Basic Composer. (computer program) (Reviews) (evaluation)
by Joey Latimer
At last I've found a simple and effective music composition program for people without MIDI experience. It's Basic Composer, from Eduction Software Consultants, and unlike the expensive and elaborate MIDI-based composition programs I've seen, this one should suit my music students quite well.
Since Basic Composer is menu driven and features onscreen help prompts, it provides a very user-friendly way to compose and notate music.
Basic Composer's Main Menu gives you a real sense of the program's capabilities. You can start editing, retrieve, print, and save a song; you can also choose to reformat or extract parts of songs or work on a single staff or a grand staff. When you start editing a song, the Compose Menu lets you set the clef, key signature, tempo, dynamic level, and other options. Once you've made these selections, you're ready to begin composing on the workscreen, which pictures the musical staff you have selected.
You place notes and other musical symbols on the screen using various keystrokes, which appear in tables at the end of the manual. If you prefer, you can have onscreen listings of any or all of the keystroke codes you need help with. To hear your composition played back at any time, press R for the last note, P for the current staff, or C for the entire composition.
One hardware limitation PC compatibles have, unfortunately, is that they can play only one note at a time, so you can't hear chords and harmony. You can, however, play the different notes of chords back separately to check for accuracy.
Once you've finished your musical masterpieces, ;use one of the many supported printers to generate a detailed hardcopy of your composition. The printouts from my Epson LQ 24-pin printer looked impressive, and I particularly appreciated the program's ability to let me print guitar chords along with a melody line and lyrics. I also found that with Basic Composer I could quickly and automatically transpose a piece of music and print it out in a different key.
Basic Composer comes with an exceptional 61-page user's manual, complete with a thorough index and instructions on getting free technical support by calling, writing, or sending a letter on CompuServe using a modem.
I highly recommend Basic Composer to music teachers, students, and hobbyists as a powerful and user-friendly alternative to costly and confusing MIDI-based music processors.