Music Engraving

   Many composers still like to sketch out ideas using pencil and paper. Music engraving is the process of copying these often hard to read manuscripts into neat looking sheet music. Of course these days we don’t actually engrave anything, but we use computers and pretty sophisticated software. While there are products available that attempt to scan in music from a printed sheet, the ones I have tested still require a good deal of editing after a completed scan and I am much faster and more accurate starting from scratch.

Music Transcription

   Often there is only a recording which the composer would like to have in printed form, to send to the copyright office, use to teach a song to the band, or to frame for the bedroom. Music transcription is the process of making sheet music from a recording. This can be only essential parts for a lead sheet or a full arrangement.

Music Publishing

   This step makes the music available to the public for purchase or for free. I publish my own music on my web site through Level Three Music and for some of my customers I manage and administer the publishing of their orchestral music.

Arranging and Orchestration

   In composing music many ideas come as little snippets first and then get assembled into a song or some other musical format. Often a piece will be performed by a larger band, ensemble or orchestra which is where arranging comes in. An arrangement usually contains all information needed for every player in a group to properly perform a given piece of music. This can be fairly straight forward as in arranging a folk song for a rock rhythm section. As soon as you have horn players in the ensemble you have to deal with various transpositions and pay attention to instrument ranges. Modern music software makes it possible to create decent recordings once arrangements have been entered into the software.

My Tools

   Since the late 1970s I have been copying music from barely legible chicken scratches into nice looking, clean sheet music. This included music of my own composing as well as manuscripts of others. At first I worked with black ink on good quality paper until I discovered that there were plastic stencils and very fine calligraphy ink pens. My first published book was done in this way. No surprise then that after I got my first computer (a Commodore 64), I tried everything to make it print out music sheets – I even learned how to program. Along came my first Atari ST computer, where I used the included Logo language to write music printing software but I soon upgraded to 68k assembly language and just as my program was starting to produce reasonable looking music sheets, I was introduced to the Macintosh and a program called Finale – this was around 1989. In 1991 I was using my own copy of Finale on my own Mac and started working for David Baker at Indiana University and a year later for Bill Banfield.

   My main tools are Dorico and Finale, but I am also fluent in Sibelius. In addition I use Adobe InDesign to assemble larger scores and Steinberg Cubase to produce fine-tuned recordings of various projects.