A piece on a DAW, then a Notation program


Senior Member

While everybody is trying to make the best sounding piece, I'll expose myself to shaming by presenting versions of a piece sounding very bad. The goal is – showing how the same piece can be transformed when passed to a different tool.

A premise: all the tools involved in this test are capable of producing the highest quality. The results in this post depend exclusively by the way I used them. That is not at their best, but just the raw product of a file format conversion. This is to shown nothing else than which can be a 'starting point' from which one has to begin when switching from a DAW to a notation program.

This test was exclusively made for my own curiosity, while checking the available tools and trying to decide the best workflow. I decided to make it public, because it may include answers to questions I asked myself several times, and are asked often by many others.

First, a mockup from a famous piece made with Logic and the full VSL VI library. Played on the keyboard, and carefully edited.

Promenade for Logic and VSL VI Full

I exported the piece as a MIDI file, and loaded it into Dorico 3.5. All the symbols in the score were then copied in my Dorico file. The result is therefore an interpolation between my actual playing, and the dynamics I entered in the score as music symbols. The score is played back by VSL Synchronized SE Vol. 1/+, with expression maps I prepared. Please note this library is much more limited than the full one (but the expression map is also more manageable…).

Promenade for Dorico and VSL SY SE

Finally, I switched the playback template to NotePerformer 3. It's interesting to see how much more energetic its interpretation is. I've noticed, with other projects, that NP is very vigorous, and usually are the best performers.

Promenade for Dorico and NP

Lessons learned:

a) a mockup made with a DAW can sound more realistic;

b) even a notation program with advanced playback features, like Dorico, is still fighting against the limits of making notation and playback coexist;

c) NotePerformer is much easier to use than a traditional library – call it into action, and it will immediately work; it also includes a lot of techniques, that traditional libraries may not include, if not with expensive additions;

d) the small library of VSL can sound very good, if one looks behind the disaster I did with this test;

e) a mockup has to be made or refined in a notation program after having been converted; it can't sound immediately as good as in a DAW. Take in this example the entrance of the strings: a human player will play it soft; the machine will not understand that a 'mf' can also be delicate. Or staccatos: the machine may make them too short, ignoring the context.

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Vintage Member
A very interesting experiment indeed! I have to say I drew the same conclusions as you... However, you forgot one alternative! That is to write the score in Dorico and then edit the performance within it. This mp3 I attach was completely done in Dorico (rather rushed), I wrote the score and edited the performance as I went along... I could've spent a lot longer on it getting it just right, but it was enough for what I needed it for at the time. Personally, for people like me that really work/think in notation, it's pretty good!




Senior Member
Or, you can even record in realtime in Dorico, and then work on the balance between automatic dynamics and the manual data in the velocity lane.

In any case, the difference between a DAW and Dorico is that in Dorico you have an intelligent assistant - the converter of score symbols - with which you have to deal with.

As you show with your beautiful piece, this can lead to great results!