A couple of questions here has perked my interest of what software environment we work in as we compose.

To start:

  1. What is your software environment? DAW program, notation program, instrument libraries, etc.
  2. Possibly add what you like and/or dislike about what you are using.

I use Notion 6 on Windows with Miroslav Philharmonic and Vienna Symphony Library SE 


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  • I don't have much of a DAW to speak of.  My instrument library is old and dusty, and not of very high quality  -- they are basically a bunch of ancient SoundFonts (from the SBLive! days) for various instruments that I've collected over the years.

    I mainly work from my notation software, LilyPond.  It isn't the friendliest of notation programs, because it requires textual input.  There is a point-and-click interface to it called Frescobaldi, but me being an unrepentent computer geek, I prefer the text interface over the GUI.  (I also eschew GUIs like Windows, and work directly from the Linux shell ("command prompt" for you windows folk).)  Lilypond supports rudimentary MIDI output -- not very good quality, but serviceable.  I wrote a helper program to automate much of the tedium of setting things up so that I can bypass the 16-channel MIDI limit and have as many simultaneously-sounding instruments as I want, and also to afford less painful ways of selecting articulations for those few soundfonts I have that actually have different articulations (the vast majority don't).

    Probably none of this is of interest to the "more typical" composer, though.  I realize my preferences and needs are rather unique. :-D

  • @ H. S. Teoh Ok...so what is your actual work flow.?

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  • Hi Bruce,
    I have a macpro trash can with 128gb ram and use Vsl, Spitfire, Chris hein, orchestral tools et al. I use logicProX to programme and Sibelius for scores.
    I have Notion too on my iPad and it is great for sketching. I am very interested in finding the best solution for score input with a digital pen and am looking at wacom, surface pro. I was pro before I retired which explains the high end gear, which might seem a bit much, but was needed in the job...
    My workflow involves booze, swearing, great big 50 stave m/s, shed loads of rubber and then Daw programming and if I can be bothered...score input.
  • Not sure exactly what you mean by work flow... did you mean the overall steps of how I compose? If so:

    1) I first work with any musical ideas I might have in my head, or with the help of some loose manuscript paper for sketching things out -- I rarely start entering notation on the computer until I've gotten at least a solid theme or motif.  I often find that getting MIDI feedback too early in the process actually hinders my compositional process, because I unconsciously start "writing for the MIDI" rather than for the real instrument(s) or with my original conception of the musical idea.

    1b) If it's a complex piece that I can't get too far just by working in my head / on paper, I may work on select passages in notation software, but as a standalone project rather than a part of the "real" project. Basically using it as a sketchpad, maybe to get some MIDI piano feedback to make sure I got all the pitches right.

    2) Once the idea is sufficiently worked out, I start inputting notation. Since Lilypond is batch-oriented, and I prefer to work directly on notation without feedback where possible, I usually input entire phrases or passages before I even bother with MIDI rendition.  Usually I'd have a few roundtrips of entering notation, rendering the score, fixing mistakes, etc.. Then when I'm happy enough with the score, I'd start listening to the MIDI playback to see if I like it.  If not, I'd go back and rework the passage, and rinse, repeat, until I'm happy with it.

    3) With the amount of revisions I usually do, I find it handy to use revision control software to keep track of different versions of the same piece.  It also allows me to explore some radical ideas that may occur to me during the process, like a major overhaul of a certain section of the piece.  Having everything tracked in revision control software means that should that radical rewrite turn out to be untenable, I can simply revert back to the original state almost instantaneously.  Sometimes I even keep multiple branches of the same piece around, for when I'm unsure which version is better -- again, revision control software helps me do this while maintaining my sanity. (One could, in theory, make copies of the project and make revisions on those, but it quickly gets out of hand once changes become complex and the number of versions grow. Much better to have software automate what would otherwise be a lot of tedious bookkeeping chores.)  (And yes, I know this is just me being a crazy computer geek again, since revision control software is generally used for... well, keeping track of software source code rather than music, but hey, it works well with Lilypond because Lilypond input is textual, and similar to code in many ways.)

  • Use notion on the iPad for sketching. Pretty cheap, about $20 aud as I recall and does a reasonable job. This is while lying prone of course.

    Then transfer via mxml to Sibelius on my win pc for finishing.

    I also have noteperformer installed which does a reasonable job at making the sound file more realistic and certainly makes better work of articulations . Apparently has an awful trumpet patch.

    I do have studio one free version as a daw but can't remember the last time I used it.

    Never wanted to bother too much with a daw as always in hope of getting live performances of which I've had half a dozen now.
  • I am quite new at all this - I use MuseScore. I don't know what DAW is, and could use some help and advice. My music is more of a sketch than an actual, full sound piece.

    I like MuseScore because it is free - and quite capable compared to the 1990s music processor I used before.

  • @H. S. Teoh 

    I went over and looked at LilyPad. That's craaaaazy. In other words, oy...

  • Ray said:

    Listing the hardware and software I use would in my opinion be totally useless information for the majority of members here.
    Learning how to get the best from any or all of it is of far more importance. The experience in doing so builds expertise. No shortcuts.
    Yes, that's true. And listening to your work, which is very fine, you seem to be getting all there is available with your toolset.
    I'm still curious as what your tools are and if we have a similar stack then I can ask questions about how you achieve what you do. Maybe it's a trade secret. And there are a lot of way to skin a cat...moose...???
    Survey and discussion- what to you use?
    A couple of questions here has perked my interest of what software environment we work in as we compose. To start: What is your software environment…
  • Bloody Hell Ray...it's too early in the morning....ah well, who cares, my feet have started tapping.

    It sounds absolutely fantastic on my dynaudios, christ who needs players...a dram for you  sir.

  • @Ray I love the klezmery clarinet in "A Strange Theory". The whole piece is a kick. Accordions?...hmmm....

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