Notion Protégé demo

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Filmmaking Software Review for Narrative Film Production
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VirtuosoWorks' Notion Protégé - demo version

A fun and useful demo program for film scoring with full symphony orchestra sounds. The demo works for 30 days and can be upgraded at any time to the full version of Protégé for $99.
Protégé is one of the highest rated programs for getting an introduction to musical notation. It is limited to only 8 instruments which is more than enough for filmmakers creating background music or narrative music for their film scores.
For filmmakers, the only real limitation with Protégé is the need to learn musical notation. That is not a minor obsticle.
Highly Recommended: Since VirtuosoWorks (aka. Notion Music) will mail you the Protégé disk for free, this is a wonderful opportunity to begin learning and creating symphonic music for films.
Review by Robert Elliott
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VirtuosoWorks' Notion Protégé - demo version

Protégé is a unique musical notation program for people who want to learn film scoring and already know notation. Protégé comes with many of the sounds of a symphony orchestra. The quality of the symphony orchestra sounds is great -- good enough to use for film scores for your movies. That is a fantastic opportunity for filmmakers.
Which Notion?
There are two versions of Notion -- the full version which is called "Notion 1.5" and "Notion Protégé 1.0". Obviously, Protégé is the smaller version with fewer voices than Notion 1.5 yet all the voices for both versions are from the London Symphony Orchestra at full quality. There is no compromise with quality in Protégé. Wow!
You must know notation
For filmmakers, there is only one limitation. To use this program, you must know musical notation or you must be extremely eager to learn musical notation. Protégé comes with a useful reference card and a good, but short, tutorial. However, there is no help in learning notation. Fortunately, there are many free tutorials on the Internet. Still, for filmmakers who are not musicians, notation can be a bit frightening to learn.
30 days
Notion Protégé includes a fully working demo version which can be used for 30 days. This is enough for you to learn a tremendous amount about film scoring with the sounds of a symphony orchestra.
Note: If you want to learn musical notation, 30 days is not enough. I did not complete this review because I ran out of time and the program stopped running after the 30 days. Still, I am very happy with this demo program.
Four Stars
This is version 1.0 so it is still a bit rough. See more below.
Highly recommended
Anyone interested in filmmaking should immediately request a free copy of the program. Because Notion Protégé creates the sound of a symphony orchestra, this program is extremely important. And, it is fun!
Protégé's uses for film students
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  • Film scoring
  • Learning musical notation
  • Having fun!!!
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  • Four Stars
The program is wonderful. However, this is version 1.0 so some things are still a bit rough. Still, Notion Protégé is a very highly recommended program for film students at Wikiversity.
Program Information

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Name: Notion Protégé demo
Developer: VirtuosoWorks
Genre: Music notation & accompanyment
Operating System: Macintosh OS X, Windows
How to begin with Protégé
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Define your musical instruments
To use the program, you start by adding musical instruments to create a blank sheet with just the lines on it.
Define your time signature
Then the tutorial explains that the first thing you need to do is to enter a time signature. Protégé will not allow you to enter notes until a time signature is entered. I would have prefered that program did this automatically using the default time signature.
The default time signature is the most common time signature (4/4 = COMMON) but Notion Protégé does not place the default time signature on the page for you. Instead, Notion Protégé stops and you must click on the page to put the time signature on the page.
Add musical notes
Once you set the time signature, you can add musical notes. If you make a mistake, you must erase the mistake and try again. You cannot simply grab the wrong note and move it up or down the scale. (Unlike GarageBand, you cannot grab notes at all with Protégé. That needs to be fized.)
Add everything else
Finally, you add all the things which effect the playing of the notes. This is where Protégé excels over GarageBand. (GarageBand has very few notation options while Notion Protégé gives you tremendous control.)
Rough edges
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No manual
The greatest shortcoming is the lack of a manual. The reference card and the tutorial are both excellent but they don't answer all the questions. Not everyone agrees on notation symbols, etc. so I need to know exactly how Notion Protégé interprets each of the musical notations.
You also need a manual to explain the best workflow for film scoring
The biggest question for filmmakers is how best to use the program to create music for motion pictures. Only after a month of experimenting with Notion Protégé did I realize that filmmakers should always use a MIDI keyboard to compose with this program... rather than try to use notation. There is a special reason why:
No audio preview when you add notes with a mouse
For non-musicians who are trying to compose music (like me), the most obvious missing feature is the sound of the musical notes as you put them on the page with your mouse. With many other music programs (including GarageBand), as you add notes using the mouse, you hear the pitch of the note. Not so with Protégé. If you put the notes on the page with the mouse using Notion Protégé, you must press play to listen to the notes. This is slow and awkward.
I did all the evaluation of Protégé without a MIDI keyboard since I don't have one connected to my G5 computer. If you do not have a midi keyboard, you will find it easier to open two pages -- One blank page to do rough practice work and one page for your final music. I tried this and it works nicely. When I had roughed out something, I cut and paste the good notes into the final page.
I believe that this problem is solved by using a MIDI keyboard. Unfortunately, I ran out of time before I could test this.
Unnecessary scrolling
There are other minor annoyances that should be fixed. One minor annoyance is the automatic scrolling when playing.
Automatic scrolling is great except if you have only a couple lines on a page. There there is not need for scrolling.
Since I am a filmmaker, I can creating only short pieces of music. When I have only two lines in my score, after the first line plays, the second line moves to the top of the page even though there is nothing below it. This unnecessary scrolling blocks the view of the first line. Stupidly annoying but not a great problem.
Limited output
Protégé can produce a wav file of your compostion easily and quickly. The wav file is based on the tempo you set in your notation. However, Protégé gives you the opportunity to conduct your music live. Unfortunately, when you conduct your music live, you cannot record the results to a WAV file.
It is not clear if Notion 1.5 ($599) can do this. Conducting live really changes the feel of the music so recording the music that I have conducted would be very nice. I like the natural, organic feel of music that I conduct. (Conducting means that I set the tempo for each beat of the music live while the music is playing.)
The tutorial
Just two measures long
The tutorial for Notion Protégé is excellent but short. There are only three parts to the tutorial yet it covers all the basic features of Protégé. I just wish it were longer.
Listen to the progress
Probably the easiest way to understand what the tutorial will teach you is to listen to the sound of the score at the beginning of the tutorial and at the end of the second part (of three parts) of the tutorial. These converted the WAV sound files to OGG sound files so you need to be able to play OGG files on your computer. (For help getting OGG files to play on your computer, click here.)
Just the raw notes
Here is the sound with just the notes on the page.
See the actual score to the right. →
With tempo and articulation
Here are the same notes once you have added all the extra stuff needed in a musical score.
See the difference by looking at the score to the right. →

The tutorial score at the beginning

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The tutorial score when finished

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The musical instruments in Notion Protégé
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The list of symphonic instruments

When you start a new project or modify an existing project, you can add musical instruments.

In this case, I selected "Strings". This page appears which shows you the choices of strings. Four of your choices are the four basic string sections of the orchestra. The next four choices are the solo instruments for the same sections. The sound files for the solo stings are not included but you still can compose music with solo instruments. When you compose music for solo strings (such as a solo violin or solo cello), you hear the sound of piano instead. Also, you can purchase extra sound packages from VirtuosoWorks (now called Notion Music). It is not clear if the solo violin instruments are included with the full version of Notion ($599).

Some of the included instruments
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If an instrument is missing
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If you select an instrument which has no sound files

This is the message if you select an instrument which does not exist in Protégé. This means you can still compose music for this instrument but you cannot hear the instrument when you play your composition in Notion Protégé. Instead, you hear a piano.

Some of the missing instruments
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Protégé vs. GarageBand

GarageBand and Notion Protégé both offer musical notation. However, there is a huge difference.

GarageBand works best using a piano roll. The piano roll can be viewed as notation but most of the control features work on the piano roll, not notation.

You can enter music with the notation tools but the notation tools are extremely limited in GarageBand.

Notion Protégé give you much more control over the sound you get but this requires a lot more work. The results with Protégé is much more professional but requires you to learn musical notation.

Using GarageBand with Jam Pack:Symphony Orchestra

GarageBand has many sounds. By using a different velocity, you get about three different sounds for each note of each instrument. It is theoretically possible to have 128 different violin sounds for each note. But with Jam Pack:Symphony Orchestra, you normally get only three different violin sounds per note. (As an example, with a guitar, the loudest sound for each note is a slap of the string.) For a violin, each note can have three sounds:

  • The sound of the violin being played gently
  • The violin being played strongly
  • The violin being played as stongly as possible.

With GarageBand, you must use different tracks to get different articulation. As an example, you must have one track for normal violin sounds and another separate track for the pizacatto violin sounds. At first this seems unbelievably awkward but eventually you find ways to compose music efficiently with this limitation.

Using Notion Protégé

In contrast, when you use Protégé and you only need a single instrument to get all the different sounds such as pizacatto violin sounds and the other variations of the violin sound created by adding articulation symbols to the score.

Therefore, if you know musical notation, Notion Protégé is much easier to get more realistic sounds than with GarageBand and Jam Pack:Symphony Orchestra.

Protégé rules of musical notation

Musical notation is not standard. There are no 100% guaranteed rules of notation. Each program is different. That is why Notion Protégé needs a manual. This is very important.

In the screen shots below, the first slur is accepted but the second slur is not. Without a manual, I do not know why.

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Here is an example of something which is a bit odd. If I put three whole notes on my score, they will sound like this:

If I put a slur between the first two notes, I get this:

And if I add staccato markings to the first two notes, I get something which probably should never be:

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which sounds like this:

Therefore, it would be useful to know what Notion Protégé is doing. That is why a manual is needed for Protégé.

Which program is this?
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Above the competition

There are a huge number of new notation programs becoming available on the market for Macintosh and Windows and even for Linux. This is great news for people who want to learn musical notation.

But to be useful for filmmakers (who are not professional musicians) to do film scoring of motion pictures, the notation program must work with the sounds of a symphonic orchestra. This is essential!!!

Currently, Notion Protégé is the only inexpensive notation program which the sounds of a symphony orchestra. Notion Protégé has a free 30-day, fully working demo disk which will be sent to you for free (in the USA). Therefore, currently Notion Protégé is the only notation program which meets the needs of filmmakers.

Bottom Line

I highly recommend this program for anyone interested in learning more about musical notation and film scoring.

There currently is no better way for filmmakers to get started using notation to create film scores that they can use in their motion pictures. Since the demo for Notion Protégé is free, you cannot go wrong! Robert Elliott 14 January 2007 (UTC)