Latest Press Release | What the teachers say
Encore is now published by the GVOX company of Pennsylvania. The latest updates are: for the Mac 4.1.2 and for the PC Windows 4.2.1. You can read all about it at gvox.com.
The programme is now issued in 32 bit for Windows 95 and higher, so the old DOS restriction of eight digit file names has left us for ever.
At first glance the new Encore interface seems to be hardly different to the old, and that is good, very good. No need to learn any new tricks and the old setup was perfectly all right.
Encore has always catered rather well for the jazz-minded composer and arranger. Everything you could possibly wish for lies easily to hand and the most useful floating toolbar can be set up with the icons you most prefer.
Brand new is the ability to select vertically. A passage of, say, two measures, from a selected number of instruments only, can now be copied and pasted elsewhere without disturbing the rest of the orchestra.
The insertion of repeat barlines is done by the click of an icon. A whole passage can now be annotated with both opening and closing repeat barlines in one operation. The repeat endings are just as easily obtained. Select the measures required for an ending and open a dialogue box that gives you an option of up to six endings, already numbered. Choose one and the job is done, with the correct number over the bracket, locked closed or open just as you wish.
Segno and Coda signs are entered with a single click, and they work, too. I told you it was easy.
Chord symbols are entered as text, but when transposing a section of music, any chord symbols will be transposed along with the rest of the passage. Encore has a system called Chord Parsing that can simplify the entry of symbols. Select a note with Shift/Click and play the required chord on the Midi keyboard. Encore prints the chord symbol, correctly named above the selected note.
In the help file it says, Chord Parsing should not be confused with trying to analyze what you have played and create a chord “guess” for you. Encore does not have such a function yet. Good news for the future.
The only thing missing, and this is something I mentioned to the programmers in the past, is the option to insert rehearsal marks. Measure numbers can be added to each bar or each system, but rehearsal letters or numbers at the beginnings of sections would be extremely useful, and would bring Encore in line with other high-class scoring programmes.
Staff names can be enhanced, up to five lines. Now you can put: 1st Eb Alto Saxophone doubling Bb clarinet, C Flute, Cor Anglais and whatever on to one instrument part in the score, up to five lines, so that the extracted part will give a clear view of what is expected from the player. The position of the staff name on the score, and the extracted parts, can be adjusted in all directions.
At long last, it is possible to put flat horizontal beams over untidy groups of eighth notes.
Keeping up with the times, Encore now lets you select a group of notes and apply an accent, trill, or other symbol to each note of the selection. Existing marks can likewise be removed. The marks so entered are now more intelligent. If you add a mark with the Marks command or by selecting it in a palette and clicking it on a note, the mark automatically appears in its proper position. If you then flip the note stem, the mark flips also, if necessary.
Some of the best features in Encore, though, have been in there a long time. Tried and tested, they leave little to be desired.
I particularly appreciate the way you can select a passage and apply a swing feeling to that passage only. This is essential for playback and midi recording as it is most unusual for a musician to play a whole score with only one type of eighth note phrasing.
When writing for the jazz orchestra I have found that it is best to override the standard note length values, (usually 90%), and make them all 100%. With Encore this, too, can be applied only to selected passages if necessary. Combined with the swing option, this gives a smooth, natural jazz feeling to playback that is second to none. Useful, too, is the facility to alter the velocity values for selected notes or passages. You can thus control how the dynamics of your scores are interpreted by your MIDI synthesizer.
Page setup for scores and extracted parts is simple. Each page, or collectively all pages, are set out with a number of staves chosen from a simple menu item. Staves are also set with the required number of bars. Everything is changeable. Staves can be shoved up and down with the mouse, shortened, indented, joined together or separated.
For the writing of chord symbols you fill a bar with quarter note rests and hit a button. The rests are at once converted to slashes. Notes, passages or entire parts can be muted at the touch of a button. Instrument lines can be hidden if required.
Whole passages can be copied and pasted elsewhere in the score. This is one of the perks of computer score writing. The only thing Encore does not do automatically is transpose the pasted notes. A passage pasted from a trumpet part on to an Eb saxophone part will not be transposed for the Eb instrument. There is an extra option for doing this manually and I personally never had any trouble using that.
It is on playback that Encore really excels. Everything is reproduced as clear as a bell. Midi commands are interpreted correctly. Best of all, you can control the volume of each instrument during playback by means of individual sliding controls.
Something I always found extremely useful is the Tempo window. This sits above the score wherever you want to put it, and allows you to change the playback tempo to help analyze fast passages.
To properly mix and handle midi files there is an excellent programme called Master Tracks. This used to be included in the price of Encore. Now I’m not so sure. There is merely a demo of Master Tracks on the installation CD, with a comprehensive pdf manual.
The help files in Encore are very sparse, a few lines only in most cases. This only goes to show how easy it is to use this programme, without having to learn complicated procedures. In the end the scores and printed parts look just as good, if not better, than most other scoring programmes. Who could ask for anything more? as Gershwin so aptly put it.
The newest product of GVOX is called NotationStation. As this can only be used on the Internet a complete description can best be found on the gvox.com website. It is a learning programme used by students and teachers and allows progressive teaching courses with personal student lesson grading and review, all done from the home computer. So far, up to September of last year, 2,369 teachers, teaching a combined student population of 769,381 school-age children, have signed up for the service.
You can read all about it at www.notationstation.net. Looks good to me.