Composers' Forum

Music Composers Unite!

For composers who notate their music, what is your workflow?   Since notation can be a painstaking process (especially for pieces involving multiple instruments), I'm trying to figure out the most efficient way to work (I compose in Sibelius). 

I've heard others talk about a variety of methods, whether it be starting with pencil/paper and then moving to Sibelius/Finale once the piece is more developed, or recording MIDI into a DAW and then importing it into a notation program, or working exclusively in a notation program.  What works for you?

Views: 377

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

For myself, I think if your goal is having the best and most accurate notation you can get, Id do everything exclusively in your notation program and avoid importing Midi files and hoping to then get a good score from them, especially if your music is in any way complex. Importing XML will give much better results than Midi, but there's still always cleanup to do, and the XML of the score you export from a DAW might be a overly quantised, and not completely accurate as to what you hear in your DAW. This was true of older versions of Digital Performer with its Quickscibe-you couldnt export it as XML or listen to the score itself, (you heard your own midi file) but it really was far too simplified as to represent my music accurately. I dont know but would hope this would have changed

I bit the bullet years ago and work solely in a notation program, as there were just too many problems trying to get accurate scores importing midi, and too much work without the correct result. By eliminating any kind of import and doing it all in your notation program, you avoid a world of problems, and know from the start your notation is accurate.

Im sure others will have differing opinions, but I really feel that the bottom line is, the more complex ones music is, the more it necessitates working solely in a notation program.

Thanks Bob https://soundcloud.com/bob-morabito

Like Bob I input note by note with the mouse, in the piano roll of my DAW, work on the midi then use the inbuilt scoring software to turn it into score. Purely for notation you don't need the first part of that, but if you like the aural feedback of working on samples it's useful. Strictly speaking though, if you're just producing notation you don't need the DAW and are best composing directly into score - but perhaps you write better without worrying about that to start with (more or less my situation) as notation software doesn't compare to DAWs for playback. It's down to what you need and how you work, so you probably know best what your comfort zone is.

Workflows! What the hell are they? It would be nice to have one sorted out, I'm still trying…

 

If I compare the biggies of score writers, i.e. Sibelius, Finale, and the new arrival Dorico, probably Sibelius is still the best deal (I am not speaking as a biased user, cause I find AVID's policies disgusting), but Sibelius has the technical edge still. I note with hope and joy that the completely free MuseScore is quite close to Sibelius in looks, routines etc, and my hope is that sooner rather than later MuseScore will be equally good in every sense and will rid us of all expensive commercial packages, while Audacity or some other free DAW will do the same on the sequencer/workstation area of the market.

Now, speaking of work flows, for me that thing is a very complicated process cause I have worked and still do with pencil and note book for most of my creative life, thus creating thousands of manuscripts which I had the good sense to scan whenever a scanner was available. I cannot go into details of how that flow works for me here, but it involves creation of data bases and excel sheets that enable me to store and retrieve all these scanned archives (don’t trust cloud storing an inch for that sort of thing-it sounds very big-brotherish to me). Then the question remains of how to digitize them quickly so that I can have at least a Sibelius sequence to work with. My input is quite fast with an ordinary qwerty keyboard, but still faster with pen and paper, for any musical sign. So I decided to invest last year in a Microsoft Surface 3 and digital pen. (btw, Microsoft and its new Windows 10 policies is one of my other big hates in this world).

I got an application for surface 3 called Staffpad. It has a few nice features, it took it about two months to learn the character of my strokes, but now it goes smoothly most of the time, thus enabling me to digitize quickly old manuscripts, compose, orchestrate, whatever I need to do, all on the go, wherever I may be. It gave me the freedom to be lying on a sun bed with just my swimming gear on and still be able to write music if I want to. I try to do a lot of work by just using the surface and digital pen, bringing the composition/arrangement to an advanced stage. Then I export an XML and import it to Sibelius for more work. The XML files from this Staffpad don’t need much editing in Sibelius, so I am able to continue with the same archive almost immediately.

 

I believe that the job of a composer is mainly to write his musical ideas down and present them to the world in a legible form,  unhindered by all technicalities of a digital world, or to put it in other words, I prefer reading Jeppesen's or Schoenberg's books on counterpoint and composition rather than a lot of stupid technical manuals of how any company selling commercial music software prefers to do things for its customers. They are all patronizing, and demand a lot of our money, and worse, of our time, which should be given to composing rather than trying to learn and comply with their protocols, (preferably on the beach, with pen and paper or whatever you have available :-) ).

Pen, paper and rubber here, then it's Sibelius donkey work and DAW simulation. Although I too have been watching Staffpad for a while and am seriously considering it.

My only concern with working within a DAW or notation software is that folks will get hung up on the sounds and limitations of the playback. Far better to learn and internalise what can be done by real players and write accordingly, even if it sounds shit on playback. 

But unfortunately, 99% of would be composers will never hear their work performed by real players.

Mike Hewer said:

Pen, paper and rubber here, then it's Sibelius donkey work and DAW simulation. Although I too have been watching Staffpad for a while and am seriously considering it.

My only concern with working within a DAW or notation software is that folks will get hung up on the sounds and limitations of the playback. Far better to learn and internalise what can be done by real players and write accordingly, even if it sounds shit on playback. 

That's a fair point Ray and it leads to an interesting problem for a would be composer. Does he/she embrace the world of samples and write accordingly, or learn the ropes of real world orchestration and composition. Of course it depends on their ultimate ambition, but samples too will sound a lot better if the writing is appropriate.
Their is still a trap in that samples might well limit the imagination if you are not careful and they can begin to dictate what you write.
One hopes that things will continually improve to such an extent that the composition side is not hindered as much and the integration of high quality samples will continue to be incorporated into notation software.

Plenty of fun stumbles to be had with samples. I've decided from my next piece I'll be writing direct to score, which with the right settings acts basically as the piano roll with note durations ghosted underneath, and not prioritising midi. Or at the very least writing in the DAW but ignoring the midi grunt work. Aside from anything else, it's an investment to any potential scoring jobs when I almost certainly wouldn't have time for anything but the meanest mockups, but I also hate that I can't pull it out of my head to score like some people can. It should be all about the result, but the fewer crutches I need, the less like an absolute fraud I'll feel!

Mike Hewer said:

My only concern with working within a DAW or notation software is that folks will get hung up on the sounds and limitations of the playback. Far better to learn and internalise what can be done by real players and write accordingly, even if it sounds shit on playback. 

Dave,
Is that also a good way to learn notation?

I'm sure it'll help something sink in if I only work that way.

Mike Hewer said:

Dave,
Is that also a good way to learn notation?
I do not disagree with the advantages in doing the job right, I'm just saying.

I'm not attacking playback and cheaper midi samples btw, just making the case that if you need very realistic real-time samples to compose best, your workflow should include it. It seems like you don't need it, which is fine and probably better.

Bob Porter said:

I write for the fun of it.

For years after college, I worked on paper. Pounding things out on a piano.An instrument I don't play. I gave up composing completely because the results were unsatisfying. Decades later I bought Sibelius 4. Maybe not the greatest library, but I was able to write again. What a blast. Does playback limit my imagination? Consider this. Four different orchestras could play something I wrote and they would play it four different ways. Which one is correct? Is my playback wrong because it doesn't sound like a real orchestra? Is my imagination limited because orchestra B didn't sound like what I wanted? Based on what I know of how instruments fit together, I very much write to what playback sounds like. 

What's more important to me is to write good music. Good harmonic flow, good melodies, good....music. Though I have never claimed to be able to do that, I try. It's a goal.

>just making the case that if you need very realistic real-time samples to compose best, your workflow should include it.

I agree very much with this--for myself, the better and more realistic the samples, the more exciting to compose and realistic to hear what Im trying to do-hence the best results I can get.And while theyre DEFINITELY not the same, its not nearly as far a stretch from a well notated score with really good samples, to the real thing, as opposed to using pure general midi sounds.

Again, YMMV--whatever works best for you:)

Thanks Bob https://soundcloud.com/bob-morabito

Reply to Discussion

RSS

© 2017   Created by Chris Merritt.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service