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#1375479 - 02/16/10 11:48 AM Help with composing software
Nikorasu Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/01/10
Posts: 66
I almost posted this in the Composer's Lounge, but I couldn't seem to find any other topic related with software or anything from the 21th century for that matter so I decided to come here in the end, hope I'm not wrong =).

Since I started playing piano I've also been toying with any software I could find / test / borrow, because I want to compose some day and by that time I think it would be a good idea to know a little bit about how the computer can help me with that.

So far I've tested Pianoteq software, which sounds great but as far as I know is nothing else than a piano "simulator" and Ableton Live 8, which seems to be too focused on electronic music and live improvisation.

While it may just be that I don't know how to use these programs right, I feel they aren't exactly what I'm looking for. Could you please give me a little rundown of the most useful / popular programs to help with composing / arranging music using a midi keyboard?

Thanks!

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#1375493 - 02/16/10 12:07 PM Re: Help with composing software [Re: Nikorasu]
jscomposer Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/08
Posts: 537
Loc: The Boogie Down
You need a sequencer. I.e., something that allows you to record, arrange, and edit MIDI. Stuff like Pianoteq is what gives you the sound. But you need the MIDI to lay it all out.

I use Pro Tools, but Logic is supposed to be particularly great for composing and arranging MIDI. A friend of mine raves about Reason, but I'm not familiar with it.
_________________________
Joshua Seth plays Joshua Seth

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#1375496 - 02/16/10 12:13 PM Re: Help with composing software [Re: Nikorasu]
ChrisA Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 3841
Loc: Redondo Beach, California
Originally Posted By: Nikorasu
Could you please give me a little rundown of the most useful / popular programs to help with composing / arranging music using a midi keyboard?



I use Apple's Logic. In profesional recording studios Logic is like the 2nd most common softaware. But by far the #1 industry standard is ProTools by DigiDesign. "PT" can be very exppensive (5 figures) but comes in a lite version for about $300. Logic is Mac only but PT runs on both Mac and Windows. After these two I'd say CuBase. It also runs on mac and PC and has an expensive and afordable version. In fact CuBase is popular because it is many time bundled for "free" with some audio and MIDI interfaces and now with some Yamaha DPs.

Choose the software based on the level of third party support. Look for books are Amazon, training DVDs are music stors and so on.

When you say "composing software" it's hard to know what you want. You'd have to describe your work flow. But I think Logic has it all covered. It can play things like Pianoteq as plug-ins and it has notation editing and I can cut and past notes and transpose them to change the key. Logic comes with a huge number of loops so you can lay down a drum beat or fill in a part with something generic. The others, PT or CuBase can do the same thing but each is strongest is some areas. PT is slightly stronger with audio and Logic with Midi. But both are good enough to used are the core software in major label recording studios

If you want something that can write music for you look at
"One Man Band" and "Band in a Box". Both of these can create accompaniment parts.


Edited by ChrisA (02/16/10 12:15 PM)

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#1375502 - 02/16/10 12:17 PM Re: Help with composing software [Re: jscomposer]
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5261
Loc: Europe
You're asking so many questions with you little one, that this thread will end up being huge!

You need the following things:

A sequencer. Like jscomposer says it's something that allows you to record, arrange, edit MIDI AND audio, as well as placing effects (plug-ins) and other things.
Sequencers: Logic,
Reason
Ableton Live
Cubase
Sonar
Pro Tools
Amplitude
Reaper (t's not freeware, but its trial version is free without limitations).
Audition (free and rather limited).

Then you need sounds. Samples, or synths. MIDI information does not contain the actual sound, but only all the parameters to how the sound would sound, without any audio though, or waveforms and such. So a MIDI event (eg. note) will have the note, the octave, the duration, start and end point, expression, pedalling, velocity, volume and another 100 controllers more or less, but no sound will come out unless you load one.

Samples are recorded audio (eg. a piano at every note, in many different dynamics) which are reproduced every time you hit a note.
Synths recreate algorithmically a sound. (Physical modelling recreates the way the instrument works algorithmically, but it still is basically a synth).

Notable companies:
Samples:
Garritan
EastWest/Quantum Leap
VSL (Vienna Symphonic Library)
Kirk Hunter
Samplemodelling
Project SAM
and others
Physical modelling:
Modartt (Pianoteq already mentioned)
WIVI (Wallander Virtual Instruments)
and others, which I can't recall right now.

some of the sounds are 'dry' (like coming from inside a computer), while others are 'wet' (recorded in a hall to sound more natural). Ways to wet some 'dry' samples can be found, like using Reverb (software which emulates the reverbarations of a hall), in various different ways. These are used as "plug-ins" (plugged into your sequencer, virtually). Other plug-ins include EQ (equaliser), Gates, Compressors, and God knows what else...

You might also need notation software. While most sequencers have basic notation features, a dedicated program will do much better. The main ones are:
Finale
Sibelius
and
Notion

Google all names mentioned, cause I have absolutely no time to provide links right now, but it should be sufficient I hope.
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#1375547 - 02/16/10 01:04 PM Re: Help with composing software [Re: Nikolas]
ChrisA Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 3841
Loc: Redondo Beach, California
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
You're asking so many questions with you little one, that this thread will end up being huge!

You need the following things:

A sequencer. Like jscomposer says it's something that allows you to record, arrange, edit MIDI AND audio, as well as placing effects (plug-ins) and other things.....


Everything he said is right. And he gave you enough good search terms for Google that you can spend a week or two reading.

But while you do need all that stuff if you just get something like "Logic Express" it was all the required functionality for $199. It has software synths, about 1,000 sampled instruments, loops, notation and editing and so on and so on. Then later if you find some part of it not up to your standards you can upgrade just one part at a time with (say) better piano samples from Garison. Or if the quality of your sheet music engraving is not as good as you like buy Finale (Logic can exchange data with Finale.)

So what I'm saying is start with a broad "framework" or foundation and then move one small step at a time from there. I would NOT buy more than one software package every 6 months or so. Start with something that is very general purpose.


No. I take that back. Start by reading some books. Buy a book on each of the software that you think you want.

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#1375576 - 02/16/10 01:28 PM Re: Help with composing software [Re: ChrisA]
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5261
Loc: Europe
Oh certainly.

For me I'd start with buying (to be fair) a license of Reaper (aroudn 60$ for non commercial use), and then get something from Garritan, or Eastwest. I hope it's not seen as spamming, but Garritan Personal Orchestra is around 200$, and the Eastwest Quantum Leap symphonic library Gold edition is around 500$ or so and silver around 200$. Both contain most orchestral sounds, at rather good quality and a piano, which is more than enough to get you started.

There are other piano libraries, if you're dedicated at piano, like truepianos, Ivory, etc, which will get you a great sound! But for value for money you can't really go wrong with GPO.

A final thought on issues: It's a matter of "why" you do your recordings. If your end product is a score to be played live by an orchestra, or a performer, then all you need are 'mediocre' samples to get you a demo. If, however, your end product is an orchestral piece from your computer (for example for use in a film, or computer game, or ad), then you need the best possible quality. so it all comes down to what you want to do.

And I second what ChrisA says all the way. Including the part about reading! smile
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#1375649 - 02/16/10 02:42 PM Re: Help with composing software [Re: Nikolas]
ChrisA Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 3841
Loc: Redondo Beach, California
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
..license of Reaper (aroudn 60$...Garritan Personal Orchestra is around 200$,..


Or just buy a Mac Mini for $599. It comes pre-loaded with all the software and samples needed and has a good audio interface built-in. The Mini, out of the box is good enough for multi-tack recording, editing MIDI and audio and has a good basic sample library of a hundred or so instruments and can make decent looking standard notation scores. You will spend $599 just buying a copy if the "ultra lite" version of ProTools and a Garison sample library. I'd say the Mini is a pretty decent turn-key music system ready to go, just plug the cables in.

The Mini is also tiny. The entire computer is the size of a CD-ROM drive. So small that you can mount it with Velcro to the under side of a digital piano. and place a small LCD monitor on the piano's music rest. If you mount it like that all the cables "disappear" from view.
Photos Here


Edited by ChrisA (02/16/10 02:49 PM)

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