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Is There Music Composition (Not Notation) Software?

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I have what might be a laughably simple question but does software aiding the process of music composition exist? I'm talking about something similar to screenplay or novel writing software but for music. So I might plug in something like "Sonata" and it would offer various templates for sonata forms, prod me to modulate in the appropriate places etc. Does Sibelius do anything like this?

Thanks.

Wil

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Read a book?

I've read plenty of books and learned a lot from them and I'm constantly listening to music with a curious ear and absorbing plenty. Nonetheless, I think there's more than one way to skin a cat and different methods are worth exploring.

I think this is a legitimate question.

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Counterpoint rules is certainly one part of what I would like to see. I imagine this working along the lines of my understanding of how screenplay software works. You say something like, "I would like to write an action adventure movie" and it spits out a "template" built around things like having an exciting sequence every ten minutes, and keeping dialogue terse. These are simply suggestions and can be ignored.

In similar sense I'd like to say, "I'd like to write a sonata," and have software offer a template (First theme, Second theme, transition, Coda etc) and suggest things like "Your first theme is in E mi, so your second should modulate to G (according to conventional rules.)" It might even suggest possible paths to handle that modulation. I think we've all got a reservoir of ideas (either in a notebook or on paper) on how to handle different situations - say, "how to rewrite a minor key melody in the major key", and this tool could offer and apply these ideas.

It could also go through a piece and highlight things like parallel fifths and other "errors." (Maybe that's what this counterpoint software already does.)

To be clear, I'm not saying the the software writes the melodies themselves, but rather suggests structure and provides general guidance. I know there's a guy who wrote a piece of software that actually writes music, and I would think this idea would be easier to implement.

http://www.miller-mccune.com/culture/triumph-of-the-cyborg-composer-8507/

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There's this:

http://www.ars-nova.com/cp/

Which is more of a pedagogical tool than anything.

Maybe this is the encouragement you need to pursue a degree in computer programming :thumbsup:

That definitely looks interesting. Frankly, I need the counterpoint tutelage!

As I thought a bit more about this idea today I'm thinking it would work best as a plug in for Garage Band, Logic etc - no point reinventing the wheel with the stuff they do well.

I'm actually all to familiar with the software industry - familiar enough to know that a good product doesn't always make money and thus it difficult to get them funded. Ah, well...

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What good is that, since the software is just writing the music for you. The whole point of composition is to take what came before and turn it into something new, interpret and recreate something in a fresh light. Why would you write a meticulously specific classical-period sonata in today's day and age? I know that may have pedagogical value (and any composer worth a grain of salt should be able to do that anyway) but how does that aid in real composing?

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I had a feeling when I posted this question it would earn a certain amount of pushback. I'm not proposing something that tells you what to write, but rather suggests ideas in the same way a screenplay writing tool does. For centuries composers/songwriters etc have kept notebooks containing ideas to try, interesting rhythms that have yet to find a song, modulation paths to experiment with, etc. I'm asking, "Could those be grouped together in a program?"

To be honest, I'm genuinely surprised this product doesn't seem to exist.

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Because composition doesn't work like that. Its not like you have a form and you plug in variables and then out pops music. Its far more creative and mysterious than that.

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Well, I think you guys are getting hung up on this notion that you have to do what the software suggests. You do not. If you want, when it suggests something you can scream, "I hate you computer!" and throw it out the window.

But let me posit this scenario. You're in the early stages playing around with a piece. You're working on a particular passage and trying different things. Your friend walks in the room and says, "Why don't you try a G min maj 7 there?" You do and it works. I'm saying maybe there's a way software can be this friend. Could you get too dependent on it? Yeah. Could you follow it's suggestions too closely and produce boring music? Yeah. But that's not the software's fault - that's the composer's fault.

Frankly, maybe the ONLY use for this software is as an educational tool (I don't really buy that but I'll allow the possibility.) Even with that use alone I think this idea could be be useful enough for enough people.

Anyway, back to doing some composing... without software I might add.

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How would a computer know where a Gm maj7 chord would sound good? I can understand things like pointing out counterpoint errors, but what you've described sounds unrealistic.

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How would a computer know where a Gm maj7 chord would sound good? I can understand things like pointing out counterpoint errors, but what you've described sounds unrealistic.

That's a complicated, fascinating topic, and one probably always under revision. I suggest you check out the very interesting book "This is your brain on music", if you haven't already, for one look at the topic. In a nutshell, it seems that our brain does have hard wired preferences for certain musical qualities (consonance for example) and some hard wired aversion to other others (too much dissonance.) But I'm vastly simplifying the book (obviously one doesn't need to think hard to find counter examples to what I've just stated - too much consonance is boring.)

But for a more general answer: let me ask you a theory question. Say you have a chord pattern - C | Dmi | G7. From the list below, what chord is the least likely next chord (presuming we're working in generally tonal music)?

a) C

b) Ami 7

c) B #9 flat 5

I think most of us will agree it's option C. This doesn't mean one should never chose this option, or that it's never been done in music, but I think it's fair to say most composers would avoid it (aside from for jarring/comic effect.) We could probably run down the list of the all potential chords and rank them by likelihood of being chosen in a composition (based of analysis of existing compositions, advice from academics, etc.) The end result would be a set of, well, I hate to use the word rules... let's just say suggestions. So you might look at this weighted list of possible chords and say, "Well, C is too obvious, Ami 7 also, but down midway down the list is C# dim - hmmm, I've never tried that before. Let's see how that sounds." This kind of computation is exactly what computers are good for.

Obviously the harmonic example above is quite simple, but there's no reason that logic can't be applied to more complex ones.

Now, the obvious danger is that this tool would start to steer people towards certain musical decisions and they would start to become cliche. Yeah, that's a danger but it's an imperfect world; Right now a piece of music becomes popular (if only in certain circles) and other composers/songwriters pillage its musical content and that becomes cliche. So it has been a probably always will be.

W

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I suppose I'm just looking at it from the viewpoint that instead I think you should just learn the common practice anyway and be your own software. That's why my first reply was read a book. I think you'll get better structured pieces that way, if you're cognizant of the tonal direction from the beginning.

In a sense, what I'm proposing is a book. Books contain information, otherwise known as data, and software just provides alternate views of data. Books are generally sequential presentations of data (excluding indexes) and the problem is you're not always aware of the particular fact or advice you read several months ago at the moment you need it. A software tool might be able to look at one section of your piece and basically say, "I just want to remind you of XXXX right here." That's is pretty much what screenwriting software does - it say, "it's been ten minutes (pages) since an explosion or sex scene - people are going to be getting bored." Whether you chose to follow that suggestion is up to you.

I totally agree - you should learn the common practice and that involves and lot of listening and studying and maybe using a tool that jabs you every so often and says, "uh-oh - that's not how it's done."

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I have what might be a laughably simple question but does software aiding the process of music composition exist? I'm talking about something similar to screenplay or novel writing software but for music. So I might plug in something like "Sonata" and it would offer various templates for sonata forms, prod me to modulate in the appropriate places etc. Does Sibelius do anything like this?

Thanks.

Wil

Screenplay writing software merely puts your words into screenwriting form.

You still have to come up with the words......

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