There are a couple of programs I always update when a new version comes out. Finale, Digital Performer, anything from Apple, and, of course, Band in a Box. Yes campers, a new version of Band in a Box is out for PC. 2007. The Mac version, sadly, is still languishing in limbo at version 12. Though there was a message from PG Music about this in their forums and they said a new Mac version was “A high priority”. Yeah.
Moving on. Band in a Box (BinaB) is an incredible program and a great musical tool. It has been for years. The new 2007 version has some interesting features, and well, does leave me wondering about the future of the program…
First off, when you have a program such as BinaB, it has had just about everything one could want since, um, 2004’s version. Version 2007 is billed as having 50 new features. Let’s list them:
RealDrums,Chords from MP3, Audio Piano Roll, Soundtrack Generator, Generate Chords for a Melody, Melody Influenced solos, Wireless remote (you have to pay $199 for this), Audio settings and tweaks, Batch convert folder of songs to WAV or whatever (YES!), Chord Breaks for practicing (IE: Call and response), Keyboard MIDI input, Memo Generation (info about the song you made), Practicing window (simplifies the interface towards practicing), Soloist enhanced, Lead Sheet Lyric text block, Fakesheets, Auto Piano Hand splitting, Notation enhancements, DXi enhanced (which is funny, cause BinaB and others recommend NOT using DXi but rather VSTi), Midi Latency Calibration, and other stuff.
Ok, things that are actually important new features. RealDrums, Chords from MP3s, Batch-Convert, Soundtrack Generator, and Generate Chords for a Melody.
RealDrums. This is really the feature that they are promoting. Basically, it is a bunch of drum loops that work within BinaB. They sound good, but, like the midi drum tracks, they get predictable. If you are using the built in windows sounds, or maybe the bunched Virtual Sound Canvas, then these drums will make your songs sound 10 times better. But, if your using a high end Software sampler, like Garritan Jazz Band, or NI Kontkat, they are about the same as the sets found in those programs. It’s kind of a “ooo, neat” feature that you’ll use sometimes, but it gets a little old. They do have a little more “feel”, but it would be really cool if it could be smart and throw in variations to the loops, such as more variation in the phrase fills.
If you use RealDrums with a software synth, they do render and play fine. So, you can create WAVE files using your favorite Guitar/Piano/Bass/String combo, with RealDrums laying out a Bossa beat.
I sometimes you can hear little bumps where the loop’s switch. I hear that sometimes with the L_BosBR style when switching back to the A style drumming. The feature isn’t 100% yet, but it is close. Hopefully it will be refined in future versions.
Chords from MP3s. This is really a neat feature. They have a similar feature for Midi files, where BinaB will load a Midi file, and give you an idea of the chords going on. Now, they have it with Audio files. It’s pretty darn good. Don’t expect to give it a Mahler symphony, but for your Maroon 5, or Frey, or other pop songs, it pretty much nails the chords. I’d say it’s easily 95% accurate, close to 100% on pop songs. For jazz, depending on the complexity of it, it varies. Probably about 90% generally.
Soundtrack Generator. Basically, you give it a time amount, like 30 seconds, fade in and out, and in a Polka style, and it will create a little jingle. It’s fun, but, eh…..
Batch-Convert a folder of songs. Rendering a bunch of songs to MP3 or WAV is a pain in the butt. Load song, render, rename the audio file from RENDER_1.WAV to whatever, load next, repeat. No more. This is a long needed addition to BinaB.
Chords for a Melody. This is really fun. I just wish there were more options to choose from. Maybe more options to specify chord subs. Just more options. I hope this feature gets more attention in the next version of BinaB. It has a lot of potential. It works well now, but….it could be a neat thing.
Ok, those are the big features. The other stuff is like nice, but not HUGE. It’s like MakeMusic saying there is a Copyright symbol option added in Finale 2006.
What I am disappointed about. I was really thinking that the next version would have bundled a version of Garritan Jazz with it. A version that was tweaked especially for it. Or, failing that, provide more options in BinaB to support Garritan or other Native Instrument programs. The biggest problem using NI player with BinaB is dealing with program changes. Especially with a drum patch that starts on Brushes in the A section, then switches to sticks in the B section. You can’t use Garritan Jazz with that style, cause because they are different instruments (unless you use the GM Drums, but that kit doesn’t sound all that great compared to the Brushes kit). Same problem with NI Bandstand. You’d have to wait for the drums to change patches, and that won’t work while playing a song. It would be a nice, and EASY enhancement to have the option of TWO drum kits, one for sticks, and the other for brushes. I was imagining a BinaB 2007 that was tightly tuned to work with software synths. Hopefully the next version will be the one that does this.
There are other ongoing problems with BinaB. You still cannot have more than 9,999 songs in the Open Special->Load By Song Title. How hard is it to get that working? This is the easiest way to load songs, but I have 12,000+ songs in my BinaB folder…so some are not showing up. Erg!
What else can you add to this program? I don’t know. Besides the better support for Software Synths, and a Mac version, and the 9,999 limit removed? Hmmm. Those would be a start.
Ok, in all, the upgrade is worth it. You’ll get use out of the RealDrums, and have a blast with the Generate Chords from a Melody. And playing around with the Chords from MP3 can be of huge use to you as well. Upgrading from a previous MegaPak was $69. It is worth it.