The MuseScore Symphony (Symphony in D minor) now complete and online
The final movement of my Symphony in D minor, Alla breve, is up on YouTube. I just now realize I forgot to post to the forum when the 3rd movement, Scherzo, went online in May. Here are the links to both:
I strongly encourage checking these out as examples of what can be accomplished with MuseScore playback when playback is handled by an external sampler and audio tools. The results are very good. I can't find anything else of comparable quality produced with MuseScore online. (The first two movements of the symphony were produced either using MuseScore's native fluidsynth playback [1st movement] or a combination of native playback with selected instruments being handled externally [2nd movement]).
All four movements of this compact symphony (15 minutes) were composed directly onto the score without the aid of a keyboard, either midi or acoustic, and represent the culmination of five years' worth of work exploring Linux audio's applicability to the composition of orchestral music.
My goal was to assemble the best virtual orchestra possible from non-commercial soundfonts, and to set up a MuseScore template for orchestral scores that was flexible enough to be used for everything from a small chamber orchestra to a full, winds in threes Romantic score.
Furthermore, thousands of hours of testing and experimentation went into selecting and implementing the best and most reliable open source audio processing software for equalization, spatialization (panning and reverb), and mastering. Here's what I'm using:
- Midi/audio connector: JACK
- Session manager: non-session-manager
- Score writer/midi front-end: MuseScore
- Sampler: linuxsampler
- Plugin host and JACK patchbay: Carla
- Equalizer: LV2 eq10q
- Chorus: Calf Multi-chorus
- Mixer and spatialization console: non-mixer
- Reverb: jconvolv
- Mastering: JAMIN
There are significant weaknesses in most of these components, from truly awful user interfaces to inexplicable crashes, but once everything's set up (vertiginous learning curve), you can compose directly onto the score in MuseScore and preview the results instantly, fairly certain that they accurately portray how the music will sound when played by a real orchestra. When done, you can go back and do the note-by-note tweaks necessary to draw out a more sensitive musical performance.
I can't count the number of times it has been said on the MuseScore forums that MuseScore is a notation program (as opposed to a score-centric DAW front-end). Clearly, the people saying so don't live in the same universe as I, as the audio of my Symphony in D minor proves. When MuseScore is decoupled from its internal synthesizer (fluidsynth), it already acts as a DAW front-end by sending midi signals to an external sampler connected to a sophisticated audio chain. It just doesn't do as good a job as it could.
Focusing soley on the midi side of MuseScore, where its only weaknesses with respect to acting as the midi front-end of a DAW reside, I have isolated exactly three, very specific areas where MuseScore's limited midi-sends interfere with or ruin accurate playback. Just about every other playback issue can be fixed further down the audio chain, or faked with a creative use of what MuseScore already provides.
- It must be made possible to swell or decrescendo through held notes. It is a basic and indispensable building block of musical performance, particularly in orchestral music, and it simply cannot be faked not matter how skilled one is with MuseScore. If just this were fixed, MuseScore would be 90% complete with respect to its midi sends.
- Note-by-note control of gate off-times, which were available in the previous release (1.x) of MuseScore, must be returned. Players breathe and pause between phrases; bows change direction. These require that some notes be shortened fractionally, the amount dependent upon context. This can be somewhat faked, but the time and effort involved is enormous.
- It is utterly essential that staves be provided with more than one midi channel, the number being settable by the user.
I've raised the issue of multiple channels per staff more than once, but I feel like a voice crying in the wilderness. The Change Instrument dialogue is NOT satisfactory for this purpose! In the Alla breve movement, I'm constantly changing between solo and section woodwinds, some of the single staff polyphony requires a separate channel for each part (if a part, moving in quarter notes, touches or crosses over a whole note in another part, the whole note ceases to sound), the brass requires several changes of soundfont to accommodate the timbral differences between forte and piano, the strings sometimes need layering to make them more brilliant or mellow, etc. All of these require having extra channels on each staff.
You can edit .mscx files by hand to add extra channels, which is what I did for my massively complete orchestral template, however I believe this should be doable from within MuseScore. The number of channels and their names could easily be set up in the Instruments dialogue, and would be reflected in the choices presented in the Staff Text Properties dialogue.
I hope that my many years of working with MuseScore, an entire YouTube channel devoted to MuseScore projects (audio and scores), and an original symphony composed directly into MuseScore will establish my credentials sufficiently for the above to be taken seriously. No more sidestepping playback, or rather, midi failings with the excuse "it's a notation program". I believe I've proven otherwise, incontrovertibly.