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deCoda by zPlane: A Newly Released Music Practice & Transcription Software

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deCoda by zPlane: A Newly Released Music Practice & Transcription Software

Postby tommyzai » Thu Dec 19, 2019 10:23 pm

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.[/list]

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.
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Re: deCoda by zPlane: A Newly Released Music Practice & Transcription Software

Postby tommyzai » Thu Dec 19, 2019 10:48 pm

Note From Reviewer

I ONLY review products I like . . . and I really like deCoda. I enjoy spreading the word about cool stuff like this. I try to be informative and fun.

You might ask, "What qualifies this guy to write a user review?"
Well, I AM A USER, and I have been an audio software user since 1985. In fact, who remembers Studio Vision, Alchemy (the original audio editor), MOTU Performer (when it was just a note event sequencer)? I used that stuff, and I've been using all the stuff since. If you don't believe I'm credible, don't read what I write. I could drop names and go on about all my musical accomplishments, but it's not about me and my career . . . it's about the audio software and my thoughts as a user.

I added this disclaimer because nearly every time I post on SOS the comments are mean-spirited, unkind, and unfair.

If you have a comment or question about the software, please post below. If you have a problem with me personally, please have the decency to send a PM or email (tommy@tommyzai.com).
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Re: deCoda by zPlane: A Newly Released Music Practice & Transcription Software

Postby desmond » Thu Dec 19, 2019 11:20 pm

Another overwhelmingly positive review - you say the results are spot on (unless they are not) - I'd be interested to know what material you tried this on, and what the results were like (ie, the meat of the functionality of the tool, rather than the design and the interface etc), and when it was wrong, how often, and why? I don't really get any of this info from your brief overview, and that's to me the stuff that really matters, so if you'd like to expand on those things (as you're clearly motivated to talk about it, so I might as well ask someone who's played with it) - that would be cool.

Also, I'm a bit confused by the summary of "it does exactly what you want it to do and doesn’t get in your way" but you also say you need to load some other app to get melody transcriptions? Does it do this, or not? Or does it do it badly? It's unclear to me.

Basically, is it worth my time to do a demo of this and run some stuff through it, and does it really do something that other tools don't do, or does it significantly out-perform other tools that do a similar job? Have you used other tools for this task, and how does this one differ from those previous approaches?

Sometimes it's useful to have a good tool to speed up learning and understanding other material, and I saw someone mention deCoda the other day and wondered if it was really any good, so I'm genuinely curious - however, I suspect I'm going to be disappointed (the fact it's quite inexpensive doesn't help), so I'd like to colour that expectation before I decide to try to the demo...
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Re: deCoda by zPlane: A Newly Released Music Practice & Transcription Software

Postby tommyzai » Fri Dec 20, 2019 4:56 pm

Not the kindest reply, but's at least it's not an all-out personal attack, so I thank you.

You raise a valid concern and ask a couple good questions about the software.

Desmond wrote: . . . I'm a bit confused by the summary of "it does exactly what you want it to do and doesn’t get in your way" but you also say you need to load some other app to get melody transcriptions? Does it do this, or not? Or does it do it badly? It's unclear to me

*deCoda transcribes everything extremely well, especially chords, key, tempo, etc.; however, I would like to see visually clearer automatic note-by-note transcription like (or better than) the "blobs" used by another unmentioned software that happens to cost much, much more.

*Of course it's worth demoing. It wouldn't take many steps or time . . . probably less than writing and posting here.

*The fact that it's inexpensive is a plus, not a minus. I don't believe it's meant to compete with the expensive software that's out there. It does less, but it just might do enough . . . and do it fast!

*IMO, one of the primary differences between this and the other affordable options is the streamlined interface that fosters a swift workflow . . . and the accuracy of transcription, of course.

This is a awesome audio utility, but you don't need to take my word for it . . . check out the demo!! I'm not the only user who likes deCoda and finds it useful!!! I hope you check it out and dig it.
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Re: deCoda by zPlane: A Newly Released Music Practice & Transcription Software

Postby tommyzai » Fri Dec 20, 2019 5:21 pm

IMPORTANT!! I failed to mention . . . . the current price for deCoda is an introductory special. At some point it will be priced in the same range as its competitors.
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Re: deCoda by zPlane: A Newly Released Music Practice & Transcription Software

Postby desmond » Fri Dec 20, 2019 6:42 pm

Ok thanks - looks like it's worth a look then if the transcription is that good and recommended.

Will give it a try over the holidays... :thumbup:
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