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Seeking advice on organizing large classical work (LPX)


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This is a more general topic, and I hope I've picked the right section to post. I recently upgraded from Logic Express 9 to Logic Pro X. I have used Logic for several years, but mostly as a tinkerer. I've recorded a few songs and a handful of instrumental compositions (mostly as experiments). I have experience as a musician and songwriter, and an academic background as well.


However, I've recently ended up in a project way outside my normal comfort zone -- I am working with a playwright to compose the music for an opera. I have written several arias for major characters, and am now working of some themes.


I'm convinced that a big key to my success or failure here is going to be organization. I am a fairly methodical guy and when I get a good workflow going, it helps my productivity.


I currently have a bunch of relatively small pieces, but I already know I'm going to want to have a version of the work that contains everything I've written, in the order it will appear, so I can look at the big picture. But I'm also not working on a powerful system (Mac mini 2010, 8 GB RAM), so I'm worried that trying to load a very large piece is going to cause my little warhorse to choke on all that data. Plus, I'm sure just finding my way around the score will be a problem sometimes.


It occurred to me that this must be an issue other composers face -- especially those doing long, multi-part works like symphonies and film scores (although I welcome feedback from creators in any style!) -- and it would be wise to ask for tips. They certainly don't have to be Logic Pro X specific, but that's of particular interest to me.


When working on a score made up of several pieces or movements, and with several instrumental voices, how do you handle workflow and organization? Is it something you do inside the DAW? Is there just a particular way you manage files and folders? How do you balance the need to get a broad overview with the need to work in extremely fine detail? How do you make sure that your changes and edits are up to date in the files you want to use? Any automation, workflow, file management, etc. tips and tricks that boost your productivity?


Anyway, that's the challenge I'm facing. I've been doing tons of Googling, and have only found a few blog posts and forum threads that were at all applicable. I've had success on this forum before with simple technical questions. So I figured I'd see if we could get a conversation going that might help us all in little ways.


Please "sound off!" :D

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In the case of film music, with it's myriad of sound cues, composers using Logic generaly limit themselves to one cue per Logic song. Dealing with multiple tempos and revisions is much easier when you separate out the individual cues. In your case a cue would be the same as a specific aria.


The way to maintain an overview is to put mixdowns of each cue or aria in a separate logic project. Film composers will have each of these cues synced up to the video. Of course, there's not a lot of editing you can do in this kind of multi-cue project file, since each cue is an audio file.


Yes, this is less than ideal, in terms of being able to hop around from aria to aria but it's way less of a headache than dealing with tempo changes, differences in automation and arrangement revisions between cues. Say if you want to change the tempo of an earlier cue. Now everything following it is off, unless you SMPTE lock all the subsequent regions so they maintiain their relative positions. But then the grid is off after making those changes.


Nope, until Logic creates something along the lines of what Performer apparently has, you're better of with one cue / aria per logic project. It's not that it's impossible to have more than one per project. If the tempo doesn't change and the duration of a given section doesn't start to overlap with the next section.

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Thanks for your reply! Based on everything I've seen, I didn't think there were a lot of Logic Pro X features designed to make my particular issue easier, but it never hurts to ask!


I imagine I probably will follow the advice you mentioned and keep the big score as audio files for an overview, then, and focus on asset management through the file system instead. If I come up with anything particularly clever, I'll check back in to share the results.


Would still love to hear if anybody else has had different experiences managing a long, multi-part score.


Thanks, again! :)

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One possibility occurs to me, in terms of hosting multiple-tempo sections. You could use Tempo Alternatives in Global Tracks. Some here have done it that way. It just means that you need to keep everything in place by SMPTE locking all your regions when you move to a different Tempo Alternative.


The idea here is that each tempo Alternative would be specific to a certain section / cue / aria. If I understand the workflow, it would look something like this:


SMPTE lock everything, except the area you're working on.

When you want to move to a new section, where you might want to change tempos, SMPTE lock the section you were just working on.

Switch to the Tempo Alternative that goes with the next section you want to work on.

Unlock the regions in that section

Lather, rinse and repeat.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yes, one logic project per movement/cue then a "master" project for the whole score is the way to go.


One idea you could try, instead of using a stereo bounce for each cue/movement, is to bounce to stems (strings, brass, etc). This doesn't use a whole lot more resources in the final "master" project, but gives you loads more mixing flexibility.


For instance, as you go from one cue/movement to another, you might bring the percussion one in a little earlier while letting the strings or winds float. It gets you away from the whole thing feeling chopped up too much.


And, you can apply your reverb across the whole score, which adds loads more realism to everything.


I hope this helps.

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Without getting gushy, thank you both so much! This topic has been very useful to me, and I hope it will help at least a few others in the future.


fernmeister, I had begun to realize that I was going to have to have one whole movement per project -- although this particular work is an opera, so it'll be divided by scenes. Pretty similar. I have a feeling your suggestion about stems will prove invaluable. The divisions between acts are pretty concrete, and it shouldn't be a problem to just stop for a moment. But the division between scenes sometimes involved music that continues. I had thought about some kind of cross-fading, but your solution is vastly more elegant. Thanks!


camillo jr, I started testing the idea of using a master, as you previously suggested, and the test went very well. However, that tempo issue was going to be a problem. The piece I'm working on only changes key a couple of times, but it shifts tempo almost every number. In the recitative, it sometimes changes tempo within an individual piece, and I knew that was going to present a challenge.


I had never paid much attention to SMPTE, since I wasn't scoring video, but it seems like this might be part of my solution after all. Going to have to do some serious reading on this topic.


I will definitely report back, on this thread, about how this research and execution is coming along. Once again, thanks to all. I am sure glad I found this community!

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camillo jr, I started testing the idea of using a master, as you previously suggested, and the test went very well. However, that tempo issue was going to be a problem. The piece I'm working on only changes key a couple of times, but it shifts tempo almost every number. In the recitative, it sometimes changes tempo within an individual piece, and I knew that was going to present a challenge.


Having tempo changes in a midi arrangement for one aria shouldn't present a problem. Any tempo changes you make in the middle of the tune will of course change the duration of the whole piece but everything will continue to stay on the grid. In this scenario, when I'm altering tempos, I tend to use the tempo tab in the edit window to drop new tempo nodes at specific places (use the "create" button). Then I'll go to the tempo lane in Global tracks and drag the line between the nodes to get the effect I'm after.

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