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I would like to share a work originally from my student days over 40 years ago, that was never played back then and that I largely re-composed recently with the help of MuseScore. Compared to much of what I've heard here it is a very traditional work in a late Romantic idiom, so I'm a little nervous about presenting it here. I uploaded a recording of a slightly earlier version to SoundCloud last weekend but have since made some (minor) changes. I will try to upload the score directly here.

Historical details: everything up to bar 113 is largely as written in 1975, with the exception of small tweaks for dynamics, and also the pizzicato figure in bars 29-31 was originally written sul ponticello. There are other passages marked sul ponticello that are not realized in this recording because MuseScore's string soundfont doesn't have a channel for sul ponticello. (Similarly, there are a couple of places where individual notes should be played senza vibrato but aren't; I did not even mark them as such in this score.) Everything from bar 117 on was composed within the last month.

I posted a link to the first version a few days ago on another board and received only one comment from someone who liked it, but offered no critiques or suggestions. I am hoping that folks here will have more to say about it.

MuseScore playback:

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Thanks, Tim, for your kind and supportive words about my quartet, both here and on Soundcloud (where I replied).

I'm not so much frustrated with being able to get the music notated properly in MuseScore, more with the soundfont based playback that gives the music an unpleasant and unnatural sound. I guess good sample libraries would give a more realistic rendering, but I can't afford a professional DAW, and the time it would take to get it to sound just right is probably not worth it anyway. MuseScore's rendering was good enough to get the notes down right, which is all one can really expect of it I guess. A composer with a better ear probably wouldn't have needed it, but mine isn't good enough to hear complex harmonies accurately in my imagination.

Thanks for making the effort to get past the poor sound and listening all the way through.


I'm not a fan of this genre atonal music but I can appreciate the artistry and the knowledge that went to creating this, as it is evident it was done very well. And it is also more listenable and not irritating as some of the other atonal 'Weberian' music that is out there.



Thanks Saul.

Hi Liz, this is a very impressive work actually.  It's long and intricate and thoroughly modern, all of which I like.  Dane and Tim have asked and discussed the many questions that come up with your work and this discussion makes for good reading and learning.

As you say, sound fonts are an issue here and I just wanted to mention that I have recently purchased Noteperformer software which has helped me with this problem.  As you know there are some great sound libraries that are expensive and require a lot of work.  NP sells for $130 and gets good sound, I used it on my Woodwind Quintet that you heard recently, thank you for that!  NP loads directly into my notation software (Sibelius) and requires very little adjustment to produce a sound file which is the best part.

But, it does not work with MuseScore.  You could download free trial versions of Sibelius and NotePerformer and see if it would work for you and then check out the purchase options they have.  Or, there are a number of free sound fonts available for MuseScore that you could try.  It also helps if you write "for the instrument"  instead of bringing in a complete work. That way you can take advantage of the better sounds and minimize the problems. Many people do quite well with MuseScore in spite of its limitations.

Hi Ingo,

Thanks for your kind words about my quartet! I am gratified that you and others have found it to be listenable and understandable.

It's funny that you should mention NotePerformer... I just had a disturbing (and hopefully educational) experience with NotePerformer today. I wrote to a local composer of some renown for advice on getting my piece performed. He offered to import a .musicxml file exported from MuseScore into Finale and process it through NotePerformer. The result was shocking. Some of it was my fault: I have been lax with marking phrasing/bowing as it makes, at best, little to no difference in playback in MuseScore, and sometimes even produces a very wrong result. In NotePerformer, phrasing is critical for proper playback. But there were also many places where the dynamics were not what I had written, where pizzicato passages were rendered arco and vice versa, and where ritards and other tempo changes weren't done the way I had written. Because MuseScore is free, I would put money on the fault being in MuseScore's .musicxml export, though I can't be sure of that of course. I'd already had my suspicions about MuseScore's coding quality after noticing that changes of technique ("channel"), like arco to pizzicato, often have to be redone multiple times before they take effect. And there are all the limitations of soundfonts, as you say. I have not found any free solo string soundfonts for MuseScore that sound any better than the default, and most of them sound quite a bit worse.

The tl;dr version of all of that is that I'm becoming disenchanted with MuseScore and was already starting to consider investing in a commercial package like Finale or Sibelius. So your suggestion here is really welcome and something I'm going to consider seriously.

I'm not sure what you mean by "writing for the instrument"? I thought my writing was fairly idiomatic for the quartet instruments, but maybe not. Or maybe you meant something different.

That's a great story; yeah the hidden code stuff gets goofy on Sibelius too sometimes. Actually a lot of stuff gets goofy on Sibelius, but that's probably just my laziness about not learning it better. The only way that xml thing would work would be for the other person to spend some time editing the Sibelius version, so it might as well be you.

I didn't make myself clear, your writing is fine.  I meant writing something that works easily on MuseScore.(thinking of it as an instrument) A lot of people like MuseScore but for professional use I've never heard it recommended. I've never tried it though.

Liz Atems said:

I'm not sure what you mean by "writing for the instrument"? I thought my writing was fairly idiomatic for the quartet instruments, but maybe not. Or maybe you meant something different.

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