My students just finished their week of our Songwriting Workshop and we used Finale Notepad 2012 (free) to make lead sheets. While this is a very helpful tool, it has many limitations, so I wanted to outline the other Finale products that are available for purchase which do not have as many limitations:
PrintMusic® is designed for educators, worship directors, performing musicians, composers and arrangers who don’t require the advanced features in Finale. PrintMusic is easy to use and fun to learn. You can create sheet music up to 24 staves and input your music with a midi keyboard. This is a remarkable product for the money! If I could recommend any of the Finale products (but had to stay away from the costly full Finale which is only necessary if you are practically a publisher), I would recommend this one! Price is about $119
Finale SongWriter® is designed specifically for songwriters. It is a fast, easy way to create and print professional-quality sheet music. Import and export MIDI files, enter music with your mouse, computer keyboard or MIDI device to create music with up to 8 staves for $49.95. There are some limitations that would keep me from recommending this for piano students (you can’t “hyperscribe” which helps you play the notes in with your keyboard.)
The full version of Finale is the ultimate music notation program giving you complete control over every aspect of the printed page while providing full MIDI capabilities and unparalleled audio output. At $600/$350*, Finale provides unmatched power and flexibility (*Academic and Theological pricing), but is a little too much power for anything a piano student would need.
See a side by side comparison of all of these products.