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Old 05-06-2008, 09:04 PM
Michael Dodson (michael8648)
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Default I am a vocalist with very limi

I am a vocalist with very limited instrument training and a degree in
computer science. My personal MIDI keyboard sits in the living room where
my mother plays it on occasion. I read music, slowly, but understand most of
what I read. I would recognize a crotchet if I saw one.

To know any part of Gershwin's music is to become a Gershwin fanatic,
and I am one.

My music and instruments are not latched to realtime. I compose and
transcribe music with my computer using Notation "Composer". Other notation programs are out there, most are far more expensive, but Composer was just the tool I needed for a special project of mine.

My first real music reading and writing challenges were to complete
anything in MIDI by my favorite Georges, Handel and Gershwin. Using Creative Labs best tools at the time, I put a large portion of The Messiah into MIDI. It lacked some musical polish, was overdriven, but was a good education tool. I learned some good things:

I not only assigned instruments for the accompaniment, but to the
vocal parts as well, which gave a better understanding of blending
instruments and the different dynamic volume ranges and sounds
that sustained while others would damp out.

I learned that in Baroque music the choir voices and instruments
are equally balanced. The written dynamics had as much to do
with how many were active as how loud they performed.

More may not be better, but is usually louder, and the benefit
comes from blending instruments to get more. Both Handel and
Gershwin were clear experts in this tool.

I learned about "PAN" controls and how critical they can be to a good
MIDI sound.

I'm attempting to post the following MIDi files and my NOTation file for An American In Paris. If there is a restriction, I'll try and add the remainder in subsequent posts.

"He Trusted In God" from "The Messiah" by George Frederich Handel

"Rhapsody In Blue" by George Gershwin

"My Father" from "Joseph and Family" by Michael Dodson

"March of the Magi" from "Joseph and Family" by Michael Dodson

"An American in Paris" a tone poem by George Gershwin

He Trusted in God:"He trusted in God that He would deliver Him. Let Him deliver Him if He delight in Him!"- Psalm 22. This is the crowd
mocking Jesus. It is an example of how all parts and accompaniment are of equal importance. It was an early test of selecting instruments for their vocal qualities and blending.

Rhapsody In Blue: The original construction made it near impossible to mix
tempos in the same midi track. Thus, the whole score was divided into six sections, each with their own tempo. Later they were merged into this construstion. It is overdriven (too much note velocity). Like most great works, it is so good, it's difficult to ruin. It was my first attempt at a major music project. Unfortunately, the publisher gave out only two clues about instrument selections: "PRIMO" and "SECUNDO". It was the dueling piano score and I tried to spice it up by switching to other instruments in places. This is how I learned, and I hope I don't stop learning.

My Father: Around 1990 I was a small church choir director. I wrote a Christmas song for Joseph, "Shall I conceal what love has done?", and enjoyed the experience. I decided it could have some more songs added with it and be some type of musical drama. Years went by and I finally prodded myself into writing some more music. Close to the beginning of the drama, Mary sings a song/prayer to her deceased father in heaven. This is the origin of "My Father." This was still in my Creative days, but even without benefit of notation printing tools, I was dabbling with mixing tracks, even with different tempos.

March of the Magi: This entrente march comes in the middle of my second act. The first version used a Taiko drum. Taiko drums cannot be correctly transposed, while Timpani drums can. We learn.

I had no good method to print out the fruits of my labor. Two very good incidents happened. I found a simpler-to-use MIDI/Notation generator. In fact, I had no notation record of my changes until then. Notation's "Composer" allowed a great flexibility in adding and changing on the fly. I am told there are others costing about five times the price. This is not an advertisement, but definitely an endorsement, and Composer gave me more opportunity to learn. Most "learning opportunities" are painful. Fortunately, most of this work on the new software was not.

The second stroke of fortune was I found a better sheet music publisher, which was accidental on my part, but serendipity just the same.

I bought "An American In Paris." I'd had some fun with Rhapsody in Blue. I
always meant to do the same with AAIP, but it collected dust for a few months. When I bought Composer I had my own challenge for their software and my love of Gershwin. Like Rhapsody, it was a piano score. This one had an extra stave above in half-scale font that often had notes displayed on it as well. Unlike the two piano version, this one had PIANO written in front of the piano grandstaff, but it also had Italicised instrument names printed in areas above each of the three staves. I knew my favorite part (at that time) was that lovely trumpet solo. I found it about 12 pages into the thirty-something page score. I experimented with the new software by doing a few measures of the trumpet. The piano backing didn't sound right and I used the suggested strings. The trumpet didn't sound as rich as I would like. MIDI trumpet is just too tinny. I added a trombone track for backing to the trumpet. George, that's really beautiful.

Because I found that there were as many as six different instruments, and sometimes a seventh that were not always the same, I planned to spit the piano score out into seven tracks (parts). I set up Flute, Trombone, {string
ensemble(treble) - string ensemble(bass)} French Horn, English Horn, and a
"wild-card" track that I started with Muted Trumpet.

I mentioned how blending trumpet with trombone can create a "better"
trumpet sound. That was my "improvement" to the trumpet solo in what was originally printed in the score for piano. But this kind printer added instrument names from the original score to my piano music. Other instrument inventions took a little more experimenting. "Composer" was good for that, too.

There is just no "French taxi cab horn" (as specified by Gershwin) to be found in midi. Here is how I made one. The French Horn plays a dotted eighth with an 86 velocity (undistorred,moderately loud). On the Muted Trumpet line comes a 16th rest, a sixteenth note with a 127 velocity (overdriven), and a sixteenth rest. Effectively the French horn makes the attack, the distorted muted trumpet makes the blare,then the remaining sustain of the French horn makes the wave decay....and, it sounds like a taxi horn. ) if you never hear one, it's like a Model-T Ford, or a little like the horn on your first tricycle.

I ran into places where I ran out of tracks,(too many instruments called upon), but most of the time I was true to the suggested instruments.

Of vital importance to all of these methods is a well distributed PAN, with a
unique assignment to each track. Setting your instrument's tracks in a proper
left-right position is critical, and effects blending and the open quality of the
sound so that it will sound good in your stereo or 5.1 system.

My completed work in midi and notation (.not) file is somewhat better than my old Rhapsody. This was the most fun and work I ever did on any midi/notation file. Surely, it could be done better, but this isn't too bad.
More often than not, we go to the store (or library) and find where a complete score has been "reduced" to piano. When one finds or can produce from memory names for instruments used in performance and can expand into a blended ensemble, the benefits are obvious and it's almost "fun" to learn.

I much enjoyed "An American In Paris" and hope you do as well..
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