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ATPM 6.04
April 2000



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Review: Melody Assistant 5.0

by David Ozab,


Company: Myriadmelodyassist Software


Price: $15 (shareware)

Requirements: Mac OS 7.5 or greater, with at least 8 MB of RAM

For a professional musician with a computer, three software applications are considered vital: a sequencer, a digital hard disk recorder and a notation program. Such applications are expensive, perhaps too much so for the hobbyist who only wants to make music for fun. Myriad software had this user in mind when they released Melody Assistant, a $15 shareware program that combines basic aspects of all three.


Starting With the Notes on the Page

modelMelody Assistant is a score-based music editor with MIDI playback. The on-screen note entry method is very similar to Finale’s Simple Note Entry function. Note values (or their equivalent rests) are selected from tool palettes and placed on a staff; key and time signatures, dynamics, and expression markings are added in the same way. The interface is straightforward, and the only drawback is the sheer number of toolbars needed to accommodate the wide variety of markings. Those shown on the screen above are only about half the total number available; the complete list can be found under the Windows menu.

To set up a new piece, choose either a default document (a basic pop chart of piano, bass, guitar, strings and drums), a single staff labeled “melody”, or one of the preset templates (called “models”). Basic templates, such as solo instruments, orchestra, choir, string quartet etc., are provided along with some synth combos that look rather strange on paper—Space Model, for example, consists of Fantasia, Goblin, and Strange Voice. Next, select notes, rests, and other markings from the tool palettes and place them on the piece by clicking where needed. If you intend to work with a particular combination that’s not provided, such as a mixed chamber group, or an otherwise unusual combination, you can create and save your own models.

Followed by the Music That You Hear

printoptionsBasic playback functions are provided on a toolbar. To specify scrolling playback, go under the Score menu. This option is preferable as only a few measures are visible on screen, and I would prefer it to be a default in Melody Assistant, as it’s common to most sequencers. Melody Assistant comes with its own set of patches, which the program compiles in real time. The basic sound database provided can be upgraded to the “extended” version over the Internet; the sounds themselves are nothing spectacular, but the free extended sound database is a slight improvement over the basic set.

And Then What Appears on the Page

Ultimately, a score editor is only as good as its printed output, and Melody Assistant needs a little work in this area. Partly, it’s just a matter of a poor choice of defaults. In the print options dialog box, for example, the option marked “Don’t cut staff blocks” is not selected, resulting in staff systems splitting in the middle across pages. The program also defaults with measure numbers off, and finding the place to activate them isn’t easy either. (It’s under the Staff Menu, by the way.) With the right settings and the right reduction, the output is legible, although I’d like the ability to adjust spacing on the page in order to avoid collisions between notes and accidentals.

But What About My Keyboard?

Melody Assistant also accepts MIDI input from a keyboard or other controller. Input quantizing is set by default, which is critical for recording legible notation. Be careful to set the quantize settings correctly based on the music you’re recording; otherwise the result will be surprisingly different.

Or My Microphone?

Melody Assistant doubles as a simple digital hard disk recorder. Audio can either be recorded live, or imported from several common formats, including AIFF, WAVE, and MP3. When using the digital outputs, the patches from the sound database and the digital audio tracks appear together in a central mixing console. The result is a nicely packaged software-based digital studio that takes up little RAM, compared to higher-end packages.


Quirks and Qualms

Melody Assistant includes a mixed bag of additional features. Some are nice, like the extensive support for tablature. Others are unnecessary, such as including graphic files and colored staves and notes. Finally, a few are quite esoteric. I honestly can’t think of another application that includes both drum machine grids and extensive support for Gregorian chant. Perhaps this is the strange beauty of shareware, written by programmers for their own needs then sold for a little extra pocket money.

That said, I have some reservations about the interface. Though the tools themselves are easy to understand, the sheer number of palettes contributes to an overall clutter. The help window is nice, but it is always in the foreground, and can only be resized. The preponderance of blue bars reminds me a little too much of Windows—I like my Mac software to look like Mac software—and the decision to place the close box on the right side of the window (example above) bewilders me. For the price, though, it’s a very good package, and I’d recommend it (with the above reservations) for someone looking to try a little composing and sequencing for fun. Serious musicians, however, should purchase more serious software packages.

From the Same Manufacturer

Harmony Assistant is described as Melody Assistant’s “big brother.” For $65 you get all the features of Melody Assistant, plus harmonizing, drum sequences, and expanded MIDI input capabilities. The CD also includes an extended sound database even larger than the one provided online. The interface is identical, with the same qualities and drawbacks I described above. A demo of Harmony Assistant is available for download from Myriad’s Web site.

appleCopyright ©2000 David Ozab, Reviewing in ATPM is open to anyone. If you’re interested, write to us at

Reader Comments (10)

Leanne · March 28, 2001 - 19:13 EST #1
This program is so cool. We use it at school. One suggestion is to change the voices. They sound too English.
David McGrath · May 8, 2001 - 01:22 EST #2
Melody Assistant has been invaluable to me in the past two years as an imminently affordable, quick, almost effortless notation program. After years writing arrangements by hand, my life was transformed by the use of Melody Assistant, combined with the .abc format. We are an Irish traditional group, and whenever I want to introduce new material, I can usually find it instantly at an .abc website. Within minutes, I can edit, score and print out sheet music for the entire quartet, with key changes, chord charts and lyrics! Thanks so much, and please keep improving your creation.
anonymous · May 1, 2002 - 16:25 EST #3
I've downloaded Melody Assistant from Myrad's site and it doesn't work.
Javier Martinez · October 27, 2003 - 16:28 EST #4
This is a very productive tool. Some sounds and palettes need improvement but, overall, it is a good choice.
Patrick Crosby · May 17, 2004 - 12:44 EST #5
Last Saturday Night (May 15, 2004) I had a public performance of a piece I wrote with this program. This was a recital of new compositions at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California. The total score was 300 bars, 14 lines. Due to the complexities of the score (2 fugues involving all the lines) and lack of the rehearsal time that would have been required, only the piano part was played live. Accompanying the piano was a CD I produced using the Gold Sound base, which cost me an extra $37 with the local California State taxes. A proverbial baragain at twice the price. The synthesized organ sounded better than any Hammond I ever heard, the brass and woodwinds sounded great, and the church bells sounded quite real. The vibes sound super cool too.
Afterward, people asked me how I did it. They just couldn't believe it was with a mere $55 worth of software.
danso debrah,ghana · March 13, 2006 - 20:12 EST #6
This program is the best composer tool i've met. Kudos to the Guillion Brethren.
Malcolm McDonald · June 20, 2006 - 10:35 EST #7
This is a thoroughly excellent program and unbelievable value for money. It combines all the operations I have ever wanted to carry out and quite a few more that I am rarely likely to use. I use it daily to produce scores and recordings for various musical groups, and I am still discovering its capabilities.
Andi · July 21, 2008 - 18:48 EST #8
Great program! Got it and already made a full length instrumental with it, with parts I could never ever play on my keyboard, sure you need to alter the sounds cause some sounds are really horrible, especially the default electric guitar is really not good, but you can alter the sound so much it`s unbelievable, with patience you can get so good sounds! Sound wise this is extremely good quality for the price!

The only bad thing is the look of the printouts, and for that I wouldn`t recommend it, there are far better programs to make good looking partitures. But for direct sound output it is just awesome!
Carlo · April 25, 2009 - 10:52 EST #9
Please can you tell me how to extract singles parts from a score using Melody Assistant or Harmony Assistant mainly? Please leave a reply on this forum. I need your help.
Casiquire · November 19, 2012 - 04:12 EST #10
Just as a note, Harmony Assistant does not have the same qualities and drawbacks as Melody Assistant--Harmony Assistant allows you to directly edit the notes exactly the way that they will print out, so many of the quirks that the review and comments are complaining about would be different using Harmony Assistant. Otherwise great review and I agree with most points made, but overall love the software and find it easier to use than a lot of the more expensive software out there.

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