Music Composition Software for the Mac

macOS and Mac Apps
This topic may have come up before, but I am new to the AppleVis site and have not had ample time to browse the forums section. I am a music teacher and have a masters degree in music. I would like to know if there is any software that is accessible with VoiceOver for music composition on the Mac. I realize that it is possible to record tracks in GarageBand, but I am talking about something that will allow me to print out music for my sighted students to read. I have used Sibelius software on Windows XP, and I know I can install windows on the mac with VMWare Fusion, but I would like to avoid installing windows if possible.



Submitted by Scottsdale on Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hi Heather, To the best of my knowledge, you're out of luck. I took Sibelius 6 for a spin with VoiceOver some months ago, found that the menu system and a fair few of the configuration dialogs were usable, but there were too many gaps in accessibility to be productive really. I've had some contact with Avid about it, found them to be quite interested in modified stave notation, but wouldn't count on changes specifically aimed at improving accessibility happening any time soon. For now, I reckon you're stuck in Windows where the third party scripts can do most of the heavy lifting to get things going. If you have the opportunity , you might want to give Sib 7 a shot with VO just in case anything has changed. There's definitely room for a crusade here, but considering how little I use sheet music for my current gigs I'm probably not the chap for the job. Would love to be told that my knowledge is out of date, so drop me a line if you find a solution that doesn't involve Windows.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Saturday, April 7, 2012

In reply to by Scottsdale

yeah it's a shame as I love arranging music and I have a good arrangement for girls choir for o come Emanuel in my head and I cannot get it down on paper and I don't want to run my windows machine just to do this especially since I don't use jaws anymore. Thoughts as well?

So, this conversation's long-dead, but I felt the need to revive it. I think it's tragic (and unacceptable) that there's such a lack of accessible music notation software. Being blind offers absolutely no hindrance to composing music, save for the impediment presented by a lack of accessible scorewriting suites. To me, that means that this should be one of the most avid demands of the blind community - there's no reason that we shouldn't have access to functional notation software. I say "functional," but what I mean is "equally functional." I currently use Lime Aloud from DancingDots...and don't get me wrong - I love it. At least it allows me to input and edit a score and offers detailed information on the part of the score I'm working with. It's awesome to be able to print off a score and hand it to sighted musicians and hear them play/sing it. But I always need a bit of sighted help to make sure that the final formatting is alright because Lime's program isn't sophisticated enough to automatically determine spacing and keep staves, notes, and lyrics from overlapping one another. It's issues like this that hold Lime Aloud back from being "equally accessible." I have no experience with Sibelius (I didn't know it was even the least bit accessible) so anyone who can offer any recommendations (or words of warning) on that front would be appreciated. But at any rate, while I'm very grateful for what Lime Aloud lets me do, the fact remains that it's an underpowered cousin of the more feature-packed screen readers, which are totally inaccessible...and that doesn't seem okay to me. I know this isn't strictly Mac-related, but this seemed like a good place to start the conversation. So if anybody feels as strongly about this as I do, by all means chime in!

Submitted by Joseph on Sunday, February 15, 2015

I'm also about 2 years late to the party, but I agree with you on this front. I do wish that the mac had some accessible music notation softwear for the blind composers among us blind folks who find this sort of thing enjoyable.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Sunday, February 15, 2015

There's lilly pond, but I lost patience with it as I am not good at programing. You write the notes with some variables and it prints out professionally looking pdfs. I wrote an orchestra piece for my class with it.

Submitted by Joseph Westhouse on Sunday, February 15, 2015

Ironically, in spite of my rant earlier in this topic, I've since moved to using Lilypond - and personally, I love it. The scores, from what I've been told, are very attractive, and the only time thus far I've had any sort of formatting issue was in some choral music where I split one of the parts into multiple parts, and the choir director commented that it was confusing because the beams on the parts weren't traveling the right direction. And that's just because I split the parts in a kind of roundabout way, rather than the way you're supposed to.

Anyway, all that is to say, it's a great program for engraving nice-looking scores, and for outputting midi files of your project. It does have its shortcomings, though. The text-based interface, while making it very blind-user friendly, also presents a significant learning curve. And I don't think it'd be a good option for the beginning composer, just because it's a lot easier to drag notes around on a staff than to understand the score well enough to know how it needs to be laid out and then type all of that using the text, and then track down any mistakes you might have made. The only other minor nuisance, for me, is the fact that to hear the changes I've just made, I have to save the file, compile it, and then listen to the midi and skip ahead to the end, whereas more graphical score writing programs might have an option to play the score from within the program. But honestly, on a whole, I love it. Definitely not for everyone, but worth checking out if you find yourself in the same boat I did.

Submitted by jrjolley (not verified) on Monday, February 16, 2015

In reply to by Joseph Westhouse

It's a good program. Has come a long way over the years as well. I use it regularly.

Submitted by Eric Dee on Tuesday, February 17, 2015

New to this forum, and music study. It was recommended to me to purchase the i Real Pro app for my current course of study at a Florida music school. Thousands of music compositions, tutorials, samples et al etc. Unfortunately, the App does not "read" the charts/sheet(s) for any composition. Anyone know if there is any app for iPhone 5S+ that "reads" music sheets? If so, what/where? Kind of "challenging" to "follow along" and sight read music, you know...E7 dominate with a 1/4 rest then a G7 etc. Help?! (Hard to play bass and "read" bumps...Thanks in advance.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I comit all of my choral music to memmory, I did the same for years with my orchestra music and plan to keep doing it for my conducting as well.

Submitted by Joseph on Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I do the same, but we're talking about composing, not necessarrally reading.

Submitted by Sean Terry on Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Hi all, I have a lot of music in my mind that I wish I could composed using a keyboard or piano, but unfortunately my playing the skills are not as adept as the way I play it with my mouth if you will. Is it possible for me to try to compose the music that I make with my mouth using this notation style software? Thanks a lot! if y'all would like, I can try to make a recording of what I do with my mouth so you can kind of understand where I'm coming from. Also, I forgot to mention this earlier but, is there any software that would take sound that you make and converted into notes?

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Tuesday, February 17, 2015

No. you write the text out like for example {c d e f } {e d c2} I think that's how the code goes. have not touched it since last year.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Its not only free, but open source so if you iknow the code it's written in you can tweek it to fix bugs.

Submitted by Sean Terry on Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Hi, is this app in the app store, or do I need to get it somewhere else?

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Look up lilypond. it will never be in the app store because of the nature of the beast. Don't always assume that every app is in the app store. Osx is not ios.

Submitted by Joseph Westhouse on Tuesday, February 17, 2015

If you go to, you can download the program from there. Like I said before, just be prepared for a learning curve, especially if you've never used any sort of scripting language, as lilypond input files are very similar to a programming language in some respects. I'm happy to offer any help that I can - I've gotten a lot of great mileage out of this program. I'll warn you that when it starts to get really challenging is in polyphonic staves - piano parts, or the like.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Yeah. the piece I'm arranging now is literally 2 parts, SS, S2S2, AA and A2A2 plus a complex piano part. I stopped coding it as I got frustrated witht he whole thing. I might consider going back to it. I also took a look at music xml but that code is harder then Lily pond. Lol! Hehahahahahaha.

Submitted by Joseph on Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I think some awesome person should make an applevis podcast about this app. That could be really fun.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Tuesday, February 17, 2015

it's hard to make a podcast about this app as all you have to do is learn the code by reading the manual. Also like one of the posters said it's good and easyuntil you get to vocal and orchestral scores. I had to write a piano reduction of Britain's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. Not fun, but I got an A in it.

Submitted by Joseph on Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ah. Okay. That kinda makes sence.

Submitted by Devin Prater on Sunday, February 22, 2015

Well, if anyone can give a sort of manual to the code for a beginner, and a person that usually plays by ear, then that'd be good. The original lilypond manual just goes too fast for me.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Sunday, February 22, 2015

I also play by ear but whawt i did was I just grabbed th big.html and practiced evryting on my own stuff. managed to sort of code somethingn readable for my orchestra class I was taking.

Submitted by Joseph Westhouse on Monday, February 23, 2015

I might be able to whip up a quickstart guide to Lilypond code for beginners, and post it on here - then that'd be a good thread where people could ask questions, too. Fair warning, though...if I get around to something like that, it's not going to be in the immediate future. But I'll definitely think about it if I have the time at some point.

On a side note, someone mentioned that it's easy until you get to orchestral and vocal scores... Orchestral and vocal scores (at least a capella vocals) never gave me too much trouble, because most of those are a single voice per staff, with the occasional split part. It's only when the orchestral or vocal score involves a piano part, or other polyphonic instrument, that it starts to make my head hurt. That said, I've been able to manage it - but I have to be sitting in front of a piano so that I can play out the part over and over again, and really break it down in my head bit by bit; that's how I have to score complex parts like that, personally.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Monday, February 23, 2015

It was me who said that. No No for me it's losing the line I'm on as I have to think vertically to make sure things ine up rhythmically and coding it right. I get a whole bunch of errors, or did. when I would do bengimen Britain's Young Person's guide to orchestra.

the 8 part women's arangement I'm working has a complex piano part with sextuplets when the choir rests. I don't give the pianist mercy. it will be hard as hades to code but I'm sure I can do it. I might start learningn lily pond again actually so I can finish this.