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Handwriting?

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There is a lot of software for writing music out there, and i've tried to use one myself, but i just don't find it practical. I can focus more on the music when i use a pencil, an eraser and a blank sheet of paper with empty staff, instead of looking at a screen and clicking a mouse. Is writing music by hand still present nowdays or am i the only one who does it?

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I still use pencil and paper. In my novice days as a notation software user, my manuscripts needed to be quite clear and precise before I could "engrave" them on the computer, but as my experience with notation software increased and I became more confortable with it, my manuscripts have been degrading into ugly shorthand scribbles of the core ideas. The detailed notation happens on screen, the score is then printed out, checked and marked with pencil and back to the computer. If the music is not very complex I can usually skip the manuscript stage, but overall, I still need to scribble things out first (or at some other stage of the compositon) even if very precariously. Perhaps some day I will be able to dismiss pencil and paper altogether. Composition happens in the head, really, so I guess the choice between paper and screen is ultimately a matter of preferences, familiarity with the medium, and so on and so forth, so everyone would have their own perfect workflow.

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One problem I've noticed with handwriting is that I tend to restrict myself to the size of the manuscript I'm using. For example, the only manuscript I have at the moment is a book with 12 staffs per page and I don't think it's a coincidence that the largest sketch I've pencilled down in that time was for 11 instruments. These days I find myself roughly sketching some main motives/melodies/overall harmonic schemes in pencil then taking them straight to the computer to flesh out into a finished piece. I also find it incredibly tedious handwriting canons or any music with an imitative texture when I know it could be a 2-second job with Sibelius. My composition teacher still swears by handwriting everything before putting it into a computer but he's from a generation who didn't have a choice in the matter.

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I work in with paper/pencil for the actual composing process. I work out fragments and ideas - usually ignoring any orchestrational aspects until the piece solidifies. The software becomes useful for the notational side of things.

See below for what my process looks like. Years ago I tried to start a thread to see what people's methods looked like, but it has since died.

;)

rj-process.pdf

PDF

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I handwrite everything before going to the computer (unless there's a specific reason to NOT do that).

Examples:

www.nikolas-sideris.com/AGS/picture%20464.jpg

www.nikolas-sideris.com/AGS/picture%20465.jpg

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There was a time when I handwrote everything, but not anymore. Despite being a rather fast writer, I'm usually very short on composing time, so I rely mostly on notation software now. Still, I'm carrying a notebook almost everywhere, just in case that an idea might unexpectedly strike me...

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I have my little Moleskine notebook with me at all times in case I have an idea out of nowhere. This doesn't happen too often, but whenever I just need to think of an idea or form, texture, whatever, I write it in there. Then, I let the idea ruminate and if it's still good I'll perhaps use it in a piece. However, I rarely hand write beyond that. Sibelius is so much faster and more efficient that I often compose directly into final score these days (mostly because I like to do things from start to finish without stopping and because I know the program intimately well). I may have a draft or two, but these are usually just evolutionary stages that hardly ever get printed. If I have a really big work that needs a proper proofreading and editing stage then I'll print it out and hand write corrections. This seems to be easier than correcting on the screen because you miss less when the notes are actually on paper.

And, of course, the instant playback factor helps immensely for getting things done on a tight deadline. I couldn't imagine doing the film/video game orchestrations that I do in the time I do them (in a matter of days) by hand.

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It depends, i very often play my ideas first (organ/harpsichord or piano). This is the best way for me to get flowing musical ideas.

If i write a fugue or fugal composition i often just play the theme and the countersubject, write it down on paper, and finish the piece in finale.

If its a solo concerto, i do the same thing but i often play solo voice with continuo, might the the entire movement ( because hear the rest of the voices, like imitative parts while playing) this goes for when i write in finale too. I often write a single voice, while working on that voice i finish the counterpoint in my head. If its vocal work, i play the melody, while humming the text and thinking of what mood the set to the text, and sing it afterwords, then i arrange the harmony to express the text, write it on paper and finish the piece in finale.

I also like best to write music in a place with good acoustic (like a church), because it makes me aware of how it could sound, and gives me more awareness of how to use rests, dynamic and articulation for the best expression of the music.

I think to write beside the instrument is the best what, because you can really try out your ideas in a musical way, not just writing notes, but how the music feels and what you are expressing. This is very important for me as a composer.

Siting by the instrument and write with pen and paper is very musical, but the problem is it takes too much time to write out parts, and that is time i dont have.

So finale is a great tool, you get a very nice looking score, and its very easy to print the parts, and edit the parts. Its also much better to read for the performers. So this is how i work :)

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I work with pen(cil) and paper from time to time, especially when jotting down new ideas. I like the fact that it feels like you're actually working on something, and for some reason I feel a sense of freedom when working this way. Maybe it's because I'm not tempted to push the play button all the time? I really don't know, but there's definitely a special charm to it. I might start by sketching a few ideas down on paper and then organizing and polishing them in Sibelius, but sometimes I never leave Sibelius, especially if I've been struck by a massive amount of inspiration while being seated in front of the computer.

It's definitely not for everyone, but I would recommend giving it a try to anyone who's never done it before. In the end I guess it all comes down to personal preference. I have never orchestrated anything with pen and paper (I'm not really an experienced orchestrator anyway), but maybe I'll try that someday. I am by no means an experienced composer, so I guess I don't really have a routine yet. Changing methods is a good way to get out of a writer's block though. If I compose something while using an instrument that I'm familiar with I tend to be more set in my routines than when composing with an instrument that I'm not all too familiar with. Another idea could be to compose in a key you're not used to and then transposing it to another key later in the process.

Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked here... What I'm trying to say is that I use pen and paper from time to time and I thoroughly enjoy it.

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Don't use paper at all (too much work, takes too much time). Since I started using Finale, I make everything there. When I want to create something new, I almost always take the theme/motif/idea from the piano. These are in fact my main compositional tools: piano and computer.

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I used to think rather romantically about handwriting compositions, as if the pencil manuscript was some sacred work of art in itself and that the emotion of the piece was visible within the inspired strokes of the pen, etc, yadda yadda. Nowadays I am more pragmatic, particularly since I discovered how long the preparation of a score and parts takes. I only use handwritten notes for ideas if I am working at the piano or if the computer is not handy. Even then I have only ever used this for getting initial ideas and never stayed on paper for the serious writing stage for which I am completely comfortable using the laptop. Sibelius is fundamentally a time-saving tool: the note is there in the score as soon as it is written; it can be changed without having to copy the whole thing out again. Using a computer program has very little to do with the actual music, and I don't in any way endorse notions that using a laptop is somehow restricting your creativity or forcing you to write in a particular way. I write what has been planned out in my head, and the only difference to handwriting is that I choose to represent my thoughts through symbols stored as bytes rather than in ink. The play button is only the equivalent of trying an idea out on the piano, with the difference that one can hear back things that would be impossible for two hands to simulate. Again, this as often as not simply confirms I have notated correctly something I have already imagined.

I will concede that it is sometimes nice to make a handwritten presentation copy of a piece, especially if it is bound with a nice cover and used as a gift to a conductor at a première or the dedicee or something, but to do this with no mistakes takes ages and I generally don't have ages to spare. I doubt very much if anybody is going to frame my sketches or dissect them to discover my working method, although a page full of scribblings and 'bits' has a certain aesthetic charm in itself.

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I wrote my first 12 or so pieces using Sibelius. However, I have since discovered that overuse of the playback feature makes me compose for the computer, rather than the actual instruments that will end up playing the composition. Needless to say, handwriting takes much more time, but for me, that's good thing, because taking time to think things through helps me. That will vary depending on the composing.

I am still working on my first truly handwritten piece (a string quartet in f minor) with the help of a piano, but I am much happier with the results.

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i handwrite a lot of stuff, at least initially. When trying to come up with ideas, i've found that a blank sibelius document acts like a metrical & notational straitjacket.

i don't compose at the piano because i'm not a very good pianist >.> i do tend to sing pieces back to myself though which i suppose is the same sort of thing

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