When it comes to writing down your latest creation most of us would probably scribble a few chords on a scrap of paper and hope we can remember it the next time or if it is for someone else… well just hope for the best or supply a recording with it. The more adventurous guitarists out there might actually write it down in TAB notation either on paper or in ASCII in your favourite text editor (a very tedious task!). I have come from a background of using Steinberg Cubase first on an Atari ST520 and then VST on PC and there were basic scoring features in these programs but it didn’t translate to Guitar. So I was really excited to get my hands on Progression by Notion Music.
Notion Music specialise in Music Scoring software, their flagship product Notion 2.0 uses samples of the London Symphony Orchestra recorded at Abbey Road Studios for authentic playback instead of nasty MIDI instruments. Progression also uses sampled sounds in order to make it easier to get realistic sounding scores but they are specifically tailored to Guitarists needs. For a start you have a choice of Guitars and Basses, Keyboards and Harps and a Drum Kit. Ok say you choose an electric guitar, lets face it that is where most of us start and you drag a couple of notes onto the stave or tab to see how it sounds. It sounds like a clean guitar, obviously. But, and this is where Progression is really different from normal TAB software, you have 3 FX banks per instrument. If you open FX1 you have a choice of amps, a speaker simulator, Chorus, Delay and Reverb units. There are also lots of presets from Clean to Rock and you can modify any of the parameters by changing the settings on the effects units or by adding and removing effects modules very easily.
Now the real job of this software is to notate your compositions so how do we do that. Well there are 3 methods. The first and primary method is using a MIDI guitar, something that unfortunately I don’t own and therefore couldn’t test but I think this is where this software would really shine. The second method is using a MIDI keyboard ,alas again which is something I don’t own. So I had to use the 3rd and quite frankly least preferable method of drag and drop. Now I’m not a very patient person so I found this pretty tricky. I knew what I wanted to do but it seemed a bit of a chore to actually do it. My advice is use a keyboard if you have one, but a MIDI guitar would be a lot easier. Saying that when you see what can be achieved with a little patience and know how in the demo files it is pretty impressive and you could use it create jam tracks using the built in drum sample tracks and throw some chord progressions in there. The only thing I was a bit disappointed about was that you can’t convert the chord diagrams to TAB, this would be a nice addition for quickly creating tracks.
I am going to have to put in some time in to see if I can learn how to create notation with minimum effort and no external MIDI input device. That said, this is an incredibly powerful software application if you are prepared to take the time to learn. Teachers in particular will probably find this indispensible once they use it. If you just wanted to notate scales and chord changes it is actually really easy there is a Chord diagram section at the bottom of the application where you choose the key and it shows all the chord variations which you can drag and drop into your score, these are visual elements only. If you want to TAB a C Major scale you can click on the strings in the TAB and type the fret number into the box that appears, very simple. And I suppose if you start out with these tasks you will slowly start expanding on your knowledge and start creating multi-voice multi-instrument scores in no time.