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Topic: What is the best approach for producing quality audio files from a Finale score?

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  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Canyon, Texas, USA
    Posts
    135

    What is the best approach for producing quality audio files from a Finale score?

    I have now produced audio files of four multiple movement works using Finale and GPO. I found that Finale's mixer seems inadequate when the score has many MIDI tracks. The Finale User Manual suggests a number of things to improve this situation one of which is to "Save and Join Multiple Audio Files" in a DAW type program. This strikes me as a poor solution. Once the MIDI is converted to audio you can no longer tweak any MIDI settings and cannot take advantage of the better MIDI handling that is likely available in the DAW program.

    In most cases would it be better to export as a MIDI file with all tracks still available and little or no added effects (such as reverb) and then polish the MIDI aspects of the piece before mixing and mastering the audio. In the case of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" on the Christmas CD I would try to tighten up the violins at the beginning, add proper volume overlays to the horns, spread the various string and choir sections over appropriate parts of the virtual stage, and then try to mix and master the final product.

    From listening to the GPO demos, items available on some members websites, the Christmas CD, and pieces available in the Listening Room, it is clear to me that some of you have developed excellent procedures for getting from a completely notated score to a polished recording.

    Please share.

    Norman J. Nelson

  2. #2

    Re: What is the best approach for producing quality audio files from a Finale score?

    As one who regularly wrestles with the difference between a scoring tool and a sequencing tool let me first say that I appreciate, fully, your dilemma! Sadly, the short answer is that I'm not sure you can produce a really high quality audio file from Finale alone.

    That's really the key... there is a huge and gaping chasm between scoring and sequencing. They serve two different purposes, and as of now no one has come up with a way to join them perfectly.

    I use Finale to sketch out, and often flesh out musical ideas. I grew up with manuscript paper, and it remains the more comfortable environment for me. It lets me think without being encumbered by my chops at the keyboard.

    But, I reach a point where I run out of gas, and it isn't an inherent limitation of Finale, but rather a limitation of scoring in general. Scoring is intended to communicate, to a musician, a musical idea. It is instructions, albeit incomplete instructions, about how to perform a specific part.

    When I reach that point I move into a sequencing environment - in my case Sonar. I will often import the MIDI output from Finale, both with and without Human Playback engaged, and I'll judge each track. Most of the time I end up playing the tracks back into Sonar from a MIDI keyboard (or drum pad or maybe even guitar controller) because I think it breathes a little life into the music.

    If I've written something that I can not play then I spend far too much time tweaking the data in the Piano Roll View. I usually find this to be sub optimal, but it's better than a butchered performance, and usually better than what Finale generates.

    And yes, sometimes I use the MIDI track that Finale generated.

    I do all my mixing in Sonar, even if I haven't tweaked a single note. I just find it to be a little easier to think in terms of tracks instead of staves. So this is where I do all my processing - dynamics, filters, delays, reverb, whatever. It's all fair game!

    Once I'm happy with the mix I export to audio, always 24 bit, usually 44.1kHz. If it's for my own use I'll create a stereo track, if it is for someone else, and they want to play with relative levels I'll export stems, or even tracks.

    For my projects I then add a little polish using Sound Forge or Wavelab. These are audio editors, and they are as different from Sonar as Sonar is from Finale.

    IF I was confined to Finale for all MIDI data tweaking I'd still use Sound Forge or Wavelab and plug-in processors to polish the piece. Just not sure it would be everything it could be...

    Last observation (for now<G>)... I have learned over the years that things like effects, and even library choice, affect performance. So if you are playing the parts in, and you don't love Player 1 try Player 2, or if GPO isn't moving you try another library entirely. Sometimes (quite often in fact) changing Player or library can also impact the output from Finale.

    Ultimately the secret ingredients for a great recording are the idea, the performance, and the instruments, in that order<G>!
    Bill Thompson
    Audio Enterprise
    KB3KJF

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Canyon, Texas, USA
    Posts
    135

    Re: What is the best approach for producing quality audio files from a Finale score?

    Thanks Bill,

    I greatly appreciate the detail in your answer. It will help me make some decisions.

    Norman J. Nelson

  4. #4

    Re: What is the best approach for producing quality audio files from a Finale score?

    That was a great answer Bill.

    I struggle with this same issue as well. I'm like Jekyll and Hyde when it comes to using Finale and a DAW. I've been using Finale for years and like you I used to compose with pencil and paper at the piano.

    I'd rather stay with Finale and explore all the possibilities for producing the best audio recording straight from Finale. I have to think that using hidden expressions and articulations could produce a convincing performance of individual parts. To me that is akin to tweaking in a piano roll view in a sequencer.

    Now arguably Finale doesn't support audio functions the way a DAW does. There are no busses in Finale nor can you mix audio tracks which does seem to produce a fuller sounding result. I have just started experimenting with using Aria's built-in reverb and changing the send amount per instrument as the texture changes. Less reverb per instrument with fuller textures and a little more reverb with smaller textures. I do this with hidden expressions. I'm trying to replicate a classical recording of a chamber orchestra piece to see if this is doable.

    Anyway, I'd like to get your thoughts on whether you've tried to do everything in Finale?

    Steve Winkler

  5. #5

    Re: What is the best approach for producing quality audio files from a Finale score?

    Quote Originally Posted by swinkler View Post
    <snip>Anyway, I'd like to get your thoughts on whether you've tried to do everything in Finale?
    Hi Steve...

    In fact I do think it possible to work entirely within Finale, and I've done a few times. The limitations are not all that draconian:
    1) limited number (zero being best) of plain old audio tracks, or as an alternative, clean up the audio tracks in a tool like Wavelab or Sound Forge before importing them. Not truly Finale-only, but getting closer.
    2) exactly as you say, use expressions and all the other tools that Finale does offer to 'process' the MIDI so that the resulting audio sounds great.

    I use this approach to create rough-ish mock-ups for people that have to perform my compositions. I don't carry it far enough along to create a "finished master" - and possibly I worry about more of the details than absolutely called for<G>... and I attain results that I'm not too embarrassed to pass around. I will dig around and see if I have any of these still on hard disk or CD.

    Now if you want a thoroughly polished, ready for mastering audio file I think you will still find yourself wanting more... and if you do have an audio editor one possible solution would be to render to audio and do the polishing in Sound Forge. If you stop to think about it, that's pretty much what we did back in the dark ages of tape. No studio I worked at had enough processors to handle even 16 tracks, so we'd pre-process some tracks, and post process busses,, and then mix down to stereo, and then apply the finishing touches.

    Make sense?
    Bill Thompson
    Audio Enterprise
    KB3KJF

  6. #6

    Re: What is the best approach for producing quality audio files from a Finale score?

    That makes total sense.

    I guess it really comes down to the purpose of the rendering and possibly what one considers acceptable or not.

    What sort of post processing would you do to a wave file straight out of Finale?

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