A childhood dream, perhaps coming true

• May 22, 2019 - 12:47

I've always wanted to write music, ever since I was ... well, let's just say a long time ago. Someone's lifetime, ago. Now, opportunity seems at hand: not only can we write notes, but we can hear them playing.
The developers at MuseScore have taken writing music and the playback thereof to a fantastic level - I just have to say: a very humble thank you, and yes, I'll be joining, as soon as my paltry budget permits.

Someone - somewhere, here, on this site? another site? I can't remember - said the best way to learn how to write for instruments is to transcribe. Transcribe LOTS. All the scores you hold dearest: transcribe them.

Well, I've been obsessed with this Sextet of Dvorak ever since I heard in on the radio in my car on the way home from work, particularly the Dumka. So, here is my best effort at getting everything in its place. I know the sound isn't right; indeed, there's probably heaps of jarring issues which I'd much appreciate a wiser, more experienced mind offer opinions or suggestions towards... I probably should have cut my teeth on Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star instead of this Sextet, but it was too irresistible.


Edited to add: I suppose I should give a few details about what instruments I used; my poor old Macbook (2012) struggles a bit, so I stuck with the standard Musescore_General.sf3 library: Violin, Slow Violin, Viola x2, Cello x2. Other libraries tended to be a bit to taxing or something, as the sound was a bit "schmutz-y" the first few plays. I'm hoping to learn how to use a DAW like Ardour or Garage Band or like that, and see what other "samples" libraries can produce. HUGE learning curve: still getting my head around Musescore!


In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

Thank you, Ziya :) glad you like it.

And I agree: I'm sure real musicians would find the sound intolerably "midi-sounding", but in defense of midi and computer-generated sounds, I reckon they've come a long way.

My key purpose in doing this is to study the scoring: I find the approximation of sound quite satisfactory to my less-than-sophisticated ear. The fact that the dynamics and tempo changes even work reasonably well in the software makes Musescore even more compelling.

I'm torn whether to tackle Reinecke's Serenade in G Minor next - another favourite - or to finish transcribing the rest of the sextet.

I've done a lot of transcriptions and I will take a critical look at your work soon and give you some pointers if appropriate.

I cut my teeth on Dvorak's New World Symphony because it's my all time favorite. It's a disaster that I will fix before long. I've been waiting for version 3.1 to make it not too painful. With 3.1 being released next week it is now on my to do list. If you want to see my disaster before it gets fixed, it can be found at https://musescore.com/user/6105546/sets/2458751

I'm not familiar with Dvorak's sextet, so I especially look forward to seeing what you have done.

In reply to by mike320

Hi Mike, thanks for your review. I suppose I should have prefaced my note with what my purpose was in transcribing pieces: I see this software and the task as an excellent opportunity to learn a bit about scoring as well as harmony ... you know, how the greats did it - and less emphasis on 100% fidelity in transcription. However, I do hope that by-and-large I did follow the original. I hope as I become more familiar with the software I'll use less of a strong-arm approach to making it sound the way I wanted.

Im sure you will find disparities between the score - yes, we're looking at the same source file - and my transcription, particularly in the time signatures: I basically set those so the music would play at the tempo I find most appealing, which is probably slower than most might like it; also, there were some key signature notations which I omitted.

I have downloaded and will study your score for Dvorak's New World Symphony: I'm impressed with how the score looks: well done!

In reply to by robynsveil

Part of my pickiness has to do with making the score transfer easily to braille because I manage the https://musescore.com/openscore-braille account. In the first measure for example I see that you used the swell articulations ( <> ) rather than a crescendo followed by a decrescendo. I wasn't sure if you intentionally made a substitution, had a different source or don't know another way to make it look close. As I said, it jumped out at me in the first measure and my blind friends would not be able to use it due to things like this.

Transferring it to Braille is not the only thing to consider, so I won't dwell on that unless you ask me to. As a rule, if something seems complicated, there's probably an easier way to do it. I learned the complicated ways followed by many easier ways while doing From the New World. The fourth movement is far better than the first, but all of it needs to be fixed in my opinion after several years of learning.

As I don't thoroughly understand the way this forum works, please excuse the necro-post. As Mike has requested, I've undertaken to transcribe the rest of the Sextet: no small undertaking! One can easily get lost, particularly with the way the original PDF is laid out. I've had to actually create a series of png images of each 4-6 bar ... um... group? / system? / set? / section, I suppose fits it best, and then create a simple html page with each image in sequence, followed by which bars are in that section. I can add notes for myself - I have the html as a plain text file open in Brackets - and double-check my work. So far, I'm only just getting to the first repeat - wish I remember what that was called.

This is going to take a while.

What would be good would be a sort of blog to post these observations in. The page featuring the work itself is probably not the way to go, as I can't sort-of publish just what I've done so far: people want a finished thing, don't they?

It is fascinating, watching Dvorak mind at work! I love this!

In reply to by robynsveil

You sound like you are doing something very complicated when it should be very easy. Yes, the layout isn't quite as nice most PDF's I've seen from IMSLP, but this is because they chose to make the PDF show 2 pages side by side. When I'm transcribing a piece such as this, I zoom so each original page is the width of a screen. I scroll down to the end of the page as I work (that would mean 3 systems). When I get to the end of the page I then do the necessary scrolling to get to the next system. The pages are numbered, so that makes keeping track easier.

If you want to keep notes on what you are doing, then I would suggest you open notepad or get Libre Office for free and make a text file that you open while you're transcribing. I do urge that if something seems complicated, ask because there is probably an easier way. MuseScore makes most things very easy.

And thank you for finishing the sextet. Dvorak was a great composer and I enjoy being able to look at and hear his music. I'm working on entering his 7th symphony and editing his cello concerto at the moment and I will tackle fixing his ninth next.

In reply to by mike320

You're probably right: I'm most likely making it a more complex process than I should. Because I've had no formal training in music transcription, I'm sort-of following my objectives rather than some tried-and-true system the pros would use.

My objective? to bring to light for myself how Dvorak scored for the different instruments. So, the approach I take is to put down the base line, then follow with what I perceive to be the melodic line, then put down a harmonic line, and then play the base line with, say, one of the harmonic lines ... all of this drags out the process, of course, but it does help in identifying mistakes I've made, and it is fascinating to listen to. Having the bar numbers (bars 78 - 82, for example) under the actual system makes it incredibly easy to double-check my work: I sometimes get a bit lost in the forest, so to speak.

Anyway, this approach - however complex it must seem - works for me: I'm in no hurry, and in the meantime I've found so many other pieces I'll be transcribing: pieces by Reinecke, Raff and Debussy... it's all quite exciting, really. I intend to stay away from works that others have already done: I typically don't listen to them anyway, and I find that as I transcribe I discover even more magical aspects about that obscure piece that never sees the light of day.

So they are called systems, those groups of 5 or so bars. I've been trying to increase the distance between them (for readability). Hope I did that correctly.

Just to chronicle progress, I might upload where I am at the moment with the Allegro. There's a lot missing, so it will sound a bit mechanical... a WIP, after all.

In reply to by robynsveil

I understand your method of entering the scores. It does lend itself to better analysis of the song. Yes, that part is complicated, but that is by design. The design does help you find mistakes. The more times you see it, the more mistakes you find. I'll never be an editor, because my mistakes are far too numerous. I'm not a professional transcriber, I just understand how MuseScore works and have learned a thing or two in the 25,000 or so measures I've transcribed. (The measure count is an educated wild guess). I now understand the way you are going through the PDF.

In these forums we get a lot of people saying they are having trouble with a certain task, and when they describe how they normally do it the method is so complicated it's beyond comprehension (to me) that someone would try these things. Other things I've heard are less obviously not the best way (or my way) to do something.

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