I recently reviewed version 2011.5 of Band in a Box. Partly because I had to upgrade in order to participate in the Beta for 2012. Now that Band in a Box 2012 is out, lets look at what it offers and what issues it still has to fix.
Off the bat, you get more RealTracks in the new version. That alone is worth it. More Mike LeDonne Organ, Fusion, Jazz Funk styles are included in the update. That alone is worth the $99 upgrade.
A few versions ago, PG Music added a DAW feature where you could generate and drag Midi or Audio tracks to your favorite DAW (Logic, Garageband, ProTools, etc). This version, they added the reverse. You can now import Loops (audio or midi) INTO Band in a Box. It sorta works, and I imagine in future versions it will work better.
Guitar Amp. They worked out some sort of arrangement with AmpliTube to bundle it with Band in a Box. So now you can tweak the guitar sounds coming out of a real track. Kinda cool.
Various other fixes as well such as the “Same but Different” when generating a track so it doesn’t always play the same thing. Seems more natural now. Nothing OMG is introduced in this version other than maybe the ability to add loops into Band in a Box.
Bugs and problems and other things
I’ve participated several times in the Betas Band in a Box. There are TWO long standing issues that I keep mentioning. The first is Open Song by Title. On the windows version, this will show you a great view of all the songs in a Band in a Box folder including if it has a melody, and what style it is using. It also parses through subfolders. On the Mac version, it doesn’t parse through the subfolders. Which is stupid since there are thousands of free band in a box files out there, and putting them all into ONE folder seems stupid.
Second, there is a saving bug that if a song has a long filename, when you Save As you get _BOSORNB demo (140bp#AD7428.SGU
Also, there are various little things like not being able to size windows at all, such as the Open Song by Title window. This is probably due to it being a cross platform program and having more roots in the Windows side than the Mac side (though I think the program started on the Atari ST, cause I remember a version when I was a kid that ran on my Atari ST).
Preferences in Band in a Box are a nightmare. I’d suggest doing preferences sorta like how Finale does preferences (another program that is cross platform).
No full screen for Lion though it runs just fine on Lion (2011 and 2011.5 version did as well). Some windows resize, but a lot don’t. That needs to be fixed to make the program more Mac like.
Buttons. There is NO WAY to customize the buttons in the program.
So you can’t get rid of things you don’t need that are cluttering the display, like the Vid.Help button, or the things that are redundant like having a PGMusic button (which takes you to their website but that is also in the Help menu). It would be nice to be able to get rid of some of the excess buttons if you don’t need them just to un-clutter the interface, especially if you have a MacBook Air (not that I do) and a small screen.
AND there is this great feature in the program called Woodshedding, which is buried in Preferences 2 menu. This feature will include the speed of a song by a certain number up to a certain number. So you could have say 8 bars of a solo you want to shed. You start it at 120, and tell it to increment every loop by 5 up to 220. BUT THERE IS NO BUTTON FOR THIS. Say what? Yup.
That’s a rap
So, is this still a program you should spend $329 (download only) to $399 (hard drive version) or $99 to upgrade to? Yes. If you are going to study jazz, this is a program you should have. If anything, it will play for itself by you NOT having to buy Aebersold play-alongs. You could simply buy a “Real Book” and Band in a Box and save a lot of money and gain the ability to practice Impressions for 40 choruses in a Funk style…..or Bluegrass….or Gypsy Jazz style…..or 12/8 Rock style….and in any key you want at any tempo. The Real Tracks are very convincing, and even the Midi generated tracks can sound great if you put them into something like Garageband.
Yes, this is something you should get. Great company and people making a program that simply does stuff nothing else does. 11 out of 10.