Daily Archive for March 15th, 2008

Arranging with Rosegarden

My self-imposed assignment: Arrange the theme from the Phantom of the Opera for two instruments: cello and violin – for two boys to play as a duet as part of a small concert, (in less than a week). It obviously has to be simplified, doesn’t have to be grandiose, but has to retain some of the exciting feeling of the music.

Starting tools:

1. Two boys, 10 and 14 yrs old, who love to play the theme melody in D minor.

2. A midi file of the Phantom obtained somewhere on the Internet.

3. An eRacks/STUDIO demo system, complete with Ubuntu Studio OS and software.

4. Somewhat helpful (but hungry) husband, knowledgeable in both music and Linux. (-Requires homemade garlic fries in exchange for assistance.)

Rosegarden was the tool chosen to analyze the midi file and convert it to notation. But life isn’t all roses here. Rosegarden requires some patience to learn, and still has a number of bugs (thorns?). However, after a somewhat painful hour or two, we were making progress. Most of the fighting was due to the fussy way of editing. Select mode, Erase mode were the two main modes I used, since I was simplifying existing notation.

We transposed the whole thing to E minor to accommodate the cello range nicely – not my idea, but the boys were agreeable, ‘as long as there weren’t a zillion flats’. E minor has one sharp and the initial phrase’s lowest notes go down to the lowest C on the cello.

Next – lots of fussing with the select and erase and editing. The midi file was interpreted in some odd ways, including dotted whole notes within 4/4 time. The dotted wholes were supposed to be whole plus half notes, connected with a slur bar over the two measures. In fact, after the dotted whole note measure, I did find the next measure was short a couple beats. So that was a just a matter of editing to correct notation.

I chose two parts to edit from the original midi arrangement, deleted the others, changed the names and labels on the parts and saved into a new filename. Editing notation works nicely with both parts together most of the time. There were times that I got stuck fussing over the timing, and couldn’t get it right. Then, after closing the notation application, and reopening it working on one part at a time, I got the timing to fit my measures correctly. Also I found the use of the Quantize button to be handy, when the measure timing got mixed up. Undo edits was probably the most used button though.

Initially I had issues getting the audio working with Rosegarden. It is so useful to be able to hear what the notes are, directly from the Rosegarden application. After checking that no other application is using the audio, and with the Jack audio Server off, sound worked great within Rosegarden. Figuring out how to get the violin and cello midi instruments attached to these tracks was again rather fussy.  Click on the track on the right first, then get the associated middle column entry to point to the right instrument by right clicking and choosing. Then make sure that yourchoice shows up on the left Playback Parameters appropriately. I’m still a little fuzzy on the whole setup here, but it seemed to work anyway.

screenshot_rg.jpg

Printing with Rosegarden under Ubuntu Studio doesn’t seem to work properly unless I print to pdf file and then print using another application. It’s probably safer to save something in another format anyway. We had to restart CUPS and plug and unplug the Hawking printserver to get anything out of the HP3015. The printing problems are definitely another issue that I won’t have the patience to resolve. Kpdf seems to work well so far though. I would recommend using Kpdf.

Printing both parts together plus each part separately, makes the whole process worthwhile. Sure, I could have done the whole adventure by hand in about 45 minutes (instead of the several hours it took learning and struggling with Rosegarden), but then I would have had to copy each part over separately. And it looks so much more professional to have a printed copy, not to mention easier to read. Also it makes it a whole lot easier to redo and make changes.

Let’s see how the boys do!

Here’s my first (rough) cut at phantom for two parts: phantom_firsttry.pdf