The Overture music notation system is another in a long line of lesser known but well designed music writing programs for the PC. Selling for around $250 the Overture system provides most of the same functionality and capabilities as Finale or Sibelius but does so in a lighter, somewhat easier to use package. Is it worth the $250 price tag? Read on to find out.
One of the more helpful things I discovered right off the bat in Overture is that they put the options for changing the appearance of music note heads, articulations, and other markings right up front in easy to use pull down menus. Want to apply a different note head shape to a note or a set of notes? Just pull down to the correct shape and click the note you want to change. Other products offer this feature as well but getting to the correct shape is often a cumbersome task. Overture makes it very easy. Other often used music education related markings are also included in their own separate pull downs, including up/down arrows for marking foot taps and boldface L and R's for marking sticking patterns. In fact, almost every marking that most people will ever need can be found in these pull downs and is a very nice addition to the program.
From the point of view of a music educator Overture also offers some very useful utilities. One of them being the simple addition of a grid overlay that makes moving things around and aligning them on a page (such as for when creating worksheets, etc) much easier. Also, unlike some of the cheaper music notation systems Overture provides support for VST instrument plugins to allow you to record audio using voices other than the included general MIDI samples.
One feature notably missing from a product at this price level is the ability to dynamically edit individual parts. Once your score is complete you can extract the parts to their own files but those parts do not appear to be dynamically linked to the master document. In other words if you make a change to the master you must then extract those parts again and repeat any layout changes that you might have made.
For those that are ready to make the switch from a competing music notation system like Finale, Maestro Composer, or Sibelius, Overture is available at a respectable price of only $99 for the crossgrade at the time of the writing of this article. Normal pricing for this is around $150 while full price for new users is $250. Educational licenses are available and vary based on number of copies purchased. See the Overture website for details.
Chad Criswell is a career music educator working in the Iowa public schools. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications both online and in print. He currently serves as the national music technology writer for NAfME's Teaching Music Magazine and has presented sessions at numerous music education conferences including the 2012 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic.
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