No Roots

Noteworthy Composer for Choir

This blog entry details how I use Noteworthy Composer ("NC") as a tool for choral practice. To learn more about Noteworthy Composer, visit their website here.

NC is a simple program that lets you "compose" music on a computer by typing in notes using your computer keyboard. It also has the ability to open midi files and extract the music in those files into a score!!!

What a lot of people don't know is that a midi file may be composed of many tracks – one for each instrument or voice. When software such as NC is used to open the file, the tracks can be separated into different staves.

For instance, this is the result of opening a midi for "Be Not Afraid" from Mendelssohn's Elijah:


The first four staves are for the four vocal parts. The 5th line is for the drum beat and the last line is the tempo track.

Now that NC has loaded the midi, you can change the file: you can change the instruments used in play back, you can change the length of the notes, you can change the pitch, the dynamics... the list goes on. At times I've been keen enough to type in the entire piano accompaniment to a choral piece which originally only had the vocal parts programmed in! (This takes a long time and I don't recommend it!)

For the most part, I use NC to do the following:

  • Change the notes when (1) the midi file has an error or (2) the score I'm working with has somehow been modified from the original.
  • Practice singing along with the piece until I am very familiar with my notes
  • Replaying particular passages which I find particularly difficult (because you can stop and start at any place in the music, you can focus on difficult sections during practice - fab)
  • Turning off my vocal part and singing along with the other vocal parts (ie once I think I know it, I turn off the soprano line and sing that while the other three parts play).


  • adjustments to tempo and dynamics are rudimentary. This is a basic tool for getting a grip with the notes - not with the music.
  • Although it is a simple program, there is a learning curve to get used to how to amend files. I've used several professional composition programs and this is by far the easiest
  • Getting a copy of the program is difficult because they only send it out by CD – it's not available over the net

I find the midi files I want all over the net though recently I stumbled upon this site which is totally awesome for choral singing: CyberBass . The other great place for midis is Classical Archives.

Of course once you've amended the file you can save it back into midi format or save it as an NC file.

Notes about midis:

  • You cannot play these on a CD player without converting them to wav format. You may have some software that lets you do that but it's unlikely. It is possible to use WinAmp to do this (play the midi to output WAV) but it is time consuming and who really wants to listen to a midi on a CD player?
  • You usually cannot play midis on your MP3 player. Again you'd need to convert the midi to MP3 and this requires that you have the correct CODEC. If you don't know what that means then honestly me trying to explain how to do this will give you a headache! Go to and search on "midi to MP3".
  • Midis are very basic files. Use them at your PC while singing along with your score. When you leave your PC, leave the midi behind and be sure to expose yourself to a real music version of the stuff you're working on so you don't end up sounding like a computer.

If you have questions, drop me an e-mail and I will update this note to answer FAQs.

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