I am a songwriter. An unorganized one ... that is until I discovered "Lyricist ... the Songwriter's Best Friend," (TM) songwriting software by Virtual Studio Systems, Inc. What I love about Lyricist is its simplicity, no steep learning curve. Install or download Lyricist and read a few directions - much of it is intuitive, so once you learn it, you won't forget it.
The heart of the program is in the "Song Views," which in version 3.0 now has four pages: one to develop lyrics (Song Lyrics), one to create chord charts (Chord Charting), one to create arrangements (Song Arrange), and one to create a number chart (Nashville Charting). Together, these are power tools for your songwriting.
On the "Song Lyrics" page, develop your lyrics, set styles (Fonts, Colors, etc.) for Title, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, and Copyright, and save your styles for all future lyric sheet documents. Lyricist includes a spell checker, thesaurus and rhyming dictionary, which can be accessed from any song view. They are easy to use, but the rhyming dictionary is limited to perfect rhymes. I found all of the tools useful for quick ideas and brainstorming.
Choose from guitar, piano or the Nashville Number System to create song chords charts on the "Chord Chart" page. Using the Chord Selection tool, select your chord root, color (for example, major/minor), and voicing, and "Chord Select" will insert a chord where you left your curser. Don't know the name of a chord? The Chord Wizard fret board allows you select the notes, and Lyricist will search through its database of over 4,000 versions of chords to give you a list of possible chords.
Chord Charting and Chord Wizard are flexible tools that will help you not only identify chords, but also find interesting chords and less common chord voicing. You can define your own chord voicings and save them into your chord database, as well. Some other neat tools include a left-handed fret board, inserting tablature, and "Song Notes, " which is a "sticky note" where you can write notes about the song that don't necessarily belong in the lyric pages or arrangements.
In the "Song Arrange" page, develop full arrangements of your songs, including time signatures, key labels, beats, codas, repeats, intros and outros, and more. Create Nashville Number charts on the "Nashville Charting" page, or transpose your guitar or piano chord charts from any standard key into the Nashville Number system. In fact, transposition is one of the real workhorses of Lyricist. You can transpose between guitar, piano and Nashville Numbers, and you can also transpose between keys. All with a click of a mouse!
Lyricist organizes songs files into "Albums." My cowriters and I tend to do a lot of rewrites, so I create an Album for each song. I also organize final versions of songs in Albums, such as "Freeman/Harley/Lind 2003." My songwriting notes and documents are on their way to being organized for the first time in my songwriting life!
Other features include color print outs of song pages, e-mailing song documents, and attaching media files to your song documents and e-mails. Lyricist offers a link to OfficialCopyright.com, a company that provides on-line copyright services with the United States Copyright Office, as well. I took the opportunity to talk with one of Virtual Studio System's founders, Eddie Imbriano:
[Anne]: You and your partner, Stephen Iacovelli, founded Virtual Studio Systems in 1999. Why?
[Eddie]: Everybody at VSS is a musician. I've been a musician/songwriter for over 30 years, and my partner, Steve, is a great guitarist and has been a songwriter for over 25 years. We were working together in a computer systems environment, writing code, and we became partners and started working together. At the same time, we were playing music, recording music in a digital home studio, and we felt that there was a need for some tools. After looking at the market, what we were looking for wasn't out there.
We wanted a songwriting software that was simple to use, didn't have a huge learning curve, and didn't include notation programs. Most notation programs are cumbersome to learn and use, and most songwriters don't write scores and don't need to do all of that. As a songwriter, I don't score anything I write. I'm more interested in getting down my lyrics and my chord progressions. My cowriters and I would sit down with a guitar or at a piano, fool around with a melody, come up with a hook, and suddenly you end up with a bunch of scribbled notes in a pile or a file somewhere, or in a Word document. Next thing you know, you've got songs here, notes there, stuff all over.
[Anne]: You know my life as a songwriter! (Laughter)
[Eddie]: Exactly. We thought, why don't we come up for a cool solution for that problem? We created Tracknotes first, to keep track of the documentation for our recordings. Lyricist was actually a module of Tracknotes. We liked it so much we decided to break it out as a separate application and create a program just for songwriting.
[Anne]: One of the great features of Lyricist is that it is very easy to use.
[Eddie]: We felt that the user interface was primary to a user-friendly product. Of course, every time you try out something new, it can feel a little intimidating, but the feedback that we've been getting is that Lyricist is very easy to use. We also know that songwriters like to mix the chords with their lyrics, so that when they're introducing a song to someone else, musicians want to know where the chord lands on the lyric. We get a lot of feedback from Lyricist users that the Chord Chart and Chord Wizard are some of their favorite features. They are features that we expect will drive a lot of songwriters to purchase Lyricist.
[Anne]: Tell us about the e-mail and media features.
[Eddie]: You can e-mail your song to anyone. If you're working with a cowriter or a publisher, and you both have Lyricist, you can e-mail all four views by e-mailing the entire file. Behind the scenes, what we do is Zip up the song file and send it out using your e-mail provider. What turns up on the other person's screen is your e-mail with the song as an attachment in an attached ZIP file. The other person simply imports the ZIP file from their hard drive and opens it up in Lyricist. The entire song file opens up in the Lyricist program, with all four views. In addition, the song is stored in the Zip file in RTF format that can be loaded into most word processors. So even if the other person doesnąt have Lyricist he or she can still view the song. That's a nice feature.
[Anne]: What about linking audio files?
[Eddie]: It's easy to. You can attach any MP3 file and up to five versions of a song. Once you've archived a media file, you can play the file using your default media player, and look at your song lyrics, chord charts, arrangements or Nashville Chart as the demo is playing. It's a nice feature. You can also include the media file in an e-mail.
[Anne]: Eddie, what system requirements are there for using Lyricist on a PC?
[Eddie]: One thing that Lyricist was written for was simplicity. It doesn't take up a lot of storage. Lyricist will run on about 95% of the machines that are in use today. It goes back to Windows 95. We don't recommend it, because that is a very old operating system. But it will operate.
[MC]: Tech assist. How can you get it for Lyricist.
[Eddie]: We designed Lyricist for simplicity, as I've mentioned. We've designed it to not need tech support. We have a support page that identifies issues such as problems in people's operating systems as they come up, along with how to fix the problem. We have a forum where people discuss Lyricist and TrackNotes, as well. Of course, users can contact VSS directly via e-mail or telephone.
[MC]: Thanks for talking to us about Lyricist. Any final words?
[Eddie]: From the responses that we've been getting from Lyricist users, which is in the thousands now, we've been told that Lyricist should be in every songwriter's and every musician's arsenal. It's a simple program to use. If you haven't used Lyricist, take a serious look at it. The price is right - that's obvious. Go out and get it - help us out! (Laughter!)