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Hi all,

I had an interesting visit from my eldest brother yesterday and we got down to talking about my compositions and how they are reproduced electronically. I compose using Sibelius software and enhance the sound with Note Performer - I haven't the time, money or inclination to go down the DAW route and am very happy with the way the sounds are reproduced via my PC (with good quality earphones). I record my pieces as MP3s via the standard facility on Sibelius.

Because he (brother) has what I consider to be a good appreciation of 'Classical' music I send him copies of my pieces in the hope a) that he'll enjoy them and b) be sufficiently excited to contact Victor Hochhauser (or some other impresario) telling them they'd be missing something special if they failed to listen to my compositions.

I sadly discovered yesterday that, specifically with reference to a piano piece, the music sounds dreadful on his computer and, in the past, he's simply been humouring me when telling me 'wow! that's great' or similar. I dragged him kicking and screaming up to my computer to listen to the piece again (It's called 'Norwich Promenade') and he was enraptured (well, that's what he said and I believe him) he said he couldn't believe what talent I have (I still believe him) and that he has misjudged me for years (I still still believe him!).

My point is, whilst I'm merrily enjoying my own stuff played on my own system I have been blissfully unaware of the rotten noises other listeners have been putting up with - what's the solution, can anyone help me out here?

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Stephen, I'm sorry I never know where someone is technically and usually tend to go on pontificating for far too long thinking I'm helping when it comes off sounding as if I misjudged someone's know how.

The main take way for me from this thread is I think you may need to reevaluate the translation of your recordings on a large cross section of systems if that's important to you. I say tongue in cheek and hopefully it doesn't offend, who cares what your brother thinks?  I understand that this idea has led you to reconsider how your recordings are coming across on other systems. In that regard it is helpful. It SHOULD sound decent on any system including his.

Hi Mr. Lines, to my 'ear' this was a fractured piece of work. It's shining moments were the slower segments. I thought that  they had the most potential as an 'outtake' to build a genuinely good piece out of. When hearing  any 'rendition', IMO...

a savvy listener will take into consideration the 'means' of delivery and also the limits of their receiver. I mean at the level of initial recording - not professional recording. I personally try to hear 'potential' in a work at the 'forum' level. That is one of the main reasons I joined this forum. The gist and potential of any piece can be 'tweaked', so to speak, and with constructive input from others 'of a similar mindset', be honed and perfected.

I have always been disappointed with the audio output of Finale... but that is what I have to work with.

Your piece here has some somewhat bazaar,  to my ear, chord changes- that distract from the heart and character of a comprehensive composition. In general, linear notes, while they may work on paper, do not always add up to a higher expression of the art of music. One of the underlying questions I always have, no matter what the genre, is- what is the composer attempting to express or communicate via the language of their music. The quality of the 'technical delivery' is secondary. The gist, or essence of a good piece of work, dwells in a realm where the concept is greater than the sum of it's parts, where linear is transcended by essence. That's my opinion, and I'm stickin' to it.   Happy Harmonies       RS 

Well hello Mr. Stancill (why the formality I wonder?),
I must say it's very good of you to comment on the construction of my Norwich Promenade and, although that wasn't the point of my original post, I'm always delighted to receive feedback whether it be good, bad or indifferent. In regards to the construction of the piece - it's an imagined walk through places I know and love in the great and ancient city of Norwich - these are the sounds I hear in my inner ear as I walk these particular landmarks. The principal leitmotif comes from the hurly burly of the permanent covered market - as I perambulate from one place to another it involves walking back through the market - hence the reiteration of the thematic material. You might say: 'Well, if you're walking why isn't the piece headed Andante and why isn't it in common time?' A good question - have I parked myself on the back of a three-legged donkey for the trip (it's in triple time, as you know)? My reasoning is that I feel myself floating along in a waltz-like fashion (what a sight!). There is also very good reasoning (to me) for the rather sometimes exotic nature of the selected harmonic progressions - and that is that it's what I hear and what best expresses to me those thoughts as I walk (waltz) along.
I note what you say about the quieter interludes - but my feeling is that they sound as they do because of the contrast between what preceded and follows on from them - it's all to do with the overall texture of the piece and it's what has led to the structure of it as it stands.
I am unsure of what you mean by your final sentence and think, by the bye, that your misuse of bazaar for the word bizarre is serendipitous - one could think of the covered market as being something of a bazaar. I entirely understand your thinking of some of the harmonies being bizarre - opinions are everyone's entitlement and I completely respect yours - but, as I've said, I see those harmonies as being a vital and essential part of the construction of the piece. (Possibly as the result of some of my earlier pieces being commented on as being 'a bit traditional in their use of harmony' (whatever that means - presumably they were a bit obvious in their progressions) - but so are most of Mozart's and his outputs to me often disappoint a bit for that very reason of predictability).
Ho hum! Wouldn't life be boring if we all agreed all the time.
Seriously, thank you for going to the trouble of 'putting pen to paper' as it were. I find your comments interesting and informative and feel quite humble that you should even bother.
All the best,
Stephen (or Mr. Lines if you prefer).

Well then, now that we've been formally introduced... Stephen it is.  ( I tend to mix it up, just for fun and color ) and respect.

You have the advantage of the visual as you listen to your own work. I think that gives a prejudice to any and all

composers as they listen to something they have created. To an uninitiated audience of 1 or more, the music does not have that same 'grounding'. The question then becomes, what does the work inspire in others.  Everything that I have ever written makes perfect 'sense' to me, and so, that was why I originally joined this forum... to gain the advantage of educated ears. Not necessarily for rave reviews, but for helpful criticism and points of insight that I lacked.

The mechanical side of recording has come a long way. I remember the old records my grandfather had. They were scratchy and full of 'noises'. So, I guess my point was more that I don't worry or concern myself as much about the conveyance as I do listening to the architecture of the piece. Sorry if I crossed wires and got off topic... but it made 'sense' to me.  lol.   ps- it is bizarre, but that word has always been a trip up for me. Some day, odds are, I will get it rite.      RS 

This is a common problem. You can’t control the device others use to listen to your music but you can do the following:

1) Listen to your work on lots of different devices... headphones, no headphones, different speaker or monitor setups, laptop speaker, iPad, your phone, different online platforms such as SoundCloud, YouTube, Hearthis etc. after awhile you will get a feel for what does or does not translate well to these different playback setups.

2) Get a DAW and learn to mix your work. You will be surprised at how much better and more consistent your work sounds just by exporting it to a DAW (especially when trying all the suggestions in #1 above) Once you learn a few basic techniques like panning, automation or equalization and apply some basic effects like reverb, or stereo widening, even you will be impressed all over again with your own compositions. Your brother will start to think that you are finally getting good at this composer thing...

3) Search on line for mixing tips and tricks, especially Youtube.

4) Rinse and repeat

Plenty of food for thought in the posts above and they are much appreciated. However, I'm damned if I'll purchase a DAW - I want to compose rather than learn the technicalities of mixing - that to me is another profession that fails to interest me sufficiently to want to spend a couple of years learning how to do it to a decent standard. Now, that statement sounds rather against the grain of my initial post but, and there's always a but, I have instead invested in East West Quantum Leap Composers' Cloud software....that too will take a while to learn and conquer but it's soundsets are fabulous, I can mix while I compose but without having to become an expert at it, and forget (maybe) about the problems I initially got wound up about.

I hope the output will be more appealing across the board than current methods achieve. I'll hopefully be able to demonstrate via CF and let you the listeners judge on the efficacy or otherwise of my choice of methods. Like the good man said: nothing ventured nothing gained.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas!

Interesting... I certainly understand the resistance to learning a new profession (mixing) in fact, I often lament that I really want to focus on composing but spend so much time with the many tasks involved in producing music, (and they are many!)

Sibelius was a revelation! Choose the instruments, input the notation, articulation etc. and voila! It plays back! 

Then I realized it sounds a little bit like a toy organ. Then I discovered that Sibelius has a little mixer.... that helped improve the sound somewhat, but that little mixer is pretty basic. Then I discovered that exporting the piece to a WAV or MP3 also improved the sound. I believe that is because the playback in Sibelius is CPU intensive compared to playing the WAV file.

The next logical step was using a DAW to mix the file... or even better, export each instrument track to a separate file and now I’m not just the composer... I’m the Conductor! As well as recording engineer and Producer!  (OK... I haven’t produced much but I’m working on it and getting better... and I have lots of stuff already written and in the pipeline... stay tuned!)

Does it take a lot of time? Yes... in fact it’s daunting.... but it’s that or pay someone to do the other professions and lose the control of the final product.  I don’t have the budget... Audacity is a free DAW, and the other choice is to accept the “toy organ” sound. 

However! You have opened my eyes (ears? mind?) to another source of improved sound quality... East West Composer’s Cloud. Thank you!!!

I’ve got a lot of work to do... Onward!


Stephen Lines said:

Plenty of food for thought in the posts above and they are much appreciated. However, I'm damned if I'll purchase a DAW - I want to compose rather than learn the technicalities of mixing - that to me is another profession that fails to interest me sufficiently to want to spend a couple of years learning how to do it to a decent standard. Now, that statement sounds rather against the grain of my initial post but, and there's always a but, I have instead invested in East West Quantum Leap Composers' Cloud software....that too will take a while to learn and conquer but it's soundsets are fabulous, I can mix while I compose but without having to become an expert at it, and forget (maybe) about the problems I initially got wound up about.

I hope the output will be more appealing across the board than current methods achieve. I'll hopefully be able to demonstrate via CF and let you the listeners judge on the efficacy or otherwise of my choice of methods. Like the good man said: nothing ventured nothing gained.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas!

Just a little side note. Letting Sibelius load default instruments and doing a little something in the mixer are but the tip of the iceberg of working with sounds within Sibelius. Obviously not the power of a DAW. But for those of us who would rather send more time composing.....

Hey Bob, you've mentioned this before, can you step us through how you go about doing this? I see Default instruments, what do I do next?

Bob Porter said:

Just a little side note. Letting Sibelius load default instruments and doing a little something in the mixer are but the tip of the iceberg of working with sounds within Sibelius. Obviously not the power of a DAW. But for those of us who would rather send more time composing.....

This would need to be in a different thread, if I did it. I would never, ever claim to be an expert,but I have picked up a few things along the way. When you set up a score Sibelius loads basic sounds so that you get an idea what your music sounds like. This is all Sibelius is really meant to do. But let's take a small example of one thing that can be done. 

I write mostly for orchestra. In the mixer, I change the default violin sound to 1st violin legato vibrato. I also adjust the attack and release of notes. This release adjustment makes a huge difference. 

@Stephen, every thing I've heard from you has been very well written and to me that overrides any recording issues.  Even listening to live music by world class musicians has limitations, we must learn to appreciate quality but to overlook the inevitable defects if we are to enjoy this art form in my opinion. At the same time technology marches on and thankfully new possibilities are available all the time.

@Bob, thank you for pointing that Sibelius option out, I had overlooked it.  For others, if you go to the mixer view and right click on the fifth slot down from the top of any channel you get an extensive menu of instrument options. Very useful!

Bob Porter said:

This would need to be in a different thread, if I did it. I would never, ever claim to be an expert,but I have picked up a few things along the way. When you set up a score Sibelius loads basic sounds so that you get an idea what your music sounds like. This is all Sibelius is really meant to do. But let's take a small example of one thing that can be done. 

I write mostly for orchestra. In the mixer, I change the default violin sound to 1st violin legato vibrato. I also adjust the attack and release of notes. This release adjustment makes a huge difference. 

Also the Inspector is your friend. You can define how fermatas, hair pins, ritards and other expressions playback. You can have notes to sound early or late. You can also adjust the over all length of time notes sound.

Let's say you are coming to the end of a beautiful phrase. A ritard that you define ( fast or slow, as well as beginning and end, including end tempo.) happens along with a dim. ( that you also define), and ends with a note you put a hold over. You define the exact length of the hold, as well as the length of the gap afterward before the music starts up again. These things are in the manual, but there is no section on "How to make your music sound better". Things are spread all over, so no one knows to look for them. And there is more. 

Ingo, you are so right. We need to be listening more to the value of the notes that have been written, and less to the production value. It really depends on the goal. Sure we need to produce the best we can, but at some point a limit is reached.

A few days ago I heard a rebroadcast production from a live performance of the Messiah. A lot of things were kind of wacky. Not at all what would be my goal. Oh well. It just so happens to be well written.

 
Ingo Lee said:

@Stephen, every thing I've heard from you has been very well written and to me that overrides any recording issues.  Even listening to live music by world class musicians has limitations, we must learn to appreciate quality but to overlook the inevitable defects if we are to enjoy this art form in my opinion. At the same time technology marches on and thankfully new possibilities are available all the time.

@Bob, thank you for pointing that Sibelius option out, I had overlooked it.  For others, if you go to the mixer view and right click on the fifth slot down from the top of any channel you get an extensive menu of instrument options. Very useful!

Bob Porter said:

This would need to be in a different thread, if I did it. I would never, ever claim to be an expert,but I have picked up a few things along the way. When you set up a score Sibelius loads basic sounds so that you get an idea what your music sounds like. This is all Sibelius is really meant to do. But let's take a small example of one thing that can be done. 

I write mostly for orchestra. In the mixer, I change the default violin sound to 1st violin legato vibrato. I also adjust the attack and release of notes. This release adjustment makes a huge difference. 

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