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Topic: Help with Notating

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  1. #1

    Help with Notating

    Hi Folks-

    So here I am, 32 years of age and after 24 years rocking out, I decide that classical music is much more interesting! I've been an ear player for all of that time, never finding a need for reading music. So I never learned.

    Now I'm trying to catch up. I'm working with GPO and Overture to score some of my pieces. Problem is, I have no idea what I'm doing! I know the basics well enough...I certainly know what notes are what. But my brain starts to hurt when I begin to think about time signatures and note values, tuplets and triplets and generally how to get what I hear in my head onto the page instead of through my fingers. Can anyone suggest anything to help me along here? Anyone learn to read and write music late in the game? Pointers, offers to proofread, anything will be greatly appreciated and most welcome.

    I thank you all for any help you may share.

    Peace,

    Scott

  2. #2

    Re: Help with Notating

    I wouldn't call myself a professional notator, if there are such things . . . in other words, I'm sure there's still some notating things I don't know about. However, I do feel I have a pretty decent grasp on it, having taught myself over the last 3 years I've been composing.

    I think there are two factors involved in notation: reading it and writing it. I think for reading it the best way is simply to get your hands on some real orchestral scores, like a Tchaikovsky symphony, and just try following along. Usually you'll find it's easiest to follow along with whatever instrument is playing the melody, as it is the easiest to hear. I think listening to music while following along with their corresponding scores is a great way to get a sense for what the note values sound like when played out.

    And then of course for instrument players there's the skill of site-reading a score, which is more difficult and requires more practice to grasp, especially when the note values are all over the place, or you have to read multiple note for your instrument, like on a piano. This is just a skill that has to be developed with practice, practice, and more practice I believe.

    As for writing it, a method I often employ to figure out the note values to what I hear in my head is simply to snap my fingers or something for the beat while sounding out the notes, trying to figure out the notes' relationship with the beat. It usually ends up being something quite simple. Since you say you've been playing by ear, this should come naturally and be pretty easy. In fact, you'll probably be surprised by how easy notation really is. I think it's just a matter of getting accustomed to the visual aspect of it, i.e. what the notes values look like and such.

    I could go into more detail about all the note values and such, but one book that I had my library buy really helped, the "Complete Idiot's Guide to Music Theory" (though of course I in no way mean to imply that you are an idiot )
    The book doesn't go into advanced theory topics, but it's great for learning about notation I think. Here's an Amazon.com link to it:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1592574378/

    Hope this helps!

    And of course post any more questions! About a year ago I was unsure about beaming rules, and the folks here were glad to help.
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

  3. #3

    Re: Help with Notating

    Sean-

    I thank you for your thoughtful, encouraging response. Funny, I was looking at that very book just last week at Barnes & Noble. My 5 year old daughter and I were making out our Christmas lists for Santa (!) over the Thanksgiving weekend and I listed that book. My daughter leans over to read my list and exclaims: "Dad! You're not an idiot!!" I thought to myslef: "I wonder how long I have before that sentiment changes??"

    Thanks again!

  4. #4
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    Re: Help with Notating

    Quote Originally Posted by ewoh24
    Hi Folks-

    So here I am, 32 years of age and after 24 years rocking out, I decide that classical music is much more interesting! I've been an ear player for all of that time, never finding a need for reading music. So I never learned.

    Now I'm trying to catch up. I'm working with GPO and Overture to score some of my pieces. Problem is, I have no idea what I'm doing! I know the basics well enough...I certainly know what notes are what. But my brain starts to hurt when I begin to think about time signatures and note values, tuplets and triplets and generally how to get what I hear in my head onto the page instead of through my fingers. Can anyone suggest anything to help me along here? Anyone learn to read and write music late in the game? Pointers, offers to proofread, anything will be greatly appreciated and most welcome.

    I thank you all for any help you may share.

    Peace,

    Scott
    An exercise that was helpful to me was transcribing music from a recording into notation. Maybe just start with simple melodies. After you've transcribed them into a notation program, then hit playback and listen how close you came. Nothing magic about it, just a different skill to learn.

    Good luck,
    Jeff

  5. #5

    Re: Help with Notating

    Scott,

    It looks like what you are looking for is a book about music notation. Something that clarifies clefs, key signatures, beaming, spacing, etc. Below are 2 book I recommend.

    The first is used at Berklee and is a good basic book. It covers a good amount of ground and is very clear, but not too heady. It is a good basic reference book.

    Music Notation - Mark Mc Grain
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/079...books&v=glance

    The second book becomes more technical and advanced. It is my go-to book when I run across a notational issue.

    Music Notation - Gardner Read
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/080...books&v=glance

    One of the best things to do to learn notation is to carry music (a score?) around with you and read it like a book. Seeing the correct techniques will become imbedded and notating the wrong way will look - well, wrong.

    Hope this helps,
    Derek

  6. #6

    Re: Help with Notating

    It is a well established prinicple that it is easier to associate something unfamiliar with something familiar. So...

    You might find it easier to learn notation by getting some transcriptions of music you're familiar with (The Beatles Complete Scores perhaps? Or whatever you know well musically) and learn notation by reading them and entering them into your notation program/sequencer.

    Might be easier than learning two unfamiliar things at the same time.

    In any case, enjoy.

    Chet

  7. #7

    Re: Help with Notating

    Good point, Chet.

  8. #8

    Re: Help with Notating

    Quote Originally Posted by ewoh24
    Problem is, I have no idea what I'm doing! I know the basics well enough...I certainly know what notes are what. Can anyone suggest anything to help me along here? Anyone learn to read and write music late in the game? Pointers, offers to proofread, anything will be greatly appreciated and most welcome.
    I thank you all for any help you may share.
    Peace,
    Scott
    Use your ears...trust your ears...allow yourself to toss out the crap and pursue what's great...period.

    That's what so wonderful about the new world of computers...you can write a note and you can hear a note...immediately. Two notes...the same. Two chords...etc. Notating is simply the form that allows the individual to create musical structure. The rules of this form are (ultimately) meaningless...the necessity of musical greatness is that which is (ultimately) meaningful.

    In some ways, that's the difference between writing novels (which I do) and writing Classical works (which I also do). Translating ideas into novels requires learning the rules of the form: from alphabet to vocabulary to grammar, the meaningful expression of ideas absolutely requires these forms. Without an intimate knowledge of English, sentance structure, etc, communicating a sophisticated image/plot is nearly impossible.

    On the other hand, creating the meaningful expression of musical ideas requires a great vision and the ear to steer that vision. With a computer and notational software, you can be dumb and blind (literally) and still be capable of creating great music. I know nothing about theory, proper notation, etc. I DO know what great music sounds like. Notational software and GPO allow me to pursue that sound. That structure. That greatness...

    Good luck!

  9. #9
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    Re: Help with Notating

    Quote Originally Posted by imagegod
    The rules of this form are (ultimately) meaningless...the necessity of musical greatness is that which is (ultimately) meaningful
    I don't totally agree with the first part of this statement. If a composer is writing music solely for him/herself, then the rules of the form are ultimately meaningless. Whatever method the composer uses to create is enough in itself. This is true now more than ever with computer realizations of the music.

    But when you decide to have human beings perform your music, now the (notation) rules of the form are essential. Knowing and understanding these rules allows the composer to communicate to the performer the heart and soul of this music. And standard music notation is the language that we use to do that.

    Notation programs can't do it all, yet.

    Jeff

  10. #10
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
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    Re: Help with Notating

    Here is an instructional book that if one is honest and true to the books instructions, can be quite instructional and has helped many of my students go on to better understanding in writing music. You will find at amazon books.

    *Norton's Programmed Text
    Scales, Intervals, Keys, Triads, Rhythm, and Meter
    * Third Edition
    * John Clough, State University of New York at Buffalo
    * Joyce Conley
    * Claire Boge, Miami University of Ohio
    * ISBN 0-393-97369-7 • paper, with CD • 1999
    Styxx

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