Hey everyone, first proper post here, aside from entering the HEAT contest, which i may have to forfeit from due to the thing i'm about to spill out in this post.

I'm Patrik, 28 years old from Sweden.

I have been writing music, everything from metal to orchestrated and electronic pieces since about 4 years back, uploading it to soundcloud so i can remember my trip through it all.

My biggest issue will first and foremost always be myself, because i am my harshest critic. But most pressing is the fact that i know very little about production once the songs have been written, and i can sometimes scrap many ideas that i know would be wonderful if i had the education or the proper software and the knowledge to use them. 

A lot of the times i will scrap something if it doesn't get any longer than a minute and a half, because i want to upload something more substantial that one may listen to for enjoyment rather than as a piece of "this is what i could do if i had more resources".

I am currently using Notion 5, and while it's good for its price range, i get hindered in my writing because i get discouraged that it doesn't sound like a proper hollywood production. And i know that's really stupid because of course that takes many years and years of practice and education, and money obviously. But i cant shake the feeling that i should just give up because it doesn't sound the way i hear it in my head, and that gets in the way of actually writing more notes.

I guess i just want to know if anyone else feels the same, and what they do to get over it.

I want to be able to think "This is just temporary, write your heart out because the notes are important, not the production."

Thanks in advance.


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  • Notion 5 is notation software, right? I used Finale since 1999, pushed it past the point that even the developers thought it could do, then felt the exact same way you do, got Cubase for renderings, use Finale for scores, and now I am a happy camper. I don't know what kind of sampling libraries you or others have also, but I personally believe that the sooner people realize that notation software and products such as Garritan will not give them the profession sound quality they desire, the sooner they can stop wasting their own time, invest in more appropriate tools, and get some real work done. Even with humanization features, the death feature of notation software is that everything is quantized and dynamics, velocity, and expression are the same across the board.
  • Notation software is fine if your intention is to have your music played by "real" musicians.

    But if you want to produce high quality sound tracks then a daw like cubase is the way to go.

    Just listening to shield. If that is out of notion then not so bad. The more complex the music the more you will need a daw.

    As for the contest I hope we composers will consider the music first and the sound quality second. Stay with it.

    Mike L
  • My personal take on this, is that you should compose on score first, and then once you've completed the score, import it into a DAW and tweak (potentially every note). Or just start from scratch in the DAW according to what you've already written in score.

    Basically, with the current state of software, you can't get away from needing two versions of your composition, one for the score, and one for the rendering. Today's software just isn't up to snuff to do both at the same time.

  • Hi Patrik,

    There is nothing wrong with good sound quality, and of course it improves the enjoyment of any piece. But It's not the only thing. The best sound quality cannot make a piece which is not very interesting better. I say this from a point of prejudice I suppose, as I am not able to produce fully finished professional quality stuff. But it never stopped me from composing. I mostly compose at the piano, and try hard at least sometimes, to get good quality sounds out of my notation program, Finale. But it is a tremendous effort to get as good as I do get, and since I am not a pro, I sometimes can't devote the time to it which would be needed to extract the final ounce of a good sound the program can produce, which in my estimation is at best "ok." As far as listening to the music of others, as long as your sound quality is not rock-bottom, I can usually get a sense of the quality of the music itself, or at least whether I like it as music. Don't give up, and especially, don't drop out of the Heat contest!


  • @Bob: I recently tried re-rendering some of my previous pieces with different instrument samples, but exactly the same notes dynamics, etc.. The result was also quite educational. Some parts were not as clear as they were before, while other passages became obviously lacking in some element (e.g. bass), weaknesses that were previously covered over by the sample set. Some instrument balances weren't quite right, but the result wasn't too horrible either (which was comforting to discover! because it means that I hadn't fallen into the trap of composing for specific samples as opposed to something that might be generally workable).

    It makes one wonder if playing the same notes with multiple sample sets can actually be a helpful tool to help the compositional process, so that you at least have some degree of confidence that the music itself is somewhat resilient to varying "interpretations".

  • And to address the OP's original question, I'd like to say that last year for my contest entry I used rather poor-sounding samples, with very limited post-production polish (that is to say, almost none at all), yet I won 2nd place. So rendering quality shouldn't deter you from participating in the contest!!  I believe most of the composers here are fair enough to pick out the musical content and not get too hung up about the nitty-gritty of rendering quality.

  • Thanks for all the replies so far, it makes things feel far less lonely.

    I think that my experience with DAW's are a bit limited. I've used Cubase for everything but i havent been able to properly get staccato notes and stuff like that when transfered into the program, then again i havent tried it enough.

    I used to create all my notes in Guitar pro and then shove it into Cubase and use the built in VST's it had, so i dont have too much knowledge of digital instruments. @Michael Lofting, Shield was made like that.

    I bought Notion because i needed a notation software that had at least some proper sound in it, i tend to not hear potential in notes if they are simple ugly midi sounds. I know others can use notation software with limited sound quality because they have other programs to render them in later, but i need to have it sound similar to what's going in my head.

  • Totally understandable.

    Though I'd say that one of the greatest skills a composer can learn is to be able to write the correct instrument or instrument combination that produces the sound desired, without actually hearing it. Some of the greatest of Beethoven's masterpieces were composed when he had become, for all practical purposes, completely deaf. Yet he was able to transcribe the sound he heard in his mind onto paper without ever hearing it.

  • To be fair Beethoven didn't need to transcribe what he's imagining onto paper, he only had to choose one of the several hundred solutions (from actual existing pieces of music) he was already familiar with to do the job. Perks of having solid experience in the field.


    I second Rodney's post. To clarify, the main problem causing the futility of trying to make notation software sound good is that it uses MIDI data for specific purposes, and those don't align at all with how the world of sampling works.

    The most obvious example is quantization. In notation software, everything is quantized to death. It has to be, because the way notes are displayed on the page depends strictly on where every single one starts and ends. Length of the note and which beat it's on, if you will. It's all very structured. But samples don't work like that. Depending on what samples you use (which company, which instrument, which patch), some notes should be nudged a bit one way or another, or their factual length adjusted, or the positioning over a long stretch randomized to make it feel more generic. That (and other things) is how you make samples sound better. Notation software won't let you do that.

    Or, well. It might let you do that. But it's gonna be so clunky and unmanagable that you'll go insane before you get anything done.

  • I agree that Beethoven had the experience to draw from. Still, one can't help but gape in awe at the fact that he could still compose those masterpieces even after he had gone completely deaf. I suspect most of us here would be utterly lost as to what to even write, if we lost our hearing.

    As for notation software, I think the problem is not an inherent one. Nothing about notation says you must map notes on paper 1-to-1 to midi events. In fact, if you want a proper rendering, you can't have such a naïve 1-to-1 mapping. Most existing notation software, of course, assumes this for simplicity's sake, but in theory, it should be possible to represent notation in a completely independent way from midi, and create an intermediate layer which reads the notation in its native representation and performs some kind of interpretation to midi.  We do have the technology to do this at least semi-automatically, it's just that nobody has actually done it yet.  You can also have a separate subsystem for the user to tweak individual notes or group of notes, without screwing up the notation.  The first obstacle to be overcome is conceptual -- the idea that notation must have 1-to-1 correspondence with midi needs to be thrown out. Then we're talking.

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