Let's talk about DAWs

Yes, I know I said I wasn't really interested in considering a DAW at this time. But given all the trouble I've had with Sibelius and NotePerformer, and given that the experts can't even be sure which software component is responsible, AND given that Avid doesn't offer tech support without an added cost contract, I figure I had better start thinking about a Plan B.

So... which DAWs are people using? What are the pros and cons of different DAWs? What is the workflow like when working in a DAW? Can you enter notes in something like the way you would in a notation software, or do you have to specify frequency in Hz and duration in seconds? Will I need additional hardware to be able to compose in a DAW? Are sample libraries compatible with any DAW or are they generally matched to a particular DAW?

I'm sure I'll have more questions as time goes on, but that will do it for starters I think... apologies if these questions are naive or poorly posed - I freely admit I know very little about the subject.



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  • Even so, this has got me piqued. The possibility of Aleatoric Serial Ambiguity on the daw. It would take a competent programmer like Ali, but I wondered about applying the buzzword generator to music itself on a daw.

    Like write 30 (say) fragments in three 'columns' then let the computer direct which one of each column it would play, then how it would change the numbers, or what if by hand? Choose the numbers then concatenate the sections....

    Then I realised this has probably been done. Which means I'd be steering this thread into composition techniques rather than the use of daws....although it may be possible to get Reaper to swtich "takes" by way of program control. I get to discover valuable gems hidden in darker corners of Reaper every day.

    I now discover I can edit duration lengths for the entire track list or a selection in one go by locking all relevant tracks, selecting what I want then drawing them longer / shorter as necessary. This is useful when drawing in chords the length of which I can't know exactly until the melodic elements they support are complete. If that isn't dynamic notation consolidation, I can't think what is.


  •  Along these lines of thought...Studio One has a chord generator. I've never used it. The idea is that it can help you to see associated progressions. Version 5 is coming out probably in a few days. Should be interesting to see what they've added to it if anything.

    I tried the AIWA AI software briefly. It is maybe an interesting way to generate ideas I might use as some kind of frame work. Though I feel odd in even attempting that.

  • UPDATE- Studio One 5 is now out.

    - A new performance page

    -Improved effects suite

    - Notation integration into Studio One using Notion code

    - A monthly/yearly plan that includes all software , plugins and sounds. Software is still available for purchase. Rental is optional.

    Point 3 is probably the most interesting for notation composers. It looks as if they have embedded the code from Notion right into the DAW! 

    Check this feature at timeline 19:06 in the video.

  • This sounds really cool Tim, thanks.

  •  Liz,

    You are very welcome.Hope this helps.

    FYI- I downloaded SO 5 last night. I was using the notation functions. I am impressed by the way it can alternate between midi and notation. Has a palette to select the note values and articulations. Moving a note sounds the tone of the note according to where it is moved.

    I'll be digging deeper into it. I had a few questions about the way my notation to an original piano work was being displayed. It was 4/4 and 118 bpm. There were bars with 3 usually indicating a triplet...there were also bars indicating 5 which I'm not familiar with...seemed a bit quirky, but that's coming from someone who doesn't often use a notation program.

    I in no way am indicating that this is for certain the best solution for everyone. I can see myself using it a lot though since I already used the program in version 4.

    If anyone has questions about version 5 please feel free to ask. If I don't know I'll try to find out.

  • Dear Liz.

    F'starters - nice to meet someone that can actually read music - it's becoming much more of a rarity these days!

    Secondly - I use Quick Score Elite Level 2, which is a notation DAW, and love it! Its only real drawbacks are firstly it's 32-bit - never got updated - and secondly it needs multitimbrality in its VSTs.  It comes with absolutely nothing in the way of sounds, it relies totally on the VSTs you put into it.  If they're monotimbral you get 8 sounds max., 8 slots = 8 sounds.  If they're multitimbral you get 126 sounds max - bit of a difference! But it's pure MIDI notation, it's a joy to use (well, I think so!) and it's a darned sight cheaper than Sibelieus.   But if you want something similar that's 64-bits, I'd go for Dorico.  NOT the full version - that's an utter rip-off at £500 - but if you know a music student try to get the student's version for £50.  There IS a demo version but it's awful - it's been capped at 2 sounds only so you can't do a lot with it - unless you're up for a quasi-legal workaround. 

    Which is Chainer.  Chainer is a VST that lets you load other VSTs into it, so it only counts as ONE VST even thought it's containing others.  Which means you can bypass the 2 VST thing with 2 instances of Chainer - I've tried this and it works pretty well as far as I can see, I just understand Quick Score a lot better so I stick with it.  So you can SORTA get Dorico for free this way.  With the accent heavily on SORTA!! 

    Another good freebie which I don't use cos I need it explaining to me - I've got Cerebral Palsy, so learning difficulties, so need things explaining, but can never find anyone willing to DO so, sad story of my life - is Cakewalk.  Which used to be called Sonar.  That's got notation - but a pretty irritating form of it, good luck NOT wanting to chuck the computer out the window 40 minutes into using it - but it's got all the 64-bit bells'n'whistles with it.  And it's LEGIT. free! 

    Sample libraries usually go with VSTs.  VSTs go into DAWs. Unless you're using one of these loop-based things like Reaper where you're just drag'n'dropping pre-bought loops onto timelines and making - say - hip-hop that sounds like everyone else's hip-hop cos you're all starting off with the same sample packs! I don't understand how to 'tune in' samples - if you've got a sample of an instrument playing - say - Middle C and you just try to play the sound higher - if you go up or down more than a couple of notes, it just sounds wrong. I've no idea what to do about that, so I just stick to presets till the magical day comes when I can find someone to show me (hasn't happened in 15 years!! Still dream of when it might do.) If you're using a PC, you can use wonderful freebies called Soundfonts - there's REALLY good ones out there (a ton of bad ones too, cos anyone can make them, but there's REALLY good libraries of them.) And the Spitfire freebies LABS - Lets All Become Something - are great but the player sucks elephant eggs - no controls, not even ADSR, it. Is. BAAD.  Why people who make great sounds have such an awful player, no idea. 

    There's Alchemy Player that's got a TON of awesome sounds - but is monotimbral so you'll have to either have Chainer, or similar, or something like Cakewalk that can load up lots of instances.  WHY it's not multitimbral, Alchemy, no idea, lazy programming.  Only prob. with Cakewalk, as I know from when it was Sonar, is it munches computers.  Maxes out CPU at every opportunity. QSE's got a tiny footprint but is 32-bit only (Quick Score Elite Level 2.) You can download Sampletank for free with a nice bunch of sounds, too.  And there's Independence 2.  If you've got that, you can get the Chicken Systems Preset Converter, that lets you get libraries of other peoples' presets and convert them to Independence format, so you don't have to have the other VSTs, you can just buy the libraries and convert them. 

    Tell me if the above helps, k?

    Yours respectfully


  • this is an old thread and I get the impression that you're still using Sibelius and NotePerformer which means no DAW as NP is only designed to work with notation software. Although there are certain things that are only possible with a DAW or others which are easier, for someone who prefers to work from a score-based environment, I still think that Dorico is the best option as it has various DAW-like MIDI editing features and indeed in some ways, with its sophisticated Expression Maps, can actually be easier to programme than a DAW.

    However, if you're committed to NP, I'd just stay where you are for the time being.

    • Dear David.

      Nope, I'm using the wonderful Quick Score Elite Level 2 by Cris Sion, accept no imitation.  Yup, Dorico works EXACTLY  the same way as Quick Score Elite - but it's £500!!! 

      There's a student version for £50, I know, but I'll never qualify to get that. And there's a free version but that only gets you 2 instruments. However....

      Haven't found anything to  test this theory out with yet - but if you got something like Xlutop's Chainer - which Xlutop's not selling any more or I'd buy a copy - maybe you'd be able to get around that.  Chainer lets you load DAWS into it AS THOUGH they're presets, then you can use the DAW'S presets and send them to one MIDI track (or multiple MIDI tracks from one instance of Chainer.) So you might be able to get around the free version of Dorico's limitations like that.  Like I say I've never tried it but it COULD work. 

      Sibelius is just a joke.  £700 for a download.  And it's unnecessarily complex compared to Quick Score Elite (I've tried a demo version.) I like Cakewalk but it MUNCHES computers doing stuff that Quick Score can do with a TINY footprint, so I just stick with that till I've found a working Chainer or something that works separately (by which I mean loads inside a DAW as a plugin you can load other plugins into, NOT as a standalone you can load DAWS into - bought one of those by accident recently, just call me Mug!)

      Anyway, notation worked fine for Beethoven and Mozart, why's everyone into loop-dropping and piano-roll these days? Why doesn't anyone want to read blobs on sticks?

      Yours puzzledly



      • Hi Chris,

        My answer was to Liz, the OP, not to you regarding Quick Score Elite which I didn't realise was still around -- it's a very old package dating back to the 1990's which has retained an interface from that era although it may well work OK and if you like it, then fine. The main competitors to Dorico these days, other than Finale and Sibelius, seem to be Notion or even Overture (perhaps no longer as it's barely still being developed although for a while around 2005 it was ahead of the game in playback) or Musescore for the undemanding and cash-strapped.

        Most people moving to Dorico do so from the other main professional packages like Sibelius or Finale and there is a cross-grade just over half the normal price which for me was very reasonable and I certainly wouldn't look elsewhere these days although I do admit there is a bit of a learning curve when getting started -- it doesn't work like any other software I've tried.

  • In my opinion, making music with a computer is like making love with a robot.

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