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!

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

 

More Jazz : Swingin’ in Dorico

I like to hear what I’m writing from time to time and the feel is important. When I include Dorico in recordings it becomes crucial, and since I’m not alone in this I thought I should share how to make the most of Dorico’s virtually unlimited nuances of “swing.”

Many of us were taught that “swing” meant to play eighth-notes (or quavers) as if they were triplets, where the first note got the first two and the last note got the one left over, so the first was longer (twice as long) and the second shorter. Some people (embarrassingly often guitarists) find this difficult so a few books write songs that are definitely in 4/4 as 12/8 so that the swing is written-out as quarter-note then eighth-note. A more complicated version is the dotted eighth-note followed by a sixteenth-note (semi-quaver), usually with the word “swing” above it. (Let’s leave out a discussion of whether Bach meant this notation as being swing, for now at least.) Technically this is “triplet swing” but since it is the most common we’ll use it for our discussion here and I’ll point you to more complex uses of swing later.

Of course following this triplet swing rigidly can start to sound robotic and often we feel shades of swing that this theoretical swing doesn’t really cover. We may want to cut the second note shorter, or lengthen it a bit. This is one of those areas in which Dorico shines. To start with: you have light, medium and heavy versions of swing for both eighth- and sixteenth-notes. In Play Mode, choose Play > Playback Options. Under Timing you will see Rhythmic Feel. In the example below I have chosen “Heavy swing 8ths” for my project:

Where to fine swing in the menu

To see your options, click on the disclosure triangle to the right of the current swing setting:

Swing options

What does “(fixed)” mean? The swing timing is kept exactly the same despite the tempo. If you have listened to more than a little jazz, or good blues, you have probably noticed that swing changes with the tempo. Typically the first note is held longer is slow tempos. In very fast tempos “light swing” can even become regular eighth notes! If the swing version is NOT fixed then Dorico automatically shifts it according to the tempo.

LOTS of control, right? But this is DORICO, so there is even more control in your hands. Did you notice the”Edit…” button beside the disclosure triangle in the first screen shot? Clicking on that gives you the ultimate in control of ANY type of tuplet swing:

Exact ratios of swing

You just choose the Swing Unit and then choose your own settings for “Low tempo” and “High Tempo” and use the sliders to select the exact ratio for the swing you want, shown as both ratio and percent of time taken by the first note. You can experiment to find the exact ratio if you like, or you might find one of the simpler versions suits your taste. It’s all up to you.

You can find more information on Swing Ratios on the web site Dorico Help here.

Happy Swingin’!

Catching Up with MuseScore 3.2.3

MuseScore 3 has really matured since it was first introduced, with many new features that match and even surpass some of the most expensive notation programs, and yet it remains FREE.

Today Marc Sabatella, the Director of Education for MuseScore, wrote a great post for Scoring Notes outlining and demonstrating some of the most important new features. They are impressive!

One of the most important additions is the ability to change dynamics on a single note, allowing an increase or decrease in dynamic (or both) over a held note or chord. This has been a highly sought feature which has taken time to appear because it required a complete rewrite of the way that MuseScore (and MIDI) interpreted dynamics. Simply put, MIDI was designed to send a note’s dynamic as a value for velocity, with no mechanism for that value to change over time (until a new note arrived). Marc explains how the MuseScore team had to change the way they interpreted dynamics and allowed them to change while the note stayed the same. This is quite an accomplishment for a free program.

Another terrific addition is the ability to change the placement of score items without disabling the Automatic Placement system that keeps items from colliding. This allows a great deal of freedom in creating the look of your score, including creating collisions if you are so inclined! All of these changes can be made without disabling Automatic Placement.

Some of my other favourite additions include the ability to enter instrument fingerings and drum sticking in the same manner as adding lyrics, making this often tedious task much simpler.

A personal favourite is the ability to change multiple occurrences of notes to the same rhythmic value (e.g. a half note to a quarter note plus quarter rest). Even better, you can now Paste Half Duration or Paste Double Duration right from the Edit menu! This one is a dream come true for me.

The last one I’ll mention here is Unroll Repeats. This lets you use repeat signs to get the basic outline of a song written, but then to automatically write out the repeated parts in full (including codas) to let you introduce variations. Yet another one dear to my heart.

Marc gives fuller explanations of these and other new features as well as several excellent examples. Head over to Scoring Notes to read Marc’s post and then to MuseScore to download the new version of the greatest bargain in notation software — MuseScore 3.2.3!

MuseScore 3.0 Released

I guess Santa visited MuseScore users early this year as MuseScore 3.0 was officially released on December 24, 2018. There are many new features which are shown in the announcement here, and yes, it is still FREE.

Many of the features have been requested by users and the developers have delivered. Automatic Placement keeps everything neat in its proper place avoiding those annoying collisions.

First Time User Experience gives you a series of tours that automatically provide help with new features. Along with the new Search feature this makes learning MuseScore even easier.

AutoUpdater notifies you of updates, and will remind you later if the time is not convenient. The Mixer and Piano Roll have been improved, as has Navigation and many Notation Improvements.

You can find more on all of these and download MuseScore 3.0 here.

How do they manage to keep updating such a feature-packed program and keep it free? And what effect has the acquisition of MuseScore by Ultimate Guitar had? You can answer these yourself as soon as you start it up.

First, there is a complete online video course called “Mastering MuseScore” by Marc Sabatella which is not free, although it is very affordable at $10 per year or $25 for Lifetime Access! There are also various group prices for teachers that get the price down to under a dollar per year each.

Second, there is the book “Mastering MuseScore” in paperback or Kindle formats, also available in French.

Finally, the music community is expanded with the resources of Ultimate Guitar as well as dedicated users. You can share your own music as well the music that others have posted for free to the community. There is also a Pro plan for an annual fee that gives you access to much more music in various formats. Definitely worth checking out.

This new release keeps MuseScore as the number one free notation and playback software choice. With usability and output so close to the big name paid programs, many musicians will find that MuseScore 3 is all they need, and more.

NotePerformer Fulfills Composers’ Dreams Without Breaking the Bank

NotePerformer brings our dream of hearing our scores performed by a top-quality orchestra or other ensemble to reality. This is an enormous achievement, made all the more stunning as the work of mostly one man – Arne Wallander. Many of us have struggled with our notation programs to make their playback more “human sounding”, or else just used their playback as input to a DAW and manipulated them there. My own approach was to have two versions of a score: one correctly notated, the other with some rather bizarre-looking things that got the score closer to what I wanted to hear.

Let me give you a real example. To celebrate the final issue of Just Jazz Guitar I gave the publisher / editor my permission to print the score of my classical-jazz guitar piece “Tangled Tango” along with a performance of the piece by Markku Wainman, to whom it is dedicated (which is still on the JJG web site as I write this). But since it was end of university term for Markku I felt the need to prepare a digitized version of the piece in case the time became too tight. That “performance” score in Sibelius 7.5 took me over TEN TIMES as long as it took to compose the piece, which is not by any means a simple one. Fortunately Markku was able to make a wonderful recording of the piece, and I also had a good backup. However, when I took the original score and played it with NotePerformer it produced an even better performance than my “performance score” and one that rivalled Markku’s interpretation (both are excellent performances and thrill me as a composer, just like different interpretations of two artists). If I weren’t so late to the NotePerformer “party” I could have saved myself days of work and sleepless nights.

I realize that the purpose of notation programs is to produce music notation, but from the earliest music programs, we who notate wanted playback too. In fact, some of the earliest music programs were playback devices using piano roll or similar input, with notation as a special or extra feature. The advent of Finale and then Sibelius made orchestra-worthy notation possible for the home composer and so the tables switched. Now it was playback that was “nice to have.” Programs such as Logic provided recording and playback with professional quality precision (eventually) even as the playback of notation programs improved, but Logic’s notation was not professional quality. But no matter how faithfully the playback of notation programs followed the directions of the score, the weaknesses of our Western system of notation became more obvious, and it seemed like live musicians were not going to be replaced by computers after all. Good news for performers. Not so great news for we who were unable to afford an orchestra — and on demand no less. Those of us with some grasp of MIDI were able to tweak our scores so that they played more realistically than even the “humanize” functions of notation programs, but we were faced with two different scores for each piece: one for humans to interpret and one with notation and added MIDI commands that would be nonsensical to a performer. As yet another example, my Piano Sonata again took about 10 times longer to get the performance as close to what I wanted as I could than to actually write the notes. Composition was becoming less about music and more about the technology. Ironic, considering that the previous post here is about Mixerman’s emphasis of the musical performance over the recording technology. But did I have any choice?

In fact I did, and so do you. It is NotePerformer, and maybe it should be called ScorePerformer, although a gem by any other name … (yeah, I know it’s supposed to be a rose, but this program is a true gem). Faced with our same predicament, Arne Wallander put his intimate knowledge of MIDI (and grasp of the workings of notation programs) together with his technical brilliance and created a program that would perform a piece of music just as a master musician would. And then he shared it with the world.

It is now at version 3.2, a mature program that works with Sibelius, Finale, and Dorico. NotePerformer is a tour de force of programming. It would be a highly impressive program on its own, but in dealing with the bugs and foibles of not one but three very different notation programs makes this a labour of love created under nightmare circumstances. I still have my Finale 1.0.0.0 diskette although the earliest CD for Sibelius that I can find (after several moves) is now 1.015. From the beginning these were very different programs, and with changes over time they have accreted bugs, fixes for those bugs, fixes for those fixes, and on and on. In the world of programming, an entry-level job is “maintenance programming” meaning that you fix whatever has gone wrong with whatever skills you have, usually with no documentation. This is the point at which many would-be programmers decide on a career driving for Über. My point is that Mr. Wallander did not have an ideal world in which to create his magic. He began with Sibelius, and later added support for Finale and Dorico. Finale has some quirks which are still being worked out, so Mr. Wallander does not claim full support for it yet, and being the latest entrant into high-end notation and still a “work-in-progress” he calls his support for Dorico BETA since its current state limits Mr. Wallander’s support for it to his own high standards. Still Dorico seems the most promising program in the long run, the product of the team that produced Sibelius 7.1 and ended up creating its rival for Steinberg with the advantage of starting from scratch, i.e. with no “legacy code” to debug and slow it down. In fact Dorico was aching for something like NotePerformer since playback has so far been its Achilles heel. (Again long-time readers will know that I have championed Dorico since Daniel Spreadbury began his blog outlining their goals, working methods, and progress.)

My own discovery of NotePerformer was embarrassingly late. After all, I had gone over budget on all things musical and figured that I was able to tweak my scores pretty well myself. I half-heartedly listened to some demos but considered them as rigged as any “demo” score (done by an expert with access to resources not available to mortals). But a comment by Philip Rothman on Scoring Notes stuck in my brain: that after you have chosen your scoring program the very next thing to get was NotePerformer. Really? That seemed rather extreme. But it became like an ear worm, and so I took another listen to the NotePerformer demo pieces (scroll down for them). This time I noticed that they had not been “doctored” but used NotePerformer with the composers’ scores as written. I was impressed, so I downloaded the demo version.

My first use of it was incredible. Beyond belief. An old piece of mine that I had been ready to junk sounded wonderful, and reminded me of what I had in mind when I wrote it. Delighted, I tried several other pieces of mine that I knew intimately and was amazed by the performances. This is a terrific program!

Ah but then came the problems. Problems with tempo, dynamics, crescendos, and similar things — all of which proved to be bugs in the notation programs (or “features” in some cases) which led to my discovery of the environment in which NotePerformer has to operate. The skill and perseverance of Mr. Wallander became all the more apparent and impressive.

It is worth noting is I did all of my tests with the 30-day trial version(s), and I lucked out since version 3.2 was released during my testing, and by downloading it the 30 days restarted. But what is truly incredible is that this is a free update, not just for version 3 owners, but for owners of ANY version of NotePerformer as well. There has never been a charge for an upgrade or update right up to version 3.2. Long-time readers will remember my extreme disappointment with Avid’s choice to make Sibelius a subscription product (and my decision to stay at version 7.5), so this support of customers — musicians who are usually not the wealthiest people — is very welcome and hopefully an inspiration to other music companies.

I cannot recommend this program highly enough. I urge you to go to the NotePerformer site and listen to the demos.  You will also see which versions of the software they support (as of this review Sibelius 6 onward, Finale 25 (BETA), and Dorico 2 (BETA); the long list of instruments they provide; the special techniques they support; and the different licenses available —currently single and site licenses. (At long last I can hear one of my scores that calls for an orchestral whip!)

To top off the great software is the best technical support I have ever experienced; an amazing orchestral sound library; and a simple installation procedure. Be smarter than I was and try this out for yourself today. There is no obligation, not even a sign-up or credit card required for the 30-day free trial! Just download the demo software and put it through its paces. You will be impressed.

MY HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION!