Music Transcription Program
Writing out full scores and individual parts for fellow musicians used to be a slavish occupation for a skilled select few. Now, with the benefit of low cost computers and music transcription programs like this one from DR.T, almost anyone can produce professional results that don't cost the earth. Amanda Stuart explores.
For years music printing has been a highly specialised and expensive process, but the availability of low-cost music notation software has now changed this situation. The production of high quality printed music has become straightforward and cost-effective, no longer demanding the slavish copying out of scores and parts by hand. Although I still believe there is something 'special' about seeing a composer's handwritten score, there is nothing to compare with seeing your own music laid out professionally, especially when it can be produced in the comfort of your own studio with comparative ease.
The music notation program being scrutinised here is Copyist, from Dr.T's Music Software in the States, and it's available for the Atari ST, Amiga and PC compatible computers. It enables you to write, transcribe, edit, and print out music, either by keying in the music data via the computer keyboard or by converting song files recorded by a sequencer into musical notation.
In the past, Dr.T programs have set themselves apart from most other Atari music software by not utilising an icon-based display. They sacrificed a user-friendly screen to do this, but in the latest version (1.6) of Copyist, a graphical user interface is introduced. Other innovations include: the introduction of macros, a clipboard, a new note-beaming method, plus the ability to use Dr.T's own Multi-Program Environment (MPE) to easily switch from their KCS sequencer to Copyist, by having both programs resident in computer memory at the same time.
There are three different 'levels' of Copyist available:
Level 1: Copyist Apprentice (score length 5 pages) £79.
Level 2: Copyist Professional (score length 50 pages) £225.
Level 3: Copyist DTP (score length 100 pages) £325.
In this review I will be concentrating on Version 1.6 of the top of the range Copyist DTP, running on an Atari 1040ST with high resolution mono monitor. A Star NL10 9-pin dot matrix printer and Dr.T's KCS Level 2 sequencer were also used to test the program.
Copyist is available for the Atari ST and Mega computers, IBM compatibles, and Commodore Amiga. Two megabytes of RAM are recommended for use with MPE and to generally speed up the running of the program. Copyist DTP supports Epson-compatible dot matrix 9-pin printers, HP GL compatible plotters, HP LaserJet and LaserJet Series II printers, Atari's own laser printer, as well as lasers and full-blown professional typesetters that accept PostScript files (eg. Linotronic 200/300).
Copyist DTP consists of a manual and four disks: the main disk, containing all the major programs; the auxiliary disk, containing additional programs; the printer drivers and fonts disk; and an examples disk.
Before using Copyist for the first time, it has to be configured to work with your particular computer and printer. This is done by loading the MECFG.PRG program from the Copyist master disk. This Music Editor Configuration program tells Copyist what setup you are using: what printer is being used, and where to look for the program directory and the work directory. All the different configurations are explained in the manual, but for a 1040ST with single disk drive, the configuration is work directory A and program directory A.
Next you return to the start-up screen and copy the main programs (for printing, editing, making parts, importing and exporting files) into the program directory. With a single disk drive setup, I store music data on one floppy disk and the program information on a separate disk. This necessitates a bit of disk swapping on the 1040ST, but it's no great sweat. Dr.T do state in the manual that Copyist is not recommended for use with a single disk drive, but apart from the time it takes in converting files and having to swap disks, the only real disadvantage is when using Copyist with MPE, but I'll come to that later.
Configuring the program can be time-consuming, especially at the start when all you want to do is get on with writing music, but once it is set up correctly, it only ever needs to be altered if any of the hardware is changed. To help speed things up, the Configure option in the 'Other' menu allows you to reconfigure Copyist for a different printer from within the program, which is much better than having to exit Copyist to run the MECFG.PRG file.
With the configuration out of the way, you load in the Copyist program. A blank grey screen appears with a familiar bar across the top, containing 11 pull-down menus: Desk, File, Mode, Page, Symbols 1/2/3, Print, MPE, Import, Other. This is a big change from Version 1.5, which didn't support GEM graphics, and where on 1.5 it was necessary to leave Edit mode to access other parts of the program - eg. configure, save, parts, convert - now they are all accessible from the one screen, thus speeding up the program's use. In addition, music symbols can now be easily selected from the three 'Symbol' menus rather than using keystroke commands - but don't panic: commands and symbols can still be entered with keystrokes, as before. So let's get on down and write some music!
To begin, a file has to be opened - simply pull down the 'File' menu and select New. The screen turns white and the cursor appears at the top left of the screen. To move the cursor around simply position the mouse where you want it to go and click, or use the normal cursor arrow keys on your keyboard. For larger jumps, F1, F2, F3, F4 and the Home and Control Home keys may be used. There is also a new way of moving the cursor note by note. By holding down the Control key and pressing the cursor keys, the cursor will jump left or right to each note head. This saves a lot of time positioning the cursor in the right place, and is a handy new addition to Version 1.6.
There are four different ways of entering information on the screen: Standard mode, Join mode, Music Keyboard mode, and Text mode, all accessible from the 'Mode' menu.
Here notes and symbols are easily placed on the screen, either by pulling down one of the three 'Symbol' menus and selecting a music symbol (eg. quaver rest) with the mouse, or by using a series of keystrokes - some simple others more complex, depending on the symbol. For example, Shift+S produces a standard five-line stave at the cursor position; s produces a sharp symbol; f a flat.
Besides single keystroke symbols, there are those which require two or more keystrokes: eg. ct = clef, treble (there are four clefs available: treble, alto - also doubles as tenor if required, bass, and drum clef); F6 n 3 = bar line, style (normal), going across three staves.
More complex symbols are not included in the menus, such as those requiring cursor movement to mark out the area over which the symbol will extend, eg. a crescendo is created by pressing the < key, marking the area with the right cursor key, and terminated with a second press of the < key.
The most complex symbol is for a slur, which involves placing four arrows in the correct order on screen by pressing the following keys, !@#$, and positioning the cursor between each keystroke to define where the slur will begin, end, and the shape in the middle. Unfortunately, the slur does not appear on the screen, only the four little arrows outlining the curve of the slur are shown. Like other symbols, such as the crescendo, the slur will print correctly in the final print mode.
Remembering the keystrokes for regularly used symbols quickly becomes second nature, but if you do forget, pressing the Help key on your Atari keyboard calls up a list of symbols and commands for easy reference. There are eight help sections which can be scrolled through using the cursor keys, or you can simply jump from section to section with keys 1-8. I found this an invaluable aid, as it is easy to forget the keystrokes for symbols not used regularly and it saves rummaging through the manual for the precise information you need. A new feature of Copyist 1.6 is that you are able to customise the Help screens, by loading the COPYIST.HLP file into any word processor that reads ASCII text and typing in your own information. Your macro key definitions could even be stored here for quick reference purposes. This file is called up every time the main Copyist program is booted.
The latest and one of the most labour-saving new features of Copyist DTP 1.6 is its ability to write and store macros. A 'macro' is a string of data which can be stored and assigned to a chosen key on the computer keyboard, and called up at any time. For example, you could store a complete page layout for a song, including the vocal line and piano part, with bar lines, clefs, and names already included; or perhaps store a set of guitar chords to be called up in a score.
Macros are easy to define: simply press Alt+R followed by the key you wish to use to replay the macro, type in the information desired, then press Alt+R to complete the macro. Pressing Alt+M followed by the selected macro key will automatically call up that particular macro. If Alt+I is placed at any point in a macro definition, it will temporarily halt its execution and allow you to manually enter a single symbol. For example, when calling up a macro for a page layout, the cursor can be told to move to the position of the time signature and two Alt+I's at this point would allow you to insert the appropriate numbers. (Macro commands are not included in the Help screens, but these can be added, as described above).
One important point not mentioned in the manual is that a macro will not remember any mouse activity, be it movement of the pointer to highlight areas of the screen, or mouse button clicks. So ensure that all movement is done slowly with the cursor keys. A macro will remember notes entered in Join mode (see later), but instead of holding down several keys at once when entering chords, you must move the cursor to each note of the chord.
Macros can be used to call up other macros and they can be nested up to 16 levels deep. This is a very useful feature, as it is possible to store whole score layouts to be recalled at the touch of three buttons! On the examples disk there are a series of macros already created, descriptions of which are held in the MACROS.TXT file on the program disk and can be either viewed or printed out for reference. For instance, pressing Alt m 4 calls up the macro 4.MAC, which will automatically lay out the first two pages of a string quartet.
There is a new feature in Copyist which allows you to group/beam notes together very, very simply. Using the mouse to highlight a group of notes, a dialogue box appears on the screen giving the choice of Join Up, Join Down, which specifies if the stems are to be joined above or below the note. You can then choose to have the beam of the notes slanting upwards, downwards, or horizontal. Then finally you choose the note values of that group. There can be any number of notes in a group. A simple tip for creating subgroups of notes of different values is as follows:
To create a group of quavers with two of the notes of that group as semiquavers, first join the whole group as quavers, then highlight two notes and specify the note value as semiquavers, keeping the stems and slant the same. This is a far quicker method than that suggested in the manual.
This mode, unfortunately, does not allow you to enter information directly from a MIDI keyboard; it just means that the computer's QWERTY keyboard has keys which correspond to different note positions on the stave.
To enter this mode, you press F8. Pressing one of the following keys, QWERTYUIOP, causes a note to appear on the stave. The letter Y corresponds to the note where the cursor is positioned and the rest follow up or down respectively, eg. if the cursor is positioned on a B,then Y=B, U=C, I=D, T=A etc. Chords are entered by pressing down the note keys simultaneously or in very rapid succession. You have to be very quick and accurate to do this, and you can't help thinking that direct entry from a MIDI keyboard would be an infinitely better method (next update perhaps?).
After writing a note or chord, the cursor automatically advances three spaces ready for you to input the next note/chord. An easy way I found of jumping on an additional three spaces is to press the spacebar (again, not mentioned in the manual, and not possible in Join mode). Note values can be specified with the number keys as the notes are written. For instance, 4 gives an upward crotchet stem, 2 a minim, 8 a quaver, etc. Flat and sharp symbols, dots and so forth, have to be entered after you exit Music Keyboard mode.
This is a quick and effective way of entering groups of notes. In this mode (entered by simply pressing the j key), notes can be entered using the QWERTYUIOP keys and then joined together to create groups of notes. You can also input the notes by positioning the cursor on the stave and pressing y. After entering a note the cursor automatically advances three spaces to the right, ready for the next note. Only one group of notes can be entered at a time and Join mode has to be ended at the end of each group.
After entering the notes, you then specify the format of the group. For example, pressing -8 will automatically join the notes horizontally; the 8 specifies quaver (eighth note) values and the hyphen - tells the computer to make the stems go above the notes. Another example is -+6. Here the hyphen indicates upward stems, the plus sign tells it to join the notes with the beam slanting downwards, and the 6 specifies the note value as hemidemisemiquavers. On a final printout on a dot matrix printer, the slanted beams look a little jagged if over large groups. If there is no indication of whether the beams are to be up or down, slanted or horizontal, but a note value is given, then the group of notes will be joined together as usual but the height and position of the stems will be determined by the position of the cursor on the stave.
Additional note information can also be added as each note is entered. For example, if a d is keyed in after a note has been entered or an s, when the group is complete these notes will appear dotted or with a semiquaver tag. (They do not appear on the screen until the group has been fully defined.) A tip here is to insert an extra space after every dotted note, otherwise the dot merges in with the next note of the group and becomes almost illegible. Black note heads (standard), small black note heads (for grace notes), and white noteheads (minims, breves, and semibreves) can all be entered in this way. This mode is simple to use, looks impressive, and gives the score that professional touch.
Pressing F7 takes you immediately into text mode, where it is possible to type in textual references in the score or even lyrics using the computer keyboard. Different fonts (eg. for an Epson printer there are normal, bold, italic, bold italic, compressed, and double width) are easily selected but these are not visible on the screen. This I found a great drawback. When you are setting out words underneath a melody, you want to see exactly how they are going to look. This works fine when using a normal font, but often it is necessary to use compressed text in order to fit all the lyrics precisely under the notes. As you cannot see the compressed font on the screen, it is impossible to line up the words properly with the notes. Neither can you enter a length of text longer than the width of the score in order to compensate for the reduction in text size when using a compressed font. Even if you guessed accurately in normal mode, on conversion to the compressed font you are left with a great gap on the right-hand side of the page whilst the text is condensed over on the left.
I did find a way around this: when you type in the text, the next letter is automatically spaced two cursor movements away from the previous letter. However, if you only allow the cursor to move one space by pressing the Backspace key before typing the next letter, the letters will overlap each other in normal text mode. This enables you to fit a longer string of words onto one line. But in final printout (not draft) the letters, when compressed, do not overlap each other! The placing of letters is still not very precise, though - one for the good doctor to cure.
The sample disk is nothing to do with sampled sounds. It contains different Music Editor files for you to peruse on screen and print out (such as the 'Toccato' score shown in the title photograph of this article), plus examples of how to and how not to transcribe music from a sequencer. It also includes a page on the layout of the drum clef (much clearer than in Version 1.5) and six pages covering instrument ranges and transpositions, it would be most useful if these were also printed within the manual, for quick refence.
The Font Editor is accessed from the 'Print' menu. It allows you to create up to 10 of your own music symbols, according to the printer type used, store them, then recall them by pressing Alt plus a number key 0-9.
After selecting the Font Editor, the normal edit screen disappears and three windows are shown labelled Screen, Epson, and Laser. To select the window suitable for your printer, simply press F1 to cycle between the choices. Symbols are drawn dot-by-dot on screen by pressing a to insert a dot (pixel) and s to delete it. There is no access to the Help screens from within the Font Editor and no useful commands are shown on the screen, which is a nuisance if the Font Editor is not used regularly, as it is easy to forget the appropriate commands. Although easy to use the windows are slightly out of proportion, so that the symbols appear elongated in the final score.
Another recent addition to the program is the Clipboard, accessed from the 'Other' menu. This is a blank screen on which notes and symbols are stored. The mouse is used to highlight a symbol or group of symbols on the clipboard, and these are then placed in the paste buffer. They may be positioned back in the score wherever needed by simply clicking on 'Paste' in the 'Other' menu, or by pressing F10. When Copyist is booted, a PASTE.ME file is automatically loaded into the Clipboard containing a wide selection of symbols all ready for use (note: it is not loaded when using Copyist in MPE).
While the score is on the screen it can be printed in draft quality, but certain symbols will not appear as in the final print. Nevertheless, this is a very useful function - you can print a whole file, a page, or just part of the screen-and considerably quicker than final printing. The quality (for a draft) is pretty good, too.
The 'Import' section is where sequenced files are converted to music notation files. There are three types of sequencer files which Copyist can readily convert:
- Dr.T KCS files (only information on Tracks)
- Steinberg Pro24 files (those stored as a Pattern)
- Any sequence stored as a Standard MIDI File (SMF).
Having selected one of these import options, you convert the file into music notation. The file goes through two stages of conversion, firstly to a .STR (streamlined sequence file) and then to a .ME file (Music Editor file). After selecting a sequence file to convert and agreeing to the creation of a .STR file, a new screen appears showing the Conversion Options menu. This allows you to choose the number of bars per line, number of staves per page, time signatures, the beat and steps per beat (ie. the resolution you were working to on your sequencer - 96ppqn etc), which tracks you wish to be transcribed (it will only transcribe the first 24), and a choice of the number and type of clef (treble, bass, alto, drum) each part will have. Each of these parameters are easily selected by just clicking on the appropriate box. If too many bars per line are chosen, the notes bunch together on top of one another.
The page width is preset by Dr.T at eight inches, which is a limitation, and there is a maximum of 16 staves to a page, although these will not all fit onto an 11" paper length (see 'Printing'). The facility to print onto A3 paper could come in handy. The names of tracks are not kept in the Stream file, which would be nice, and after conversion there is no space left at the beginning of the first stave of the first page to accommodate the instrument names, as on a conventional score. There is no way of condensing a page either on screen or when printing in Copyist, but by storing a page as a TIFF file (see later) it may be possible to load it into a graphics program and resize it there.
Having set up the stream parameters, the computer then sets about making a Stream file. This can take a very long time, especially if you have only one megabyte of RAM in your computer and a large data file. After converting a sequence file to a .STR (streamlined file), it has to be read into a Music Editor file on the screen and the file given a new .ME name, eg. HIT.ME. Having selected the Stream file to be converted, another page of options - the Transcription Options menu - is then displayed. You would normally OK these options as they have already been set up in the STR conversion, but here you can select whether you want rests included, stems joined, page numbers and bar numbers included etc, and by selecting a number in 'Voice' you can allow information to relate only to specific tracks. A few parameters cannot be changed between voices - time and key signatures, for example. If you are preparing a full score with the parts for transposing instruments already transposed, they will require a different key signature from the rest of the score but this is not possible. However, when you come to print parts out, you can transpose freely. I hope that this limitation will be removed in the next update.
You may, however, work in sections and specify different parameters for up to four sections of a whole score. When clicking on the 'Section' box, you have to specify a bar number for the beginning of each section. Let's say Section 1 has a key signature with one sharp and Section 2, beginning at bar 11, has a new key signature with four sharps. If bar 11 does not fall at the beginning of a line, then accidentals are automatically put in and the key signature is not added to the score until the next new line appears. It would be useful not only to be able to specify different key signatures for different parts, but also to be able to call up sections of specific bar numbers into the score. How about it Dr.T?
Having OK'd this page the computer will begin to convert the .STR file to a Music Editor file. You can only begin to work on the score properly when it has converted the whole file into notation. The manual states: "If you are transcribing an entire four or five minute song, with all 16 MIDI channels in use, this process may take an hour or more when running from a hard disk." Time for tea...
The waiting is very frustrating, but if you get too fed up you can always press Escape and stop the score on the page currently being transcribed. Having said this, the transcription works very accurately - too accurately at times. Therefore you must do as much preparation on your sequencer as possible to save time and energy: ensure you quantise all your notes; if there are to be repeat signs placed in the final score, remember to cut out the repeated chunks in your sequence prior to conversion; to prepare a drum part in the sequencer, transpose or pitch map the individual drums so that they correspond to the notes shown in the DRUMSCAL.ME file on your auxiliary disk (you will have to print it out to see it). The first time signature Copyist encounters is the one used for the transcription of the whole sequence - it cannot cope with time changes. Tips for preparing the score are included in the manual.
Once the score is converted, you can then edit it to your heart's content. This is then saved as a complete .ME file, which you can call up later. Page numbers and bar numbers are automatically inserted for you.
One flaw in this otherwise powerful conversion program is that it cannot deal completely with compound time signatures such as 3/8, 6/8, 9/8, and 12/8. If the sequence is recorded in 6/8 and transcribed in 6/8, all the time values are transcribed correctly but quavers are not grouped in threes. It's possible to manually correct this later in Join mode, but it's time-consuming. If you try to cheat the program by recording your sequence in 2/4 and then converting it to 6/8, the quavers are grouped in triplets but the crotchets are not dotted. Really, this is a surprising drawback to the program. Let's hope it is rectified in Version 1.7.
The Export command can be used to convert music notation into a suitable sequence file for playback via Dr.T's KCS sequencer. You can specify which staves will go to which track but the export conversion, just like import, can take a long time.
Before exporting a file, you must ensure that there is a complete bar at the start of the piece otherwise it will not convert properly. None of the expression marks in the score are transcribed, and notes all have to be lined up correctly. You can check for this by pressing the Insert key on the computer, but it would be nice if there was some way to do this automatically. Instructions are given in the manual of how to prepare the score for conversion, but unless you are very accurate, strange note values will appear in the sequence.
The Multi-Program Environment (MPE) is an 'umbrella' program that allows several MPE-compatible programs to be loaded into the computer at once (provided you have sufficient memory) so that you can switch between them at will (instead of quitting one program and loading a second each time) and exchange data easily. The Copyist DTP now has its own 'MPE' menu, accessed from the menu bar, which allows for fast interaction with Dr.T's KCS sequencer.
'Transcribe Tracks' - the first choice in the 'MPE' menu - is a quick way to transcribe the first 24 tracks of a KCS sequence. Instead of converting a file in two stages it is done in one, though the two Options menus are still displayed to enable different parameters to be specified. This is quicker than the method described earlier, though it still takes a fair while to configure a file.
There are two ways to switch between Copyist and KCS, either by selecting 'KCS Play Screen' or 'KCS Edit Screen'. If you were in Track Mode before entering Copyist, you will return to Track Play or Track Edit when the corresponding key is pressed. Equally, if entering Copyist from Sequence or Song Mode, you will return to the respective Play and Edit modes, even though only tracks can be transcribed to the screen.
There are three choices for listening to KCS: Play current sequence or track; Play current range - it remembers the last highlighted area and, if in Track Mode, all tracks will play the range; and Play current cue. The score stays stationery on the screen and cannot scroll through as the music plays. It is possible, however, to play along with the sequence (if you have a MIDI instrument connected to the computer) whilst looking at a page of the score.
The manual recommends you have two megabytes of RAM when using Copyist with MPE, and whilst I could use MPE on my 1040ST, it could not handle large sequence files, nor could any auxiliary programs (such as Parts) be used within MPE. Nevertheless, to be able to switch between KCS and Copyist is great - the only drawback being that if the score is changed in any way, it has to go through the arduous process of being exported back to a sequence file and then being loaded into the computer.
Having created a master score and stored it in a .ME file, up to 16 individual parts (eg. bass, melody, piano, etc) can be made from it at the same time. You simply select 'Parts' from the 'Other' menu, give the name of the score you wish to work from, and then type in the name of the parts to be created - make sure you leave two spaces free before the .ME suffix in the title of the file, as when the parts are created each file is given a part number added to the name already specified, eg. OBOE12.ME.
After selecting the number of parts followed by the number of staves per page, you then select which staves will make up each part, eg. stave 1 to stave 3 will turn the first three staves into one new part. Then comes the Transposition selection - here you can choose by how many semitones you wish to raise or lower the part (11 semitones either way). This is especially useful for transposing instruments such as clarinets and saxophones. Not only does it put in a new key signature (you have to remember to make sure you have enough space in the main score before the parts are created to allow for this) and transpose the notes by the appropriate pitches, it will also compensate for the transcription of sharps and flats. All the symbols relating to a part, ie. the words, expression marks etc, are also transferred automatically to each part.
The 'Parts' program is very simple to use, extremely useful, and saves an enormous amount of time normally spent on slavish copying out of parts from a main score. Once the parts have been created and automatically stored as .ME files, you can load them in and edit as normal and also print them out.
The 'Print' menu includes a series of selection boxes. The first three - Print Page, Print Screen, Print File - permit printing from the score in draft mode, as described earlier. This is a handy little number! Other selections give a choice of printer drivers and fonts - Epson, HP LaserJet, HPGL plotters, Atari laser, PostScript lasers and typesetters.
Previously, with Version 1.5 configured to the Inkjet setting, the Epson fonts were overridden and the bold Atari fonts printed. I can no longer do this with Version 1.6 - does this mean that the Inkjet configuration will now work with the Epson fonts? Having selected the printer you wish to output to, and the Music Editor file to be printed, the beginning and end page numbers can then be specified. (It does not relate to bar numbers). The print quality on my Star 9-pin dot matrix is fantastic - if you are thinking of upgrading your printer to a 24-pin model, don't bother! Copyist is not configured for 24-pin printers, although some models (such as those from Citizen) will produce a full score that is slightly elongated.
As stated at the beginning, the maximum number of pages Copyist Professional can handle is 50, whilst Copyist DTP will hold up to 100 pages. The maximum number of staves to a page is 16 and Copyist prints to an 8"x 11" page. If the score page contains more staves than will fit on to this size paper, the printer will print a longer page - this way you can use A4 sheets. There is only a problem with the page length when printing out continuously, as the paper length must be 11" in order for the page-breaks to coincide with Copyist 'page end' commands. I found this annoying, since I mainly use A4 paper. I tried every which way to reconfigure this but without success. Dr.T really ought to allow user-definable paper sizes - I cannot believe this would be too difficult to implement. It would make life a lot simpler, as well as perhaps making A3 size scores possible.
There are two main differences between the Professional and DTP programs. Apart from allowing a larger score length of 100 pages, Copyist DTP contains additional PostScript and Adobe Sonata font files together with a TIFF program (Tag Interchangeable File Format). I could not test these on my dot-matrix printer. PostScript and Adobe Sonata fonts allow the computer to transmit information to a typesetting machine. This means that Copyist DTP can be used as a serious publishing tool by anyone with access to a local typesetting firm. The TIFF and EPS files allow Copyist to interface with other desktop publishing programs, and as the manual says: "If you have need to write a book and use musical examples in the text, create a score which needs extensive commentary, or design a document which incorporates paint or draw graphics, music, and text together on the same page" then these files allow music pages to be called up into these programs and manipulated, eg. Pagestream for the Atari ST, and PageMaker and Ventura Publisher for the PC. This facility, together with the PostScript and Adobe font files, turns Copyist DTP into a powerful and flexible desktop music publishing program.
Dr.T's Copyist is a very powerful music writing, editing, and transcription package that is straightforward to operate and, in its current Version 1.6 guise, makes good use of the friendly graphical user interface. This program should appeal to all composers/songwriters wishing to produce high quality printed scores/parts to present to publishers or players, or (with the DTP version) to present camera-ready artwork straight to a printer. One great facility of the DTP version is that its files may be called up into software other than music programs, to combine with text and graphics. This is ideal for colleges and publishers, enabling them to produce their own music publications and journals in house.
Although an extremely good program, Copyist does have some limitations (not surprising, in the light of all the complex things it is able to do): it cannot transcribe compound time signatures such as 6/8 properly; when transcribing sequences, only the first time signature is recognised, all others are ignored; sequencer track names are not transcribed to the main score; page sizes cannot be changed; text fonts are not displayed on the screen as they will be printed (ie. not WYSIWYG); converting a file from a sequencer to the Copyist takes a very long time, though it is quicker when using the Multi-Program Environment (it would be nice to have a realtime editor for those of us able to read music notation); a MIDI keyboard cannot be used to input note information into the Copyist - this would be an extremely useful facility.
There are lots of positive features, too, and some deserve a special mention: the quick generation of individual parts from a whole score; the powerful macros; the ability to design custom symbols with the Font Editor; the comprehensive Help screens; easy insertion of symbols and text anywhere in the score; ease of joining note heads; extremely easy note editing; fantastic print quality, even on a 9-pin dot matrix printer!
In addition to this list of good points, I would like to give a special mention to the Dr.T Helpline in Boston, USA, who are always ready with friendly and useful advice when you call. Version 1.7 is already being worked on, and let's hope that the limitations mentioned here are put right in the next version, making Dr.T's Copyist one of the most powerful yet easy to use music transcription programs around.
Copyist Apprentice £79.95 (ST, PC, Amiga). Copyist Professional £225 (ST, PC); £199 (Amiga). Copyist DTP £325 (ST and PC only).
MCMXCIX, (Contact Details).
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Review by Amanda Stuart
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