Alexis Cuadrado’s Noneto Ibérico scored in Sibelius, premieres in New York

Alexis Cuadrado (Photo © Ave Carrillo)
Alexis Cuadrado (Photo © Ave Carrillo)

Alexis Cuadrado is a double bassist, composer, and founder of the Brooklyn Jazz Underground. His latest commission is a new nine-movement work for jazz nonet called Noneto Ibérico, which will be premiered on Friday 2 October and Saturday 3 October at The Jazz Gallery in New York City.

Already a Pro Tools user, Alexis recently switched to Sibelius after having used Finale for a decade, and he chose to complete this commission in Sibelius. After the jump, Alexis tells me why the new features in Sibelius 6 made such a big difference to his workflow.

“I started using Sibelius 5 last year,” says Alexis, “and I’d say I was a casual user for a few months until I had some time and went a bit more intensive on training myself on it. I had been a Finale user for around 10 years, and my first impression was that the learning curve was a lot less steep that it had been in Finale. I liked the ease of use, and the intuitive interface, no-tools approach.”

Alexis admits that at the time he had mixed feelings about which notation software to use, but in the end he decided to use Sibelius 5 for the project. He started by preparing lead sheets, and while he found that easy enough, he didn’t think Sibelius had a special advantage over Finale. But all that changed when Sibelius 6 was released.

“I really started using some of the new features in Sibelius 6 right away,” he says. “The Versions feature became an invaluable asset as I could try to develop segments differently and was able to basically A-B instantaneously. I also scrapped a lot of segments right into Pro Tools with my electric bass and live percussion, then added some MIDI tracks, so ReWire became a really useful tool as well — I was basically able to use Sibelius as a window within Pro Tools.”

As Alexis worked on the commission over this past summer, he was travelling around rural north-east Spain, armed only with his laptop and a small MIDI keyboard. “As the weeks went by and I felt more comfortable with Sibelius, I realized I started drafting on Sibelius directly. I wrote the longest movement of the nine, which lasts for 17 minutes, working an average of three to four hours a day on my laptop. It was certainly inspiring to work that way!”

Alexis hasn’t found the switch from Finale to Sibelius absolutely frictionless, and admits that “sometimes my brain is still wired in Finale”, which isn’t surprising after using the same program for a decade. “There are a few features that I miss,” he says, “but as I dig deeper into using Sibelius, I’m starting to see all the possibilities that the program offers. I’m actually looking forward to the end of this project to spend some more time learning about other areas that I didn’t explore all that much while composing, especially on the education area, which might become a really good resource for my teaching jobs.”

With the premiere just a couple of weeks away, the full score and parts are finally finished. “In the last few weeks, I’ve realized on how much time I’ve saved thanks to the Magnetic Layout feature. I think my charts look better as well: I’ve created a mixed house style that combines a regular engraved music font with the jazz font for chords and text, and it’s very clear. As a matter of fact, I’m receiving great feedback from all the musicians involved regarding the clarity and legibility of the charts, and honestly I never got that with Finale.”

As Alexis looks forward to future projects, he’s glad he has made the switch to Sibelius. “I’m happy I’ve found a comfortable and time-saving tool that allows me to just focus on the music.”

If you’re interested in attending the premiere of Noneto Ibérico, you are recommended to make a reservation by calling The Jazz Gallery on 212-242-1063. If you can’t make it, don’t worry: Alexis and the rest of his nonet will be going into the studio to record the work for later CD release after the premiere.

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