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Dr. T's QuickScore Deluxe

Notation Software

Article from Sound On Sound, December 1992


Brian Heywood scores with this entry level sequencer-cum-notation PC program from Dr T's.

Dr T's QuickScore Deluxe is their latest offering for the PC, and it is obviously a derivative of their successful Copyist program; it's written by the same programmer — Crispin Sion — and has an almost identical look and feel.

According to the blurb on the outside of the box, the program is designed to appeal to the novice or amateur computer music user, and this is reflected in the price of £99. Now this may sound pretty damning, since entry-level packages tend to have a reputation for being a bit tacky. This is not the case with QuickScore, probably because it's built on the experience that's been developed with Copyist over a number of years.

MUSIC NOTEBOOK



QuickScore Deluxe is essentially a simple linear scoring package, with a few sequencing features built in — or maybe it's a simple sequencing program with a few additional score printing facilities. The last sentence rather sums up this package, since the software doesn't really fall neatly into one category or the other. It doesn't contain a lot of the features that you would expect to find in even a modest sequencer and/or scoring package. However, to judge QuickScore on such narrow criteria would be to miss the point. Perhaps we need to define a new category of music software: the Music Notebook. This would be used to jot down ideas quickly, to score an existing piece, and then produce parts for other musicians to use, or even just document particular arrangements. The software would have to be quick to use, simple to set up, and allow you to transfer the music created with it either to a full-blown sequencer — to produce finished sequences — or to a full-featured scoring package to knock into a finished score. QuickScore certainly fits this particular bill.

INSTALLING QUICKSCORE



The QuickScore package consists of the software — on 3.5" (720k) and 5.25" (1.2MB) disks — and a substantial 115-page, A5-format manual. The manual takes you through each stage of the process of setting up QuickScore on your PC and then follows it up with a short tutorial chapter called 'Instant Gratification', which shows enough of the package to get you going. The following chapters teach you how to use the system in more detail, and there is a more comprehensive tutorial which is followed by a reference section. Unusually for Dr T's, the software is not copy protected, which means that you can take backups of your master disks and then put them in a safe place.

To install QuickScore you need any kind of IBM PC or AT (or compatible) with a graphics adaptor (ie. Hercules, CGA, EGA, or VGA), a Microsoft-compatible mouse (or pointing device) and at least 640k of RAM. The program can be used on either a floppy or hard-disk based system, although you will need to get a special set of installation floppies if you want to use QuickScore on a 360k floppy system. Make sure you tell your dealer when you buy the package if this applies to you. I actually tested the software on a 40Mhz 386 and a 10Mhz 286, so I can't actually verify that it works with an original PC or XT.

You will also need a MIDI interface (MPU401 or Key MIDIator) or a soundcard (Sound Blaster, AdLib, ATi, Pro Audio Spectrum or ThunderBoard). You can also use QuickScore with the Roland LAPC and SoundCanvas (SCC1) cards, or an IBM PS/2 system with a Roland Micro Channel MIDI Interface. If you are using a MIDI card you will need some kind of sound generator, and a MIDI keyboard is recommended (though not essential). QuickScore also supports a range of 'standard' printers such as Epson (dot matrix), HP LaserJet and DeskJet, and any Postscript printer.

FIRST LOOK



The program is started by opening the QuickScore directory and typing QS. This is a batch file that automatically loads the MIDI driver — selected at installation time — into memory and then loads QuickScore Deluxe. In the event of a problem loading the MIDI driver, a dialogue box with an error message will be displayed at this point. The colour scheme is black text on a white background for a VGA screen, or the reverse on a Hercules screen; there is no way to alter this, as far as I can see. The main screen is divided into three areas: a menu bar at the top of the screen; the main work area; and a status area at the bottom of the screen.

The menu bar will 'drop down' menus, the options being selected by clicking on them in the usual way. The status area contains icons that allow you to control the input modes of the program, plus giving you some information about current status. This area also contains a set of tape transport icons that let you control the playback of the music, as well as locating to any bar in the score. The work area displays the section of the score that is currently being edited and can show up to eight bars across and three or four staves down the screen, depending on the screen resolution. The initial display is of a single stave with a treble clef, and two bars containing rests.

There are two ways of displaying the information in the work area; the Track display shows an individual track, whilst the Score display shows the staves stacked vertically. You can use the [PgUp] and [PgDn] keys to see any that are outside the viewing area.

ENTERING THE NOTES



Within QuickScore, each individual symbol in the work area is treated as an object, which can then be manipulated as a separate entity or in a group. The program can therefore make intelligent decisions based on the note information entered. For instance, if — in a bar of 4/4 — you were to insert a minim and a crotchet followed by another minim, the program will split the second minim into two crotchets tied across the bar line into the next bar, thus maintaining your intention whilst displaying the correct notation.

One of the most important things to understand about entering notes into the system is that you are entering actual, physical notes into QuickScore, the program then interprets the note according to the time and key signature, displaying what it thinks is the correct notation. The program behaves more like a sequencer than a scoring package in this respect. If the program makes an erroneous interpretation, there is no direct way of altering the display; all you can do is alter the setup — the rules that QuickScore uses — or change the 'physical' note until the score looks the way you prefer.

You set up these all-important internal 'rules' that govern QuickScore's behaviour by accessing the 'Init' option on the Display menu. This allows you to set the tempo, key signature, time signature, clef type and various other parameters related to note entry and display. Having set up the score, you are now ready to enter the notes, which are always inserted at the 'cursor entry point', represented by a set of leger lines extending above and below the stave. There are three ways of entering the notes: mouse note entry; step-time note entry; and realtime recording. The first two are variations on 'steptime' note entry, and in the third method you play the notes into the score in time to a metronome.

MOUSE NOTE ENTRY



As the name suggests, this allows you to place notes on the stave using the mouse alone. You first select the note value (ie. crotchet, quaver etc.), then position the cursor, either using the cursor keys, or by clicking with the left mouse button on the stave where you want the note to appear, and then clicking with the right button on the required pitch. The left and right cursor keys move the note cursor at time intervals equal to the currently selected note value. The cursor entry point defines where the actual note will be placed, so you don't have to be too accurate when placing the note within the bar, as long as the pitch is correct. If you make a mistake, you can use the backspace key to delete the last note entered.

When entering notes, the cursor entry point is constrained by the time value of the currently selected note, so if you have selected a crotchet then you can only place the entry point on to whole crotchet intervals. It's rather like the 'snap to grid' options that you get in drawing or paint packages. You can create a rest by using the cursor keys to move the entry point by the appropriate note value before inserting the next note.

STEP-TIME NOTE ENTRY



This is the same as Mouse Note Entry, except that you use your MIDI keyboard rather than the right button of the mouse to define the note values. This is a faster note entry method, since you don't have to keep moving the mouse between the stave and the note value icons every time you change a note length. You can select the note lengths using the PC's keyboard, but as the relevant keys are littered all over the place, it's difficult to remember them. Chords are also easier to enter in this mode, as the cursor entry point won't move on to the next position until the last note has been lifted, so that multiple notes can be entered at one point.

REAL-TIME ENTRY



This is more like recording into a 'regular' sequencer. First, set up a metronome (either using MIDI or the PC speaker) and a 'count in' on the Options menu, and position the note entry cursor at the start of the section where you want the notes to appear. You then click on the record icon, which starts the count-in, and simply play the required notes. The new notes are added to the current notes on the stave so that you can build up parts. This is useful for constructing drum parts or adding harmony lines to a stave.

EDITING



You can edit the notes on the stave in two ways. The first is to use the mouse to select a single note, a range of notes or an entire track and then copy, cut or paste it into other sections of the score using the Edit and Track menus. The second way is to select an individual note to alter its underlying MIDI values, such as velocity, duration, channel, and so on.

ADDING TEXT AND SYMBOLS



Once the notes look OK, you can add symbols and text to give the score a more finished look and to show any lyrics. There are 15 symbols available, including loudness and other common markings. Text and symbols are entered in the same way as you enter notes, moving the note entry cursor to the required location and clicking on the right mouse button. In this way you can associate a word with a note in the melody or add piano fingerings to chords. Unfortunately there is no way to insert repeat symbols or a coda, which is surprising for a scoring package, but not for a sequencer.

PLAYING IT BACK



The score can be played back at any time by clicking on the play button on the transport controls, hitting the [P] key or by selecting an option from the Play menu. In Track mode, only the currently displayed track is played, while in Score mode all the tracks are played. To stop play you can hit any key — or click on the stop button — the playback will continue until the last bar displayed on the screen and then stop, which could take a while if you're displaying eight bars on the screen.

GETTING THE MUSIC OUT



You can print out either a single part or the entire score, depending on whether QuickScore is in track or score mode. There is also a preview option that lets you see how the final score will look. You can print out the entire file, or just the section that you can see on screen.

QuickScore also lets you export the score, either as a standard MIDI file — for use by a sequencer — or in Dr T's Copyist format. This latter option means that you take a partially prepared score produced by QuickScore and knock it into shape using the extra facilities provided by this more powerful scoring package. Most notation packages can use MIDI files as input, but you will lose any titles, markings and lyrics. You can also import the notes from your sequencer — if you have one — using MIDI files. QuickScore can read type 0, 1 and 2 files, although only the first pattern will be read from a type 2 file.

CONCLUSIONS



The QuickScore package has its faults as a music notation package — for example, you can't do some rather basic things like put in repeats, alternative endings and so on. The score is treated as a simple linear sequence of notes, rather like a track-based sequencer, but the package also falls down as a sequencer due to the rudimentary quantisation facilities and lack of any external MIDI synchronisation. However, to judge the software on these criteria is to do it a serious disservice; it should be placed in a class of its own somewhere between sequencer and scorewriter.

If you are looking for a fully-featured notation or sequencing package, you are bound to be disappointed, as QuickScore is neither of these. If, on the other hand, you want a relatively easy way to enter music into your computer and play it back, then this package is definitely worth a look. Personally I liked it, as I found it didn't put too many barriers between me and the music making. If I wasn't so wedded to Windows now, I would consider buying QuickScore as a kind of musical notebook, moving the sequence over to my main sequencer when I wanted to do some serious work on it.

If you want to explore music on your PC, if you need to produce parts quickly, or need a musical notebook for jotting down ideas and songs, by all means take a look at QuickScore. I think you'll like it.

Further information

QuickScore Deluxe £99 including VAT.

Zone Distribution, (Contact Details).


Also featuring gear in this article



Previous Article in this issue

Dynacord CLS222 Compact Rotor System

Next article in this issue

Win A £10,000 Dream MIDI Studio


Publisher: Sound On Sound - SOS Publications Ltd.
The contents of this magazine are re-published here with the kind permission of SOS Publications Ltd.


The current copyright owner/s of this content may differ from the originally published copyright notice.
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Sound On Sound - Dec 1992

Gear in this article:

Software: Scorewriter > Dr. T > QuickScore Deluxe


Gear Tags:

PC Platform

Review by Brian Heywood

Previous article in this issue:

> Dynacord CLS222 Compact Roto...

Next article in this issue:

> Win A £10,000 Dream MIDI St...


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