Recording Your Performance at MIDI Keyboard to Enter Notes

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Recording Your Performance at MIDI Keyboard to Enter Notes

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If you are skilled with a music keyboard, then you might find that the quickest way to enter notes it to record your live performance. (If you are not skilled with a music keyboard, then there are many other ways to enter notes with Composer.)


You do not need an expensive electronic keyboard for the purpose of entering notes via a music keyboard.  The keyboard does not even need to be able to produce sound.  You can use what is called a MIDI controller, which is just the keyboard without any sounds: Composer will "hear" the notes you play on the MIDI controller and play them back using whatever instrument sounds you assign.   You can purchase a compact 49-key MIDI controller for as little as $100 (USD) or less, which will even detect and record how loud you play each key (the MIDI note velocity).


The procedures for recording notes from your MIDI keyboard are described in the section Recording from a Music Keyboard.  The current topic does not describe the procedures for recording but, rather, offers some tips on how you can take advantage of Composer's recording capability in order to add notes to a score. Composer offers the option of recording with or without using a metronome.  If you are more comfortable using a metronome to keep your timing and rhythm on track, then you have a very quick method of entering the notes for your song.  If you prefer to play "with feeling", but still want a high-quality transcription, then you can play your song however you want and then use the Rebar feature to adjust the barlines and beats to accurately transcribe the sheet music for your song.


Tips for Entering Notes by Recording Your Performance at a MIDI Keyboard


1.Consider using the Step-Time Recording Method.


One of the most difficult things about recording from a MIDI keyboard is keeping in time with the metronome.  You can avoid this altogether with the Step-Time Recoding Method.  By that method, you still use your MIDI keyboard to tell Composer which notes you are adding.  Play a note or chord on the music keyboard, and Composer will add it at the active location in the score.  You can take as much time as you want before then playing the note or chord.  With this method, however, you will sometimes need to go back and forth between your MIDI keyboard and either the mouse or your computer keyboard.


2.You don't have to play all of the notes at once.


Suppose you want to enter the notes for a piano piece.  You don't have to record all of the notes at once.  For example, you might record just the right hand first, and then the left hand.  Or, you might record just the melody first, and then fill in the accompaniment in subsequent recordings.  If you do this, you might want to add one or extra temporary staves for different "slices" of the music, and then merge two or more of them together into a single staff.


3.Record at a slower tempo and then later edit the tempo for a faster speed.


This is sort of cheating, but nobody has to know that you recorded at a slower tempo.  If you care only about preparing the music score, and don't care about fine details in the performance interpretation of the score upon playback, then you can ignore the rest of this tip.


If you do care about the fine details of how the music sounds upon playback, then take care to perform the music with a "feeling" that takes into account that the tempo will be later sped up.  This tip assumes that you are recording with a metronome.  If you want a freer playing and performance style, then see Tip 6 below.


For example, suppose the final score has some fairly quickly played staccato notes.  At a slower tempo, you'll play each note on a slower beat or sub-beat.  That much is easy.  However, you might be tempted to play the staccato note at a slower tempo with the same shortness that it would have at the finally adjusted faster tempo.  A discriminating ear will hear that at the final faster tempo, the staccato note will then sound too short.  


Here's some math to explain this.  Suppose the final tempo is 120 quarter notes per minute, and there are some staccato 8th notes.  Each quarter note is one-half second long, because if there are 120 quarter notes per minute, there are 2 for every second.  Therefore, each 8th notes is 1/4 second long.  Suppose you want each staccato 8th note to sound half as long as it is notated, so that the as-heard duration of each 8th note is therefore 1/8th second long.  Your ear knows what that sounds like. Now, suppose you perform the music at your keyboard at half the tempo, so that it is easier for you to play the notes.  At this half tempo, each 8th note is 1/2 second apart.  Your ear might tell you, however, to play these slowed downed 8th notes with still the very abbreviated 1/8th second length.  That might sound right as you're performing at the slower tempo.  However, when you double the tempo back to the intended 120 quarter notes per minute, the 8th notes will sound for only half as long, that is, for 1/16th of a second.  They will sound half as short as you want.  They will then be played with too much staccato.  


It takes a little bit of practice to learn how to compensate for this "tempo shift".  Soon, you will find yourself naturally compensating for it.  Or, alternatively, consider playing at a normal tempo and correct your performance mistakes later, as described in the next tip.  If you want an even freer playing and performance style, see Tip 6 below.


4.Record at normal tempo; don't worry about some wrong notes; correct them later.


This method is advised only if you care a lot about the playback of the score.  At first glance, this advice might seem self-contradictory, because why would you want to record wrong notes if you care a lot about the playback?  The reason is that it is easier to fix the wrong pitch of a note than it is to adjust the rhythm of the note or its loudness.  Using this method you can enter the proper rhythms of chords or single notes, then easily go back and adjust the pitches.  This tip assumes you are recording with the metronome "on."  If you want a freer style of playing, please see Tip 6 below.


If you care only about preparing the score, then we do not recommend recording at normal tempo.  You might as well record at a slower tempo at which you will hit fewer wrong notes.


If you do care about how the music sounds upon playback, and you want it to follow your interpretation, then recording your interpretation-- the precise rhythms the individual loudness of each note-- is an ideal way to prepare the sound track.  And, you might be able to produce the best musical interpretation of the music by performing it normal tempo.  Or, record at almost normal tempo, and then speed up the tempo just somewhat for the final sound track.


5.Use Composer's Undo Command for Multiple Takes


After you record, say, 16 measures, you might think, "I could do better than that".  Give it a try.  Use CTRL+Drag to select the region that you are punching in, and record it again.  Maybe your second attempt isn't even as good as the previous.  No problem. Use the Undo command, and you're back to your first take.  You can go back and forth between multiple takes this way, with Undo and Redo.  However, be aware that if you return to a previous recording take, and then edit it in any way, then all subsequent takes will be discarded, given the way that Undo works.


6.Record your performance without using the metronome, and then use the Rebar feature to adjust the barlines and correctly notate the intended rhythms and durations.


Beginning with version 2.6, Composer gives you the flexibility to record notes using a MIDI instrument without using a metronome.  You can use this feature if you have a lot of tempo changes that you want to preserve in the performance of the piece.  Go ahead and record your performance, and then use the Rebar feature to adjust the barlines, and resulting notation, according to the beats or pulses of the performance. The tempo changes of your performance will be preserved, and you will have correctly notated rhythms and durations for your score.  You can still use the various editing capabilities of Composer to fine-tune the performance and/or the notation if needed when you finish using the Rebar feature to adjust the barlines.