Guitar Pro 5
Guitar Pro 5 is the latest version of the highly acclaimed and feature rich offering from Arobas Music.
Should you spend your hard earned money for it? I did. Below are my impressions of the Mac version. The Windows version should be mostly the same.
What is Guitar Pro 5?
The Guitar Pro 5 documentation describes the program as "the ultimate workbench" for the guitarist, "aimed at helping the user progress, compose, or simply accompany himself on guitar..."
I describe it as musical notation software built with a guitarist mind.
If you're comfortable with TAB, use it as a TAB editor. If you know how to enter musical score, use it as a score editor.
You can easily switch between TAB and score, or display both at once, so you can learn score from TAB, or TAB from score. If you don't know either, you can enter notes into Guitar Pro using a virtual fretboard or a virtual keyboard.
But entering musical notation or TAB doesn't even scratch the surface of all that Guitar Pro 5 can do for you. You can:
- Learn scales
- Lookup or build custom chord forms
- Playback the music you've entered
- Enter lyrics and align them with the melody
- Control the speed or playback, or loop sections for additional practice
- Print out nicely formatted music
- Export to a variety of formats, including WAV sound files.
You can even tune your guitar if you want to! Add all this together and Guitar Pro puts a complete music toolbox at your fingertips that can both assist and consume you!
Steep Learning Curve
The learning curve on Guitar Pro 5 is steep, and like most complex programs the developers clearly spent more time on the program than the User Guide. In fact, the Mac guide was originally no more than a copy of the Windows guide, and over time was updated in bits and pieces. Some instructions still need further explanation.
I recommend that you learn by experimenting and scanning the User Guide as you go, rather than trying to read it front to back. I also recommend you visit the Guitar Pro Support Page, and check out the FAQ's.
Enter Score Information
Score is musical notation. It can include notes, volume, speed (tempo) and other instructions for a variety of instruments. Each instrument is represented with a set of staves (lines separated into measures).
In Guitar Pro each instrument is represented by one or more staves (a stave is the same as a staff: a set of five lines and four spaces). The stave(s) for an instrument is known as a track. A track can represent a guitar (bass, 6-string, 12-string, more), other stringed instruments (such as banjo, cello), drums, piano, sax, trumpet, and many others.
In Guitar Pro, before you can enter Musical Score, you must first enter information describing the new song. Guitar Pro 5 calls this Score Information.
When you enter a New Song, the Score Information panel appears. Think of Score Information as the properties of the song, similar to the properties of a document in a word processor. You can enter Artist, Title, Album, Copyright, Instructions, and more. Some of fields are displayed as you work on the music, and some can be printed out on your sheet music.
You can also adjust track equalization or song lyrics in the Score Information panel, but you'll probably want to wait until you've entered music for such fine tuning.
The main window consists of a series of toolbars at the top of the screen (you can float toolbars with the Mac version), musical notation in the central portion of the window, and a mix table and measure navigation at the bottom.
To enter TAB or Musical Score begin by adding a Track (Track>Add).
Tab and Music Notation on the same page... turn either on or off as needed. Changes to TAB are reflected in notation and vice versa.
Playback. Re-format of measures.
You decide if you want to enter notes in TAB format, score format, or with a virtual keyboard or guitar.
Realistic Sound Engine (RSE), import a variety of formats; support for numerous instruments (partial list); metronome; tuner, set to the characteristics of the track; special guitar-techniques such as bends, vibrato, harmonics, slides (input in tab, RSE plays it, unable to do these in music notation); export sound file in WAV format for sharing; speed trainer; short introduction to music notation and TAB notation in the documentation; enter percussion tracks. the metronome can count during play, or you can set the playback to play one introductory measure before the track starts playing. Import MIDI, ASCII TAB file, Music XML format files, PowerTAB files, TABLEdit files, and Guitar Pro 4 or 5 files. You can export to Guitar Pro 4, MIDI, ASCII files, Music XML, WAV (sound) or BMP (image copy of the score) or PDF.
multi-tracks (stack drums, bass, guitar, and more)
The user community posts files in GP5 format. You might find the song you want already written up! GP5 provides built-in search engines to look for previously coded songs.
Without spending significantly more for a program like Cakewalk Pro, you won't find this much music notation power available at your fingertips.
Import TAB from the web... saving loads of time.
Easy to add tracks and keep lyrics in sync with the melody.
Chord lookup and custom shapes tool (the chord diagram tool).
Scales tool to show the scale for the key or any key you select. You can select multiple types of scales, including Pentatonics - great for learning how to improvise.
You can display or input notes using a keyboard or a guitar fretboard.
Cut/Copy/Paste bars for quick reproduction of passages, but the implementation insists on asking you to verify the number of bars to copy or paste. It's powerful, but if I simply want to paste two or three measures it shouldn't require multiple steps. What's wrong with Ctrl-V and Undo if I messed up?
Loop passages or slow them down with a simple drop-down until you can play it the way you want. The "Speed Trainer" allows you to slow the track down, but have the speed progressively increase over a series of repeats. You could, for instance, play a loop repeatedly, beginning at half-speed, and increase it by 10% each time through the passage (until you reach normal tempo).
Loads of score notation available (such as repeats, alternate endings, time signature) and guitar-related notations (bend, hammer on, fingering instructions, let-ring).
Printouts are beautiful.
Chord finder, Chord Diagram Tool. Scales tool.
Very steep learning curve and difficult to understand manual.
Searching through GP5 does not find some GP5 songs on the Internet, even in the databases they point to. The Mac version continues to have difficult to follow documentation (some of it still written for the Windows version) and some of the keystrokes simply don't work intuitively.
steep learning curve.
silly limitations for inputting lyrics (you can't PASTE lyrics in, you must type them... you can't see updates in real-time you must enter a new panel, make changes, jump back to Score mode to see if it's right, go back into the properties panel, yada yada)
You can enter text above the measure, but you can't control formatting or placement.
Printouts are nice, but it can be difficult to get the information you want to appear in the expected place.
Cost: about $60.
If you're not sure if you want to purchase a copy, why not try it out first? Arobas Music allows you to try Guitar Pro 5 before buying it.
As you develop your guitar and music theory skills you may wish to write down songs. Guitar Pro, currently at version 5, is a great tool for recording music notation, chord forms, TAB, lyrics, and more.
Here is a link to purchase Guitar Pro 5 from Amazon.com.