Ensemble Musician playable vs Mixer/Synth playable?

• Jun 27, 2022 - 20:19

OK, I know I am opening a real can of worms here, and I can foretell the replies. All real ensemble musicians will want every song I write/upload onto MuseScore to be fully playable on ALL tracks by any single musician, group, ensemble or orchestra, with no mistakes or shortcuts in any stave. Download the score, print it out, hand it out to each musician and begin practice.

Non-ensemble musicians may not care. For example, pianists would want the treble and bass piano staves to be accurate and playable, but if the song has six other instruments in it, they probably won't care if those tracks are not musician-ready, as long as their mixer/synth will read and play the notes accurately. They are not planning to join an ensemble group ... just play the song at home on their own piano, perhaps listening to the other tracks play by the mixer on their own computer.

For example, I have 35 songs uploaded to MuseScore. In many of them, I have added strings tracks that sound rich and full when played by the mixer because they have 4 or 5 note chords on them in a single staff. I just learned to today that a 5-note chord on a violin track is not playable. I would need to divide that track into five separate staves (strings 1 - 5), or maybe 2 notes on a track = 3 violin staves, if I expected an actual orchestra to play the song for real. Violinists in a band demand it.

Here is my problem:

Editing a score to be playable to ALL musicians on all tracks ALL the time, is a lot of work. I know ... I know that it should be done, but frankly, if the MuseScore mixer or any MIDI player can read the song and play it well, and someone wanted to play just one of the tracks on their own (piano or synth or drums, or harp, or ...), they could either download the piece and edit it on their own, or send me an email asking if I could edit that particular staff to make sure it is playable without mistakes by that instrument. For example, if I had a 4-note strings staff and someone wanted to play my downloaded song with a single violin, they could ask me to extract the main violin melody from the 4-note chord and write it as a separate staff. I or they could do that. Note that since 2020, however, when I first began putting songs on MuseScore, this HAS NEVER HAPPENED. No one has EVER asked me to correct any of my tracks, even though almost 1,000 downloads of my songs have occurred.

1) If a musical ensemble actually wanted to play one of my songs in public, they could NOT just download my music and play it. I may be wrong, but since it is a public performance, they would have to get copyright permission to do so for every song I've posted, even my own compositions, from the original authors

2) I assume that if a group really wanted to play that song, and they found some of my tracks had too many notes on them, they would email me to ask that I edit the score to make it readable to ALL the instruments, by adding more staffs.

SO ... since no one has ever asked me to edit any of my songs to make them more playable, even after close to 1,000 downloads, I assume they either just like playing the song on their own computer (and maybe accompanying one of the tracks on their own instruments), or ... they have edited a particular track on the download to make it playable to them. As a non-performing, non-ensemble, non-musician who relies on the MuseScore mixer to play my songs, I don't want to take a LOT of extra time to split all my multi-note strings tracks (violins, cellos, contrabasses, violas, etc.) and all horn tracks, into separate staffs. That could add up to 10 more staffs, a lot of cutting and pasting, many hours more work, and not serve any additional purpose (given that no one has ever asked me to do so in 3 years).

Your advice is welcomed.



I think the logical assumption here is that the vast majority of people who have accessed your music online are simply hitting "play" on their computers or mobile devices and are not attempting to play the music on their instruments at all.

The above is not a personal judgment at all - that statement is pretty much equally true of all ensemble music on musescore.com. The vast majority of ensemble scores on musescore.com never get played on any instrument other than the computer. And that's why the vast majority of composers on musescore.com would not be getting feedback from people about the playability of it - because people simply aren't trying to play it.

Now, there do exist people who are interested in playing ensemble music on their instruments. But people who play in ensembles can usually tell at a glance which pieces were actually designed to be read and played by humans as opposed to computers. They are not likely to bother downloading ones that were not designed to be readable and playable, nor are they likely to ask the composers to rewrite them. There's enough music out there that is playable "as is" to last a lifetime; people won't generally bother with anything else.

So indeed, if to produce music that sounds nice when the computer plays it, no reason to worry about its actual readability/playability. But if the goal is to have it played by humans, then paying attention to readability/playability is pretty crucial to make it past that initial glance.

In reply to by fsgregs

The in's and out's of notation are not simple. Notation is a language. Like any language, it has several levels in which it communicates the story. You can tell a story in written form many ways. You can use simple sentences and concepts to get your story across. Or you can use richer language and motifs to express something deeper. Not to mention proper spelling and structure.
As Marc said, a musician can look at your music and without even hearing it, know if they will be interested in playing it. How do they do that? 1. Its what they do. They look at the notes and rhythms. 2. If they are an ensemble and they see all the string parts on one line (for example) they might wonder how serious the compose/arranger really is. On the other hand, a jazz band might only need a melody and chord chart.

I don't think you should fix your past work. Although just because no one contacted you about redoing anything doesn't mean they didn't think about it. After all, It isn't really their job. If you check out a book from the library and it is full of errors and hard to read, what do you do? You probably just put it back. It didn't cost you anything. But what if you paid for that book? Your reaction might be different.

Open an orchestra template sometime. Or big band, or Jazz combo. Players involved in those types of groups will expect to see scores like those.

Just like story telling, notation is a journey.

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