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DAW based on sheet music?


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Spurred by a misunderstanding on another thread, I am kind of curious if this exists.

Is there a daw that centers around notated music? I don't mean notation software (Finale, Sibelius, etc). Really more like, a DAW where entering midi data for synths/etc is managed primarily through a notation interface rather than centering around piano roll. I know of Logic, REAPER, and several others have a notation viewer/editor, but my understanding was that those were secondary and really for sending things to performers/collaborators.

I do virtually no arranging work in a DAW. Everything I arrange is in Sibelius, purely through notation, then I export that midi to REAPER and go from there, usually with recorded instruments.

I guess I'm really just curious if anybody has made a DAW primarily operated through notation. I'm over 99% sure that it doesn't really exist, because it would be heavily impractical and aimed at a somewhat niche market, as a good portion of people who would benefit don't really need it.

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Reaper and I think Cubase too allows for notation input, but it sucks.

I'm starting to doubt it's ever going to be a serious thing, because the MIDI information in a piano roll is a lot more detailed regarding things like time, and all of that is very important in making realistic mockups which is kinda the point of using the virtual instruments. There's also that most people use a MIDI controller and record in real or step time, and it'd be a total mess for sheet music to capture that.

:-?

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PreSonus Notion? Steinberg Dorico?

Those seem to be notation programs equipped for actual virtual instrument "production" as well as composition.

However, I feel like any program that excels in one area is going to be lacking in other areas, so you may end up wanting to use multiple programs after all, to play to each one's strengths in a way that suits your ideal workflow.

I don't know that you can work with audio tracks in the apps I mentioned, short of using something akin to ReWire. But on that topic, there are definitely ways to make your programs communicate with one another, so that you don't have to constrain yourself to a "one size fits all" solution.

Or perhaps I totally misunderstand the question, because it isn't entirely clear what you are looking for (i.e. what DAW features you need?).

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4 hours ago, halfwalk said:

Or perhaps I totally misunderstand the question, because it isn't entirely clear what you are looking for (i.e. what DAW features you need?).

I'm not actually looking for anything. I'm really happy with what I have (Write everything in Sibelius then record on live instruments in REAPER).
This was a thought experiment to see if anything like this existed.

 

19 hours ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

Reaper and I think Cubase too allows for notation input, but it sucks.

I'm starting to doubt it's ever going to be a serious thing, because the MIDI information in a piano roll is a lot more detailed regarding things like time, and all of that is very important in making realistic mockups which is kinda the point of using the virtual instruments. There's also that most people use a MIDI controller and record in real or step time, and it'd be a total mess for sheet music to capture that.

:-?

Right, for mockups, I'm actually pretty satisfied with noteperformer and kind of wish there was more versatility there. For example, a cinematic orchestral mockup in noteperformer sounds pretty neat. A jazz big band mockup sounds laughably white bread. If I were to move over to samples for mockups I would have a hard time anyway because jazz samples aren't that great.
How's Cubase? Reaper's is decent but seems to be aimed at output rather than input.

 

11 hours ago, Palas said:

Wouldn't a DAW like that require the notation input to be turned into MIDI anyway? I don't think there's a point in making it then, unless a new protocol comes up.

It would. The point isn't to not use midi, the point is that there are quite a few people who aren't really that thrilled with using piano roll, and for the most part do all their writing in notation. Like...piano roll makes my blood boil because it's really clunky. All notation software works through midi, just with an interface that is much more friendly to people who have used notation their whole lives.
It's kind of like somebody who is proficient at a professional level on a wind instrument using a piano that they are much less than mediocre at. DAWs are built around midi instruments, which are based on piano. This is fine, that's how they're designed. But if I could use my primary instrument for entering midi, good lord would my productivity skyrocket.

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2 minutes ago, JohnStacy said:

It would. The point isn't to not use midi, the point is that there are quite a few people who aren't really that thrilled with using piano roll, and for the most part do all their writing in notation. Like...piano roll makes my blood boil because it's really clunky. All notation software works through midi, just with an interface that is much more friendly to people who have used notation their whole lives.
It's kind of like somebody who is proficient at a professional level on a wind instrument using a piano that they are much less than mediocre at. DAWs are built around midi instruments, which are based on piano. This is fine, that's how they're designed. But if I could use my primary instrument for entering midi, good lord would my productivity skyrocket.

No, sure, I perfectly understand it - it'd be extremely useful for musicians, and like you said, you kind of have to figure out how to play a proper wind instrument on a piano, which is clunky. But what makes this possible DAW difficult to come accross is that theoretically and according to how MIDI works the piano roll is the "base form" of all digital music. So you're kind of looking for a keyboard that can type in a few whole words instead of individual letters... and I can see that actually working, but not many companies willing to offer it.

But now that you said it, it does sound like the kind of thing that would inspire an open source project somewhere.

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Additionally, it's worth mentioning that software combos like Notion and Studio One let you write in notation, and then import directly to DAW for mockup and mixing.

It's not an all-in-one solution, but if you want a way to smooth productivity from traditional composition methods into the production phase, that would be the way to go.

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  • 2 weeks later...
5 hours ago, Realme said:

Okay. So, you want to teach a newcomer about how sounds work together. You give them something to think and google about, or you exceed your post with 150+ characters. And risk bait. Which is better? You could have kept this discussion as part of the other one.

Hey man, what are you doing? What's going on? Everyone in this topic is discussing DAWs that use sheet music and you're posting strange off-topic complaints. Do you have something to contribute in this topic with regards to DAWs that use staff notation as a way of writing the MIDI data or what?

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3 hours ago, Realme said:

Eat me.

Get the hell out of my thread.

I have no idea what your problem is or what the hell is wrong with you but I was actually seriously pursuing this idea. If you read my first post, and the discussion that followed, you could see that we were actually seriously discussing this concept, which was much different from the other thread, the point of which you also missed. If somebody is asking a question on a forum, saying "hurr durr just google it noob" doesn't actually do anything. It's 2019. No shit people can google things. I can google "daw based on sheet music" to see if there's anything out there. Do you know what comes up? Not much. Stuff on Reaper's notation feature (which is not a DAW based on sheet music), and other similarly related things that aren't actually helpful to what I am looking for. I'm a professional musician (studio musician) with a degree in music composition. I am most comfortable working with music notation. A DAW based on notation would save me a lot of time by cutting out the middleman of having to use a notation software and a DAW. Somebody asking for a DAW based on notation probably knows how to read sheet music.

Do you know what is helpful? @Dextastic mentioning Overture 5, which most of us had never heard of, and which seems to fit the bill closer than anything else. Asking a question on a forum brings a human element that interprets the question and answers in ways that google just simply doesn't. Do you know what wasn't helpful? You, at all.

"Please use google if you want to use a DAW based on sheet music instead of a piano roll. It is too complicated to explain here, of all places. "

I fail to see the relevance of this to the original thread. Nowhere ANYWHERE did the OP ask about a daw based around sheet music. I saw this comment and was curious if it existed so I started a new thread (see how the topic was different so I started a new thread?).

Keep your bulllshit away from these discussions.

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2 hours ago, ArthurM said:

Jeebus! I've never heard such a good fake orchestra in all my life. Also that composition! Zane is one talented individual!

His Star Wars mockups with it are also fantastic.

IMO, at least where orchestral mockups are concerned, Noteperformer is the way forward. It's just way easier to compose with than dealing with massive templates of samples.

The big problem, as I see it, that still plagues "traditional" sample libraries that you load in a DAW is a lack of homogeneity between different articulations. For example, Cinebrass records 1/8, 1/4 and 1/2 notes. But I find that going from 1/8 to 1/2, or 1/4 to 1/2 results in a "wrong" sound most of the time. Because most of the half-note samples were recorded with a softer attack than the other two. This kinda thing makes it harder to sequence a truly-musical line. Don't even get me started on switching between totally different articulations and repeated notes even with RR.

But something that was more "keyboard" sounding did precisely because it had too much homogeneity between the samples. Like, a "staccato" was often just a cut-off version of the sustain. It was only one sample. The upside to this is that sequencing rhythmically-active lines and still sounding cohesive is a lot easier and thus, I argue a lot of these composers write better music because they're not being limited by "what the samples are good at".

Example with older Noteperformer:

New Noteperformer

It's not perfect, but sequencing something like that with a DAW with most of the sample libraries available is a nightmare, and very time-consuming. I personally think that this kind of tech will soon make it so that you can just compose in a notation program and it will sound just as good as labor-intensive mockups with with the best sample libraries, but in a lot less time.

 

 

 

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  • 11 months later...

Hello everbody,

Thank you for this subject and answers. I am desperatly looking for this kind of program : score composition coupled with DAW production/edition. It looks like it still doesn't exist.

The best program so far in my opinion is Logic Pro, but unfortunately I am using Windows, so the best alternative seems to be Reason or Cubase. I am currently using Cubase but it is quite frustrating as the score editor is very basic. 

Did someone make any progress on that subject ?

Many thanks in advance, Arnaud.

PS : For the one who doubt about the relevance of the topic : In my opinion no notation can replace score staves when it comes to visualise the polyphony (and certainly not a piano roll). Especially when you are composing counterpoint :)

 

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Thank you for joining the discussion! Since this thread happened, I've found a few new options.

I still use Sibelius due to large assignments still needing to be done. After May, I'll have more downtime. I'm going to give Dorico 3 a shot. Mainly because although Dorico isn't a DAW, it has gained so many more DAW like features. Now it gives the option to edit midi information and other automation things with envelopes. So although you do still need a DAW for audio purposes, most of the midi prep can be done in the notation software, and a lot of the changes can be changed and saved with the symbols. A FP dynamic can be mapped to a specific velocity curve and saved to a CC value, then exported with the midi. When imported into the DAW, this takes care of most of the editing work that would need to happen in the DAW normally.

So for the purposes of using notation software like a DAW, Dorico 3 looks to be the closest bet. It currently supports sample libraries, but their use is somewhat unwieldy. I'm fairly confident that by Dorico 4 the level of sample support will grow to a point when you can enter everything in notation, then do some editing in the same program, and have a mockup using samples that is much more efficient that ever before. Especially since it is highly likely that the template will be adjusted organically (assigning an accent symbol to automatically layer a staccato and legato patch at the same velocity). I wouldn't be surprised if this is already in the works, or does exist in 3 with some semblance of functionality.

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  • 2 months later...
On 2/7/2019 at 2:02 PM, JohnStacy said:

Get the hell out of my thread.

I have no idea what your problem is or what the hell is wrong with you but I was actually seriously pursuing this idea. If you read my first post, and the discussion that followed, you could see that we were actually seriously discussing this concept, which was much different from the other thread, the point of which you also missed. If somebody is asking a question on a forum, saying "hurr durr just google it noob" doesn't actually do anything. It's 2019. No shit people can google things. I can google "daw based on sheet music" to see if there's anything out there. Do you know what comes up? Not much. Stuff on Reaper's notation feature (which is not a DAW based on sheet music), and other similarly related things that aren't actually helpful to what I am looking for. I'm a professional musician (studio musician) with a degree in music composition. I am most comfortable working with music notation. A DAW based on notation would save me a lot of time by cutting out the middleman of having to use a notation software and a DAW. Somebody asking for a DAW based on notation probably knows how to read sheet music.

Do you know what is helpful? @Dextastic mentioning Overture 5, which most of us had never heard of, and which seems to fit the bill closer than anything else. Asking a question on a forum brings a human element that interprets the question and answers in ways that google just simply doesn't. Do you know what wasn't helpful? You, at all.

"Please use google if you want to use a DAW based on sheet music instead of a piano roll. It is too complicated to explain here, of all places. "

I fail to see the relevance of this to the original thread. Nowhere ANYWHERE did the OP ask about a daw based around sheet music. I saw this comment and was curious if it existed so I started a new thread (see how the topic was different so I started a new thread?).

Keep your bulllshit away from these discussions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6OKLgLZHFk

Edited by Mr.EA
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  • 8 months later...

Kind of late to the game but I actually primarily use notation with some insertion via keyboard and also midi editing as well. I came from using Finale for years but was unsatisfied with the sound I got. So primarily, when I'm in my DAW, I am using the sheet music notation as a guide. I personally do it in pro tools. It isn't the best afaik for...a lot of things but it is what I chose to get and as I've stuck with it, I've learned the ins and outs of what I can and cannot (or should not lol) do in the sheet music editor.

Here is an example of a remaster I did most of in sheet music view. I think the process so far has allowed me to write and be expressive while learning more and more about the midi editing, recording what instruments I play on keyboard, and mixing etc.

This isn't perfect and I could have done better with more attention and micro managing via midi but I was happy with the results. Some of it is also having VSTs that play nicely when just given notes and they can go. The less programming needed, the easier it is to work mostly in sheet mode. Still, I think it's good to learn more midi stuff as well.

To conclude, I say use pro tools, logic, or whatever of your choice and learn about the limitations of the sheet music mode and use it while you get more comfortable with midi. I think even when I do get better, I'll still default to sheet music and I think it's doable if you are patient and willing to learn some midi and such to better assist with programming the instruments to make them sound good.

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  • 1 year later...

Yeah, this question is very relevant to musicians that want to work with notation rather than piano roll.  Notation carries much more information, and is much more understandable to read than piano roll.  It's funny that piano roll still requires all the rhythm notations of score editing but leaves out the pitch and all the expression and articulation stuff.  I can't write sophisticated music in a piano roll.  You can't read what you write there.  It's like converting handwriting into binary.

Personally, I use Reaper right now, but I hate the score editor.  It seems deliberately stupid and unintuitive.  And yet it's better than most because it's bugs are less crippling.  It was not written by a musician and no musician had any design input.  The problem is that Reaper has so many other things that I like about it.  The score editor has a lot of power, but no grace.

Overture 5 looks like something to consider, but I'm skeptical that it will have everything I need.  I'd be shocked if it does, because I've never even heard of it until now.

I've tried using Dorico and I think it's great, but it just doesn't have the DAW features and productivity that I need as well.  But I think they may be taking Cubase over to incorporate into it.

I've also seriously tried Studio One which has a good score editor now and also interacts with Notion 6.  But the score editor looks great but doesn't have a full set of features yet.  (hard to move notes or change length, can't step input triplets) and it also has bugs that stop you completely from accomplishing what you want.  They may be upgrading that in the future though.  The integration with Notion is hard to get going and clunky.  You might as well just save midi files and import them.  Notion started showing bugs and weaknesses as soon as I started to work with it.

I tried Cubase too and that whole environment was too clunky for me.

Bitwig is great but it has no score editor

So I still haven't found a DAW with a good score editor.  In my opinion, the one who gets that done right will have a great product that professionals will use more than other DAWs.

 

 

 

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On 2/9/2022 at 11:57 AM, Aikido123 said:

Yeah, this question is very relevant to musicians that want to work with notation rather than piano roll.  Notation carries much more information, and is much more understandable to read than piano roll.  It's funny that piano roll still requires all the rhythm notations of score editing but leaves out the pitch and all the expression and articulation stuff. 

i wouldn't say "notation carries much more information". it's more that the information that's there has been finetuned for centuries to display a spectrum of values and expressions very sensically and effectively, pertaining to an agreed upon understanding of what's music(al). it's certainly very good for sight reading+playing music, on an instrument.

in midi terms, velocity is often articulation, or there's keyswitches involved. or aftertouch. yeah, it's nowhere as intuitively understandable as notation. but the information is there, and it's basically more information. it's just not presented very intuitively, and that's something that may be perfected down the road.

hm, i'll just use this as another opportunity to highlight how awesome the "slide notes" in FL Studio are - not for readability, but for sequencing performance regarding everything pitch related, they are unsurpassed. you can't do this with notation. but you can't easily sight read a complex fruity loops piano roll, either. pros n cons.

just saying, unlike standard notation, not every piano roll is the same. they differ.

 

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Yeah I'm gonna agree with Nase. Notation does not intrinsically convey more information, it's just an older and more established method of describing music that performers are trained to read. Piano rolls are actually very good at conveying information; everything sequenced in a piano roll is *discrete*.

  • If you write a B♭ and a B♮ on a piano roll, you can very clearly and cleanly see that they're different notes and you can understand that one is higher or lower than the other. But if you want to write a B♭ and B♮ on a staff, you have to take into account both the clef and the key signature so that you put the notes on the correct line and also write or leave out the ♭ and ♮ signs, because they're on the same line; plus a staff only has 5 lines, so if you're writing higher or lower ones, you're messing around with ledger lines.
  • On a piano roll, if you want a note to have a certain duration, you just make the note that duration. There's a numeric value associated with the note. On a staff, you don't have that. You can say this is a staccato eighth note, but what does that *mean*? How long is it, actually, in relation to the tempo? How is that different from legato?

I'm not here to argue against a robust, notation-based input method for DAWs. It's definitely a gap that needs to be filled, and a lot of work to write something that can interpret and translate those instructions into something a sample engine or synthesizer can understand and execute. But keep in mind that sequencing in a DAW is not the same as engraving a score for live, human performers. Trained human performers can read detailed sheet music and still differ on the engraver's intent. The data you put into a piano roll can only really be read one way.

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