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Old 02-22-2009, 08:56 PM
Ian Douglas Graham (iandgraham)
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Default Dear Mark Thanks, once aga

Dear Mark

Thanks, once again, for your very generously attentive post.

To start with a point of detail:
knobs and switches: one thread of my enquiry was re the control which I found a couple of weeks ago, and can't find again. I didn't make full use of it for the reason you had to devote such attention to the full set of 2k - my first attempt was obviously wide of the appropriate calibration, and I just wanted, at that moment, to get on and play. But I would like to go back to it. Can you identify it from what I've already said ?

Generally: I actually want to do different things with Composer at different times, and I agree that I need command of more than one lot of settings. I think it might help if I began by saying a bit about my musical interests and objectives.

I'm a baby-boomer. I was fortunate to have music lessons almost throughout my schooldays - principally piano, but also a lot of theory and some organ tuition. In the style of the times, it was very 'hand and eye' - you read the score and played it, you did exercises on MS paper. The ear came a long way behind, and improvisation wasn't even considered. (I had some grounding in baroque figured bass, but never at a keyboard ! ). So I've always been pretty efficient at sight-reading, but until recently, I was hopeless at playing by ear or playing at all without some sort of score in front of me, and in effect I had a very bad memory for music. Pieces I've been playing for 40 years, I still needed the score in front of me, even though it is/was obviously a sort of comfort blanket - at a deeper level the notes were in my fingers.

In the last 2 or 3 years, my interest in jazz has blossomed, and I've both extended my IT skills to include music, and made a concerted effort to extend my musical skills. I use mainly Band in a Box, and Composer. In both cases, my earliest interest was that through them I could get at notated jazz piano pieces, I hoped that by using my reading skill on the appropriate scores, my ear and playing skills would improve in the direction I wanted to go. And that has indeed proved the case. I first preferred Composer to its competitors because its transcriptions were so way ahead of what any other software I could afford would do. So brownie points to you there, Mark ! I'm not in any sense coming at this in a spirit of criticism.

Now, I am moving on to at least the foothills of composition. One aspect of this is a kind of improvisation at the PC keyboard as distinct from the piano keyboard, though obviously I'm back and forth between the two. But I find that Notation allows me to take as starting points e.g. some rhythmic patterns, and/ or a harmonic sequence, and, so to speak, improvise in super slomo on the computer, working and reworking phrases and sequences until I'm reasonably satisfied with them.

So I get to a point where I have, say, 32 bars of melody/top line, and maybe some ideas about harmony. The melody I have input to Composer at the computer, so at this stage it should be pretty precise, even wooden. If it is swing (as it usually is) I enter it in straight time at this stage (see next stage). I export it to a midi file.

Then I go to Biab. I import the melody directly into Biab from the midi file, and Biab will interpret it as 'swung' if I ask it to. I add chords (often asking Biab's opinion on that) and choose a style from Biab's vast range, and usually develop a 3, 4 or 5 chorus arrangement. I can save all that both as a Biab file and as a midi.

Now I want to go back to Composer. One reason for doing this is because Composer's rhythmic transcription, score graphics and scrolling are so vastly superior to Biab's, so if I want visual prompts, it is much better to play the thing in Composer. But another reason is that I may want to do a new round of editing with the materials I've developed. The backing channels I'm generally happy to leave largely as they are - drums, guitars, sometimes bass. It's the parts that I want to draw on to develop my own piano performance that I want to get at in detail - the melody; often a (Biab) solo for the middle chorus; plus cherry-picking from the Biab piano comping and bass lines to give myself some ideas of structure for my own left hand.

Now, for instance, the lead line which I developed in Composer, exported to midi and imported to Biab, and re-exported (usually unchanged except for the swing 'switch') to midi, and now re-import to Composer, mostly emerges relatively unscathed - but almost always there are glitches. Triplets which come up in all sorts of variations, and the 2 or 3 close but not simultaneous notes which are visualised as a chord, are the most common issues. To be fair, Composer provides plenty of straightforward ways to re-edit these manually, one by one, but ideally I'd prefer not to have to ! And simply re-pasting the line from my original *.not file is only an option if I'm not concerned with the sound.

(One thing I don't understand re this part of the process is how Composer understands/records/reads 'swing'. When I re-import to Composer, although it transcribes in detail the more complicated bits of timing, sequences of swung quavers are usually transcribed visually as straight eights, but sounded as swung. If I go in to a bar and tweak something, those two or four quavers often (but not always !) then sound straight. )

So often, within the single midi file, I want different things from different channels. And at different times.

The backing channels I want for sound, and most of the time I'm not too bothered what they look like. Quite often I will have them not 'shown' to create more screen space.

As for whatever I have evolved as my own two-handed piano part:
if I'm trying to read a transcription in detail, to stretch myself and take in new ideas, I want a reasonably intricate rhythmic notation, but not grotesquely so. I may at this stage be concerned about a pretty close correspondence between what is displayed and what is sounding, so that my ears and eyes can work together to 'get' a new groove. [One of my bugbears (which I haven't mentioned before in this thread!) is Composer's attachment to ties. I can understand how it arises, I think, but I would really like a straightforward over-ride, such as Composer has about accidentals, to say "show this as a dotted minim, d*** you !" ]

On the other hand, a bit further down the line, I may prefer my own part notated in a fairly bland way - I will now be confident to play from it, rather than playing it. In such a case I may sent the rest limit quite high, to get a clean score, because the minute detail has become a distraction. In this case, how it sounds is irrelevant, since the track will be muted.

Well, just as Mark feared earlier today, I may have exhausted everyone's patience for the moment, and Mark is probably scratching his head and saying "But what do you actually want ?" I think, as I suggested this morning, it may be helpful in the next few days/weeks to post some mini-files with egs of some of the not-ideal things that come up ?

I will post this both in the existing thread, and in the 'sharing with fellow musicians' place.


Ian G.
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