How to find a freelance engraver?

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OCTO
Posts: 945
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How to find a freelance engraver?

Post by OCTO » 16 Mar 2016, 07:06

Almost 10 years ago, when I finished my studies in composition, I got two commissions at the same time. Unfortunately, I didn't get paid as one would expect (you know what composers get...!) but deadlines were crossing each other and I had to find an engraver to help me. Of course, I am very “fluent” in Finale, but I needed to leave it to someone else.
So I just searched on the Internet and tried to find some cheap alternatives.

First, India.
A person was extremely nice to me, and had done an example very well. Than I sent to him some pages and expected to see more in days to come, he didn't reply anymore. After one week he emails me: “dear Sir, unfortunately we didn't have electricity for five days”.
OMG. We decided not to deal with this score for now, because of the deadline.

Second, Romania.
After many, many emails the person convinced me to make my score in SCORE, and really the test page was very beautiful. After I sent him the material, he didn't reply anymore. The deadline was closer and closer. No reply from him. Than suddenly, he emails: I am in hospital, I was injured in a car accident, but I will continue make your score soon. OMG... I decided not to continue with him, only because I was uncertain what would happen.

Third, Philippines.
Since the previous engravers were single persons, I decided to find more people, if one get sick another will continue. Smart! Well, I had find them there, a group of engravers. Sounds good! I sent them a test page, it was great. Well, I just shoot all my material to them.
We kept contact and everything seemed to go well.
They finally sent me the material in PDF. I almost got hart-attack.
They engraved EVERYTHING. Every single dust, eraser dirt, line, even if my hair was scanned they engraved it. They engraved even unused staff from the manuscript. Do you know how much job it is?
But the problem was not that. The problem was that every single measure, except full empty measures, contained errors. Every single. It seems that they just see a note somewhere “in the middle” and they click, without understanding if the note is on 4 or 3 line. I couldn't believe. Finally I started to laugh from my misery when I saw: “lo stresso tempo”.
I emailed them: “are you musicians at all?” Reply: “dear Sir, no, we are not, but we definitely pay attention to the graphical design of your score”.

Fourth, Serbia.
I sent the whole material again - to Serbia, they did it in Sibelius. Well inexpensive, but it was an extremely rush job with many people involved, who knows who was typing what – you know how it can look. But finally it was premiered.

The next deadline.
First, I need to find someone who does it well, inexpensive and I had to see each page in advance.

Ukraine.
Two persons, well educated, test page was well done. We decided the price. I send them 5 pages. After one week, they are just finishing, tomorrow will they send. And tomorrow will be evening; on the evening, actually they will send in the morning. No reply, they will send tomorrow, or in two days. And so on.
Finally, I got an email. They think my score is hard. And they want to get paid more. Also, I had got a very detailed instruction how to compose more convenient, so that it would be easier engraved in Finale. If I don't accept this now, they will charge for 5 pages, which I had never seen.
I understood, they have 1001 different jobs and where it is more valuable they will continue. So I decided not to continue there.

Argentina.
Finally I had found a person in Argentina to whom I can trust, and also not to expensive. Not perfect but I make it 'perfect' afterwards. He has been of a big help to me last years.

Also, I feel more 'safe' now when I know some of you people here on the forum who had also done a very good job for me (like Peter West).
Now I know, you get what you pay for.
Therefore now I include engraving fees in my commissions, if not big, I compensate with different approaches.
Freelance Composer. Self Publisher.
Finale 2014.5 • Sibelius 7.1.3 • MuseScore 2 • Logic Pro X • Ableton Live 9/10 • Digital Performer 9 /// OS X El Capitan (10.11.6)

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David Ward
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Re: How to find a freelance engraver?

Post by David Ward » 16 Mar 2016, 07:46

Thank you for sharing this saga, OCTO. Several lessons might be gleaned from it.

My struggle is with piano reduction vocal (and concerto soloist) scores - a job I loathe and at which I'm not very good. I find preparing my own full scores in Finale much more enjoyable and (perhaps as a consequence) I'm much better (and quicker) at those than at piano reductions.

Nowadays parts are not so huge a problem.

However, if I or those who decide these things on my behalf could afford Peter West … (Maybe, some day!)
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Alexander Ploetz
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Location: Dresden, Germany
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Re: How to find a freelance engraver?

Post by Alexander Ploetz » 16 Mar 2016, 12:39

I would love to see that PDF file from the Philippines.

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John Ruggero
Posts: 1151
Joined: 05 Oct 2015, 14:25
Location: Raleigh, NC USA

Re: How to find a freelance engraver?

Post by John Ruggero » 16 Mar 2016, 20:11

David, IMO, good piano reductions are very rare. Most of the piano accompaniments to the standard concerti, for example, need extensive doctoring. Brahms gave good advice that you might relay to anyone doing a reduction for you: leave out as many notes as possible to create something that is idiomatic for the keyboard. The opposite approach is the one generally taken.
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DatOrganistTho
Posts: 157
Joined: 19 Jan 2016, 17:30

Re: How to find a freelance engraver?

Post by DatOrganistTho » 19 Mar 2016, 02:16

John Ruggero wrote:David, IMO, good piano reductions are very rare. Most of the piano accompaniments to the standard concerti, for example, need extensive doctoring. Brahms gave good advice that you might relay to anyone doing a reduction for you: leave out as many notes as possible to create something that is idiomatic for the keyboard. The opposite approach is the one generally taken.
This is how I feel about the Schirmer Messiah reduction. I imagine their engraving staff had a conversation similar to this:
Engraver A: Ah, man, we need to reduce this to help with choir rehearsals.
Suit A: We were just thinking this. What would you do?
Engraver A: I think we should make it as simple as possible. There's a lot going on here, an---
Suit A: Great! So will you make sure every note is represented in it?
Engraver A: It's going to be hard for the pianist to play; this orchestral part reduced will be harder than some Rachmaninoff or Brahms.
Suit A: Why do we need to make it simple?
Engraver A: Well, it makes it easier to play, and it doesn't require a lot of preparation... Brahms even insisted!
Suit A: So, do the opposite?
Engraver A: No. Make it simple.
Suit A: So, you'll make sure all the notes are in there?
Engraver A: ... yes sir. It's going to be difficult to play, you know?
Suit A: Well, C'est la vie!
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DatOrganistTho
Posts: 157
Joined: 19 Jan 2016, 17:30

Re: How to find a freelance engraver?

Post by DatOrganistTho » 19 Mar 2016, 02:19

OCTO wrote:Almost 10 years ago, when I finished my studies in composition, I got two commissions at the same time. Unfortunately, I didn't get paid as one would expect (you know what composers get...!) but deadlines were crossing each other and I had to find an engraver to help me. Of course, I am very “fluent” in Finale, but I needed to leave it to someone else.
So I just searched on the Internet and tried to find some cheap alternatives.

First, India.
A person was extremely nice to me, and had done an example very well. Than I sent to him some pages and expected to see more in days to come, he didn't reply anymore. After one week he emails me: “dear Sir, unfortunately we didn't have electricity for five days”.
OMG. We decided not to deal with this score for now, because of the deadline.

Second, Romania.
After many, many emails the person convinced me to make my score in SCORE, and really the test page was very beautiful. After I sent him the material, he didn't reply anymore. The deadline was closer and closer. No reply from him. Than suddenly, he emails: I am in hospital, I was injured in a car accident, but I will continue make your score soon. OMG... I decided not to continue with him, only because I was uncertain what would happen.

Third, Philippines.
Since the previous engravers were single persons, I decided to find more people, if one get sick another will continue. Smart! Well, I had find them there, a group of engravers. Sounds good! I sent them a test page, it was great. Well, I just shoot all my material to them.
We kept contact and everything seemed to go well.
They finally sent me the material in PDF. I almost got hart-attack.
They engraved EVERYTHING. Every single dust, eraser dirt, line, even if my hair was scanned they engraved it. They engraved even unused staff from the manuscript. Do you know how much job it is?
But the problem was not that. The problem was that every single measure, except full empty measures, contained errors. Every single. It seems that they just see a note somewhere “in the middle” and they click, without understanding if the note is on 4 or 3 line. I couldn't believe. Finally I started to laugh from my misery when I saw: “lo stresso tempo”.
I emailed them: “are you musicians at all?” Reply: “dear Sir, no, we are not, but we definitely pay attention to the graphical design of your score”.

Fourth, Serbia.
I sent the whole material again - to Serbia, they did it in Sibelius. Well inexpensive, but it was an extremely rush job with many people involved, who knows who was typing what – you know how it can look. But finally it was premiered.

The next deadline.
First, I need to find someone who does it well, inexpensive and I had to see each page in advance.

Ukraine.
Two persons, well educated, test page was well done. We decided the price. I send them 5 pages. After one week, they are just finishing, tomorrow will they send. And tomorrow will be evening; on the evening, actually they will send in the morning. No reply, they will send tomorrow, or in two days. And so on.
Finally, I got an email. They think my score is hard. And they want to get paid more. Also, I had got a very detailed instruction how to compose more convenient, so that it would be easier engraved in Finale. If I don't accept this now, they will charge for 5 pages, which I had never seen.
I understood, they have 1001 different jobs and where it is more valuable they will continue. So I decided not to continue there.

Argentina.
Finally I had found a person in Argentina to whom I can trust, and also not to expensive. Not perfect but I make it 'perfect' afterwards. He has been of a big help to me last years.

Also, I feel more 'safe' now when I know some of you people here on the forum who had also done a very good job for me (like Peter West).
Now I know, you get what you pay for.
Therefore now I include engraving fees in my commissions, if not big, I compensate with different approaches.
You know what really upsets me about your nightmare described here? I can't imagine being so irresponsible and unresponsive. It's YOUR BUSINESS! What do you expect? Look at the score, be honest, and if you can't do it or have logistical problems (like, IDK, your power might go out?), just say NO! I feel your pain.
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Composer and Transcriber
Teacher and Performer

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John Ruggero
Posts: 1151
Joined: 05 Oct 2015, 14:25
Location: Raleigh, NC USA

Re: How to find a freelance engraver?

Post by John Ruggero » 20 Mar 2016, 23:16

DatOrganistTho,

Your little scene describes the situation so well. A similar dialogue often goes on in an arranger's own mind as his practical sense fights with his own misguided desire to be "faithful to the original" in the wrong way.

Of course, Brahms didn't mean to produce something simple at all costs, but something that recasts the music to fit the instrument. It is interesting that he enjoyed making reductions of his own music for piano duet and two pianos at a time when such work was considered beneath a composer of his stature and was quite picky about such arrangements made by others.

For me, the best arranger for the piano was Franz Liszt, and his best arrangements are those of the Beethoven symphonies for piano solo. They are certainly not easy, but enable a good player to produce wonderful orchestral effects without fighting the instrument. I believe I've read that Horowitz considered these arrangements to be some of the best piano music of all.
Mac mini (OS 10.8.5) with dual monitors, Kurzweil Mark 5 with M-Audio Midisport 2 x 2,
Finale 2014d with GPO 4, JW Plug-ins, SmartScore X Pro, Adobe InDesign CS4,
Inkscape .48.5 and .91, FontForge 20150526
http://www.cantilenapress.com

DatOrganistTho
Posts: 157
Joined: 19 Jan 2016, 17:30

Re: How to find a freelance engraver?

Post by DatOrganistTho » 01 Apr 2016, 04:23

John Ruggero wrote:DatOrganistTho,

Your little scene describes the situation so well. A similar dialogue often goes on in an arranger's own mind as his practical sense fights with his own misguided desire to be "faithful to the original" in the wrong way.

Of course, Brahms didn't mean to produce something simple at all costs, but something that recasts the music to fit the instrument. It is interesting that he enjoyed making reductions of his own music for piano duet and two pianos at a time when such work was considered beneath a composer of his stature and was quite picky about such arrangements made by others.

For me, the best arranger for the piano was Franz Liszt, and his best arrangements are those of the Beethoven symphonies for piano solo. They are certainly not easy, but enable a good player to produce wonderful orchestral effects without fighting the instrument. I believe I've read that Horowitz considered these arrangements to be some of the best piano music of all.
+1
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Composer and Transcriber
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