MasterWriter is a modular software system that serves as a songwriter’s assistant. It provides a word processor, stereo audio recorder, dictionary, rhyming dictionary, thesaurus, phrase database, and library of drum loops to aid the creative process.
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MasterWriter ($289), offered by a company of the same name, is a comprehensive collection of songwriting tools for the Mac and PC. The software mostly aids in writing lyrics, and it includes separate dictionaries containing over 100,000 rhyming words, 36,000 rhyming phrases, 33,000 nonrhyming phrases, and 11,000 references to pop-culture icons. Also included are an alliterations dictionary, the American Heritage Dictionary, Roget's II thesaurus, a database for storing both creative data (such as tempo) and administrative data (such as publishing information) for your songs, and a rudimentary hard-disk recorder for saving your melodies and arrangements.

MasterWriter requires either a 500 MHz or faster Mac G3 running OS 9.2.2 or OS X 10.1.5 or higher (10.2 is recommended), or a Pentium III or faster and Windows 98SE, 2000, ME, or XP. Whatever your platform, you'll need at least 128 MB of RAM (MasterWriter recommends 256 MB) and QuickTime 6.0.2 (which is included). I used MasterWriter with a dual-processor Mac G4/867 MHz running OS 9.2.2.

Search Me

After you type some lyrics into MasterWriter, you can select any word and perform a search for a rhyming word or phrase or find a nonrhyming phrase, definition, synonym, or antonym for that word. Search results include perfect and imperfect rhymes. MasterWriter even provides rhymes to slang pronunciations (using achin' instead of aching, for example). To preserve the meter of your lyrics, you can filter your search results to show only words containing a specific number of syllables.

The separate pop-culture dictionary displays culturally significant names, places, people, events, and products that rhyme with your selected word. Using the dictionary of rhymed phrases, a search for the word night reveals dozens of fragments, including “by the dawn's early light.” Yet another dictionary yields an abundance of nonrhyming phrases that include your selected word (such as “a night on the town”). MasterWriter plans to offer free annual updates to the phrase and pop-culture dictionaries.

For each word you search, the rhymes you subsequently choose to keep track of are organized into a separate Favorites list, with one list for each word search. Every word for which you performed a search — in any of the dictionaries — is subsequently available in a drop-down menu, providing a useful history of searches you can revisit.

Beyond Words

MasterWriter includes a bare-bones hard-disk-recording feature that's useful for spontaneously recording melodies and arrangements (using your computer's built-in mic or an external mic). It can also import MP3, WAV, AIFF, or QuickTime Movie files. MasterWriter records mono or stereo audio files at sampling rates of 11.025, 22.05, or 44.1 kHz, and it can export them in WAV or AIFF format. The recorder provides basic transport and loop controls, markers, and more than 250 MIDI drum loops. The drum loops encompass various performance styles, and you can adjust their tempos.

Because MasterWriter supports neither multitrack recording nor punching, its recorder is no substitute for a DAW. However, it provides an alternative to using a cassette recorder for saving quick sketches of your songs. It is also useful for prepping songs for registration with MasterWriter's Web-based Songuard service. Songuard is a date-of-creation registration service that offers protection for your lyrics and melody during the development stage, before you register them with the Register of Copyrights. A one-year subscription to Songuard comes with your purchase of MasterWriter.

The included 18-minute Flash demo covers all of MasterWriter's main features and, combined with the onboard Help, serves as the program's operating manual. I liked that the Help window could stay open while I worked on song lyrics and that it would automatically update to show relevant content as I navigated through MasterWriter's various modules (windows).

Acid Test

Whenever I tried to rewrite a certain song over the past year, I got stuck on one phrase I knew could be stronger. MasterWriter gave me three pages of rhymes, and one inspired the perfect substitute phrase for my song. That took the first verse to a higher level.

MasterWriter's greatest strength is that it aids helps you stay with the creative muse instead of switching your brain to analytical thinking to come up with rhymes. The program is comprehensive, well organized, and easy to learn. Its price is hefty, but ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and NSAI members receive a professional discount. I'm sold!

Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 4.5

MasterWriter; tel. (866) 892-8844; e-mail; Web