Converting your MIDI files to score is made easy with Sibelius, by having the ability to import multi-track MIDI files a large portion of the work is done for us. There are certain issues that arise however, that need to be solved if you want to be taken seriously by musicians and conductors. These issues range from making the notation as easy to read as possible, condensing multiple parts of the same instrument, human/instrument constraints, enharmonic spelling, ensemble size and adding articulations and performance notes. I will explain in further detail the issues of converting MIDI to score, and give some advice on how to turn your MIDI files into readable, playable music parts that performers are excited and happy to play.
EXPORT MIDI FROM DAW
To begin with, you may want to make a copy of your original DAW session, then go through and clean up the MIDI. Cleaning up the MIDI may entail processes like deleting key-switches, which have no relationship to the harmonic content of your piece. You don’t want that key-switch confusing you in the Sibelius session so you may as well delete it before you export. Some notes may have been shorter or longer in your MIDI orchestration than written notation (to allow for a human-feel), you may want to fix this in the DAW and I suggest doing this for longer notes, shorter notes, however, are quicker to neaten up in Sibelius. Dragging multiple instances of the one instrument onto a single track may be viable as well, this will save you having to copy and paste in Sibelius. A reason for having multiple instances of an instrument may be due to having multiple virtual-instruments (not all instruments have key switches, I wish they did though!). PIZZ violin, LEGATO violin, STACCATO violin, HARMONICS violin, SLUR violin may all be separate instruments needed in your DAW session to make the performance sound realistic. Condensing these parts in your DAW will save time later on and is why I suggested making a copy of the session, so you can do large edits and not destroy the original. At this stage you can export the MIDI as a multi-track.
IMPORT MIDI INTO SIBELIUS AND MAKE ADJUSTMENTS
Open Sibelius and choose MIDI File from the Import tab. At this stage the score is going to look like a mess, just ignore it for now and analyse what needs to be done to improve it.
A good place to start is to give your instruments the right clef, this will get rid of the excessive ledger-lines that would never be seen in notated music. Notice in the picture above that every instrument is in treble-clef, it’s pretty impressive if you are reading treble-clef and you play double bass, but a party-trick isn’t what we are after, we want this score to be read as easily as possible. After changing the clefs, you will notice that the score already looks a lot neater.
OK, from the above picture you will notice the score looks better but there are still many issues present. Thinking about the range of instruments is critical here and for an example, take a look at the BASS part. The BASS is still in range if the performer has a five-string instrument that goes to the low C. Not all orchestras have a five-string bass and this must be taken into consideration. Is the piece going to be played by an amateur or professional ensemble? Will it be played by a high school orchestra? If that is the case, not many high school bands have a five-string so plan accordingly. While talking about the bass, remember that it sounds an octave lower than written, this means that we have to transpose the bass part up an octave to get the same result in pitch that we achieved in the DAW.
The SNARE part also needs attention. The clef is correct but the notes on the stave are way off. You can either highlight the notes and use the arrow-keys to move them up/down or you can transpose. I found it easier to just highlight and use the arrow-keys. The note heads on the snare part are also wrong, change this in the NOTATIONS tab.
The score is starting to look much better, but is still messy. The PIANO part looks awful and there is a section at the start that needs to be deleted. To clean up the PIANO part use the function in the NOTE INPUT tab called RENOTATE PERFORMANCE. This automatically renotates the part, making it much easier to read (don’t worry, the musical information wont be changed).
I use the renotate performance function frequently and you will notice in the picture below that I have applied it to the PIANO, SNARE, BASS and TYMPANI parts.
The score looks more like sheet music and whilst the process of neatening the score is a little time-consuming, it adds credibility to your work. After neatening the entire score, go through and add articulations, dynamics, tempo markings and any performance notes for special techniques.
I am still working on converting the Suite for Piano and Orchestra to score and will continue to post updates until it is complete. I hope this post has helped you understand the effort involved in making your MIDI orchestrations playable by real performers and until next time, stay creative! 😀