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Concertbandling

MuseScore frustration (rant)

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Why virtual realisation of music is hard on F/OSS platforms

I'd just like to place on record that MuseScore, while a pretty good piece of notation software, is shockingly difficult to use for realistic sequencing. (Disclaimer: the rant below applies to 0.9.6pre, and I see that they now have a v1.0 out, but it's not come through my distro yet)

Chief among its problems is that it can only handle one SoundFont at a time, so you have to either use a monolithic whole-orchestra soundfont - which is typically of poor quality, eg. sampled at too few volume levels - or chop your piece up into separate scores for each part, a tedious chore.

When writing some music intended for use with the F/OSS game Battle for Wesnoth (which music can be found in this BfW forum thread), I was vexed by the terrible quality of the snare sample in the FluidR3 soundfont, and its susceptibility to the dreaded 'machine-gun' effect. This effect tends to be produced in rapid passages of semiquavers, rolls, and suchlike, where the dodgy sample, poor handling of overlap, and reverb interact in such a way as to ruin the realism with a rattling mess that cuts over the rest of the virtual orchestra.

Seeking to improve the realism of the percussion, I downloaded a good-quality free snare soundfont from http://freesf2.com. That was when my real problems started, for MuseScore couldn't cope with the idea of using a different soundfont for just one of the tracks. In fact, it didn't even like the idea of changing soundfonts at all; each time the soundfont was changed I had to exit the program and restart it in order to propagate that change to the 'audio export' function (Save As... WAV). Furthermore, that export function ignored any 'Mute' or 'Solo' mixer settings, meaning that I had to make a copy of my score and delete from it all parts except for the drumset, just to convince it to play the snare track into a separate file.

Of course, creating a recording of the rest of the piece without the old machine-gun snare wasn't easy either. I had to make yet another version of the score, in which I went through deleting every snare note - and I couldn't just delete the entire part since it shared stave space with the rest of a 3-line Drumset part. And MuseScore couldn't let me just mute one part in its Drumkit Editor window, because that would be much too simple.

After all this, I finally managed to create my new recording (of course, I had to fire up Audacity to mix the snare with the rest of the band). You'll be pleased to know that the new snare track is much less machine-gunny, and the piece as a whole is now sounding at least listenable. It's just a shame it took so much effort to get there :V
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  1. Kopachris's Avatar
    For sequencing, maybe you should try Rosegarden. With the Fluidsynth DSSI synth plugin, you can use a different soundfont for each track.
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