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I keep missing so many that I can’t keep track of the number I should be up to any more, so from now on I’ll just refer to them by their filename – which is the date they’re written.

This week’s effort is very short (40s), but it achieves the goal I had for it. I wanted to record a piece with Recorder, Flute and Clarinet. So this is a small wind quartet piece for recorder, flute and two clarinets.
Most of tonight’s time was wasted fighting with technology. I was going to use Harmony Assistant (an excellent, cheap piece of score editing software) to write it, and then print the parts out so I could record it in Sonar. But for some reason HA didn’t want to work. It’s worked fine on my laptop in the past, but not tonight. It’s probably significant that I’ve installed SP1 since the last time I used it.
Anyway, after giving up on Harmony Assistant (about an hour wasted), I then wrote the piece directly in Sonar, exported to midi and attempted to load it into one of the score editors in Ubuntu. Good theory, but thwarted by how absolutely universally bad NoteEdit, MuSE Score and GNU Denemo are. None of them imported the Midi file correctly, and I couldn’t figure out how to correct it in any of them either. I tried loading the midi into Rosegarden, and exporting as MusicXML, which nearly worked, except that Rosegarden’s MusicXML export was badly formed XML. A little bit of manual editing later, and I could load the file into the other programs, but still had no luck getting the correct results. In the end I installed Harmony Assistant in a copy of Windows running in VirtualBox, with the hope that the problems I had earlier were confined to my laptop.
Thankfully they were, so after some fiddling around with HA (I don’t use it often enough, and its interface is a little bewildering at times) I was finally able to print out the parts.
Time wasted – an hour and a half.

It then took me a couple of hours to record the parts to my satisfaction – it’s amazing just how long it can take to record 40 seconds. Mostly that’s because my playing on all of those instruments is not of a high enough standard, which really shows when you have a piece full of long notes. Fast stuff is easy to fudge your way through, but long notes have to be perfectly in tune and steady because if they’re not, it’ll stick out like a sore thumb.
Interestingly I achieved the best results from the instrument that I thought would be the hardest – the recorder. I put that down to having a nice wooden one, rather than one of the horrible primary school plastic recorders. That and the fact that no one really expects a recorder to be in tune anyway.
The flute caused me the most trouble – I’ve never figured out how to play it without emptying my lungs in a couple of bars. With any other wind instrument I can manage a good eight bars without a problem. I also had some problems with the intonation, which I guess is mostly due to not enough practice. In the end I had to record it in four bar blocks, as I needed to stop and catch my breath after each one.
The clarinet parts weren’t too bad, I did a lot of takes, but it was always due to silly little glitches rather than general incompetence.
Even after all that time, things still weren’t perfect (or even particularly great), but there reaches a time when you just have to make do, and let technology handle the rest.
Sonar includes Roland’s V-Vocal tool, which allows for all sorts of manipulation of vocal (and other solo) tracks, including pitch and timing correction. I made some use of it to make up for what my actual ability couldn’t manage, and the results are pretty good – it seems to work much better with solo instruments than with vocals, as you can’t detect any of the horrible artifacts that you hear all too often in modern pop music.

For comparison, here’s the piece with V-Vocal turned off.

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