My Backwards Method

Lately I've been using a workflow that is completely ";backwards"; order from what I used to do.  I used to write notation in Sibelius first, export a MIDI file, then make a better sounding recording in a DAW program like Ableton Live, Logic, Protools, Cubase, etc.  A major issue I ran into was dealing with changes in the sheet music, then having to also update the recording.  I also felt like the technical side of composing with computer software had a negative impact on the creative side of composing.

So I did a 180.  Now I prefer to compose music in the DAW, using VDL and Kontakt, and then get to a point in the music where the customer and myself are pleased with the composition.  After that I export a MIDI file and import that into Sibelius for clean-up.  It's a little tedious, and sometimes requires pulling a few hairs to get the layout right.  The end result, however, is a recording driving the sheet music- and that seems to work best for my brain.

A few things I learned along the way:

1.  quantizing the MIDI in the DAW is crucial.  The length of the MIDI note determines how Sibelius (or Finale) will be imported.  So some effort has to be made if you want to limit the number of strange rests and note-ties.

2. shaping MIDI velocity is faster and easier in a DAW, usually because you can edit/shape the dynamics of many notes at once with pen and line tools.  When you import the MIDI file into Sibelius, those velocity values are retained so you get much better playback realism

3. I like to record myself playing on a MIDI instrument to input notes.  Drop the tempo way down for accuracy, and you can speed up your note entry.  If you have assignable pads on your MIDI instrument, you can assign it to L/R hand notes, shots, buzz rolls, etc. and hit the pads with some rubber xylo mallets.

4. The first notation software company to make a ";piano roll"; type editor found in DAWs will get my business.  Neither Sibelius or Finale make realistic playback easy, because dynamics are handled poorly.  So the best sounding VDL demos often use notation software AND recording software. 
1 Comment

Just wanted to chime in here and say thanks for the great post, Jesse. I'd be interested to hear if other people have found this method of composing beneficial. It makes a lot of sense!
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