What works for me


may not always be right for someone else.  The theory is often the same but when it is put into practice there are many ways of achieving similar results using different methods or products.  How do you choose the most appropriate for yourself? 

This could be food, transport, media channel, style of music or toothpaste, or any of a thousand and one choices that are made each week.  What I have noticed in education is that there is a tendency to plan and teach using one software (often the cheapest but not always one that will allow for a smooth progression to a product used professionally).  Some software has an accessible look and is intuitive to someone that has little experience, others need a course of theory before they can be easily managed. 

Some appeal to students (and staff) as they can achieve results in a fairly short space of time and these results are acceptable (and can be assessed).  The others that are based on the operator having some prior knowledge are, for the uninitiated, difficult to use at first but with time (and frequent use) can become the program of choice for the student. 

Many professions have a limited number of choices to make in the software they use and how effective it is, in a number of cases it is other bodies – government or commissioning – that dictate what format is required which limits choice.  In music most software will now export a number of different file types – MIDI, Mp3, WAV, a proper audio file (.wav is not one of these even though most students think it is as it plays [or is automatically converted] in many audio players) and even a manuscript score.  

Manufacturers have developed their software so that there is the ability to work in different formats but many of these developments are compromises, the software is most efficient working to it’s initial concept (research the software to find what is was launched as originally) with the developed options as mainly viewing rather than efficient editing tools. 

Music to listen to (audio) and music to look at (score) need to be approached differently.  Transferring music from a score to audio using performers can be very fulfilling (and recording them).  Using MIDI can sometimes be flattering or misrepresentative or static (without flow or dynamics or phrasing or interpretation) or all three but to achieve an audio representation it is sometimes all that is available.   

Recently I have been scoring my composition(s) using a simple (and relatively inexpensive) desktop publishing/scoring software that I have found to be the quickest and most reliable for my needs.  Placing notes on the on-screen manuscript with the right durations, in the right place and then with the appropriate rests to complete the bar, adding phrase marks, dynamic variations and performance directions are all easily achieved.  Taking pictures of extracts to use in text and exporting the final version to a .pdf are also simple and for this aspect of my work the package is excellent. 

I would not use this program for audio, the sounds that can be accessed are General MIDI, some sounds represent the instruments but the majority are, to me, just too far from the original to be used.  The software will export a complete MIDI file and this can been successfully transferred to other audio conceived software if there is a need for a ‘demo’ or ‘guide’ track.

It has taken many years to get to the point where my use of the software is nearly as efficient as my handwriting a score and parts.  When I was at College part of the course was devoted to calligraphy and music presentation and this is how I expect the software to look when the score is complete.  The many years of trying to find software that is as good as the training I received has been expensive (the software that I have bought and thrown away) and very time consuming (the hours spent trying to find the squiggle needed to denote… and the days spent making the individual parts look right once the scoring was complete).  I am concerned that the theory that considers the design and look of music is not being taught, a well spaced and organised musical part is far easier to perform than one where the software has been left to make the majority of the decisions. 

It may be a specialist skill that will be passed on from generation to generation by a small society of music presentation experts in the future but it is a skill that should not be lost.  We still train performers to read music so we should still train composers to write music that is legible and that performers can easily access to be able to interpret.  So many other products are supplied as ‘user ready’ that questioning how, why and is there another way? is becoming more of a challenge in education and I hope we never loose sight of these in favour of teaching and assessing to a prescriptive system.  These ideas work for me, I hope you can find your product(s) of choice that work for you.


About derangeddrums

Composer, percussionist, musical director, teacher and educator. My music has been written for audiences in palaces and in the street. Music is my vocation and my passion and I hope you enjoy it too.
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