Music Software Review: Presonus Notion 5

When it comes to notation software, there are 2 major players in the market: Sibelius and Finale. Steinberg is also preparing something new at the moment, but let me introduce you to another great notation software: Notion 5. The software was created by Presonus, the company behind Studio One among countless other software and hardware products. If you have not used notation software before, or are maybe looking for something new, take a look at Notion with me.

Notion is a fully professional notation software. It is compatible with both the Windows and OSX platforms, and Presonus has also created a Notion application for iPad owners (unfortunately, it is not available for iPhones – yet; never say never, given how close the iPhone 6 Plus is to practically being an iPad Mini).

Presonus Notion - Main UI

Presonus Notion – Main UI

Installation

Installation is a very straight forward process. After purchasing Notion, you will receive an email with a link for creating an account at the Presonus website. Through your profile, you will be able to navigate to the download links for software itself, as well as all the bundled sounds, VST presets, and manuals. You will also be able to watch Presonus‘ very informative video tutorials. It is possible to install and activate Notion on 5 different computers (and by installing Notion on your main DAW and your laptop, for instance, your scores can be synchronised between computers through Dropbox or something similar). You can even open your Notion projects on the iPad app (though the latter must be purchased separately from the App Store).

Interface

The interface is clean and tidy, with everything you can expect from notation software. I appreciate the possibility of changing the score layout to one of three possibilities – Continuous, Pages across, and Pages down – for displaying your score sheet page, and the ability to change almost everything and customize the score sheet page to your needs.

Notion-layouts

Notion offers many useful tools to help in creating your music. You may enter notes using Notion’s interactive fretboard (and can even customize the number of guitar strings it supports), or the on-screen keyboard drum pads, and even choose chords from a chord library and create your own chords. There are many well documented keyboard shortcuts for all of Notion‘s basic and advanced actions, so if, like me, you prefer to control software mostly from your computer keyboard, Presonus has you in mind just as much as any other type of user. To create scores for piano or orchestra, you are presented with a choice of 17 score sheets templates, starting from Lead Sheet to Full Orchestra, and the instruments can be customized in the Score Setup section.

Sound

There are 8GB of instrument sounds bundled with Presonus Notion:

  • Bundled Brass
  • Bundled Keyboards, Guitars, Basses and Harp
  • Bundled Percussion
  • Bundled Strings
  • Bundled Woodwinds

All the instruments were recorded at Abbey Road with the London Symphonic Orchestra, and contain many different articulations. Bundles contain all the orchestral instruments used in a full orchestral template, a Steinway piano, and a selection of  acoustic, electric and bass guitars. Although Notion comes with a generous sound library, you are by no means limited to its included sounds. There are high-quality, yet inexpensive new Notion add-on instrument packs available from the library at the PreSonus Marketplace.

There is also a “One to rule them all” type of expansion bundle: the Presonus Notion Expansion Bundle Pack All (10.5GB), which contains following instruments:

Expansion-ALL300x300-2_thumbnail
Violin Section, Viola Section, Cello Section, Bass Section, Flute Section, Flute Duo, Clarinet Section, Clarinet Duo, Oboe Duo, Bassoon Duo, Alto Flute, Bass Flute, Contrabass Clarinet, Basset Horn, Oboe d’amore, Bass Oboe, Drums, Cymbals, Percussion, Pitched Percussion, Effects, Sopranino Sax, Soprano Sax, Contrabass Sax, Horn Section, Trumpet Section, Trombone Section, Piccolo Trumpet, Bass Trumpet, Soprano Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Cornet, Wagner Tuba, Alto Trombone, Banjo, Mandolin, Ukulele, Acoustic Guitar (Finger-style), Classical Guitar and the Jazz Bundle

I particularly like this bundle a lot, as it adds more articulations for the orchestral sections, as well as larger variety of instruments for more colorful instrumentation.

And if this is still not enough, you can always use your favourite VST instruments and libraries, since they work very well with Notion. The folks from Presonus have prepared a few templates for their users (VSL SE, EWQL Symphony Orchestra, Garritan Personal Orchestra, Miroslav Philharmonik, LA Scoring Strings, VET and marching libraries from Sample Logic and System Blue, including Fanfare (marching brass), Rumble (marching percussion), Impakt (orchestral/cinematic percussion), and Virtual Ensemble Trilogy (selection from Fanfare, Rumble and Impakt)), but you can easily create your own templates with whatever VST instruments you own.

What I have found unappealing is that Notion‘s included instruments have no round robin samples, and therefore, repeated staccato passages do not sound great, and suffer from the age-old machine gun effect. On other hand, however, there are many articulations that are not included in external sample libraries, and these can very much enhance your orchestrations.

notion-mixer

If you are a film, video or TV composer, Notion 5 provides the ability to attach video and audio tracks and score movie directly within the software. Notion’s video window includes a new timecode view, and you can add hitpoints, as well as select the volume, frame rate, and start time. Notion can handle all of the most important formats, including mp4, WMV (Windows only), H.264, mpeg, mov, avi, m4v, and 3gp on Mac and Windows.

iScore

The iPad version of Notion goes for $14.99, and it handily lets you write your ideas as soon as inspiration strikes. It is little harder to insert notes and other things into your score than it is on the desktop version, but I really enjoy the advantage of actually being able to notate a full orchestral piece on a tablet. You can always finish up your score in desktop version either way. I was pleasantly surprised that there were no playback issues with full orchestral pieces.
notion-for-ipad

Conclusion

I personally really liked Presonus Notion 5 from the moment I first opened it. It is really easy to use with a multitude of features, sounds great, and it works across all of my computers as well as my iPad. Its biggest advantage is that I can work on my music everywhere I go. So far, I have not used Notion to prepare a score for a real orchestra, so I can not comment on that aspect, but I like the option Presonus provides its users for creating orchestral pieces. As the last thing, here are my Pros and Cons:

Pros:

  • Many different templates
  • Great playback
  • Presonus Marketplace, lot of bundles
  • License for 5 different computers (Win, OSX)
  • iPad application
  • Performance mode (NTempo)
  • Lot of customisations
  • Dynamic parts (part for each instrument)
  • Usage of 3rd party sample libraries
  • Usage of 3rd party VST plugins for mixing
  • Attaching external video and audio
Cons:

    • No round robin samples
    • Few layout issues
    • Can not use “Big Hollywood” time signatures (i.e. time signatures displayed in a larger size, as is the case with many film scores)
When it comes to notation software, there are 2 major players in the market: Sibelius and Finale. Steinberg is also preparing something new at the moment, but let me introduce you to another great notation software: Notion 5. The software was created by Presonus, the company behind Studio One among countless other software and hardware products. If you have not used notation software before, or are maybe looking for something new, take a look at Notion with me. Notion is a fully professional notation software. It is compatible with both the Windows and OSX platforms, and Presonus has also created a Notion application for iPad owners (unfortunately, it is not available for iPhones – yet; never say never, given how close the iPhone 6 Plus is to practically being an iPad Mini). Presonus Notion – Main UI Installation Installation is a very straight forward process. After purchasing Notion, you will receive an email with a link for creating an account at the Presonus website. Through your profile, you will be able to navigate to the download links for software itself, as well as all the bundled sounds, VST presets, and manuals. You will also be able to watch Presonus’ very informative video tutorials. It is possible to install and activate Notion on 5 different computers (and by installing Notion on your main DAW and your laptop, for instance, your scores can be synchronised between computers through Dropbox or something similar). You can even open your Notion projects on the iPad app (though the latter must be purchased separately from the App Store). Interface The interface is clean and tidy, with everything you can expect from notation software. I appreciate the possibility of changing the score layout to one of three possibilities – Continuous, Pages across, and Pages down – for displaying your score sheet page, and the ability to change almost everything and customize the score sheet page to your needs. Notion offers many useful tools to help in creating your music. You may enter notes using Notion’s interactive fretboard (and can even customize the number of guitar strings it supports), or the on-screen keyboard drum pads, and even choose chords from a chord library and create your own chords. There are many well documented keyboard shortcuts for all of Notion’s basic and advanced actions, so if, like me, you prefer to control software mostly from your computer keyboard, Presonus has you in mind just as much as any other type of user. To create scores for piano or orchestra, you are presented with a choice of 17 score sheets templates, starting from Lead Sheet to Full Orchestra, and the instruments can be customized in the Score Setup section. Sound There are 8GB of instrument sounds bundled with Presonus Notion: Bundled Brass Bundled Keyboards, Guitars, Basses and Harp Bundled Percussion Bundled Strings Bundled Woodwinds All the instruments were recorded at Abbey Road with the London Symphonic Orchestra, and contain many different articulations. Bundles contain all the orchestral instruments used in a full orchestral template, a Steinway…

Presonus Notion 5


Installation – 95%


Patches – 100%


Interface – 90%


Sound – 90%


Value – 95%



94%

94/100

“Superb Sounds. Fast and Easy to Use. Feature Rich. ​Widely Compatible. Costs Less. ​No-Brainer.” That’s what Presonus tells you about Notion, and I agree with them!

94

Written by: Franto Kormanak

Franto Kormanak is composer for film, tv and games based in Bratislava, Slovakia. Besides music composing, he is passionate about developing rich internet applications.

  • http://www.michaelhankinson.net/ Michael Hankinson

    Can it import Sibelius and Finale files ?

    • http://frantokormanak.com Franto Kormanak

      Hi Michael, not directly, but it supports MusicXML file format, so you can export musicXML from Finale or Sibelius and import it into Notion. I did not try by myself as I do not own Finale nor Sibelius. If you want I can try it for you, but you need to provide some exported musicXML file.

      Or here is thread from Notion forums about importing work from Sibelius and Finale: http://forum.notionmusic.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=929

      • http://www.michaelhankinson.net/ Michael Hankinson

        Thanks Franto – I use XML to import files from Finale into Sibelius and it works really well. Always interested in new notation software though I don’t think I’ll be making a switch anytime soon. After years in Finale it was quite a steep learning curve to switch to Sibelius – but necessary for work. I still use both – one on PC and the other on Mac – a bit confusing t times but as I have a large library of orchestral material in both formats – necessary.

        • http://frantokormanak.com Franto Kormanak

          If you are satisfied with current notation software, there is no need to switch. I can not say if there will be anything you lack in current software, but it’s really good notation software for its price. So I think Notion is good for people, who want to start using notation software.

  • Gary Morris

    Still not clear…can you simply record using midi and have the program show/write the notation from the midi info? Thanks.

Film and Game Composers

www.FilmandGameComposers.com offers a wide range of interviews, reviews, guides and tutorials for composers and musicians who are interested in writing music for film, TV and video games.

Sign up to our newsletter to get a monthly digest of the latest content and information on new competitions and freebies. If you would like to write for us, please contact us.

Tweets

If Sam Lake looks a bit familiar, he's both the man who created Max Payne and modelled him in the first game :) https://t.co/N163ci9apU
If you're looking for somewhere to start, check out this course from @EvenantOnline: https://t.co/U44ecBVOXK