At a Glance
Anyone who's written more than a couple of songs knows that there are times when inspiration flows effortlessly and times when you have to hammer a lyric into shape one grudging word at a time. MasterWriter, a utility designed in 4D's 4th Dimension database application, can help you jump-start your songwriting in either scenario. And it's the only program around that lets you organize your melodies and lyrics, record demos, and time-stamp your creations.
It's most useful, however, when the well of inspiration runs dry. At such times, MasterWriter is poised and fully prepared to provide the perfect rhyme, alliteration, well-turned phrase, or cultural reference.
Rhyme and Reason
To get started, you click on the Songs button in the MasterWriter window, click on the New Song button, and write your lyrics in the word-processing portion of the window. If you can't think of a rhyme, select the word you want to rhyme and click on the Rhymes button. In short order, MasterWriter displays a list of possible solutions in the results portion of the window.
MasterWriter can show you only rhymes that contain a certain number of syllables -- you might want to see three-syllable words that rhyme with tangerine, for example (the results include kerosene, bombazine, and time machine). If you don't find the perfect word, enable the All Sound-Alikes option, which displays words that nearly rhyme -- here you'll get Anchor Steam, for instance. Unlike traditional rhyming dictionaries, MasterWriter sorts rhymes phonetically (by the first sound, rather than the first letter).
If the number of suggestions overwhelms you -- the rhyming dictionary contains more than 100,000 words -- you can narrow the list down to primary rhymes (words that most likely fit the bill), secondary rhymes (where even Shecky Greene makes an appearance), and pop-culture rhymes (in case L.L.Bean or Seventeen might work).
MasterWriter can go far beyond simple rhymes. By clicking on the appropriate button, you can view rhymed phrases, common idioms and clichés, alliterations, pop-culture references, synonyms, or a definition for the currently selected word. If you stumble across a word you'd like to explore later, double-click on it to add it to the Favorites list.
MasterWriter performs these chores very quickly -- producing results in a couple of seconds on a modern Mac. If there's a shortcoming, it's that the program is slow to start: it took more than 30 seconds to launch on a 933MHz Power Mac G4.
More Than Words
There's more to songwriting than lyrics, and MasterWriter includes two other helpful features. The first is a hard-disk function that lets you record your songs through the audio-input port. This function isn't terribly full-featured -- you can't edit the resulting audio files within the program -- but it's perfectly serviceable for laying down a quick-and-dirty rendition of your tune.
Potentially more useful is Songuard, a date-of-creation feature that will upload your lyrics and audio to the company's server. Your time-stamped tune is your proof that you wrote a song on a particular date. Subscriptions to the Songuard service cost $30 per year (the first year of service is free when you buy the software).
Macworld's Buying Advice
Although MasterWriter won't write a song for you, it can generate ideas that may rouse your inner muse. If you write lyrics or poetry, MasterWriter is a comprehensive and worthwhile aid.