Get assessed by your teacher and receive musical assignments remotely all within the software's dashboard.

  • Sharing and collaboration features. Export your work and collaborate with fellow composers like a pro.

  • Automatic machine performance assessment. Receive feedback in real time as you compose.

  • Stay on top of your musical projects at all times. Connect from work, school, or home using any device with an internet connection to continue where you left off.

  • Massive music library. Play and arrange over 80,000 scores from Hal Leonard from the comfort of the software's dashboard.

Pricing

Noteflight offers five pricing plans:

  • Noteflight Basic: Free forever, for newbies and composers who want to dip their toes in the music composition software world.
  • Noteflight Learn: $69/year for musical tutors and teachers who want software that'll enable them to organize classes and manage students.
  • Noteflight Premium Monthly: $7.95/month for hobbyists who want monthly access to full composition features.
  • Noteflight Premium Yearly: $49/year for composers and arrangers who want full software access for a discounted yearly payment.
  • Noteflight Premium Lifetime: $299 for composers and arrangers who plan to compose long-term using a reliable tool.

Annual plans provide a 49% discount.

Try Noteflight today with a free 30-day trial.

Our Verdict — Best For Professionals

Price: Starts at $149.95

Notion 6 is a spectacular professional music writing program. We think it’s the best for professionals because of its compatibility with PreSonus Sphere, multi-device support, and robust notation tools. 

The Best Part:

  • Handwriting to digital notation converter. You can use Notion 6 to convert your hand-written notes automatically into digital notations without lifting a finger.

The Worst Part:

  • You need to buy the entire pack. The monthly subscription is not available for the standalone version of the Notion 6 software. You’ll need to subscribe to the entire PreSonus Sphere set at $14.95/mo.

Get it if you want a professional composition tool to create complex compositions.

I recommend you start with the free 30-day trial to try the interface on several devices, then purchase the program for $149.95 to keep forever.

(30-day free trial)

Best For

Notion 6 is best for professionals who want a reliable composition program.

Top Features

  • Handwriting recognition technology. Write out your music by hand using a stylus or fingers and watch the software quickly digitize your compositions.

  • Score performance feature. Use the software as a virtual instrument to perform your scores in real-time and save them in audio formats.

  • Multi-device composition. Start your composition on your computer and finish it on your phone, and vice-versa.

  • Affordable lifetime pricing. Download Notion 6 for a significantly cheaper fee than the competition.

  • Pro EQ plug-ins. Adjust the frequency balance and tonal characteristics of your music with just a few clicks.

Pricing

Notion 6 offers three pricing plans:

  • PreSonus monthly: $14.95/month for professional composers who want access to the full toolset from PreSonus for a recurring monthly fee.
  • Notion 6: $149.95 one-time fee for professional composers who want full lifetime access to Notion 6.
  • Notion Expansion Bundle Pack All: $299.99 for professional composers who want lifetime access to Notion 6 and all available expansion sets.

Annual plans provide an 8% discount.

Try Notion 6 today with a free 30-day trial.

Our Top Three Picks

Here’s a quick summary of our top three picks:

  1. Hookpad — best of the best
  2. Sibelius — best free plan
  3. Noteflight — best for online music composition

Here’s a quick comparison of our top seven picks:

Tool

Entry Offer

Pricing

Hookpad

Free plan

Starts at $4.99/mo

Sibelius

Free plan

Starts at $12.99/mo

Noteflight

Free plan

Starts at $7.95/mo

Notion 6

30-day free trial

Starts at $149.95

MuseScore 4

7-day free trial

Starts at $29.99/year

Dorico Pro 4

30-day free trial

$579.99

Forte Notation 12

14-day free trial

Starts at $24

Here are the top 50 music composition software tools we considered in this review:

  1. Hookpad
  2. Sibelius
  3. Noteflight
  4. Notion 6
  5. MuseScore 
  6. Dorico Pro 
  7. Forte Notation 
  8. Makemusic Finale PrintMusic
  9. LilyPond
  10. QuickScore Elite Level II
  11. MagicScore Maestro 
  12. Flat
  13. Avid Pro Tools
  14. Apple Logic Pro X
  15. Ableton
  16. Waveform Pro
  17. Steinberg Cubase
  18. StaffPad
  19. Reaper
  20. Propellerhead Reason
  21. PreSonus Studio One
  22. PlayScore 2
  23. Neuratron PhotoScore Ultimate
  24. Neuratron AudioScore Ultimate
  25. MakeMusic Finale
  26. iZotope Music Production Suite
  27. FL Studio
  28. Avid Sibelius
  29. Audacity
  30. Apple Garageband
  31. TuxGuitar
  32. Tracktion
  33. ScoreCloud
  34. Rosegarden
  35. Renoise
  36. Pizzicato
  37. Overture
  38. MusicJOT 
  39. Melody Assistant
  40. LMMS
  41. Jukedeck
  42. Harmony Assistant
  43. GarageBand
  44. Encore
  45. Easy Music Composer
  46. Dorico Elements 
  47. Denemo
  48. Cakewalk
  49. Bitwig Studio
  50. BandLab

What is the best program for composing music?

The best program for composing music depends on the specific needs and preferences of the music producer or composer. Based on our research, Hookpad seems to check all the boxes. However, some of the other top options in the market include Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) such as music production software, music notation software packages, notation programs, and popular notation software. 

A perfect tool for composing music should have key features such as note entry tools, a virtual keyboard, a range of instruments, built-in instruments, guitar samples, bass samples, drum samples, percussion instruments, and a volume mixer to balance audio files. The software programs should also support keyboard shortcuts for ease of use.

Additionally, the music producer or composer might need to export files in various formats, such as audio files or graphic files, and use an online notation editor to share and collaborate on music scores. The software should also have a music recording feature and support MIDI keyboards for live performance and recording.

Professional musicians may require more advanced features, such as beautiful sheet music and previous version control to keep track of changes made to the piece of music notation. The software should also come at an affordable price without compromising the quality of the program.

What is the industry standard music composition software?

The industry standard music composition software used by professional musicians, composers, and producers is Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). DAWs provide a wide range of features and tools necessary for music production, including note entry tools, virtual keyboard, built-in instruments, guitar samples, bass samples, drum samples, percussion instruments, and a volume mixer.

DAWs also allow for audio recording and editing, making them versatile tools for producing music. The most popular DAWs include music production software, notation programs, and music notation software packages. 

Professional musicians and composers may require advanced features such as previous version control, a beautiful sheet music interface, and music notation software. They may also prefer desktop versions that offer a wide range of instruments, MIDI keyboard support, and a music recording feature.

Is there anything better than MuseScore?

MuseScore is a popular and reliable music notation software program that provides a wide range of features and tools to composers, arrangers, and music educators. It has a straightforward interface and is an excellent option for beginners and those on a tight budget since it is open-source and free to use.

However, some alternatives offer more advanced features that may be more suitable for experienced musicians or those with specific needs. For example, Hookpad is a powerful music notation software program that has been a favorite among professionals for years. It offers more advanced features, such as beautiful sheet music, extensive instrument libraries, and the ability to work on complex scores with ease.

Another alternative is Dorico, which is a newer music notation software program that has received high praise for its innovative features and beautiful output. It has a range of features and tools for advanced users, including a sophisticated notation engine, the ability to work with complex rhythms, and beautiful graphics output that competes against top composition programs like Cubase LE.

Is MuseScore composition free?

Yes, MuseScore is a free and open-source music notation software program. This means that you can download, install and use it without paying anything.

What software does Hans Zimmer use?

Hans Zimmer, the award-winning composer, is known for his work on several popular movies and TV shows, such as The Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Inception. Over the years, he has used a variety of software and tools to create his music, including both hardware and software synthesizers.

One of the most popular software programs that Zimmer has used is Cubase. Cubase is a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) that provides a range of features and tools necessary for music production. It is widely used by composers and producers in the music industry and is known for its powerful MIDI capabilities, flexible audio editing tools, large content library, and advanced mixing and mastering features.

The Bottom Line

To recap, here are the best music composition software to try this year:

  1. Hookpad — best of the best
  2. Sibelius — best free plan
  3. Noteflight — best for online music composition
  4. Notion 6 — best for professionals
  5. MuseScore — best for beginners
  6. Dorico Pro — best for multiple instruments
  7. Forte Notation — best for live recording

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