Software I’ve Used To Compose & Arrange

I would always get a good laugh when my musician friends from our church orchestra would talk about their harrowing tales of what they would have to go through in order to piece together a living as a working musician. For those of us who have decided not to teach in the school system, this is a very common reality.

I played in a string trio for a few years as one of my side jobs. As we started to build up a following, we also started getting a lot of requests to play music from contemporary artists such as Cold Play, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Foo Fighters, etc. There was one instance where I booked us a last minute job, so it became my responsibility to come up with 7 custom trio arrangements of pop and R&B songs within a week. The stress was very real when I found out that there wasn’t any pre-packaged music that I could buy anywhere to fulfill our client’s requests. After I calmed myself down, I had to scramble to find a solution. This is when I remembered that I had a free copy of the Finale NotePad software that came with the lesson books that I use with all of my beginner cello students. It was a mentally painful experience to become proficient with Finale NotePad in a few days while still creating professional arrangements that wouldn’t embarrass my trio mates to play in public. I don’t use this software as much these days since I have a score editor in my Logic Pro DAW (digital audio workstation), but it’s a great alternative when I need to get an arrangement done quickly and don’t want to create a whole new project in Logic to use the Score Editor.

When I first started using Finale, I would either use my keyboard to type the note name that I wanted to appear on the staff and then use the mouse to drag the note head to the correct octave, or I would just use my mouse to individually click on the lines and spaces to create a note. This turned out to be a painstaking and tedious process to go through. I now have a MIDI controller keyboard that I USB connect directly to my computer. The Finale software automatically recognizes my MIDI keyboard, so I don’t have to do any additional setup other than powering the keyboard on. This allows me to quickly play a passage on the keyboard, which then manifests itself immediately on the staff.



Since I usually have a Logic Pro project open on my computer at any given time, that is usually the most convenient option for me to create an arrangement or composition. What I have to do is create a software instrument track and then record my MIDI note events using my MIDI keyboard (see the image below).logicsession

In this next image, you will see that the ‘Classic Electric Piano’ track is my software instrument track. Logic automatically defaulted to the ‘Classic Electric Piano’ software instrument on its own. The instrumentation can easily be changed by selecting a different option in the library window. After creating my software instrument track, I then click on the red circle in the top left hand corner to start recording the notes that I will be playing on my MIDI keyboard. The green region below contains my notes which can then be viewed on the staff in the score editor.LogicEditor

Yes, there are other programs out there that you can use to arrange and compose your music. This posting is definitely not meant to be an exhaustive discussion on the subject matter. Hopefully, you will find my experiences helpful as you make your own path through the music world.

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