Some more thoughts about Notion 5


As I stated in my last post, Notion 5 is available, and I have been working with the app a little bit this evening.

Overall, if you knew Notion 4, Notion 5 doesn’t really look or act very differently than Notion 4. It seems stable, and its running fine on my late 2008 MacBook (6GB memory, however).   The biggest difference in appearance is Notion 5’s new “mixer” look, which mirrors other PreSonous apps, and according to my friend Paul Shimmons at iPads and Technology in Music Education, you can even link Notion 5 to other PreSonus software.

Notion's new mixer look...note the additional settings on the board, such as EQ (etc.)

Notion’s new mixer look…note the additional settings on the board, such as EQ (etc.)

Truthfully, I’m probably never going to get that far; my main focus for Notion will be to enter music to be used as an accompaniment/accompanist; and mainly as a jumping point for the iPad app.  I would love to do some work with the “N-Tempo” live performance mode, but I would rather work with that on the iPad.

There are still some non-ideal things (for me) with Notion; I am not thrilled with either Notion 5 or Notion for iPad’s handling of lyrics; I don’t like how the lyrics jump on the page (see image below), and entering lyrics (Mac or iPad) seems to be more complicated than it should be.  I wish there was a way to navigate between word to word (especially backwards), and when you press enter on an existing lyric (this is in Notion 5), that lyric shouldn’t disappear.  I also wish there were a better way to clone lyrics (Notion 5 and Notion for the iPad).  As it stands, you have to click each word on an existing line, copy them, and then paste them.  It can be difficult to select each syllable without losing all the other words you have already selected.

It must be terribly hard to create a good way to “do” lyrics with music notation; at times even Finale makes lyrics tough (ever tried to import a scanned piece with hyphenated words?  Can you say, “Hard to edit mess?”).  I get it…I’m a choir teacher and lyrics are essential for me, and are far less important for the other 2/3 of the musical world (Band/Orchestra).  Still, you have to have hope!

I am also still trying to figure out how to have this program roll a piano chord at the end of a song…the program does so many other sounds and playing techniques “right” that it’s hard to believe it can’t do that.  It does play rolls (bottom up or top down) wonderfully.

Note how the text "jumps" on the page depending on where the notes are.  I can understand text jumping to avoid a collision, but there is nothing in the way to make that text jump.

Note how the text “jumps” on the page depending on where the notes are. I can understand text jumping to avoid a collision, but there is nothing in the way to make that text jump.

One of the reasons you buy Notion is for the quality sounds.  I exported the audio for the piano accompaniment to Ralph Vaughan William’s “The Vagabond” (from Songs of Travel) to SoundCloud, and if all went well, that audio should appear below:

This quality of audio is the main selling point, to me, for Notion 5; everything else is a bonus.    Remember, I do work in other programs (e.g. Finale) and apps (e.g. NotateMe) just to export to Notion for the audio at the end.  Do you hear the detail in that audio, from staccato notes to dynamics.  Sure, it is subjective as Finale has Garritan and Sibelius has Sibelius Sounds.  But to me, Notion sounds great…in Notion 5 and in Notion for the iPad.  Oh yes…both the program and app upload directly to SoundCloud as an option.

Can you own Finale AND Notion?  Yes.  Sibelius and Notion?  Yes.  MuseScore and Notion?  Yes.  Do you have to have both?  No.  For many musicians, one of each of these programs may “cut it.”  Notion 5 does some of what all the other programs do; it does some things better, and it also lacks some features of the other programs.   Example: the basic scanning that comes with Finale (SmartScore) and Sibelius (PhotoScore).  And don’t forget about the iPad app, which is unique to all these programs.  Whatever you do on Notion 5 can be brought to the iPad.  Notion 5 is a tool that fits well into my toolbox, and I do use it from time to time (I use Notion for the iPad FAR more, but then again, I use my iPad far more).  As I said in my last post, I am looking forward to seeing elements of Notion 5 appear in Notion for iPad.

Notion’s list of features includes the following items:

  • Easily compose, play back, and edit music

  • Best playback of any notation product, with orchestral samples recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra and more

  • Perform scores using Notion as a live instrument and save your performance

  • Create a score on a Mac or Windows computer and continue to edit on iPad and vice versa

  • Compose to picture with the video window

  • Interactive Entry Tools: Keyboard, Fretboard, Drum Pad, Chord Library

  • Process audio with PreSonus Native Effects™ Limiter, Compressor, and Pro EQ plug-ins

  • See notation and MIDI data on the same staff

  • Import/export files to/from Finale and Sibelius via MusicXML

  • Import video in a variety of formats

  • Native 64-bit supportReWire support (host and slave)

P.S.  My main wishes for the iPad app is better handling of lyrics, the ability to move the toolbar from the bottom of the screen, and for larger, finger friendly buttons for note values on the iPad.  The buttons are a good size on a computer screen, as you click with a mouse or use keyboard commands (which, incidentally, are very intuitive on Notion 5)…and not so good with “just” a finger.  I would like the menu to be able to be moved on the side of the screen…typically, you play the on screen piano with one hand, and could then select note values with the left hand…this is hard to do on the app where the buttons are resting on top of the keyboard.


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