Using Notion in place of non-available Musicians!

I have been an extremely busy bee the past couple months working hard on a project here at the school. I’d like to share just a bit.

I’ve learned a ton about using Notion software, by PreSonus, to fill in for musicians that just are not available.

You see we are a small school district with limited funds and limited access to amazing musicians who are able to cover all the possible different instruments we might want to utilize in a particular production. We just are not able to produce an entire orchestra, including harpist!

So I set out to see if it was possible to make do by using the nTempo feature in Notion.

Through a long process of taking the orchestra parts, entering them into the computer, and lots of trial and error I have found that using Notion with nTempo is absolutely a wonderful solution! Not a replacement in ANY WAY shape or form but I’d rather go live WITH these parts then to NOT have the parts!

I do have a few tips to share:

notatemelogo– NotateMe – with PhotoScore – Well worth every penny of the two combined purchases – the full app itself and then the IAP of PhotoScore

PhotoScore
Enter a caption

SCANNING:

  • Neuratrons NotateMe used in conjunction with the PhotoScore in-app-purchase saved me a TON of time!
  • I’ve found that using my iPhone X with NotateMe’s PhotoScore was WAY faster than using my original iPad Pro 12.9″ (I really wasn’t surprised that it was faster but I WAS surprised at HOW much faster it was!) Hands down, noticeable!
  • Sometimes PhotoScore was NOT the fastest way!
  • PhotoScore does NOT get everything –
    • multi measure repeats are the first obvious item it misses.
    • Another biggie was that sometimes it missed the key signature.
    • Text ALWAYS had to be cleaned up.

Notion LargeNotion – for iOS – Well worth having this on my iOS devices as well as my laptop! Has replaced my previous notation app.

ENTERING MUSIC:

  • PhotoScore was how I started with the strings – Violin 1 & 2, Viola, Cello, String Bass
    • I always had to adjust the Show Attachments Above/Below to Auto.
    • I also had to adjust Set Note Stem Direction to Auto.
  • Step Entry Mode is Pretty stinking fast!
    • Harp parts got entered via step entry mode
    • Many little parts that my High School kids couldn’t play were also entered via step entry –
  • Real Time Recording absolutely needs a quantize feature. Because of the lack of this feature I found it useless.
  • LEARN YOUR KEY BOARD SHORTCUTS!
  • In a huge project like this I actually for the first time in my life lived in Continuous View Mode

ENTERING LYRICS:

  • Found out that entering Lyrics has a bug – it doesn’t always work in Continuous View Mode!
    • Two Solutions
      • One – switch to Pages Across or Pages Down mode
      • Two – Enter Score Layout mode and drag the Part containing lyrics down lower in the score temporarily.

USING THE iPAD:

  • For the entire first act I never touched my computer. I scanned all the string parts via my iPhoneX and then edited them all in Notion on my iPad.
  • Then I switched to my computer.
  • I think the computer is possibly a bit faster.
  • I haven’t tried the full score on my iPad again, now that I am about done. I am wondering if the iPad can actually handle playing the full score.

nTempo Screen.png

nTEMPO:

  • Using nTempo is pretty straight forward.
    • First of all – Not available on iOS – only Desktop/Laptop
    • Add an nTempo Track to your score (it’s under basics)
    • Add the beat that you’d like to tap along to
    • Then hit that little conductor dude (or Shift Return – which is VERY finicky though – sometimes that shortcut works and sometimes not. I really have NOT figured out the trick fully) (See the screen shot above to spot the conductor icon)
    • THEN the MAGIC….
    • start tapping and the music start to play and follows your tapping for tempo!
    • Sometimes it is easier to tap in specific rhythms rather than the beat – for instance why Tapp four quarter notes when everyone is holding a whole note? or why tap quarter notes if everyone is playing quarter note triplets? (as you can see in the screenshot above…. the nTempo part is NOT quarter notes)

iCLOUD SYNC for NOTION

  • iCloud sync in Notion is scary good! I never once had to manually transfer files between my iPhone/iPad/Laptop when I had wi-fi available.
  • I was working on the beach during spring break a few times and had to AirDrop files back and forth then
ForScore
ForScore

FORSCORE:

  • I used this app to store references to all the books that I did not want to carry with me.
  • I am actually NOT using my iPad during the show because using the computer AND iPad is a bit much. I actually like the static reliability of having a two page paper score in front of me.
    • That has been a pain though for simple things like quickly finding specific songs. I mean the full score is 202 pages LONG!

OVERALL:

As for the sounds coming from Notion – OUTSTANDING – I remember the day I’d have to create a score for the way I wanted things to look and then another for the way I wanted things to sound. With Notion, this is no longer the case! Dynamics, articulations, and the list goes on…. they ALL make the sounds you’d expect! It’s very nice!

With the exception of swing… yeah… that’s a bit iffy still. It kind of works but there are adaptations you have to make. Like when you want one 8th note and then the next two tied.

I’ve ended up putting WAY more parts into the computer than I anticipated because I decided that trying to be the nTempo tapper AND trying to read my paper score was impossible! I really needed to use simply the computer.

Here are the parts I’ve put in that I never thought of before I started this process….

  • Piano Conductor – This is a piano part that actually get turned off in the mixer. It is there because even on a 15″ MacBook Pro screen I can not see all the parts. If I’m conducting I have to know what the heck I’m conducting. It is in effect a condensed score that lives at the top of my screen.
  • The actors cue lines to know how the music lines up with the dialogue.
  • Vocal Parts WITH lyrics – this helps immensely as I do NOT remember lyrics very well. It also helps to separate the vocal line from the instrumental parts.
  • nTempo – I knew I’d have to enter beats. I didn’t really understand the intense pre-thought of how detailed this track would become.
    • It’s WAY easier to just conduct – it comes second nature šŸ™‚ I do wish I had the resources for all live musicians.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

You had better have a great sound system to make this work. First of all the sounds in Notion rock but if your speakers are bad… well….

You’ve got to have a good monitoring system so you and the live musicians can hear the track.

and finally…. just like a real live instrument… YOU’D BETTER PRACTICE A TON!

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One thought on “Using Notion in place of non-available Musicians!

  1. Hi Paul–I would love to get your take on doing the same process of subbing parts using Home Concert Xtreme or SuperScore, both of which allow the pianist control the extra parts without an added “tap” track. The big difference will be that neither of these has a sample set that can compete with Notion, but you probably already have some virtual synths (Roland Sound Canvas, maybe SampleTank?) on iPad. Love the blog!

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