BandMaster for Mac OS X is a phenomenal tool for improvising musicians. It features unique looping options, a timeline editor, chorus-based time scale and transposition settings, chord analysis, a metronome mode and more. With BandMaster musicians have the ability to create a realistic practice session that for once takes the entire piece into account.
BandMaster consists of three main parts, a control strip with an array of playback controls, a timeline editor and a songform view. The timeline editor can be hidden to just display the song form and control strip. Song creation is template based. Included are six base groups with 26 templates containing various Blues forms, variations of the 32 measure AABA form and more. An additional 1100 song form templates based on common standards are available for download free of charge.
Song editing takes place in the chord grid view. Roots are assigned to selected beats via toolbar buttons and chord definitions (i.e. MAj7) via a popup menu. Similar to a traditional spreadsheet BandMaster’s chord grid supports all common copy and paste as well drag and drop operations. Sections of songs can also be dragged between windows. Double-clicks select contiguous sections of identical chords and clicks in the number strip select along grid lines. BandMaster also includes a text based input tool as well as other mass edit tools like Replace and Transpose.
Macros are a unique feature in BandMaster that uses common building blocks like the IIm7-V7 chord progression for example to allow editing of entire groups of beats or measures. Progressions are based on the root of the first chord in a selection. Employing the IIm7-V7 macro on a group of 4 measures of Cmaj7 transforms it into Dm7 / G7 /. The same macro can also be applied to just one measure in 4/4 time with the result of 2 beats each in Dm7 and then G7. This combination of templates, spreadsheet editor and macros allows for very speedy song creation without any typing. The song form editor also features a page view mode and font scaling to allow for reading from a distance.
The timeline section of the application uses a familiar track based interface with some essential differences. The timeline ruler in BandMaster takes choruses as its base and automatically adjusts to the number of choruses set in the control strip. It is also used to adjust chorus loops and sections which are described a bit further down. Instruments – as there are bass, drums and harmony instrument (or piano) can be punched in on a chorus base in the grid below the timeline ruler and track headers to the left contain typical track controls like solo, mute and popups for instrument selection.
A distinguishing feature of BandMaster is called a section. Where the timeline is the graphic representation of the allotted choruses for a song, sections are simply contiguous areas in that timeline. There are the Time Scale section with 8 settings from half-time to double-time, the Transposition section and lastly the Trade Fours section. Sections can be applied independently over any group of choruses. With these features it is possible for example to set up a song structure that starts out with the bass instrument only in half-time and then adds drums and piano in the 3rd chorus. After 4 choruses with all instruments the song could then enter a transposed section (maybe up a semitone), add a trade-fours section after another 2 choruses and finally revert back to the original key in the last chorus possibly again at half speed. Altogether a very realistic scenario. To practice all these transitions between tempi, keys, solo sections etc. BandMaster features an assortment of looping capabilities.
Loops are handled in a very unique fashion in BandMaster in order to accommodate the practicing musician. At the base is the song form which is looped quite simply by assigning a number of choruses in the control strip. A secondary type of loop in BandMaster is called form loop. It allows the user to select a section of chords in a song form and just loop them. This is very handy when practicing transitions, turnarounds, etc. Yet another form of loop in BandMaster is called chorus loop. This is extremely useful when employing sections in BandMaster as in the example above.
In addition to easy song creation and very unique playback options BandMaster can display crucial analytical detail in the analysis window. in It shows relevant chord/scale information and automatically updates itself with the current selection in the chord grid when editing and during playback. Chords are displayed in closed root position in the notation display section of the window. Listed below are guide tones, chord tones, a selection of compatible pentatonic, hexatonic, heptatonic and octatocnic scales as well as upper structure triads where applicable. Like the large counter window the Analysis window is semi-transparent which is invaluable when displaying it on top of a maximized song window.
BandMaster was created by musicians for musicians and is a fantastic tool to have with a feature set that addresses the real needs of improvising musicians today. It excels in helping to prepare for ensemble practice, allows teachers and band leaders to distribute practice sessions and above all is priced to be affordable.
- Supports all common chords
- American and European chord notation
- Chord analysis
- Global transposition for horn players
- Chorus and form looping
- Time scale, transposition, trade fours sections
- Metronome mode
- Annotations tool
- Replace tool
- Text entry tool
- Time signature tool
- Transposition tool
- Large counter window
- Song exchange with iOS versions of BandMaster
- MIDI file export
- Bonus content of around 1100 song templates (forum download)
- Ready for Retina®
- Academic discounts available
- Localized into Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish
BandMaster is on sale at a 15% introductory discount until November 1st, 2012.