David A'Bear's Music Page

Return to Home Page


Contents


My interest in composition

My main interest is in musical composition, and I do hope to have more time in future to devote to this occupation

I write choral and instrumental pieces, and nowadays use Sibelius software to notate my music, and their excellent site SibeliusMusic to publish it. My SibeliusMusic website can be found on http://members.sibeliusmusic.com/davida'bear where you will find a short autobiography, and a list of published pieces a few of which are free, the remainder for sale. You can listen to the music, and alter it in a fundamental way e.g. tempo and key, but you can only download the first page unless you subscribe and pay.

I can provide bound copies with laminated covers. Please e-mail me for further information. davidabear@btinternet.com

Composing is often a painstaking task for me. I get inspiration at the oddest of times, with melodies running through my head whilst driving, or walking, or standing in the shower! However, when I make a conscious effort to transcribe what I hear it sometimes disapperars just like a dream fades when you awake in the morning. This is very frustrating. I am working on it, though. Sometimes I feel "in the mood", and I now have a digital piano on which I can compose real-time and save my ideas to disc. Transferring this midi information to computer, and thence Sibelius notational software gives me something I can edit. I don't mind how long it takes to edit. Editing is fun and can be done a little at a time.

Scorchmusic is an ideal way to get started in this game. For years I had dreamt of finding a publisher, but without success. How many others have suffered the same problem? However, for me the performance is crucial, and as yet I have not managed to get Sibelius to perform rubato classical music really musically. It was designed primarily as notational software, and for that it is great, but you cannot expect a machine to know exactly how you yourself feel a piece should be played, with the phrasing and every other nuance correct throughout. Publishing on Scorchmusic gives the listener a fair idea, and it is possible to build in subtle changes in dynamics and tempo, but it still will not do for me - indeed, I sometimes feel that hearing a composition incorrectly can be off-putting. Having said this, Sibelius 3 now offers true midi compatibility, storing all midi information as played. This is a big step forward.

The simplest type of file is a midi file. They are small in size compared with audio compressed files, but the quality of sound depends on the quality of the soundcard fitted to the computer playing the music. Midi has limitations on available sounds, and although it will replicate most orchestral instruments, cannot be used for any sounds or general sound effects. There are two ways of creating a midi file. Sibelius notation software will instantly convert a sibelius file into a midi file, but the performance is only ever as good as the Sibelius midi information. For some classical pieces which are in strict time, it actually works quite well, but there is still a drawback. Sibelius is equally good at converting midi files back into Sibelius files which may then be printed off. Thus midi files generated in this way are not secure! For those selling music on the SibeliusMusic website, offering a midi file to listen to could mean a lost sale. I am sure there must be some way of corrupting a midi file so that it plays correctly, but when translated into musical notation, is not worth printing off. I have yet to discover how to do this!

There is another way of making midi files. I can make recordings of purely instrumental music by using my digital piano, and save them as midi files. Again, the file size is perfectly reasonable for e-mailing or downloading, typically about 28kB for about ten minutes of music. My digital piano is a Technics SX-PR703. Where the composition is for an instrument and piano accompaniment, the recording process has to be done in two stages. Firstly the accompaniment is recorded on one track, then,whilst this is being played back, the instrument is played onto another track. This second stage can be a little tricky with music which varies in tempo, as one has to try and remember how the accompaniment was played so that the instrument always keeps with the piano. I have a feeling it might be better to record the instrument first, and then try to fit the accompaniment to the instrument, since this is what an accompanist should do, but there again, I am the director anyway! It is a strange thing that synchronising music 'blindfolded' is more difficult than having eye contact between instrumentalist and accompanist, even when both are played by the same person. When I have saved the performance, I can edit any incorrect notes on the piano to my heart's content before saving the final version. This includes the pitch, duration, timing, volume - every aspect. I can delete whole bars, but if I delete odd notes it leaves gaps which cannot be closed up. This is because the music is quantized into bars as it is recorded. So when I record a composition, I must ensure there are no delays whilst turning pages, as only whole bar delays can be removed. The final midi file is usually quite safe. If it is imported to Sibelius, the incorrect barlines and multiple tied notes which occur due to playing technique render the music unusable - even though it sounds good!

Once the edited midi file is finished, I can connect the line output of the digital piano to my minidisc recorder to make a 'perfect' recording - no noise or hiss or depreciation of sound quality whatsoever! I can also connect the digital piano directly to the computer line input, and use the software described below to make reduced quality recordings for e-mailing and uploading on the internet.

However, songs and choral pieces cannot be done like this - a machine cannot sing words! High quality recordings use a huge amount of memory, typically 10MB per minute for a .wav file. This can be compressed, but is still really too big to send by e-mail, or download from my website. MP3 was designed to give better compression, but with possible loss of quality. Much of the available software which does this will not allow you to adjust the compression, and results in files which are still too big, i.e. about 2 megabytes for a typical 3 or 4 minute song. However, I have found a software program which allows the user to compress music with an adjustable sample rate. The minimum rate is 6 kB/s, but this is really a little too much; by experiment I have found that a sample rate of 24 kB/s gives a reasonable quality. In fact, you may hardly notice any difference on a computer with a standard sound card and small speakers. The memory required is about 200 kB per minute of music. The software is freely available, and is called Musicmatch Jukebox. It is very versatile and easy to use. It even allows you to record and compress straight from audio input. So tape, record, digital pianos and minidisc players can all be plugged straight in to your computer audio input socket via a mini jack lead, and saved to computer file with as much or as little compression as you like! It will also save to .wma file format, which is Windows Media Player format. In fact the Windows Media Player was designed to play just about any soundfile format, and is a useful piece of software to keep. It will play anything downloaded from the internet. Musicmatch Jukebox also compresses .wma files to any desired level. I have found little difference with some recordings, and a noticeable difference in others, comparing both formats with the same file size. I therefore use the better one for each piece of music. Vocal pieces seem better in .wma format.

 

Available Midi Files: [ All very small in size and quick to download ]

Convolvulus

Dance of the Butterflies

The Enchanting Garden

Cela ne fait rien (de tout!)

Back to Top


Available .WMA and .MP3 Files

The following pieces have been saved in .mp3 format or .wma format with a high degree of compression. To play them you need software which will play sound files. Such software is freely available via the internet. I recommend Windows Media Player. You may already have this installed on your computer.

Please be patient whilst the selected file downloads. It may take a few minutes.

Fantaisie for Flute (MP3 - 650kB)

Rovinj Serenade (MP3 - 990kB)

New-born King (WMA - 705kB)

Big Bow Steps Out - A trip to the Circus (MP3 - 744kB)

Reflections (MP3 - 925kB)

The Autumn Years (MP3 - 1.04 MB)

The Darkling Thrush (MP3 - 1.11MB)

The Puppydogs' Walk (MP3 - 1.13 MB)


Contact Information

My e-mail address:

davidabear@btinternet.com

My SibeliusMusic web address

http://members.sibeliusmusic.com/davida'bear

Sibelius software

http://www.sibelius.com/

SibeliusMusic

http://www.sibeliusmusic.com/


Back to Top
Last revised: November 29, 2006.