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Does anyone insert MIDI files created in their notation software directly into their DAW for the final product? Other than less control over dynamics, what are the drawbacks for this approach? It seems like wishful thinking to even hope that this approach could ever be a viable option.

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Hi Luke, welcome to Composer's Forum.

There are a variety of approaches to recording a final product with virtual instruments, and inserting MIDI files exported from notation software into a DAW  is one that a lot of composers do use.

The reason is that high end sound libraries have a lot of instrument articulations that are MIDI controlled but are not accessible with notation software. So for example through MIDI a DAW actually gives you much better control over dynamics than notation software can.

The drawbacks are that this process is time consuming and has a steep learning curve. There are many composers who get good final results using notation software linked directly to a special audio library set which avoids these extra steps.

You should study the various methods and especially the results that composers on this forum are getting with different methods before committing a lot of time and money to this effort.

Thanks for the welcome and response Ingo. I'm very excited to be here! I recently exported a composition out of Sibelius and into Protools and it seemed to work okay although I haven't yet heard the audio due to some sound device complications with Protools and my PC. I am still a little bit confused; where does most of the time come into play in this particular process?

Does most of the time come from editing the sampled sound in the DAW? The actual process of composing followed by exporting seems rather quick. I'm pretty fast in Sibelius and exporting is just a couple clicks away. 

Ingo, he has already said in another post that he will try Cakewalk, which is free. so nothing lost there. As for time, he will have to decide if it's worth it. No harm in trying the different technologies; if you don't you will never know which is right for you.

The time investment in a DAW can indeed be considerable. First, you have to figure out how to make it work. Then you have to figure out how to use it, develop a work flow. Finally, and here is where the real time factor comes in, you have to use it to mix and master your music. This is what makes it sound good. It is something that just has to be learned. I am still learning, after 20 years of using Cakewalk. DAWS are very powerful, they have many tools to enhance the sound quality. But takes time to master them.

One other thing: with Cakewalk, you won't be getting a lot of instruments. For classical music, you will need one or more virtual sound instruments (vsti's). Such as Garritan, East West, Vienna etc. you can spend anywhere from 150.00 on up for these. If you go with Cubase as your DAW, it will come with the Halion vsti. but you will pay something like 600.00 dollars fro Cubase.

As for exporting, usually a midi 1 file  will work well. I have never exported from notation to DAW, only the other way around. But if Sibelius lets to save the project as a midi 1 file, Cakewalk will have no problem opening it.

I'm definitely game to spend the time in a DAW with plugins to make the MIDI samples better, especially since this business of exporting MIDI files takes out the emotional impact of performance. I think that investment of time will pay off financially with added quality to the recordings. Thanks for all the suggestions!

One other point, Stephen: concerning Daws and notation software, one is about making your music sound good. The other is about making decent scores. So, a DAW is useful if the end product is a good sound rendering. Notation software is good if the end product is a score. Composers who expect or hope to get a performance generally will use notation software. Composers who plan to create their own performance, using computer technology, generally use a DAW. 

Ingo is correct in saying that notation programs are getting better at creating decent sound, but they still don't compare to a DAW. Needless to say, in both cases the end result will reflect the skill of the person using the software. If you are hoping to attract performers or publishers, a good-enough-sounding audio version in Sibelius may be enough. But if you want the best possible audio, a DAW is the way to get it.

So I guess the question you need to ask yourself is, what is the end result I am after? For me, a hobbyist who doesn't expect his music to be performed, a DAW makes sense, as I can myself create a reasonable impersonation of a performance. (I also do create a decent score, using Notion, which is a notation program, just in case someone does want to perform it. You never know). I don't know the world of game music. My impression is that most of the music is done in a DAW. but I could be wrong; as I said, this is not something I know about. If I'm wrong, and game composers expect their music to be performed, notation software might be better.

But there's nothing wrong with doing both. A good score and a good sound version. Perhaps someday there will be a program that allows you to do both. Right now there isn't. So, you need different programs depending on the end result you are after. Or both kinds of programs, if you want to have both end-results. Unfortunately, this stuff can be very confusing. I apologize if I have made it even more so, but I'm just trying to help.

MIDI files can be very expressive and emotional, you can edit each note forward or backward in time by tiny increments which allows you to be very creative. DAWS have quantization, humanization and "groove generators" to do some of that editing quickly also.

There is also a huge collection of loops and clips available for $ or for free that you can use freely in your own compositions to add in whatever you might want. I'm not fond of that approach but it is quite common.

Luke Stephen Gray said:

I'm definitely game to spend the time in a DAW with plugins to make the MIDI samples better, especially since this business of exporting MIDI files takes out the emotional impact of performance. I think that investment of time will pay off financially with added quality to the recordings. Thanks for all the suggestions!

It is also possible within Sibelius to nudge notes forward or back and adjust the velocity of each note. May or may not be worth it, but the ability is there.

Hi I'm a little late to the conversation but thought I'd add my advice too. This is totally valid but time consuming. You still have complete control over dynamics and with a good set of sound samples you can get a pretty good result.

I create my piece in Logic Pro with EastWest before exporting into notation software. There doesn't seem to be one solution for this at the moment.

It will always be quicker and easier to record live musicians and while you can get close with sound samples, it will never sound quite as good. My ideal solution is to create a quick mockup in Logic then export to notation to record the musicians, but without the recording equipment, sound samples are a nice compromise.

It's up to you if you want to invest the time into learning a DAW and all the techniques to get the best out of a sample pack but it's a separate production.

"It will always be quicker and easier to record live musicians".

I guess it depends on how big the group is and how good a recording you want. You might be able to get away with two run-of-the-mill mics for a string quartet. Hopefully you know where and how to place them based on the size room. But for an orchestra in a concert hall, you will need several quality mics, cabling, mixers and recording equipment. Neither is very cheap, quick, or easy.

I'm generalising there, and it does take the recording knowledge and experience but it's still possible to get great results from a handheld recorder that don't cost too much. I've had great results using a Zoom H6 but I have studied recording and you can record an orchestra with just an H6 for around £300. If you want to spot mic you will need all the extra stuff though.

Bob Porter said:

"It will always be quicker and easier to record live musicians".

I guess it depends on how big the group is and how good a recording you want. You might be able to get away with two run-of-the-mill mics for a string quartet. Hopefully you know where and how to place them based on the size room. But for an orchestra in a concert hall, you will need several quality mics, cabling, mixers and recording equipment. Neither is very cheap, quick, or easy.

Don't forget you need access to musicians. I write for orchestra. I have no viable way to use a real orchestra. 

There are musicians everywhere - unless you are in a remote area of course. But then there are online options, together with multi-tracking and layering.

Bob Porter said:

Don't forget you need access to musicians. I write for orchestra. I have no viable way to use a real orchestra. 

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