Re: music notation software

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Posted by Bob Joles on March 30, 2001 at 21:07:32:

In Reply to: music notation software posted by John Breyer on March 30, 2001 at 14:02:58:

Okay, here's my two cents - I have been a professional copyist for over 20 years. Most of that time was spent here in the Hollywood studios. I have worked with pens, ink, straight edge and manuscript paper in the "good old days" and now use my Mac to copy everything I used to do by hand and then some. I've worked for some amazing composers and orchestrators and also worked with copyists who seemed to be copying with their feet instead of using their hand, but I digress.

In the studios, the conversion from hand copied music to computer generated parts has been an on going process of improvement in the available software. I am here to tell you that every music office uses a different program, so there is no true "standard" to make a judgement by.

I can tell you the programs that are being used on a daily basis and some of the pros and cons of these music software programs. I can also tell you that 90% of the copyists are using Macs to do their work with.

Finale is used by at least 3 offices that I know of. Encore is used in 2 offices and 2 other offices use Mosaic (the program I currently use). A couple of guys I know are experimenting with Sibelius to great effect. And there is still at least one office in town that still copies everything by hand with pen and ink.

Now, and this is MY opinion only, Encore is the weakest program of those I've mentioned. It's very easy to start producing music with but the software has many bugs and several major drawbacks that can be delt with if you have the time and knowledge to make workarounds or the ability to tweek the program its self with resedit. But the final product isn't all that wonderful to my eyes.

I was able to learn the basics of Mosaic in about 3 hours from someone who had been using it for several years. I was able to master the program within a couple of months. It is just as powerful as Finale but far easier to use. I have gone head to head with Finale users copying the exact same parts and have always been able to finish quicker and produce a better product then what Finale would produce.

Finale, as already alluded to, has a mighty steep learning curve. It takes most of the studio copyists 2 to 3 months to get comfortable enough with the program that they can work without stopping every 10 minutes to ask questions on how to do some task or other. It does produce nice product, but I don't think it's worth the time and effort one has to invest.

I will say that ALL music notation software programs need to have the user (copyist) adjust the indivdual parts. Don't ever let the computer decide things like spacing, staff size, number of bars rest to be grouped together, page turns, etc… you know, the things we all take for granted with published music that has been typeset by professionals with YEARS of expierience behind them. Of course, this is not to say that all published music is perfect and couldn't be improved upon, far from that indeed.

I realize that I approach printed music from a different angle then most players do, but that is because I work as a copyist and I look for the little things that set well copied music apart from something that was just entered into the computer and printed out. Most of you (I'm sure) have seen computer generated parts that look okay, but if a little time had been taken by the copyist to proofread the parts and make some final adjustments, the parts would be spectacular.

The first thing that I learned when my career as a coyist began was to make the parts as clear and acurate as possible so the first reading by the players would go as smoothly as possibly. I have been music librarian on many sessions where I didn't copy a note of the music but spent the majority of the recording session fixing badly copied parts that couldn't be read by the players.

If any of you have questions about any aspect of music preparation, please feel free to email me and I will do my best to help you.

Thanks for letting me rant a little.



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