Monday, February 27, 2012

APP Review: NOTION Notation and Composition APP

By Mark T. Burke

Notion for iPad is one of those APPS that just feels good. No, actually, it feels GREAT.  The graphics are excellent, the UI is intuitive, the work flow, well, works, and the output is fantastic. There you have it, my shortest APP review ever :-)

Maybe I'll add a bit more. Notion is a musical notation APP for the iPad.  It provides the tools to setup a score quickly.  Just choose instruments, or sets of instruments and you'll be composing in minutes.  Now, there is one thing I don't like.  I don't like having to buy things within APPs.  Now, I get WHY this has to happen, but I just don't like to.  And, using a school iPad, restrictions can keep additions from happening all together, so I wish adding voices was not handles this way.....(More on that when I talk about the download time).  Being a saxophonist, I was eager to setup a score for our sax quartet...not so fast...I had to buy the saxes.  The thing is though, you're buying the voices, not the ability to compose for saxophone. Notes are notes after all.  Keep that in mind as you setup your scores.  If you find yourself having to buy a voice, you can just choose another instrument and change the key to match the instrument's key.  That's what I did for saxes. I just added flutes and then changed the key.  I will have to experiment a bit more, but I at least wanted readers to know that NOT buying instruments was not a show stopper.

With the score set up, your title and composer's name in place, you can set all the standards like key and meter.  Then, you just start composing.  I've actually not used another tablet composing tool, so I found the touch environment very inspiring.  It felt more organic than using a mouse to add notes to the staff....for some reason. 

All the standard notation tools are available including text/lyrics.  Output is in the form of MusicXML, MIDI, PDF and native formats.  You can also save to Dropbox.

Overall, Notion is a very impressive APP.  It feels professional, yet would be right at home in a classroom of students.  The format fits nicely into the iPad environment.  The download is lengthy, notice it is a 1.12 GB APP....ouch!  This is why many of the instruments are ad-ons no doubt.  Once the initial APP is installed however, it operates flawlessly.  Now, I just wish I was actually a composer who could really make good use of this APP.

Here's the link on the APP store:  http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/notion/id475820434?mt=8




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