Find me the right online synthesizer/MIDI for my needs
July 25, 2021 12:11 PM   Subscribe

I have (literally) one bar of sheet music. I need to enter it into some kind of synthesizer, manipulate it to get the sound I want and then export it for use in a video. I have no experience with online music-making tools.

I need a musical stinger to play over a logo that will be attached to a short video that will be posted online. I sat down at my 100-year-old upright and decided upon (because "composed" is too grandiose for what I did) a motif (also way too fancy a description for what's on the page) that I think will work. My problem is, however, that I want a bigger, fuller, more electronic sound than my piano produces. But I figure that if can play with the sound of phrase in a synthesizer I might get something acceptable.

I looked around a bit, but most of the online programs I've come across don't seem like they're designed for somebody who actually works with traditional musical notation, so I'm at a loss as how to enter what I have.

My ditty has a treble and a bass part, a triplet and an arpeggio. It's written in F#+ and in 3/4 time.

What I would love to do is to input the musical notation into the online program, have the program play the tune, and then let me apply different sounds/instrumentations to the notes to produce something that will strike the right tone for what I'm trying to achieve.

Since it is for a work project, I can throw a little bit of money at it if absolutely necessary, but not tons, especially as I'm doing this on my own initiative. In similar (but far from identical) situations, we've just resorted to stock music--or whatever the musical equivalent of stock photos is called--but I'd like to skip that approach as past results (in which I've played no part) have been terrible.
posted by sardonyx to Media & Arts (10 answers total)
If you're dead set on working with standard musical notation, you could use something like MuseScore to enter your notation, then export a MIDI file and import that into a digital audio workstation (DAW). I'm not sure what online tools you've considered, but MIDI import is a fairly basic feature for this type of tool, so I imagine most have it.

However, an alternate view; since you can play a piano (and wrote this piece on a piano), you should be able to make sense of a piano roll pretty easily, yes? A piano roll is the electronic music term of art for a display that shows piano keys/notes down one side, and time along the other axis. Most of the tools out there allow you to "paint" notes, and often allow you to control the expression of each note as well.

What online tools are you looking at? I'm mostly familiar with desktop tools (I use Ableton; in the past I've used Reaper, Ardour, Digital Performer, FL Studio, etc). If your budget is low-to-none, you could look at LMMS, which is an open-source application that's similar in approach to FL Studio. A lot of these tools will use software synthesizers though. If you want sample libraries, that's more $$$ or filtering through free offerings to find something you want.
posted by Alterscape at 12:40 PM on July 25, 2021

There are a number of online programs that will let you enter a score and play it back. Or notation programs like Sibelius have a free level. Or you could try Lime (open source but looks like it hasn't been updated in a while.)

Most of those should provide some kind of playback, which you could record. But the playback is also going to be super-basic and likely not sound the way you would like. So then you are into what Alterscape suggests, which is export as MIDI and import into some kind of a DAW to get the final audio you want.

This article suggests some online DAW setups that you could try.
posted by flug at 1:01 PM on July 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you have or can borrow an apple mac computer with the free garageband software, it has a score-entry mode and a huge selection of quite good-sounding synthesized instruments.
posted by moonmilk at 1:16 PM on July 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

Air Xpand 2 has a good variety of sounds and ways to layer them, and it’s cheap.

Everything from Spitfire LABS is fantastic and free.
posted by music for skeletons at 2:26 PM on July 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

It might be too much firepower for your needs, but I think you can save/export with the free trial of ableton live, and as music_for_skeletons points out, Spitfire LABS has beautiful instruments. Ableton Live also comes with a lot of great stock instruments. You can also get some good, beefy, synthy sounds out of Native Instrument's Komplete Start. But again, for your needs, this all may be too much.

That said, I think if you downloaded the Ableton live trial and drew your notes into the piano roll using one of their many stock synths or electronic keyboards, maybe tossed a little reverb or delay on it, you'd be golden. Even better, if they wanted to try different instruments, you could very easily swap 'em out.
posted by pazazygeek at 3:41 PM on July 25, 2021

If you are on Windows, Cakewalk has a notation mode and it's free. There is also Bandlab by the same company which is a fully online DAW but it does not have a notation mode

If you can manage with a piano roll/grid editor you have many more options open to you
posted by O9scar at 4:01 PM on July 25, 2021

Regarding online DAWs, I've found Audiotool to be my favourite. I found it too fiddly to make complex music in, but it'll have enough options for what you need.

You will need to learn how piano roll notation works though.
posted by solarion at 4:14 PM on July 25, 2021

Response by poster: Okay, is anybody here good with Sibelius? I've got my bar entered and I can play it to hear it. But when I try to record it or export it (as a MIDI file or as a MusicXML) I'm running into brick walls.
posted by sardonyx at 6:40 PM on July 25, 2021

Sounds like a job for Fiverr.
posted by nosila at 7:29 AM on July 26, 2021

Response by poster: Okay, I think the export on MuseScore worked. Now onto the actual manipulation.
posted by sardonyx at 8:01 AM on July 26, 2021

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