I've been deep into Sibelius for a week, putting together a more detailed score than I usually need. Regulars here may know that I only work with notation when I absolutely have to. For me, black dots on a graph (a score) are only vaguely interesting. It's like having to stare at a blueprint instead of enjoying walking around the actual building the plans represent. Only when I have a specific need for a score do I put one together, and usually it's sketchier than what one sees in print. All the notes are there, but only a suggestion of dynamics, and I don't worry about the cosmetics, like, "OOooh dear, are all my hairpins EXACTLY the same length?"--Things like that.
Well, I want this score to look as publisher-ready as possible, and I also had major re-writing to do, since I was adapting a piece for different instrumentation. Something that took me 2 days to write I've now worked on full time for a week trying to make the notation accurate, legible, beautiful. ARGH! What a pain!--I wouldn't be able to do it without the editing help of a notation expert who is scrutinizing the work to make sure I'm not overlooking things.
This experience gives me a BIG surge of renewed respect for all you notation users on the Forum. Making professional
looking scores is part of your daily routine, and I really don't know how you do it. I would get more facile at it if I did it more often, but right now I cannot imagine ever not being bored to tears with the repetitive tedium of it - move that hairpin a centimeter, move that dynamic marking Juuuust a little bit up. Before this, I have always let the program do the layout automatically, and what it did looked good enough to me. But my editor is a task master, and following his advice is making for a much tidier looking score, I have to admit.
Before this, I've also pretty much let Sibelius spell the notes for me. I import MIDI, set more key signatures if I can see I didn't indicate all of them in Sonar. Sib adjusts the notes as per the key sigs--um--but not accurately. To my horror, I'm having to examine every note to see if it's really been notated properly. I'll be in the key of G, for instance. If I have an F natural, it's apt to be notated as E# instead of F natural--What the...?! And being a very literal program, Sib will also dutifully use lots of double sharps and double flats--yikes - who wants to deal with those? And so hours of more time have been added to the project, using Sib's "respell" function - but then still having to drag individual notes to more logical spellings. What a B - O - R - E - !
But the fact that you guys spend all this time with notation is only part of why I admire you. How you manage to get presentable renderings from notation astonishes me. The average notation rendering is a bit flat in dynamics, tame, almost always low in volume, but still decent. But some of you manage to produce great sounding recordings, and I have no idea how you do that. I'm sure Sibelius is capable for the rendering task, but the sound I get is something I would NEVER share in public. I just use the sounds to keep me on track of where I am as I work in the score. I don't pay attention to the quality, and don't work at making it better. I'm just working as fast as I can so I get out of the program and back to the safety of Sonar!
AND there's more I admire you for. How anyone manages to actually compose this way also blows my mind. This piece I'm notating was already written. I did it in Sonar. As usual, I used my MIDI keyboard, and let the creative juices flow. But once I brought the work into Sib--YIKES! Only then did I see how complicated the piece is. Much of it doesn't have a tone center, so figuring out the best key sigs to use throughout is a challenge. For the several "atonal" sections, I'm using the Atonal key sig which is what Finale calls the Chromatic key sig - No accidentals indicated, completely devoid of key. That way, all the accidentals can fall where they may and musicians don't have to think of being in a particular key while handling all the accidentals. Lines will weave in and out of sharps, flats, naturals - The tone center is constantly shifting, so basically I wrote something that has a different key sig for each measure, but of course that's crazed, and you can't notate anything that way. Using the Atonal key sig is the best thing to do.
BUT - if I would have started writing this piece there in that godawful blank grid of sheet music - I know I would never have written the piece as I did, freely flowing from key to key, happy to be as chromatic as my little anti-diatonic soul would want. I am very sure I would have been more conservative, more conventional. I can't imagine thinking in terms of "Aaah, I need an F# now, and then a Db"--etc--I have to just let the music come, play it, record it. As I compose something like this, I don't care in the least how demanding it could be for musicians who might try to play it later. But there in the notation program, I can now see what a bitch of a piece I've written - and I'm saying, I couldn't have done the same thing if I had started in notation instead of Sonar. But I know people do it. Big round of applause to those capable of composing by inserting blobs on a white grid!
AND one more thing - This might be hard to believe, but before this I have NEVER exported a file from notation in order to work it up into a good recording in DAW software. I know a lot of people do that on a routine basis. They want to get a better demo than they can squeeze out of Finale, Sib, etc., so they export the MIDI and work up all the MIDI data to get it sounding like music again. SO, wanting a demo of the new version of this piece, but not being able to stomach the way it sounds in Sib, I've exported the file and have gone to work making a recording.
It Is A Total Bitch. After I first brought in the tracks - I couldn't believe how embarrassingly lame it sounded to me. Flat, robotic, awful. I knew the job would be big, but I was still horrified to realize the job would be so HUGE.
OMG - all these crazy keyswitches Sibelius has inserted, MIDI controllers I don't need in Sonar, and the flat line velocity values, and the extremely limited dynamics mechanically turned out by the program reading pp to ff - all the notes the same predictable length, no notes overlapping - no natural sloppiness in the start times - the list goes on. It's a mammoth undertaking trying to massage this into actual music.-- Yet, I know you guys do that all the time too.
Amazing - Hats off to the notation users. I admire what you do tremendously. ---And when I'm done with this project, I hope to high heaven I won't have to go back to Notation Hell again very soon!