Midi + Audio sequencing

I am becoming progressively less satisfied with my Sibelius 6 outputs (even with East West Quantum Leap Symphony Orchestra instruments) so am considering buying a midi/audio sequencing programme.

In terms of value for money it appears that REAPER is just the thing...and having read through the reviews it is very well thought of in the specialist magazines...it appears also to be fantastic value for money. However, having downloaded the trial version software (and its manual in PDF) and read through some of it (taken 2 hours so far) my mind has closed down of its own accord. It occurs to me that it will probably take 4 months of applied study to master the technicalities and, of course, this leads me to ask myself 'is it worth the time and effort?'

Any general comments/advice would be welcomed but also anything specific from existing REAPER users. (I'm off now to massage my brain to see if it can be kick-started back into operational mode).

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  • Sorry about sidetracking the thread, Stephen... Because it looked like you'd gotten the answer you were looking for, I thought it'd probably be alright to ask about the monitor, etc. 

    Regarding your difficulties, like Jake and Bob, I'm wondering if your OS might have something to do with the Sibelius problem. If it's 32bit, I know with some programs it's possible to use a 'bridge' program to get 32 to work in 64bit, but I'm not sure about the reverse, having never had to do it. Also, the thing about the sound files themselves possibly being separate, as I had this same oversight (mercifully brief, after a moment of panic) just the other day.  


    edit- Oops, your latest reply just showed up... Disregard mine, I guess.
    Stephen Lines said:

    Just to pick up again on my original thread.....I have downloaded the Cubase 30-day trial software (it took 8.5 hrs to download) then, when I tried it, a fault message came up that I couldn't interpret (even via Cubase forum)...so I deleted it then re-downloaded (another 8.5 hrs)....It still didn't work (same message) but then discovered I had to buy a USB licence to run the trial...I am awaiting delivery of this. In the meantime I purchased an upgrade from Sibelius v6.2 to v8.1....now, despite trying for two days to find the solution, I can't obtain a single sound from my computer.

    It's a great life if you don't weaken!

     

  • Hi Stephen,

    I presume you have thought about using Notion 5 and rejected it.(Fair enough. So did I.)

    I just wanted to mention a few things as you begin your quest. What you are after is better sound from Sibelius playback. Audio engines for notation programs are notoriously crumby, whereas those for a sequencer (say, Reaper) can give fine performances (provided the MIDI input is nuanced enough to attain the desired result). Even the excellent audio engine of Kontakt player suffers horribly when used as a VST instrument in Sibelius, or any notation program. (To be fair, notation programs are desktop publishing packages, after all, and really make no pretense about being able to produce HD audio). So, now you are interested in sequencers. Know that they are a completely different animal than a notation program (i.e Sibelius).

    This is nothing new in the computer world. Although it is not well-known, those who are familiar with desktop publishing software for the printed word understand (although it is nowhere stated as such) that one does not compose text in desktop publishing software. One doesn't even compose text in a word processor. One composes text in a text editor, then when that is done one copies the text and pastes it into a word processor to do spell checking, syntax checking, to use its Thesaurus, etc. Once done there, one exports the result back into a text file and only then does one copy it and paste it into desktop publishing software. Not knowing this and proceeding to paste into desktop publishing software text that has been created in a word processor creates all sorts of issues having to do with hidden characters in the text confusing the desktop publishing software, resulting in intractable formatting and alignment issues among other problems. There are equally frustrating (albeit different) difficulties facing one as they begin to use a sequencer for electronic music creation.

    Let me first say that at this stage in your journey you can think of a software sequencer as essentially a recording studio on your PC, although I probably will be taken to task on this. The reason why the learning curve is so steep is that sequencers are created to emulate what can be done in a recording studio, and therefore much of the jargon used by recording engineers has been carried over. (I think that that was a big mistake, but it is too late now.) So you have an entirely different computing environment to learn, including workflow and best practices that are all associated with recording studio routine, and all this is made much more challenging by the vast new vocabulary required to negotiate a sequencer.

    What's more, every sequencer manual that I have ever come across assumes not only that you know all this, but also that you are familiar with it (i.e how to "operate" in a recording studio environment). In other words, the manual does not show you how to use a sequencer; it only shows you what's possible. (Actually, this is true of every computer\software manual, including the Sibelius manual as well.) The up side to this is that much of the manual for any sequencer doesn't apply to your stated goal, that of better sound production.The down side is that you don't know yet which parts of the manual don't apply.

    It poses a bit of detective work. I am sorry to say that perhaps the best thing at first is to seek out resources as to basic recording studio operation. Looking at a Wikipedia article probably won't help. It has the same problem; it gives scads of perfectly correct, and yet useless information. One wants the "how to," but so often is only given a list of available options. As a computer user of 25+ years (including at the corporate level), I can assure you that there are only a few ways to go about using any software environment, even though one is given so many more options in the manuals. Unfortunately, going about doing a specific task using a software environment is almost never explained, sort of like the way driving a car ... or better yet, parallel parking ... is never explained. One has to learn from another person how to negotiate the controls for that.

    I don't want to make this post any longer than it already is, so I will close with two observations. As I was composing this, I was looking for a site that would give to you succinct step-by-step details as to basic recording studio procedure.

    Nothing.

    I searched for basic music sequencer procedure ... not a list of possibilities, but a guide to rules of thumb how best to maneuver through essential tasks of electronic music creation using a sequencer.

    Again, nothing.

    I'm not surprised. Perhaps some kind person has uploaded some Youtube videos that show them doing a "bounce," or saving a "stem." But you will need to know when to do these activities, and why, not just how to do them to use a sequencer effectively for electronic music creation.

    As for the second thing, this lack of tutorials about essential sequencer skills does make my tutorial series on using Sibelius as a front-end for Presonus Studio One Pro sequencer useful. For all intents and purposes, this method avoids having to know very much about basic sequencer operation and rather concentrates on getting excellent playback in Sibelius using skills one already knows. Of course, I'm not saying that there is no learning curve, but I can say that in my videos I try to address the pre-conditions and fore-knowledge required to negotiate sequencer-quality playback through Sibelius using Kontakt player. In them, I try to start from as close to zero electronic music creation skills as is possible.

  • Hi Stephen

    Go to the play menu and check configuration (on the left in 7.5) to see what it says. Should be sibelius sounds.

    You can always set it to general midi as a fall back to see that connections are all working.

    It could be that your old files are set to a configuration that doesn't exist in 8.

    I used the sounds lite set as it loads hell of a lot faster than full set.

  • Stephen,

    Another option is to export your music from Sibelius as a midi file(type 1 for mutitracks) and import that file into a DAW. Then you will need to assign instruments to each track that corresponds with with your arrangement in Sebelius. Payback will be rigid because it will be playing as written without human interpretation. You should hopefully find a option to select the tracks and humanize them so that they play more expressively. EWQLO doesn't make use of modulation for per-note expression so you won't need to add modulation to your notes. 

    Once you are satisfied with the midi performance you can bounce the tracks into audio where you can manipulate the tracks further using the audio features. Then you mix down the tracks into a stereo playback file type of your choice. Usually WAV or MP3 on Windows. 

  • Al,

    Many thanks for your post which confirms much of what I already suspected to be the case. I apologise for the late reply which is due largely to my computer meltdown situation - rather than following Composer's Forum I have spent most of my time trying to find all the stuff that was lost off my HD (thankfully I had recently backed up all my music files which contain about 15 years of hard work!).

    I will have a look at your online tutorials which sound very informative. I'm not afraid of doing some hard graft to develop adequate sequencer skills but I do want to ensure my learning is correctly targeted to save time. 

    Again, many thanks for your very helpful comments. 

    Al Johnston said:

    Hi Stephen,

    I presume you have thought about using Notion 5 and rejected it.(Fair enough. So did I.)

    I just wanted to mention a few things as you begin your quest. What you are after is better sound from Sibelius playback. Audio engines for notation programs are notoriously crumby, whereas those for a sequencer (say, Reaper) can give fine performances (provided the MIDI input is nuanced enough to attain the desired result). Even the excellent audio engine of Kontakt player suffers horribly when used as a VST instrument in Sibelius, or any notation program. (To be fair, notation programs are desktop publishing packages, after all, and really make no pretense about being able to produce HD audio). So, now you are interested in sequencers. Know that they are a completely different animal than a notation program (i.e Sibelius).

    This is nothing new in the computer world. Although it is not well-known, those who are familiar with desktop publishing software for the printed word understand (although it is nowhere stated as such) that one does not compose text in desktop publishing software. One doesn't even compose text in a word processor. One composes text in a text editor, then when that is done one copies the text and pastes it into a word processor to do spell checking, syntax checking, to use its Thesaurus, etc. Once done there, one exports the result back into a text file and only then does one copy it and paste it into desktop publishing software. Not knowing this and proceeding to paste into desktop publishing software text that has been created in a word processor creates all sorts of issues having to do with hidden characters in the text confusing the desktop publishing software, resulting in intractable formatting and alignment issues among other problems. There are equally frustrating (albeit different) difficulties facing one as they begin to use a sequencer for electronic music creation.

    Let me first say that at this stage in your journey you can think of a software sequencer as essentially a recording studio on your PC, although I probably will be taken to task on this. The reason why the learning curve is so steep is that sequencers are created to emulate what can be done in a recording studio, and therefore much of the jargon used by recording engineers has been carried over. (I think that that was a big mistake, but it is too late now.) So you have an entirely different computing environment to learn, including workflow and best practices that are all associated with recording studio routine, and all this is made much more challenging by the vast new vocabulary required to negotiate a sequencer.

    What's more, every sequencer manual that I have ever come across assumes not only that you know all this, but also that you are familiar with it (i.e how to "operate" in a recording studio environment). In other words, the manual does not show you how to use a sequencer; it only shows you what's possible. (Actually, this is true of every computer\software manual, including the Sibelius manual as well.) The up side to this is that much of the manual for any sequencer doesn't apply to your stated goal, that of better sound production.The down side is that you don't know yet which parts of the manual don't apply.

    It poses a bit of detective work. I am sorry to say that perhaps the best thing at first is to seek out resources as to basic recording studio operation. Looking at a Wikipedia article probably won't help. It has the same problem; it gives scads of perfectly correct, and yet useless information. One wants the "how to," but so often is only given a list of available options. As a computer user of 25+ years (including at the corporate level), I can assure you that there are only a few ways to go about using any software environment, even though one is given so many more options in the manuals. Unfortunately, going about doing a specific task using a software environment is almost never explained, sort of like the way driving a car ... or better yet, parallel parking ... is never explained. One has to learn from another person how to negotiate the controls for that.

    I don't want to make this post any longer than it already is, so I will close with two observations. As I was composing this, I was looking for a site that would give to you succinct step-by-step details as to basic recording studio procedure.

    Nothing.

    I searched for basic music sequencer procedure ... not a list of possibilities, but a guide to rules of thumb how best to maneuver through essential tasks of electronic music creation using a sequencer.

    Again, nothing.

    I'm not surprised. Perhaps some kind person has uploaded some Youtube videos that show them doing a "bounce," or saving a "stem." But you will need to know when to do these activities, and why, not just how to do them to use a sequencer effectively for electronic music creation.

    As for the second thing, this lack of tutorials about essential sequencer skills does make my tutorial series on using Sibelius as a front-end for Presonus Studio One Pro sequencer useful. For all intents and purposes, this method avoids having to know very much about basic sequencer operation and rather concentrates on getting excellent playback in Sibelius using skills one already knows. Of course, I'm not saying that there is no learning curve, but I can say that in my videos I try to address the pre-conditions and fore-knowledge required to negotiate sequencer-quality playback through Sibelius using Kontakt player. In them, I try to start from as close to zero electronic music creation skills as is possible.

    Midi + Audio sequencing
    I am becoming progressively less satisfied with my Sibelius 6 outputs (even with East West Quantum Leap Symphony Orchestra instruments) so am conside…
  • Thank you Phillip,

    This seems like a logical process although I'm sure it's nothing like as easy as you make it sound. I don't understand exactly what you mean by:

    Once you are satisfied with the midi performance you can bounce the tracks into audio where you can manipulate the tracks further using the audio features. Then you mix down the tracks into a stereo playback file type of your choice. Usually WAV or MP3 on Windows.

    How do I bounce a midi file into audio?

    I hope I'm not being dense.



    Phillip Lovgren said:

    Stephen,

    Another option is to export your music from Sibelius as a midi file(type 1 for mutitracks) and import that file into a DAW. Then you will need to assign instruments to each track that corresponds with with your arrangement in Sebelius. Payback will be rigid because it will be playing as written without human interpretation. You should hopefully find a option to select the tracks and humanize them so that they play more expressively. EWQLO doesn't make use of modulation for per-note expression so you won't need to add modulation to your notes. 

    Once you are satisfied with the midi performance you can bounce the tracks into audio where you can manipulate the tracks further using the audio features. Then you mix down the tracks into a stereo playback file type of your choice. Usually WAV or MP3 on Windows. 

    Midi + Audio sequencing
    I am becoming progressively less satisfied with my Sibelius 6 outputs (even with East West Quantum Leap Symphony Orchestra instruments) so am conside…
  • Hi Stephen,

    As someone who also has been trying to navigate the notation program/DAW divide recently, I thought it might be helpful to share a setup that is working for me, an old-fashioned notation-based composer.  Although I am no technophobe, I am new to the world of DAW and I agree there is quite a steep learning curve.

    For years I used Finale exclusively (with the full Garritan orchestra library when it became available).  

    Just a few months ago I discovered EW's new Composer Cloud offering (access to many of their big libraries for only $30/month).  Unfortunately, I found that running any medium-large number of these instruments within Finale brought my objectively powerful computer to its knees (Finale is simply not up to the task).

    Based on some advice I read online and multiple experiments, I have now switched to what I describe as using Finale as the MIDI fuel for the DAW engine.  In essence, I have both programs running at the same time.  I use Finale as usual, but all playback is through Cubase (I am almost through the 30-day evaluation of their Elements program--$100 or less retail).

    The connection between the programs happens via "virtual" MIDI cables.  I use LoopBe30 ($20), which can create up to 30 virtual MIDI ports on your computer.  There is a free LoopBe1, but, as you can guess, it is limited to 1 port (16 channels).

    Although it takes more time to set up two programs, Cubase is much more flexible and stable than Finale.  I can even play with the instruments at the same time I am playing music back through Finale (impossible if Finale itself is doing the playback).

    I know some folks turn notation files into MIDI and then edit them within the DAW, but for me, that would only be a useful step at the very, very end, once I am 100% sure of the final product and want to do real fine-tuning of the MIDI performance data.  When I am in the midst of writing something, I want to be able to make changes notationally (i.e., in Finale) and hear them real-time.

    So far this setup is working well for me.  Apparently, the Elements edition of Cubase doesn't have the option to record audio directly from the MIDI sound output, but I recently bought TapeIt ($20), a VST plugin that does pretty well creating WAV files.

    John

    p.s.  The issue with the loss of sound on your computer may have to do with your audio drivers?  I do not have a dedicated sound card and initially this was an issue for Cubase, which is intended to be used with an ASIO sound card driver.  However, I downloaded the ASIO4ALL driver (free) and it did the trick for my setup.  However, as I understand it, the issue with ASIO drivers is that they lock out all sounds except for the (first) program that engages them. Therefore, whenever I am running Cubase, sound from all my other programs stops (my browser, for example).  If I want to restore sound to the other programs, I have to complete quit Cubase (not just close the active project file) and re-open the other program.

     

  • Stephen, 

    Ok, So you've gotten your piano roll midi tracks playing back to your satisfaction. Now you'll render or bounce those tracks to audio. What basically is happening is that the midi instruments are playing back the performance as your DAW records the sounds just as if you were recording your voice with a microphone on tape. 

    So you'll have an audio track with each midi track or possibly the audio track will replace the midi track. This is a little different for every DAW but regardless you will be now working with audio tracks that look like a wave form. You'll now use your volume sliders and pan knobs to set the volume and panning left and right for each track if needed.  Now you can put effects like reverb using a built in reverb or creating an independent aux bus for a third party effect which allows you to independently add the amounts of reverb or other effect to each instrument track. Once you are satisfied with your treated tracks you'll  probably want to use an equalizer to give the tracks some lift. This is done in the same way as adding effects. When I use Metro 7, the mixed track is available in the tracks view so I just equalize the mixed track instead of each individual track. 

     Different DAWs' have their own way of doing all this. Metro 7 allows you to mix your audio tracks down to a final track that shows up below those tracks. Logic Pro X seems to want the mixed track to be exported. It all ends up pretty much the same because you can always import the mixed down track back into your DAW and it should show up in the tracks view with the individual tracks. When doing this you just have to remember to solo the mixed track so that the individual tracks are muted. 

    So when you're working with midi tracks, think of them as actual instruments or voices that your are using to create your work. When you render or bounce the midi tracks to audio then think of these tracks just like recorded tracks in a recording studio and you're doing the mixing, adding effects and equalization like a studio engineer would with recorded live instruments and singers. 

    I hope this helps.

  • Have you turned off (unchecked) Exclusive Mode under the Advanced tab in the Speakers Properties control panel of Windows? Apparently one has to do it like that rather than at the program level (at least for music software). That's what prevents my set up from responding correctly.

    DriscollMusick said:

    Hi Stephen,

    As someone who also has been trying to navigate the notation program/DAW divide recently, I thought it might be helpful to share a setup that is working for me, an old-fashioned notation-based composer.  Although I am no technophobe, I am new to the world of DAW and I agree there is quite a steep learning curve.

    For years I used Finale exclusively (with the full Garritan orchestra library when it became available).  

    Just a few months ago I discovered EW's new Composer Cloud offering (access to many of their big libraries for only $30/month).  Unfortunately, I found that running any medium-large number of these instruments within Finale brought my objectively powerful computer to its knees (Finale is simply not up to the task).

    Based on some advice I read online and multiple experiments, I have now switched to what I describe as using Finale as the MIDI fuel for the DAW engine.  In essence, I have both programs running at the same time.  I use Finale as usual, but all playback is through Cubase (I am almost through the 30-day evaluation of their Elements program--$100 or less retail).

    The connection between the programs happens via "virtual" MIDI cables.  I use LoopBe30 ($20), which can create up to 30 virtual MIDI ports on your computer.  There is a free LoopBe1, but, as you can guess, it is limited to 1 port (16 channels).

    Although it takes more time to set up two programs, Cubase is much more flexible and stable than Finale.  I can even play with the instruments at the same time I am playing music back through Finale (impossible if Finale itself is doing the playback).

    I know some folks turn notation files into MIDI and then edit them within the DAW, but for me, that would only be a useful step at the very, very end, once I am 100% sure of the final product and want to do real fine-tuning of the MIDI performance data.  When I am in the midst of writing something, I want to be able to make changes notationally (i.e., in Finale) and hear them real-time.

    So far this setup is working well for me.  Apparently, the Elements edition of Cubase doesn't have the option to record audio directly from the MIDI sound output, but I recently bought TapeIt ($20), a VST plugin that does pretty well creating WAV files.

    John

    p.s.  The issue with the loss of sound on your computer may have to do with your audio drivers?  I do not have a dedicated sound card and initially this was an issue for Cubase, which is intended to be used with an ASIO sound card driver.  However, I downloaded the ASIO4ALL driver (free) and it did the trick for my setup.  However, as I understand it, the issue with ASIO drivers is that they lock out all sounds except for the (first) program that engages them. Therefore, whenever I am running Cubase, sound from all my other programs stops (my browser, for example).  If I want to restore sound to the other programs, I have to complete quit Cubase (not just close the active project file) and re-open the other program.

     

    Midi + Audio sequencing
    I am becoming progressively less satisfied with my Sibelius 6 outputs (even with East West Quantum Leap Symphony Orchestra instruments) so am conside…
  • Hi Stephen,

    I've used a variety of programs but not Sibelius (yet).  For the last few years I've used Sonar but, unusually I suspect, I spend most of my time in the staff view.  That's important: it has a staff view.  I would never bother with any DAW that doesn't - and I'm not at surprised that people give up in frustration and disbelief with programs like Reaper (though I'm not criticising Reaper or it's users).  I reached Sonar via: Cubase trial version, Noteworthy composer and XGWorks. 

    If you are concerned about realistic playback (especially realistic playback as you work) you need a DAW but you also need score editing.  Not that this function in a DAW will not be a patch on Sibelius.  Be warned.

    I've also got Finale 2014 and Notion (not installed). 

    Also, Sonar exports MusicXML which Finale (and Sibelius?) can open.  That's useful because I've found the midi import in Finale isn't brilliant.

    The score I uploaded the other day was created as follows. 

    • Composed in Sonar.
    • Exported to XML
    • Imported into Finale (may have been edited slightly)
    • "Printed" to PDF.

    But you could do the opposite (though the exchange medium would be midi) and then craft the midi in detail - and I do mean detail.

    I did try composing something in Finale but got too annoyed by it.  Also it's 32 bit and does not recognise 64 bit plugins and "runs out" of memory even though there is really plenty.  Apparently the Finale team though lagging are now getting there but then Finale is huge and probably much harder to convert.

This reply was deleted.