Computer and Software Recommendations
A reliable computer equipped with certain software programs is essential to a student's success at the School of Music. Students regularly use music notation software in completing assignments in music theory, technology, and composition courses. Word processing software is a necessary tool for courses offered both in the School of Music and in the other departments of Memorial University. Students also sometimes choose to bring their laptops to classes or lessons so they can take notes or make recordings.
This guide will help you understand which devices and software you will need to have prior to beginning in your first semester of study.
Here are some things to consider when upgrading your current device or buying a new device:
- Brand – We recommend using a laptop by a reputable brand such as Apple, Microsoft, Dell, ASUS, Toshiba, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung.
- Operating system – There are two major operating systems in general use, Windows 10 and macOS. Windows can run on almost all laptops, including those made by Apple. Devices that run Windows come in a variety of price points. MacOS can only legally be run on Apple hardware. You will see fewer options at fewer price points when researching devices that run macOS. The choice of Windows or macOS is typically a personal preference, and we recommend using whichever operating system you are most familiar with.
- RAM – Your laptop should have at least 8GB of RAM. If you can upgrade to more RAM, it is worth it. Some audio programs recommend 16GB of RAM or more.
- Processor – The minimum speed should be a 2Ghz dual core processor (Intel or AMD). Intel i3, i5, and i7 processors are highly recommended. Note that i5 and i7 processors come in both dual core and quad core varieties and in several “generations," so it is important to check the full specifications when comparing different machines and prices. Quad core processors work faster than dual core processors in many software applications, and newer generation processors work faster and more efficiently than older generation processors. Avoid computers with Atom or Celeron processors. Intel’s current processors are generation 10, so a laptops with generation 8, 9, or 10 processors will give you the greatest power and efficiency.
- Hard Drive – There are three primary varieties of hard drives, and their specifications determine cost, performance, and capacity. The slowest hard drives use mechanical platters. They are inexpensive with large storage capacity. They generally come in two speeds – 5400rpm and 7200rpm. The fastest hard drives are solid state drives (SSD). SSDs don’t use moving parts, so they tend to be more reliable and durable than platter hard drives. While SSDs can improve the performance of your computer significantly, they are much more expensive and have much smaller storage capacity. The third type of hard drives are hybrid drives, which combine the speed of an SSD with the storage capacity of a platter drive. Given the choice, we recommend a 500GB-7200rpm hard drive over a 1000GB-5400rpm hard drive. A 250GB SSD is a fine option, though you may need to consider additional external storage, such as a portable USB hard drive.
Tablets come in two varieties – those that run desktop operating systems and those that don’t. Windows 10 tablets such as Microsoft Surface Pro run the full version of Windows and work similarly to laptops. There are significant performance gains to be had with Windows tablets that have Intel i3, i5, or i7 processors. On the other hand, iPads (including Pro) and Android tablets do not run desktop operating systems and cannot run full applications (i.e. Finale).
We recommend you buy USB flash drives to back up and transfer important files. A 4GB flash drive by Lexar, Sandisk, Verbatim, or Kingston can be purchased for under $10. Since flash drives are small and easy to lose, we do not recommend using them as your sole storage device.
An external hard drive will allow you to save large projects in a place other than your laptop. This will free up space on your device, which will lead to better performance.
Music Notation Software
Finale, from MakeMusic (Academic price is $99.99 USD)
You can find minimum system requirements for Finale here. You can download a trial version of Finale if you wish to see if your current laptop is up to the task. (Playback will place the biggest demand on your computer.)
Audio Editing Software
Word Processing/Presentation/Organizing Software
MUN students can download Microsoft Office for free. You will need your MUN e-mail address and password to log in.