Dorico 3.5 Update

Today, May 20, 2020, Steinberg is announcing Dorico 3.5. So far they have posted a few videos on their YouTube channel, but at 9:00 am EDT (or 6:00 am if you live on the west coast of North America!) they will unveil the whole thing.

So far the most useful and desired features added seem to be the vast improvement to the VST plug-in playback capabilities. These are truly stunning and should make scores play back much more naturally.

The other is a search field for drop-down and other menus that have too many choices to find the desired one quickly. Now you can search to find what you are looking for. Yes, this is much like the Feature Browser in Band-in-a-Box, but in this case rather than being global, it applies to a single set of options.

If you can, tune in to watch this announcement live. If you have not yet subscribed, go to YouTube and search for “Dorico channel”. If you can’t watch it live, I’m sure the video will be archived there to watch later.

UPDATE

Now that I’ve seen the presentation I’m even more impressed. Wow! They barely got through the MAJOR new features in the one-hour demo with John presenting and Daniel answering questions in the comments section.

I cannot hope to cover even all that they covered in the official announcement so I’ll give you the highlights from my point of view. You should still watch the archived announcement demo on YouTube here.

Guitar

We guitarists really lucked out with this update! For starters, we can add rhythm to TAB parts now, so you don’t have to switch between staves to play. You can show tapping with a “T” and also with dots. The search option I mentioned earlier can help find the guitar options. and it is a “sticky” search so that you keep the options you searched for on the screen to work with them. Alt-8 brings up the search dialog, appropriate to where you are.

Bends play back using pitch bend. Dorico 3.5 automatically creates the playback bend, but you can edit it as well, drawing with the pencil tool for really fancy bends. Double bends also display and play back too. You can use the popover to choose bends, scoops and other whammy bar techniques, including adding text such as “w/ bar”.

In Layout option you can “show chord diagrams at start of flow” and they show up automatically in the order that they appear in the song. You can edit all of these for fingerings, size, and even add different versions of the same chord. This is a great feature to keep your songs from becoming cluttered.

Note Entry

You can now enter pitch before duration (as opposed to the normal Dorico duration before pitch). The shortcut for this is “K”, and it allows you to hunt around for the note that you want, and then choose it and give it a duration. You can even do this with chords. It’s a very handy feature for composition or for transcribing by ear, and it is most useful with a MIDI keyboard.

Global vs. Local Settings

You can now enter local settings, say to make a change to a part that will not show up in the score. This could be a comment, moving an object for easier reading for the player, and so on. It was asked for and has been provided.

Playback Improvements

There are too many improvements here to list them all, but one of the most important is Mutual Exclusion Groups. Here you list techniques that cannot be played at the same time, such as arco and pizzicato for strings. This allows other techniques to be played together, for example pizz. and con sordino.

Expression maps are probably the most asked-for feature in Dorico, and there are great improvements in Dorico 3.5. The default expression map included in Dorico is for Halion SE which comes with it. However, other sample libraries such as NotePerformer and Garritan provide different playing techniques and options. Because there are so many libraries, and different options even within libraries, Dorico 3.5 lets you create your own expression maps for the libraries you own.  The example in the announcement video has an excellent demonstration of choosing shorter note samples for shorter note values. Since many sample players use one long note sample, they sound great with longer notes, but tend to “bleed” notes together in short note values  (say sixteenth-note) passages. If your library has different notes values to choose from, Dorico lets you choose a short value for a particular value of duration.  This is shown in the announcement video at the 14:53 mark. Quite a difference!

Figured Bass

If you use figured bass your dreams have come true with Dorico 3.5 since it has tons of new features! You can now enter virtually any style possible. You can set these easily in the score or with the popover. Dorico 3.5 will even calculate the proper figured bass for you if you give it the name of the chosen chord! It will even automatically transpose if you change the bass note. You can add hold lines as well, if you use them.

Having said that Figured Bass could cover an entire session on its own, John suggested checking out the Scoring Notes blog, which had a preview version of 3.5 and has a lot more information on Figured Bass (although even the team there said they would need another post to cover all the changes).

And More …

Just some more of the new features:

You can choose different colours or gradients for each mode to remind you where you are.

You can export parts of a piece as graphic; just choose a “slice” (any section of the visible screen) and export it with all sorts of graphic options.

There is now an option for “Hollywood style” final pages, which adds blank staff lines to fill the page.

There are more option for slur positioning, especially when a slur goes past the end of the current line. You can also get rid of some backgrounds if things get too cluttered.

Musicxml has many more features included for both export and import.

Some Indian Drum sounds are now included, as well as some others, in the application.

N.B. This last point means that you DO NOT NEED TO DOWNLOAD THE SOUNDS INSTALLER IF UPDATING FROM DORICO 3.x!

The Cost

I have only scratched the surface of the new features in Dorico 3.5, and with so many major improvements it has to be a paid update. I realize that times are tight for many people, especially musicians, but watch the video as well as Anthony Hughes’ other videos on the Dorico channel on particular features before you make your decision. There are a variety of prices for the three versions of Dorico, as well as educational pricing.

Much more information on individual features, as well as comparisons of versions and costs are on the Steinberg Dorico page here. The most expensive price for updating Dorico Pro from 3.x is $60 (US), so this is hardly a “money grab” from Steinberg.

My opinion is that Dorico 3.5 is well worth the update price, but feed your family and pay the rent first, and if you have anything left over this is a great choice for any musician.

 

Band-in-a-Box 2020 for Mac … WOW!

I reviewed Band-in-a-Box 2019 for Mac less than a year ago and, being an “annual-update-skeptic” wondered about reviewing it again so soon. No need to wonder — Band-in-a-Box 2020 for Mac is a fantastic leap forward!

Band-in-a-Box 2020  Box

Of course we can expect all sorts of additional RealTracks and instruments and styles, and there are many!, but the additions this year are so focused on truly upping your musical game that it seems almost like a new product. And it replaces the need for some other software and hardware, which I will get to but for now it seems like “Good-bye” to my Digitech Vocalist Live 4 harmony generator.

And before I go any further (in case you stop reading and decide to just buy it) I have to add that my online chats with Sales Support were some of the most pleasant interactions I have ever had with a vendor, even BEFORE it became obvious that I was a reviewer! Amidst ever more shattered nerves than usual, especially for support workers, I was able to have all of my questions answered politely and correctly (even a few moronic ones) and had all of my issues resolved before the chat had ended. Support such as this is rare but it seems to be a feature of the BiaB “family”, as I will mention later with my comments on Stelios Panos, a transcriber of great jazz performances for, and reseller of Band-in-a-Box products.

FEATURE BROWSER

One of the best, most crucial additions is the Feature Browser. Crucial because there are so many new features that even experienced users are liable to need a reminder sometimes, and this is much more. It begins with a list of features from which you can choose, or you can type one in. It tells you the basic information about the feature you enter with buttons to take you to the manual page for that feature and also a video button if it is one of the features that has a video for it.  It also displays the Tool Bar on which it is found, its Hot Key if there is one, where it is on the Main Window (if it’s there), and other ways to launch it. If it has its own window with options and other choices, this is displayed as well.

But that’s not all. You can choose the type of features you are looking for by entering, say, “guitar”. This gives you all features that relate to the guitar. Or “video” to find all features that have a video on them.

Getting to the Feature Browser is easy too. If the chord window is open, just type “/” and Enter, instead of a chord. Or, with the Main Window click on the “?” button in maximized view, or in the Misc tab if in Compact view.

This is a terrific feature for a program with so many great features. We tend to know those that we use the most, but sometimes forget about those that could make our work easier or improve our music. Plus you no longer have to feel guilty for not reading the manual.

Try this yourself by calling it up, typing chord, then adding “builder” for the “chord builder” feature to really show what it can do.

Find BEST SUB

Cmd-click or right-click on track button in the mixer > Select RealTracks > Find Best Sub. Not only do you get a long list of possible RealTrack substitutes, but the best ones are close to the top. Each works well with the whole song, but gives you different ways to explore it with different  musical styles and genres, especially if you pick a different player. However, even choosing the same player gives you insight into the subtle changes that can be used by the same person in a different performance but retaining their personal style.

You can even change to a RealTrack if the current track doesn’t have one.  Here you can choose a RealTrack, and choosing “All” gives you a bunch of new options to change even the type of instrument, and I really like the option to choose a family of instruments so that you can try out, say, all sorts of different guitars for a part (and there are a lot of guitars). You can even open an Artist Bio to learn about the player, and once in that browser you can choose any artist to learn more about them. Just one more example of the enhanced usability that has been added throughout this entire release.

Drag-and-Drop File Opening

I particularly like the drag-and-drop file opening, which simplifies all the choices if you just want, say, to load a basic MIDI file to start working on it. Not just BiaB files are supported, but audio, MIDI, and more. If you have a lot of files and need to search for the one you want, it’s nice to be able to just drag it into the app. This improves your workflow and lowers your blood pressure.

Multi-Window Display

Having more than one window open can be a real time-saver. Using the new multi-window display you can easily enter barlines in the audio window with the chord window still open. The demo of this process is particularly interesting, at just before the 27:00 mark of the BB2020 for Mac video referenced earlier. You can enter barlines to fix tracks that were not recorded with a click track by entering the correct spot for a few barlines. I won’t transcribe the process here, but I urge you to watch the video to see how easy it is to correct the timing of a song, as well as to find out how far the tempo changes over time (a lot of performers speed up over the course of an exciting song, or slow down in a bluesy one). Of course, you may want just a little deviance which gives a more human feel to some tracks, while others really do call for a “metronomic” beat. This is especially helpful for tightening up quick demos or just a band’s bad days’ work.

Track Thickening

One standard audio recording trick is to have multiple copies of a single track to give it a “thicker” sound. For example, many singers use double-tracking to make their voices sound better. John Lennon disliked this finicky process so much in the pre-digital age that the EMI engineers created ADT (Artificial Double-Tracking) to create a second copy of the original recording, slightly different by speeding up and slowing down slightly. Like the more modern digital recording studios, Band-in-a-Box now lets you use multiple copies of the same RealTrack on a single track, thickening it further by changing the panning of each (and usually lowering the volume as well). You can even add a different, related RealTrack for greater authenticity. I really like the demo that uses the _GLORY style thickened, as shown in the video on BB2020 for Mac.  The soloist really adds to the depth and realism of the choir.

Note that the video was adapted from the Windows version that has been on the PG Music site for a while now, and there are a few references to Windows that creep in here and there. Remember to substitute Command-click (or right-click) for Ctrl-click, and Finder for Windows Explorer. The folders mentioned are correct,  at least those that I have double-checked.

Thickening is really an extended application of the “Medley” feature where several instruments could “take turns” on one track; now they can play all together.

There are several different ways to start and use thickening:

1) pick a style that uses it (often with “thickened in the name)
2) pick a track from the RealTrack picker that has it applied to it
3) apply it yourself to any RealTrack that you like

There are great additions for blues and other styles with thickened horns forming sections in some truly great styles.

Guitar Goodies

Many of the new features are particularly useful for guitar and some are specific to it. For example, you now have FOUR different views of the Fretboard Window: the regular right-handed one, the new left-handed view, the student view (as if you are sitting across from your teacher looking at their fretboard), and the student view for a left-handed guitarist. 

Jazz guitarists will love the new Rhythm Changes and Jazz Blues RealTracks, the two most important progressions for any jazz player. Combine this with Find Best Sub and you have a serious jazz guitar learning environment.

Other genres are not skimped on. There are great 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s rock guitar styles, and the low-tuned metal styles are amazing with some thickening added to them. Double that for baritone guitar! And many of the new Country and Old-Time Americana styles will open your ears and styles to different and even “exotic” stringed instruments. And speaking of exotic, there are also new Latin American “island” styles and instruments for authentic Latin grooves including soka, merengue, and more. (But personally, I was most impressed by the new Blues RealTracks that really kick it. Maybe it’s my age showing?)

Eliminate Note Overlap

Better control of overlapping notes is vital for getting a true guitar sound. In this version, if you have different guitar strings on different channels you can stop notes on the same string from overlapping but leave notes on different strings ringing through. Fingerstyle players will now be able to accurately write and hear Chet Atkins-style “banjo-roll” runs, while any stylist can combine arpeggios with single-line parts and have the strings ring appropriately. A great addition.

Enhanced Notation Editing

While previous versions had the N hotkey for adding notes, the new M hotkey allows the addition of harmony to an existing note. The note is first presented as a 3rd above, but can be changed using the up / down arrow keys. The R hotkey lets you choose a rest.

So Many More Great Features

The program now automatically checks the key signature and warns you if your song material doesn’t match that key.

Files can now be saved as .xml, .mxl (compressed format), and .musicxml. This last one, musicxml, is particularly useful for guitarists, saving hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides.

The intro can now be just drums, or just bass and drums and the notation will reflect that.

You will also be impressed by the larger range of singer-songwriter styles that will really fire your imagination.

Multi-Riffs is now available in the full Band-in-a-Box (previously it was just in the plug-in). This creates 7 different “takes” of a section or entire part (like an automated version of a Logic “Takes folder”). These can be used to find the most suitable one, or combined (comped) to make a “best” version from parts of each.

Audio time-stretching has been enhanced to give much more realistic sound easier.

Chord Search has several enhancements such as letting you choose the level of exactness for your progression.

There are also enhancements to chord search,, and many enhancements and additions to RealDrums including many more notated ones.

Several user requests have been incorporated as well, including: drag from mixer to drop station; new options for bit depth and sample rate (as well as in main render dialog); customized track are shown with an “=”, settings in style are ignored for these as well; bar settings dialog lets you change them from within the dialog; new content is displayed when you start the program, with the option to download it before you get into your work flow, and many more.

BiaB Plug-in

The Band-in-a-Box Plug-in is still free with BB2020 and, of course, improved. It works pretty much like BiaB in your DAW, where you can drag the tracks you create in it into the DAW and process them there. You can harmonize in the plug-in and drag back to DAW either a track generated in the plug-in or its harmony in 3rds, 6ths, or both.

But you don’t have to drag any tracks into the DAW to hear them. You can play the music from the plug-in along with the tracks in the DAW merely by sync’ing them!

If you are one of the MANY fans of Stelios Panos, or are a jazz guitarist interested in the Jazz Guitar Masters, check out his “Django-in-a-Box” web site where you can find special deals on bundles of his transcriptions with Band-in-a-box for sale, as well as a page of videos that demonstrate several of his transcriptions as well as display their usage of various features in BiaB.On top of this, you get Skype support after buying a bundle from Mr. Panos! Special bundles that include ALL of the Jazz Greats  transcriptions (including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, and Louis Armstrong)are on this page, while a special “guitarists only” set that includes even the recent transcriptions of Johnny Smith and Tal Farlow is here. If you have any more questions, need support, or just want to thank Stelois Panos for his outstanding work you can contact him here.

IN SUMMARY: Band-in-a-Box 2020 is a huge advance over even BB2019, with easier to use, more powerful features that give you more information while creating more musical results. You have never had more control of more features which are now much easier to find. The move forward with this version is astonishing. Again … WOW!

My very highest recommendation. Just upgrade! Or if for some strange reason you don’t have it yet, BUY THIS ONE! It will change your musical life!

Stelios Panos – Johnny Smith & Tal Farlow

In my previous post I remarked that Pierre Bensusan never disappoints. The same can be said about Stelios Panos, whose passion for precise transcription of the music of jazz masters keeps their music alive and available for others who want to learn this art. His is a true contribution for all jazz players.

Stelios’ latest collection includes  45 songs/solos by Johnny Smith and 37 Tal Farlow songs/solos for Band-in-a-Box users. This is crucial, since it provides a more complete, immersive experience than any other software. You can hear the transcriptions on excellently sampled instruments with RealTracks while following along with the music in Notation, Notation with TAB, Chords, or on the Guitar Fretboard! I’ve never heard of any other software that comes close to this.

Note that along with the songs there are also several alternate solos from other years. Since we are dealing with jazz, several of the songs were performed (and are available) with different solos in different years. These document the players’ style as well as their changes over time.

The Johnny Smith section highlights his smooth style that made him so beloved, starting with his all-time classic Walk, Don’t Run. This was then covered by Chet Atkins, who actually asked for Smith’s permission to cover it in person. Chet’s version was then the basis for the version that the Ventures took to #2 on the charts! It’s hard to pick from just a few from the standout list of songs here, but there are jazz classics like My Funny Valentine, My Romance, and Swingin’ Shepherd Blues;  folk songs such as Black is the Color (of My True Love’s Hair) and Shenadoa [sic]; movie themes (Exodus); popular songs (Yesterday); and even classical pieces like Maid with the Flaxen Hair and Romance de los Pinos. And, of course, Johnny Smith’s “signature tune” Moonlight in Vermont.

Complementing Smith’s work is the Tal Farlow part of the collection. While both guitarists share a sophisticated sense of harmony, Farlow tended to be more adventurous. Combined with his blazing single-line playing, this gave his playing an enormous air of excitement that few musicians have matched. This is all the more remarkable since he was a self-taught guitarist who learned while listening to some of the jazz greats on the radio at work as a sign painter. Some of these transcriptions may be a bit daunting, especially for players with smaller hands. Farlow earned the nickname “The Octopus” thanks to his huge hands which not only gave him a huge reach but also moved with blazing speed. His style owes something to fingerstyle guitarists as he played the two lowest strings with his thumb, reserving these for a bass counterpoint to his melodies on the upper four strings (said to be due to his starting with a mandolin tuned like a ukulele!) and also tapping on the guitar for percussive effects. Whatever extra work it takes to learn Farlow’s tunes is more than repaid in your rapid advance in technique and sophistication.

Whether the chordal sections of Smith’s work or the blazing solo lines of Farlow, we have to appreciate the dedication of Stelios Panos in his careful editing of the fingerings which he places on a separate TAB staff (which you may have to turn on in either the Options for the Notation Window or Printing in Band-in-a-Box). Too many transcribers these days rely on the software to generate TAB, where the fingerings can be misleading to downright impossible.

Here’s an example of a software generated chord that I have seen a number of times (including in BiaB):

and a playable version:

You can imagine the hours and days it takes to proof-read all of the songs in a collection, so Stelios Panos deserves great credit for making his fingerings logical and playable. He takes as much care with the transcriptions, so you can be sure of getting the highest quality.

NOTE: This two-artist collection is meant for  Band-in-a-Box users only. (Unlike some previous sets, videos for non-users are no longer included.)

For more information on ALL Stelios Panos transcriptions and to BUY them go to http://www.djangoinabox.com

My highest recommendation for anyone with Band-in-a-Box.

Dorico Releases version 3.1.10 update

Dorico has just release version 3.1.10, a free update for Dorico 3 users. As Daniel Spreadbury tells us, this is pretty much a “bug fix” update, “a modest update focused on fixing bugs, with little to speak of in the way of brand new functionality.”

There are a few additions to the clef popover, and a unison trill that is handy for timpanists, but little else new. You can see all of Daniel’s announcement here.

Perhaps the most exciting news is that this is the last  update of version 3 (at least that is planned) and the Dorico team are hard at work on version 4.0!

If you skipped Daniel’s announcement page, you can download the update here. Don’t forget the Version History for a complete list of changes.

MuseScore 3.4.2 Update

If you have not been using MuseScore regularly you may have missed the update to 3.4, and the further update to version 3.4.2.

This version requires macOS 10.10 (Yosemite) or higher (or Windows 7 or higher).

The 3.4.2 update includes a few fixes that may or may not apply to your music. The whole list is here. In any case, it’s worth downloading the update to stay current.

Finally, if you are not using Dorico, I’d recommend MuseScore. Now that Dorico has a free SE version, you can use both, choosing which one is more appropriate for your current project. But while SE is a restricted version of Dorico Pro (and Elements), MuseScore is the full package. This is a great time for free music software!

More on Dorico 3.1 and SE

Illness is so inconvenient for getting things out soon enough. FIRST, there is a very rare DORICO SALE going on until January 23, 2020 that you need to know about if you don’t already own it. You will save 30% on any single-user Dorico Pro 3 or Dorico Elements 3 new license, update, or upgrade.” See the Steinberg site here for more details.

Not having seven top-notch reviewers to work with, I urge you to visit our friends at Scoring Notes to get a full review of all the features in this major update. Here I will concentrate on the many new and improved features for guitarists which are well worth the wait! Many of the new features and improvements apply to the guitar’s notation and tablature but I will start with the specifically guitar-oriented ones.

Chord Diagrams

Chord Diagrams have new functionality that allows you to label a chord as you wish, even if it lacks the root and third. This is handy if you have other instruments playing them and want a rich sound. In this example (the same notes as the Scoring Notes example but from a current song of mine, really) I have a Dm11 chord but the bass has a riff that is heavy on the root and 3rd so the guitar has room for the 7th, 9th, 11th and the 5th on top. When I enter it into Dorico 3.1 this is what I get:

Note that the TAB is what I want, not the chord diagram. I used Engrave Mode to edit the chord diagram to match the TAB:

As Doug Gibson points out in his video, this involves an extra step that, while simple, would be nice if Dorico handled it automatically. I expect to see this in a future update. Note that this newly-created version of Dm11 shows up in orange, visually reminding me that it is non-standard.

One other nice touch is Dorico showing you which notes are missing, just in case:

Fingering

In answer to several readers’ questions, now “yes, you can use T to finger the thumb on those bass strings”! Simply start fingering as usual (Shift+F) and type “t” or “T”. The thumb can be used for any string, or a combination of strings. I even got it to cover the whole Dm11 used above although in real life that would be quite a challenge.

Engraving Options now allows for collision avoidance for fingerings to the left of notes by placing them in spaces (where possible) which makes reading much easier.

TABLATURE

Enough new guitar “ornaments” have been added to warrant their own section. In addition to the existing bend we now have “Bend with Vibrato Bar” (i.e. “whammy bar”), “Vibrato Bar Scoop”, “Vibrato Bar Dip”, and a “Vibrato Bar Line” that shows the length of the effect.

 

DIFFERENT CHORDS FOR DIFFERENT INSTRUMENTS

One very handy new feature is called “Local Chords” and it allows for different instruments to have different chords. This is something I have been hoping for but not expecting, so it was a doubly welcome surprise. Even for duplicating the same chord with one guitar in Standard Tuning and another in Nashville Tuning is common enough to want this feature. It is handier in building up complex chords in, say, a guitar duo where the preceding voicing for Dm11 might call for a more standard Dm7 or Dm9 in the other guitar. In that case we might even just name the earlier chord Am7 and the new one Dm7 or Dm9.

Speaking from a purely guitarist’s point of view, this opens new harmonic vistas of real originality. And it’s easy to do. Just call up the chord popover as usual (Shift-Q), type the local chord name, and end with Alt-Return. If you want to input a series of local chords you can “lock” the chord popover by typing Alt-L while it is open and your chords will now all be local; return to global chords by typing Alt-G into the popover. If you are alternating between local and global chords, hold Alt to switch to the other mode.

DORICO SE

The free version of Dorico is well worth looking into, especially if you are working mainly with single voice songs, perhaps with a partner singing harmony. If you have used the Dorico Elements free trial version then SE will be familiar to you, except that you are held to 2 voices rather than 12.

Another great addition is the ability for Dorico Pro to run as either Dorico Elements or Dorico SE if you want to try them out, or if you are running a class that uses SE or Elements. To launch Dorico Elements, hold down Alt when opening the program. For Dorico SE hold down Command (or Ctrl on Windows).

I’ve just skimmed the surface of the new additions to Dorico in this fantastic update to 3.1. Remember to check out the very rare DORICO SALE going on until January 23, 2020 to save 30% on any single-user Dorico Pro 3 or Dorico Elements 3 new license, update, or upgrade.” See the Steinberg site here for more details.

For more information on Dorico 3.1, see the Steinberg Dorico site and for a terrific post on the new features be sure to check out the  Scoring Notes site.

Jazz Guitarist Holidays

Is there a guitarist who does not love Django Reinhardt‘s music? There certainly isn’t one that can’t learn a lot from his playing, and after a few listens that ‘like’ will turn to ‘love’.

If you are one of my faithful readers from Just Jazz Guitar then you know that the music of Django brings to mind ONE name: Stelios Panos! I gave Stelios and his transcriptions of Django, Wes Montgomery, and Charlie Christian a well-deserved rave when he first came out with them for Band-in-a-Box. (You can read that review here.)  In case you didn’t have BiaB, he also provided MIDI files for many of the songs in order to share the wealth further. Now he has come out with further improvements on Django’s transcriptions as well as sets for Joe Pass and Grant Green.

Django & Xmas Tree

In a previous review this month I suggested that every guitarist would love a copy of Band-in-a-Box, so if you are wondering what gift to get a loved one who plays guitar (or really any instrument) look no further. Why go out into winter weather or order something that won’t arrive on time when you can order BiaB and get it before Christmas if you order by Monday! Better yet, you can download Stelios’ wonderful transcriptions from Django-in-a-Box right up until Christmas morning if you like to cut things really tight!

Stelios has continued to make his transcriptions available to Django fans by creating videos of ALL 277 transcriptions of Django’s solos in two different formats: one plays the original solos with transcriptions in notation, while the other gives you the Background Track that you can play over top of. Now even if you don’t have Band-in-a-Box you can still learn and play all of Django’s solos with original accompaniment including on-screen chord charts. (N.B. The ones marked “SOLO” contain just the solo, not the song theme.) These videos were made with Band-in-a-Box 2019 so the ornaments are true to Django’s playing. I like to use the free VLC player (which is available for every major OS, including tablets and phones) for these since it can slow down or speed up the videos for you. It’s a great way to learn.

The Joe Pass and Grant Green sets are the same high quality of transcription that we have grown to expect from Stelios Panos, and he has not let us down.  You don’t have to choose since the set includes both guitarists. This package contains 55 songs/solos from Joe Pass and 22 Grant Green songs/solos for Band-in -a-Box . You can view both lists of songs by clicking here. There are high-quality audio tracks of each song as well as the BiaB versions. One caution about these, and other songs marked “solo”: Band-in-a-Box usually tries to create a backing track on the fly that can sometimes be more distracting than helpful, so I like to turn off the other instruments in the Mixer and just have Audio playing. One nice feature of Band-in-a-Box is that it will suggest a RealStyle that will substitute for songs where they fit, and the results are usually a nice improvement.

Whether you are shopping for a loved one or just yourself, go to Django-in-a-Box and see all of the great jazz, and not just guitar. Even guitarists will want to check out Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, and Miles Davis! You can learn a lot from another instrument’s interpretation of songs, and they help you to get out of your own patterns for your personal instrument. It should go without saying that learning from some of the all-time greats in jazz will open your ears and playing to great new possibilities.

As always, Stelios Panos gets my top recommendation for his astonishing work in the service of jazz players everywhere.

Band-in-a-Box 2019 for Mac PERFECT for the Holidays

Band-in-a-Box 2019 for Mac is the latest incarnation of a perennial star of the music software world. Hard as it is to believe, it will be 30 next year, and that 2020 version is already available for Windows! But I’m a Mac user so I’ll be reviewing that one which is MORE than exciting enough!

Box Image

I’ll admit that I don’t upgrade BiaB every year, but my last review of it in 2015 — in Just Jazz Guitar magazine — was a rave. The 2019 version has really improved, but I have another compelling reason to revisit this wonderful software: Stelios Panos has upgraded his astonishingly accurate Django Reinhardt transcriptions as well as adding several new jazz guitar artists to his collection, and these take full advantage of the new capabilities of Biab 2019 for Mac.

Band-in-a-Box has come a long way from the early days and each of the many upgrades has introduced lots of features including new songs and styles as well as more realistic performances. Their focus on making fine music and helping musicians achieve their best has remained constant, and Band-in-a-Box 2019 does itself proud in this and every other area. BiaB started as a brilliant MIDI app in its earliest days on the Atari ST, moving to the PC and Mac soon after they became available. The addition of pure digital content in RealTracks was a huge step into more realistic sound, and this realism keeps evolving with studio musicians recording licks, patterns, and even complete songs and studies. The musical content of BiaB continues to expand, taking advantage of new technologies to keep up with computing necessities. With the huge growth in content came the option to purchase BiaB in its own hard disk, and now with speed improvements that we will look at more closely.

YouNameIt-in-a-Box

Yes you have a band in the box, but do you know all that your band can do? You can work with it to have input from individual instruments to complete arrangers (bandmates-in-a-box to arranger-in-a-box). The best bands get input from each of their members, while the best soloists work with arranger/producers to get that extra input that we all need to do our best. You might be a great guitarist, but how are your drum chops? You might want to call on an expert, or a bunch of them. Then there are teachers in that box that let you study specially-written etudes as well as the arrangements that you like and showing you great licks, chord progressions, melodic ideas, you name it! Whatever you can do with a real band (except maybe fight between members) this boxed version provides. And like seasoned pros, each iteration gets better and benefits from more experience.

So, 2019?

So what’s new for 2019? Real Tracks have expanded the genres of Jazz, Blues, Latin, Pop, Rock, World, Country, Americana, and especially Celtic. There are even vocals! Yes, Gospel “Mmms” can be used as a choir of four doubled voices, or as individual voices mixed or solo.

Bassists will love the new Pop Basses with 6 new MIDI Super Tracks (much like the existing Jazz ones) in both electric and acoustic flavours.

Nashville guitar whiz Brent Mason adds Country Pop Guitar Licks in all 12 keys. The most amazing part of this feature is the way they are presented, showing how useful they are in all sorts of different musical situations. These country cousins are at home in any city.

Drummers have a lot to love in this package including drum notation that can be viewed in the RealDrums Picker by filtering for “RealDrums with RealCharts“. A great way to improve your reading, your ear, and your playing all at once. This is also a real boon for arrangers who are not fluent with the notation but know the sound they want.

One of the more unexpected but very welcome additions is “Low Man” and “Re-amped” Metal/Thrash Electric Guitar RealTracks in all 12 keys. These are previous RealTracks that have been  “re-amped” to give them authentic Metal/Thrash tones, with both rhythm and solo playing over the necessarily wide range of tempo. Like the snarl and growl of tuning a guitar down 4 or even 6 semitones? “Low Man” has you covered with that very particular timbre of distortion.

Brent Mason returns with a country Train-Beat licks as Instrumental Studies in all 12 keys: 10 each for a total of 120. Geoff Kelly, a founding member of Canadian band Spirit of the West,  contributes his Celtic Flute to the Celtic RealTracks for a new sound you want to get to know. There is even Celtic Cello provided by Natalie Haas!

BiaB as a PLUG-IN!

One of the most exciting developments for recording is the ability of BiaB to act as a plug-in for virtual every major DAW. The plug-in generates the same BiaB audio or MIDI that you then drop into a track on your DAW! No need for intermediate solutions and complicated routings. The whole Band-in-a-Box is just one plug-in!

USB 3.0

If you are like me and constantly run out of disk space, you will be glad to know that the HD version of BiaB now blazes at USB 3.0 to keep the music flowing. If you prefer (and have the space) you can still install and / or download the app to your own hard disk, of course. And with USB 3 there is no need for an extra USB port “just in case.”

New SongPicker Design

The SongPicker was overdue for a rewrite, so it’s great to see that the new one has many added features that users have requested or dreamt of. Most outstanding for me are the filters, which let you choose songs by genre, feel, time signature, style, and many more musical features or by the more traditional sub-folder choices. Interesting results can come from filtering files with similar chord progressions or melodic fragments. This is a great way to find variations on your favourite progressions or melodies. I like to combine both approaches and save particular favourites that I’ve filtered for into their own folders and sub-folders.

The filter for RealTracks, RealDrums, and MIDI SuperTracks uses a hash tag (#) to trigger the Advanced Filter with many new options. The StylePicker has been rewritten as well. All these filters for choosing songs are very welcome improvements when dealing with up to 50,000 songs! (If these are not enough for you their are also optional Xtra Styles PAKs that you can purchase separately to keep up with the very latest styles!)

VIDEO

PG Music has been providing videos to help you learn about Band-in-a-Box for quite a while now, and if you’d rather see the new features than read about them (or best of all, do both) you can find the videos here. You will not want to miss “Band-in-a-Box 2019 in less than 6 minutes!” because, if you notice that it actually runs just over 10 minutes, it contains special offers that you want to know about! Other than that one, there are many helpful videos from “What is Band-in-a-Box” to dozens and dozens of videos on specific topics to make sure that you get the most out of BiaB in the shortest time.

Of course the whole idea of Band-in-a-Box is that you can create your own music and save it. This extensibility also means that you can create your own libraries of greats that work with BiaB, which is exactly what Stelios Panos has done with the great jazz guitarists. My next post will look at his new transcriptions of Joe Pass, Grant Green, and the upgrade to his stellar work on the music of Django Reinhardt. Stay tuned for that one!

I have only scratched the surface of the capabilities — and even the new features — of Band-in-a-Box 2019. There is a full 32-page booklet included with Version 2019 for Mac that is the New Features Guide! At least you don’t have to worry about upgrading to run Biab. Here are the System Requirements for Macintosh and Windows. Windows users are in luck as Band-in-a-Box 2020 for Windows is already here! For more information on special offers, new features, and even to chat online with the experts visit PG Music here.

Create, arrange, learn, record — is there anything musical you can’t do in Band-in-a-Box. With some creativity there is very little, so be sure to get a copy and dive into the deep end of music!

BiaB name

 

NotePerformer 3.3 released

Wallander Instruments has just released an update, version 3.3, at the usual update price — FREE. Yes, if you have ever bought a version of NotePerformer you have had and continue to have free updates.

If that sounds too good to be true, it is GREAT and it is also TRUE. I have no idea how Arne Wallander manages to keep producing this fantastic software and upgrading it for free, but I am incredibly grateful for this man and his company’s generosity.

NotePerformer on computer screen

If you don’t have it already, BUY IT. It gives your notation the expression of a fine musician, as if a virtuoso were performing your score, with terrific sampled instruments. For more information see my full review of NotePerformer here.

If you are a registered user you will be getting an email announcement shortly. If not, give them a day or two and then contact NotePerformer here.

NotePerformer keeps getting better and better!

Dead Notes on Guitar

My problems with comments seem ongoing. As you may recall I had to turn comments off for various reasons, the most pressing being that somehow spam got through but many real comments did not. This was frustrating for all of us. However, one got through for my last post which is important enough for a post to reply. Also, for reasons unknown to me, I cannot get the comment to show in the previous post. I did approve it, so maybe it will show up in time.

In case it does not show up, it is from Eddo who says:

  • I understand dead notes to be not sounding at all while palm muted notes are muffled, but have a clearly audible pitch. It would be interesting to know if the developers made a mistake, or you – Dave – while revising, or if there are different naming conventions depending on e.g. the country. Since the software is known to rely on semantics, this is not quite trivial. I wouldn’t want to notate dead notes, only to realize they are played back as palm muted notes.

Unfortunately, notation is and imperfect rendering of the composer’s (or transcriber’s) intent. Eddo is quite right that there is a difference between muted notes and “clicks” or “dead notes” or other designations (“muffled” is probably the most confusing and I avoid it). Muted notes have an audible pitch while truly dead notes do not. Dead notes are meant to just give a percussive sound; sometimes they are even mistakes that the transcriber has to account for. There is no standard notation for tablature for differentiating between palm muted notes and dead notes. My personal preference is from working with Laurence Juber, who writes the words “palm mute” or “P.M.” with a dotted line to show how far they extend. He calls dead notes “muted strings” and uses x’s as both noteheads and tab “numbers”. Here it is the tab that really counts as his notation on the staff does not show the actual pitches (there aren’t any) but the tablature shows the strings to pick (fingerstyle of course).

So there are variations in notation styles. As for Dorico’s choice (I would think the word “mistake” is harsh and inaccurate as well), Anthony Hughes,  in his video on tablature equates “muted, muffled, and deadened notes” (at 4:22) and uses the “dead note” switch in the properties panel for all of them. As for the sound, unfortunately “dead notes” sound like normal ones at this time, since their playback is yet to be completed (as with many other ornaments). For those of you interested in what they will sound like when playback is implemented, I suggest discussing this in the Dorico forum to give the developers your input.

The most complete set of notational variants (notation and tab) I have seen recently is in Jimi Hendrix: Complete Scores from Hal Leonard. They  use LJ’s “P.M.” for palm mute; x’s for muffled strings in both notation and tab; “P.S.” followed by a wavy line for pick scrape (the line showing direction); and x’s for the lead-in strings and a number for the sounding note for a rake, along with the word “rake”.  I think this combination of consistent use of symbols, initials, and words along with a notation legend or glossary is the best idea, especially if the music is a whole book. Of course, if you are working with a publisher they should have a house style.

When in doubt, more is better. Clarity is important.