Progression Guitar Composition Software: Review And Thoughts

I was sent a copy of the guitar software Progression to evaluate a couple of weeks ago.  This software is made by Notion Music and hopes to gain the acceptance of guitar composer hopefuls.  I used the software over a period of a few days in order to familiarize myself with the product and learn it’s intricacies.  The cost of this software is around $100.00 U.S. (list $149.00 U.S.).

Progression does not attempt to be a full blown composition program like Finale, Sibelius or its’ sister product, Notion 2.0.  This software is more of a singer/player/songwriter type of composition software.  It focuses primarily on rhythm and lyrics, however you can add plenty of staves to accompany whatever types of instruments you might like to include in your budding composition.

Where this software shines is it’s built in sample library.  The sound library is truly sonically impressive.   It includes samples from Neil Zaza, Victor Wooten and Roy Wooten as well as piano, clavient and Fender Rhodes (as I said, the software focuses mainly on guitar and popular combo music).  For other types of sounds you have access to the standard MIDI compliment.  I did not see the option to pull in other external sample collections that you might already own (of course :(,  you can buy some sound expansion kits at their site…).  

The software offers a number of ways to input music into the score including real-time midi, step insertion midi and the standard drag/drop/note_audition methods.  The one thing I found missing was the ability for Progressionto quantize the MIDI input.  This could pose some problems for many people.  That being said, it is relatively easy to place your notation on the staves.  The note/entry palette is always visible and includes the basic arsenal of note entry options.  There are only two voicing options for input (i.e. you could have a quarter note on the staff and add a pair of eighth notes on top of it in the same beat -but not a third note element like a triplet on the same beat) but that should be enough for the target audience of this software.   I did not read if it had a staff number limitation, but I was able to get 12 staves added with no problem, which would again, be more than enough for the target audience of this software.

The VST effects library is particularly well tuned in this application.  Each staff (or channel) can have 3 separate FX libraries (each with multiple VST effect racks).  You may choose from the integrated FX libraries or amp simulators or add your own.

Fx Rack Pict.

Writing tablature and chord tabs is particularly easy with this program (as you would expect it to be as a touted guitar product).   In addition, the software supports custom guitar tunings and a small library of percussive patterns for inclusion into your compositions.


     All in all this software does what it sets out to do and be.  There were a couple of things that I thought it needed in order to bump up to the next level of ease of use and functionality:

  • I would like to see the addition of tutorials in addition to the sound demos (included video tutorials would be great!)
  • I would like to see quantization as an add-on to the midi entry functions
  • I would like to see the ability to easily add your own sample libraries (maybe it does this and I couldn’t figure out how to easily)
  • The program never was able to import standard MIDI files for me, it crashed every time I tried (on two computers).  In addition, when you import, Progression automatically looks for “score” files and not MIDI files.
  • The program did not work at all on VISTA and I could not find an update on their site to address the issue.
  • Finally, I would like to see the drum notation convertible from standard MIDI piano notes to standard readable drum notation.

The pluses:

  • Incredible native sound sample library (limited though).
  • Nice clean graphical look
  • Easy to enter a composition via multiple methods
  • Easy to use TAB and Chord inputting features
  • N-Tempo Tap feature (set your own tempo by tapping) is pretty cool and useful.
  • The Velocity overdub feature is pretty nice for changing dynamic inflections and easy to use.
  • The VST effect features are well done and implemented
  • The mixing features for each staff (channel) are nice and easy to use.

This software fills a niche and does so nicely.   If you are looking for this type of software for under $100.00 U.S. then this just may be your ticket.   Currently there is not a demo version of this product but you can check out some pretty nice scores and awesome sounding audio tracks that were created with it here.


[tags] guitar software, guitar midi, notation, progression, notion, midi, tab, tablature [/tags]
Joseph M. Pisano, Ph.D. is the creator of many education websites, a lecturer, clinician, trumpeter, and conductor. He is currently the Associate Chair of Music and Director of Bands in the Calderwood School of Arts at Grove City College in PA. He been named a TI:ME Teacher of the Year, received the JEN Jazz Educator Award and the PA Citation of Excellence. He is a past Vice President of the Technology Institute for Music Educators and the current Vice-President of the PA Intercollegiate Bandmasters Association. He also writes for DCI Magazine, Teaching Music Magazine, and is the Educational Editor for In-Tune Monthly Magazine; he has contributed hundreds of articles to various publications. Find out more at his website
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  • Being a guitar player myself, this new software seems amazing! I am a little confused though on the part of writing the tablature. Is it as we input the music does it create a tablature by itself or do we have to create it ourselves? Is there really a difference in Progression from that of Finale? And if so, what is the price difference?

  • Kyle,

    Thanks for taking the time to write. I appreciate your comments and can say that once you take care of some of those issues your product will be superb!

    On the import midi function, it crashed every time I tried to open a SMF. Also, when you choose to import, it doesn’t automatically look for a .mid file, it looks for a score file…that seemed odd to me.

    Vista would install, but not run. I tried it on two machines. I’d be happy to troubleshoot it for you, let me know.

    As far as the midi smoothing, it would be nice to be able to choose at what level you want it to smooth (quarter, 8th, 16th, etc.).

    VSTi compatibility would be awesome. The demos really are well done and feature your native sound libraries very well. For the price it is hard to beat.

    I showed this to a couple of blue grass guys and they liked the reverse tab to standard notation feature.

    Best regards,

    J. Pisano

  • This is a great program! I’ve had a really good time working on developing it. It really has given me a great new way to compose “on the fly.”

    To answer some of your questions:

    -Tutorials and videos are on the way and will be up on the site ( There ARE some great demos and a drum beat library available IN the program under the “help” menu.

    -We are working on smoothing out the “midi-in” function and it should definitely quantize on input (before notation).

    -You CAN use your own sound libraries by sending midi-out. VSTi compatibility is in the works.

    -Not sure I understand the issue you were having with midi-input…but hopefully we can square that away.

    -PROGRESSION was actually written on Vista and I’m quite sure that it works well with it, but once again I might need more information to troubleshoot.

    Hope this helps! Enjoy!
    Kyle Poehling

  • Oh I have been using guitar composition software for a long time. It really helped me a lot and using this software I have learned many new things. I think that software like this could help for many people who want to be good guitar players. So thanks for the interesting post and I will be waiting for other great ones from you!Sincerely, Rick Tomson

  • gritter

    I’ve been using Progression for the Ipad and I’m loving it. It allows you to compose on the go. wherever I may be i can pull out my ipad and get my ideas down quickly. A very powerful app and a fantastic teaching device.