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Well, it's been quite busy on the road so I haven't been able to really sink my teeth into the business of getting my arranging and composing to be Sibelius-native. But alas - I started my first such venture en route to Brownsville, TX for a show with Spanish Harlem Orchestra. (Incredible band on this one BTW - percussionists were Johnny "Dandy" Rodrgiuez, George Delgado and the awesome Luisito Quintero (nasty solo on Ariñañara that night).) I have to say, despite a couple of blank moments where it's just inevitable that I have to consult reference, the transition is invigorating and just feels "right". No - I'm not working for Avid or anything, I just have to call it like I see it here as I'm sure that there are more folks in the same boat as I am.


OK, getting down to details. I'm going to start here with how I generally approach an arrangement for a client. I'm hoping to compare (and hopefully for the better) just how my process will improve during this transition. After this explanation I'm going to go about periodically comparing individual features and processes amongst the two programs.


My Arranging Process

This will give a little extra perspective on how I'm planning to implement this workflow into Sibelius. It goes a little something like this:

  1. Transcribe the tune from the client's audio example.
  2. Make sure everything is clearly notated in the transcription on to appropriate staves. For this process I usually 3-4 staves, the top being the lead line/melody and the grand staff below it being used for harmony and bass line. If harmony figures to be involved then I usually introduce a separate bass staff below the grand staff.
  3. Start noodling around the keyboard for some possible sub-melodies and harmonies. I immediately found myself using Sib's Ideas feature today for just throwing some of the ideas onto "paper" and capturing it with the function. I can tell right now this is going to be huge for me - it was one of the core features that brought me to Sib from Finale.
  4. Develop another set of 2 staves that go under the previous group - I usually call this group "Rearr" for "Re-arrangement Staves". (One thing that I'm going to need to figure out stat is how togroup/ungroup staves manually.) On these set of staves I start sketching out the guts of how I would like my arrangement to sound like.
  5. Upon completion of "Rearr" (usually takes the longest of all of these phases) I develop another grand staff and call it "Orch" for Orchestration Staves. This setup has been particularly useful when I need to go back and orchestrate the tune for any instrumentation; I just take the "Orch" kernel and paste to the top of the new file and simply orchestrate down from the those staves. I can see here howVersions will be incredibly useful as I go through the different phases of my arranging process - as work toward the final score I can do away with Orch, Rearr. I can also have a version with just Orch. or Rearr - I can paste these right into my new instrumentation set for orchestration. Yes, damn nerdy but cool!.
  6. Before I move to developing the final score I usually move right to my MIDI demo for the client's approval of my work in progress. This saves many an hour if they don't like what you've done and you have to undo all of your precious copying and engraving work in your final score! This is an area I'm especially excited to utilize Sib's new Rewire function which I just test drove today. (Opened Pro Tools and made a new instrument track. Inserts>instruments and Sibelius wasn't there as advertised (Booooo!) I googled the problem and ended up downloading the latest Rewire version from Propellerhead and "repairing" the playback in Sib's audio options. This took an hour. I don't understand why this just couldn't of worked out of the box. Oh well, no one's perfect.) One other area where I believe Finale has a leg up is they have an all-useful Latin Percussion plug in which I've used extensively in my demos. For the time being I guess I'm going to have to program my own congabongo and timbal tumbaos. If Sib could get this going they would totally rule. Unfortunately, I don't think a lot of these notation programs take latin percussion seriously - they need to.
  7. After the MIDI demo is completed, converted to mp3 and sent to client, I make yet another version and start the final, engraved score. (Again, can't wait to get Versions going here!) This is usually pretty simple as I probably will have orchestrated during the MIDI version. All that remains would be stripping away the MIDI Demo elements (curious to see how Rewire will come into play here), adding chords, processing the piano, bass, and percussion parts, adding articulations and marking to the horns, and adding lyrics if necessary. During this phase we will see about the true meat & potatoes of Sibelius. So - without further ado, features and procesees:

Note Entry

This is probably the toughest area to address for me as Finale's note entry has just become muscle memory after 12 years of use. However, as I get more and more used to it, it seems at this point and time that it makes more "sense" than Finale's speedy entry. My preferred mode of entry has always been MIDI step time and it seems that Sibelius' implementation will dramatically pick up in speed once I get used to it. One of the things I have to be really careful with currently with Sib is auditioning notes. If I haven't escaped all the way out of note entry then my "auditionings" will find their way on to staves in the music. Advantage for the time being - Finale.



Wow. Typing "W" gets me looking at a part instantly. I transcribed the client's tune with the melody resting on my "Lead Line" staff. Just for kicks I wanted to take a look at the part so I hit "W". There the part was - looking amazingly decent for being untouched. Magnetic Layout is just amazing. I would've spent 4-5 minutes getting this part to look like this with Finale, period. Advantage - Sibelius, overwhelmingly.



Playback in Sibelius is just dimensions ahead that of Finale. Sib's playback is amazingly robust, intuitive, and very elegant. I can audition incrementally tempos for the piece by just dragging the tempo bar back and forth. (Finale eats it bad here.) I can play from any part of the piece by selecting a bar and hitting "P". (Sib's keyboard shortcuts are amazingly intuitive). I audition a single stave by selecting that bar and hitting "P". Sib just plays back that bar. In Finale I can't do this. I can't just move a slider to forward and rewind playback. Advantage - Sibelius, overwhelmingly.



I haven't gotten this far in the arrangement as of yet - but I have to comment on this in any case. You can actually import a .txt file and have Sib lay the text over the syllables of the melody. Are you kidding me!! This is going to again save me hours. Adv. - Sibleius.


Chord Entry

I toyed around just slapping in some chords on top of the melody. Sibelius again has Finale brutally beaten in this category. All I had to do was Cmd-K and click on a note or a beat. I typed in my chord - E7(#9). The chord laid out beautifully - the "#9" in parentheses and raised just the perfect amount above the "7". I didn't have to go hunting through tiny boxes of chord suffixes. I have always loathed this in Finale and thought it ridiculous. It was even to the point where I had .txt files of full of Chord Suffixes with their identifying "Suffix Numbers" to somehow speed up the tedium of Finale Chord Entry. I feel "cleansed" and relieved that I'll never have to go undergo this torture again.


Enharmonic chords in Sib work beautiful. The cats in my bands know I use some pretty intricate chords - these very chords would sometimes take up to 10min a piece to format properly in Finale and document in my chord sheet and save into the Finale "Chord Library". In Sib I can even play in a voicing of the chord and Sib gets it right half the time. If not, I simply cycle through the enharmonic voicings and I'm done. Advantage - Sibelius, overwhelmingly.


Much more to come - I'm only beginning this chart but this is what I've noticed so far.




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