Looking for ways to learn Finale or Sibelius notation software? Getting familiar with the software and finding ways to get your questions answered are important considerations. Here are some of the options I have found helpful to learn both programs.

Instructional Videos: both Finale 2008 and Sibelius 5 come with video tutorials. Simply launch the software and from the Help menu choose videos. These videos are short tutorials designed to give you some familiarity with specific areas of the program such as note entry, page layout and more. Finale refers to them as QuickStart Videos and Sibelius calls them Tutorial Videos. I recommend watching these videos with the software running. After viewing a technique in a video, press the pause button and then try the steps in Finale or Sibelius

Finale has an especially helpful video called the visual index. Here, you view a graphic of a variety of music notation samples and when you click on something and the appropriate instructional video launches.

Ask Video (www.askvideo.com) has a series of video tutorials on many music programs including Sibelius music notation software.

Reference guide: Both programs have a built-in comprehensive reference guide. Select it from the help menu and it loads in Acrobat Reader. You can click on the index or search for specific information. Both guides offer lots of screen shots and step-by-step instructions. The reference guide is the first place I go when I want the steps for a specific item. For example, if you want to find out how to create a grace note, the fastest way is to search the reference manual.

Website and Voice: Both Finale and Sibelius offer extensive help via their websites. I recommend going to the website if you can’t find the answer using the reference or the tutorial videos. The websites will also mention known problems or bugs with the program. You can search the database of questions and answers. For Sibelius go to www.sibelius.com and click on Help Center. For Finale, go to www.finalemusic.com and click on support and the select Knowledge Base. If you can’t find the answer you are looking for, you can post a question. There is also a third party Finale forum at www.finaleforum.com. If these options don’t get the question answered, then you can call voice support. If you take this step, be sure to have your computer on and the software up and running so you can test out the answers from tech support while on the phone.

Books: There are several books on Finale and Sibelius from various publishers. Books can be helpful when learning software as they typically include more information than videos. The problem with books is they aren’t always up to date with the current version of the software. Hal Leonard, Berklee Press, Thompson and other publishers produce books including Finale Power!, The Finale Primer, Finale an Easy Guide to Music Notation, Sibelius a Comprehensive Guide and others.

Courses (online and classroom): You can take complete courses on Finale and Sibelius at institutions and online. There are 12-week courses on both Finale and Sibelius at www.berkleemusic.com and many classroom courses at a variety of institutions. A good resource for summer workshops in music technology and music notation is available at www.ti-me.org/summer. Also, check the Finale and Sibelius websites for listings of workshops and courses.