Below is a series of reviews of the format options available to you to help you make a more informed choice as to your transcription needs. You can click on the below links to leap to your chosen format or scroll down the page at your heart's content to read up on and choose the program you seek. Clicking on the format title or accompanying image will navigate you to a site where you can obtain a copy of the elected software.

Guitar Pro 6     Guitar Pro 5     Powertab     Tux Guitar

Guitar Pro 6

guitar pro 6

Earlier this month the folks at Arobas Software, who produce the popular guitar tab software Guitar Pro, released version 6 of their application. Guitar Pro 6 represents a complete rewrite of the application that’s grown way beyond a mere tab editor and into a fully fledged score writer with support for multiple instruments and a huge library of sounds. Guitar Pro 6 has become an formidable composition tool at a price the average guitarist can afford.

We’ve had a chance to test drive the new Guitar Pro 6 and we’ve found it to be an impressive upgrade from the previous versions. It’s a great way to compose scores and learn new music from the plethora of online resources that provide free Guitar Pro tracks.

If you’re not already familiar, Guitar Pro 6 is a multi-track editor of guitar, bass, drums and other instruments in tablature as well as standard notation. Guitar Pro 6 has a built-in MIDI-editor called the RSE or Realistic Sound Engine that can play back the written parts in the tablature or standard notation. Also included are a host of tools like a metronome, scale and chord charts and a transposer. Guitar Pro 6 is currently available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux (see the full system requirements).

Guitar Pro 6 has two major upgrades from the previous version of the software. First and foremost the interface has been redesigned. On the left hand side of the application are six tabs you can cycle through. The first tab, called the “Edition” panel, houses all of the notation you can add to the score. Everything from accents to annotating the opening and closing of a wah pedal. The second tab down is the “Instrument” panel that is for managing the various parameters for the selected track — tuning, RSE sound bank selections, capo and playing style. After that comes the “Effects” panel that handles, as the name implies, all of the various effects and amp models that are applied to the current track, as well as how you chain you effects. Guitar Pro 6 now offers an impressive amount of effect and amp models.

softwareGuitar Pro 6 Interface

After those panels comes the “Chords” panel which is perfect for someone like me. The “Chords” panel makes it super simple to drop a chord into the current beat or bar. It’ll place a chord diagram at the top of the music an annotate the fingering as well as the chord name above the chord. It’s a great way to build a simple set of changes you want to share with friends for new music. After that is the “Lyrics” panel – again a handy dandy tool for putting in the lyrics to the song as well.

Arobas has also really worked on improving the RSE in Guitar Pro 6. They’ve added over 100 instruments that, as mentioned above, can be played through a configurable chain of effects (pedals, amps, racks) for each track. We tried loading a few of the included examples to try out the new RSE. As impressive as all of the new sounds, effects and instruments it still has a distinctly MIDI sound to it. It’s a great tool for helping to learn a new song or as very simple backing track but it won’t blow your socks off as your new jam-along system of choice.


Effects and Amps in the RSE

Overall we found the Guitar Pro 6 makes dealing with guitar tablature and scoring a much less painful process. Arobas has added a ton of new features to Guitar Pro 6 and has complete redone the user interface. For $59.95 USD for a new version or $29.95 to upgrade a previous version, we think it’s a no-brainer for guitar players. It’ll sure beat the socks off you grandpa’s ASCII tabs and you can even use with PowerTab tabs. Given the vast amount of free Guitar Pro tabs on the web, it’ll make a great tool for learning new music. But it really excels if you’re composing a piece of music to share with other musicians. Highly recommended.

BUY Guitar Pro 6 from Arobas Software


Guitar Pro 5


This update to the leading guitar-tablature editing software adds a realistic sound engine, improved imports from other formats, and a slew of minor enhancements throughout. Guitar Pro 5 is smooth both when composing new pieces and transcribing existing ones. It can display both tablature and standard music notation on the same page, and it also supports bass, banjo, drums, and other instruments. It performs two-way conversions between tablature and standard notation and can export in multiple formats, including ASCII tabs, WAV, and MIDI.

Guitar Pro 5's great strength, though, is convenience. Compared with the pricier Cakewalk Pro Audio, Guitar Pro offers a more accessible interface without sacrificing features. Unlike most ASCII-tab-editing programs, such as TabMaster 1.3, Guitar Pro formats printed output so that no line of music gets cut between two pages. Other useful features include a metronome and a built-in digital tuner. The program gives easy control over tempo, vibrato, articulation, harmonics, bends, and virtually all other techniques used in notation. However, there's no option to include bends on standard notation. If you don't want to use the tablature (which can display bends), you can end up playing the wrong note; for example, if there's a note bent up from C, the program will list it as a standard C.


Guitar Pro 5 also gets high marks sonically. A new playback system called the Realistic Sound Engine (RSE) is based on recorded samples and digital modeling. I could add effects and equalize the various RSE instruments in order to create a better and more realistic sound. The system is a massive improvement over the program's older (though still present in this build) MIDI sound. It's not perfect, though. I occasionally encountered odd changes in volume between notes, especially when there was a large change in pitch, and this produces an unnatural sound. Also, when I combined RSE sounds with MIDI sounds, they sometimes seemed slightly out of synch.

As an all-purpose composition program, Guitar Pro is outclassed by more expensive software such as Cakewalk and Sibelius. For guitarists, however, the program has no serious competition. Guitar Pro's closest guitar-specific competitor is the freeware Power Tabs, which was last updated in 2000. Power Tabs lacks the RSE engine and sounds weak even for a MIDI-based program. Guitar Pro also outputs a much better track to use when you want a WAV file with every instrument except the one being played. Tab Editor matches the main features in Guitar Pro, such as the tablature, staff notation, and playback, but misses a lot of the important details; it exports fewer file types and can't import many types of tabs, including Guitar Pro tabs. Guitar Pro, on the other hand, can import Power Tab files.

Power Tab files are also more difficult to find on the Web than those created with Guitar Pro. The tabs posted by Guitar Pro users also tend to be of higher quality than the alternatives.

Overall, Guitar Pro 5 is a worthy update to the best guitar-tablature editing software around. The realistic sounds aren't perfect, but they're a huge improvement over the MIDI sounds of past builds, and the program's printed output looks great. If you're a guitar player ready to make the step up from freeware, this is the program to get.




The first thing you’ll notice about using Power Tab is it features a word processor-like interface which makes it easy to use but intimidating if you don't have much knowledge of writing music. You can enter in any tablature notes and have them displayed along with the regular music on the staff. At the bottom of the editor is a handy note selector so you can add different note values to your song. Time signatures, tempo, chords, new music bars, and text are all easily added into your work. You’ll find a chord dictionary for finding chords, different tunings, score checking for music accuracy, and a score polisher to get your music ready for printing. You can also import and export MIDI files of your work from the editor.

Power Tab Editor isn’t for everyone and if you are new to making music with tablature you might have problems with all the features. Musicians who have been playing for a while should have no trouble creating files suitable for printing. The score checker and polisher does make it easy to figure out where you went wrong in your work and quickly correct the mistake whether it’s a timing issue, or a misplaced note.

The Power Tab Editor has a number of great features:

Easily create both guitar and bass tablature and have your work displayed as tab and regular music.
Add timing, note values, key signatures, insert and move new music bars.
Full selection of tablature symbols such as hammers, pulls, bend variations, palm muting, legato slides, and tapping.
Chord dictionary makes it easy to add chords to your work and you can add chord names above your music.
Playback your work via MIDI.
Print great looking scores complete with chords at the top of the page.
My Impressions

As a guitar player and teacher I still use Power Tab Editor. The program has been around for several years but it works well. The editor never crashes, doesn’t eat my RAM, loads quickly, and does what I need. Whether I’m writing a song for a student, making a scale sheet, or creating riffs, the editor is there to help me create the tablature and print it for my lessons. I like the word processor-like interface since it’s much like creating a document only with music. On the negative side is that the sound output is quite weak so don’t expect great quality, but the music will sound like the song your trying to play. The program also has no support for drum tracks. It can take time to get used to this program so don’t get frustrated.

In the price to value category Power Tab Editor shines because it’s freeware. No fees, no subscription, just a good free music program. You won’t find much support since it’s quite old but it should work on newer systems. The program doesn’t have the advanced features of software like Guitar Pro, but for a freeware program to edit tablature it shines.


Tux Guitar


TuxGuitar is a full featured music composition tool that can be really helpful to musicians, whether they use their computer to compose music or not.

The program looks really complex at first sight – at least for a music newbie like me – so I have the feeling it may overwhelm more novice users. But the amount of available tools, along with an extensive help section and documentation really encourages you to give it a go.

TuxGuitar features a nicely designed interface with clear, simple lines that turns your music composition tasks into a lighter work. Besides composing right on the tablature, you can also have a virtual guitar fretboard or piano keyboard to make composition even easier. What's more, the program lets you play the songs you just composed, using one of the many instruments included in it.

In spite of a confusing first impression, TuxGuitar well deserves a chance from all music composers: it's nicely designed and features many interesting tools.

Wide range of features
Nice interface
Lots of instruments included

May be overwhelming for first time users or music novices





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