Review: PreSonus Notion 6 Music Notation Software

With a small investment in Notion 6 from PreSonus, you can get some great notation software that can compete with the big boys.

Having even simple lead sheets or basic chord charts for you songs can help you get your songs performed, save time (and money) in the studio, and let your fellow musicians know you are serious about your songwriting. Yes, you can hire someone to write your lead sheets, but there is a lot of software out there to help you do it yourself, and just about anyone can get a professional result. Some notation software is free, which is attractive. But if you are doing anything past the very basics, you can get frustrated fast. Plus, with a small investment in Notion 6 from PreSonus you can get some great notation software that can compete with the leaders in the music notation business.

Before I talk about how easy this latest version of Notion was to use (some notation software is not), there is one standout feature I discovered quickly that will bring a smile to any arranger, music student, or songwriter’s face. That is the quality sampled sounds that come with the package. If you are doing your music or lots of scores for other writers, this will make your efforts much more enjoyable. If you are doing arrangements, you can actually hear the sounds of the instruments you are scoring for. From sounds of the London Symphony Orchestra to stellar Steinway piano samples to the sounds of virtuoso bassist, Victor Wooten, playback quality of Notion 6 alone makes this software worth the investment and a whole lot more.

Getting started with Notion was easy. After a simple installation, Notion 6 provided various ways to input notes that will appear in your final score. I started by choosing note and rest values by clicking them from palettes and then place notes on staff. You can also use a midi instrument in real- or step-time. Notion even provides an interactive fretboard, keyboard, and drum pad for input. There is a chord library or you can create your own chords with flexible chord naming or voicing. I found it easy to choose from standard chord symbols and fretted chord symbols or design custom chord symbols and diagrams. Empty templates are available for all popular score types (lead sheet, piano and voice, SATB, etc.) or you can create your own from scratch. When you are finished, it’s easy to print out a score, create a pdf, or even generate tablature.

Fonts are easy to change to style a score to your liking. The only issue I found while trying Notion on a Toshiba laptop was that the font used in the lead sheet template didn’t show half notes nicely unless the window was fully expanded. Once I made the screen bigger, the score looked great.

Something that Notion does that you won’t find elsewhere is send scores between Mac and Windows, even iPads and tablets. You can even use the Notion for iOS app to score your songs on a phone. A very cool feature is handwriting recognition that works on all popular platforms so you can write directly on your scores and what you mark converted to notation. iOS apps are sold separately ($14.99 for base app and then small increments for in-app purchases, like sounds and handwriting recognition). If an app fits your work/life style, this is great. 

Other standout professional features include a video window to make it easy to interact with media; a library of scores to explore and learn from; Wave and MP3 file export; and MIDI over ReWire that will allow Notion to work with your own virtual instruments and effects. One reason that Notion is so gear friendly is that it is already closely integrated with PreSonus Studio One audio recording and mixing software. While Notion has powerful mixing ability of its own, you can also send audio, note, track, VST and score data directly between the applications. If you’ve always thought of music notation and production as two separate efforts, now you can consider improving your workflow by leveraging one with the other.

Notion 6 has lots of other progressive features to try out, but just knowing that this software can do what the big names in music notation are doing (for a lot less) is reason enough to check it out. If you can produce professional-looking scores, get great sounds, and some amazing features from easier to use software at this price, why look any further.

Street Price: $149.00