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Midi vs notation

sIR dORT

Active Member
There's probably been stuff posted on this, but thought I would start a new thread anyway.

I learned to compose in midi before anything else, and so I'm obviously more comfortable with that set of tools. My biggest problem that I've had with notating (I use Sibelius) is the playback of the notes, especially as I learn orchestration right now. How do you find what combinations, doubling, etc. works and what doesn't when everything sounds like crap??

What I have started to do is go midi-notation (mockup and than notate), but know that many composers go the opposite direction, so what do you guys think about my...um...predicament
 

Tacet

Member
Check out Overture 5.

Plenty of feedback here.
I started that thread to enquire about the software and I'm now a happy user.
Fantastic workflow, best of both worlds.

Yes, occasionally you may come across a few glitches, but these get addressed and ironed out over time, and new functionality added.

Lots of info also available in the SonicScores forum.
 
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Spike2000

New Member
I also started Midi first (mainly piano and then started learning about symphonic VSTs). I am not classically trained or anything but I can read music and have been learning orchestration.

After some time going midi/piano/piano roll first, I really started to hate this approach. I can't "see" anything. I recently tried out Dorico and the trial version of Note Performer. I absolutely love working this way. I can easily "see" the music now, can easily try different doublings, combos, etc, and it sounds really good (the instruments, my music...hmmm, it's coming along).

The only caveat for me is that the final sound, while pretty good, will not be as good as if you did it using better vst libraries. So I then "perform" the piece using midi back into the DAW and can make optimize as needed (still need to optimize this part, hope Dorico gets better at helping with this).

Hope to helps.
 

marclawsonmusic

Senior Member
I think it depends on your deliverable. If you goal is an in-the-box orchestral track, then it's probably fine to start in MIDI as long as you feel comfortable orchestrating in the DAW. If your deliverable is a live performance, then you want to spend time in Sibelius / Finale.

With either approach, you will spend time finessing your parts - with hairpins, dynamics, slurs in the score software, or MIDI CCs in the DAW.

Note Performer really changed my outlook about working in notation software. It really does a nice job of playback.
 

JJP

I put dots and lines on paper.
You can go either way. I used to sometimes lay down a quick sketch in a DAW, then move to notation to develop the composition, then go back to the DAW if I needed a nice mockup.

Depending on your DAW, you may be able reference notation while working with MIDI. I like Logic's notation tools for keeping my head together while writing. Settings can be quickly adjusted to get a decent notation reference. The final output is not something I would want to put in front of professional musicians, but it is useful as a guide. I don't know if the notation tools are equivalent or better in other DAWs.

As @marclawsonmusic mentioned, Note Performer is a very handy tool and reasonably priced. I've used it to hear quick reference mockups on a number of occasion which has been helpful to check for wrong notes, etc. I even sent one to a client who wanted a simple, quick audio reference for an orchestration.

The most important thing to remember is that no mockup will give you a true representation of how a composition will sound when played by live musicians. I just finished a project where an orchestrator was being put through a wringer because the composer would take his orchestrations (written for live musicians) and have them mocked up. The composer would demand changes to the orchestration based on the mockup not understanding that live musicians behave differently. It was a nightmare for that poor orchestrator who was being asked to do things that would cause real problems when played live.
 
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purple

Member
I usually screw around at a piano, some up with a quick sketch on paper, and then flesh it out in the DAW with the midi editor. I know people all across the spectrum. Some people who never touch a DAW, some people who only notate when there's live players involved, some who used to notate, some who used to only use the DAW. Whatever gets your ideas into some sort of long term useful format fastest is best IMO. Different for everyone.
 

douggibson

Active Member
I just finished a project where an orchestrator was being put through a wringer because the composer would take his orchestrations (written for live musicians) and have them mocked up. The composer would demand changes to the orchestration based on the mockup not understanding that live musicians behave differently. It was a nightmare for that poor orchestrator who was being asked to do things that would cause real problems when played live.
That sucks !

Theoretically speaking, couldn't the orchestrator just kick it back on them by creating Over-dub staves ? The argument (and a valid one IMO) would be exactly what you outlined above: live musicians behave differently therefore we need to do two takes to augment the sound as done with the mock-ups. The overdubs would not have any bleed from the other take so they can tweak away after too.

Yes, it would take more time but not sure why that hammer drops on the orchestrator. Those are the changes the composer wants......so why not give it to him. Plus more staves for the orchestrator. I am a big fan of "pain money". (ie. you can have me orchestrate for 36 hours straight but it's going to cost ya)

______________________________________________________________________________

I'm not instead in gossip/specifics, but I am curious of what the workflow was to this problem.

So he finalized the scores -- gets revisions based on midi mock-up;

Here I can see a few possible directions

1. Just play nice. Avoid confrontation and treat the gig as a service. Upside, composer likes you and working with you. Downside, as you say "things that would cause real problems when played live."
Well.....that's your work. It's your name on the orchestration and credit.
Internally feel the work is compromised and not 100% my best effort, but hey...it's a gig.

2. Create two scores to work from: Basically this is on the road to "the producer button". That's when on those big old SSL consoles you give a client a channel that does nothing, and ask them to make the adjusts exactly to their liking. Here serve two masters by putting in as much in the score for the composer, but knowing a lot of the suggestion were redundant to begin with, leave out what you can so the players can do their things ( and the recording is actually using your expertise)

3. Either charge extra, or take it in the ass. The only reason it could be a nightmare is extra labor and stress. So it seems either some compensation, and you just bite your tongue and take it. Perhaps there is hope of a long term working relationship, and hope the next gig is better.


Or

4. Simply add on over-dub staves. This way the original orchestration is 100% preserved, and all the extra new stuff is nicely organized as smaller staves underneath. If the orchestrator was correct that upon hearing the first take everything would be there, they can skip the overdub and proceed. It would only take extra time for the things the composer wanted to beef up. Just add an ossia stave to the parts.

It's very interesting situation, and I am sure happens all the time.

Best wishes

Doug
 
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OP
S

sIR dORT

Active Member
Good responses guys, thanks. I'm going to be writing for a string quartet pretty soon that will be recorded in about a month and a half, and I was also wondering if I should try to find the sound I like in midi and than notate it, or just notate it. Thoughts?
 

JJP

I put dots and lines on paper.
Theoretically speaking, couldn't the orchestrator just kick it back on them by creating Over-dub staves ?
If only it had been that simple. This was for a live show, not a recording. The guy was actually pretty crazy. Learned today that he'd already gone through a chunk of good Broadway orchestrators who won't work with him again.

Plus, he'd be changing things just to say he had changed something and want to check all the charts to ensure his changes were implemented. Problem was he'd forget what he requested and make comments like, "Why did you change this? I don't like it." o_O

In the meantime rehearsals were fast approaching and the crew for the show are asking, "Were is the music and the script?" Sad nightmare of a situation. Definitely not a situation where you want a long-term relationship.
 

cmillar

Active Member
Good responses guys, thanks. I'm going to be writing for a string quartet pretty soon that will be recorded in about a month and a half, and I was also wondering if I should try to find the sound I like in midi and than notate it, or just notate it. Thoughts?
Notate it!

If you have a string phrase in your mind that you would like to hear being played, don't depend on a string library to give you what you really intend.

Most sample libraries force you into composing what sounds best (or easiest to accomplish) for that particular library.

You'd need to spend days and weeks trying to find a library to play one phrase you may have in mind ...but might not be sounding like what you're hearing in your imagination and (hopefully) knowing what is perfectly capable of being performed by a real breathing musician.

A real player could play something in 5 seconds that you may spend 5 hours trying to midi-finesse into something listenable....and you may still have to compromise on your original musical intentions.

For a string quartet? Use your imagination, good orchestration/composition techniques, and notate it...then give to real people.

(Note:...ignore any of the above if you just want to sound 'epic' or whatever and are only going to compose to the strengths of your particular sample library. If you just want ostinatos, marcatos, and repeated string figures as in a bombastic movie trailer, then just use one of many sample libraries and go ahead and sound like everyone else.)
 

Saxer

Senior Member
I'm going to be writing for a string quartet pretty soon that will be recorded in about a month and a half, and I was also wondering if I should try to find the sound I like in midi and than notate it, or just notate it. Thoughts?
Late answer... anyway...
I use a simple Rhodes sound in those cases. It's transparent even in the lower register and has more sustain than an acoustic piano. It's neutral enough, rather pleasing and not tiring when listening for a long time.
 

JJP

I put dots and lines on paper.
I use a simple Rhodes sound in those cases.
:geek: I often use a simple vox synth sample that can be found in many GM setups. Same reason, pretty generic and transparent sounding and has longer sustain than a piano. Plus it keeps me from worrying about what the midi sounds like and focused on the actual music.
 
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