I transcribe a lot of music. The output is usually lead sheets or bass parts (exact transcriptions). I notate all details that seem essential to a song and chord symbols are always correct (though I might decide to simplify them).
I begin by adding markers in Reaper for each bar/measure. I'll later rename and colour-code some of the markers to identify sections. I use several plug-ins: a tool to isolate left, right, mid or side; EQ to try to isolate parts; a frequency analyzer to see what's going on if my ears need help. Occasionally I'll open something up in Melodyne. I've moved from Sibelius to Dorico for the notation.
In theory deCoda should be able to do a lot of the work.
It opens files and analyses them very quickly.
It does a reasonable job of identifying and naming sections. Unfortunately the developers have chosen to call these "parts" (Part A, Part B, Part B2 etc.). Given that I'd be thinking in terms of bass parts, guitar parts etc., this is annoying and I hope the terminology will be changed as soon as possible.
deCoda does a good job of putting simple songs into bars/measures. It can't identify rubato and tempo variations automatically. I'm not going to be commenting on the editing tools in this quick review.
The chord symbols are very often wrong, the harmonic analysis isn't thorough (don't expect much beyond major or minor even if that means the results will be wrong), and there's nothing to indicate the bass notes (no slashes to indicate inversions or pedals for example).
A frequency band and area of the stereo field can be isolated graphically (as one would in Roland's R-MIX) but unless I'm missing something, there's no way to make more than one selection. One can choose to isolate or exclude the selection. I imagine the tools will become more sophisticated over time.
deCoda's Melodyne-style piano roll analysis is pretty good though I found that harmonics were sometimes indistinguisable from fundamentals (particularly in the case of bass lines). There's no way to delete audio material as one can in Melodyne. One can draw synthesized notes on top of the audio (and export the results) but in 1.0.1 I've found the drawing to be too buggy to be usable.
Slowing the music down is simple and the pitch handling is exemplary as one would expect from zplane.
Navigation through a song is easy enough as long as one learns the keyboard shortcuts.
deCoda is interesting as essentially it offers all the right analytical tools. Whether or not I'll actually use it at all until it's much more developed, is another matter. As it's so quick I might use the piano roll occasionally. Though it's being marketed as a tool to "help you learn songs", I can't see it being much use to beginners until the harmonic analysis at least is improved.
Please Note: This software has just been released. Therefore, my review is a concise introduction that focuses on what it is, why use/buy it, and first impressions. I did have a pleasure of doing a little beta-testing prior to release, but not enough to provide anything massive and in-depth. I sincerely hope my words prove to be useful. .. or at least. .. entertaining.;-).
INTRO deCoda by zplane is a music practice and transcription software that enables users to swiftly learn and play songs on their instrument without being distracted by dealing with tech bloat.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS Where's the software? Did they forget to include buttons, knobs, sliders, and menus? Nah! Everything is there, but zplane has cleverly arranged the interface to facilitate a fast workflow without the software getting in the way. It's clearly designed to help users get to the point quickly without being side-tracked. I drag-n-dropped a song into the empty window and POW. .. it loaded the audio file and analyzed it. I toggled between the light and dark view. .. I prefer the light, but it's nice to have that option.
WHAT I DIG MOST
Assistance: Help is available if/when needed and comes in various forms:
Convenient tool-tips ranging from a basic help overlay that is activated by hovering the cursor over a tool to detailed help by double-clicking into a region. These are accessible via the top of the IU menu bar inside the question mark.
Several video tutorials clearly demonstrate "how to get started" as well as a tour, navigation, etc.
Support staff at zplane is highly responsive and happy to assist.
Interface As before mentioned, it took a little time to get used to the streamlined GUI, but soon after I appreciated a clean, crisp look and feel. It's like a new canvas awaiting some paint from a pallet that is so easy to reach. There is a top bar that expands to view loop-able/loopview parts (in waveform or piano-roll) and a bottom bar that features: Edit time, key, bookmark (saves favorite parts), metronome, transport, focus on/off, octave, and playback speeds/BPM. Sidebar menus reveal bookmarks, parts, editing, mixing, export, etc. There are three lines, a.k.a burger menu, that show current project, project history, open file, and settings. The controls, functions, parameters, and settings are unobtrusive, yet easy to access. There is no clutter; no overstuffed nonsense to get in the way of doing what we do — music.
Workflow Lightning-fast! You simply drop audio music file onto the interface, let those amazing algorithms work their magic for a few seconds, and voila — music is deCoded! From there, parts can easily be reorganized and parameters can be manipulated as/if needed (Key, time signature, BPM, chords, etc.). The zoom feature is handy and easy to use.
Slow-Down zplane knows how to change speed without pitch change. Again, their algorithms shine. deCoda can be slowed (or sped) to help users learn and/or practice parts at their own pace.
What About My Instrument? Most audio software requires users to have both hands glued to the keyboard, but deCoda minimizes computer time and maximizer instrument time. A one-handed keyboard nav creates an convenient, compact, ergonomic way for users to manipulate the instrument (on your lap) and software. This saves time and unnecessary movement that puts your instrument at risk. So, keep that guitar (bass, piano, etc.) close by and play on using it. deCoda is a tool designed to help you quickly learn and play songs.
File Management All loaded files are neatly stored, automatically updated, listed, and loaded without navigation through a maze of files and folders. Users we not be slowed down by traditional file management, i.e., naming, saving and so on.
Accuracy Oh, those zplane algorithms!!! Key, time, BPM, and song parts are usually spot-on. And when they're not, they're close enough to provide a solid foundation to work from.
FEATURE REQUEST I'd like clearer automatic note-by-note transcription for melody lines and solos. Then I wouldn't need to load that other app.;-).
WHO IS THIS FOR? You, me, and every other musician that wants to figure out a song or recording.
WHO IS THIS NOT FOR? The extremes, i.e., Mozart and absolute beginners. However, Wolfie would certainly have fun with it, and once beginners better understand their instruments, this would become an invaluable tool for them to better understanding other people's music and improve their skills without the distracting of computer stuff.
SUMMARY Most software, especially audio transcription software, is cluttered with stuff that needs to be defined and explained in detail. deCoda is remarkably minimalist, yet extraordinarily powerful. It simply works well. What can I say about software that defines itself? When I think of deCoda, these words come to mind: Time-saving, elegant, clever, powerful, fun, educational, invaluable and indispensable. deCoda is what every software should be. .. it does exactly what you want it to do and doesn't get in your way. It doesn't prevent you from playing your instrument; it enhances instrument time. This is one fantastic tool. deCoda quickly became an indispensable tool in my studio, and I plan on keeping it in my dock until my ears fall off my head. If you have a need for audio transcription to help you reverse engineer some music, I strongly suggest you check out deCoda.