Like many computer users, I spent many years as a musician. And as a musician, I eventually wandered into the world of computing. I’ve tried packages such as Digital Performer and Reason. But I never found a program that would let me compose and then output my composition easily. All the programs had steep learning curves.

Then I found the original Band-In-A-Box from PG Music ( I had not used notation in over a decade but this made it all so simple. As soon as the idea was in my head, I could quickly commit it to a staff and output it so that I could begin polishing my song. Of course, back then You were limited to MIDI sounds, but you still could create a reasonably presentable tune.

Then the company seemed to have fallen off of the planet. But one one eve, in a fit of Googling, I found the program resurrected and updated!

“The award winning Band-in-a-Box is so easy to use!  Just type in the chords to any song (like C or Fm7b5), choose a musical style from the hundreds available, and click the [Play] button. Band-in-a-Box automatically generates a complete professional-quality arrangement.  Plus, add REAL accompaniment to your song with RealTracks and RealDrums. These are actual recordings of top studio musicians that replace the MIDI track with audio instruments. They sound like real musicians, because they are recordings of real musicians!”

I was elated. I could start composing again!

The Pulp

“The award winning Band-in-a-Box is so easy to use!  Type in the chords to any song using standard chord symbols like C or Fm7b5; and Band-in-a-Box does the rest, automatically generating a complete professional-quality arrangement of piano, bass, drums, guitar, strings and more. Plus, add REAL accompaniment to your song with RealTracks and RealDrums – actual recordings of professional studio musicians!”

The Rind

Where do I begin? The learning curve requires a manual that is just under 300 pages. While not the size of, say, a CS5 manual, the approach and layout of this program is both daunting and intimidating. If you want to have fun composIng music with BB 2009, you had better set aside a lot of time just to learn the program, let alone master it. And if you’re going to spend this kind of money, you would be best served on a more mainstream app like Reason, Cubase, Logic Studio, etc., programs that are used by the vast majority of the music industry (and have more features).

The UI has to be one of the least intuitive that I have ever come across. The only way you’ll get through it is by complete memorization. Just looking at the various desktops will set your head spinning. That’s not to say that the other aforementioned programs don’t have a steep learning curve, but you can eventually find a thread of logic that then helps you to move along. I found that the various layouts tended to promote a deer-in-the-headlights look.

One of the layouts is a style selector. Actually, a good idea. They name the style and several popular songs so you can get the feel of it without sampling it. Unfortunately, the samples liberally lift riffs from the aforementioned artists, so the song is never really a complete reflection of your composition.


I can’t express my disappointment at what I consider a missed opportunity. I really wanted to like this app … DESPERATELY! But, I’m afraid it has become bloatware and my search continues.

In the meantime, I’ll have to settle for typing reviews.

Rating : 3 out of 10

— Frank Petrie