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I have been thinking about this recently and I would like to get everyone's ideas on what would be the ideal music composition software. Really, what I am thinking about is, what can be done, that isn't being done right now? How can we rethink the possibilites of composing, with the aid of computers?

I am not specifically saying computer generated music, although, that could be a part of the program. But if you were to build a new piece of software from the ground up, what would it look like?

What kind of functionality would it have? 

Would it require some special piece of hardware, like a specific controller?

Most of the software out there, seems to be aimed at either notation, or getting a realistic sound, but they seem a little clunky on the actual composition side.

For instance, I am not the worlds greatest piano player, so when I try and play a line into a sequencer, it never quite sounds like what I have in mind. Notation software is good, because I can look at the music and understand it much more, but the entry always seems much more tedious. Is there a happy medium?

Some specific criteria that the software would require:

  1. The ability to export in some sort of open source language that is easily readable by any DAW and notation programs, so that you could get much closer to the final product of either, without much extra effort. I don't know a ton about music xml, but I am sure it is a great start. Specifically, I am thinking something that also has articulations, phrasing, and additional data, just beyond the notes and their length.
  2. Continuous recording of a composing session. When you start, it records everything you play into you keyboard/controller, or even microphone, from start to finish. That way, you won't lose an idea that you have and don't realize until its too late, and you forgot what you played. Obviously, with a microphone, it would have to be very compressed, depending on the length of the session.
  3. Additional, you would have to be able to easily break up this continuous recording, and classify, or trash ideas. This way, you could strore them easily.
  4. A musical rule creator. This is basically something where you could write your own musical rules, and then have the program generate possibilities for how to use these rules. This way, you can start to find your own style and think about what you have written, and how you can develop it further. This leads to the next one.
  5. An analysis program. This would help you identify specific things like chords, voicings, melody lines, and such. Just something to aid your studying.
  6. The ability to try out experimental notations. Take a look at http://musicnotation.org/
  7. Simplicity. The focus has to be on the composer. Not the sound engineer. Its not a DAW, its not a notation program. Its a composition program.

Maybe I'm just a dreamer. Thoughts?

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Although it's still far away from being perfect, I use Cognitone Synfire for most of my compositional tasks.

How does Synfire cope with your criteria?

1. Synfire imports MIDI and exports MIDI, MusicXML and Lilypond

2. Synfire has undo/redo and saves files with versioned backups

3. You can store own ideas (progressions, MIDI recordings, phrases and tonal/rhythm data) in libraries and re-use them

4. Synfire allows you to create your own scale types and chord classes

5. Synfire analyzes your input and imported MIDI data according to musical criteria (rhythm, harmonic content, melody)

6. Synfire uses its own abstract notation ("figures")

7. Synfire is exactly a musical prototyper. It's not simple at all and has a steep learning curve but its possibilities are almost endless. I'm still not finished discovering this program.

Synfire is not for everyone. Maybe you're going to like it...

Wow, its like this guy read my mind, before I even thought of it.

I have been looking at it, and I like the premise that he builds his stuff on. The main problem is the price point. Although, I am also looking at the harmony navigator, which is a lot cheaper, and does some of the same stuff.

I think there could definitely be a happy medium between using the software and composing without it. I could also see it becoming addicting though.

Here's a short example of my work using Synfire: Sonatina in C for Oboe and Piano

Now, now Raymond, no need to be so harsh. Its all on what you make of it. Looking, for instance, at the harmony navigator software, it allows you to get quick feedback on different chords and progressions. This could be a very useful tool. And the price for that is relatively low.

Could it be used for "evil"... certainly. Could it open people's eyes to a world beyond I-IV-V... certainly.

Saying that it doesn't belong here seems a little bit backwards thinking. We should be open to the possibility that new tools bring.

The ideas the guy has, for instance, creating figures, having those figures maintain applicability with a certain harmony, whether transposed or inverted, or whatever, is the same kind of stuff that goes on in my brain when I am composing. Its just that the computer is doing it for you.

I think part of what happens when you grow as a composer is that you internalize the kind of possibilities that a certain figure or phrase, or whatever can have, and then you have the ability to chunk that, meaning you don't have to use as much brain power to do the same thing. That way you can expand on it, and use your brain power for other things. This is almost like a short cut to that. Sometimes short cuts are bad, sometimes they are good.

Still, I respect your opinion. I'll be sure to invite you to the non-composers forum when I get it up and running :)

My question still stands though. What would you have as the most ideal composition software?

Oh, seems that my music is awful...

Tastes are different.

@Ray I would still like to hear your ideas about what could be good in terms of composition software. You clearly don't like the track that the Synfire is going, so if you could have the ideal software, what would it be like?

Honestly, I love the ones already out.  I do combine unnamed notation program with ProTools (although they aren't inherently integrated) and it gives my music much life!!!

Synfire is ahead of its time and cutting edge. Melodyne off course is also amazing. Here is one you may not have heard of RapidComposer http://www.musicdevelopments.com/index.html  Other interesting developments in audio software are happening take a look at this Spectral layers http://www.divideframe.com/

Nodal http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~cema/nodal/ I use this one all the time, but it favors a technical mind.

Usine http://www.sensomusic.com/usine/

PhotoSounder http://photosounder.com/

Membrane - Sample Editing http://www.molecularbytes.com/mbcms/index.php/en/products

Band in a Box.! Are you serious. You are so cranky always and just trolling for a severe tongue lashing. I disagree Synfire is so far above Band in a box on the food chain they are not comparable. It is a tool just like any other, it has it's uses. Insinuating that this is a tool for under educated kids is ridiculous, that would be Band in a box.

Raymond Kemp said:

The ideal software is in our skull. It's called the brain and it allows some to become composers of music at varying levels of proficiency. Although some may not admit it, there is a certain amount of emotion (chemical imbalance?) whatever, responsible for producing something musical. The day a computer is emotional we're all in trouble :)
As I said before, if you want to play around with melody and chords, try PG Band-in-a-Box. It's fun.
www.pgmusic.com

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