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 My first post, hello everyone. I'm a bassist living in the New York area. I've been lurking around here for a bit and feel I should push myself to get some helpful advice and observations. As hard as it was to dust off some cobwebs and write this it's harder for me to put this out to the public. I'm pretty computer illiterate but  have started using musescore. The sound quality is not the best as it's the built in sounds in musescore. But it's a start and here it is,

https://soundcloud.com/user-834206647/str-quartet-1

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Hello Tim,

First of all, congratulations on taking that oh-so-hard step of placing your work in front of us, I know how difficult than can be. I listened to the whole piece and the overarching impression (flawed as it is with only one listen) is that I was challenged to understand what is going on. That is to say, from moment to moment I couldn't anticipate what was coming next, and when it did arrive, I wasn't sure how you got there, or what underlying logic you were using to move from moment to moment. If you could say a little bit about how you composed it or share a score, I might be able to say more.

Thanks on posting it and sharing it with us!

Gav

I like this, Tim, and welcome to our world. This kind of sounds like you're working with tone rows, or at least along those lines? I like how you interweave the instruments, creating a light, transparent mix. It is a catchy little theme, which is present through much of the piece. and you provide a welcome sense of resolution toward the end, with some nice impressionistic harmonies. It has an organic feel to it, which creates its own form. Perhaps not everyone finds this approach to form agreeable, but I find it allows me as a listener to just sit back and let the music take me where it wants to go. I think you have a successful piece in the making, and I would encourage you to continue with more movements. 

For a first try most credible. Easy to listen to but let down only by the rendering itself. Musically, I liked it and it would come into its own if performed or carefully set up in a DAW with a nice sound library.

I've only listened the once so far so I'm unsure how it's structured - that's if it IS structured. I'm a fan of "through-composed" and your work seems through composed and I don't automatically expect structure. Its nicely divided into episodes however. It coheres because of things like imitative entries. The harmony is interesting and modern (only need look at the closing chord for that!) I also liked the unison at 2'10" - most effective. The different articulations you've asked for (detaché, staccato, as well as legato) would be fine in performance but are somewhat lost because of the rendering.

Worth considering cutting some of the notes shorter in the long legato phrases - like, break the phrases up a bit more. Some legatos seem too long, if that makes any sense.

Otherwise a very nice piece. Well done.

Cheers

 First off, big thanks for the listening and comments. Yes it is through composed, which is a little odd for me as I seem to do better when I have more definite boundaries (strict form) to work within, and that's my main problem when I look and listen back. The main motive is the 5 note m2, M3,m2 4th (like C Db A Bb Eb).

  This was also my first working with notation software, in this case Musescore, which doesn't frustrate me nearly as much as Finale and Sibelius did. Maybe this is better off as a new thread but I'm interested in what others do in terms of sketching to the finale product. Do you sketch on paper and then go to a notation program, or are you all in, digital from the beginning? I started this off writing a paper sketch of the the first third ,roughly, then after that I was just sketching and refining on notation software itself. 

Since it's your thread Tim you can take it in any direction you want. As for how to do this stuff: There are all kinds of ways. All that matters are the results. My music was all composed years ago with pencil and paper, and then around 20 years ago I purchased an old version of Cakewalk, a Digital Audio Workstation. I chose it because it has a notation feature, but it is really intended as another way to use the software, for those who could read music. It is not true notation, but I found it of great value as it allows me to work with notes, as opposed to the blobs of color in prv (piano roll view). So, my method now is to work on the music I first wrote before any of this stuff was even invented, with the goal of making reasonably decent midi mockups; then exporting to a notation program (I use Notion), to produce a score. This is exactly backwards to how most do it. Using a DAW, with instrument libraries, is also helpful with orchestration, as you can easily move musical phrases around from instrument to instrument, to see how it sounds; as well as get a sense of how the piece sounds as a whole. For those not trained in orchestration this can be very helpful. Then, when you have it the way you want, you use notation software to make the score (if you're interested in that). 

But working the other way (notation first, then a DAW to make a sound version) also works, and seems to be what most do. I would say for trained musicians, that would be the better approach. I probably do it the other way because I am self-taught, and I need the feedback of the sound as I go. Especially with the orchestration. DAWS themselves have all sorts of different ways to work. PRV, perhaps a score or notation view; an event list, and the track view itself, where you can move stuff around, aptly effects, etc. So just in a DAW there are all kinds of ways to get results. I use Cakewalk differently than most, too, working primarily in the score view and event list, and not at all the PRV. This results in most of my responses to questions in the Cakewalk forum falling on deaf ears, as almost nobody uses the software the way I do. So I have pretty much stopped trying to help people there' nobody knows what I'm talking about. They will sometimes tell me I'm not using the software correctly. Oh well, people tend to be conformists...

Of course you can also work solely in notation software, especially if your music has a good chance of being performed. For professionals, or those aspiring to be, this makes the most sense. 

Hi Tim, I think you have a good piece here and I did enjoy it.  I think there are things you can do to improve it, but that's only my opinion and only you can decide what, if anything, needs to be changed.

So from my view things that you could do differently: Most obviously you could use samples that sound "better", and that's a deep subject that gets a lot of discussion around here.  I'd recommend listening to what others have done and ask questions about their methods.  Just be aware that you can get some very "nice" sounds for a small investment, it's something that's more dependent on technique than on dollar amount. Composers here have a wide range of investment levels.

There are many techniques taught to composers and you are using most of them already. You have melody, harmony rhythm and form here but you could do more (or less, depending on the style you choose) with each of these elements. Right now there is not a lot of variation in your music.  You have good ideas and everything works together OK but there is a certain sameness that shows up after a minute or so and your music doesn't really go anywhere.  Of course it doesn't have to go anywhere, but that's what my ear wants to hear with this piece. I would recommend looking at ways to introduce variation to help hold our attention.

Yes, I still work with pencil and paper but now put the bits and pieces together in the DAW which allows me to try out and adjust more sustained harmonies, deal with problems of balance, and on. The DAW produces a notation score but it's so literal unless I work absolutely to the grid it's a mess to read. I prefer working freehand in the DAW as it tends to "humanise" the result (like I don't always get things strictly on the grid).

It's time I thought about notation software though. Musescore seems favoured around here but I'd probably still work as I do and transcribe a finished piece to notation software.  Currently I use the DAW score as a guide to a handwritten final score...which also means handwritten part-extraction, a most tedious activity!  The only advantage is that with more complicated pieces I can add cue lines ad-lib.

TIM j GIVENS said:

  This was also my first working with notation software, in this case Musescore, which doesn't frustrate me nearly as much as Finale and Sibelius did. Maybe this is better off as a new thread but I'm interested in what others do in terms of sketching to the finale product. Do you sketch on paper and then go to a notation program, or are you all in, digital from the beginning? I started this off writing a paper sketch of the the first third ,roughly, then after that I was just sketching and refining on notation software itself. 

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