Notion user Michael Josephs is an award-winning American film and television score composer. He has written and conducted musical scores for many notable films and television programs including Wild Kingdom, National Geographic, and many PBS specials. Recent projects include scores for HBO, BBC, PBS, NBC, CBS, ABC, The History Channel, and many others. Michael received a National Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Main Title Theme Music for his score for the series Thoroughbred. He has received numerous other awards. He received a National Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Main Title Theme Music in 2001. He has received numerous other awards.
I compose and conduct music, mainly for long-form documentaries and TV series, and the occasional independent feature film. My first scoring job was doing a brand-new series called America’s Most Wanted for Fox Television. I did that full-time for a few years right at the start of my composing career, which was a great education because it was on the air around 50 episodes per year, so I was always writing and recording. Most shows only run maybe 8-10 episodes a year, so for Fox I was constantly writing and recording every week, which was a great learning experience, especially because I tried to treat every week like a completely unique score instead of just generic “crime music.”
From there I branched out and started to work for other directors and networks and do other shows like “Wild Kingdom”, “National Geographic”, HBO, a lot of PBS stuff, etc.
I rarely have the luxury of seeing something before it’s handed to me to start writing. I do try to take a day or two at the beginning and just work on thematic material at the piano, some of which, and sometimes none of which, will end up in the film, but it gives me a moment at least to close my eyes and think about what kind of score it will be. The deadlines are always very tight so it’s nice to have a little space to imagine before diving into the mechanics of writing.
From there, I put the film up and start writing from the first frame. I tend to write sequentially, so I go cue by cue straight through the film, rather than jumping back and forth to different scenes. Sometimes themes develop as you work, so I’ll jump back some times and incorporate things or hints of where things may lead.
I started my career before computers, recording live directly to 2” tape for many years, so the computer and digital-video still seem like an incredible luxury to me! Some of the sequenced parts stay in, and I write and copy charts for everything that will be played live.
If it’s a smaller score, I do most everything at my own place, including a lot of overdubs, and then I’ll mix here. I’m set up for 5.1 mixing, and it’s very comfortable working in my own space. If it’s a larger ensemble I’ll do some tracking and mixing at a commercial studio because room is just too tight here. I also conduct the sessions too.
When I track somewhere else I’ve started a new thing lately, which is to just use their physical space and microphones and cue-system, but record right into my own portable rig and rack, which saves time and confusion transferring files back and forth.
Most of the time, at least with documentaries, there are no temp scores or preconceived notions. Directors want me to come up with the concept, direction, vibe, really everything. It’s the opposite of people loving a temp-track…there is no guidance at all, so I really try to give each film something completely different and unique.
As far as directors and producers, it really doesn’t matter how much or how little they know about music, but rather what kind of creative spirit and vision they have. I work with people who know absolutely nothing about music and are wonderful and creative to work with, and others who know a lot about music but have bad instincts with it. It’s really all over the place! I don’t feel it’s their job to know a ton about music. If they could compose music, they probably would!
Notion is AMAZING! I love it. I own both Finale and Sibelius, but they have to be the most difficult, not-intuitive programs I’ve ever encountered. Just doing some little tweak requires me to pull out the manual, and even then I still can’t figure it out!
From the day I tried Notion, I was hooked. It is completely intuitive, and I have never looked at the manual. When you want to do something, it is always very obvious how to do it quickly. It can go pretty deep if you need it to, but the basics are right there and not hidden fifteen deep in some hidden sub-menu. For day to day trying to get work done, it is unparalleled. With the budgets I have, I need to do my own orchestration and copying, and the last thing I would want to do is take three days off of precious writing time to do charts. Film music usually has a ton of key, meter and tempo changes, so this further complicates that process.
Sure. I do a quick clean-up of the music before I export a midi file from my DAW. I then import that file into Notion. I also open my empty “template” file in Notion that is set up the way I like, add the relevant instruments to the staff, then do a mass copy / paste of the imported midi file into the template. This is great because Notion reads all of the key and meter changes beautifully. From there I quickly add articulations, dynamics, clean stuff up, and extract the parts. It all goes very fluidly with Notion.
I did a really good film recently called Dateline Saigon, which both has a score and also arrangements of period music. I dove right in with Notion on that, and it was fabulous. I compose 99% of the time, so doing arrangements was a little different for me, and Notion made it possible to do the charts and also change them up and re-print them really quickly when there were re-edits of the film.
I also did another terrific IMax film right after that, but it won’t be released until next year… so watch this space!
Where can we find more about you and your music?
Notion 6 is here!
Notion 6 Offers Over 50 New Features and Enhancements:
Here’s a good one–how do you know when a saxophone player is at your door?
They don’t know which key to use or where to enter.
Now’s your chance to save 30% on the Classical Saxophone Bundle for Notion—down from the usual price of $29.99. This world-class bundle was recorded using London Symphony Orchestra section leaders and players at Abbey Road Studios, London. You get three instruments in the bundle, including:
One more thing, did you know you can demo Notion for FREE for 30 days? Learn more about it here.
If you’re looking to add some acoustic instruments to your mix, this bundle has you covered... You get four instruments with this bundle which include banjo, mandolin, acoustic fingerstyle guitar and the ukulele samples recorded by Brad Newell, Neil Zaza, and David Doucet. Also included are additional samples for open strings, hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, and left-hand and right-hand fingering control. This bundle plays nice with Notion 5.1 or later and Progression 3 or later.
Not a Notion user? Well Notion 5 is on sale for the month of July 50% off! Click here to learn more about this offer!
Now’s your chance to save 30% on the Brass Bundle for Notion—down from the usual price of $69.99. There’s a whole lotta brass for your buck in here—this world-class sample pack was recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios. You get seven instruments in the bundle, including:
What really sets the Brass Bundle (and other Notion Expansions) apart from other sample sets is the array of techniques available per instrument—these add an element of realism and expression that can’t be found in lesser sample packs. These performance techniques include:
Interested in adding a new tool to your music creation process? Notion’s got a lot to offer, and the free demo is available to all. Check it out! Perhaps you would like to compose for orchestra or horn section? Create guitar tablature to print and share with your bandmates? Notion’s got you covered.
You don’t need to know how to write or read notation to use Notion, by the way. You can input your music in a variety of ways outside of the traditional staff, including by guitar fretboard, keyboard, or drum pad. We’ve even got you seven-string guitarists covered. Notion also includes an interactive chord library that allows you to create and store your own chord structures.
Notion also plays nicely with Studio One and your VSTs. You can export the audio for each staff or bus as an individual stem and import it into PreSonus’ popular Studio One® DAW. Or export audio from Notion as a PreSonus Capture Session that will open directly in Studio One and retain instrument name, score order, pan and gain settings, rehearsal marks, initial time signature, and metronome marks.
Notion sounds incredible thanks to world-class orchestral sample library recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios, and guitar and bass samples recorded by Neil Zaza and Victor Wooten, respectively. All of the samples include dynamics, articulations, and various performance techniques to bring human nuance into your compositions. Notion offers the key features composers need while keeping ease of use as a top development priority.
Still not sure? Come on, it’s free. Check out some of the nice things folks are saying about Notion:
Quick question–what do the Beatles, Pink Floyd and this Classical Guitar sample for Notion have in common? Answer–they were all recorded at the historic Abbey Road Studios in London, England! You officially learned something today.
The Classical Guitar samples were performed by Benjamin Verdery on a 1995 Greg Smallman strung with D’Addarios and let’s be honest—that just sounds awesome. We’re currently featuring the Classical Guitar for Notion for 30% off until May 31, 2016!
These samples include variations for open strings, hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, and left-hand and right-hand fingering control and can be used with Notion version 4 or later and Progression 3 or later.
Have a listen to the sample below:
This year at #NAMM2016, Notion for iOS took home a prestigious award from School Band and Orchestra (SBO) Magazine. We’re flattered, and thrilled to be recognized.
Of course, we love Notion, so of course we have nice things to say. But here’s SBO’s opinion:
Most Innovative Teaching Tool: Notion for iOS
“Our panel really liked the features of Notion, for teaching notation on iOS devices. Notion for iOS is the notation software for iPad, iPod and iPhone that allows composers to sync music files across multiple devices. This awesome app from PreSonus, allows users to compose, edit, and play back scores using audio samples performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. Also available as an Mac or Windows computer application, you can even use DropBox or iCloud to sync Notion for iOS with its desktop/laptop cousin. Notion for iOS features a a user-friendly interface; simple, interactive piano keyboard, guitar fretboard, and drum pad; and an abundance of advanced functions that make it easy to compose music. You can find it on the Apple AppStore, where it’s the bestselling notation app.”
Big thanks to SBO for the kind words!
Notion for iOS 2.0.135:
Fixes and Enhancements:
Notion 5.2.380 for Mac and Windows has the following fixes and enhancements.This update went live on Friday, September 4:
By the way, you can save nearly half off on Notion for iPad and iPhone, for a limited time only. Offer expires October 31!