Hardware

My Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is a hand-built computer running 64-bit Windows 10 with the following internal hardware:

  • Intel i7-4771 @ 3.50 GHz
  • RAM: 32 G
  • Three internal SSD drives: 250 GB (system), 2 TB (samples), 1 TB (work storage)

For what I’m doing, this system has never been stressed.

For sound digitizing and mic preamps, I’m using a Focusrite Scarlett 18i. This is its first hardware iteration, so it’s showing some age, but continues to work as required.

For MIDI controlling, I’m using an M-Audio Keystation88 MK3, though I don’t use it a lot — I’m a barely adequate keyboard player, so it gets used occasionally for note entry, and for testing new sound libraries.

Software

I subscribe to Avid Sibelius and Avid Pro Tools, so I’m using those latest versions. Although I’ve dabbled in the Pro Tools’ MIDI editor, I decided that I preferred writing music the traditional way: putting notes on a “page.” In that pursuit, Pro Tools’ score editor is woefully inadequate, and would be interesting only if I was determined to learn how to leverage MIDI control settings directly. I haven’t done that. I’ve been content to use a music creation product which supports score production as its primary purpose. As it turns out, I don’t think I’ve paid a huge price in sound production — in my opinion, in realism and quality, my work here rivals example music I’ve heard associated with true MIDI editors and other sample libraries.

My sample libraries are, so far, exclusively supplied by Vienna Symphonic Library (VSL), They are quite expensive, but I’ve found that their quality in true instrumental playback is unmatched, for those of us attempting to get close to realistic traditional instrument performance. In addition, VSL has done a great job in directly supporting integration of their products into Avid Sibelius — they’ve provided an excellent pairing of their libraries through “House styles” and “soundsets” specifically aimed at Sibelius. This means that virtually any performance detail can be simply added to the Sibelius score, and VSL will reproduce these details with the correct samples and settings. For strings, this includes everything from dynamics and crescendos to play styles such as marcato, pizzicato, and sans vibrato. On very rare occasions I’ve modified my score values to induce some playback modifications (and Sibelius does provide direct control of MIDI values), but there is a limit to how much attention to such things I’m willing to pay. I’d rather be creating music than learning complex technical tasks.

If you wish to follow my lead on this matter, VSL’s documentation is quite thorough, though probably denser than many might find comfortable. Reach out if you think I might help.

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