How to Create Sheet Music

Music Notation Software & Engraving

The first step is to get the music floating around in your head down on paper or digital format. You can either get a music notation program and input the music yourself, or write it out by hand and hire a professional to engrave it for you.

Music Notation Software

Music notation software is a program that enables you to create and print sheet music through the process of inputing notes on a musical staff using your mouse and keyboard. Inputting notes using a MIDI keyboard or scanning existing sheet music is also possible.

Finale and Sibelius

Finale and Sibelius are the two industry standards of music notation programs. Professionals will use one or the other. Which program you choose is really up to your personal preference. Both are excellent programs which cost around $600, and are available for both Windows and Macintosh. There are cheaper versions of each with less features that are available, with Finale having a lot more to choose from. Try not to go below $100 or you’ll start risking not having the features that you’ll need to notate and publish your music. If you’re composing full orchestral scores then you’ll need a full professional version. If you’re composing something small like just a piano with vocals, then using a cheaper variation will be enough just as long as you don’t get too elaborate. Discounts on the professional versions are available, but are only available to students and educators. Once the music is complete you can print it out on paper or save it as a PDF file.


Lilypond is a text based notation program, which means you type in a code to produce your music instead of clicking on images. It’s more similar to a programming language like HTML than a traditional graphical score editing software like Finale or Sibelius. It’s available for Windows, Mac, and Ubuntu Linux as a free download on their website.

Save as a PDF

Once your music score is complete you will need to save it as a PDF file. You need your sheet music in digital format so that you can publish and sell it online. For Windows users you will need some sort of PDF Printing software, so that you can save your music notation file as a PDF. Macintosh users just need to click “Print”, click on “PDF” on the bottom left, then click “Save as PDF”, then click “Save”. Ubuntu Linux users just need to click “Print”, click on “Print to File” at the top, then click “Print”.

PDF Viewer/Editor

Now that your sheet music is saved as a PDF file you’ll need a PDF viewer in order to view it. Windows users will need to download a Free program called Adobe Reader. There are fancier programs out there that allow you to convert, combine, and edit PDF files. One of them is called Nitro Pro.


Engraving is taking hand-written music, inputting it into the computer, and printing it out so that it can be more easily read by musicians. If you don’t want to buy a music notation program and input the notes yourself, you can write your music out by hand and hire a professional to engrave it for you. A few companies that offer this service are: Broschinsky Music, Note Smith Music, and DI Music. Prices will vary depending on how many pages the song is and also how many instruments there are. Once complete they can send it to you in PDF format.