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Finale and Sibelius: Help or Hinderance for the developing composer?

Does using software ultimately help or hinder composition?  

4 members have voted

  1. 1. Does using software ultimately help or hinder composition?

    • It limits my creatvity and scope
      8
    • It improves my creativity and scope
      16
    • I am indifferent to its effects
      10


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Hey everyone,

I'm doing an assignment at university (college for you Americans) on the impact of digital technology - specifically composition software like finale and sibelius - on the developing composer.

ie. Does it ultimately help or interfere with the overall development of the composer?

For example, I'd imagine that extensive use of software would stop one from developing internal hearing and proper notational skills.

----

Could some of you please take a moment to answer the poll and fill out the following short quiz?

1. Which software do you use?

2. Do you use it for composing or simply to typesetting

3. If you use it for composing, do you find that it helps the creative process?

4. In what ways does it limit your composing in either the short term or the long term?

Thanks,

Chris

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1. Which software do you use?

Finale.

2. Do you use it for composing or simply to typesetting

Composing, though I used to do copy work when I was younger.

3. If you use it for composing, do you find that it helps the creative process?

Yes and no, but it's a personal thing. My hands get tired quickly when writing, and I am a perfectionist, so using Finale to compose saves my hands and saves me time and effort.

4. In what ways does it limit your composing in either the short term or the long term?

Sometimes if I'm doing particularly advanced work, I must plan more carefully to figure out the best way to notate something. Usually I do this during the editing process, however.

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Guest QcCowboy

1. Which software do you use?

Finale

2. Do you use it for composing or simply to typesetting

I compose within the program, however I don't consider that I am "using it to compose". The compositional process is independent of the tools I use.

3. If you use it for composing, do you find that it helps the creative process?

it neither helps nor hinders.

I compose, whether it's at the piano, or in front of a sheet of paper, or at the computer.

When I feel like sitting back and listening to the piece I'm working on, the software is a nice adjunct to the process.

4. In what ways does it limit your composing in either the short term or the long term?

it does not limit it in any way.

I compose what I compose, if the software cannot handle some aspect of it, then I use it purely for notation.

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1. Which software do you use?

I use Harmony Assistant by Myriad Software

2. Do you use it for composing or simply to typesetting

I use it for both. I have trouble translating from page to tone, so I use it to hear the melodies. I also tend to write things out now for typesetting. I think you have more control over what you put on the page that way. On the other hand, my hand-writing is questionable at best.

3. If you use it for composing, do you find that it helps the creative process?

I actually don't think it helps. It covers a deficiency that I'm working to correct.

4. In what ways does it limit your composing in either the short term or the long term? I don't think it can limit, though it's frustrating when I have to find a common articulation or symbol.

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1. Which software do you use?

Sibelius

2. Do you use it for composing or simply to typesetting

Each composition varies. Lately, I'll hand-write my first draft, then put it into Sibelius for for editing. Sometimes this will result in drastic changes when I put it into the computer, or sometimes only a few small errors here and there.

3. If you use it for composing, do you find that it helps the creative process?

I don't think it helps, but I'm not sure hand-writing really "helps" either. It's just a way to get ideas down.

4. In what ways does it limit your composing in either the short term or the long term?

Again, it has advantages and disadvantages, but the only way I can think that it necessarily limits my composing is when I want to use various strange notational methods. Usually, there's a way to do those in computer programs, anyway, but I find it's easier just to hand-write any scores that don't use conventional notation.

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1. Which software do you use?

Finale PrintMusic 2008

2. Do you use it for composing or simply to typesetting?

Sometimes I use it to compose directly and other time I will figure something out on the piano first before orchestrating in Finale.

3. If you use it for composing, do you find that it helps the creative process?

I find it is a massive asset because it allows me to hear the way the instruments sound together while I am writing.

4. In what ways does it limit your composing in either the short term or the long term?

I find it limits me in the sense that I am relying on the software instead of my imagination for the most part to give me an idea of what different instrument combinations will sound like in different situations.

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1. Which software do you use?

Sibelius

2. Do you use it for composing or simply to typesetting

A mixture of both, it depends entirely on the type of piece. Usually I use it to typeset my manuscript work. Like Asparagus Brown I will write a first draft onto manuscript (this often seems like more a bunch of sketches than a draft, but usually are created more or less in chronological order) Then I will type up these drafts, often making slight alterations, and beginning to take formatting into consideration. Some pieces that I started before I decided upon this method are being composed straight into the computer.

3. If you use it for composing, do you find that it helps the creative process?

No, I find the lack of the flexibility that manuscript offers tends to hold me back.

4. In what ways does it limit your composing in either the short term or the long term?

I generally take longer to compose pieces straight into my computer than onto paper first.

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1. Which software do you use?

Sibelius 5

2. Do you use it for composing or simply for typesetting?

Both - I do larger scale works mostly directly into Sibelius or just after a few rudimentary longhand sketches but chamber works are done by hand -- the first draft, that is -- and then entered in and further edited. I would prefer doing everything by hand but my ear and knowledge of large ensembles simply isn't good enough to handle so many parts going on at once.

3. If you use it for composing, do you find that it helps the creative process?

Sometimes - again it helps me get a realistic picture of what will work and what will not in an ensemble, at least in ability to be played if DEFINITELY NOT TIMBRE OR TEXTURE. It allows for quicker and more drastic editing to already written parts as well.

4. In what ways does it limit your composing in either the short term or the long term?

I don't think it helps me in the short term as I may be tempted to copy paste or just alter individual notes and listen to playback differences and therefore not really get a full idea of the phrase. Long term, this doesn't allow me to build my ear as well.

Overall it should be a tool that doesn't hinder or otherwise affect the compositional process, except maybe for speed and professional legibility. I try to think of Sibelius as just a typewriter - though I am a young and inexperienced composer, and it can really give my ear a boost when it needs one.

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1. Which software do you use?

Sibelius & NOTION

2. Do you use it for composing or simply to typesetting?

Sibelius for composing and typesetting, NOTION for 'fine-tuning' in performance quality (which is part of my compositional process: articulation, dynamics and agogic in all of its possible subtleties

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1. Which software do you use?

Sibelius

2. Do you use it for composing or simply to typesetting

Composing.

3. If you use it for composing, do you find that it helps the creative process?

I have a limited pianist technique and writing directly to sibelius enables me to achieve certain effects which would be impossible otherwise.

4. In what ways does it limit your composing in either the short term or the long term?

I find with Sibelius, writing out out dynamics, tempo, hairpins etc is time consuming and so I tend not to bother, to the detriment of the composition. Also certain instrumental effects are difficult to achieve via sibelius's software (marcato, bartok pizz etc) so I tend to use short term expedients such as converting to midi and running through soundfonts.

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1. Which software do you use?

Finale

2. Do you use it for composing or simply to typesetting

I've used it to compose once so far (since I've come to guildhall - although two of the pieces I sent for my folio I wrote by hand and then on the computer, although my handwriting at the moment was absolutely dreadful), and writing it on the computer was part of the compositional process. Furthermore, I had quite a few notes here and there from playing on the piano, and I had drawn a rhythm sketch before hand for some of the pages.

3. If you use it for composing, do you find that it helps the creative process?

As Gardener says here, a lot of indeterminate, improvisatory, graphic, or extra-traditional/standard symbols or notations are not easy to do on finale, while they're very easy and quick to do by hand. What's more, finale asks you to set quite a few significant elements of your music before you even look at the manuscript paper, such as what instruments you're writing for, the tempo, time signature, amount of bars etc, all of which I find terribly constricting.

But for example, I used the computer to partly compose a piece for string quartet I wrote for a competition - I initially created four large sheets of paper by stitching together 7 landscape A4 pages for each, and then I drew four straight horizontal lines across each sheet of paper, one for each instrument. Then I divided each A4 section of the big sheet in 6 bars, and I went through the whole piece writing down time signatures, some times methodically, some times intuitively, sometimes randomly. Then, I wrote down rhythms (but no pitch) for each instrument, as well as techniques I'd use (col legno, pizzicato, gliss, harmonics, scratch tones etc), and I'd work my way differently on each sheet of paper (on the first sheet of paper, I wrote down the violin rhythms first, then covered that so I wouldn't see it and composed the second violin, then covered the two of them and composed the viola part and so on), and then on the second page I wrote each bar fully before moving on to the next one, etc etc. Then I copied all of that onto the computer, and "coloured in" the rhythms with pitches, some pitches coming from other pieces, some pitches being intuitive and some being random. And then I patched up the score and there you go, piece is ready. But I'd never consider that "composing" on the computer - I composed the whole piece on paper, then transferred it on the computer simply because the ability of finale to let me change a pitch without erasing it and re-writing it would make the whole job a whole lot faster than writing it by hand (I had playback disabled - I don't like the raw playback that finale offers you) (which is often inaccurate).

4. In what ways does it limit your composing in either the short term or the long term?

Almost always I write everything by hand first, and then most of the times I notate it on the computer (I have a piano pieces which uses a kind of notation in between Klavarskribo and traditional notation, and obviously I can't transcribe that on finale, and there's not much point in doing so anyway, because the handwritten score is quite clear in its intention). I use finale for the conveniences it offers (quick reproduction, sending the file to someone else very easily, re-printing, extracting parts, changing something, having back-ups etc), but I don't use it for composing per se because I don't want my ignorance on how the tool works or the limitations of finale to hinder my compositional output in any way, and that's why I prefer pen and paper, because I can do anything I want, how I want it.

In any case, I have replied to this issue quite in detail in other posts in the forums I'm linking to further down, such as this or this.

But to sum it up, you should never let your ignorance in how your tools work or the limitations of the tools themselves hinder your compositional output. And I personally find actual pleasure in the process of physically writing notes down on paper. And when I compose I do that and only that - I have prepared my manuscript paper, I have two pens I only compose with, I clear up my table, get my tea, and get down to work. Some times I work on the floor, some times on my table, depending on how much the larger form of the piece matters to me.

Also, if you search around:

http://www.youngcomposers.com/forum/do-you-use-your-instrment-aid-while-composing-752.html

http://www.youngcomposers.com/forum/composing-hand-versus-software-7703.html

http://www.youngcomposers.com/forum/anything-wrong-composing-computer-13408.html

http://www.youngcomposers.com/forum/finale-dependent-16377.html

http://www.youngcomposers.com/forum/eric-whitacre-notation-software-17512.html

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1. Which software do you use?

Sibelius for inputting the notes and Cubase Studio 4 for making a finished product (finetuning, dynamics, tempos, velocities, reverbs, panning etc)

2. Do you use it for composing or simply to typesetting

Strictly "typesetting." I do not allow myself to compose on a keyboard or in a program apart from really difficult sections I need to try out.

3. If you use it for composing, do you find that it helps the creative process?

Absolutely not. It's one of the chief debilitating acts for the creative process and inner ear/voice.

4. In what ways does it limit your composing in either the short term or the long term?

Two major ways:

1. It fosters reliance on hearing all the notes played at your whim by the computer so that you never achieve exceptional aural abilities.

2. It stunts true expressive creativity in that, instead of listening to your inner voice in a quiet environment, you are instead often just "improvising" on the computer and landing some catchy harmonies by chance. It fosters the lazy use of a lot of short cuts that would otherwise establish greater dexterity in writing music.

This is why all great composers forbid their students from ever composing at the keyboard (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven) and they themselves for the most part avoided composing with the aid of any instrument.

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1. Which software do you use?

Sibelius if it's something that can actually be written in traditional notation.

2. Do you use it for composing or simply to typesetting

Both on occasion.

3. If you use it for composing, do you find that it helps the creative process?

Yeah~

4. In what ways does it limit your composing in either the short term or the long term?

I think it's mostly a matter of "how do I do this?" getting annoying after a while. Gardener said it pretty well, for a lot of modern stuff it's much faster to write it by hand than to try fight the programs to do what you want. They're not designed with that in mind so that functionality/flexibility is pretty much missing.

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I think exploring different sounds and techniques on Finale, Sibelius, or comparable programs is a great experience for young composers. However, I would advise against relying on these computer programs.

1. Which software do you use?

Finale Printmusic

2. Do you use it for composing or simply to typesetting

Mostly the latter.

3. If you use it for composing, do you find that it helps the creative process?

Meh. Not really.

4. In what ways does it limit your composing in either the short term or the long term?

The programs limit composing because they often have the notation that ones needs/wants to use. It can be a long term hinderance if the composer never develops an ear and is constantly relying on MIDI playback. It is also great to get to know real instruments to better inform your pieces/techniques, and all the computer programs is simulate the instruments sound.

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1. Which software do you use?

Sibelius 5

2. Do you use it for composing or simply to typesetting

Both. I compose within the program and engrave all my work with it. Note too though that it is a music notation program, not a composing program: it won't tell you what to write, you tell it what to write.

3. If you use it for composing, do you find that it helps the creative process?

No. The creative process is a different entity than the program that interpret it. Often I will get some smashing ideas both on the piano with no technology in sight, and while halfway through writing a phrase in Sibelius. So I wouldn't say that it helps it. Truly the advantage of Sibelius though is being more redily available to experiment with different ideas less ambiguously than the piano.

4. In what ways does it limit your composing in either the short term or the long term?

I don't think it does. Composition that is limited by computers (graphical stuff that can't be realized effectively, for example) can just as easily be done by hand, albeit slower. It is, after all, a notation program. Those who do not know all the ins and outs of the program will be frustrated to learn that they can't do feathered beaming in a 37:7 tuplet in 13/128 time. But in fact you can! It's almost always a matter of ignorance of the composer/user, not the program.

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Interestingly most of the response deal with Technical aspects with regards to the limiting factors.

Most of which I would consider more to be short term problems.

I was surprised that RequiemAeternam was one of the only ones who voiced an opinion directed towards the actual development of the composer.

I believe that so far, he is the only one to mention the use of the inner ear / mental hearing or Audiation as it is most commonly/correctly known.

Very Interesting.

How about this question:

If you were teaching someone to compose, would you tell them to use the computer, an instrument and manuscript (and a pen/pencil) or just manuscript?

WHY?

Thanks for indulging me,

Chris

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This is why all great composers forbid their students from ever composing at the keyboard (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven) and they themselves for the most part avoided composing with the aid of any instrument.

All great composers, really? No, that's simply not true. (Btw.: As far as I know Beethoven composed mostly at the piano, even when he was already deaf. Same goes for Stravinsky and many others. I actually think the number of composers who never used an instrument in the composing process at all is quite small.)

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If you were teaching someone to compose, would you tell them to use the computer, an instrument and manuscript (and a pen/pencil) or just manuscript?

Whenever someone asks me to help them compose, I always say go to the piano. Then go to the computer. If that doesn't work, than just use the computer. If that doesn't work, listen to something you want to mimic, then go to the piano, then go to the computer. I usually advice them to use manuscript when they are on the piano, but don't necessarily stress that as the most important thing.

Why?

I think the composing process is more for the creativity side. If needing the assistance of a computer is part of that, more power to it. Instruments (including computer ones)are a great way to get a feel for the music too. It's easier to develop something when you can hear it and build off of that. Audiation is something that needs to be developed too. You can't expect a new composer to be able to hear every part in his/her head. So I advice them to get on the computer or to go to an instrument to help spark ideas.

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1. Which software do you use?

Finale Notepad/Lilypond

2. Do you use it for composing or simply to typesetting

Finale for both but mostly for transcription, Lilypond purely for typesetting.

3. If you use it for composing, do you find that it helps the creative process?

I think that it hinders it. The problem with pencil and paper is that my written notation is pretty sloppy and really slow. Plus I'm so much of a perfectionist that I can't stand to leave a single note out of place or ambiguous.

4. In what ways does it limit your composing in either the short term or the long term?

As someone mentioned earlier, I don't think it'll help my inner ear any, and it could definitely be a detriment to my staff reading skills. Short term, Finale Notepad drives me nuts, as I can't change time/key signatures. Long term, I won't be able to hear my compositions in my head, and won't be able to know how good a choral piece really is without having it performed. No patch is able to replicate words as of yet, and it would never sound as cool as the voices in my mind.

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1. Which software do you use?

MuseScore

2. Do you use it for composing or simply to typesetting

Sometimes I use it for composing and sometimes for typesetting. It just helps me to hear the things I'm writing.

3. If you use it for composing, do you find that it helps the creative process?

When I don't know what to write, I can always let the computer play everything I've written. Then I try to hear the rest in my head. I this way it helps.

4. In what ways does it limit your composing in either the short term or the long term?

I can't make crescendo on my computer and the composition sounds a little bit flat (this sounded like the right word to me).

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How is a power tool a hindrance to the budding carpenter? Is it so important to know how to plane a 20"x40" slab of wood by hand if a power planer works 10x better for the job?

By that I mean, what does it matter how the music is created, so long as the end product is good? Do programs really hurt developing listening, or is it the user?

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1. finale

2. composing

3. Creativity is something created by purely imagination, the creativity is the music played in your head. But when it comes down to breaking that creative idea, and organizing it in such a way that you can just copy paste from mind to print, then finale is more useful because YOU CAN HEAR THE MUSIC!! You can't develop an internal ear if you don't know whether or not what you're writing down is correct. But in fact, finale helps me more with that because it helps me figure out how to arrange chords, and before, that took me forever, now I just automatically just write it. Now, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with writing by hand, I'm just stating how finale has been more beneficial to ME, some people may not have the same weird mind as I do, therefore, there is room for disagreement, which is fine.

4. It doesn't, only problem is with percussion and its complexity in finale, I still don't know how to write a roll and make it playback |-(

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1. Which software do you use?

Sibelius

2. Do you use it for composing or simply to typesetting

I rarely ever use it. If I do it's only to make a copy for a performance etc.

3. If you use it for composing, do you find that it helps the creative process?

Not at all. It limits my creative process by about 9783.4206%.

4. In what ways does it limit your composing in either the short term or the long term?

I never feel like I am satisfied that I have written a piece of music. It stops me from listening to the music in my head and my aural skills would drop. I also find it a much more fiddly and cumbersome way of composing.

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