So I'm finding out that there's actually quite a few composers on this forum. More than I initially thought, anyway. So I wanted to know what everyone uses, mainly out of curiosity, but also to get some suggestions.
I use TabIt, because I started out on guitar and it was the first program I got. Sure, I can read standard notation, but I was really into guitar back then. I still use it because of how much freedom it gives you. It lets you use the pitch bend and modulation whenever you want to, and however you want to. GuitarPro, for one, has a pitch bend and modulation feature, but TabIt lets you use them unrealistically, and I love that.
It doesn't bind you to rules of rhythm or anything like that, it just lets you write and it's completely up to you to do it professionally. So if you don't know what you're doing, your song will sound like crap. For example, you could accidentally add a 1/4 of a beat into a measure (if you're an idiot
) and TabIt wouldn't correct you. I like that, because I can't even figure out how to change time signature mid-song in Sibelius.
Also, the other, more professional programs make you set everything up before hand. You choose your key, tempo, time signature, and instrument sets in the beginning, and it's a little difficult to add new instruments in or change time signatures and whatnot later on, so basically you have to know exactly what you're going to write BEFORE you write it. (Again, I'm saying this out of inexperience of Sibelius and GuitarPro, but that in itself gives TabIt another advantage: ridiculously easy of use. Especially for a person that started out on guitar.) Also, writing percussion parts in Sibelius and GuitarPro is an endurance trial through fire compared to doing in it TabIt.
But TabIt does have a few drawbacks. Much like in the way that TabIt will not make your song sound professional, YOU must do that yourself, TabIt also does nothing to make your song sound realistic. Again, that is something you must learn to do yourself. Both by using volume changes and mastering the art of bending to make things sound realistic, and taking into account the subtleties of real instruments, and also by getting a soundcard that has a good soundfont set. Right, TabIt has no RSE like GuitarPro does. It runs solely on the MIDI that you provide for it. This is the reason (pun) why I'm looking into other programs. Like Reason. My soundfont set is pretty decent, but it's not high-quality, and most people aren't able to look past the sound of the instruments in the song and listen to the writing itself unless they've also been in your situation. Also, even though you can make your song sound very professional in TabIt, the REAL professionals do not see TabIt as professional at all. I'm not going to get into a debate about this, but I can see why they think this, the major reason being TabIt is in tablature format, and has no standard notation format.
So I'm downloading Reason now, and I'm going to give that a try, because I've heard great things about it and what it can do for more modern-styled songs. What I may end up doing it writing in TabIt, exporting midi, and pumping it through Reason, but that all depends on how easy it is to write with Reason.
So, uh, what do you guys use?