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Topic: OT - Questions for Notation Software Users

  1. #1

    OT - Questions for Notation Software Users

    Hello -

    As mentioned in many past posts here, I use sequencing software when composing. I've been sequencing for over 2 decades now. Because of this, I'm quite comfortable with using sequencing software. I have a few different kinds of sequencing software, actually, including Apples Logic Pro (as well as the older version of EMagic's Logic), Cakewalk's Sonar (and older versions software), and Steinberg's Cubase.

    However, I've also owned the Finale notation program for many years as well; owned various version of Finale since 1998. The only times I use Finale are for simple church music & choral arrangements, and for new Too Live Nurse vocal arrangements. I've never used Finale for any kind of large orchestral composition/arrangement, though.

    Well, I would like to begin creating clearer notated music of my modest orchestral compositions. I hope to, someday, submit these orchestral compositions to various targeted orchestras (college orchestras, regional orchestras, etc.). (It's my middle age crisis at work, here. I actually hope to hear one of my orchestral compositions performed by a real orchestra sometime before I die. LOL! )

    So. . . I started using Finale 2009 (the latest version of Finale that I own) for a new piece that I am writing.

    It ain't easy! I get triplet notated eight notes when all I want are "straight-eight" notes; I get untied notes into the next measure when I actually want tied note into the next measure; I get enharmonic spellings which I do NOT desire (for one passage, I'd rather have a C-flat rather than a B-natural, etc). Now, to be clear, I KNOW how to format Finale to get the correctly named flat & sharp notes; I know how to set up Finale to have less triplet notated eight notes: I know how to configure Finale so that there would be tied noted across bar measures. I also know how to correct the notes that are not notated correctly (for whatever reason).

    But I still get undesired rhythms and undesired enharmonically spelled notes. And, to correct them all is very, very labor intensive. UGH!!

    I have a pretty strong computer system. I have a MacPro with 8 GB's RAM, still using the Leopard operating system, have 4 internal drives, and have a very reliable sound card (Motu's 2408 MK3). The processing power seems to all be there, therefore the latency should to be quite low (which should help keep notation mistakes down to a minimum). My input keyboard is M-Audio's Keystation Pro 88. It's always proven to be reliable for my sequencing projects with my current computer set up, therefore it should be reliable when working with Finale.

    With regards to my playing, because I've been sequencing for a long time (sequencing to a computerized click track) my playing is quite metronome-like. It's very steady and very accurate to the click, click, click!

    So. . . here are my questions (finally):

    1) How can I get Finale to notate the rhythms correctly?

    2) What suggestions might you have to more frequently get correctly spelled notes (rather than the undesired enharmonic spelled notes)?

    3) Is it normal to have to tweak the rhythm and enharmonic spellings so often?

    4) What is YOUR methodology in using your notation program for your orchestral compositions?

    5) Would it be easier to just "cut and paste" the midi events from my sequencing program to Finale?

    I suppose I could use the notation feature associated with the Logic program. However, it doesn't look as nice as Finale and it doesn't seem to be any easier.

    Thank you in advance. . .

    Kind regards!

    Music and humor are healthy for the soul.

  2. #2

    Re: OT - Questions for Notation Software Users

    I may have missed it, but, what note-entry method are you using?

    If you are using hyperscribe, the only thing I can say is: no matter how metronomic you THINK your playing is, it ain't.

    I use keyboard entry via Speedy Entry, and have been doing so since Finale 3 (not Finale 2003... we're talking prehistory here).

    The best thing is (in my opinion) to have one hand on the MIDI keyboard, and one hand on the numeric keypad of your PC.. err... Mac, sorry.

    Play the notes in on the keyboard, changing the note values on-the-fly with your other hand on the computers numeric pad.

    Enter articulations, expressions, slurs, etc.. later.

    For the enharmonic issue, set the enharmonic spelling option to whichever suits the passage you are working on at the time. I often switch regularly between "Favour sharps" and Favour Flats" and the default enharmonic treatment).

    Hitting the "9" on your numeric keypad will alter the enharmonic spelling of any given note should you need one.

    Cutting and pasting will certainly be easier.. but it won't give you good notation.

    The only thing to do is actually LEARN to use Finale. It's quite a powerful program. It has some things that might seem a bit esoteric at first, but it's logical, really, it is.

    Learn to enter music in sequential passages... enter notes, then expressions and articulations and slurs. You will get a good "order of things" for how you work eventually. You can't enter everything at once unless you use Simple Entry (a ridiculously misnamed feature if ever there was one).

    I thoroughly detest entering music in Simple Entry. It reminds me of Sibelius. however, I have read that you can enter notes, articulations and other notational items all without changing tools, directly in Simple Entry. However, it is a bit harder to enter notes with a MIDI keyboard. At least, in my experience.

    Oh, and... DO THE TUTORIALS.

    Really. Do them. They're there for a reason.

  3. #3

    Re: OT - Questions for Notation Software Users

    What he said... especially the part about the tutorials! Finale is an insanely deep program, I've been using it since the late 1990s, and I still find features and tricks I did not know about.

    Then there is the dirty little secret... we don't play what is written, none of us, never. And composers and arrangers don't write what they really want to hear.

    Music notation (standard, tab, whatever) is necessarily a limited, and flawed system. Or rather certain conventions and expectations have been adopted over the years so that it really doesn't matter that, more often than not, we can't notate exactly what we play.

    Quote Originally Posted by efiebke View Post
    So. . . here are my questions (finally):

    1) How can I get Finale to notate the rhythms correctly?
    I'm not sure I'm going to answer your question because I'm not sure what you mean.

    If you just play something into a MIDI sequencer and then import that MIDI into Finale (or just play it into Finale) it's going to look very strange, with TONS of ties, and more flags than a military exercise (think 64th notes<G>!) It comes down to that humans play things with feel - hopefully - and notation doesn't do a real good job of notating "feel".

    If you are entering the notes manually then it's just a matter of deciding, for yourself, when you might want to use triplets and when you might want to use dotted notes, etc. You can get close, and most people that are trained to read will read dotted differently than triplets, as an example.

    Quote Originally Posted by efiebke View Post
    2) What suggestions might you have to more frequently get correctly spelled notes (rather than the undesired enharmonic spelled notes)?
    When you find out let me know! The key signature does a really good job of controlling spelling for notes that are altered by the key signature. Everything else is a gamble. There are options that let you set rules for spelling, but I find it quicker to just go in and correct things that are spelled oddly. Each version seems to get a bit better at spelling.

    Quote Originally Posted by efiebke View Post
    3) Is it normal to have to tweak the rhythm and enharmonic spellings so often?
    It depends! If you are doing really simple music then I'd expect corrections to be minimal. Anything of any complexity will make things... more interesting. You can use the library options to control spelling to a pretty good degree, but rhythmic corrections, if you are playing it in, are a given.

    Quote Originally Posted by efiebke View Post
    4) What is YOUR methodology in using your notation program for your orchestral compositions?
    I use speedy entry almost exclusively. I seldom know much more than the melody when I start a piece anyway, so I use the staff paper as a tool to flesh out my arrangement or orchestration. That happens to lend itself nicely to speedy entry.

    Quote Originally Posted by efiebke View Post
    5) Would it be easier to just "cut and paste" the midi events from my sequencing program to Finale?

    Here's the problem, and I'm not sure why no one has addressed it, but they haven't, and not for any lack of complaining on my part... MIDI data is reasonably precise, it will start a note 941 ticks after the last event if that's what you do on the keyboard. And there is not clean representation of that in standard notation. Similarly, even if you could press three keys in such a way that the associated switches closed at EXACTLY the same time, the process of scanning the keyboard will record those contact closures at slightly different times. Thus the chord you expect to be notated as three half notes played at the same time will appear as a really strange arpeggio.

    It would, at least in theory, be possible to put into place rules for quantizing a performance. I know this to be true because once (and that's it) I successfully set up the quantization in Sonar to correct the notation of a piece. The problem was that the piece sounded terrible. So what is really needed is a way to quantize only for representation... and I've asked both Makemusic and Cakewalk for exactly this.

    Quote Originally Posted by efiebke View Post
    I suppose I could use the notation feature associated with the Logic program. However, it doesn't look as nice as Finale and it doesn't seem to be any easier.
    I have not used the notation feature in the current release of Logic, but I have found, over the years, that notation in a sequencer is just another way of looking at the data, I don't consider them to be replacements for a focused scoring tool like Finale or Sibelius.

    My best advice would be to just relax, and enjoy the differences between performance and notation... but enjoy is probably not the word I'm looking for<G>!
    Bill Thompson
    Audio Enterprise

  4. #4

    Re: OT - Questions for Notation Software Users

    Michel is correct - that is the method I use as well and I believe it is the best method for accurate results. I know it seems tedious but coming from years and years of producing scores and parts by hand with an Osmiroid pen, my right hand thanks me every time I hit the "print" button! Hang in there. It's just one more layer, like producing recordings or marketing / promoting, of your work.

    Hope that helped.
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    NW Illinois

    Re: OT - Questions for Notation Software Users

    It sounds to me like you're importing your sequencer midi files into Finale. If I'm mistaken, I'm sorry.

    Importing a midi file into Finale and correcting the various elements is the most labor intensive way of working. I worked as a copyist on a film where I did just this. I received midi files and mp3's of each cue. Then I imported into Finale and while listening to each recording, I edited the notation not to exactly was being played, but to what the correct notation should be so musicians wil play it like the recording. It was expensive for the client because of the labor involved.

    For example, the midi file might give you a measure of:
    16th note, dotted 8th rest, 16th note, dotted 8th rest, 16th note, dotted 8th rest, 16th note, dotted 8th rest.

    Do you leave that as is? Do you change it to:
    8th note, 8th rest, 8th note, 8th rest, etc...

    Or do you notate it as 4 quarter notes with staccato markings?

    There's no correct answer, it'll all depend on the situation. But the bottom line is that your orchestrational knowledge must come in to play here to make the correct choices. Plus you'll need to add dynamics, slurs, articulations, tempo markings, tempo alterations, etc....

    Anyway you look at it, it's a lot of work.

    It is a much better workflow if a notated score is your goal, to start in a notation program, export to a sequencer for tweaked playback.

    Good luck,

  6. #6

    Re: OT - Questions for Notation Software Users

    +1 for Speedy Entry. Hyperscribe is just more trouble than it's worth. I input music in step time with my left hand on the MIDI keyboard and my right hand on the number pad, and I have almost complete control.

    One tip; I use the TGtools "Menu Shortcuts" plug-in (included with Finale) to remap "Favor Sharps" to F9 and "Favor Flats" to F10, so I can toggle between them with a single keystroke. Saves a lot of time.
    Dan Powers

    "It's easier to be a composer than it is to compose."
    --Ray Luke (1928-2010)

  7. #7

    Re: OT - Questions for Notation Software Users

    First, thank you all very much for the thoughtful replies.

    Yep. I use "Hyperscribe" to input the notes. As everyone seems to agree, it can be a hassle. I just wish it was more accurate with the rhythms. I have low latency and I am pretty rock-solid with playing with the tempo and I STILL get rhythm errors.

    However. . . thank you for reminding me about the "Speedy Entry". I forgot all about that particular function. I might try this function as an alternative to "Hyperscribe". It seems like I'll have more control with the rhythm and correctly named notes, although it also seems that "Speedy Entry" ain't all that speedy.

    A couple of people suggested to review the tutorials. Good idea! LOL! I might just do that! (I'm one to have lots of manuals get dusty as they sit on my desk unopened! LOL!)

    It doesn't seem that cut & pasting from an existing midi sequence project will work well. Although it probably can be done, there seems to exist a LOT of fine tuning which will result in lots of extra labor and hours spent.

    But, no matter how you look at it, it's going to take a LOT of time, I guess. There's the note input, then the expression marks input, then all of the other tweeking and editing that needs to take place to get a nice looking score. I guess I just have to learn the program and be patient. Ugh! LOL!

    Take care, folks. . . and Happy Composing!

    Music and humor are healthy for the soul.

  8. #8

    Re: OT - Questions for Notation Software Users

    Let me toss out an alternate work-flow that works well for me - two actually...

    If I am working primarily from manuscript paper (real or virtual) then I pretty much ignore the performance aspect, or rather I let my imagination handle that. I work within Finale, and I use Speedy Entry (which is about as speedy as you imagine), and I end up with a score that is my benchmark. I then export to MIDI, usually without HP enabled, although over the last couple of years the output has improved significantly.

    I import the MIDI data into Sonar, assign tracks to synthesizers, and start tweaking. Sometimes I just need to move a couple notes around in time, or delete some controller messages, I like it when that happens. Sometimes I end up playing the part back in from keyboard and/or guitar - still strictly MIDI.

    I try very hard to stay in the MIDI domain until I have it where I want it, but sooner or later I am going to replace guitars, basses, mandolins, and anything else I have around the house with audio recordings of the real things.

    Yes, that does mean that the notation may not represent exactly what is recorded, but most of the time that does not bother me, since if it ever gets to another live player they are going to put their personality into it anyway.

    I will then sit and listen to the final piece while following along with the score. If there are glaring problems I will correct them in Finale.

    I'd guess that in the last three or four years that work-flow covers more than half my work. For the rest, I start in Sonar, and I stay in Sonar till it's done. I may start with audio tracks or MIDI tracks, it really does not seem to matter. I just bash away till it's done.

    Then, if I need a written score I'll export the MIDI tracks to a plain old MIDI file, and I'll quantize the output to 8th or maybe 16th notes, allowing for tuplets. It never ceases to amaze me how close this can get. I'd like to think I'm a pretty steady player, but in fact when the computer is counting 960 ticks for each quarter note I'm very sloppy! VERY sloppy. So I quantize out the timing "issues" that would affect written output.

    It's fun to stop and listen to the MIDI tracks in their quantized form... it probably will not sound all that good, or rather all that musical. It can, I've learned, uncover problems in an arrangement that get glossed over by playing technique. That's helpful.

    That leaves the audio tracks, which still have to be transcribed. Most of them will be guitar tracks, and after teaching guitar for the last too many years I've become very fast at transcribing guitar parts<G>! I usually include both tablature and standard notation, unless I think the choice of chord shapes is terribly obvious, or doesn't matter. I tend to leave a lot of the really arcane details out of the score, mostly because I guess I figure I'm likely to be the only one who will play it, and I won't (I hope) have to read it note for note.

    By isolating, as best I can, the domains of MIDI event data and written notation I've found I can get the best of both worlds.
    Bill Thompson
    Audio Enterprise

  9. #9

    Re: OT - Questions for Notation Software Users

    Hi, Ted - I admire your ambition on this. As you said in your last post after all the helpful replies you've gotten, you know it's just going to take a LOT of time---Oh my. I get so impatient with the incredibly slow pace I can work at in Sib, I haven't gone into the program for months - I get the shakes just thinking about it!


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