Professional Music Notation and Publishing Software from Opcode
by Ken Johnson,
Educational Sales Manager/Opcode Systems
Getting it down. Your musical ideas, that is. Whether it's a melody, a chord progression, some lyrics, or a complete score, getting it down on paper is an important part of being a musician. And although computers have helped us be more productive in almost every other phase of our lives, serious compromises have had to be made when choosing a notation software package. You can pick easy-to-use software with stripped down features, or full-featured software with a complex matrix of unpredictable tools. Hey, what about a really powerful notation program that's easy and fast to use? When Opcode's Overture software was originally introduced, it won awards because of it's power, speed, and intuitive interface. Now, with the introduction of Overture 2.0, it redefines what notation software can be. In this article, I'll try to explain what makes Overture special and detail some of its unique features.
Instrument Libraries. An arranger/composer/musician thinks most intuitively in terms of instrumental names, not names of devices, MIDI channels and programs. Overture's Instrumental Library provides a location where you can define what MIDI device, channel and program will represent an instrument. Once your Instrument Library is set, you can easily choose sounds by instrument name and forget about MIDI. You can set up as many libraries as you like and load them into Overture to suit your compositional taste for a particular document. This is also where you set up transposition information for an instrument so that parts are extracted in the correct key or displayed in the correct key if you're working on a transposed score. Transpositions for most band and orchestral instruments are already done for you.
Complete OMS and Name Manager support. Opcode's "Open Music System" is the most widely adopted standard for MIDI communication in the industry, and Overture is the first notation program which completely supports it. OMS provides a central location for defining and storing a detailed description of your MIDI studio. This means that Overture can know all about all the devices and patches in your studio, including patches available using bank select, and you can choose those devices and patches by name. Users of Opcode's Galaxy Editor/Librarian can access all the advantages of that program from Overture, providing the most complete MIDI system integration available in a notation program. Through OMS, Overture can utilize Apple's QuickTime Musical Instruments, which turns your Macintosh into a functional sound module. This works nicely in a pinch or in educational situations where budget constraints just don't allow for MIDI instruments at every computer.
Sophisticated features. A lot of new features have been added to Overture 2.0. For example, the new "Expressions Palette" allows you to save and customize large lists of text expressions that you frequently use in your scores. These expressions can be saved in libraries that you can load into Overture at your discretion. For instance you can have a jazz expression library, a rock library and a symphonic library; simply load the expression library that's appropriate for the music you're creating. You also have control over whether an expression appears in subsequent parts that you print out from a score. Speaking of printing out parts, Overture now allows you to print out multiple parts (or "voices") from a single staff. So now trumpet 1 and 2 which share a staff in your score, can easily be printed out to separate parts. Also, parts involving transposing instruments automatically are printed in their correct playing key. Yes, you can also display concert or transposed scores. Beat charts allow you to exactly define how much space is allotted for a given beat or subdivision of a beat in a measure. In ddition, beat charts can be defined globally for an entire document. A staff optimize command allows you to eliminate staves containing no notes on a given page, as is standard scoring practice. In addition to the standard palette of articulations, a new palette of jazz articulations has been added including symbols for slides, fall offs, shakes, doits, and flips, just to name a few. If your tastes in scoring lean towards the unusual, you'll be glad to see the new Post Script Drawing Tools which allow you to freely draw curves, lines and other shapes with solid or a variety of dashed lines. You can also import characters from any font. Some of these features are available on a few other notation programs, but the real beauty of Overture is how simply they are implemented - you won't find yourself opening up the manual every time you need to get something done.
Capture EPS or PICT images. Music educators and method book writers take note: Overture allows you to create an EPS or PICT file of any element or section of a score for instant pasting into virtually any application. This is great for teachers who prepare quizzes, tests, and worksheets for for students who are working on papers.
Vision users feel right at home. In the past, notation software users have had to accept limited MIDI editing and playback ability. Not any more. Overture uses the same graphic editing window found in Vision, which allows you to place and edit program change, velocity, controller and note information with confidence and precision. Vision users will also recognize the controls window, which operates just like the control window in Vision. You can even punch in and out of Overture in real time recording just like in Vision. Speaking of MIDI playback, "Hold Timing" is a new feature that allows you to freeze the MIDI performance of a piece and make it completely independent of the music that scrolls while it plays! The possibilities are endless here, but a common application of this would be to represent a complex glissando with only a half note and a graphic.
Lyric entry. This is really a beautifully designed feature. Overture allows you to type in lyrics "en mass", as you would into a word processor and then "flow" the lyrics into the music in one simple operation. Since the lyrics exist as text, it's easy to cut and paste material between verses or out of a word processor. If you've left out an important tie in the music or a syllable in the lyrics, no problem: simply make your changes and click on the "apply changes" button to reflow your text as if for the first time. No complex tools or menus to deal with. With Overture, songwriters can save any number of lyrics to the same verse, and simply enable the lyric that they want to print. For instance, you may have two great lyrics you could start a song with. You can assign them both to verse one and print two different versions of the song to take to your session. No major editing is required.
String Instrument Tablature. Use Overture to create tablature notation in which the number of string lines and their individual tuning is completely definable, to accommodate a variety of instruments. Overture will onvert standard musical notation to your defined tablature staff by simply choosing the "Notes to Tablature" command from the "Notes" menu. You can ask Overture to fix the transcription to a particular position on the fingerboard or to allow the transcription to "float" within a predefined "finger span". You can copy, paste, and delete tablature entries. When you drag a tablature marking to a new string, Overture automatically enters its new fret value for that string!
The new generation of notation software is finally here, with the emphasis on productivity and power. Overture is currently available for any Macintosh computer running System 7 with at least 4 megs of RAM installed at a list price of just $495. But you know the drill by now: Make a call immediately to your Sweetwater sales engineer for additional information and your special pricing on Overture 2.0!
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