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Topic: Composers/arrangers -- do you notate before or after sequencing? What software?

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  1. #1
    Senior Member Richard Berg's Avatar
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    Composers/arrangers -- do you notate before or after sequencing? What software?

    Despite having lurked here for a couple years, I haven't made the leap to sample-based composing yet. (Despite being a huge computer nerd I turned in half my college assignments on pen & paper...) After threads like this it's definitely dawning on me that large instrumental scores will look much different when entered into Sonar than they would on staff paper, or even on Finale.

    So my question is: for people who have gotten over the Giga learning curve, are you so used to making dozens of articulation tracks etc. etc. that you put your ideas directly into that form, or do you make more traditional sketches first? If the latter, what do you use? If the former, how do you make printable copies -- export via basic MIDI files & do massive cleanup, or re-notate from scratch?

    (Funny side note: back in the days of Finale '98, their input tools were so annoying [couldn't even drag a note around without switching tools, etc.] that I "notated" in Cakewalk and imported later.)

  2. #2

    Re: Composers/arrangers -- do you notate before or after sequencing? What software?

    It depends.

    First case: Let's say you hear a simple idea in your head. In that case, just play it into the sequencer and notate later.

    Second case: It's a fairly simple piece with a tough bit, say a jazz piece that has a few complex bars of sax/trumpet/bone sections. I notate the complex parts on scratch paper and jam the rest.

    Third case: A big orchestration. I strive to notate on five staves, jot down the instruments to be used and the dynamics I want, then play it in and notate later. (Emphasis on "strive".) I may embellish the scratch notation during the performance phase. I like using a stacked instrument of full-keyboard strings and piano (strings for sustain and piano for attack) when working out the ideas for the five staves. Compose first, orchestrate second.

    Fourth case: A complex fugue or intricate counterpoint. Notate, notate, notate. Then play it in.

    When notating you can save a copy of your sequence, quantize, then save to MIDI. Open that in Sibelius or Finale. That gives a good starting point, and may help you avoid errors.

    In many cases notation isn't needed. Playing the parts in real time is fast and can give the most human performances - even if you have to hand tweak afterwards.

    Regarding not doing formal notation: the fastest way to speed up a process is not to do it at all.

    -JF

  3. #3

    Re: Composers/arrangers -- do you notate before or after sequencing? What software?

    If lead sheets are considered notation in this post then I:


    1) put down audio demo of song

    2) write a lead sheet of melody/chords/lyrics

    3) arrange everything using the lead sheet as guide

  4. #4
    Senior Member
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    Re: Composers/arrangers -- do you notate before or after sequencing? What software?

    I do what Erstinen does - compose with MIDI and then notate.

    I also, once a piece is fairly complete, will copy the file and use the copy for notation purposes. So often to make MIDI sound right, a note may have to be in a certain position or a certain duration that would be wrong if notated that way. So I go back and correct much of the MIDI stuff that makes it sound right, in order to properly print out the score.

  5. #5

    Re: Composers/arrangers -- do you notate before or after sequencing? What software?

    I scribble on paper, then notate using Score (a notation program), then sequence, then scribble some more, then notate some more, then finalize the sequence. New website has a partial score for the overture I've been working on, and links for recordings (earlier version was posted in demos here at Northern Sounds) -- Guglielmo music is the new site, and a direct link to the score sample . Lots of not-yet-finished links on the index page, so don't bother trying most of them!

  6. #6

    Re: Composers/arrangers -- do you notate before or after sequencing? What software?

    Depends on where I am and what I'm doing, as Jon pointed out. If I'm writing individual lines, I tend to write them out first, as the lines well certainly not look the same in Sonar when I midi them in. For orchestration, if I have an idea of what I want, I will write it out in short score. If not, I'll experiment with the samples.

    Usually it's sketches of a skeleton, MIDI, then Finale. A long process.
    Steven J. Kukla
    Kuklamusic.com

  7. #7
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: Composers/arrangers -- do you notate before or after sequencing? What software?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve_K
    Depends on where I am and what I'm doing, as Jon pointed out. If I'm writing individual lines, I tend to write them out first, as the lines well certainly not look the same in Sonar when I midi them in. For orchestration, if I have an idea of what I want, I will write it out in short score. If not, I'll experiment with the samples.

    Usually it's sketches of a skeleton, MIDI, then Finale. A long process.
    That's my workflow. Sketch, sequence, expermiment, and if notation is needed, do that after the piece "works." Most of the time, for me, the notation needed is the occasional replacement-part, etc. My economic engine, so to speak, is based upon the profit-model of being a one-man shop.

  8. #8

    Re: Composers/arrangers -- do you notate before or after sequencing? What software?

    This is probably an oddball question, but since most of my stuff is written to be performed in the concert hall at this point, (as opposed to being written for games and digital mediums), I'm wondering....

    Who do you use as a paper supplier?

    So far, I've come across www.paperplus.com, which offers a lot of unique paper sizes and things. Usually, I just bring a ream of 11x17 70lb paper in to my copy shop and I've got an associate there who works with me and'll cut the scores to whatever size I need. But, I still need to provide my own paper.

    Thoughts? Cheaper solutions?
    Steven J. Kukla
    Kuklamusic.com

  9. #9

    Re: Composers/arrangers -- do you notate before or after sequencing? What software?

    steve k -- don't know to whom you are addressing the question ... but I'll try an answer anyway: I prepare a single page template for music paper, just as if it were for octavo printing. Then take it to an offset printer, specify 25% cotton paper, and print at least 2000 copies (for economy). I have six or eight standard notation paper formats now, on 8 1/2 x 11 and 8 1/2 x 14 paper, many reams of each. It ends up costing a few cents a page and gives dollars of satisfaction! The good quality paper feels good and the offset printing lets you use any kind of pen or pencil that suits without rejecting ink or smearing or scratching off (as photocopying does). You can even put your own copyright info on each page, or some kind of commercial identification. Works for me, anyway -- I haven't bought music manuscript paper in any other format in 15 years.

    Guglielmo

    Edit -- the above is for WRITING paper; for printing scores, I bought a large-format laser printer to print my own up to 12 x 21" , for low-volume print runs; I use Chernay printers (east coast usa) for larger volume print runs, because they can end up printing 1000 - 5000 copies for less than my toner plus paper costs. Of course, you PAY for your own mistakes when you get into quantity printing.

  10. #10

    Re: Composers/arrangers -- do you notate before or after sequencing? What software?

    Thanks for the response; I was writing the question to whomever it concerned. By paper, I mean printing paper, not staff paper, sorry. If I want staff paper, I do what you do and create blank Finale templates.

    Yeah, I have a low-end Brother 440 Laser... Doesn't do the weird sizes though, like 10x13, so at present, I print my master copies of scores on legal paper, and take them to my copy shop. Then they center it and blow it up to whatever I need, make it uniform, coil bind it, give me an awesome vinyl backing, acetate cover, and I'm good to go.

    I asked about a paper supplier because if I bring in my own paper for them to use, the price drops dramatically--from 30 cents a page down to 5 cents. Which saves me about 10 dollars on average. Plus it looks great, and I dont have to do the binding machine deal...
    Steven J. Kukla
    Kuklamusic.com

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