Using Musescore unconventionally

• Jan 17, 2011 - 16:18

Several have questioned me about why I use Musescore to write "music" in an unusual way. To help answer this question, I converted one of my pieces that was discussed in a previous posting into conventional notation in Musescore. The unusually written piece was posted as::

Here is what the first page looks like in the notation I used to write the music:

And here is what it sounds like when played straight out of Musescore:

Here is the first page of the original score converted to conventional notation:
The conversion was done automatically: Musescore->midi->Notation Player->XML->Musescore

Here is the conventional notation played by Musescore "straight":

Here is the conventional notation played by Musescore "shuffle":

The conventional notation played "swing" just isn't recognizable.

I recently added this comment to the page I use to make the audio files of my "music" available:

These audio files are not meant to be "performance" quality renditions of these pieces. Rather, they are intended as a audio model of the music, just as sheet music is a visual model. The audio is intended to be used as a learning tool, such as using the computer to play one hand while learning the music with the other, or as an example for use in music appreciation or music theory study.


I'm not understanding what aspect of the notation you call "unconventional" is anything other than standard notation. The only thing I see that is unusual is that you actually wrote out on approximation of swing eights using tuplets rather than relying on the playback facility to swing for you, and you similarly wrote in lots of unnecessary rests rather than depending on the playback facility to interpret eighth notes as detached. That is, you've attempted to use notation to convey things about the performance that could have more easily *and* more effectively been conveyed through performance directives like "swing" or "staccato", but you're still using standard notation. So I wouldn't use misleading terms like "new style" notation to describe what you're doing.

Anyhow, the way this sort of thing *should* be done - the way people have been doing this for decades - is to create a piece in conventional notation using *normal* readable rhythms first, then convert that to MIDI, then use a MIDI sequencer to 'tweak" the MIDI to play back the way you want it. Some notation programs even have MIDI-tweaking facilities built in to them that are sufficient for this purpose. The Piano Roll editor in MuseScore looks like at least the start of such a facility.

Following that time-tested and well-supported process will lead to MIDI files that sound even better than your first example (MuseScore's playback of your "unconventional" notation) since there would be far more control over the rhythmic placement of notes as well as their length and dynamics. But more importantly - since the MIDI playback you have sounds decent already - the traditional method leads to notated scores that look *far* better than the mess Notation Player made of the generated MIDI. Yes, it's a mess. The quantizing makes it *look* clean, but try actually reading it and you discover notational errors galore (beaming, enharmonic spelling, etc).

Furthermore, following the traditional process would yield better results with *less effort*, as you wouldn't be fighting the tools trying to get them to do things they weren't really designed to do (eg, using notation to convey performance details like swing, using MIDI to convey notational information). Entering the piece using notation as it was intended in the first place would have taken a fraction of the time it took to enter the "unconventional" version, and then you'd have much more readable score. Similarly, tweaking the MIDI output in a decent MIDI sequencer to sound at least as good as what you did in MuseScore would take a fraction of the time you spent tweaking the notation in MuseScore to approximate what you could have done in a MIDI sequencer. In this case, a simple "60:40 sixeenth note swing" playback setting would have produced passable results - probably about as good as what you produced - from a correct/readable score in *seconds*, and then you could easily tweak things further from there if desired to get more control still

But as I said before, getting clean but still unreadable scores through quantizing is something you *can* do using MuseScore as well, although it may be true that you'd want to do the quantizing in an external program for best results, and I have no trouble believing Notation Player might have better quantizing facilities built in. But quantizing is just the first step in creating a readable score, and the rest simply requires human intervention. Which is why entering the score correctly in the first place is the way to go.

But still, something appears to be wrong with the file you call the straight playback of the conventional notation. it does not appear to be anything of the sort. I see a steady stream of left hand eighth notes, and those are not in the MuseScore file you uploaded at all. Are you sure that's not a "shuffle" playback as well?

As I said, you would need to get reasonable MIDI playback of the a correctly created score - or even the quantized score Notation Player created - is to set straight eighths and 60:40 swing sixteenths. But MuseScore doesn't support sixteenth note swing that I can see, nor does it seem to allow customization of the swing ratio. Those would be two features that would help, which is why I keep saying that it's improved MIDI *output* facility that would really make the biggest difference here.

Of course, had you entered the piece using eighths in place of sixteenths in the first place, it would have worked OK (except for the inability to control the swing ratio). If you could run a utility that doubled all the note lengths in the piece as it is, that would also help - if MuseScore doesn't have anything like that, there would be another opportunity for improvement. And as I already mentioned, MuseScore could stand to build on its piano roll too.

It still isn't clear to me if MuseScore's own quanitization facility couldn't have created just as "clean" a score as Notation Player did, and if not, sure, that's another opportunity for *slight* improvement in your workflow. but you'd still have both MIDI files and scores that were not as good as you'd get following the traditional workflow, and you'd still be taking quite a bit longer to achieve those less optimal results.

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