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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  • That's what we do when we use two separate pieces of software, us humans working as the intermediate layer.

    You're asking for AI that's at least as good as a composer who's competent both with notation and with a DAW. A bit of a stretch, in my opinion. :)

    Or you don't want an AI but would have the human control the boundary between the two worlds, but in that case we are back to square one. You'd basically be doing the same stuff you already do when you port the music back and forth between notation and a DAW. Except probably made difficult by cramming everything into a single program - there's only so much a piece of software can do before all the options pile up into a huge chunk of incomprehensible clutter.

    H. S. Teoh said:

    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.

    Sound quality versus songwriting
    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…
  • No. I'm saying that the computer automate the tedious work, and the human direct how the computer does it so that the correct results are produced. Integrating everything into the same program means you can freely switch between the notation layer and the playback layer as you compose.

    As for options piling up, that's a UI design issue. To be honest, most GUIs of today are stupid because all they do is to expose the nitty gritty details of the program in the form of pretty-to-behold buttons. So what you have to do is no better than twiddling bits and bytes by hand, except now it looks prettier and less intimidating so people feel more comfortable operating it. But you still end up doing lots of repetitive actions and tedious manual clicking on details.  It's the wrong way to go; you're working with individual trees instead of managing the forest.

    What the UI should be doing is allowing the user to visually represent logical objects at a higher abstraction level, so that you can organize your piece, for example, into different passages, and each passage into phrases, and each phrase into motifs and individual notes. Then you can say, "play this phrase legato, play the next phrase staccato". The computer, at first, would not know how to do that, so you specify "for legato passages, do X, Y, Z to the notes" and "for staccato passages, halve note lengths and insert rests". Teach the computer once, and next time it knows what to do when you want a legato phrase. These things should be presented up-front, not hidden behind 15 submenus nested 3 levels deep that you can only access by clicking into individual notes, which is a ridiculously inefficient way to work.

  • Unfortunately, that's barely the start of what needs doing before it all sounds good :P

    Oh, and of course this should all be presented up-front and not hidden. Except you can't have everything up-front. Good notation programs do a LOT of different things. Good DAWs do a lot of other things. If you put 300 different things on the front page, each will be 5 pixels wide.

    H. S. Teoh said:

    "for legato passages, do X, Y, Z to the notes" and "for staccato passages, halve note lengths and insert rests"

    Sound quality versus songwriting
    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…
  • Yes, I know that's only the start. But the idea is reusability. If you need to perform tweak X on a group of 25 notes, you should be able to specify X once, and apply it to all 25 notes (or better yet, an unlimited number of notes thereafter) without needing to click into each one. Velocity/timing randomization, etc., should be macros that, once specified, can be applied to any selection of notes you fancy.

    But more importantly, the order of application of effects should be retained after the effect has been applied. That is to say, after you apply an effect, it shouldn't just tweak individual notes and be done with it; instead, there should be a view that shows you a hierarchy of effects that have been applied to some section of music, and you should be able to edit each layer independently of the rest. You should be able to go back and change the effect you applied 5 operations ago, and have the subsequent effects layer on top of the edited effect in the same sequence as before.  Of course, you can optionally collapse the hierarchy to keep things manageable, but generally, the logical structure should be kept because that's how you can work efficiently with the forest instead of losing yourself in the trees.

    As for putting 300 different things on the front page, I think you misunderstand. I'm not advocating for something like that, which is a design pattern that I hate, because even if you could put all 300 buttons on the same page, I wouldn't have the slightest idea which icon signifies what, and I'd get an aneurysm just trying to click on the right thing. No, what you want is a series of different views on your composition, presented in their own screens, that are optimized for working with that particular aspect of the music.

    Some notation programs already do this, but often in the wrong way: either the midi is too tightly bound to the notation so that shifting a midi note to play slightly earlier causes a big mess in the notation, or the two are completely detached: after changing the pitch of a midi note you have to manually update the notation.  Rather, what is needed is to represent both, so that the user can edit the notation and (optionally) update the midi, edit the midi and (optionally) update the notation, or both, and still retain the association between the two.  And of course, this is just at the lowest level of editing individual notes, but it should be possible to do this at higher levels of abstraction as well, like on the level of phrases or entire passages.

  • So from reading all this, it is painfully obvious that i have no idea what i'm doing. I tried to import the Notion midis into Cubase and it all became a mess, the dynamics and stuff i've added to notes dont follow into the DAW. And while i've scoured the interwebs for tutorials it's dawned upon me that i don't even know where to begin. 

    And in that case Notion doesn't sound so bad anymore, it's just a shame that it's so difficult what with all the plugins and different workstations.

  • I suppose you begin with making the MIDI track -> VST -> output setup work. After that you mess around with your patches until you have some understanding of what they're capable of :P

    What samples do you have?

  • I've used the built in ones in VST'sCubase, and that has worked because i've never really needed dynamics in the songs i've used orchestrated instruments for. It's just been simple notes, and when i've made my midi tracks and transported them in, it hasn't become much of a hassle. 

    I guess what i dont get is, are stuff like staccatos, legatos and stuff done through the VST or is it fiddled with in the actual DAW? because if it's the latter then i cant for the life of me understand how to play with the notes in it.

  • More VST side than DAW side. You will tweak MIDI data in the DAW to make notes blend better etc., but stuff like different articulations are all in the VST. Depending on the sample library you will have several patches loaded and hooked into separate MIDI tracks, or a single one with keyswitch mechanic (some keys far in the low/high end of the range are responsible for switching modes between staccato, legato, spiccato, pizzicato etc.)

  • Alright, i shall have to scour the interwebs even deeper.

    I just dont feel like spending money on VST's yet, especially if i dont know how to work them.

    Thanks for all the replies, it's been very helpful.

  • I am currently working on a track that is supposed to symbolize a school in the extended harry potter universe, it's a school on a ship that always changes it's location to avoid muggle detection and where the students learn both offensive magic and navigation stuff. Just to get a feel for it.


    It's far from done, i have about 30 seconds left to write and a ton of "thickening" on the cello/bass transition going on at 1:45.

    (Note the horrifying sound clip at 2:30 as well, no idea how to fix that, though i've heard it's related to sound buffering)

    I'm using Notion 5 here and it's my first project with it, and i tweak and tweak until my fingers go numb mainly because i cant get the volumes right and some sounds just dont work very well in the notation program. But all in all i'm quite happy with the sound since it's right out of the box. 

    For all my previous stuff i've programmed Guitar Pro midi files and then used them in cubase to varying results, mostly i've only used background synths to add to my rock music and that's always worked because i havent had the need for dynamics.

    I dont have any VST's to work with in Cubase other than the ones built in, and that just doesn't work.

    So to sum up, i've actually done very little and i only recently started with no education whatsoever. Lost case?

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