How to get a written manuscript turned into music?

Many years ago, I wrote as my master’s thesis a 3-movement piece of music for orchestra. I never heard it performed. I know there is elaborate software that can be used to convert a written score to an approximation of the intended sound. I have no facility with same. But I’m getting old and I don’t want to lose the chance to do this. So, how can I hire someone who can do this? Where do I look? I’m not on any social media so I fear that route is not available to me. Any ideas, Dopers?

Previous thread:

I’m guessing you will need to convert to MIDI as an intermediate step. Presumably your score is on paper so you would first need to scan it (I assume you have access to a scanner?) into a format like .pdf.
A quick bit of googling seems to show that there are several programs out there which claim to be able to convert a .pdf score into MIDI. Once you have a MIDI file, there are many options for playing it.
Let us know how you get on, it’s an interesting project. I will help if I can.

There are certainly people who will “set” written scores in music software programs; I used to know someone who was a composer himself but who set scores for other composers as his main income stream (and given that he had to set works by Brian Ferneyhough, that’s saying a lot). And once it’s in, you can get electronic playback easily.

If your work is fairly straightforward (i.e. you’re not using any non-standard notation) and have a university with a music school anywhere reasonably nearby (or feel comfortable emailing one further away), you could ask the composition teacher if they have any suitably competent grad students with access to whichever program you want (Sibelius, Score, Finale, etc) who are looking to make some cash (which will likely be all of them). I can’t tell you what it might cost; you’ll have to negotiate an hourly rate and estimated time ahead of time (the teacher may be able to give some pointers if they’re any good and not an asshole).

I’m sure there are people who will do this for a fee. But it would be cheaper (and in some ways more interesting) to see if it could be done by software.

Is your score handwritten? A first step would be to scan it to a file, probably .pdf format.
Then run that through some programs which claim to be able to convert music scores to MIDI.
I don’t have any first hand experience of any of them, but there seem to be a few, so try the free ones first, of course!

Then once you have a MIDI file, you do the reverse: use a program to print the MIDI information as music notation. Then you can check how accurate the transcription is (and edit to correct it as needed).
And once you have a MIDI file there are many options for playing it.
This part I know very well and can help with.

Yes you can do this (and it would be a lot cheaper and quicker). You would then need to edit it carefully to look for the same sort of misreads you get with text OCR scans but unless the original is hard to read this should still be quicker than doing it from scratch. But as the OP claimed “no facility” with the software, I thought I’d mention that there are plenty of people who can and will do it for him/her.

True, checking the transcription would be a bit labor intensive, and if the error rate is too high one might just give up and turn it over to a human expert. But I wouldn’t mind taking a crack at it, if only to check out the claims of the converter packages… assuming they are free or nearly so…

Interesting that you should ask this right now.

I just this month hired a music student to perform a couple of scores I had and to record them. I contacted the local college of music (In my case, the Berklee College of Music in Boston) and registered for their “bulletin board,” on which I could post my request and offer – “play and record these pieces for me and I’ll pay you X amount of dollars”

It worked. I was deluged with applications (as my wife observed, there aren’t many performing gigs available in the Age of COVID), and had to tell most of them "no’, but the one I went with did a superb job. I have no complaints. I’m posting the music on my Wonderland website, and will use it as an intro to my upcoming lecture.

Of course, my pieces were both piano performances for a single player, which I could afford. If you plan on having an ensemble or an orchestra perform, you may want to trim the piece down, or look for an alternative. Or see if you can talk someone into doing it for free as an exercise.

the songs I had weren’t my own compositions, but examples of early amusement park advertising. I had the sheet music, and wanted to hear what it sounded like. I have piano and other musical training, but I am long out of practice, and I don’t have good recording facilities, so it seemed better to get a pro to do it.

Thanks for the suggestions. I’m aware there could be transcription errors. My manuscript isn’t factory-neat, so I’d anticipate that could happen. But I live close to Northwestern and I’ll try to see if I can find a student in the Compositon and Music Technology dept. to hire. Thanks, again.

My father-in-law was a composer, and in his 80s and 90s used Sibelius to compose, since he had a hard time writing music by hand. It definitely played it back. I don’t know if it had a scanning capability, since the need never came up, but I wouldn’t be surprised. The software wasn’t all that expensive - probably cheaper then someone doing it for you.
Not as good as having an orchestra do it. He had supporters in the local orchestras who played his pieces so that wasn’t necessary either.

If all else fails, post it here and i’ll give it a go.

Once it’s MIDI, there are samples of orchestral instruments available, or at least the people working for you will have access to them, so you can get a much better idea of what it will sound like beyond just beeps. All the music notation software people use have MIDI output.

There are several programs that have MIDI playback and are available for free. It’s not the software that is expensive, it is the time learning how to use it.

If you want to turn a scanned score into a MusicXML file, you could try using Audiveris but

The effort to try to learn, use and then correct software scans of your piece into something well set and playable is not worth your time for a one-off. The recommendation to reach out to the local university is a good one, and there are folks who offer this sort of service remotely all over the country.

(it probably goes without saying, but whatever you do, don’t hand over the original to anyone; send them copies).

I have some intermediate proficiency with a few of the more common scoring softwares, and if I had an orchestral piece that I had written by hand and wanted to get into a digital format, there’s no way I’d attempt to do it myself.

“Music preparation” and “music engraving” are the services you’re looking for.

Also…do you play piano ? any keyboard instrument ?
You could play & record each part separately into a sequencer (using a midi
keyboard), over dubbing as you go.
Then you can tweak it as required, change instrument sounds , tempo etc.
(It’s really not too difficult ! (really !))

I work with Sibelius a lot. So far, there aren’t any programs that will convert hand written music to musicxml reliably. You would have to fix errors.

Once it’s in however, it will play back pretty well. I have a plugin sound set called NotePerformer that sounds pretty darn good. The best way to get a good computer performance is to export it as a MIDI file to a Digital Audio Workstation and use a good sound set to play it. Spitfire Audio has killer sound sets for good prices. They just released a BBC Orchestra one that sounds amazing.

Blah blah blah. You’re not gonna do all that, so I second the idea of getting a music student to do it. Once Covid lets up, you might think about getting the same student to contact a school orchestra for you.