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Best software for an aspiring composer

Blackster

Senior Member
True, but it does happen. I almost lost a gig once because a director came into my studio and was baffled that I didn't compose with Pro Tools (yes, believe it or not!). It also helps to be somewhat fluent with Pro Tools, as most editors request session files in that format.

Ok then :) ... well, whatever the client wants, right? As we are all service providers, we have to take the demand into account, of course. But still, YOU are the professional in that area, NOT HIM! So, talk him out of his belief :D
 

Jeremy Spencer

Senior Member
Ok then :) ... well, whatever the client wants, right? As we are all service providers, we have to take the demand into account, of course. But still, YOU are the professional in that area, NOT HIM! So, talk him out of his belief :D

Yeah, it's really goofy how there's this stereotype that you're not pro unless you're using certain tools.
 

Chorny Serge

Give me a story and I'll come up with a music
I'm an aspiring composer. I love classical music. I've been using MuseScore on Ubuntu. Here's a piece I composed

Hey, Aviv! You wrote me a question about my piece and so I remembered this site, I will now upload stuff here.
As for your composition, I was interested in how it would sound like recorded with sample libraries so here's the sketch on that theme I made. Don't wanna show off, I was just hoping it'll answer some of your questions. And it was fun) I'm just practicing every time I can.
 

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theaviv

theaviv

The Aviv
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Hey, Aviv! You wrote me a question about my piece and so I remembered this site, I will now upload stuff here.
As for your composition, I was interested in how it would sound like recorded with sample libraries so here's the sketch on that theme I made. Don't wanna show off, I was just hoping it'll answer some of your questions. And it was fun) I'm just practicing every time I can.

Wow! I love it. It's wonderful when you hear a piece you composed produced in high-quality. I wouldn't mind if you continue! I attached the midi and score if that's of any use.
 

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theaviv

theaviv

The Aviv
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Hey, Aviv! You wrote me a question about my piece and so I remembered this site, I will now upload stuff here.

Yes, I think your mockup of Palladio is excellent.



I like it a lot better than the other mockups I found:







Yours is closer to the real thing:



You have a good ear!
 
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theaviv

theaviv

The Aviv
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What would you advise an aspiring composer who is currently using MuseScore on Ubuntu and is concerned with ... sharing very good mockups?

Not knowing your budget, I'd recommend picking up a DAW with a workflow you like (demo them!), and subscribing to ComposerCloud. Then, spend money wisely on sample libraries you need to fill in the gaps.

Notation programs are never going to give you good enough mockups. There is also no point in working in notation if it will never be performed by actual human musicians. Go to Mac or Windows, get a DAW, learn how to mock up in there and how to mix.

I am thinking of getting a Mac with Logic Pro X and subscribing to ComposerCloud.

How long do you think it would probably take me before I am able to create industry-grade mockups/orchestral tracks?

If you're working hard, i'd say 5-10 years.

Years, for sure.

This is the only viable option, and this is what everybody does. It is part and parcel of being a commercial composer in the modern day.

But I'm just wondering if composers like Karl Jenkins, John Williams and Howard Shore bother to play with DAWs and create mockups?

John Williams certainly doesn't, Karl Jenkins most likely doesn't, Howard Shore I'm not sure.

Another thing related to that - the "polish" (production) of what you send a director (even as a mockup) is really important. Perhaps you can write music 10x better than composer Y. However, suppose composer Y is excellent at production/mixing/mastering and has really great sounding libraries, making his/her music sound more "polished", and it works well to picture. If you don't have very good libraries and your production/mixing/etc skills are not up to snuff, in most cases composer Y will get the work instead of you. Writing "better music" means very little when the polish on the finished product isn't there.

Of course, you could outsource the polish, but you're saying:
Not viable - if you keep having to pay someone to do mockups of every single piece you aren't going to get enough money from the composition work that you do to make it worthwhile.

But then again, some composers seem to do just that:
Williams and possibly Shore might have an assistant create mockups for them.

People like John Williams et al have got such a great catalogue of outstanding music, proven track record, huge talent, deep experience, and the odd Oscar or two (or more) . They have worked with some of the greatest directors and orchestras. They are in a different league o_O

(1) a great catalogue of outstanding music
(2) proven track record
(3) huge talent
(4) deep experience
(5) the odd Oscar or two (or more)

I believe if I put my focus on building a great catalogue of outstanding music, the rest will follow.
I'd spend way more ... investing in yourself so you find some great unique selling points that you can use to your advantage over the competition. Because if you are not different, you have to be cheaper.

Rather than investing in a Mac, I believe I should invest in working with a producer and building a great catalogue of outstanding music.
If you want a good mockup then you have to put in the work and time or hire someone to do it for you.

Classical is no different than any other genre of music. If you want to make it big, really big, you gotta focus on being the artist - not the artist and producer combined. The biggest artists in the music industry do not try to be both producers and artists.

Michael Jackson did not produce his own music, he worked with Quincy Jones. He outsourced the polish. Classical is no different - it's just another genre in the industry. If you want to be the King of Classical, you gotta think like the King of Classical.

I never wanted to be a videogame or film composer. When I was 20 and started composing for the very first time - more than a decade ago - I envisioned myself as a "classical artist" - I wanted to release singles and albums just like any other music artist of more mainstream genres - pop, country, etc. I wanted to hear my music played on Classical 96.3 FM. I wanted to make classical popular again - and I believed I could do it, but life got in the way and I didn't compose much since. I'd like to think it's time for me to believe again.

Because if you are not different, you have to be cheaper.
 

mducharme

Senior Member
If you choose to go that route, and you haven't really composed much in the past 10 years, be prepared to spend at least 5 years just composing and getting those skills up to speed before you are writing well enough to warrant hiring a producer. And even if you hire one then, there is a big risk of spending the money on that and then not really making it back.
 

Willowtree

I make music
I'm going to be very blunt in my reply here, and it's not intended to crush your hopes, but just to give you some perspective.

But then again, some composers seem to do just that:
Right, but you're not John Williams or Howard Shore. By his 20s, John Williams was already a succesful composer, and he was in the right place at the right time as well, and an excellent session musicians. Also, raised by a musician. He started out when a DAW or realistic mock-ups were even an option, let alone something the industry thought ever possible.

Saying that some composers seem to do just that is a bit like saying some humans are millionaires. It's true, but they're the very rare exception.

You are not John Williams. Even the most brilliant composers of our day need to start out working with DAWs and mock-ups. Hiring an assistant is not an option unless you have a lot of funds and a catalogue.

Can you conceivably afford to pay several hundreds of dollars per minute of music? If so, then go for it. But it doesn't look like a promising career option, and if you're going to invest that amount of money into it, you either ought to be rich, or you might as well try to make a living out of it.

Rather than investing in a Mac, I believe I should invest in working with a producer and building a great catalogue of outstanding music.


Classical is no different than any other genre of music. If you want to make it big, really big, you gotta focus on being the artist - not the artist and producer combined. The biggest artists in the music industry do not try to be both producers and artists.

Michael Jackson did not produce his own music, he worked with Quincy Jones. He outsourced the polish. Classical is no different - it's just another genre in the industry. If you want to be the King of Classical, you gotta think like the King of Classical.

I never wanted to be a videogame or film composer. When I was 20 and started composing for the very first time - more than a decade ago - I envisioned myself as a "classical artist" - I wanted to release singles and albums just like any other music artist of more mainstream genres - pop, country, etc. I wanted to hear my music played on Classical 96.3 FM. I wanted to make classical popular again - and I believed I could do it, but life got in the way and I didn't compose much since. I'd like to think it's time for me to believe again.
You're underestimating just how difficult it is to make it in this industry. I've been doing this for almost my entire life. I started composing music when I was 4 years old, was given lessons to play the recorder and piano around the same age (as well as the harmonica, for some odd reason. ask my parents).

While my personal projects are predominantly orchestral (that's what I prefer to be doing), I've learned to compose all manner of music, from jazz, to rock, to modern hybrid, to electronic and so on.

I've worked with MIDI since I was 10, and I've composed thousands of pieces. I'm not one of the big-shot composers, and half the time I don't make a living as a composer. I mostly get uncredited work, often serving as an arranger or occasionally consultant to other composers (because of my teaching skills).

Again, I am not trying to crush your dreams or tell you that what you're aiming for isn't within the realm of possibilities. You will need a DAW and you will need to make your own mock-ups if you don't have money to spend.

And if you decide to find a producer with a very low rate, remember that in this industry, more often than not, you get what you pay for.

Just some friendly piece of advice but very bluntly. :)
 
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theaviv

theaviv

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Right, but you're not John Williams or Howard Shore.

I am The Aviv.

I will share mockups of my compositions here soon enough.

But I'm already liking what @Chorny Serge did with my piece Serenade. Can't you hear its potential? Imagine how amazing it would sound with a real string orchestra! This is something that would be played on the radio for sure. This could be a hit classical piece!
 

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  • The Aviv - Serenade (Serge Chorny mockup).mp3
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Willowtree

I make music
I am The Aviv.

I will share mockups of my compositions here soon enough.

But I'm already liking what @Chorny Serge did with my piece Serenade. Can't you hear its potential? Imagine how amazing it would sound with a real string orchestra! This is something that would be played on the radio for sure. This could be a hit classical piece!
Again, I am going to be blunt.

The mock-up doesn't sound like a string section or a string orchestra and is not phrased like one. The short notes are far too loud, for starters, and the slurred passage wouldn't be phrased the way it is.

This is absolutely fine if you're doing some media composing, so @Chorny Serge by no means did a bad job. This is in many cases what a client or director might want. But if classical is what you're going for, this is not what real recorded string music would sound like.

Setting the mock-up aside, I hate to break it to you, but this sounds like a fairly average media composition. This is something I see most composers making in a couple minutes when bored or in a hurry with a deadline coming up. For a piece like this, the orchestration and performance needs to be what stands out, since the harmony, rhythm or melody will not stand out from the crowd.

There's nothing new here. Standard harmony. Standard rhythm. Standard melody. This is stock music. And if that's what you're going for, that's okay, but people won't look at this and think "Oh, it' the Aviv's music!" They'll listen to this and think "ah, another one".

The above is when compared to non-classical orchestral music (such as trailer music, film music, game music and music inspired by it etc).

Compared to actual, proper, contemporary classical music? This is nothing of note whatsoever, and would maybe get a scoff or two from a classical musician*

If you want some more pointers in-detail, feel free to send me a DM and when I have the time I'll jump into a chat with you and we can go over your composition. I'd normally charge for that, but as long as you're patient and bear in mind I might not always be this fast at replying (I'm a very busy person at times), don't worry about that. Consider it a favour.

* Edit: for context, contemporary classical music is far more experimental and avant-garde. It tends to lean either in the direction of being quite atonal, with complex mathematical polyrhythms, microtuned instruments and with very intense dynamic changes throughout. Or, it tends to lean in the direction of using additive rhythm with non-functional tonal harmony, little change in dynamics throughout, and being generally quite subdued.
 
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theaviv

theaviv

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If you want some more pointers in-detail, feel free to send me a DM and when I have the time I'll jump into a chat with you and we can go over your composition. I'd normally charge for that, but as long as you're patient and bear in mind I might not always be this fast at replying (I'm a very busy person at times), don't worry about that. Consider it a favour.

Thank you @Willowtree. I really appreciate your offer and your detailed well-written responses throughout this thread. I'll definitely keep it in mind.

Do you have a SoundCloud or YouTube channel?

The piece is not in its final form. I'm hesitant to agree with you on how you think it would be perceived by the public. I've listened to classical music all my life. I know when something is good.

I'm not really familiar with what you call contemporary classical music, but I don't believe Classical 96.3 FM plays such music.

An example of what I consider to be a great classical piece (by a living composer) is Karl Jenkins' Palladio. I also love anything by Vivaldi.

If you're right, I'll just have to learn the hard way. I'm quite set on the direction I want to take now and you've been very helpful in my process of figuring it out.
 

mducharme

Senior Member
Jenkins' Palladio is OK, but cliche. Vivaldi is good but overplayed, especially The Four Seasons.

I think your Serenade is not bad (and I've heard a lot of very bad stuff), but it is not anywhere near as strong as you think it is. Even if it was played by a string orchestra and well produced (even by a top producer), I don't think you would get anywhere with it, certainly not a big audience. It would require a lot of rewrites in which case it would become a very different piece before it would get anywhere near that stage.

This "I know my stuff is fantastic and would be a hit" kind of thinking is the trap that you can easily fall into if you have had nothing but people telling you how wonderful your stuff is (as almost every reasonably good composer has experienced). Especially those who don't compose - they are so amazed by anything written by someone who does, especially by someone they know personally, that you can't count on them for honest and blunt feedback. They'll just tell you it is wonderful and this leads to an inflated sense of your own abilities.
 

Willowtree

I make music
Thank you @Willowtree. I really appreciate your offer and your detailed well-written responses throughout this thread. I'll definitely keep it in mind.

Do you have a SoundCloud or YouTube channel?

The piece is not in its final form. I'm hesitant to agree with you on how you think it would be perceived by the public. I've listened to classical music all my life. I know when something is good.

I'm not really familiar with what you call contemporary classical music, but I don't believe Classical 96.3 FM plays such music.

An example of what I consider to be a great classical piece (by a living composer) is Karl Jenkins' Palladio. I also love anything by Vivaldi.

If you're right, I'll just have to learn the hard way. I'm quite set on the direction I want to take now and you've been very helpful in my process of figuring it out.
I stopped using soundcloud some time ago and have been meaning to put my music on some other service, including YouTube, but life got in the way, due to having another person in my care for a year, as well as some health issues that are finally getting resolved.

The plan is to get both my website music back up by December, but if I'm in the talks of scoring a project I can't yet talk about, and if I get it ... May take a bit longer, perhaps January.

Send me a DM with your e-mail and I'll e-mail you some pieces I've made in different styles.

And of course, I've only listened to 42 seconds of what I assume is just an arrangement of a larger and longer piece. And, well, you know when you think something is good.

And often, we're not that great at judging our own works. For example, I frequently see composers devalue themselves by stating "but I'm not [insert famous composer]". But, I also see the opposite: a lot of people assume their music is a lot more special than it is.

Ultimately, there's a lot of music out there. Chances are any melody or chord progression you come up with will already be used in a lot of other things. So, to stand out, you need to develop your own style. What I heard when I listened to the above piece was stock music. Music intended to be replaced, or music intended to stand out as little as possible.

Is that a bad thing? No. And the part writing itself wasn't bad by any means. That I want to be clear about. What I heard did not sound bad by any means. It sounded quite good, as you yourself say. However, it doesn't stand out, and comes off as very average.

I just threw together quick little short tune and arranged it for strings. I'm attaching it to the this post. This uses a very cliché Hollywood structure and chord progression (except for the cadence) just to illustrate what I mean.

It's an immediately familiar sound and that can be a good thing, but also means it's very generic. The piece I'm posting is, in my opinion, far more generic than yours (hence the title, I wanted it to be as cliche as possible), but I hope it illustrates my point.

I didn't do any real mixing or mastering, aside from adding a tail to blend the sound a bit and correcting some of the midi CC., so expect the sound to be a bit harsh in places.
 

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Willowtree

I make music
Jenkins' Palladio is OK, but cliche. Vivaldi is good but overplayed, especially The Four Seasons.

I think your Serenade is not bad (and I've heard a lot of very bad stuff), but it is not anywhere near as strong as you think it is. Even if it was played by a string orchestra and well produced (even by a top producer), I don't think you would get anywhere with it, certainly not a big audience. It would require a lot of rewrites in which case it would become a very different piece before it would get anywhere near that stage.

This "I know my stuff is fantastic and would be a hit" kind of thinking is the trap that you can easily fall into if you have had nothing but people telling you how wonderful your stuff is (as almost every reasonably good composer has experienced). Especially those who don't compose - they are so amazed by anything written by someone who does, especially by someone they know personally, that you can't count on them for honest and blunt feedback. They'll just tell you it is wonderful and this leads to an inflated sense of your own abilities.
I grew up on a lot of Bach and Vivaldi (my father regularly performed their music), and I've been told it shows in music, which is a shame since I'd rather be compared to Ravel or Fauré than Bach (slight sarcasm, but there's truth to this statement). ;)

Anyhow, this is very much true. All of it, but especially the last piece of advice. My youngest sister did not opt for a music career and rarely makes music anymore, but is a natural and a musical genius who could play better as a child than I can as an adult, and who has ears for music well beyond my own.

You'd think her advice would be useful but it's not, because anything I make will impress her because I'm her little sister.

This is why I actually very rarely share my music with my family or friends. Though, amusingly, one time I was visiting my boyfriend's parents, and his mother pulls me aside and gives me this in-depth criticism of my music. I was speechless.
 

Eric G

Active Member
Thank you @Willowtree. I really appreciate your offer and your detailed well-written responses throughout this thread. I'll definitely keep it in mind.

Do you have a SoundCloud or YouTube channel?

The piece is not in its final form. I'm hesitant to agree with you on how you think it would be perceived by the public. I've listened to classical music all my life. I know when something is good.

I'm not really familiar with what you call contemporary classical music, but I don't believe Classical 96.3 FM plays such music.

An example of what I consider to be a great classical piece (by a living composer) is Karl Jenkins' Palladio. I also love anything by Vivaldi.

If you're right, I'll just have to learn the hard way. I'm quite set on the direction I want to take now and you've been very helpful in my process of figuring it out.

My advise is simple. Your journey is YOUR JOURNEY. Along the way you are going to have OPINIONS from everyone you ask. Although their advise is well meaning, it based on their JOURNEY. Don't let that dampen your enthusiasm (doesn't look like it will) because you are going to need it to help you along the way when you start learning your HARD LESSONS. An they will be HARD.

So best of luck, plenty of good folks here to give you ADVISE and thier OPINION. Take what you need and get on with it.
 

Willowtree

I make music
My advise is simple. Your journey is YOUR JOURNEY. Along the way you are going to have OPINIONS from everyone you ask. Although their advise is well meaning, it based on their JOURNEY. Don't let that dampen your enthusiasm (doesn't look like it will) because you are going to need it to help you along the way when you start learning your HARD LESSONS. An they will be HARD.

So best of luck, plenty of good folks here to give you ADVISE and thier OPINION. Take what you need and get on with it.
Thank you for posting this, Eric. It's so easy to get caught up in our own experiences at time, we forget that they're neither objective nor true for everyone.
 

Bollen

Vintage Member
I'm an aspiring composer. I love classical music. I've been using MuseScore on Ubuntu. Here's a piece I composed:



Good playback is important to me, and I am considering getting

(1) a Mac (I refuse to use Windows, which is why I use Ubuntu)
(2) Sibelius subscription (which cannot run on Ubuntu)
(3) NotePerformer (which cannot run on MuseScore)

I know Sibelius in combination with NotePerformer will give me very good playback, but are there any other options you would recommend?

I am also wondering how I could go about creating a better mockup than the Sibelius and NotePerformer combo? Is it possible to create a mockup that is comparable to or even better than what a live orchestra can record?

I understand I have 3 options when it comes to mockups:

(1) NotePerformer (with Sibelius or another compatible scorewriter)
(2) learn how to do the painstaking work on a DAW
(3) hire a pro to the painstaking work of creating the best possible mockup

Is it possible to export a MIDI (from Sibelius or another compatible scorewriter) with NotePerformer's interpretation? I figure it would then be possible to import the MIDI into a DAW and use a better sound library to create a better mockup.

Would I have any use for EastWest's ComposerCloud, Vienna Symphonic Library, or Overture 5?

What would you advise an aspiring composer who is currently using MuseScore on Ubuntu and is concerned with very good playback and sharing very good mockups?

Speaking as someone (also on Ubuntu!) who started quite, quite late and "made" it in several fields of composition: arranging/orchestrating (nice gig, but not thoroughly creative), media (hated it), film (hated it) and now just writing "classical" (loving every single second of my life!) I suggest, unless you are very rich, to start with these three things:

- Dorico
- Kontakt
- And a Windows machine, because you're going to need the money!

For over a year now I've been using Dorico for all my mockups and I've stopped using my DAW, except for the occasional mixing/mastering. It provides all the tools you need for creating expressive music and leaves you with a great professional looking score! It also has plenty of humanising setting which help a lot!

Kontakt is a good place to start because it comes with a half-decent library of instruments already and if you can make those sound realistic, then the top libraries will be a breeze. EW sucks!

A Windows machine (no matter how objectionable you find them) will cost you a fraction of the money better spent in other areas such as higher end libraries and useful software like Vienna Ensemble Pro.

As a classical composer you won't need Hollywood level mockups (not that Hollywood uses mockups anyway), but you will need to show your work/demos to musicians, conductors and producers. So even though the production quality won't need to be so high, the demos will need to reflect your vision i.e. a good musical performance where the instruments phrase, where the tempo varies, etc.

Finally, enthusiasm is the key! If you don't believe in yourself then it's unlikely anyone else (barring your family and friends) will! I, for one, wonder how many people actually quit just before their opportunity came along...? And as my Dad used to say: it's better to die trying than to never have tried at all...
 
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theaviv

theaviv

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Jenkins' Palladio is OK, but cliche.

It's my favourite classical piece - and trust me, I've listened to all of them. I love it even more than anything Beethoven or Mozart composed. It's passion, it's obsession, it's perfection.

I did a search for Palladio on YouTube and clicked on the top video.

Here are some of the comments I found:

"I need more classical music like this. It has a sense of calmness yet is still energetic and dramatic. Magnificent."

"I turned the radio on in the car and came across this piece of music it was so awesome I got to my destination but parked up and waited to find out who it is. Thank you for sharing this :) Love your video too absolutely perfect for the music :)"

"Thanks a lot for your comment Lynne, it was almost the same story for me. I came across this piece when I was in a museum in Germany and this fantastic piece suddenly came on the museum's playlist. I was immediately hooked."

"Same for me today. I was listening to classic fm and the sound system in my car is fantastic so I turned it up...wow. I know it has been over played on tv add`s etc but I think it is my new favourite classical tune."

"Ah I love this song so much!! There's just something about it, what a wonderful piece. This is definitely one of those songs I could listen to over an over."

"Just listened to it in music class today for the first time...I love it!!!"

"started listening to this because my class is playing it in orchestra but then i grew to really like it"

"The end gives me goosebumps every time"

"I just love this song so much that I HAD to ask my ballet teacher for this. I first couldn't find it but I'm soooo happy that I have found it!!!! Now I can use this music for warming up home too :)))))"

"Wow,,,,What a niece piece ,,,Wow,,,,Superb"

"I agree, it's one of those pieces that when one listens to doesn't easily stop :)"

"I know better than to read comments, yet some say this is not classical music, it is alchemy, same 12 notes many octaves, yet music by definition has an ease to the ear. I defy anyone to not admit this. How about imagine writing this yourself, sillies, then appreciate the genius this is. Pure spirit."

This is the video I pulled the comments from:

 
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