Encore Music Notation Software

What's new in Encore 5 | Feature comparison sheet: Encore 5 vs. Music Time Deluxe
Encore keyboard shortcuts | Encore 5's J.S. Bach Library | Example Encore Scores
The New Gvox | History of Encore: Passport Music Software, LLC, Gvox and Passport Designs

Encore 5 Review — Music Notation Software (by Passport Music) —

The newly released Encore 5 for Windows and Macintosh delivers 90% to 95% of the features of the top music notation software competitors, such as Finale or Sibelius, yet Encore is much easier to learn and far friendlier to use. Encore surpasses other notation applications in its unparalleled balance between ease of use and abundance of features. This has been true over Encore's history, so test out the free trial ... and if you need more power, keep an eye on Encore! It's evolving fast.

The meticulous quality of Encore's printed scores equals or exceeds the caliber of any leading notation software, and Encore's on-screen presentation is superb: it's crisp, clear and resizable. And now Encore 5 offers an optional handwritten music style, for creating casual looking scores, and scores with the traditional appearance of handwritten jazz sheets.

The new Encore 5 upgrade is stable, up-to-date, and has lots of new features. It's truly the biggest improvement in years, with lots of customer feature requests now incorporated.

The Macintosh version of Encore 5.0 was released for in January 2008. Gvox quickly released maintenance updates. The current Macintosh release is Encore 5.06.

The Windows version of Encore 5.0 became available in early 2009. The present Windows release is version 5.03, build 703, release in September 2012

With these latest releases Encore is now available in French, German and Spanish.

NOTE: On August 15, 2014 Richard Hotchkiss (prior Gvox CEO) announced his new company Passport Music Software, LLC. and it's acquisition of Gvox and Gvox's assets including Encore and MasterTracks. Gvox no longer exists.

If you need high quality scores, if you want to get up to speed quickly, or if you're tired of struggling with music notation software that's hard to use, Encore may be the ideal music notation software for you! Encore is a competant tool for writing orchestral scores, however if you mainly need to write large, complex orchestrations, or scoring for film, you might encounter some limitations.

Expect to see Encore video tutorials on this site soon.

Encore 5 — Upgrades, crossgrades and discounts

Upgrades to Encore 5 are available to licensed Encore users.

Crossgrades are available too: If you use other music notation software, you can purchase an Encore crossgrade (competitive upgrade). The crossgrade price from Sibleius or Finale to Encore 5 is $129. This crossgrade offer is also available to registered users of other notation products like Overture, NoteWorthy Composer.

Additionally Passport Music offers Encore 5 academic discounts, lab pack discounts, and theological discounts.

Examples of Encore music notation scores

Here are screenshots of some sample scores I've created with Encore:

Bach — BWV 1010: Cello Suite No. 4, Bouree No. 2 (arr. for guitar)

Bach — BWV 248: Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light

Sandy Boys — a traditional American fiddle tune

Sandy Boys — using the NorMusic handwritten notation font

Here are a couple of Flash movies and a PDF of Prelude No. 2, BWV 934. Each provides a close up view of Encore's precision. (The first Flash movie includes audio, the second is silent):

Bach — Prelude No. 2, from Six Little Preludes — Flash with audio

Bach — Prelude No. 2, from Six Little Preludes — Flash without audio

Bach — Prelude No. 2, from Six Little Preludes — PDF

Encore uses the Anastasia font for regular music notation symbols; it uses the NorMusic font for handwritten notation symbols. A complete Anastasia font glyph chart is available here.

What's new in Encore 5

Encore 5's on-screen appearance is greatly enhanced with improved overall appearance and clarity. The zoom/magnification interface is intelligently revamped; magnification is accurate, crystal clear, and easy to manage. There's improved pasting and note insertion, an option for metronome clicks during record only, on-staff note velocity editing via a contextual menu, constrained horizontal position of vertically dragged staves or systems of horizontally dragged staves, improved part extraction, split notes from one staff onto two staves by pitch or by voice ... plus lots more significant new features including:

Instant startup (1 to 2 second launch) Slurs now attach to notes
Dozens of predefined score templates Instrument/Tuning presets in tablature
User definable templates Reorganized chord symbol window
Helpful "New score" Wizard Double click chord symbol to edit
Toolbar is user customizable Pan and reverb for each staff
Toolbar can include all tools! Optional pre-roll clicks before playback
Open Recent added to File menu Garritan Personal Studio ready
Improved zoom interface & presets DLS (DownLoadable Sounds)
Zoom offers live preview SoundFont support
Extremely smooth playback head Music XML import and export
Lots of new keyboard shortcuts Legacy scores open perfectly
Escape key returns you to Arrow tool File compatibility with Encore .enc
Simplify Accidentals command File compatibility with MusicTime .mus
View concert pitch or transposed pitch Support for OS X long file names
Command Shift + for transpose octaves Passport Music user forum


Extensive Bach Library included

Encore 5 now includes an extensive library of the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. These are not merely MIDI files, they are actual Encore scores. I created the example scores and Flash movies provided above using the Encore scores from this library, making only very minor changes.

Here's an audio recording of my abridgement of the Bach Concerto No. 16, BWV 987. Aside from removing measures to create the abridgement, I made only minor adjustments to note volumes. Otherwise this is straight from Passport Music's Bach collection, which is free with Encore 5 and Encore 5 upgrades, and included in your Encore download or install disk.

Here are some of the J. S. Bach works included in Encore format in Passport Music's Bach library:

Anna Magdalena's Notebook
Fifteen Two Part Inventions (BWV 772 - BWV 786)
Fifteen Three part Symphonias (BWV 787 - BWV 801)
English Suites (BWV 806 - BWV 811)
French Suites (BWV 812 - BWV 816)
Six keyboard Partitas (BVW 825 - 830)

Toccatas (BWV 910 - BWV 916)
Well Tempered Clavier (Preludes and Fugues) Book 1 (BWV 846 - BWV 869)
Well Tempered Clavier (Preludes and Fugues) Book 2 (BWV
The Italian Concerto
16 Concertos
The Goldberg Variations


17 Chorals (BWV 651 - BWV 668)
Four Concertos (BWV 592 - BWV 595)
Six Trio Sonatas (BWV 525 - BWV 530)
Tocatta and Fugues (BWV 538, 540, 564,565)

Encore 5 / MusicTime Deluxe Comparison Sheet:

MusicTime Deluxe, also by Passport Music, is essentially 'Encore Lite.' It offers most of Encore's features at roughly a quarter of the price! Encore and MusicTime Deluxe share the same file format. In other words Encore and MusicTime users can share Encore (.enc) and MusicTime (.mus) scores without exporting or converting in any way. Some features like Guitar tablature are restricted in MusicTime. For instance, although MusicTime can open and display files that have tablature, it can not edit the tablature, nor can it create tablature.

Here's a brief comparison sheet between Encore and MusicTime Deluxe:


Features Encore MusicTime Deluxe
Score Templates Yes No
Staves per page
Up to 64 Up to 26
Staves per system Up to 64 Up to 16
Number of open scores allowed 16 2
Spacing Engravers/Mathematical Engravers only
Compressed rests
Yes No
Note Attributes / Beams
Extended control Limited control
Normalize stems Yes No
Customizable Toolbar
Yes No
Expressions palette Yes No
Swing Playback Yes No
Guitar Tablature Yes (Create and edit) Display and print only
Guitar palette Yes No
Hide Staves One or more systems No
Dynamic symbols Redefinable effect Fixed effect
Percussion Staff tools Extensive Only General MIDI
Export to EPS Yes No

Encore's Notes/Attributes allows you to set details like note head type, stem height, accidental shift, and beam thickness.

Encore 5's Customizable Toolbar allows you to design your own palette of tools to enhance your workflow!

Encore's Expressions palette lets you add customizable score expressions that you can drop into the score as easily as the default expressions "dolce" or "poco a poco". These can be set in any text in any font, size and style.

Encore allows you to add marks, such as accents, to an entire group of selected notes at once, instead of added each mark individually. These 'group functions' are not available in MusicTime Deluxe.

Encore 5's Guitar palette provides a wide range of guitar notation symbols, like p i m a string numbers (1 - 8), bends, etc.

Workflow time savers and shortcuts

Encore 5.0 contains many workflow improvements. Honestly, I can edit scores about twice as fast as before, largely because the shortcuts are so logical. Some of the new keystrokes are logical extensions of preexisting shortcuts. For instance, we've always had command + for and Command - for nudging notes up or down. Now with with Command Shift + and Command shift - we can nudge notes an octave.

There's a Shortcuts section on page 5 of the QuickStart.pdf, three pages in length! Encore's new 'command key' shortcuts are my favorites -- even though some are real wrist twisters! Here are some particularly logical and easy to remember strokes, most of which Encore publicizes in its menus:

Key Signature [Ctrl]+[K] Add Measure [Ctrl]+[M]
Time Signature [Ctrl]+[T] Delete Measure [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[M]
Duration change [Ctrl]+[D] Add Staff [Ctrl]+ [S]
Velocity change [Ctrl]+[V] Delete Staff [Ctrl]+[X] [S]
Barline Type [Ctrl]+[B] Add Page [Ctrl]+ [P]
Endings [Ctrl]+[E] Remove Page [Ctrl]+[X] [P]
Measure Numbers [Ctrl]+[N]  
Make Chord [Ctrl]+[C] Text Elements [Ctrl]+ [H] (think header?)
Make Grace/Cue [Ctrl]+[G] MIDI Device/Instrument [Ctrl]+ [I]
Make Tablature [Ctrl]+[Z]  
Compress Rests [Ctrl]+[R]  

'Show control points' shortcut is a real winner: Command-apostrophe. No more trips to the menu and dialog!

Other time savers include: Improved pasting, Auto Spacing, Auto Spacing override, the vastly improved Zoom interface, z to zoom in, Shift z to zoom out, 'escape' to Arrow tool, Encore's horizontal constraint of vertically dragged staffs (which prevents staves from drifting left or right when dragged. This last feature also prevents systems from narrowing and invoking needless note alignments (Align Spacings), which can overwrite nudges -- the user's engraving refinements. Long file names and Open Recent are surprisingly useful -- granted these are features normally considered standard faire, but they're here now ... and they really help! So, in fact, many Encore 5.0 improvements further refine Encore's strength: usability. I'm all for that. I no longer have to set up a macro program just to work quickly in Encore — however, I would like to see a shortcut map, where the user could reassign shortcuts.

There's a particularly exciting addition. Encore now includes MusicXML export and import. This allows 'score exchange' between notation applications, in a much more complete manner than MIDI exports. Encore MusicXML export/import presently supports clefs, meter, note heads, stem direction, slurs, accidentals (including enharmonics and courtesy), dynamics, marks, symbols, voices, and text ... and in addition to MIDI playback duration Encore also specifies notated durations. None of these notational matters are included in a MIDI export, except for meter, and therein lies the superiority of MusicXML.

Oh ... ever forget to deselect before printing? Encore used to print the selected portion of the page, rarely what was intended. Good news. Command-p always prints the full page now. You'll no longer waster paper by inadvertently printing a selection. However, you still can print a selection if you want to. Simply choose File>Print Selection.

Needed Improvements

Here's a list of important features yet unimplemented in Encore:

Multi-level undo / Undo history Rhythmic symbols in tablature staves
VST hosting Notation/Tab 'string assignment' property
Document styles & Staff styles Mixed fonts & styles in tablature staves
User defined 'engraving styles' Draggable tablature numbers (x & y)
Finer object/control point placement grid * Tablature 'fret entry' mode (Like TablEdit)
Draggable selections (notes & objects) Tablature-to-treble-clef function
Paste styles: paste over, paste after, etc. Import ABC, ASCII Tab & TablEdit
Preservation of user's engraving offsets ** Violin/Fiddle fingerings in Tablature
Show user's engraving offsets (for review) User definable chord diagrams
Delete user offsets from selection Offset chord symbols up or down
Linked parts Chromatic/Diatonic note drag (switchable) +
Inspector Panel (to view & set properties) MIDI interpretations of ornaments
Preview/Apply of all dialog effects Microphone input
Facing Pages view Tap tempo
Improved Grace notes & interface Internal notepad for project comments
Better 'pickup' paradigm Control point color preference
Keypad skins (for Finale & Sibelius users) Background color/pattern preference
Sequencer/MIDI data & Raw Data view Dialogs and text entry that silence QWERTY
Search/Filter for selecting notes, etc. 'Encore Player' plug-in for browsers
Instrument range warnings Save as audio: MP3, WAV, AIFF, etc.
Measure overload warnings Commands via MIDI Keyboard/Controller
Lyric window (as alternate to line entry) Kerning in title text
Video window for scoring soundtracks AppleScript support
Stereo audio track Internal scripting language

It's a shame that Encore lay dormant for so many years. During that time much of the competition forged ahead, adding the next logical feature like VST hosting, facing pages, linked parts, rhythmic symbols in tablature, tablature entry that populates the notation staff, and internal scripting languages. Passport Music has put the house in order, so expect to see such features added as Encore advances head to head with the best in the field.

* Long ago, roughly in 1996, Encore 4.0 received zoom magnification. This was quite exciting. It suggested that we'd have much greater precision over object placement, because we'd be unfettered by a serious and seemingly inherent interface limitation: a minimum drag distance of one screen pixel!

But magnification was a big disappointment. It didn't solve this glaring issue. What looked like a problem imposed by screen resolution actually went much deeper. Encore has a 'snap to' grid that governs object placement and control point adjustment. Encore 4.0's magnification merely allowed users to see more clearly that Encore's vertical grid was coarse as ever, fixed at a huge distance of 'have of a staff space.' Magnification affected view only. It afforded no increased precision in placement of control points, like beam height, beam angle, slur height, slur control points, or object placement including lyric height, the base line of chord symbols, and a long list of placement impossibilities. Still today, Encore's placement grid is the same. To afford the user precision control, Passport Music needs to refine the grid to at least 1/10 of a staff space ... or revise the entire drawing grid to floating point coordinates. To me this one of the Top Five most needed improvements.


** Encore’s spacing algorithms and spacing options produce remarkably good scores. I really like the way they look! Nevertheless, a perfect score usually requires extensive fussing and detailed nudging. Although this is tedious time-consuming work, those of us dedicated to producing high quality scores are willing to shoulder the burden. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder, well, in the eye of the engraver, so automatic features will never completely suffice; and no matter how good they become, there's always the exception that users will want to address by hand.

Here's the rub. Users who carefully improve their scores with nudging and detailed positioning should be able to rely on Encore to preserve their adjustments.

Even today Encore's spacing rules snap objects back to Encore's notion of engraving, wiping out hours of detailed work in a single 'Align Spacing' command. That shouldn't be. Above all, software should not discard users input.

Encore should competently maintain adjustments and alignments (measures per line, note spacing, measure widths, slur control point positions, beam height, beam angle, etc.) even when the user makes global changes such as changing the number of measures per line, or the stave width.

A note property that specifies an 'x/y offset from Encore's automatic result' would facilitate this end. Ideally Encore would scale distances between notes when staff size/width is increased or decreased. Still Encore should preserve offsets relatively. Even after Align Spacing. Then we'll benefit from the combined value of Encore's power and our own preferences and handiwork.

At the end of the day, so we don’t mistakenly blame Encore for our own bad adjustments, we also need a filter that identifies all user offsets, so the user can review for unintentional or unnoticed mistakes.

Even in the light of 'user defined engraving' rules, users will want to break their own rule, and rely on Encore to preserve any such override.


+ Dragged notes step diatonically through the prevailing key signature. This is precisely what I want most of the time. Nevertheless, I frequently want to drag to a note outside the key signature.

I'd like to see Diatonic as the default preference, and Chromatic as the alternative, and the option to temporarily switch modes at the press of a command key. The command key temporarily switches the drag behavior to the opposite of the user's default, even mid-drag. The normal default resumes in force when the command key is lifted. And I'd like to see more options to shift between global Booleans on-the-fly, at the touch of a command key.

Passport Music — the new "Gvox"

It's been a winding road to the present. Fortunately the present is bright for new and loyal Encore users. Today Encore is run Passport Music

Encore's resiliency is testimony that excellent products have a way of surviving. For nearly a decade, until a just a few years ago, Encore's development was relatively dormant. Many releases between version 4.2 and 4.5 were primarily maintenance upgrades, focusing on operating system compatibility and MIDI connectivity. During that time Encore's feature set stalled, bugs were introduced, many features were broken, and longstanding behaviors were lost. In contrast, the competition expanded their list of features and captured considerable market share. Nevertheless Encore retained a loyal following.

Encore 5.0 addresses the lion's share of residual problems. Development also re-engineered much of Encore's foundation architecture, and that's thankless work ... because we don't yet openly see many benefits. I trust though that the recent groundwork will lead toward rapid future development.

     Encore, MusicTime and MasterTracks Pro are at: www.passportmusic.com
Passport User Forums: (https://passportmusic.zendesk.com/hc/communities/public/topics)

Personal Encore Experience

I've used Encore for over 15 years and have created thousands of beautiful scores with this remarkable tool. I've found nothing superior for my needs.

During Encore's dormant period I tried the top competitors for transcribing, composing, and publishing music -- but none successfully enticed me to switch, because none offered a compelling balance of simplicity, usability, depth and quality. Many things easily accomplished in Encore were impossible in Finale and Sibelius. Indeed these applications have many features that Encore lacks, but mostly those are tools for high-end orchestral scoring and part making ... and none were critical to my needs in creating guitar, fiddle notation and tablature, vocal lead sheets, and small scores. It just wasn't worth the effort, even though I sorely miss the tablature staff rhythmic notation that these other products offer.

Regarding Encore's longstanding superior ease of use, actions that were always easy in Encore have only been simplified recently in Finale. Look no further than Finale 2008's new feature list. Here's a description of Finale's new Selection Tool:
... and its Cut/Copy/Paste improvements:         http://www.finalemusic.com/Finale/features/edits/cutcopypaste.aspx

Finale and Sibelius are geared primarily toward professional music engravers. Unfortunately, whether you're serious or casual about notation, you'll pay a price when you encounter steep learning curves, an awkward interface, or staunch inflexibility. I gave each package a serious try, on numerous occasions, in various releases over many years. I always came away frustrated, and found myself ensconced in an oxymoronic irony: astonishing features, but too much effort required to access them, and the inability perform numerous mission critical tasks easily accomplished in Encore.

Encore is a suitable choice for professional engraving, and due to Encore's blend of usability and depth, it appeals overwhelmingly to amateur and semi-professional music notation users too. Encore scored a "bronze medal" in 2007 at http://music-notation-software-review.toptenreviews.com

Encore's History: Epic journey from Passport Designs to Gvox to Passport Music

One of the original music notation starlets, Encore was a true music notation pioneer and featured many first-to-market features. Originally created by MIDI innovator Passport Designs, Encore came to market around 1990, not long after Passport created the original PC/Macintosh sequencer. Passport was also a primary developer of the MIDI itself: the Musical Instrument Digital Interface protocol. A pioneer in hardware too, Passport developed of the first MIDI interface for personal computers.

Over Encore's long and venerable history, usability has always been its strong suit. It has always provided the best balance point between power and simplify. Because Encore's interface is so clear, it encourages you to explore, discover and use more features.

It's astonishing that, while breaking ground in the fields of MIDI sequencing software and the entirely new field of notation software, Passport Designs struck user interface gold, forging the user interface design patterns and interface simplicity that remain an example for other. Even today few applications cut straight to the core of sequencing and notation like MasterTracks Pro sequencer and Encore notation software.

Music Notation Software Companies (a list of contenders in the field):

      - Encore, MusicTime - http://www.passportmusic.com
      - Finale, Allegro, G7- http://www.finalemusic.com
      - Harmony Assistant - http://www.myriad-online.com (Myriad)
      - Lilypond - http://lilypond.org
      - Logic - http://www.apple.com/logicstudio/logicpro/
      - MagicScore - http://www.musicaleditor.com
- Melody Assistant - http://www.myriad-online.com (Myriad)
      - MIDINotate - http://www.notation.com
      - Mozart - http://www.mozart.co.uk
      - MusEdit - http://www.musedit.com
      - Music Publisher - http://www.braeburn.co.uk (Braeburn)
      - Nightengale - http://www.ngale.com (Adept Music Notation Solutions)
      - NoteWorthy Composer - http://www.noteworthysoftware.com
      - Notion, Progression (for Guitar) - http://www.notionmusic.com/
      - Overture - http://www.geniesoft.com
      - Personal Composer - http://www.pcomposer.com
      - QuickScore - http://www.sionsoft.com/
      - Score - http://www.scoremus.com
      - ScoreWriter - http://www.geniesoft.com
      - Sibelius - http://www.sibelius.com

Tablature and ABC music notation software

      - BarFly - http://www.barfly.dial.pipex.com
      - The ABC Music Project - http://abc.sourceforge.net
      - ABC Convert-A-Matic - http://www.concertina.net/tunes_convert.html


      - GuitarPro - http://www.guitar-pro.com
      - PowerTab - http://www.power-tab.net
      - TablEdit - http://www.tabledit.com


       More information at: http://ace.acadiau.ca/score/others.htm

Music Notation Exchange Languages

Music XML (by Recordare, pronounced "re-cor-DAR-ray")

The MusicMXL XML file format provides a music notation interchange standard. It triumphs where NIFF (Notation Interchange File Format) failed. A significant part of it's success is its widespread adoption, making it today's de facto industry standard, and probably the standard for some time to come.

MusicXML allows sharing of music notation between MusicXML-ready music notation applications ... but it has other potential as well.

Click to read full article on MusicXML ...


 MusicXML links- http://www.musicxml.org/xml.html




Internal links:


What's new in Encore 5

Encore/MusicTimeDeluxe comparison sheet

Encore keyboard shortcuts

Encore 5's Bach Library | ExampleEncoreScores

History of Encore, Passport Music, Gvox, Passport Designs

The new "Gvox" | Music notation companies



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This page last updated: 02-16-2009

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Tags: Music software, music notation software, Encore 5, Gvox, Passport Music