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Quick Pick: Notion Music Progression (Mac/Win)

May 1, 2008
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Progression offers professional-looking notation and powerful, guitar-specific playback tools in an affordable package.

Progression offers professional-looking notation and powerful, guitar-specific playback tools in an affordable package.

Notion Music has released an entry-level program called Progression ($99) that's designed primarily for notating guitar and bass scores with standard notation and tablature, though it's also capable of creating keyboard and drum parts. Note entry in Progression is very intuitive whether you use the palette or MIDI, as is inserting articulations, sizing the music, changing fonts, or applying chords.

Playback is smooth, offering WYSIWYH (“what you see is what you hear”) results: scored dynamics and articulations are played, including bends, slides, and slurs. Notion recruited guitarist extraordinaire Neil Zaza, bassist Victor Wooten, and percussionist Futureman for the sampled sounds used during playback. The guitars and basses sound especially convincing and varied — from strummed acoustics to spanky-clean country leads and distorted rock shredding (see Web Clip 1).

The interface's main screen has a guitar neck on the left side, a score window in the center, a tool palette and mixer on the right side, and a transport bar across the top. A second window, using a rack metaphor, appears when you want to apply and tweak the effects. The program exports WAV files (with effects) and MIDI files.

The only printed documentation is a handy card-stock foldout listing the keyboard shortcuts, but I got pretty far without having to invoke the help screens. When I finally did use them, I was impressed with the logic and presentation of the features.

ENGRAVE CONDITION

As a quick test, I entered a rather knotty-looking Van Halen solo transcription, complete with bends, slurred tuplets, and unusual graphics (tapping indications, whammy bar moves, and so on). Except for one or two purely graphical, nonmusical symbols, I got all of the conventional notation right where I wanted it in very little time. (Notation and tab update automatically no matter which is entered.) I discovered that some of Progression's tools aren't editable once they're on the page. If you make a mistake (as I did when applying a palm mute), your only recourse is to delete it and start over. But that's not too bad, given how quickly you can select, delete, and reapply the appropriate tool from the palette.

You can apply any manner of bends — immediate, gradual, bend-and-release, and so forth — by grabbing the appropriate symbols from the palette. To change the immediacy of a bend's response, simply pull it horizontally (extending it in musical time). To change a bend's interval, just click-and-drag the arrowhead up or down to reach the desired result. (Microtonal bends are also available.) I would have liked the hammered and pulled notes to be more slurlike and less articulated; they retain some of their articulation, though it becomes subdued once it's within a slur.

When you select a chord grid, a new palette called the Chord Library opens showing a choice of related chord forms. Pick the chord you want, or edit an existing frame by moving the fingerboard dots. Unfortunately, you can't save your customized chords to a library.

FOLLOW MY LEAD

The Ntempo feature, which lets you control the tempo by tapping your controller's keys to the beat, works very well. I found I could speed up and slow down the music smoothly — handy for teaching purposes.

For a notation program, Progression has a compelling and versatile effects section. You can activate and bypass effects in real time and hear your parameter changes, too. However, once you're in the effects screen, none of the transport functions work. You have to activate the score screen (which deactivates the effects screen) to pause, rewind, or restart your music. Also, you can't resize the effects window, making it inconvenient to adjust effects and work on your score at the same time unless you have two monitors. Progression's capabilities for professional layout are limited: you can't save scores as a PostScript or EPS file, which limits further graphics work using other programs.

FINAL DOUBLE BAR

Progression's depth and editability, not to mention its excellent electric and acoustic guitar sounds, make it useful to beginners and pros alike. The program offers a great way to get elegant-looking guitar tablature and notation and great-sounding playback for under $100.


Value (1 through 5): 4
Notion Music
notionmusic.com

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