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When you’ve been playing an instrument long enough, there comes a time when you will want to compose a theme of your own. Be it a personal twist on Flight of the Bumblebee, a groovy adaptation of Mary Had a Little Lamb, or just that soundbite that’s been in your head for the past twenty years.

After jamming, we reach the theoretical side of this coin: jotting it down. For yourself, and, if it’s good enough, to share with fellow musicians.

Have you got a piece of paper ready? Please, put it back in the printer, where it belongs. We’ll do it right the first time around – digitally. Not because it’s faster, because it isn’t, but because it’s easier to read. And, quite frankly, with the tools that are available, it doesn’t hurt to make it look half-decent.

The following online tools are ranked according to difficulty – and that doesn’t just mean the interface, but also what you can achieve with them. Of course, if you intend to compose your life’s masterpiece, you don’t do it on the online napkin.

Printing – BlankSheetMusic

So you really like the idea of pen and paper, do you? Fine, but at least don’t take out a ruler to draw the bars. This website allows you to create a piece of blank free sheet music to print. Before you print, you can choose the clefs and time signature.


free sheet music to print

With BlankSheetMusic, you can print the right kind of sheets – piano, or guitar – but that’s pretty much all there is.

Drag ‘n Drop – SheetMusicEditor

SheetMusicEditor is one step up in musical notation tools. This time, you can drag and drop your clefs, time signatures and notes onto the sheet. Very simple, and very intuitive.

free sheet music

Of course, because you have to manually drag everything into the right place, with no ‘magnet’ mechanism, your sheets won’t have that top-notch look. The alignment of your notes will be slightly off, and some of your other notations might look sloppy.

This is a great tool to jot down simple tunes and put them up to printing standards, fast. It is not advised to use with very complicated compositions.

Online Editor – Noteflight

Noteflight is the online cherry on the musical notation pie. It’s the very best you’ll be able to find online. Quite frankly, it even tops most offline applications, save one – but that’s for another article.

Noteflight allows you to compose the most complicated songs. A proper demonstration being above my musical abilities – the screenshot below shows the Turkish March by Mozart.

write and print free sheet music

Noteflight uses a very simple notation system, albeit rather slow. Just click on the music sheet, and drop a note in the right spot. You can highlight dropped notes, add additional notations and change timing, or even drag and drop to correct. Spacing between notes is adjusted automatically, and you are spared from musical paradoxes with automatic corrections and the appending of rests. With different instruments and MIDI playback, there is very little you can’t do with Noteflight.

printable piano sheet music

Your compositions, stored on your account, can be made public. This leads us to the other side of Noteflight. You can browse literally thousands of public musical scores. Try, rate and comment on new compositions, or find sheet music for songs you already know.

There are a lot of reasons why you shouldn’t bother with offline applications anymore. The reason you should is because they offer yet another spin on musical notation – and can be faster. Continue checking MakeUseOf for our review of the best, fastest and cross-platform musical notation application!  In the meantime, if you have any favourite tools of your own, be sure to let us know about them in the comments.

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  1. Khniya
    December 23, 2015 at 1:08 am

    This great stuff

  2. Anonymous
    March 24, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    How am I going to do Nyan Cat's theme?
    (Hint: I haven't downloaded it yet)

  3. cristian
    January 8, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    It is quite difficult to edit ,takes a lot of time.Sorry,do not like it.Too complicated.

  4. Srivatsan Venkatesh
    March 10, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    My only issue with Noteflight is doing pickup notes, it doesn't handle them the way the sheet music shows. I'm trying to turn written work into sheet music on a program so I can listen to it.

  5. Chronic Alibi
    January 27, 2010 at 3:50 am

    I prefer Guitar Pro to Noteflight because it's faster, there's a Realistic Sound Engine, and even drum notation.

  6. WillF
    December 29, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    The SheetMusicEditor (#2) loses all credibility with the backwards noteheads, but Noteflight blows me away!

  7. Ken
    December 29, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Noteflight looks quite sophisticated, actually (I'm surprised something of this caliber is available for free, as a web app).

    However, "Noteflight allows you to compose the most complicated songs" is only true if, by "most complicated", you are limited to pre-20th century music.

    Three things I look for in a music notation app:

    1. Can it do meter changes? If not, it's worthless for any music after around 1910. Noteflight can.

    2. Can it do tuplets? Noteflight can do some, and the documentation notes that a future release will allow better tuplet support.

    3. Does it do microtones? Well, almost no music notation software does that - Finale (for $599) can, sort of. But there is a new notation called "Sagittal" that allows just about any microtonal music to be written. I know of no software that does that yet - but in the 21st century it may be crucial.

    • Simon Slangen
      December 29, 2009 at 12:56 pm

      While we're looking at free applications, Scala supports microtonal notations, but misses a lot of other features that Noteflight offers.

      It's hard to find good musical notation software for free - as you mentioned, most suites cost several hundreds of dollars. I realise that Noteflight is an exception, even for freeware in general, and it occasioned me to write this article. It's sad, because the first two 'solutions' hardly reach the same caliber as Noteflight does.

  8. Larry B.
    December 29, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Sibelius is, by far, the best. Not free, though. It's incredibly fast and I've been using for about 7 years now... there's nothing I can't do with it.