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AngelCityOutlaw

Using Notation Software With Daws

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I'm not sure if I'm alone in this, but I find that for some types of music that I write, I find it easier to do so in a Notation and/or tab type of sequencer. You know, like Guitar Pro, Sibelius or whatever. I find it's easier to write out and edit guitar compositions so that I'll know exactly what I'm going to play before I record it.

For everything else though, just playing it in with a MIDI controller and editing from there in a DAW works fine.

I'm looking for a good way to bridge the gap though. I've heard that Notion can be used with DAWs somehow? How could I use a program like Guitar Pro or Notion within a DAW like Reaper or Sonar X2?

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A lot of DAWs (Sonar included, since you mention that specifically) have their own notation views, but they're not as sophisticated as a program like Sibelius that's dedicated to notation. I sometimes sketch notated scores by hand on paper (because, like you, I often find it more convenient to know what I'm going to be recording before starting to deal with the DAW), but I've never found DAWs' notation view to be at all useful. If I need to notate something, I'll use Finale because Finale does it well. If I need to create a sample-based MIDI realization, I'll use Sonar's piano roll because notation isn't accurate enough to portray the recorded performance nuances. And if I just need a quick sketch of something to work it out before I record, I do it on paper.

The only circumstances I can think of in which DAW notation would be useful would be for printing a quick and dirty instrument part for a player without having to bother with Finale, or if you just feel more comfortable with notation but don't need the full features of a dedicated notation program and don't want to/aren't able to do it on paper. If you fall under the latter case and are using the DAW notation view to compose, you'll still end up either needing to perform/record what you've written or go back and significantly tweak/humanize it, since anything you enter by hand in the notation view will be snapped to the grid. It doesn't seem like it would save that much time compared to performing/exporting MIDI from a notation program or writing on paper. If it feels right to you, though, there's no reason not to do it.

One of the reasons I've avoided using the DAW notation view is that when I work with notation I prefer to get away from sampled instruments entirely and just use a piano -- when the sampled instrument is there, the temptation to craft a performance and figure out the keyswitching before I've fully considered the arrangement is just too strong, and I end up wasting time making the instrument sound good when I'm not really even happy with the arrangement yet. Notation view in a DAW just seems like the worst of both worlds to me.

EDIT: Regarding Notion specifically, I believe it's ReWire capable, meaning that you can link it to a ReWire capable DAW and use the DAW to control Notion's playback, etc. I've never used Notion so I don't know exactly how it works, but I can't see it being that much more useful than a DAW's native notation view, since even if you have a full score in Notion you'll still probably have to use a DAW piano roll and/or perform the music to get the humanization right.

TL;DR

Notation programs and DAWs do fundamentally different things, and integrating the two may not significantly streamline your workflow compared to keeping them separate unless you're unconcerned with humanization.

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There are things you can do to make using Finale easier with DAWs. There are settings that you can use so that when you export the MIDI out of it, VST software like Vienna symphonic will respond better to the CC data. It's still not perfect, though.

When I was taking some courses from Berkley, I had a number of discussions with my professor about this subject and he pretty much agreed that there is really no good way to get notation software to work symbiotically with DAWs. I personally like to sketch out songs in notation when it comes to writing orchestral music since it's a lot easier to see various instruments at the same time. If I have to score something to video, though, it's just quicker to start off in the DAW. In the end, you just have to find a work flow that fits your needs.

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I'm not sure about Finale, but one of the problems I had when using Guitar Pro was that the MIDI instruments restricted my song writing, even if I only planned to use GP as a "placeholder".

I feel writing that directly into the DAW is a bit less comfortable but gives you a lot more freedom than writing on Guitar Pro, so I recently switched to just using DAW.

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I'm not sure about Finale, but one of the problems I had when using Guitar Pro was that the MIDI instruments restricted my song writing, even if I only planned to use GP as a "placeholder".

I feel writing that directly into the DAW is a bit less comfortable but gives you a lot more freedom than writing on Guitar Pro, so I recently switched to just using DAW.

Well, it depends on purpose and preference. Guitar Pro 5 (six sucks terribly) is a pretty damn good program for writing and arranging guitar music that you can rehearse and tweak to your liking before recording. Unfortunately, that's pretty much the extent of its use. Writing polyphonic symphonies with it is out of the question and I don't know how you would easily write dance music with it.

But like I say, I'm a guy who likes to have the whole piece "composed" before recording any live instrument(s) and the MIDI sequencers found in DAWs aren't always ideal for that purpose.

Some people I know just hit record and go nuts with their guitar, clarinet or whatever, but I've never found that to be a good method myself. If you decide you want to change something in the audio, you have to re-record that part again and I also find that method usually doesn't "push" your technique much. I find that whenever I just hit record and just jam on guitar, I tend to dumb-down my playing and stick to something simpler. If I write it out as MIDI, Tab, Notation etc. I tend to write something that I must practice and really think about to get it right.

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I'm not sure about Finale, but one of the problems I had when using Guitar Pro was that the MIDI instruments restricted my song writing, even if I only planned to use GP as a "placeholder".

I feel writing that directly into the DAW is a bit less comfortable but gives you a lot more freedom than writing on Guitar Pro, so I recently switched to just using DAW.

This actually brings up a good point that hadn't occurred to me since it's never really been an issue for me personally -- keeping everything in the DAW, even temporary sketches, gives you temp tracks that are much easier to work with compared to using an external program. So if part of the track is already finalized, you can write directly against the finalized portion instead of writing the new part in isolation.

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I actually just used to use noteflight.com for composing sheet music. I generally only do that before I play something in live that isn't intuitive. If it can be improvised, I just improvise it in directly. I would still find that site great though. To me it's easy to use and it can export with, at least, terraced dynamics.

I pretty much always use the piano roll nowadays.

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