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A couple of questions here has perked my interest of what software environment we work in as we compose.

To start:

  1. What is your software environment? DAW program, notation program, instrument libraries, etc.
  2. Possibly add what you like and/or dislike about what you are using.

I use Notion 6 on Windows with Miroslav Philharmonic and Vienna Symphony Library SE 

bp

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I don't have much of a DAW to speak of.  My instrument library is old and dusty, and not of very high quality  -- they are basically a bunch of ancient SoundFonts (from the SBLive! days) for various instruments that I've collected over the years.

I mainly work from my notation software, LilyPond.  It isn't the friendliest of notation programs, because it requires textual input.  There is a point-and-click interface to it called Frescobaldi, but me being an unrepentent computer geek, I prefer the text interface over the GUI.  (I also eschew GUIs like Windows, and work directly from the Linux shell ("command prompt" for you windows folk).)  Lilypond supports rudimentary MIDI output -- not very good quality, but serviceable.  I wrote a helper program to automate much of the tedium of setting things up so that I can bypass the 16-channel MIDI limit and have as many simultaneously-sounding instruments as I want, and also to afford less painful ways of selecting articulations for those few soundfonts I have that actually have different articulations (the vast majority don't).

Probably none of this is of interest to the "more typical" composer, though.  I realize my preferences and needs are rather unique. :-D

@ H. S. Teoh Ok...so what is your actual work flow.?

Hi Bruce,
I have a macpro trash can with 128gb ram and use Vsl, Spitfire, Chris hein, orchestral tools et al. I use logicProX to programme and Sibelius for scores.
I have Notion too on my iPad and it is great for sketching. I am very interested in finding the best solution for score input with a digital pen and am looking at wacom, surface pro. I was pro before I retired which explains the high end gear, which might seem a bit much, but was needed in the job...
My workflow involves booze, swearing, great big 50 stave m/s, shed loads of rubber and then Daw programming and if I can be bothered...score input.

Not sure exactly what you mean by work flow... did you mean the overall steps of how I compose? If so:

1) I first work with any musical ideas I might have in my head, or with the help of some loose manuscript paper for sketching things out -- I rarely start entering notation on the computer until I've gotten at least a solid theme or motif.  I often find that getting MIDI feedback too early in the process actually hinders my compositional process, because I unconsciously start "writing for the MIDI" rather than for the real instrument(s) or with my original conception of the musical idea.

1b) If it's a complex piece that I can't get too far just by working in my head / on paper, I may work on select passages in notation software, but as a standalone project rather than a part of the "real" project. Basically using it as a sketchpad, maybe to get some MIDI piano feedback to make sure I got all the pitches right.

2) Once the idea is sufficiently worked out, I start inputting notation. Since Lilypond is batch-oriented, and I prefer to work directly on notation without feedback where possible, I usually input entire phrases or passages before I even bother with MIDI rendition.  Usually I'd have a few roundtrips of entering notation, rendering the score, fixing mistakes, etc.. Then when I'm happy enough with the score, I'd start listening to the MIDI playback to see if I like it.  If not, I'd go back and rework the passage, and rinse, repeat, until I'm happy with it.

3) With the amount of revisions I usually do, I find it handy to use revision control software to keep track of different versions of the same piece.  It also allows me to explore some radical ideas that may occur to me during the process, like a major overhaul of a certain section of the piece.  Having everything tracked in revision control software means that should that radical rewrite turn out to be untenable, I can simply revert back to the original state almost instantaneously.  Sometimes I even keep multiple branches of the same piece around, for when I'm unsure which version is better -- again, revision control software helps me do this while maintaining my sanity. (One could, in theory, make copies of the project and make revisions on those, but it quickly gets out of hand once changes become complex and the number of versions grow. Much better to have software automate what would otherwise be a lot of tedious bookkeeping chores.)  (And yes, I know this is just me being a crazy computer geek again, since revision control software is generally used for... well, keeping track of software source code rather than music, but hey, it works well with Lilypond because Lilypond input is textual, and similar to code in many ways.)

I got dis (2010 mac pro):

I can't get a more modern mac because my stability falls down the ass with newer hardware and OS.

Logic Pro 9
Various East West orchestral libraries
Bits and pieces of Logic's shipped libraries

I want a second monitor because that combination creates sub-windows like a dom Bill Gates.

I like it because it's powerful and allows me to more or less get what's in my head into the real world.
I dislike it because for large projects - orchestras basically - the scoring can become unwieldy. But that's as much down to me not formally researching how it works; I learned things recently I should have known in the first month, as I had to get some scores to session standard, and had no other option but to get deep.

Listing the hardware and software I use would in my opinion be totally useless information for the majority of members here.
Learning how to get the best from any or all of it is of far more importance. The experience in doing so builds expertise. No shortcuts.
This then means that having built a basic knowledge of how they process the information you feed them, all varieties will produce similar results regardless of hardware host.
Basic understanding of how an instrument is played and the sound it can produce will always be more important.
Use notion on the iPad for sketching. Pretty cheap, about $20 aud as I recall and does a reasonable job. This is while lying prone of course.

Then transfer via mxml to Sibelius on my win pc for finishing.

I also have noteperformer installed which does a reasonable job at making the sound file more realistic and certainly makes better work of articulations . Apparently has an awful trumpet patch.

I do have studio one free version as a daw but can't remember the last time I used it.

Never wanted to bother too much with a daw as always in hope of getting live performances of which I've had half a dozen now.

I'd be interested, since as I recall your mockups are great. Expertise is invaluable, but expertise added to good quality software is even better. My Logic VSTs are simply nowhere near as good as my go-to library - trying to get an equivalent quality would be like trying to make a Fender copy sound like an american standard strat (or pick whatever comparison best suits.)

Of course, it's possible to make a good library sound worse than a bad library.


Ray said:

Listing the hardware and software I use would in my opinion be totally useless information for the majority of members here.
Learning how to get the best from any or all of it is of far more importance. The experience in doing so builds expertise. No shortcuts.
This then means that having built a basic knowledge of how they process the information you feed them, all varieties will produce similar results regardless of hardware host.
Basic understanding of how an instrument is played and the sound it can produce will always be more important.

I am quite new at all this - I use MuseScore. I don't know what DAW is, and could use some help and advice. My music is more of a sketch than an actual, full sound piece.

I like MuseScore because it is free - and quite capable compared to the 1990s music processor I used before.

Thanks for the compliment Dave but the post above yours is the norm for this site. 'How I get something done on the cheap because if it sounds good in my head it won't matter a toss what others have to listen to'.
You can spend a lot of money on the best Notation app available but, I could post a link to a piece recorded straight out of Overture 5 ( a relatively inexpensive notation app) where the user has learned how to squeeze every bit of expression available from it. Something most Notation app users don't get close to. Why? Because the particular user to whom I refer has a deep understanding of what the instruments are capable of ( like Mike).
I find it difficult to explain what I do other than, putting in the hours of listening for reference. Without reference it's pretty hard go anywhere. And, years of performing with others where realtime balancing becomes second nature.

Fair enough. Dismissing a hard-won skill can seem strange. Still, I get it when people are only focused on live playing, and mockups - while useful - aren't essential (and are sometimes pointless for anyone but the composer because session players, for ex., probably won't hear them.) My quartet mockups were not very good and I'm sure not all the musicians even were sent them. Convincing and recruiting players is one thing, and a good mockup can help; hired session players will more likely just play the music and take guidance.

It wasn't that long ago that mockups weren't a thing anyway, and I think I've said before that I can't wait to phase out the time spent on making them sound good in preference to simply writing for live performance.

Ray said:

Thanks for the compliment Dave but the post above yours is the norm for this site. 'How I get something done on the cheap because if it sounds good in my head it won't matter a toss what others have to listen to'.
You can spend a lot of money on the best Notation app available but, I could post a link to a piece recorded straight out of Overture 5 ( a relatively inexpensive notation app) where the user has learned how to squeeze every bit of expression available from it. Something most Notation app users don't get close to. Why? Because the particular user to whom I refer has a deep understanding of what the instruments are capable of ( like Mike).
I find it difficult to explain what I do other than, putting in the hours of listening for reference. Without reference it's pretty hard go anywhere. And, years of performing with others where realtime balancing becomes second nature.

@H. S. Teoh 

I went over and looked at LilyPad. That's craaaaazy. In other words, oy...

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