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From DAW To Score by Tristan Noon

PDF eBook By John Walden
Published October 2019

All sorts of different skills are required of the modern film or TV composer, particularly those who are just starting their journey into this complex and competitive world. Your musical chops will have to be sufficiently well developed, but there are also some more practical skills that are needed. For some composers, one such skill is the transformation of a DAW-based mock-up into a printed score ready for any possible recording by live musicians. At its most demanding, this might be a full orchestral recording but, equally, it could involve blending a few live performers into an otherwise in-the-box soundtrack. Either way, the printed score of your musical masterpiece needs to make it as easy as possible for the live musicians to get their job done, and this will always involve a lot more effort than just switching from your DAW's MIDI editor to its score (notation) editor and pressing the Print button.

From DAW To Score, a PDF eBook by Tristan Noon.Fortunately, if you need an introduction to this process, you can get a straightforward and informative take on it by reading Tristan Noon's From DAW To Score. As well as his own composing work, Tristan has professional experience as an orchestrator and music copyist, and regular SOS readers may remember both title and author from his article in SOS August 2019 ( The eBook is clearly written, and its concise 88 pages provide both an interesting description of this element of the scoring workflow and a practical guide to the main stages of turning your MIDI-based composition into a professional-looking score in a notation package such as Sibelius.

The book starts with an introduction to the roles of the orchestrator and copyist and how these roles have changed as DAWs and virtual instruments — and the expectations of directors — have allowed composer's mock-ups to become more fleshed-out. Practical issues, such as how to go about finding and hiring suitable session players, are also discussed, as is the thorny issue of working out how much to charge for your services.

From DAW To Score offers a very good dose of common-sense advice for those just getting to grips with the world of film and TV music creation.

Subsequent technical steps are then described. These include exporting audio and MIDI data from a DAW for passing to others involved in the process, the role of the cue sheet, the orchestration and the organisation of printed copies of the score. The typical structure of a final recording session is also outlined, including the standard working practices allowed for union-based session musicians.

The second half of the book is dominated by a discussion of the approach required when preparing your MIDI data for orchestration. Usefully, this section is organised around a set of simple practical examples and, when you purchase the book, a small number of additional files are provided so that you can work through the processes required yourself.

It's unlikely that any single book will prepare the budding film composer or orchestrator for their first fully fledged plunge into the deep waters of a paid gig. However, Tristan's text does provide a very accessible introduction. The key steps, roles and terminology are covered in a simple, no-frills fashion. While there will inevitably be plenty of fine details which you'll need to acquire through first-hand experience, From DAW To Score offers a very good dose of common-sense advice for those just getting to grips with the world of film and TV music creation from someone who does this stuff for a living.