Audio Mechanica

QuickScore Elite, Level II

Reviewed by TIM BROSNAN, Staff Writer
Features 4 stars
Enjoyability  5 stars
Ease of Use  5 stars
Stability  5 stars
Price 5 stars

What it does

QuickScore Elite Level II is a music "notation" (or "publishing") program ... it allows the user to edit the visual (score) characteristics of a MIDI sequence and then print that sequence as sheet music in the same way one might print a text file using a desktop publishing program.

I launch QEII whenever I need to slam together a lead sheet with one or multiple staves. It easily writes, edits and prints sheet music with adjustable symbols, guitar chords and lyrics displayed and printed in any typeface installed on my operating system.

It's also a decent sequencing program, complete with event, controller, piano roll, score and track windows, as well as an animated mixer with faders for all channels and controllers.

(Background note: The first notation program I ever owned was QuickScore Deluxe, manufactured at the time by a company called Dr. T's. Who bought whom I can't say, but Sion Software's QuickScore Elite, Level II is leaps and bounds beyond the Dr. T's product I owned several years ago. Sion Software's latest version of QuickScore Deluxe, for that matter, bears little resemblance to its namesake ancestor.)

What it costs

At $179.95 (plus shipping from Sion Software), QEII is an undisputable bargain.

Who should buy it

Beginners looking for a darn good notation program combined with a respectable sequencer or intermediate-level computer musicians looking for a good power/price ratio in the notation category need look no further than QEII.

How it was tested

QEII is a program I use in everyday life, so I'm "testing" it constantly.

Although a song (MIDI sequence and sheet music) can be worked up from scratch entirely within QuickScore, I got QEII for its notation prowess, not its sequencing ability. I usually import completed MIDI sequences into it for visual "finessing" from other programs like Cakewalk or Master Tracks Pro.

And yes, Cakewalk does print sheet music with lyrics. So, too, might a pig be persuaded to pull a plow if no mule's available, or, as the Cakewalk 5.0 User's Guide so modestly puts it, "Cakewalk Pro Audio is not intended as a replacement for full-featured music publishing software."

Cakewalk is a sequencer, its notation function but a puny appendage to its sequencing abilities. Master Tracks Pro, for that matter, fine sequencing program that it is, avoids the text and lyric issue altogether. It only prints notes.

I routinely import MIDI sequences into QuickScore, doing so easily as long as I've saved them out wherever they began in standard MIDI format and not in one of the proprietary formats various sequencing programs offer.

Since QEII is both a sequencer and a notation program, I can use it to alter MIDI note and controller data as well as the visible (printable) aspects of my music. Finally, when I'm finished editing, I can print my scores and admire my "engraving". (People who write sheet music for a living are known as "music engravers" ... don't ask me why.)

General comments

Until I've learned how to use Coda Music's Finale (see Coda Music listing on the Factory Tours page), Sion Software's QuickScore Elite, Level II will remain my notation program of choice.

Any MIDI sequence laid down with any other sequencing program imports easily into any of QEII's eight editing windows - piano roll, score, track, etc. Many of these windows are "zoomable", making it possible to magnify an area either horizontally, vertically or both.

Once a sequence is imported, since QEII is a sequencing program also, MIDI note and controller values can be edited just as they might be in their sequencers of origin. This sequencing ability heightens QEII's value as a notation program, since it eliminates the necessity of jumping back and forth between programs to edit both notation-related and sequence-related data.

(It should be noted, however, that, just as Cakewalk's notation abilities don't make it a first-rate notation program, QEII's sequencing abilities don't make it a first-rate sequencer.)

As a notation editor, QEII is very easy to use. Its instruction manual is clear and well indexed and on-line help is just a click away to answer any questions along the way. Notes, rests and barlines can be adjusted for visual effect without altering playback. Text can be entered as lyrics or as text with various fonts assigned to each. Users are limited in their choice of fonts in QEII only by the fonts installed on their systems.

Note values can be entered in either real time with a controller keyboard or by step-entry using either the controller keyboard or mouse. Notes can then be edited on either a per-note, per-bar, per-track or global basis. Many notation parameters are adjustable, including but not limited to note quantization, key signature, stem direction, bars per line, staves per page and staff split point.

QEII's print preview window offers both full and "greeked" (reduced) previews of the finished product. There are hundreds of symbols to choose from, including guitar chords, and over a dozen of those symbols are adjustable. Notes and lyrics can be cut, pasted and "bumped" in user-definable increments. Controller data can be entered with a fair degree of precision using QEII's pencil tool. A full range of tools including pointer, pencil, eraser and directional tools is available in the score, piano roll and event editing windows.

My only major complaint about QEII is its inability to independently scale printed output. Higher-end notation programs like Finale allow the user to determine whether a page will be printed full-size or some percentage smaller or larger. QEII doesn't do this. The effect of scaling can be faked to some extent by specifying a smaller paper size and adjusting indentation, but the results are less than satisfactory.

Otherwise, this program is a demon ... easy to use, attractive to look at, very stable and, for its power and price, a powerful bargain.

Audio Mechanica January 1997

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