zplane deCoda by Tommy Zai
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. ;-).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.