New Era for Music Copying
a little melodramatic, doesn’t it?
It will no longer be enough to be just a copyist… that is if you
want to work at a high level. I
am sure that there are and will be exceptions to this but the trend I see
from my little corner of the world is that composers are more and more
eliminating the step of putting their work to paper.
Midi transcriptions have been around for a few years, but it is
becoming more and more apparent that if you want to be a full-time
professional in the music preparation business, you will be required to
learn this skill.
will explain a little about our process, to help demonstrate how it can
work. There are probably
several subscribers to this newsletter who have a different perspective
and who are very successful in their own right.
I would love to print some of those perspectives if any of you
would like to drop me a line.
the proliferation of composers and even orchestrators that do all of their
work on Midi, a need was created for individuals who could properly
translate the Midi information into “correct” music notation for the
performers; that is for either the studio or live musician.
programs that composers will use can offer some music notation
interpretation. However, it
still has a long way to go in making many of the calls a transcriber has
to make. Articulations, dynamics, and proper rhythm notations are just
part of the problem. Often I
will get a midi file that has evolved from the initial demo until the
client is satisfied. The
composers will continue to add tracks to get an effect for these new demos
until we sometimes have several different tracks of strings or brass with
many different effects. It is
part of transcriber’s job to do his/her best to interpret all of these
inputs to create scores that can mimic the effect and still be performed
by a 45-piece orchestra in a studio.
copyists who are also arranger/orchestrators have a leg up here.
They have a better feel for the correct interpretations.
On my staff I have several arranger/copyists, in fact I would say
that most of my copyists come from pretty complete musical backgrounds.
There are basically
two different types of transcriptions.
with no Orchestration
first is a transcription of a demo that has not been prepared from
the perspective of an orchestration.
The composer is simply creating, knowing that at some point in the
process someone else will do the detail work of orchestration.
this case the transcriber will prepare a score with as much music
information as possible that will assist the orchestrator.
To do the transcription we will require the general midi file and
an audio file (wav preferred but mp3, wma, or any similar format will do).
The Midi score will be prepared in a music notation program (we use
Finale), made into a PDF (portable document file), and then sent to the
composer for approval. Once
the composer has approved the Midi score, we will get him/her and one of
our orchestrators on the phone together to talk through the composition so
that the orchestrator has a good understanding of what the composer wants.
Our orchestrators are very good with the music notation program
that we use so they can often work directly off of the Midi score that we
the orchestration is done, another PDF is created of the score and sent to
the composer for final approval. Part
extraction is then done.
We recently had a project exactly
like this, a stage show with about 30-40 minutes worth of music.
The client was in Paris, the composer in New York (Peter Lurye),
the orchestration & the music prep was done in Orlando, and the
recording session was in Budapest, Hungary.
Everything was done via the Internet except for a few phone calls.
We contracted a printing service in Budapest and saved a week’s
worth of delivery time (without any hassle from customs).
second general type is when the composer wants his Midi work to be
represented precisely as an orchestration.
These transcriptions are more challenging and require much more
knowledge on the part of the transcriber.
Gavin Greenaway is a composer that we have worked with in
the past that operates in this fashion.
these difficult transcriptions I will assign different instrument families
to different copyists and then we will all get together to discuss and
come to a consensus for what is most appropriate, particularly in regards
to articulations and dynamics.
is very helpful if the composer can send us audios with isolated
instrument family tracks (strings, brass, percussion, vocals, etc…).
This will allow us to be more precise and make better decisions
when condensing multiple tracks to the number of staves needed for a
Transcription & Orchestration Transcription
is now, more often than not, the standard operating procedure to
transcribe the composers Midi. Because
of the expectations of clients for high-quality demos, the composer is
forced to spend even more time and effort with the Midi, which leaves less
time and energy for putting his composition to paper.
though, the orchestrator is also doing his orchestrations in Midi.
The orchestrator will get the initial Midi tracks from the composer
and equipped with the PDF of our Midi score transcription proceeds to add
his/her orchestration tracks over the original Midi.
We then get the new Midi file and updated audios to transcribe the
new orchestration, create a new PDF score and send it off for approval by
is the key to the success of this process.
You must have a good working relationship with the composers and
orchestrators. You must learn
to ask questions from the very beginning of the project, trying to
anticipate potential problems. Getting
something wrong because of a fear of sounding musically dumb will have a
far greater consequence than a little embarrassment from asking a silly question.
A quality composer’s or orchestrator’s time is quite valuable
and the transcriber/copyist needs to prepare a list of pertinent questions
to ask in order to keep the intrusion to a minimum.
is the gist of it. There are
many more details when you start getting into the actual transcriptions (quantization,
voicing, dynamic interpretation, etc.), but now you have at least been
exposed to some of the technology that is happening out there in our
company has customers in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, South America
and North America, so finding the best ways to use technology is the key
to making the world smaller and keeping our clients happy.
Monroe is the owner of Express Music Services. He has been a
fulltime copyist for 20 years and was strictly a hand copyist for the
first 15. You can check out his hand music font by following this
link - LeeMusic.
Express Music Services, Inc.
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