All in One Notation Workstation? Advice Please

Hi All.

I am after some advice for a friend of mine who is a classical composer.

Having spent the morning with my gear, he has decided that his upright piano is great but fancies getting some tech going on.

He composers his pieces with pencil and paper - writing notation.

He has used Sibelius and has a laptop that could be integrated but asked me this question:

“Is there an all in one workstation type thing that contains a range of great sounds that you can write notation on and also incorporate with Sibelius?”

I have no idea. I’ve looked at some of the things out there but it’s an area that is completely foreign to me.

Does anyone have any experience with this kind of thing that can give me some pointers to pass on?

Thanks in advance.


I think most people would do this by having a really nice MIDI keyboard hooked up to a laptop running something like Cubase, with orchestral libraries installed (or whatever other sounds he likes). Requires a good computer of course, and learning the software.

I’d probably try and figure what he wants to do that can’t be accomplished in his current setup, and that would inform which software/hardware accoutrements would be suitable. It’s possible that a hardware workstation would be enjoyable, but the sequencers won’t integrate elegantly with notation.

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I don’t have an all-in-one hardware solution to suggest but it should be noted (ha!) that Logic is able to generate notation. I find it convenient. If it’s good enough for Ryuichi Sakamoto, I tell myself it’s probably good enough for me.

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I don’t know much about it but Steinberg also make Dorico as well as Cubase:

Not sure how well it integrates with Cubase or whether you’d even need both of them


The Yamaha CVP series of keyboards display sequences in notation format, are multi-timbral and have a wide range of great sounds, but you are talking about buying something the size of an upright piano.

I don’t understand this, if he already uses Sibelius, why does he want another notation software ? Or maybe am I misunderstanding something and when he talks about an “all in one workstation”, he talks about a DAW ?

If he wants a DAW with the possibility to write classical music notation, the better option would be Studio One. The Score Editor in Studio One is the better integrated classical notation thing in all the DAWs I’ve tried.

If he wants a classical notation software like Sibelius but that works more like a DAW, Dorico would be the better option. It’s really the best of both worlds to work with classical notation with a DAW-like workflow.

If he wants something more like writing on a sheet of paper, Staffpad with the Apple pencil would be the better option. It takes time to get used to it, but once you know how your writing is recognised by the algorithm, it’s really fast. And the standard sounds in Staffpad are amazingly great.

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I believe there is a way to import midi files into Sibelius so any software that can export SMF should work? I would think this could the lowest learning curve for someone familiar with Sibelius.

I think the challenge here is that a piano roll is an exact sequencer notation, and staff notation leaves a lot up to the performer. As a result, you want a notation editor such as Sibelius to create scores for musicians.

The best approximation of an MPC or Fantom for the Classical world might be a nice 88-key digital piano or controller keyboard and an M1 MacBook Air.

It may also be worth talking to a Yamaha dealer, as Yamaha has one foot very firmly planted in the Western Classical world, unlike Korg and Roland who almost exclusively produce electronic or hybrid instruments. (Some googling suggests that Yamaha/Steinberg Dorico, linked above by @deadfly may be more feature rich than Sibelius, but that it doesn’t pair more easily with Yamaha workstations than any other MIDI controller)

I’m a huge fan of StaffPad on the iPad. I also compose with pen and paper and StaffPad has been a game changer for me. I can load a massive orchestral score in seconds with amazing samples by Spitfire and Cinesamples. Can’t do that in a DAW!

That type of composer usually ends up ITB. I saw one extreme example where a classical/film composer showed how she uses one PC for notation and another PC just for playing a massive loads of gigabytes sample library.

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Thanks for all these replies. I knew I could rely on this community to help me help my friend.

I see him this weekend and will show him this thread and discuss it with him.

Your help has been terrific.


The equivalent of MIDI CC, velocity, aftertouch, etc. values in notation software is the articulation markings. Not too many videos showing this in action but here’s one

If your Sibelius using friend does not like the built-in sounds, he can use any 3rd party sample library, synth or whatever with Sibelius, because Sibelius has MIDI output settings.