July 28, 2015 : In the spirit of maintaining open standards in music notation, MakeMusic and Steinberg have announced they are transferring development of the MusicXML format and SMuFL (Standard Music Font Layout) specification to a new Music Notation Community Group at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
(Links to related articles on the web appear at the end of this post.)
A slur, sometimes called a phrase mark, is a curved line used in musical notation which indicates that the notes are to be played smoothly together. String players will typically play the notes in one stroke of the bow, wind players or singers will take the notes in one breath.
Slurs are also used in vocal music to indicate that one syllable is to be sung across several notes, called a “melisma“.
When writing music, it is important that the extent of a phrase be immediately clear to the musicians.
When a phrase ends with a tied note, it’s perhaps natural to want to attach the phrase mark to the start of the tied series, but, except in one specific case we will cover in a moment, this is actually incorrect.
One slur should completely cover the entire phrase, with the end of the slur attached to the final tied note in the series. The following is correct:
In vocal music, single syllables of text which span several different notes in succession are shown with horizontal lines, called Word Extensions, or Lyric Extensions. The technical name for these vocal phrases is “melisma” or the plural, “melismata”:
Finale has a great productivity feature which automates the drawing of these lyric extensions called Smart Word Extensions.
I received this email on the topic of the ideal vertical spacing between staves in scores and staff visibility from my friend and colleague John Hinchey, and thought I would share our exchange. John is a sought-after arranger and trombonist in Nashville who is currently on tour with Martina McBride, and also authors the Notes on Notes blog.
Here is a score formatting question. If I have an orchestra score with staves hidden when instruments are not playing, does one set the staves to justify across the entire page or leave them towards the top with extra blank space at the bottom?
At Winter NAMM 2015, MOTU demonstrated MusicXML export capabilities in their demo of the upcoming version 9 release of Digital Performer. DP is MOTU’s flagship DAW application for Mac and Windows, popular with many composers for film, television and other media.
DP9 will allow users to export a sequence’s MIDI data as an industry-standard MusicXML file, for import into music notation software such as Finale or Sibelius.
MusicXML export should provide a big workflow improvement for DP-based composers and orchestrators who currently must use Standard MIDI files to exchange data with their notation software of choice. This existing method often requires creating a duplicate copy of the sequence MIDI tracks and applying hard quantization before exporting, so that the notation application will interpret the exported MIDI data in a musically useful way.
DP9’s Music XML export appears to build upon the already solid Quickscribe notation features included in DP. The exported MusicXML file will included the non-destructive quantization applied by the Quickscribe transcription engine, as well as any dynamics or other markings added in the Quickscribe editor window.
DP9 is just the latest of several major DAWs to support MusicXML. Steinberg’s Cubase and Nuendo both feature import and export of MusicXML, while Apple LogicPro X, Cakewalk SONAR and MAGIX Sequoia offer export-only support for the standard. Users of Avid Pro Tools can open and save Sibelius files, but not MusicXML.
You can view MOTU’s DP9 preview presentation at Winter NAMM in the following video (notation-related content starts around 6:35):
MOTU Product Specialist Dave Roberts, seen in the video above, says “we are projecting late Spring for the DP9 release”. Check back here after DP9 ships for a thorough review of its MusicXML feature.
Brian Monroney is a guitarist, composer and arranger based in Seattle. He has recorded and/or toured with artists including Tom Jones, Gloria Estefan, Barry Manilow, Natalie Cole, and Nelson Rangell. Brian’s music has been heard on TV shows such as The Big Bang Theory, Ellen, TMZ and Modern Marvels.
Q: Is it possible to make title text appear more “expanded” (as I might do in a Word doc?) My client has a specific font request, but his letter spacing looks wider than the same font on my computer, which is more “tight”:
A: This difference is due to letter-spacing, referred to as “Tracking” in typography. Tracking refers to a consistent degree of increase (or sometimes decrease) of space between letters to affect density in a line or block of text.
A few days ago, I was asked to visit the students of Seattle’s Pacific NW Film Scoring Program to speak about my role as music copyist, orchestrator and music librarian for feature films and video games.
The students asked some great questions, so I thought I would post a few of them along with my answers here.