Notes from the Shore

Work, marriage, kids and music

How to Compose Music – Step 1, Compose some Music

As of last night, the writing of music is substantially complete! That is, all the parts are placed and in order, and I am reasonably happy with the way they are turning out. That’s not to say that there aren’t places where I’m still troubled – I just don’t know what to do with them. They will probably end up being buried in the mix. Last evening’s work consisted of adding in the final sprinklings of brass at the finale, tweaking the horns a little bit, and working out the conductor’s track.

The majority of time was spent with the conductor’s track. Recent incarnations of Finale have this cool feature that allows you to record a real-time tempo track by conducting the performance with either a MIDI trigger (such as a pedal) or the space bar.

Maybe I need more practice, but I tried it a couple of times and found it awkward and the results less than satisfying. The main problem is that it’s too sensitive and follows you exactly. My bike computer averages the last several revolutions of the wheel to come with a reasonable speed of travel. Finale uses the exact time span of each two taps on the space bar to determine the tempo PER BEAT. The resulting tempo map looks like a mountain range and plays less than smoothly.

You may be asking why I can’t keep a consistent tempo, and here’s the reason: Lag.

You are conducting in real time, but there is some lag in the sample playback. Like the good ensemble player I am, I adjust – unfortunately, all the rest of the band members adjust to me like clockwork. This results in the unnatural speeding and slowing of the tempo as I naturally adjust and then try to bring the tempo back up to where I want it. In the end, I erased all my conducting work and entered a few tempos in manually. I may go back into it later this week and futz with it a little more.

Now that the music is written, the next step is the rendering – turning the sheet music into something that’s nice to listen to. That will be the subject of my next post.

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