Very Disappointed with lack of comprehensive beginner tutorials

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Tinjaw's picture
Tinjaw
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Very Disappointed with lack of comprehensive beginner tutorials

Based on the video tutorials I have used for other musical software of this complexity, I was expecting a series of linear voice-over tutorials that stepped me from nothing to a full song.

1) If they exist, I cannot find them. They should be "in your face" for new purchasers.

2) The tutorials I have seen are fast without much explanation and no voice-over. I understand that English might not be possible for the developer. Still, this software has been out for over seven years (I think), that is plenty of time to have volunteers make English voice-over videos that explain how and why you do something.

3) The user manual tells you what each button does. Great, for a reference, but lousy for a teaching document.

4) This software is expensive. Why haven't some profits been reinvested in the product to have a website like producertech.com (or any other of the dozens of similar sites) make a professional tutorial series?

At this point, I am lost as to how I am going to learn how to use this beast. I am motivated because I have seen the demo videos and want to learn how to use such a powerful tool. Maybe somebody with more experience can point me to a written step-by-step tutorial or provide me with a video playlist and some comments.

Best,

Chaim

[update] Let me give you an example. I started watching the video https://users.cognitone.com/tutorial/arranging-song-part-1 and the first practical thing done was using a phrase from the library. The subtitle says to learn more about phrases watch the "phrases" video. Well, I can't find this video. Why not a link to it? So I see a figures video. I started watching that. And it shows how to utilize figures but not how to make them. How do I make them in the first place?

Any way... I think what is needed (or at least what I need) is a syllabus. Maybe I can get help from the community and make a syllabus that I, and other new faces, can use to get started learning.

 

I guess I should further add that I "get it". I understand the paradigm of synfire. I love it. That is why I bought it. I understand that it is not a DAW. I have no problem with it be complex. I just am finding it a bit rough getting started. Yes, I am looking to be spoonfed for the beginning of my journey. Once I can make a song by myself, then I will want more focused tuts and in-depth reference manuals. But to get started I want my hand held and spoken to like a child.

janamdo's picture
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Hi,

Yes, the developer makes us  not easy to use his software.
It has to do with the ongoing development of Synfire for a serie of years now
There was no priority for documenting every new feature, because it was unsure if it should not change anymore
Well, that's my impression of this.   
Now, with new coming version 2.0 with a groundbreaking new feature its perhaps that there will be coming better tutorials in the future ?

Look at youtube for synfire  

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Yes, you can try to record of edit a phrase , but also possible to harvest phrases out of midi files
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdY0Xwj36sc

In Synfire 2.0 we get a phrase generator ! ( if it is ready in development)

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Thanks for your feedback, Chaim. I will point you to some videos in my next post, however let me first explain how we are aware of this and that it will be addressed with 2.0 at the latest.

But to get started I want my hand held and spoken to like a child.

Well put.

Comping up with a syllabus like you suggest confronts us with a hen-and-egg problem:

In order to create a consistent curriculum of step-by-step videos, we need to address at least three audiences (EDM, Songwriting, Film/Orchestral), which amounts to hundreds of videos. A considerable financial investment up front, for which we have only limited funding. So we're left with slow, organic growth as the only way to get this done.

The user interface is constantly evolving, so a great number of tutorials would need to be re-done on a regular basis. This is why we have postponed many videos until 2.0.

Regarding more advanced workflows, Synfire is so deep, even I, after all the years, still discover new and sometimes surprising ways of using it. Where to start, where to end? Fortunately, such videos are shorter and easier to make.

I was expecting a series of linear voice-over tutorials that stepped me from nothing to a full song.

Absolutely. But what is a Song? Music is a vastly generic term. EDM is extremely popular, but we can't limit Synfire to that. There are countless different genres, styles and use cases, each of which suggest different goals and workflows. Teaching someone to write a classical film score with Synfire has virtually no overlap with doing the same for EDM. And Songwriting is yet another domain with only small overlap.

And then there's language. Unlike a DAW that's made for recording (mostly), Synfire is a suite of tools designed to be used in a creative process at a high level of abstraction. This requires us to use words and terms in a way the user is familiar with. The very notions of melody, rhythm and harmony however are used quite differently. Videos and articles on exactly the same workflow therefore need to be re-done with a different voiceover (or text) to make sense for their respective audience.

I don't say it can't be done. It just costs a huge effort to make and keep current. Currently 95% of resources are going into software development in order to get 2.0 ready as soon as possible.

--

This is not meant as an excuse. Just so everyone understands why some of the effort to explore this extremely powerful toolkit is still on the user to figure out according to their personal goals and styles (with help from us and the community), until we eventually finish the syllabus you mentioned. This will certainly flatten the learning curve and boost sales, but before we get a hen, we need to breed an egg ;-)

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To get an idea how to build phrases from the ground up (via recording), check out this one:
https://users.cognitone.com/tutorial/compose-piano-theme

Before you begin drawing your own figures, browse the Example Phrase Library (and use it) to get an idea how figures look and behave.

Drawing figures is easier the more you limit yourself to short and simple segments (looped), then introduce new containers with yet more short and simple figures. Avoid using long phrases that stretch over multiple parts of your song. Your are better off moving short containers around, rather than scrolling and editing long complex phrases.

An example how to make the most of a short phrase (an advanced topic, that however demonstrates how Synfire makes use of parameters):
https://users.cognitone.com/tutorial/short-phrases-parameters-containers

If you need help with the very basics of drawing a figure, let me know. Just saw there's no specific tutorial for this. Always thought the toolbar and tool tips are self-explanatory, but may be wrong.

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Andre,

Thank you for your quick and informative reply. Please take this the way it is intended, as constructive criticism...

I can tell you are a perfectionist. It shows. I am positive that this is a significant influence on you, creating useful software that is very powerful and still runs stable.

But in another area, it is your enemy. Perfect is the enemy of good. I think you are overanalyzing and overthinking what is necessary.

I completely understand why you say what you say because there is a tremendous amount of detail required to cover such diverse topics. Please understand I mean this well, but you are too close to your baby. You seem not to be able to step back and understand that there are many things in common and that covering them is half the battle. And I would go so far as to say that it is your responsibility to your customers to produce these core videos that cover the core concepts. I would also say that you should let the community create more detailed and focus videos for doing EDM correctly, or orchestral specifically.

Think of it like writing prose and using Microsoft Word. Some may write poetry with Word, while others write fiction, while yet others write weekly reports. In all cases, they use words to form sentences to form paragraphs. They all use spell checking. They all use formatting. Think of things this way while considering your product. There are many things in common that need to get you through the first 1/3 of any music product that you should be covered in introductory videos.

For the sake of your present and future customers, and the continued success of your work, please take a moment to understand that you need to build a solid foundation before you worry about the distant horizons of what you have described as your goal.

And with that, I shall wait to see what you do for version 2.

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Maybe let me put it this way. Teach us how to use your product to make generic music. Forget about genre. Use twinkle twinkle little star  or happy birthday. Simple stuff at first.

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Reference materials say "this button does that" while instructional materials say "to do this, push that button".

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Have you seen the Wiki: https://users.cognitone.com/wiki/index

If there is something you want to do, create a stub there, and let the community fill it out for you. Videos can also be embedded.

Also on the wiki, create a page which links to the other wiki pages entitled syllabus. Again, let the community fill it out for you.

 

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Thanks for your thoughtful responses. I am certainly aware of the things you point out.

What looks like overanalyzed is the result of hands-on experience with real users. A video that is helpful and inspiring for one audience, can be confusing and misleading for others, eventually turning them off, thinking "this is not for me".

And this is solely due to the fact that composing is a subjective, mental process. Quite different from recording, which is a more straightforward physical one.

You seem not to be able to step back and understand that there are many things in common and that covering them is half the battle.

You have a point here. I appreciate it, as it refreshes my motivation. Stepping back does indeed require some time off to change perspective.

But the common ground is much smaller than you might think. A tutorial that demonstrates how Synfire is used to create orchestral counterpoint, build-ups, key changes, articulations, synchronize to picture and such is 90% useless for the EDM guy. And vice versa.

Reference materials say "this button does that" while instructional materials say "to do this, push that button".

Yep. If only the questions being asked, the goals being pursued, weren't so different. Regarding workflow there is little overlap in the list of things users actually want to do, in the first place (think Notation app vs. DAW as an analogy).

Anyway, this won't hold us back from doing the videos! It's just way more effort than most users expect.

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A tutorial that demonstrates how Synfire is used to create orchestral counterpoint, build-ups, key changes, articulations, synchronize to picture and such is 90% useless for the EDM guy. And vice versa.

Yes, agreed. But this is a fine example of what I mean when I talk about genre-specific info. There are plenty of steps before any of these steps, and those are in common. How do you make a melody - any melody? Not a genre-specific melody, a generic one. How do you make a harmony? A simple, no alterations, I-IV-V-I harmony. How about figures? Any figure, not one that you would later alter to be orchestra-specific, but a simple Twinkle Twinkle Little Star one. How do I add a bass line based on my harmony? I simply want to use the bottom notes and make a simple bass line.

So, yes, as you say that 90% is useless for the EDM guy. What I am trying to get across is that you need to properly, well, and fully, provide quality tutorials for the first 10%. That is the crux of my issue. That 10% is not covered well.

Enough on this subject. I believe that you understand my point. I shall not belabor it anymore.

And please do keep in mind, that this is all said with excitement and enthusiasm for your product. I am still enamored from the first demo video I watched and am excited about my journey to produce works myself using your tool.

Best,

Chaim "Tinjaw" Krause

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Have you seen the Wiki: https://users.cognitone.com/wiki/index

If there is something you want to do, create a stub there, and let the community fill it out for you. Videos can also be embedded.

Also on the wiki, create a page which links to the other wiki pages entitled syllabus. Again, let the community fill it out for you.

I have started a new page @ https://users.cognitone.com/wiki/syllabus

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Hi,

Did you managed already to make a small arrangement?
Drag and drop some figures from the library in the arangement screen
Put a chord progression in the arrangementscreen :  richt- click on the harmony parameter to insert a template or drag some chords from the palette

Double- click on the grey chord progression ruler makes a snapshot, it gets a color : the actual harmony parameter is entered : the dark green in the arrangement screen , becomes light green 

In the container screen : it goes from left to right and the top-most container( bottom screen) overwrite the underlying container

The empty container where you start with is could the "root container"  : it starts all there ( also with importing)
The idea is to build out the rootcontainer with containers on top of that
Its also possible to put the rootcontainer in a new container with menu<container><pack>: the reason to do that, perhaps someone else can tell that?   

I am really curious to see if the synfire users can post their workflows extensively in detail on a Wiki. 
Always it is on general terms they describe their workflow here on the forum preventing not give their composing secrets away.

Understandable..

 

 

 

 

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Put a chord progression in the arrangementscreen :  richt- click on the harmony parameter to insert a template or drag some chords from the palette

Double- click on the grey chord progression ruler makes a snapshot, it gets a color : the actual harmony parameter is entered : the dark green in the arrangement screen , becomes light green 

Thanks for your help, but I have no idea how to follow along with your steps. You say to click on X or click on Y, but I have no idea where either X or Y is on the UI.

I will go watch the videos again and see if they make any more sense now.

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https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-bd73G59HSIsJXab4fECjnP2AWt4f1RM/view?usp=sharing

If you start in a new arrangmentscreen you see a chordprogression in a grey color: doubleclick on it to make it actual( a snapshot)

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Open some demo examples in Synfire ..
You are right to start in Synfire seems to be a problem for new users
Something i adressed also too when i bought Synfire,
 But it seems to be not heard by André and picked up by him when i bring him this to his attention numerous times. 
 

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A short example it shows:

- embedded library ( only for this arrangement): but there is also a free libarary for using with many arrangements  

- chord containers (nested or free ) : the o circle on the container means a chord container and  green line on container shows what chord container has the harmony parameter assigned.

From the parameter block : see container parameters ( time,tempo, scheme and harmony) : drag and drop from parameter block the harmony parameter to a empty container(no chord symbol on it)( select harmony parameter in parameter block and left click-hold..drag parameter to a empty chord container.)

- Loop ruler :  left ctrl + leftmouse-. ->drag ruler ( can be both ways ) , No loop ruler is not saved : not to see ( why it is not saved ? ) 
 

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Hello Tinjaw

How you are doing with the first steps in Synfyre ?: opening a library drag and drop a phrase into the arrangement and adding a chordprogression ( via library or typing or template or palette )

Using phrase in the composition: keep them short is the advice ( a few bars : library length ) and let them repeating and make variations with a chord or later with a phrase change 

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double post

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The chapter "Concept" in the user manual was originally supposed to provide the overview you outlined on the new Wiki page, Chaim. Looking at it today, it seems outdated and not to the point. Back then it was translated from German by someone else, which doesn't help either. The entire chapter needs a rewrite for 2.0. Our ability to explain Synfire more concisely has much improved over the years. The documentation doe snot reflect this yet.

The 2.0 manual will be online, allowing us to update it more regularly. We also have plans to create three sections on the main website for EDM, Songwriting and Orchestral specifically, which will allow us to address each audience individually. 

Figure and Harmony are complex parameters that often cause confusion for beginners. Here are some pointers:

https://users.cognitone.com/wiki/symbol-types

https://users.cognitone.com/tutorial/common-misconceptions-progressions

https://users.cognitone.com/tutorial/pacing-progressions

 

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