It’s a tough job writing out musical score by hand. I spent hours as a student writing pages and pages of the stuff – if I’d known about Igor Engraver then, my assignments would have had fewer mistakes in them.
One of the main gripes many people have about music notation applications is that they assume a great deal of musical knowledge. Igor presents the user with a friendly, no-nonsense interface. At start-up, the usual blank score window is missing, being replaced with a Musicians window. Instead of relying on staff-based parts, the program creates virtual musicians, in turn generating the appropriate staff on the paper.
A colossal range of instruments is supported – from the usual violins, to the Hurdy-Gurdy – so you needn’t worry about not being able to notate that Turkish folk trio you’re working with. Whole ensembles can be assembled in the Layout pane of the window, and dragged across to the Musicians pane to generate all the staffs on the page.
There are various ways of getting the notes onto the paper. They can be dragged from the note palette directly onto the staff, input from a computer keyboard – which allows control over note-length – or via a MIDI keyboard.
The latter can be done in two ways: step-time – where the duration of each note is set on the computer – and the actual events played on the MIDI device. This can often yield very robotic-sounding results, however, so real-time recording is also available.
Once all the notes have been input, they’re easy to tweak. In this respect, Igor stands out – if, for example, a series of notes are linked together with a long slur and one of them needs to be raised in pitch, the slur will move and smooth itself out in real-time as the note is dragged up the staff. Most other programs require the slur to be edited separately. Equally, crescendos are self-adjusting – and dynamic markings actually affect the MIDI output.
Igor uses Opcode’s free Open Music System (OMS) to deal with MIDI traffic. While this doesn’t have to be installed to use Igor, it’s needed if you want an audio playback of your score. This is augmented by Igor’s “WYSIWYH” (What You See Is What You Hear) output. How well this works depends on the quality of your outboard equipment – but the basic premise is simple: the program will be able to tell the difference between a trill on, say, a cymbal and a clarinet.
It’s rare that a freeware program will give the big boys a run for their money. While Igor may not have the power-user features of Finale, home – or even some professional users – should take note.
PowerPC; 32MB RAM; QuickTime Musical Instruments.