Are you tired of trying to pick out the notes in songs you want to cover? You can purchase software to play audio files e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y slowly, but that takes forever, and quite frequently you still can't hear all of the notes. IntelliScore might be able to help. Unlike the audio-to-MIDI converters that are included with some sequencers, IntelliScore claims to convert polyphonic audio to MIDI, which is what most musicians really need.
IntelliScore is able to read mono or stereo WAV or MP3 files with sampling rates of 11.025, 22.05, or 44.1 kHz and 8-bit or 16-bit resolution. In addition to converting the notes themselves, the program detects the key of a piece and displays chord names (written as markers) above the notes in the MIDI file. IntelliScore can recognize note durations from whole notes to 128th notes (including triplets) and converts the audio into a format 0 Standard MIDI File. The program installs quickly and without trouble.
IntelliScore's user interface has all of the necessary controls, but many of its elements are a bit crude and inefficient by today's standards. That's a shame, because some rather sophisticated programming lurks just beneath the program's surface.
IntelliScore's most commonly used controls reside in the New Project Wizard and the Project Editor. The New Project Wizard (see Fig. 1) helps you set up and complete a project: you select an audio source, set important controls, and generate a MIDI file. The wizard is context sensitive, so it determines what you need to see based on previous choices and displays only that information. That's nice, but its capabilities are limited. For example, the Record Wave File page (see Fig. 2) can record an audio clip from a music CD, but to optimize the audio for later recognition, you need to look elsewhere for better tools.
As you work your way through IntelliScore's New Project Wizard, you adjust several recognition parameters by selecting different settings or by changing values. For example, you can specify whether the audio file is of a single instrument or a group, the probable polyphony level, and the General MIDI playback sound for the MIDI file. You must also indicate the tempo by tapping on the Spacebar as the music plays, or you can allow IntelliScore to guess with its Auto Detect option. After specifying the note value represented by each tap, you complete the conversion process.
Once you have set up a project, you can adjust additional settings in the Project Editor, a multitab dialog box that distributes its controls across five pages (see Fig. 3). With IntelliScore's Project Editor, you can fine-tune the recognition process to produce better results. For example, you can specify a more limited note range or adjust the timing sensitivity. IntelliScore lets you save different project settings to make comparisons easier.
However, every time you want to adjust settings (which you do a lot), you have to move from tab to tab, fiddle with awkward controls, acknowledge that it is in fact okay to overwrite the previous MIDI file, and launch an external MIDI player to hear the results. Combine that with the lack of an Undo command, and you can spend a great deal of time trying to convert even a short clip.
IntelliScore could be a lot less cumbersome if Innovative Music Systems (IMS) redesigned the user interface to improve the controls and to present those controls on fewer tabs, provided built-in audio and MIDI players (the program only provides links to your preferred audio editor and MIDI sequencer), and added multiple levels of Undo. That set of changes would permit you to quickly compare your source audio to the resulting MIDI file and home in on the correct settings before generating a MIDI file for editing.
IN THE MODE
IntelliScore can operate in two modes. In Mode 1, you create a MIDI file by recording an instrument or your voice through a microphone, by recording from a CD, or by selecting a prerecorded audio file.
Most users will probably record pieces from CDs or select prerecorded audio files. The New Project Wizard includes buttons to launch an external CD player and a volume control panel. It also has a no-frills recorder with a meter that helps you bring the input volume into the recommended range. The meter is yellow when the audio level is too low, green when it's within range, and red when it peaks. That's a nice visual aid, but it doesn't make up for the otherwise limited functionality. You'll probably get better results using third-party software. Dynamics compression and EQ may help.
Except with the simplest audio (single-instrument, monophonic) you're unlikely to get great results from IntelliScore's New Project Wizard. For the best outcome, you must experiment with the full set of controls in the Project Editor. That can produce dramatically different results and conversion times. On my Pentium III/500 MHz with 256 MB of RAM, some settings increased the conversion time to more than five times the length of the audio clip. It's hard to predict how changing a particular setting will affect the resulting MIDI file, so you could waste a lot of time trying to convert long clips.
The documentation (printed and online) offers some suggestions on how to work more efficiently, such as dividing songs into short clips. I'd take that advice a step further and suggest that you convert only the few passages where you need the most help and work on just a few seconds of audio at a time. In addition, tapping in the tempo may work better than using the built-in Auto Detect feature.
Mode 2 is called Live Performance mode. In that mode, you control a MIDI instrument in real time by singing or playing a non-MIDI instrument into a microphone. For example, you can make a synthesizer follow your vocals. That's a neat feature that performance artists could use. In addition, it is possible to record the MIDI output into your sequencer by installing Hubi's MIDI Loopback Device, a bundled third-party driver that works only in Windows 95, 98, and ME. (IMS recommends the MIDI Yoke driver for use with Windows NT, 2000, and XP.)
I converted audio to MIDI using both modes. To test Mode 1, I converted a few clips from different musical styles; for Live Performance mode, I sang into a microphone.
Included with IntelliScore is a short MP3 excerpt from the second (slow) movement of Beethoven's Pathetique sonata. The music consists of a simple melody with accompaniment, is played in a clear and somewhat rigid manner, and was recorded with little or no processing. Although the results weren't perfect, the program correctly recognized the key signature and produced a fairly good MIDI file, even showing the harmonies through chord symbols.
To test the program under more demanding conditions, I converted three other clips: strummed guitars, a piano solo with arpeggios and chords, and a soft-jazz intro with multiple instruments, pitch bends, and percussion.
The strummed guitars produced almost nothing useful. I didn't expect much because of the complexity of the sound, but I wanted to try it anyway. The piano solo and soft-jazz results were about the same. IntelliScore gave me some useable results; I could hear correct notes among the wrong ones, which would have helped me sequence both songs. I e-mailed the piano solo to IMS tech support. It responded within a day with a better MIDI file and corresponding project settings. In Mode 2, IntelliScore tracked my voice fairly well, but it broke up sustained notes into shorter ones and added some extraneous notes.
RIGHT OR WRONG
In the final analysis, IntelliScore Polyphonic proves to be something of an interesting tool rather than a complete solution. According to the documentation, the program recognizes most of the notes in polyphonic audio, leaving you to simply “clean up” the resulting MIDI file. That may be true for some relatively undemanding, highly metrical, clearly recorded music, such as the examples that come with the software, but the audio files that I worked with left me with much more than a simple cleanup job — although IntelliScore did pick out a good number of the right notes, it also “found” many wrong ones.
If the only reason you use IntelliScore is to help you find a few hidden notes in very short audio clips, you probably won't be disappointed. Just don't expect it to generate perfect MIDI sequences. Although the interface doesn't let you work as efficiently as it could, no other program that I'm aware of attempts to convert polyphony to MIDI at all. However, IntelliScore requires patience, decent recording software, and a fast computer to give the best results.
IntelliScore's printed documentation, which is a startup guide, is poorly organized, is poorly written, and lacks important details. The online help fills in much of the missing information, but you may have to hunt for it. The tech support was good, and the response times were fast. Still, with IntelliScore's awkward interface and less-than-spectacular results, it's difficult to say whether it will save you a lot of time in the long run. Download the free demo version at the IMS Web site and give it a spin to help you decide.
By day Steve Gotler is a programmer, a tech writer, and an attorney (www.gotler.com). By night he's gotlerTech, a MIDI-based synth act (www.mp3.com/gotlertech).
Minimum System Requirements
Pentium II/200; 32 MB RAM; Windows 95;
DirectX 5.0; compatible sound card;
compatible MIDI interface;
VST 2.0 — compatible host
(for VST operation)
Innovative Music Systems
IntelliScore Polyphonic 4.0 (Win)
|FEATURES ||3.0 |
|EASE OF USE ||2.0 |
|DOCUMENTATION ||2.0 |
|VALUE ||3.0 |
|RATING PRODUCTS FROM 1 TO 5 |
PROS: Converts polyphony (somewhat). Reads MP3 as well as WAV files. Identifies key signatures. Displays chord symbols. Live Performance mode allows real-time conversion to MIDI.
CONS: Uninspired interface. Challenging to learn. Not enough built-in functionality. Results often unpredictable.
Innovative Music Systems, Inc.
tel. (954) 753-3278.