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From the September, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

I have never been involved in creating music, other than stereotypical singing in the shower. Uh, maybe I should rephrase that as making noise in a non tone deaf manner. Yes, as a kid I was in choir, and even fooled around with the guitar, but never really learned the nuts and bolts of music.

Computers and software applications have supposedly made it easier to learn to write structured music. When I had the opportunity to try out two of these applications, I agreed. The subject of this review is MusicWrite, by Voyetra. I was unfamiliar with Voyetra software, but did know of their sound cards, and since those are really good, I was curious about the software.

First up were the requirements. I was a little surprised that the hardware and software were rather simple.  A note here: the box did not have a complete listing, and I got the full requirements off their Web site. 

You need a Pentium class processor of 200MHz or better with MMX.  32MB RAM are required, with 64MB recommended for Windows 98/ME, and 64MB required for Windows 2000/XP, with 128MB recommended. 36MB of hard drive space for the application (the CD has about 593MB of data on it, including utilities and demos). Windows 98 or newer. A video display of 800 x 600 with high color (16 bit). A 16-bit DirectSound-compatible sound card. Not surprisingly, Voyetra recommends their Turtle Beach Santa Cruz model. A 4x or faster CD-ROM. You do not need a printer, but you can print out sheet music if you have one. You also do not need a MIDI keyboard with MIDI cable interface, but would doubtless have more fun with one.

Since I met these requirements, on to the installation. Pop the CD into the drive and autorun starts up. There is no printed manual, only a single sheet telling you to do the preceding. I don’t really have a problem with this, due to the reasonable cost of the application. I prefer printed materials, but they run up the cost. You need to determine which is more important before you buy. The complete manual is included on the CD, so you do have one. It is just more time consuming and inconvenient to use it this way. I do have two complaints about the install process. First, you must fill in the registration information on screen along with the product ID. Since I feel it is my business whether or not I register a product, I resent this. When customer service and good support were included in the purchase price of a product, registration was important. Now, with both those facets an afterthought, I say go fly a kite! Second, if you choose typical installation, you do not have a choice as to the drive or directory it is installed into. Since most applications install into drive C by default, it does not take long to fill up drive C. I choose to set up partitions for various storage needs, and having everything install into C is a no go for me. If you want to install into a different directory or drive, be sure to choose CUSTOM from the menu. These are personal irritants for me, and are not restricted to this product. The installation actually went smoothly, and I had the program up and running quickly. There was one small wrinkle. My installation did not create a desktop icon to use in starting the application. I had to open up the Programs menu to access it. You can of course, manually create a shortcut on the desktop yourself, so no big deal, just a curiosity.

There is an instruction video included on the CD, and I suggest you view it. Though it is easy to follow, I think it would be better for the viewer if they already knew something about formal music. I assume this application is for everyone, but I think the video is better utilized as a demo, and not as instructional. It is well done, just a little more advanced than I expected.

The interface is clean, and is almost as easy to use as it appears.  I tried out the samples included, just to see and hear how they function. Combining the tracks did not work so well. The sounds were worse than the stuff heard on the radio spectrum. One of the fun things with this app , it is easy to fix. Click on Edit, select Undo, and you are back to the point you were at before the mistake. Just like an image editor. Placing the cursor over a specific point and selecting play starts the music from that point. Easy, huh?

There is an extra goody included in the software. It is a book, Introduction to Songwriting by Cliff Parms. It is 152 pages, and has a suggested value of $10.95. Good for Voyetra! This is a welcome and useful extra value. The book starts with the most basic fundamentals involved in writing music, and even includes material on lyrics. Did I mention you can write text with the music with MusicWrite? All the forms are included, and all you need is an idea. An explanation of what each note represents is in the book. Though the book does not replace a manual for the use of MusicWrite, it is easy to read and use along with the application. 

It is lucky for the readers of this review, that they cannot experience the “music” I created with MusicWrite. The closest description I can give is it sounds like a combination of Mary Had A Little Lamb, The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You, theme from Goldfinger, and Smoke on the Water. 

I suggest the best way to learn how use this is just start clicking. Learning on a computer will doubtless save countless trees. If you are anything like me, the Undo command will become the most used. If you have a youngster interested in music, this would be a great way to develop both music, and computer skills.

This is a good application, and so far, does what it claims. Obviously, I cannot do justice to a product in so short a time, but I can get some sense of worth. I think MusicWrite is more than worth the price.

MusicWrite is generally available locally, and can be ordered online from Voyetra for $29.95. If you go to their Web site, you can download a demo and try it out first. 

Voyetra Turtle Beach, Inc.
5 Odell Plaza
Yonkers, NY 10701-1406
Phone: 914-966-0600. 

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