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Neophyte question
Last post Fri, Aug 14 2015 by GoranTch, 5 replies.
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Posted on Wed, Jul 01 2015 01:28
by Mike Coffin
Joined on Fri, Jan 09 2015, Posts 18

I have a really basic (i.e., dumb) question, probably because I'm a complete neophyte. What I've been doing for the last year or so is to hook up Sibelius to VE Pro + VIR. Then I write music in Sibelius, previewing as I go. When I'm done, I export and it sounds just like what I've been previewing. 

It seems like the more standard way to go about this is to export from Sibelius to a DAW (or otherwise connect them), do something in the DAW, and export a recording from there. My question is, what happens in the DAW? Is it a matter of tweaking note lengths, timing, etc.? Adding effects?

Posted on Wed, Jul 01 2015 02:22
by Tensivity
Joined on Sun, Dec 16 2012, San Francisco California USA, Posts 272

Originally Posted by: Mike Coffin Go to Quoted Post

I have a really basic (i.e., dumb) question, probably because I'm a complete neophyte. What I've been doing for the last year or so is to hook up Sibelius to VE Pro + VIR. Then I write music in Sibelius, previewing as I go. When I'm done, I export and it sounds just like what I've been previewing. 

It seems like the more standard way to go about this is to export from Sibelius to a DAW (or otherwise connect them), do something in the DAW, and export a recording from there. My question is, what happens in the DAW? Is it a matter of tweaking note lengths, timing, etc.? Adding effects?

Mike, I've had a lot of discussion of this subject and suffer some small degree of angst as someone in your same boat.  I've been recording music for almost 30 years and have used some form of DAW or another for a lot of that time.  However, a couple of years ago I started using Notion, which is a notation program similar to Sibelius.  I've honed my skills with it and I think I've produced some fine work, (https://soundcloud.com/tensivity/my-robin-is-to-the-greenwood-gone as an example) but that's not the point here.

I've gotten a lot of feedback over the last couple of years that somehow my music would be better if I took it to a DAW to adjust timings, note lengths, sound shaping via EQ, etc., but I find that I can do most of that in the Notion environment. 

You'll hear other opinions, I'm sure, but my advice is, don't suffer over it, and don't get discouraged.  Develop a workflow you feel comfortable with, and enjoy it.  I may be wrong, of course, but I believe that the folks who push for the use of DAW do so because they've never tried it "our" way, and they just aren't comfortable with it. 

Will I eventually find a program that combines the best of both worlds?  Maybe.  I'm still looking.  I'm experimenting with Cubase now, and I'm hoping that my old standby Notion finally gets integrated with Presonus Studio One.  I am also going to look at Logic Pro for it's native scoring capabilities, but what's missing there for me is some way of making the expression mapping for VSL libraries work.

Anyway, from one Mike to another...

Have FUN!

Posted on Wed, Jul 01 2015 10:58
by JimmyHellfire
Joined on Tue, Dec 24 2013, Posts 322

The thing is this: when producing music on a computer, you're going through different processes.

Scoring, or writing, is one thing. Some people feel more comfortable scoring "traditionally" in a software like Sibelius. Others have adopted methods and proficiency in writing directly "into the DAW", either by playing all the parts in with a MIDI keyboard, or by clicking in the notes into the piano roll editor.

It doesn't really matter. Both methods are just there to provide the sampler the information about what notes and instruments are to be made to sound where and when.

The real point is that when you're doing music on a computer, working with samples, etc., what you're essentially doing is music production - make no mistake. It's OK if you're using samples and a notation program to formulate a composition and produce an audible reference. But if the end result is supposed to be something "listenable", with musical qualities, something that's supposed to be usable perhaps in a media context or even trick the lay person into believing that they're hearing a real recording - then I don't see how you could bypass the processes of digital music production, and thus, the DAW.

Samples won't sound musical on their own, without any "massaging" in a good MIDI editor. That's an art in itself. This is where all the intended nuances of musical delivery, articulation and phrasing, dynamics etc. are worked in. For example, this is where you would deliberately move and displace notes around the grids of the musical meter to create plausible effects of agogics, rubato etc. Note lengths and envelopes are manipulated to make note durations, accents and releases musical sounding. This is of vital importance especially for runs, ostinati, agile phrases that switch between detaché and slurred playing, etc. Dynamic curves are applied to notes to manipulate the musical expression and to tell the "player" exactly how and when to suddenly become louder, or softer, to advance or fall back, to suppress the motion or to explode.

If we decide to embark on this somewhat bizzare quest of trying to make computers, loaded with pre-recorded, isolated samples of instruments, produce something that somewhat resembles real music, than the MIDI programming makes a world of difference. It's just a whole different process and an art in itself, that comes AFTER the process of writing and notating the music. Let's put it this way: notating in Sibelius or Finale tells the sampler what instrument should play which notes, when and where and by using which technique. The MIDI programming in the DAW tells the sampler everything about the musical delivery, the "interpretation" and the feel of the music. Both processes are equally important.

And then there's the whole other topic - and the next in the series of related work processes - of mixing the music, i.e., making it sound good and pleasing on an audio level. This is another area where an already well written and skillfully programmed piece can be made to shine and come to life even more.

Long story made short: working in a DAW makes sense because it's just a better-suited and more advanced environment for MIDI programming and music production tasks. You may be able to do some of it in a notation program, but that's not what those programs are made for and for "serious" results, I would really really recommend importing the finished score as MIDI into a DAW and take it further from there. One just has to view it as separate processes, and choose the appropriate tools for them.

Most people I know who like to compose in standard notation first and deal with sample programming later, work in dedicated notation software like Sibelius and Finale. The included notation capabilities of DAWs like Cubase or Logic just aren't on par yet. There is however talks of Steinberg developing something new in the notation department and integrating it into Cubase - if I understand correctly, they actually employed the team that developed Sibelius. So perhaps there may be finally something coming up that has the potential to unify the processes of notation, programming and audio production in one package on an overall satisfying level.

Posted on Tue, Aug 04 2015 18:47
by agitato
Joined on Mon, Jun 22 2015, Posts 350

Thank you for your great reply. It helped answer many questions I had too (earlier on this forum).

Anand Kumar
Posted on Fri, Aug 14 2015 15:02
by GoranTch
Joined on Tue, Mar 14 2006, Berlin, Posts 524

Originally Posted by: JimmyHellfire Go to Quoted Post

Samples won't sound musical on their own, without any "massaging" in a good MIDI editor. That's an art in itself. This is where all the intended nuances of musical delivery, articulation and phrasing, dynamics etc. are worked in. [...]

Let's put it this way: notating in Sibelius or Finale tells the sampler what instrument should play which notes, when and where and by using which technique. The MIDI programming in the DAW tells the sampler everything about the musical delivery, the "interpretation" and the feel of the music. Both processes are equally important. 

And then there's the whole other topic - and the next in the series of related work processes - of mixing the music, i.e., making it sound good and pleasing on an audio level. This is another area where an already well written and skillfully programmed piece can be made to shine and come to life even more.

Long story made short: working in a DAW makes sense because it's just a better-suited and more advanced environment for MIDI programming and music production tasks. You may be able to do some of it in a notation program, but that's not what those programs are made for and for "serious" results, I would really really recommend importing the finished score as MIDI into a DAW and take it further from there. 



Spot on. Anybody interested in seriously improving their VSL or sample library work in general should heed the words above...

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