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New Old School

A Forum to Discuss NOTION

New Old School

Postby ottoharp » Fri Mar 28, 2014 12:17 am

Ok, I need some basic opinions; when I was doing active composition, it was in the days before MIDI, before DAWs. We wrote our music on Vellum with Osmiroid pens. We recorded with real tape loops.

Things have changed...and I'm trying to address the steep curve now. I veered off into Folk music for 25 years, and now I'm coming back to recording in a whole new world. Ambient music.

But thing is, I've been racking my brains with DAWS that did not understand notation..and it seems like I'm speaking computer when trying to learn a computer's interface...when, really, shouldn't the computer speak MY language? Notation? Scores instead of piano rolls? ('ve been crunching myself studying/learning FLStudio and Reaper some)...

Here's my question....does a program like Notion go the extra distance in speaking my "paper trained" language? I mean, if I write "pizz." will it (in theory) load the right sample? Or "cresc." instead of going in and tweaking a veloctiy bar graph---

I realize I can't do without learning MIDI or sampling or basic 101 things in this new world....but is something like Notion going to meet me half way, instead of all my years of musical training going for naught? And does it work like other DAWS and record, say, my Native American Flute parts, as Audio alongside...or do I have to "rewire" it or export to another program/format to use other, non-notated sound clips and samples?

Forgive my ignorance, I'm Old School in a new world, and I'm learning it and loving it. I haven't purchased NOTION yet, because my mind and hands are so full learning these wonders....just wondering, given that I am already paper trained, if it might decrease the learning curve a bit?

Opinions? Help?
Thanks...
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Re: New Old School

Postby Surfwhammy » Fri Mar 28, 2014 7:03 pm

ottoharp wrote:I need some basic opinions


Welcome to the machine and the FORUM . . . :)

If I were guessing, my best guess is that a lot of FORUM members have similar backgrounds in one way or another; and it takes a while to transition from the analog universe of paper, pencil, and magnetic tape to the digital music production universe, but it is well worth the effort for several reasons, including the obvious fact that you can do virtually everything entirely by yourself . . .

More specifically, if you can imagine it, then you can do it in the digital music universe, which (a) is a fact and (b) I can and do prove it in my posts to this FORUM and the IK Multimedia FORUM, among others . . .

I think you will find NOTION 4 very intuitive and easy to use; and regarding the way one indicates dynamics, articulations, playing styles, and so forth, this is done either visually using a tool palette and the mouse or with a keyboard and various key combinations. You get immediate feedback, because you hear the notes and can play phrases to listen to the music notation, but you also can play the entire songs; and you can play only parts of a single instrument, so it is very flexible. Based on what you described as your goals, NOTION 4 is the only product that provides a professional level solution and works cooperatively with the other hardware and software while being easy to use and intuitive. Some aspects of NOTION 4 can take a while to master, but you can be productive very quickly while you are discovering the more advanced aspects of NOTION 4 . . .

Regarding computers, my general advice is found in the following recent post to this FORUM, where the succinct version is that it is vastly easier to do digital music production on the Mac . . .

[NOTE: For reference, I did Windows application, server, and database software designing and engineering for 15 years starting with the Windows 1.1 in early-1987, where later I was a Microsoft Solution Provider (MSP); and in some respects I know more about Windows than Mac OS X; but I switched to the Mac in 2001, initially to make my iPod "happy", since at the time (a) I was my iPod's acolyte and (b) I really like Aqua, the visual interface for Mac OS X. A while later, I discovered that it is very easy to do digital music production on the Mac, and after a bit of experimenting, I became less fascinated by my iPod and considerably more fascinated by digital music production. If it were easier to do digital music production on a Windows machine, I would advise accordingly; but it is not easier, hence the advice to do digital music production on the Mac, where (a) stuff just works and (b) the primary design goal is that the machine should never bother the human . . . ]

Need advice from a user to a new device (Notion Music FORUM)

Overall, it has taken seven or so years for me to make sense of all this stuff; and I work on it every day, so while it is takes time and diligent studying and experimenting, there are ways to make learning everything easier and faster, where one way is to have someone explain the key bits of information in a very specific way, which is something I like to do but only focusing on the Mac and a particular set of digital music production hardware and software, all of which I have tested and verified . . .

This is a high-level diagram of the complete digital music production system I use and recommend, and it is complete, because it does everything and covers every practical scenario:

[NOTE: I used the name "COMPUTER" rather than "Apple Computer" or "Mac", because you can do this in the Windows universe, and it is a general diagram, so the "COMPUTER" can be a Windows computer or an Apple computer (a.k.a., a "Mac"). For reference, I use a MOTU 828mk3 Hybrid for the "EXTERNAL Digital Audio and MIDI Interface", but there are other external interfaces that are nice. The new version of the MOTU device is the MOTU 828x, and PreSonus has a similar device . . . ]

Image
Complete Digital Music Production System

MOTU 828x

AudioBox 1818VSL (PreSonus)

NOTION 4 is used for music notation and VSTi virtual instruments, as well as recording from MIDI devices and converting the MIDI notes to music notation. NOTION 4 also has special staves that convert music notation to MIDI and pipe the resulting MIDI to both real and virtual MIDI devices. NOTION 4 is the foundation for the digital music production system I recommend, and everything begins with a basic NOTION 4 score . . .

There are several possibilities for the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) application, but I use Digital Performer 8 (MOTU) as my primary DAW application, although I do experiments and verification tests with Ableton Live 9, Logic Pro 9/X (Apple), and Studio One 2.6 Producer (PreSonus); and I am planning to do some experiments and verification tests with Cubase (Steinberg) . . .

I started with AudioDesk (MOTU) as my DAW application, since it came with the first MOTU interface I got (MOTU 828mkII), which continues to work nicely; and Digital Performer is the high-end upgrade to AudioDesk, so it is easiest for me to use, and I understand how it works more intimately that the other DAW applications. With the exception of LogicPro 9/X, the other DAW applications have Windows versions, and I expect that they work correctly, but I have no way at present to verify this expectation . . .

All the real devices (microphones, electric guitars, MIDI keyboards, and so forth) connect to the EXTERNAL Digital Audio and MIDI Interface, which converts their analog signals to digital and does something similar for MIDI signals but for MIDI also acts as a general MIDI interface using standard MIDI cables, noting that newer MIDI devices usually have USB ports, which is another way to connect them to a computer, with the USB option only needing a computer; and I use both styles of MIDI interfacing . . .

The EXTERNAL Digital Audio and MIDI Interface also converts the digital output of the computer to analog, which then is routed to your studio monitor system, but it also supports working with headphones. The key bit of information about studio monitor systems is that they need to be calibrated full-range studio monitor systems, and at present there are only two commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) full-range studio monitor systems available on this planet, specifically (a) the approximately $20,000 (US) JBL M2 Series Master Reference Monitor System and (b) the approximately $2,300 (US) PreSonus Scepter S8 Studio Monitor System with two PreSonus Tremblor T10 Subwoofers, where the key is that both of these cover the full range of normal human hearing (20-Hz to 20,000-Hz), with the deep bass in many respects being the most important; and since accurately reproducing deep bass requires "big and heavy" components, this is the reason that there are only two such COTS systems . . .

[NOTE: I use a custom-designed yet nevertheless COTS system, but instead of being a COTS studio monitor system, it is a COTS DJ/PA system that just happens to work nicely as a calibrated full-range studio monitor system and costs approximately $500 (US) less than the PreSonus system, which is fine if you understand professional sound reinforcement. The drawback is that the system I use is sufficiently powerful to be the sound system for a small nightclub, but I run it at very low volume, which I measure and verify with a digital sound pressure level (SPL) meter, which is important because the sound isolation studio is approximately 6 feet wide by 7 feet tall and 12 feet long, with this also being the case for a room 50 feet wide by 12 feet tall and 50 feet long. Explained another way, if you do not have a pair of OSHA-approved ear protectors like the ones used by people who work around jet airplanes and if you do not have someone to provide a bit of advice, then the PreSonus studio monitor system (see above) is safer to setup. Regardless, another of the goals is to have the maximum volume at 85 dB SPL with a dBA weighting and 90 to 100 dB SPL with a dBC weighting, which is the ideal level for final mixing and at 90 dB SPL is at the upper limit of OSHA recommended volume for listening for approximately 8 hours without causing permanent ear damage (see "Table G-16 Permissible Noise Exposures" in OSHA Standard Number 1910.95), noting that the EPA recommended maximum is 70 db SPL, which I think is nonsense. This is explained in more detail in my ongoing topic in the IK Multimedia FORUM . . . ]

The Fabulous Affordable Studio Monitor System Project (IK Multimedia FORUM)

Standard Number 1910.95 ~ Occupational Noise Exposure (OSHA)

[NOTE: The EPA Office of Noise Abatement and Control was defunded in 1982, which is a useful clue to the correct way to interpret the information provided by the EPA in this regard . . . ]

EPA Identifies Noise Levels Affecting Health and Welfare (EPA Office of Noise Abatement and Control, April 1974)

~ ~ ~ Continued in the next post ~ ~ ~
Last edited by Surfwhammy on Mon Mar 31, 2014 4:21 pm, edited 10 times in total.
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Re: New Old School

Postby Surfwhammy » Fri Mar 28, 2014 7:08 pm

~ ~ ~ Continued from the previous post ~ ~ ~

Having a calibrated full-range studio monitor system is important, because it is the only way you can hear the music accurately for producing, mixing, and mastering purposes; and this is the case in part because when you listen with headphones or ear buds, each ear hears something separately and independently, which is a problem for primary producing, mixing, and mastering . . .

Headphones and ear buds can be used later in the process to do a bit of fine-tuning for folks who prefer to listen with headphones and ear buds, and of course you can use headphones and ear buds when recording, but you need to begin with a primary mix done while listening to the music played through a calibrated full-range studio monitor system, noting that this type of mix will sound better when you listen to it later with headphones and ear buds than a mix done solely with headphones and ear buds, strange as it might be . . .

The short version of the primary need for a calibrated full-range studio monitor system is that without the deep bass, people compensate for the missing deep bass by using the Missing Fundamental auditory illusion and by doing so they skew the midrange and high frequencies, which results in terrible sounding mixes, where explained another way it is like attempting to produce a full-color photograph with monochrome film or attempting to paint a full-color picture while wearing glasses with blue lenses . . .

You need to hear the recorded music accurately when you are producing, mixing, and mastering; and at least some of the time you need to hear it a 85 dB SPL, because otherwise you are spinning wheels . . .

Moving to the next item in the diagram, I include Reason 7 (Propellerhead Software), because it makes it possible to do things that one cannot do with music notation and virtual instrument and effects plug-ins (AU, VSTi, VST, and so forth), where another reason is the new Rack Extensions technology . . .

Reason 7 (Propellerhead Software)

Rack Extensions (Propellerhead Software)

As you can see in the diagram, the glue that connects the DAW application, NOTION 4, and Reason 7 is ReWire 2; and ReWire 2 also makes it possible for NOTION 4 External MIDI staves to control Reason 7 synthesizers; and on the Mac the factory supplied "virtual MIDI cable" technology makes it possible for Reason 7 to send MIDI to Notion 4 and to the DAW application, all of which is a bit mind-boggling in terms of interconnectivity in real-time on the fly . . .

In the digital music production universe, real instruments and real signal processors like reverb and echo units are replaced with virtual instruments and effects plug-ins; and there are virtual instruments and effects plug-ins that are highly accurate emulations of industry standard real instruments and real signal processors, but they cost considerably less, in some instances perhaps one-tenth as much as the real instruments and real signal processors . . .

I like all the IK Multimedia virtual instruments and effects plug-ins, but at present the IK Multimedia virtual instruments are 32-bit only, which will be corrected when 64-bit SampleTank is released later this year; but T-RackS CS and the ARC System 2 are both 32-bit and 64-bit, and I use them as primary signal processors . . .

I also like Addictive Drums and Addictive Keys (XLN Audio), Cyclop (Sugar Bytes), Kontakt 5 (Native Instruments), MachFive 3 (MOTU), and Twin 2 (FabFilter Software Instruments) for virtual instruments, all of which support Steinberg's VSTi technology, which is what NOTION 4 supports . . .

For echo, I use Timeless 2 (FabFilter Software Instruments); and for "ducking" I use ProC (FabFilter Software Instruments), which makes "ducking" very easy to do, where for reference "ducking" refers to automagically lowering the volume of background instruments when a singer is singing, which also is done for radio announcers and during instrumental solos, with "ducking" being one of the key techniques for getting clarity and focus in the digital music production universe . . .

The T-RackS CS Vintage Tape Delay is an accurate emulation of the classic Echoplex of the 1960s, and I use it for lead guitar every so often, but Timeless 2 is the most amazing echo plug-in currently available on this planet, so I use it most of the time, since I like echoes . . .

Rounding out the complete system, there are real instruments, microphones, real effects and signal processors, and MIDI devices, which is another topic or perhaps a later addition to this set of replies . . .

THOUGHTS

With a virtual instrument that supports sampling, you can create a sample sound library for your Native American Flute, and this might be an opportunity for a product, where Bolder Sounds is an example of a small business that creates and sells custom sampled sound libraries . . .

[NOTE: I like handbells and crystal glasses, and since Bolder Sounds has very nice sampled sound libraries for these instruments, this is what motivated me to get Kontakt 5. Bolder Sounds has a Buffalo Drum sampled sound library, which is interesting; and there are videos of the Buffalo Drum at the Bolder Sounds website . . . ]

Bolder Sounds

~ ~ ~ Continued in the next post ~ ~ ~
Last edited by Surfwhammy on Fri Mar 28, 2014 9:49 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: New Old School

Postby Surfwhammy » Fri Mar 28, 2014 7:23 pm

~ ~ ~ Continued from the previous post ~ ~ ~

Kontakt 5 (Native Instruments), MachFive 3 (MOTU), and SampleTank (IK Multimedia) are virtual instruments that have engines that play sampled sound libraries but also are used to create user-defined custom sampled sound libraries; and the process of creating an user-defined custom sampled sound library begins with recording individual notes with the DAW application, where these notes are digitized and separated into separate files with specific names that identify each individual note and provide additional information required for a sampled sound library . . .

The individual files usually are WAVE files; and there are WAVE file editors that make it easy to trim the data and to prepare it correctly, which primarily involves removing any noise or "silence" before the actual notes starts and doing the same after note ends, which is important because you want to sample the notes, not the ambient noise in the recording studio most of the time . . .

If you are planning to have a bit of FUN as a vocalist and are not the greatest singer, then there is software that provides a bit of help, with the two primary products being the infamous Auto-Tune (Antares) and the Melodyne Editor (Celemony), both of which are quite amazing, even though I cannot avoid having a bit of sarcastic FUN in my comments about Auto-Tune . . .

[NOTE: Auto-Tune EFX 2 was on sale recently, so being a bit curious I got it; and I like it, because it has a subtle setting as well as the more obvious and infamous options . . . ]

Auto-Tune EFX 2 (Antares)

[NOTE: I used Auto-Tune EFX 2 on the single vocal track for "Feel Me", and most of the time it is not obvious, although in the third and fourth verses there are a few obvious bits, which is fine with me. For reference, the lead guitar is real and the singing is real but pitch-corrected with the Melodyne Editor and then and Auto-Tuned . . . ]

"Feel Me" (The Surf Whammys) ~ February 2014 ~ YouTube music video

Melodyne Editor (Celemony)

This is an example of using the complete digital music production system with "Faster" (Techno Squirrels), a demo song that came with Reason 6 which is a personal favorite, and it shows a ReWire 2 session where Digital Performer 8 is the ReWire 2 host controller and both NOTION 4 and Reason 7 are ReWire 2 slaves . . .

[NOTE: I did a bit of editing and producing with the demo version of "Faster", where as I recall I made the song a bit longer, among other things. I also added new instruments both in the NOTION 4 score and in the Reason 7 project, as explained in the YouTube music video, where the Twin 2 synthesizer was played on a MIDI keyboard and recorded in NOTION 4, followed by a bit of music notation editing in NOTION 4 to correct a few mistakes, since I composed and played the Twin 2 synthesizer part in real-time on the fly in one take, which I like to do whenever possible, since I think it makes everything sound more real when one person is doing everything, although for singing I now do a lot of practicing, which is helping . . . ]

DP8 N4 R7 ReWire2 MIDI

Regarding music notation and NOTION 4, generally it works the way you imaging it works with respect to such things as dynamics, articulations, playing styles, and so forth . . .

There are a few caveats, some of which require additional work, but this is more for what I consider to be advanced and very detailed types of music notation; and such advanced things will make sense if you need to use them . . .

The key bit of information in this respect is that virtual instruments play sampled sounds; and sounds are sampled in specific dynamics, articulations, playing styles, and so forth . . .

The computer can alter sampled sounds to a certain extent, and this can include emulating notes that were not sampled, where there generally are two types of sampled sound libraries, one of which does not sample every note and the other of which samples every note, with the latter being a "chromatic" sampled sound library and usually costing significantly more than a "partially" sampled sound library, where this also applies to dynamics, articulations, and playing styles . . .

In this regard, the most realistic sounds occur when the sample sound library is a digitized rendition of a trained musician playing the real instruments in the specific dynamics, articulations, playing styles, and so forth, which in turn affects the strategy one uses with respect to music notation . . .

For example, if you select a set of sampled sounds where the instrument was only partially sampled (in other words perhaps only every other note was sampled) and the instrument is an electric guitar being played through an amplifier rig with a tremolo unit, then this causes a problem, because the missing notes are emulated via a computer algorithm which either (a) increases the pitch of a lower actually sampled note or (b) decreases the pitch of an higher actually sampled note, where both of this algorithms essentially are simplified flavors of Auto-Tune of the Melodyne Editor, which is fine for emulating notes withing a half-step or whole step with respect to pitch, harmonics, and overtones but is not so good for keeping the tremolo rate constant; and in this example what happens is that the otherwise constant tremolo speed varies for the emulated notes, hence the preferred strategy is to use a dry set of electric guitar samples and then later to run all of the notes through a tremolo effects plug-in, which ensures that the tremolo speed and depth are constant, since it applies the same way to all the notes (actually sampled and emulated notes) . . .

Nevertheless, in NOTION 4 when there are associated rules files and so forth, you can use dynamic marks like pianissimo and forte, crescendos, and different articulations like pizzicato, staccato, legato, and so forth . . .

There are mappings for specific sample sound libraries that will switch from one subset of samples to another subset when you specify a different articulation in the music notation, but it depends on the way the mappings are done, noting that you can create your own custom mappings. This also depends on having predefined combinations of subsets of samples defined for the sampled sound libraries, where such combinations typically are called "COMBI" or "Multi", depending on the specific engine and player, where for reference Kontakt 5, MachFive 3, and SampleTank are engines and players, although as noted at present SampleTank is 32-bit only for a while longer . . .

In the genres on which I focus most of the time, the important thing is that instruments and singing be heard clearly, so I usually do not use dynamics, articulations, and playing styles in my NOTION 4 scores, because I prefer to handle everything in the DAW application with respect to its being heard clearly . . .

If I want a tremolo string section, then I select a set of tremolo string section samples, which works nicely, because the musicians played their instruments tremolo, so (a) I do not need to provide any tremolo music notation and (b) it sound correct, because it is played the way I want it played, which keeps everything simple and works nicely, as you can hear in this basic rhythm section for a song I am developing . . .

[NOTE: This song is on the Surf Whammys first album, but it was done when I was doing everything with real instruments recorded in real-time on the fly on the first take, which also was before I solved the studio monitor problem, hence the original version sounds terrible even though it is a good song. Now I am redoing it with everything but the lead guitar and singing being done with music notation and real instruments, hence the pretend backup band essentially is prefect, which I think works better; and everything is done at high-resolution, so it sounds as realistic as possible. It is the new basic rhythm section, so it is a bit "hot", since I need to be able to hear some of the bits when I am recording real lead guitar and singing, but I smooth it later when I switch primary focus to final mixing and so forth, noting that I am always focused on producing, but producing has a different focus during the composing and recording phases . . . ]

"Dance Baby Dance" (The Surf Whammys) ~ Basic Rhythm Section 2014 ~ YouTube music video

Regarding NOTION 4 and where it fits in the complete digital music production system, you will need a DAW application to record your Native American Flute parts and any other real instruments and singing you want to record; and as explained, NOTION 4 interfaces with the DAW application via ReWire 2; so the answer the relevant question is that you need a DAW application and at least one microphone to record real stuff, where for reference there are USB microphones that work nicely and connect directly to a USB port on the computer, so at least initially you do not need an EXTERNAL Digital Audio and MIDI Interface, but over the long run having one makes everything easier and better, since it does other stuff . . .

[NOTE: I use one of these for voice overs, and it is surprisingly nice microphone with a three-pattern switch for different recording scenarios and so forth . . . ]

Snowball USB Mircophone (BLUE)

~ ~ ~ Continued in the next post ~ ~ ~
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Re: New Old School

Postby Surfwhammy » Fri Mar 28, 2014 9:09 pm

~ ~ ~ Continued from the previous post ~ ~ ~

At first to save money you can use a pair of professional studio quality headphones like the SONY MDR-7506 (a personal favorite) . . .

MDR-7506 Professional Headphones (SONY)

For folks who have experience in the analog universe, it is very important to understand three things:

(1) New commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) studio monitors are junk, with the only two exceptions being the JBL M2 Series Master Reference Studio Monitor System and the PreSonus Scepter S8 Studio Monitor System with a pair of Tremblor T10 Subwoofers . . .

[NOTE: I do not have the JBL Professional M2 Series Master Reference Studio Monitor System or the PreSonus Sceptre S8 and Tremblor T10 Studio Monitor System, but this is not necessary to make accurate statements, because the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communication Commission (FCC) have regulations and rules regarding technical specifications for audio systems and electronic components that include strong penalties for violations, and this is sufficient to ensure that technical specifications are accurate and are made according to clearly defined standards . . . ]

FTC Approves Amendments to Amplifier Rule (FTC, December 2000)

M2 Series Master Reference Monitor System (JBL Professional)

[NOTE: The Scepter S8 and Tremblor T10 are designed to work as a complete system with one for each side (Left, Right), and as noted in my other posts to this FORUM, the Scepter S8 without the Tremblor T10 almost makes me happy, since it goes lower than the low-pitch "E" string of an electric bass at standard concert tuning (440-Hz reference pitch), but adding the Tremblor T10 makes it perfect, since this extends the frequency range downward to 20-Hz, which for all practical purposes is perfect, although I think it can be pushed into the subsonic range with additional hardware, which is what I do with my Kustom studio monitor system, with this being especially important for modern music, since some genres specifically go subsonic and if you are doing songs in these genres, then you need to go subsonic, too . . . ]

Scepter S8 Studio Monitor System (PreSonus)

Tremblor T10 Subwoofer (PreSonus)

[NOTE: In some instances, an otherwise "junk" COTS studio monitor system can be transformed into a full-range studio monitor system if you add a pair of subwoofers, but you need to add a pair, not just one, where yet another COTS manufacturer bit of sneaky weaseling is suggesting that since deep bass is omnidirectional you only need one deep bass subwoofer, which is not the case and will not work, plus it is total nonsense. However, you also need calibrating hardware and software, where for software plus a calibrated microphone, I recommend the ARC System 2 (IK Multimedia), but I enhance it here in the sound isolation studio with a Behringer DEQ2496 UltraCurve Pro Mastering Processor and Real-Time Analyzer, which also has a calibrated condenser microphone, but it is sold separately, while the calibrated condenser microphone for ARC System 2 is included in the package . . . ]

ARC System 2 (IK Multimedia)

DEQ2496 UltraCurve Pro Mastering Processor and Real-Time Analyzer (Behringer)

(2) When you were working in the analog universe, all studio monitor systems were calibrated full-range studio monitor systems, and you heard all the music accurately, because for all practical purposes there only were professional recording studios and they all had access to audio engineers who had university level Electrical Engineering or Acoustic Physics degrees and knew the rules. There were self-taught audio engineers, but they learned the rules from the university trained folks; and this also was the case generally with producers like George Martin (Beatles) in the sense of producers having university degrees in Music, although there also were self-taught producers . . .

(3) As a producer, the DAW application is where you will do most of your work with respect to ensuring that songs sound good; and the DAW application is where you will do all or nearly all the signal processing and special effects, which is the case because you want to focus NOTION 4 on producing the highest quality audio, and this in turn makes it important to avoid using effects plug-ins in NOTION 4. You need as much computing power as possible available for NOTION 4 and the virtual instrument engines that feed it sampled sounds when doing the virtual instrument audio generation and recording. Later, when the NOTION 4 generated audio is captured in the DAW application project as soundbites or digital tracks, you can start focusing on effects plug-ins and so forth, which is the smart way to do it, because at that point the DAW application does not need to focus on generating the raw audio, since it already is generated and is available as soundbites, hence the DAW application can focus its computing on ensuring that effects plug-ins and so forth have plenty of overhead and computing power . . .

Explained another way, if you were able to create good sounding songs several decades ago when everything was analog, then you were doing this when studio monitor systems reproduced music in the full-range of human hearing (20-Hz to 20,000-Hz), which is important because for example the low-pitch "E" string on Paul McCartney's Hofner Bass at standard tuning is 41.204-Hz, and if the studio monitor system only goes to downward to somewhere in the range of 50-Hz to 100-Hz, you do not hear it accurately; and kick drums are lower than that, as are some of the bits of other instruments . . .

You need to hear the deep bass for another reason, and it is explained in part by the Missing Fundamental auditory illusion . . . .

Missing Fundamental Auditory Illusion (wikipedia)

The succinct version is that if the deep bass is missing, then you will adjust everything else (midrange and high frequencies) to create the auditory illusion that there is deep bass, and while this can sound wonderful when you listen to it played through your specific system, it will sound terrible when played through other systems, which is a huge problem . . .

In other words, if you want to know exactly how your songs sound, then you need to grab the meters and to measure everything so that it follows the rules of acoustic physics, where (a) you need components that are capable of reproducing sounds in the full-range of human hearing and (b) you need calibrating hardware and software to ensure that the system is doing this accurately . . .

Part of the required hardware needs to be a sound pressure level meter, and there are several ways to achieve this worthy goal, one of which is to get a NADY DSM-1 Digital SPL Meter (a personal favorite), while the other way is to get AudioTools if you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, since it has an accurate SPL meter, although it is not certified, while in contrast the approximately $100 (US) NADY DSM-1 SPL Meter is certified . . .

DSM-1 Digital SPL Meter (NADY)

AudioTools (Studio Six Digital)

Put a meter on it, because in great contrast to people and those folks who sell COTS studio monitor systems, (a) meters do not have personal opinions and belief systems and (b) when properly adjusted and maintained meters always tell the truth. . .

Let me know if you have questions, which is fabulous . . .

Fabulous! :)

P. S. The hardware and software required for a complete digital music production system tends to be a bit expensive, but on the software side most companies have discount promotions every so often, and the strategy I use is so make a list of stuff I would like to have and then to start watching for discount promotions, where one way to do this is to get on the various company mailing lists, in which case they send you an email when there is a discount sale; and my experience is that none of these companies send a lot of emails, so you might get one or two emails from each company per month. And some of the companies have monthly newsletters in addition to email notices of sales, discount promotions, and special offers . . .

The fact of the matter is that it takes a while to discover how to use something productively, and the practical aspect is that you can focus on what you have and making sense of it while you are waiting for discount promotions to get additional stuff, where the key is to have a plan for the future . . .

Lots of FUN! :D

P. P. S. For reference, nobody pays me to write posts; nobody sends me free stuff: and when I write about a product and state that it works on the Mac, it is because I purchased the product or in some instances downloaded the free trial version and then tested it; and I do this in part because NOTION 4 provides an excellent solution that makes it possible for me to create songs by myself and because I learn by the combination of experimenting and writing, where once I can write intelligently and accurately about something, I understand it; so this type of post helps me just as much as I hope it helps other folks, where in a practical way it is like a six-hour POP Quiz, which is fabulous . . .

Fabulous! :ugeek:
Last edited by Surfwhammy on Tue Apr 01, 2014 10:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: New Old School

Postby Surfwhammy » Sat Mar 29, 2014 7:15 am

As a bit of follow-up on the cost of a professional level, complete digital music production system and practical budgeting, I would not be surprised if my yearly income over the past decade was the lowest of anyone participating in this FORUM, yet I have a very nice professional level, complete digital music production system . . .

[NOTE: I am using the pronoun "you" in a general sense, and it does not refer to anyone specifically. This part of the plan for the future is important, hence the logic to provide a bit of advice based on my experience . . . ]

Once I started focusing on the cost of good stuff and got over the initial sticker shock, I did a bit of pondering and among other things observed that it is very easy to spend $10 (US) on a meal at a fast-food restaurant like McDonald's or Kentucky Fried Chicken, and if one does this twice a day, it maps to $20 (US) a day or $600 (US) a month . . .

I have a stove, refrigerator, freezer, microwave, and kitchen; and I know how to cook, so I connected a few dots and changed my food strategy toward the goal of saving money but in a way that allows gourmet dining, which works nicely for me, especially since I enjoy roast turkey, gravy, cornbread dressing, English peas, apple pie, and Southern style sweetened iced tea, where the key bit of information in this regard is that the local Walmart Supercenter usually has frozen turkeys on sale for $8 (US) for about a week during the Thanksgiving holiday and a frozen turkey is good for about a year when stored in a properly adjusted and maintained freezer, with the result that I stock-up on frozen turkeys and enjoy tasty and nutritious meals for a few dollars each day, which for reference features other entrees, including grilled peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwiches (another personal favorite) . . .

I like Starbucks coffee and soda pop made with pure cane sugar, but those beverages are expensive, so I switched to making my own coffee, along with Kool-Aid and Southern style iced tea, all sweetened with Imperial Pure Cane Sugar, and this saves perhaps another $10 a day . . .

The actual numbers are lower, but if I can save $100 (US) or perhaps $200 (US) a month, then for example over a year this is enough to get a calibrated full-range studio monitor system or over a few months is enough to get a virtual instrument and sampled sound library like Kontakt 5 (Native Instruments), especially when it is sale for half price during Thanksgiving holiday week, as has been the case for the past three years and is becoming an annual tradition, at least in our great nation . . .

The financial reality is that a professional level, complete digital music production system costs somewhere in the range of $7,500 (US) to $25,000 (US), not including real instruments like electric guitars, electric basses, drumkits, MIDI synthesizer workstations, and a nice set of real effect pedals for lead guitar, which for most people is a lot of money . . .

But another vastly important fact is that if one does not know how all the stuff works and all of it arrived one day as a gift from Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, then it probably takes a few years to make sense of everything, so most of it would sit unpacked in the shipping containers for quite a while . . .

The practical aspect is that it makes sense to focus on one thing at a time, where you make sense of it and then start working on the next thing, which you probably can afford, since by that time you have saved enough money to afford it . . .

Explained another way, I think it depends on what you do, where the reality is that some folks do music, while other folks focus on ensuring full employment at McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Starbucks, and The Coca-Cola Company in Mexico, which at present is the only practical way to get the real thing in the US made with pure cane sugar . . .

I like that stuff, but I like having a calibrated full-range studio monitor system with a flat equal loudness curve at 85 dB SPL a lot better; and this is where having a plan for the future is a key part of the strategy, which is fabulous . . .

Fabulous! :)
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Re: New Old School

Postby ottoharp » Sat Mar 29, 2014 11:24 am

@ Surfwhammy

Wow; thank you for your more than comprehensive replies, and information...it will, as you mentioned, take many months/years to get my head around these things.

In your responses you answer a number of the questions I had but did not ask; and raised a few of my others.

From my research, and now also from what you say, I sort of "grok" that Rewire is for AUDIO; bringing in the sounds, say of a set of samplers or synths from another place that is not native to the host. (That's the only reason I can currently imagine doing it...) But I also have learned that there are such things as "virtual MIDI cables" that allow the routing of MIDI from one program to another.

First of all, it's a bit brain boggling as to why one would do this sort of stuff, except in the scenario where one might discover that "these sounds don't run in this platform, therefore I have to go over to THAT platform to get them, and somehow get them over here into my project".

Personally, I hope to come up with a set of samples that run in my chosen musical universe and not have to bring them in thru the back door. Less is more is the callphrase in all my musical projects, as a matter of fact, in all the ventures of my life. ...i like things simple, simple, simple.

Usually the music I create (and the music I prefer to listen to) is very sparse; and I would tend to only have one (if any) or maybe two midi instruments going in the first place. I play and own numerous instruments; but, for example I don't own or play bass, and so I might use a midi bass to pad out the bottom of a project; but more likely I would play that bass on a keyboard in realtime and capture the audio. Or, I might want a sort of Kalimba ostinato running in the background of a piece; that's the sort of thing I'd be likely to do with midi and a kalimba sample. In other words I don't expect to be doing orchestration or band arrangements, or hours tweaking a violin sample to fool the listener into thinking it's real (it's a lot easier to get a real sounding kalimba or Hang Drum then a violin part).

So methinks that Notion is probably a bit more than I need at this time. If I find myself going in the direction of wanting more "western" sounds, orchestras, bands, ensembles, then yeah, maybe.

In looking at the Software samples that are available thru Notion and their website, I see entirely western instruments, except in the percussions samples.

If I go thru KONTAKT (sp?) I see vast libraries of other world sounds...and I'm tempted. I'm also tempted by NI's Absynth, which allows for alternately tuned scales, not just equal tempered ones. (It's odd that to buy just these two packages, it would cost me more than to buy Komplete, which would come with about a billion things I would never use not in a million years....and I HATE buying extra bells and whistles that I'd never use...but it is what it is...) When I look at IK Multimedia, as you suggested, I see one library of world sounds (but not much information on it.).

As I said, for me, less is more, and probably the solution of libraries of sounds is not the way to go either, because I might end up using maybe a dozen of them...mgiht pay to scrounge around and come up with samples individually.

But eventurally, I'll have to at least get a fully functional Sampler, and that might be Directwave (for FLStudio) or Possibly Kontakt5.... if just to learn how to work a sampler! If I'm going to learn it, I'm going to have to have one, and a group of sounds to play with....but, as I said, the learning curve is so steep right now, that I might be able to put that whole decision off for some time, till I need it.

Anyhow, thanks for your comprehensive answers.
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Re: New Old School

Postby Surfwhammy » Sat Mar 29, 2014 2:44 pm

Glad to help! :)

ottoharp wrote:I sort of "grok" that Rewire is for AUDIO; bringing in the sounds, say of a set of samplers or synths from another place that is not native to the host. But I also have learned that there are such things as "virtual MIDI cables" that allow the routing of MIDI from one program to another.


ReWire 2 enables digital music production applications to communicate for purposes of (a) sharing audio, (b) sharing control of their transports (rewind, stop, play, record, forward, and so forth), and (c) sharing MIDI, including ensuring that everything is synchronized . . .

Generally, a ReWire 2 session involves applications running on one computer, but there are scenarios where networked computers are involved, although I think this scenario applies when a networked computer is acting as a streaming audio server; and ReWire 2 coordinates MIDI coming from external physical MIDI devices . . .

"Virtual MIDI cables" are software flavors of a real physical MIDI cable, but instead of connecting a real MIDI device to a computer, a "virtual MIDI cable" makes it possible for one application to send and receive MIDI to and from another application running on the same computer, and you described one of the scenarios, which for example is a way that an application can "play" and "control" a standalone virtual synthesizer via MIDI, where using Kontakt 5 (Native Instruments) as an example, NOTION 4 or a DAW application can play the standalone version of Kontakt 5 by sending it MIDI commands and notes, which can work nicely for a real-time performance, but generally it is better to do this in a ReWire 2 session, because in a ReWire 2 session where Kontakt 5 is running as a VSTi virtual instrument, the audio generated by Kontakt 5 can be routed to the ReWire 2 host controller. There probably is a way to route the audio from a standalone virtual instrument, but I have not explored that in much detail, although it definitely is routed to the main audio output of the computer, hence probably can be routed in other ways . . .

There are "virtual MIDI cables" available for Windows, but they are separate third-party utilities, where in contrast on the Mac the "Audio MIDI Setup" application provides "virtual MIDI cables" and is part of Mac OS X, which makes it easier to use, since it is there from the start, and you just need to read about it to make sense of how to use it . . .

ottoharp wrote:Usually the music I create (and the music I prefer to listen to) is very sparse; and I would tend to only have one (if any) or maybe two midi instruments going in the first place. I play and own numerous instruments; but, for example I don't own or play bass, and so I might use a midi bass to pad out the bottom of a project; but more likely I would play that bass on a keyboard in realtime and capture the audio. Or, I might want a sort of Kalimba ostinato running in the background of a piece; that's the sort of thing I'd be likely to do with midi and a kalimba sample. In other words I don't expect to be doing orchestration or band arrangements, or hours tweaking a violin sample to fool the listener into thinking it's real (it's a lot easier to get a real sounding kalimba or Hang Drum then a violin part).

So methinks that Notion is probably a bit more than I need at this time. If I find myself going in the direction of wanting more "western" sounds, orchestras, bands, ensembles, then yeah, maybe.


Based on this, I am not certain that NOTION 4 will be a lot of help, although you certainly can compose bass parts with music notation and have it played by virtual instruments . . .

ottoharp wrote:
If I go thru KONTAKT (sp?) I see vast libraries of other world sounds...and I'm tempted. I'm also tempted by NI's Absynth, which allows for alternately tuned scales, not just equal tempered ones. (It's odd that to buy just these two packages, it would cost me more than to buy Komplete, which would come with about a billion things I would never use not in a million years....and I HATE buying extra bells and whistles that I'd never use...but it is what it is...) When I look at IK Multimedia, as you suggested, I see one library of world sounds (but not much information on it.).


Kontakt 5 is intriguing, and as you noted there is a virtual festival of sampled sound libraries. There are two versions of Komplete 9, and one has Absynth 5, while Komplete 9 Ultimate has Absynth 5 and Balinese Gamelan, so depending on which sampled sound libraries you like, one of the Komplete 9 bundles can cost less . . .

Native Instruments had a discount sale on Komplete 9 recently, and they have discount sales every so often, so one way to keep track of discount sales is to get on their mailing list . . .

ottoharp wrote:As I said, for me, less is more, and probably the solution of libraries of sounds is not the way to go either, because I might end up using maybe a dozen of them...mgiht pay to scrounge around and come up with samples individually.

But eventurally, I'll have to at least get a fully functional Sampler, and that might be Directwave (for FLStudio) or Possibly Kontakt5.... if just to learn how to work a sampler! If I'm going to learn it, I'm going to have to have one, and a group of sounds to play with....but, as I said, the learning curve is so steep right now, that I might be able to put that whole decision off for some time, till I need it.


From my perspective, the important thing is to develop a plan for the future and to begin gathering information to determine the strategy that makes the most sense (a) for what you want to do now and (b) for what you might want to do sometime in the future . . .

When I first got NOTION, which at the time was NOTION 3, all I needed was a way to create Flamenco rhythms for a virtual drumkit, but after I got that working, I decided to add a horn section and some strings, and a while later I realized that it was possible to do just about anything so long as it can be done with music notation and there is a set of sampled sounds for the various instruments . . .

A few years later, the result is the complete digital music production system shown in the diagram in my first reply, and to the best of my knowledge this system covers everything, but I check it every once in a while and see how it works in different scenarios, where so far it continues to cover everything . . .

The most recent addition in terms of providing functionality that was missing is Cyclop (Sugar Bytes), which is a bass synthesizer, and the reason I added it was to be able to do Dubstep bass easily, which it does, but it also does a lot more stuff, and I like it for modern music genres like Pop . . .

Cyclop (Sugar Bytes)

One of the reasons I mentioned Kontakt is that it is an industry standard, and there are a lot of sampled sound libraries available for Kontakt; and there are a lot of specialty sampled sound libraries, which is one of the things that makes Kontakt attractive . . .

Native Instruments has a lot of sampled sound libraries for Kontakt, but there are a lot more third-party sampled sound libraries available that work with Kontakt; and you can get a sense of this by browsing through the sampled sound libraries at Big Fish Audio, which is a sampled sound library superstore of sorts, but it is not the only one . . .

For reference, NOTION 4 supports quarter-tone scales, where instead of being 12 notes, there are 24 notes to a scale, which is interesting . . .

This is an experimental song I did to explore the NOTION 4 advanced aspects of the NOTION 4 Electric Guitar Tab, which makes it possible to do tremolo, vibrato, string bends, and whammying (a personal favorite), and there is an instruments playing ascending and descending quarter-tone scales, which adds an ethereal flavor to the background . . .

"Abyss" (The Surf Whammys) ~ YouTube music video

Lots of FUN! :)
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Re: New Old School

Postby ghess1000 » Mon Mar 31, 2014 1:11 am

Surfwhammy, great posts. I can't help but wonder when you have time to write music :D
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Re: New Old School

Postby elerouxx » Sat Apr 19, 2014 9:09 pm

Hey ottoharp.

Just sharing my opinion here. I mostly work in music that is to be played by real instruments, like chamber or orchestral music (so the score is priority), but I also do some arrangements or soundtracks for tv commercials that involve Midi, use of a DAW, recording and so on.

What can I say about Notion - for me it was like fresh water on both the Notation and Daw sides.
There are other notation packages, but most of them are built around not-so-friendly workflow interfaces. It's amazing how easy is to just write things in Notion, reshape portions of music, transpose, and having it sound GOOD. Notion 'obbeys' all slurs, articulations, crescendos, always loading the right sample. It's almost human. I haven't listen to any playback like this coming from simple, untweaked notation.

And, on the DAW side, it's nice that you can write for Midi (vst or otherwise) instruments using just Notation! I never liked piano rolls. However, be aware that Notion is limited in tweaking this playback. In Notion you can't tweak everything, like in most midi sequencing DAWs - although you can edit note velocities, pitch bend along the track, simple midi features.

My workflow is as this: I compose in Notion, because it's easy for me to lay out ideas using notation. I write all the dynamics and articulation either using Notion instruments mostly, and sometimes Miroslav or other instruments (more on this later).

I then add Notion as a 'Rewire' slave intrument to a channel or track in a Daw. Means that the whole Notion output goes to a track of your Daw, while you have other tracks to record vocals, other midi or recorded instruments, and then play along with Notion.

Some parts will sound good enough with simple notation from Notion, provided detailed articulation and dynamics. Some others - maybe a fake sax - would require more control and maybe it would be better to record it from a keyboard to the DAW. Notion also can record this midi keyboard, but you will probably have more control on the DAW. Then, even while Notion can import WAV files, you might want real control of recorded tracks. So, I do that in my DAW, and think Notion as my 'Orchestra Plugin' into this DAW. I use Reaper.

About what instruments Notion can play, I think in 3 categories.

Notion built in instruments (or add ons):
Notion orchestral instruments are good quality sounds from the London Symphonic Orchestra. Add ons are great - I have bought the Classical guitar, Mandolin/banjo instruments and they work and sound great. The cool thing about Notion instruments is that they work just out of the box, you just write the music and they do their best to play everything right. They are not customizable, but they are nice. The clarinets and horns are amazing in my opinion.

Instruments that are natively supported:
Miroslav, Garritan, Viena Ensemble, East West have products that work almost as well as Notion instruments. They have presets for most instruments. You just add the instrument, and articulations and dynamics will work. Plus, there is a 'rules' system that makes them a little more versatile and customizable than Notion instruments.

Other VST instruments:
You can write music for any VST instrument. A few ones, mostly badly coded freeware, aren't compatible, but most are. However you might have more work having the instruments play articulations and changing samples for different dynamics. Instruments that have a complex sample system, like a virtual string orchestra, usually behave best with more detailed control, so a DAW is better for them in my opinion.

At last, an interesting point is Notion's mixer. Each staff in the score is also a channel on the mixer, and you can add effects to each one, or to the master output. So you can tweak A LOT the sounds using VST equalizers, compressors, reverbs or other effects. The spatial control (panning) of channels is great.

There are a lot of cool features in Notion. Have you downloaded the demo?
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