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Topic: Unique - The music (WIP!)

  1. #1

    Unique - The music (WIP!)

    BIG EDIT: The updated music files can be found here:
    and the final score can be found here:

    So do follow the discussion if you wish, or go ahead and listen to the above mp3 and watch the score from there.

    Thank you!

    For those new here.

    -This thread will feature the creation of a piece called Unique For Solo Piano and Trumpet,
    featuring the Authorized Steinway Concert Grand (Pro), and samplemoddeling the trumpet.-

    There is an ongoing discussion about the nature of the piece, the idea ideology concerning the creation of the piece, the fact that this piece will end up in a unique, authentic copy, whilst everyone on the net will also be able to enjoy a version of it. The very idea of the piece revolves around sharing my work process on the forum, for those who are interested.

    THE DISCUSSION IS TAKING PLACE HERE: http://www.northernsounds.com/forum/...ad.php?t=65245

    The piece is heavily based on improvisatory techniques. The very first testament of my effort towards crafting/composing a piece like this (which is actually my first time doing things this way), is the following file:

    Unique - First Take <-Link is here! [128 kbits]

    The above mp3 was created in around 8 minutes (playing time of 7:10, minus 5 secs to get ready in front of the piano, plus time involved in stopping the recording, exporting to audio, etc). There's absolutely no editing in the above mp3.


    A screenshot of the waveform for the whole piece (first take)

    This is why I love the Garritan Steinway so much! Without being careful or anything (you will check the pianoroll screenshot later on), you get fabulous dynamic differences! YAY!

    What seems rather obvious to me, having played the piece, is that I got... tired, twice in the piece. The piece is very heavy and energetic for the most part, as you will listen, notice and see in the screenshots, and I was getting unable to keep up with the pace. So I dropped the dynamics and the whole pace twice. Couldn't last more than 7 minutes after all, even if initial plans had me going for 10 minutes, at least.

    Listening back to the piece, personally, I find that the first energetic part goes for very very long, even if it's only a minute long after all! Somehow this energy makes up for the lack of length or duration of that. I guess energy is the inverse of length (?)


    And here's the pianoroll view of the whole piece in Cubase SL3.

    I believe that this piece has a very specific form, which is shown both from the waveform and the pianoroll view... Up to you to decide.

    Second thing to notice is that I actually, because of the inner energy, I think, never dropped bellow 60-65 velocity. The very low sounding part in the middle and end are all above 50 velocity.

    * The Garritan Steinway has fabulous dynamic range.
    * My Casio PX110 digital piano, is having a tiny bit of trouble in playing soft dynamics. (Note to self: Next time I should edit the velocity curve I think).


    The piece is very rapidly becoming a bi-themed piece. Fast-Slow. In several instances there's plenty of room left for the trumpet to come in, but as it stands this is already too loud, too energetic, too full of itself. So this is one thing that will need editing.

    There is one place in 3:48 where there seems to be something wrong with the audio, like there's a tiny bit of reversed sampling going on. You won't believe how much I enjoyed that, and it gave me plenty of ideas for the future. This first take is certain valuable.


    I find that there is consistency for the most part, as well as coherency in all the piece. I don't think there's a lot to be changed in the harmony, nor in the melodic (rhythmic, cause otherwise there's hell going on) material.


    Next step: Work on the score. A primary draft of a score. Problem with this type of idea is that the piece was not counted with any kind of tempo, so exporting a score from Cubase is a nono! Very sadden by this (just tried it), I will have to use all my abilities is dicté to pull this off.

    See, I'm very used in working with a score and can't handle too well so many notes and such complex harmonies and chord progression in pianoroll view. Thus I need to create the score. Which won't be for another day or two. In the meantime I might, actually, work on the trumpet part, but I'd like to keep this AFTER I'm done with the score.

    Once I have more news on this I will let you know

    THE DISCUSSION IS TAKING PLACE HERE: http://www.northernsounds.com/forum/...ad.php?t=65245

  2. #2

    Re: Unique - The music (WIP!)

    I'm working towards creating the score now. As I said it's a huge mess. You can have a look at the first 3 pages to see what I'm talking about:


    So the issue is becoming a bit more dense. I think that I need to decide what will be kept in and what will be thrown out before creating the score. I think I should just go through the whole piece in Cubase pianoroll and start deleting all "wrong" notes. yay the fun!

    Steve, in the other thread mentioned an idea to input the notes in Finale and then add 2 new staves above to try and copy the notes easier. Not sure if I will end up doing this, after all, but it does sound like a pretty decent idea. Thanks Steve. ^_^

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Re: Unique - The music (WIP!)

    Hi Nickolas,
    I only got as far as 2 part inventions in college.
    I loved playing music only I could appreciate on piano up to the time it gave me corpal tunnel in both hands. This reminds me of what I worked with. The difference is in technique. Writing it down by ear would be a giant task.
    It has the sound of improv. Improv needs theme(s) or it has little meaning. Pure improv would be difficult to ever repeat. It would be different every time.
    Some music lends itself to a feeling-not particular notes or rhythms.
    Good things come from getting out of the "normal."


  4. #4

    Re: Unique - The music (WIP!)

    Hello again, Nikolas - Earlier this morning I posted on your Discussion thread introducing this symposium you've set up at the Forum, and now I'm digesting what you have in part one of your Listening Room portion of the project.

    So you're already wanting to go to notation with what you have for the Piano portion of the piece. Your posting of the PDF is certainly a familiar sight to any of us who have taken a look at what raw MIDI tracks can look like in a notation program.

    Is this a very practical way to get to your goal?

    This post makes me think of several things, offered as my thoughts/reactions:

    --All music is "improvisational" during its genesis. Isn't the act of composition a process of harnessing the limitless possibilities of improv into something which gains form by that act of composition? And as Gary Mosse pointed out, improv as a preserved piece of music can have little meaning without some structure.

    --I found this initial recording to become tedious by about 2/3 the way through. My mind was wanting some over view to impose itself on the relentlessness of the improv.

    --I was mentally subtracting tone clusters in the opening loud section and could hear the theme which was detectable beneath all of it, and I was wanting to hear that theme more clearly.

    --I'm wondering why you're insisting on using only this one improv performance to base the project on. Why not produce multiple versions, 2, 3, 10, 20--Any number of improvisations on the same idea, and then use your sequencer's tools to create a hybrid version which you could be happier with rather than relying solely on the one recording which took you only minutes to lay down?

    --Being an improvised performance, you couldn't record with a metronome. Using a metronome in a sequencer is of course the only way to end up with material which can be built on and which can be accurately notated.

    In Sonar, which I use, there is a great "Fit Improvisation" tool. An un-heard second tracks is created which marks out the demarcations for a tempo map, so that the improvisation can be rendered meaningful in a measure grid. The original improvised track is forced to follow the measures as laid out in the guide track. If Cubase has such a utility, it would be worth using so you could have a cleaner start to the notation part of the project.

    --Preparing a MIDI track for improvisation can also call for quantizing the length of notes, to avoid the dizzying notation of all the fractional rests we see in your PDF.

    --As regards the velocity curve, why not use your sequencer's tools to edit those? Again using Sonar as a reference, I make much use of the MIDI FX tool which applies changes to any selection's velocity performance. Keeping the same relative relationship between the various velocities of notes, a selection can be reduced or increased in volume by percentages. Or crescendos can be created where the velocities were originally on an even plane - and so forth.

    --There are filters in notation to help clean up an imported MIDI file, but the initial file still needs to be prepared before importing, so there's some chance of creating musical order out of the chaos.

    So, my basic reaction is that I feel you need to utilize more tools available, in both your sequencer and your notation program. I feel the raw material needs to be developed and tamed more before you think of going to notation. And I feel that to combine multiple takes of your improv would yield results you could be happier with - there would be less need, for instance, for editing "wrong" notes in the Piano Roll view if you have multiple takes available which have fewer wrong notes in them in the first place.

    We use computer programs in our music creation process. I feel it's only prudent for us to utilize as many tools as possible to help us in the process - rather than insisting that undisciplined input somehow should be what our programs have to contend with.

    It's an interesting process, isn't it though? Whatever our approach to building a piece is, there are always technical issues to contend with. And I think it helps us if we use some degree of discipline so we can better co-exist with the very disciplined software we use.

    Randy B.

  5. #5

    Re: Unique - The music (WIP!)

    Hi Randy,

    It's a pleasure to see, both, your posts.

    To reply in small detail. The reason I'm working on the score is that I'm more comfortable looking at a score, and thus I can work further and change whatever is needed to make the piece "better". Also this way I'll be able to add the trumpet at a later stage, while knowing what the heck is going on and not only by ear.

    I agree to what you say that all music is improvisatory to begin with but after that (and this "that" was a lengthy one this time, for me), it's time to work on and use our/my skills as a composer.

    So my plan is to actually make a somewhat faithful score of this piano part and then work on it, expand it if needed, or make it shorter should it needs to be, find the reasons behind my playing, because I do think it is highly coherent, and then just add the trumpet line and keep on working until done.

    I'm not looking to produce the "best" improvisation and work on that. I'm happy with what I have now, I think it's got great potential and this is what I'm about to find out, by working on the score.

    I use Cubase, and hardly ever for live recording, so I had no idea about the things you're talking about. Maybe it has such functions but they will have to wait a tad longer until I can research upon this.

    Finally, what I'm doing right now is that I'm deducting 'faulty' notes, or notes which are there by accident, and the theme is actually quite clearly heard with the 'new version'.

    Thanks for listening and for all your suggestions which are more than welcome!

    Gary (and Randy): I will repeat that I think there is 2 themes going on there and that it's not pure improvisation. Maybe I'm wrong with the terms, but having this piece in my head for so long, gave some structure I think and some definite 'direction'. I do hope it's there and I'm not being disillusioned...

  6. #6

    Re: Unique - The music (WIP!)

    Hello again, Nikolas - It was a pleasure to get the auto-email alert just now that you'd added more to your interesting thread.

    Yes, I understand that you need to have the Piano part notated so you can start making room for what the Trumpet's line will be.

    What I'm not clear on is why you don't want to work more with the improvisation before getting into the very difficult, tedious job of cleaning it up in notation. I understand there there are probably utilities in Cubase which could help you but which you don't know about yet. Those would be good to explore for working on a project in this manner, instead of the more usual way of using a metronome for recording which vastly reduces these kinds of problems.

    Perhaps it's not good to use the phrase "best improvisation" - I mostly wanted to point out that if you had more takes to choose from, much of the editing work you want to do could be eliminated. I'm not convinced that it's the most productive way to go about doing this project, because in essence you are already "married" to just the one improv performance (8 minutes 'work') of a theme you've had in your head for some time. There's no reason that you wouldn't just as easily come up with other equally valid improvs on the theme, and then you'd have the advantage of having more raw material to choose from and work with- undoubtedly some of which would call for less editing.

    Cubase is as sophisticated a sequencer as Sonar, so there probably is a "Fit Improvisation" tool which would help you out. You could determine what the measures are without changing the performance at all. Something of that sort seems rather essential to do before you start working in your notation program.

    I just feel that you're going to be getting bogged down with a lot of time consuming and tedious editing, when you could set the project up to be less cumbersome in the first place.

    Once you're ready to start work on the Trumpet's line, won't you be wanting to develop it by improvisation also? - How do you picture tackling that part of the project? Do you mean that will be completely developed in notation, rather than organically the way you're developing the Piano part?

    OH the other question I had - You said you'll be using a sample modeling, physical modeling Trumpet - what's the source for the instrument?

    Interesting stuff, Nikolas!


  7. #7

    Re: Unique - The music (WIP!)

    Hi Nikolas, heres my twopennyworth - so far that is

    Many years ago now I improvised a piece of music straight into Cubase, but I wanted later to expand it and make something more of it. I hadn't used the metronome or click track and the score looked ridiculous.

    As you will know, a score is a very rigid document around which the player can be flexible. But it doesn't work the other way, if you quantise the music you are likely to lose the feel.

    So this is what I suggest you do. Put the score on two staves, having quantised a copy of the midi file, there are many settings that you can use, like removing short rests. This will give you an reading of the score that you can use for working purposes. There is little point, in my opinion, in getting the timing exact; as it was improvised the timing wasn't exact to start with.

    You really need to lose bar lines as well - see lots by Erik Satie and others - (don't think Cubase does this, tho).

    In my experience, if you get the timing right ( or at least readable) in the score you will lose the "feel" of the piece.
    Things may come and things may go but the art school dance goes on forever
    NOW WITH Cubase 5, JABB,GPO, Fender Strat, Ibanez RG, Yamaha Fretless Bass, Framus Archtop, The Trumpet and Mr T Sax, together with GREEN SEALING WAX

  8. #8

    Re: Unique - The music (WIP!)

    Hi Randy, once more!

    Because, as a personal feeling, I think that I need to put some percent of trust in my instincts and my abilities as an improviser, but also put A LOT of work into making this improvisation "better", or whatever word should be there. I do think that I need to have better control of what will happen in the piece finally, rather than let "luck", or "habit" take over finally. Thus working on the score, as we speak!

    At the moment I'm not editing, I'm transcribing (and needed a break away from it!). I'm at 1 minute, 1/7th of the piece is done and the rest seems easier (slower parts, less dissonance, less 7 pitch chords... ouf). The editing will, hopefully take the form of composing, rather than editing. I do hope to add creative work to this already laid out base.

    I think that I'll work on the trumpet by score, only. I've done the improvising part and hopefully the filled with instinct piano part will be enough to guide the trumpet as well. I mean, honestly, there's enough material for a full symphony in that 7 minutes of piano. If only it was developed properly. Don't plan on taking away the 'natural' feeling, but I do plan on working further. Otherwise I wouldn't be much in control of what's coming out would I? (at least not in a conscious level)...

    The trumpet is from samplemodelling. A fabulous instrument. But this remains to be developed at a later stage.


    I'm simplifying the score actually. There's tons of notes which make little to no difference. I'm trying things in the piano a little, I'm editing slightly the piano roll, but mainly I'm deducting what should sound, instead of the inscriptive scribblings that are now there in the midi track.

    I love the way that Messiaen tackles scores and barlines: He used barlines but wherever he needs it, without the need for time signature. Barlines represent mostly phrases, or accents, that's all. This is what I plan on doing. Either way, most of the piece is in 4/4, so there's little need for changing that.

    I do hope that I won't get the timing exactly "right" I'd be a sick thing to do.



    I'm working on the score, as I said earlier. I've done 1 minute of the track, wihch means that I'm close to the first slow part. Hoepfully this part will flow quicker. There is great consistency actually and the rhythms are really laid out, as well as the harmony which seems to make perfect sense. Once I have something tangible to show you I will post the score as well as some analytical thoughts.

    I'm getting anxious to move on to the next part of composing for the trumpet, but I have to hang on and wait, be patient. Damnit!

  9. #9

    Re: Unique - The music (WIP!)

    Hi Nikolas,

    I lack the technical knowledge to participate seriously in the discussions around this - but let me say that I enjoyed the improvisation and I am looking forward to the finished result. I think it will be stunning, especially with addition of trumpet - and your methodology will certainly provide food for thought. I will be following progress with interest.

    Good luck and thanks for giving us the opportunity to see this unfold.

    Regards, Graham

  10. #10

    Re: Unique - The music (WIP!)

    Hi Nikolas,
    I am the first to admit that I know next to nothing about contemporary music. To be honest, my first listening the first 1:16 sounded like random pounding to me. I'm on my 4th listen now and can honestly say that I hear a great deal more than I did my first time through. I hear melody and harmony, something I would never have thought to be able to do. It is kind of like looking at those graphics when if you look at it one way it looks like one thing and when you look at it another way it looks like something completely different. I'm learning!

    There are sections to the piece that I can see supporting an entirely different piece. They are developed well and submerse me into different places. Very well done!

    Adding the trumpet is an exciting prospect to me. I really look forward to hearing it.

    As far as multiple takes and scoring goes, I think the one take idea with development during the scoring is an interesting approach. It keeps the piece both raw and alive.

    We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams …
    24" 2.4 Ghz iMac, OSX 10.4.10, MOTU 828 MKII, 2 Glyph 250 Gig external drives, Logic 9, Finale 2008 GPO, JABB, Strad, Gro, Reason 4, EWQL Storm Drum, Adrenaline, Symphonic Choirs, SO Gold,All Arturia Synths, Many NI Synths, Spectrasonics Synths, KH Strings, VEPro on a Windows 7 4x 2.8 Ghz 12 gig of RAM

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