Software Review: Forte 6 Premium Music Notation Software

Forte Premium 6 music notation software is the answer for musicians seeking an affordable and powerful notation product.

FORTE 6 3 Options


Note: I received a copy of Forte Premium 6 for free and I have been hired to write a review.  That said, I am presenting my honest appraisal of the product, having used another leading music notation software for 20 years to create orchestra scores, choral scores, and rhythm charts.


The first thing that caught my eye about Forte was the price: $229 for the premium product.  Other leading music notation software costs more than twice that much (1, 2).

The second thing I noticed was the simple layout.  The toolbars were easy to read and I was able to start writing music fairly quickly.

Forte Premium 6 Music Notation Software Toolbar

Forte offers several modes of note entry.  I used two of them:

Click note-by-note works faster than Finale because the cursor “snaps” to the next beat subdivision and rests place themselves, allowing you to enter notes anywhere in the measure and not worry about parsing out the rests.  I found myself using this method most of the time.

Click Note-By-Note - Forte Premium 6

Insert using the computer keyboard is fairly fast once you have set the parameters for how far above or below the staff the cursor can go.  I used this method some of the time and became fairly effective with it in a short amount of time.

Computer Keyboard Note Entry Method - Forte Premium 6

I was not able to test the Midi input via keyboard at this time.

The various Views were unique and very useful.  I particularly like the Screen view, which fits the staves to the size of your monitor.

Screen View - Forte Premium 6

Perhaps my favorite feature is the ability to use the cursor to click on and edit anything in the score, without first selecting a particular category from the Input Palette.  I could click on names of tracks, dynamics, text blocks, or anything else and immediately edit those objects.

I tested the XML export feature and exported my score to another program successfully without losing any notation.

Mac users will have to watch from the sidelines at this point, seeing as Forte is only available on PC. Advanced composers may encounter a few complexities editing some layout details (cross-staff notation), a few language bugs (“Componist” instead of “Composer”, “Zurück” instead of “Back”), and one or two kinks that need to be worked out (Every time I began inputing music using the Click note-by-note method the cursor would snap back to the beginning of the piece, which is annoying when you are 50 measures away).

The bottom line is that Forte Premium 6 Music Notation Software is a solid product and can offer you more bang for the buck than any other music notation software in it’s price range.

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Guest Worship Artist Matthew Smith and Indelible Grace

On September 13 and 14 Matthew Smith and Indelible Grace will be at Covenant Life Church leading us in worship.

Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith

Here is his bio from his website:

Matthew Smith is a Nashville-based singer-songwriter who writes brand new music to centuries-old hymn texts.  He is a founding member of the Indelible Grace community, whose work has drawn acclaim across denominational lines and is used in churches around the world.  Born out of a college ministry, the reimagined hymns have found wide acceptance both among college students and the church at large, joining people who desire to honor tradition with those who want a modern musical approach.  His latest album is Hiding Place.

On Saturday, September 13 Matthew will lead a free, one-hour worship seminar from 5-6 pm, and then Indelible Grace will join Matthew for a Night of Reimagined hymns from 7-8:30 pm.  A love offering will be taken during the concert, but admission is free.  Sunday, September 14, Matthew Smith and Indelible Grace will participate in the Worship services at 9 and 11:15.

His music has a bluesy, earthy feel, matching his rich baritone voice well.  I particularly enjoy the Hammond B-3 strains and tube-y hollow-body guitar on his Communion Hymn: Lord Jesus, Comfort Me.

At the seminar Matthew will share his vision for re-imagining old hymn texts.  Worship leaders, songwriters, and musicians are welcome to attend, as well as any who want to learn more about what Matthew is doing.

For more information, go to the event Facebook page.  For more information on Indelible Grace, visit their website igracemusic.com.  I hope to see you there!

Are You a Needy Person?

Most of us know at least one person who is “needy.” Needy people

  • Take more than they give
  • Base their self-image on the opinions of others
  • Take advantage of friendships
  • Do not have appropriate emotional and personal boundaries

Truly needy people often cannot recognize their own behavior for what it is.

Every one of us, however, is a “needy” person spiritually.  

Spiritually we all

  • Are completely reliant on Christ for salvation
  • Are completely dependent on Christ to provide for us
  • Are lost without Christ’s guidance throughout life
  • Are ultimately unfulfilled and defeated without Christ

I consistently have to remind myself that I need God. Recently a new worship song on the scene has been helping me to remember that I need Christ every day.

All the People Said Amen

Lord, I Need You, recorded on All the People Said Amen by Matt Maher and written by Christy Nockels, Daniel Carson, Jesse Reeves, Kristian Stanfill, and Matt Maher, is reminiscent of the classic hymn I Need Thee Every Hour (a favorite of mine), yet remains completely original, borrowing only a few lines from the hymn.

Here are the lyrics:

Lord, I come, I confess
bowing here I find my rest.
Without You I fall apart;
You’re the one that guides my heart.

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You,
ev’ry hour I need You.
My one defense, my righteousness,
Oh, God, how I need You.

Where sin runs deep, Your grace is more;
where grace is found is where You are.
Where You are, Lord, I am free;
holiness is Christ in me.

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You,
ev’ry hour I need You.
My one defense, my righteousness,
Oh, God, how I need You.

So teach my song to rise to You
when temptation comes my way;
when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You.
Jesus, You’re my hope and stay.

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You,
ev’ry hour I need You.
My one defense, my righteousness,
Oh, God, how I need You.

You can buy the recording here.

In recent weeks this song has given me a lot of encouragement.  The words, “My one defense, my righteousness,” and “Jesus, you’re my hope and stay,” have been a rallying cry for me.

A few items are of particular interest to me as a musician, worship leader, and composer:

  1. The melody remains low for the first verse , the first chorus, and half of the second verse. The melody rises on the lyrics “Where you are,” highlighting the distance between us and Christ and how Christ lifts us up.
  2. The bridge, with the lyrics “So teach my song,” beautifully paints a picture of how we stumble through temptation and difficulty. The meter throughout the song is 4/4, but here the meter alternates between 3/4 and 4/4, giving the music a halting cadence.
  3. “Where grace is found is where you are” is terrible grammar, but the lyrics perfectly communicate that Christ is the source of all grace. If you experience grace, you are experiencing God.
  4. The melody spans a 12th, making the song difficult to place vocally and sing, but I am certain this song will be sung by many congregations in spite of that because of the incredible composition that it is.

This song is a beautiful reminder of our need for Christ.

What songs remind you of your need for Christ?

Music Preference in Worship: Name It and Claim It

Recently I wrote a post on musical style and the response was astounding. In almost two years of blogging that post received the most hits. Why is that? Why is style such a hot topic in worship?

The answer is an often-reviled word: preference. 

The word “preference” is often spat out rather than spoken. In arguments “their” preferences are pitted against “my” preferences, “they” get preferential treatment, and so on and so forth.

Preference is getting a bad rap. The truth is, we all have preferences, and that is a God-given gift.

Think about it. If Adam had not had preferences, how would he have named all of the animals?

God: “Adam, go name the animals.”

Adam: “Nah. I want to lay out and catch some rays. You go name the animals. I don’t care.”

Really? Take a moment and name all of the animals you can remember. Listen to the incredible diversity of sounds coming from the different names. Listen to how each name describes the animal owning that name.

Then God created Eve and Adam immediately gave her a name, as he had done for every other creature on earth.

Adam cared, and he had preferences from the beginning. You and I also have preferences.

Here are some of mine:

  • I prefer to live to eat rather than eat to live.
  • I prefer to stay up late.
  • I prefer contemporary and modern art over representational art.
  • I prefer Betthoven and Prokofiev over Bach and Mozart.
  • I prefer steak that is medium to medium rare.
  • I prefer congregational songs with ranges from c-d1.
  • I prefer U2, Coldplay, and Norah Jones.
  • I prefer worship services brimming with art, media, music, and stories.

Does this mean I limit myself to these preferences? Absolutely not. I limit my eating, try to get to bed at a reasonable time, listen to many styles of music, eat meat as long as it isn’t crawling off my plate, and enjoy leading worship and visiting churches even when very little art is present in worship

What are your preferences?

Every human being has preferences, and the sooner we become comfortable with our preferences the sooner we can move on to more meaningful discussions.

Discussions such as:

  • Who has God called us to be as people and as a church?
  • What is my role in this church?
  • What is my role in the world?
  • How can I reach the next generation?
  • How can I love the older generations?
  • What can I set aside in deference to my younger or older brother or sister in Christ?

The evil one likes to take the very things God has given us for our good and turn them against us. Instead of letting the evil one get the best of us, let’s reclaim preference for the beautiful description of individuality God meant it to be. Let’s not use preference as a weapon.

List some of your preferences below. Keep the language factual and not argumentative.

How to Evaluate Worship Songs, Part 2

Thousands of songs are being written every week, and choosing which ones to introduce to your congregation is like the cliché: searching for a needle in a haystack.

Choosing the right songs usually focuses on the merits of the song itself, as we discussed in a previous post. The individual merits of a song, however, are not enough to deem a song appropriate for your congregation.

After evaluating songs for Quality we must also evaluate them for Fit. 

What does Fit mean?

Think of this analogy. When we hire a new employee we not only look for their professional qualifications and recommendations but also their fit with the existing staff. Does the potential employee complement the skills of the existing staff? Is he aligned with the mission of the organization? Does he add to or detract from staff chemistry?

We must evaluate songs in the same way.

Here are 5 things to consider when evaluating a song for Fit:

  1. Alignment. Does this song promote the current purposes of the church? Just as every staff member and volunteer must be moving in the same direction, every song must support the same mission.
  2. Chemistry. Does this song meet a specific need or address a particular weakness in the current repertoire? Types of needs could be tempo, theme, style, instrumentation, and so forth.
  3. Style. Is this song within the stylistic spectrum of the church? Every church has a stylistic fingerprint, and each song should reinforce the fingerprint.
  4. Difficulty. Is this song at an appropriate difficulty level for the worship team? Is the melody learnable for the congregation? Many great quality worship songs are just beyond the ability of a worship team to handle. Israel Houghton’s band will be able to do more difficult music than most bands, for instance.
  5. Stretch. Is this song intended to stretch the congregation or worship team in some way? While numbers 1-4 focus on a song’s fit within the current musical repertoire of a church, some songs should stretch those normal boundaries in appropriate and thoughtful ways. NOTE: “Stretch” songs should be few and far between.

What other criteria do you use when evaluating a song for Fit?

How to Evaluate Worship Songs, Part 1

Evaluating new worship songs for congregational singing is a never ending job.  Every day more great songs and lots of mediocre ones are being written, and worship leaders have to sort through them all.

My process of looking for new congregational songs contains two simultaneous processes.  For me to present a song to our senior pastor for consideration it has to pass muster on a Quality Evaluation and a Fit Evaluation.

Quality Evaluation is examining the craft of a song from the lyrics to the harmonies.  Fit Evaluation is deciding whether or not a song is appropriate for our particular church, given our history, culture, background, and so forth.

For this post let’s take a look at the Quality Evaluation.  I will address the Fit Evaluation in a following post.

In a Quality Evaluation I look for five things:

  1. Great Lyrics. Theologically sound and emotionally gripping. Grammatically clear.  There is some give and take in quality between elements of a song, but certain things, such as the theology of the lyrics, must never be compromised.
  2. Great Melody. Natural phrasing, reasonable range, fits the text well.
  3. Great Harmony. The harmony does not need to be complex; it simply needs to take us somewhere. The harmony needs to be married well with the text, just like the melody.
  4. Great Rhythm. What is the overriding rhythm to this song? Does it stick in your head and your gut? Does it match the mood of the text?
  5. Great Hook. A memorable song has a great musical gesture, whether that gesture is in the introduction, the melody, or some instrumental interlude somewhere in the song.  Some songs can survive without a great hook if all the other elements are excellent.

Once a song passes muster on these five points you can then do a Fit Evaluation.  We will take a look at that process in a later post.

Browse through your songlist (if you are a worship leader) and see how the songs measure up in these five areas.  If you are comfortable with it, please share the results and your action plan with us.

Holier Than Thou: Repetitive Songs Versus Wordy Hymns

Churches often fight over music styles. Which is best: experiential worship focused on personalized and often repetitive songs, or cognitively centered worship centered on content rich new and time-tested hymns? Who wins? Who is right and who is wrong?

I have dealt with this struggle first hand. From growing up in a Mennonite church that struggled to accept instruments in worship, to leading worship in multi-stylistic churches, the arguments remain generally the same.

Here are the common objections I have heard to simpler, shorter, more personal and experiential worship songs (Breathe; Everlasting God; Come, Now Is the Time to Worship; etc.):

  • They are light on theology and heavy on feelings.
  • They are repetitious (7-11 songs, meaning 7 words repeated 11 times).
  • They have not “stood the test of time.”
  • They are heavy on clichés and devoid of literary excellence.

Here are the common objections I hear to more cognitive and content rich hymns (Great Is Thy Faithfulness; Immortal, Invisible; Praise to the Lord, the Almighty; etc.):

  • They stay in the head and never reach the heart.
  • They are too “wordy.”
  • The language is outdated and inaccessible.
  • The style of music is outdated.

When talking about these subjects I find it helpful to step back and take in the larger view.

What kind of music is mentioned in the Bible, and does God give us any directions about what to sing? What songs have actually stood the test of time, and are the worship arguments of today mirrored anywhere in history?

God, the Bible, and Music

The Bible mentions all types of instruments and voices, short and long songs, theological and personal songs, songs for every mood and event in life, and repetitive and content rich songs.

The first music mentioned in the Bible is instrumental. Jubal was a maker of flutes and stringed instruments, Genesis says.

David and other leaders wrote the largest book in the Bible, the Psalms. This book has both the shortest (Psalm 117) and the longest chapter in the Bible (Psalm 119) and both are profound. The tone of the music ranges from wildly celebrative to subdued, depressed, and raging. Some of the language is lofty and theological, even prophetic. Other psalms are intensely personal prayers. Some psalms contain regular refrains every other line or so.

In the New Testament Paul encourages us to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, making melody in our hearts to the Lord. The word for “hymn” actually denotes music accompanied by stringed instruments. Psalms obviously came from the book of the Bible of the same name, and spiritual songs probably were Scripture songs.

Revelation is full of worship, but most of it is extremely repetitive. The elders and the flying beasts around the throne say one or two phrases over and over throughout eternity without stopping. The great multitude sings a song with a very short text.

Music and the Litmus Test of Time

The mass texts and A Mighty Fortress are great examples of ancient, time-tested music. These pieces of music are heavy in content and theology and have strong, crafted shapes and melodies.

The Hallelujah Chorus is a classic, yet it has very few words repeated many, many times. The theology is simple, ad the text is based on the worship scenes in Revelation.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness and How Great Thou Art have been around less than two centuries, but they are staples of worship because of the beauty and transcendence of their language.

Many more hymns, however, have been lost to time. Isaac Watts wrote 750 hymns; comparatively very few of them are in use today. Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck set every Psalm to music in elegant, complex choral settings hundreds of years ago.

New music has always been suspect. Many renounced the revivalist music that came out in the late 1800s because it was too experiential and light on theology. Yet these hymns brought us many of the testimony hymns we know today, such as Higher Ground and All the Way My Savior Leads Me.

Making Sense of It All

Perhaps you know where I am heading with this conversation. My feelings on the matter can be summed up in this sentence:

Just as the wide diversity of the people whom God has called to be his own demonstrates the rich and varied love of the Savior, so the span of musical styles from pre-Classical to the newest pop song reveals his profound message.

God is no respecter of persons or styles. If a style bothers you, I challenge you to find something positive about that style. If God is able to use you and me, he can definitely use any style of music he chooses.

What style of music is most challenging for you, and why? What positive aspect can you discover in that style?