The art of hand-writing sheet music is becoming easier with the advances technology has made in assisting in this process. In this article, we'll discuss some basic techniques for using the "Score Editor" in Pro Tools to arrange and print sheet music with proper notation that musicians can easily read. There are a few guidelines that are very important to understand first for the process to initiate properly. First, you must know the key of the song that you are intending to score. It is also important to know the key of the instrument you are printing for, as many instruments are tuned to different keys. Most trained musicians can still translate even if you print in "Concert C"; but it is most appropriate if their parts are transposed to the key of their unique instrument.
Setting the Key in Pro Tools
- From the Key Ruler, either click the "+" from the side column of the rulers view, or right-click on the ruler at a point at which you would like to add a key change. It is possible to add key changes throughout the session, and transpose MIDI data accordingly, but that is a topic for another day. Right now, let's just get the key of the song inserted at the beginning of the session.
- Upon entering a key change, the key change dialog box will allow you set a major or minor key change at the current cursor location. Setting the proper key signature here is essential for musicians to be able to read your scores properly. A trained musician is used to looking at the key signature of a song, and knowing which notes are sharp or flat in a particular key. If you try printing a score in the default key signature (C Major), but play in another key, the score editor will show, or notate, every sharp or flat throughout the score. It's much easier to know ahead of time that every F is an F#, and only mark sharps or flats, also called accidentals, which are played intentionally out of the current key signature.
Opening the Score Editor Window
- From the Window Menu, you can find Score Editor, or you can press (Control)+(Option)+(=) to open the Score Editor Window
- From the track show/hide column (left) you can choose which tracks to view currently, which is what will be printed. You can print one view, then change to another track view and print again to print each part out individually.
Display track settings
You can change the display settings of your MIDI data to make it easier for a musician to read. For example:
- You have a choice of different Clefs for each track. Some instruments have a limited key range that only uses one or the other standard Bass or Treble Clefs. There's not much use in Printing a Tuba part on a grand staff when a Bass Clef would do just fine. There will be less paper turning later when printed.
- MIDI data that was played with a swing or groove, may yield some strange results when being printed. There are display quantization settings that will change the display settings to look more normal, without actually changing your existing MIDI data. This changes the view, which is also what is to be printed. You can set independent Display settings for each individual track.
- The Display Transposition options allow you to transpose the view of your tracks in your score to another key to accommodate for instruments that are tuned to another key. For example, an Alto saxophone is tuned to Eb, while a tenor saxophone is tuned to Bb.
Note: Notation Track Display settings are set for each individual track. Also, Changing the split point will change which notes show up on the Treble Clef vs. the Bass Clef. This is useful when printing piano parts and you want the Bass clef designated for left hand and Treble for the right.
Printing your score as sheet music
- Printing is as easy as pressing (Command + P), or choosing "Print Score..." from the File Menu. This brings up the Print dialog box.
- From here you can either choose your printer of choice, and set settings, or click on PDF, and choose "Save as PDF..." to create a PDF file of the track to be printed. These are nice, as they can be emailed to a musician ahead of time.
There is obviously some clear knowledge of music you need to know in order to be able to proof the notation that Pro Tools has determined from your tracks. But this "Score Editor" tool will certainly save you hundreds of hours and get you many steps ahead of the handwritten process that musicians had to follow for hundreds of years to score their parts. Imagine being Beethoven and having to write out individual parts for an entire orchestra by hand. You can definitely appreciate what technology has contributed to music in so many areas.
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