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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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Thanks Ingo and Bob, I have definitely learnt something from this post. I use the inspector as described but was unaware of the instrument options in the mixer...will look into that facility for sure...was also previously unaware of the option for clicking on the mixer to obtain expanded menus...very interesting.

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. 

What are you using for the piano sound? This one sounds ok in the sense that it's better than what I had in the 1980s, but it's nowhere near what sampled or synthesized pianos are capable of in the 2010s. Maybe you should invest in PianoTeq or something quality like that?

You have probably been EQ'ing for your own listening environment, which as people are pointing out makes it sound bad in other environments. So be more careful about your monitoring. Go to Guitar Center or such and spend 500 (more is better) on studio monitors. Definitely do not use computer speakers or your hifi or headphones for monitoring.

Say, can you post the midi file of your composition? It might be fun for people to run it through their favourite piano software.


The piano sound I'm using is the standard Sibelius instruments one that's been upgraded with NP3. See attached the midi file as requested.

Pianoteq D4 preset with built-in reverb. No other EQ or reverb.

Stephen Lines said:


The piano sound I'm using is the standard Sibelius instruments one that's been upgraded with NP3. See attached the midi file as requested.

Very interesting Victor. I listened to my original (Sibelius/NP3) version then immediately afterwards your Pianoteq D4 version. Whereas I have played the former many times and have it ingrained into my ear and mind I tried to listen to your version with an open mind. I must say I found it very odd indeed - far too much left hand to my taste and much too much reverb (I note that you say your version is with built in reverb with no other EQ or reverb incorporated). My personal preference is for better balance between L and R hands and the advantage of having less reverb is that each note seems cleaner and better balanced - Pianoteq seems very muddy in comparison.

I have mentioned earlier in this post that I have just invested in East West Quantum Leap software via EW Composers Cloud and I see that it has four different piano sounds: Bosendorfer, Yamaha, Bechstein and  Steinway - I will experiment with all four over the next year (I'll have to invest in a subsidiary hard drive due to the massive memory requirements) and, if the differences are sufficiently noteworthy, will publish the results here.

I must admit I always listen to my music via headphones and (as has already been mentioned) it could be that they (being very good quality Sennheiser's) have a built in setting that gives a stronger bass line than you might hear via your system.

All this has been of interest to me and I have learnt to be a little more discerning in my listening habits - a good thing indeed. Thank you to everyone who has contributed - I sincerely hope it's been interesting to you also.

Happy New year.

Look at it the other way: your piano was unrealistically tinkly. If you're used to that then a more realistic piano will sound dark. And Pianoteq has a bunch more presets even before you start tinkering.

Good luck with your EastWest sounds. That's a good company.

Yes, I guess in comparison my version is a bit more tinkly as you say. However, I’m not relating my perceptions only to electronically produced sounds - I have a very good piano at home and I think my e-sounds are closer to that than Pianotec. Having said this I reiterate that my headphones might very well differ in their set up to whatever speakers you are listening to - so I guess the jury is still out when comparing the two.

Ok, for your entertainment, an old Erard piano. I use that preset in more pop recordings because it sounds thinner and cuts through mixes better.

So how about you spend a minute on something I posted? 


This is easily the nearest sound to those I had rattling around in my cranium when I composed the piece, thanks for posting it. How do I get hold of 'an old Erard piano'?

I will take up your invitation and spend some time exploring some of the music you've posted on CF. I have a vague idea (simply from the quality of your written comments) that I'm in for a treat.

The Erard is another Pianoteq preset.

 Pianoteq  is a very good choice because it is lightweight on the computer since it is a modeled piano and not a sampled piano. Sample libraries take up lots of hard drive space. I once used Pianoteq quite a lot. Not so much lately since SSD prices have dropped  and I ended up with a bunch of sample libraries.

Pianoteq is a gem though IMO and able to sound like whatever you want it to sound like. 

Please don't be intimidated by DAW's. There's nothing to be intimidated by. It doesn't take years to learn one. Probably only days for most. Even Sibleus has a great interconnect with Pro Tools. You don't need that DAW though since there are many others. Just about all DAWS have an info screen that describes each function when you hover the mouse over it.

I learned on a DAW called Cakewalk by Bandlab once it was called Sonar and retailed for 499.00. They were bought out and now that same DAW is free. it beats Audacity by miles.

If you decide to learn that one you'll have a lot of help with questions if you have them. I have three others and none of them are really that difficult to learn. One thing to keep in mind is you can save templates. You don't need to go back and redo things every time you open a new project unless you change up the instruments. Even then it's easy. It really is.

I mentioned on another thread a program called Overture that has built in templates and is more geared to the composer as an all in one program solution. Armadeus is a nice match for it. It also has templates for Kontakt.

I gather most composition programs have a built in mixer and basic soundset.I believe Overture has taken this concept the further-est.

Moving to a DAW doesn't need to be overly complex and can be a real advantage.Just need to decide the best compliment in notation software. For me that combination is Studio One 4 and Notion.

Even the best compositions played on a low grade  sample library will take something away from the end result IMO. Doesn't have to be the best sample libraries. There are good ones like Aramdeus that will more than do this.

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