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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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A problem I'm becoming familiar with myself so I feel for you. Monitoring speakers is what you need and certainly not headphones! Monitors colour the sound minimally or not at all and therefore allow you to mix the sound without being influenced by the added EQ that consumer speakers or headphones add. For example if a speaker warms up the bass frequencies you will mix without much bass, thinking it is already present.

The room itself can affect this as well, speakers in corners or near walls are bad news as are reflective surfaces. Research acoustic treatment foam panels.

Hey Stephen,

On my system this piano sounds a little tinny. As a result, the attack seems a bit much. A little like a harpsichord. But hardly rotten noises. I grew up listening to what I now know to be really poor quality recordings of real orchestras. I still liked, and continue to like, the music. 

Personally, as a fellow Sibelius user, I also have to deal with folks who seem to be more interested in the final production than in the actual notes. I don't believe that you think that your recording is the end all and be all of how this music should sound. Only a real player could do that. Plus, I really don't care for NP. We all listen to music differently. We all want and get different things out of music. 

For example, I like your piece, though I don't care for piano music. I don't know what the answer is.

I don't have a good solution either, because I'm suffering from the same problem. Thankfully, I get to listen to my music on several different systems: my mother-in-law's PC with screen speakers, my home PC with el cheapo discount desk speakers, Grado headphones, and more commonly, el cheapo earpieces attached to my phone. Each has its own strengths and flaws, which at least gives me an idea about what kind of distortions listeners might have to put up with, though I definitely can't say any of them helps me balance my audio properly.

But my theory is that if I can make my music sound great on all of them, then I shouldn't have to fear what injustices my listeners' audio systems might do to my music. :-D

Mr. L- I'm kinda glad to read that someone else has the same frustration with

current technology. I have written a few pieces that I simply refuse to post because

the 'sound's' are not near to what I hoped they would be. I spend time 'dickering' with the software

hoping to tweak things, but end up frustrated. There have been a few pieces that I have posted, thinking,

eh, that's close enough. ( I kinda hoped that others listening had an understanding of the 'limitations' of

the software, and that they would grasp and hear the piece as if performed 'professionally', so to speak.)

I personally do try to listen to and hear things as if they were performed 'at their best'. (potential)

The only solution I can think of is better software... which is happening - tho' rather slowly.

Any and all of you... which software do you think is the best investment today, for converting your compositions

into a 'real' sounding playback.

Hi Stephen, even though I take the approach of trying to produce the best sound possible, that it might not be enough for some is just something I have come to accept. I produce using Finale and NotePerformer, and highly recommend NP, it is a dramatic improvement over what Finale can produce on its own. I suspect (but don’t have any proof) that as long as a sound file is a good approximation of the work and not super lo-fi, that most potential performers will find it to be good enough, your example notwithstanding -
Gav

Thanks for your reply Bob and everyone else....it seems we are all suffering from the same problem. I heartily agree that I do not consider this recording to be the be all and end all and wholly agree that only a human playing on a decent piano could ever do it justice. One can only hope that people trawling for decent new music will have sufficient understanding that what they hear via MP3s is only an approximation of the composer's intentions.

I must admit I find it quite difficult to climb into and understand others' music when presented in this way and have to make constant conscious allowances coupled with a fluid imagination to get even close. Come on technology....get a move on will you!

Bob Porter said:

Hey Stephen,

On my system this piano sounds a little tinny. As a result, the attack seems a bit much. A little like a harpsichord. But hardly rotten noises. I grew up listening to what I now know to be really poor quality recordings of real orchestras. I still liked, and continue to like, the music. 

Personally, as a fellow Sibelius user, I also have to deal with folks who seem to be more interested in the final production than in the actual notes. I don't believe that you think that your recording is the end all and be all of how this music should sound. Only a real player could do that. Plus, I really don't care for NP. We all listen to music differently. We all want and get different things out of music. 

For example, I like your piece, though I don't care for piano music. I don't know what the answer is.

Hi Stephen,

I think the key statement on this comes from Bob:

I grew up listening to what I now know to be really poor quality recordings of real orchestras. I still liked, and continue to like, the music.

There is no substitute for performance and a good performance will bring the piece to life.

I can offer a partial solution which involves only modest expenditure and a 'learning curve', ie work.

  • Pre Sonus Studio One (Prime edition) - free
  • Cantabile Lite - Free
  • LoopMidi - Free

You may well have some sample libraries or other VST instruments.  If you are looking for a Piano I would try PianoTeq 6 Stage.  Also Spitfire audio have some small free libraries. 

The point is that you can compose with Sibelius, then fine tune the midi with Studio One and VSTs loaded into Cantabile.  There is a lot of real work (and time) in the midi editing. 

I would not expect the technology to advance to the point of being able to fool you (or any musician).  I am not sure I want it to.

Very recently , for a special project, I started looking into this.

Its all very new to me, so I pass on the following as a way to look into this further. Im not able to vouch for these articles, but looking at them is helping me to see a possible solution for those of us who use headphones to mix out of convenience or necessity, and also to understand more about this toplc

Mixing on Headphones

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/mixing-headphones

Mixing on Headphones—the Ultimate Beginners Guide

https://ehomerecordingstudio.com/best-mixing-headphones/

Do You Mix On Headphones? The Ultimate Headphone Monitor Plug-in Shootout

https://www.pro-tools-expert.com/home-page/2016/5/3/mixing-on-headp...

 

The Best Studio Headphones of 2018: The Ultimate Musicians Guide

https://merchdope.com/best-studio-headphones/

Best Headphones for Mixing of 2018

https://3dinsider.com/mixing-headphones/

Hope this is a start for helping with this problem.

Thanks Bob

https://soundcloud.com/bob-morabito

I don't own or have room for a stereo or anything that could power monitors. Sure, good monitors, which ain't cheap, are the accepted way to go. But there is also the old adage about mixing for your target audience. 

Stephen, mix in your phones, but also listen on as many different things as you can. Listen in your car, Make friend listen in their car, and/or stereo. Listen on your phone casting to your TV. Whatever. Get a decent bluetooth speaker. You need one anyway. 

There appears to be some interesting reading here...I'll find some time to read through them, thank you.

Bob Morabito said:

Very recently , for a special project, I started looking into this.

Its all very new to me, so I pass on the following as a way to look into this further. Im not able to vouch for these articles, but looking at them is helping me to see a possible solution for those of us who use headphones to mix out of convenience or necessity, and also to understand more about this toplc

Mixing on Headphones

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/mixing-headphones

Mixing on Headphones—the Ultimate Beginners Guide

https://ehomerecordingstudio.com/best-mixing-headphones/

Do You Mix On Headphones? The Ultimate Headphone Monitor Plug-in Shootout

https://www.pro-tools-expert.com/home-page/2016/5/3/mixing-on-headp...

 

The Best Studio Headphones of 2018: The Ultimate Musicians Guide

https://merchdope.com/best-studio-headphones/

Best Headphones for Mixing of 2018

https://3dinsider.com/mixing-headphones/

Hope this is a start for helping with this problem.

Thanks Bob

https://soundcloud.com/bob-morabito

To reiterate what I'm seeking - simply something(?) that will produce a better MP3 sound than the current standard - I know  perfection won't be achieved - the only thing that will reach that standard will be live, human performance. I write music using electronic means because that's an advance to me to writing it on paper - it confirms that what I think I'm hearing in my head is approximately what I've written. The next stage is to entice people to perform what I've composed....and that, because people generally are used to listening to human performances that have been professionally mixed and recorded, is a real difficulty.

Having said that, we are at a real advantage compared to days of yore because we can distribute our outputs across the world at the push of a button.  Olden day composers never had that advantage of course and had to build their reputations starting locally and then, due to their brilliance, and due to audiences perceptions and appreciation of that brilliance, their reputations spread far and wide. It goes without saying that there are very many incredible composers throughout the ages who never succeeded as they deserved - principally because of a lack of exposure.

There are fantastic modern composers (some on this site for instance) who do not, and based on the law of averages will probably never achieve the recognition they deserve...and that's despite the push-button facility to distribute their music worldwide. This facility is, of course, a two-edged sword....electronic programmes (e.g. Sibelius) make it much easier for composers to compose, but also results in the worldwide marketplace being flooded with composers ranging from embryonic to experienced, and from presenting music ranging from very poor to extremely good. How are poor 'Joe Public',  music publishers and impresarios going to find the time to plough through it all to sort out the wheat from the chaff?

Which brings me back to the quality of MP3 outputs - if they are so bad that they make music difficult to evaluate (vide my brother's comments in my initial posting above)….and currently if purchasing and spending a year or two learning to use a DAW is the only alternative to solving the specific problem - then we're stuck between a rock and a hard place. But I am coming to the conclusion that this is the halfway point that needs to be gained to produce something suitably enticing that will encourage live performance....which might(?) lead to it being performed frequently and perhaps even being recorded. The end result, public recognition and possibly a slight increase in income from sales and royalties.....this final state of affairs would be akin to knocking on the gates of heaven and actually being granted free admission!

Forgive my verbosity....I realise it all stems from a feeling of frustration that the majority of us experience from time to time. No world-changing insights here I'm afraid.

Ho-hum, back to Sibelius then......

Bob Porter said:

I don't own or have room for a stereo or anything that could power monitors. Sure, good monitors, which ain't cheap, are the accepted way to go. But there is also the old adage about mixing for your target audience. 

Stephen, mix in your phones, but also listen on as many different things as you can. Listen in your car, Make friend listen in their car, and/or stereo. Listen on your phone casting to your TV. Whatever. Get a decent bluetooth speaker. You need one anyway. 

Also if youre using a later version of Sib which can export mp3 format directly,  you’re  able to set a bit rate anywhere from 80 to 320 kps. For myself I would use the 320 kps setting.  If your version of Sib doesnt export mp3 when you convert the file with another program, again I would use 320 kps. The file will be a little larger than using the lower settings, but the audio will be better

But for my money, and the research I posted I believe the problems lie with using headphones in the first place, and also the headphones we're using:

Imagine a 'normal' studio environment with left and right speakers and a listener positioned in front of them: Your right ear will hear more of the signal from the right speaker than the left. The signal from the left speaker will also be heard by the right ear, but at a slightly lower volume and with a short delay.

In contrast, when you listen to a track on headphones, the right and left channels are pumped directly into the corresponding ear without any mixing of the signals.

https://www.musicradar.com/news/tech/monitors-vs-headphones-which-i...

Thanks Bob https://soundcloud.com/bob-morabito

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