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I'm trying to understand how to add dynamics to my music, both in the score as well as the audio version. Both the Garritan and East West forums tell me I need to "breathe life into the instruments," by adding dynamic variation. I thought that in a midi mockup, people wouldn't care that much. But I'm finding they do. So, I'm trying to find a way to do this that doesn't take too long. I'm thinking of going through the score, and expanding on the rather sparse dynamics I made at the time, and then seeing if I can then add the appropriate changes in the audio. But I've never understood very well just how to add dynamics in the score. Should every note have them, or every phrase? Shouild there be a swell on every long note? Stuff like that. Any resources you could point me to would be appreciated. Thanks, Mike

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I use Sonar. It gives you a lot of ways to do it, so many in fact that it's hard to decide which device to use. I think using the automation feature with the volume control would be easiest, but even there, I feel like you'd need to be a recording engineer to do it right. And I just don't have the time!

if you're working on a DAW then the best, imo, is to work note by note, at least when it comes to the instruments in the front of your piece. 

Look into the CC (Continuous Controller) codes that your sample libraries respond to, common ones are CC1 (modulation) and CC11 (Expression) to add expression to musical lines, especially on long held notes. A lot of more professional libraries tend to use CC1 (Modulation) to cross-fade between pp and ff layers on orchestral instruments for example. Also try to add some variation your note velocities especially for fast passages with many notes.

This is almost a cliché, but it is true: you have to feel the flow of the music. I personally sing it to myself, or imagine it being performed and the "natural" way it should be sung or performed will be obvious for you (but maybe not for other musicians), so you can add it in the score. When I started composing, I overwhelmed my compositions with dynamics, and this is not too useful for the musicians who also want to have a possibility to perform the piece.

Therefore, my suggestion is that you add dynamics in those areas you feel it is the only way to do it correctly, which doesn't mean you have to add dynamics to long notes or every phrase, but just when you think it is important. 

I have to agree with Eddy, you've got to "feel" the expressiveness in the music, the dynamics and phrasing will suggest themselves from that.

You will never reach dynamics of a live performance however CC or modulations you insert into the written score. Sorry for the harsh comparison, but this is like adding color to a dead body. I recommend trying to perform live some parts of your score using MIDI instruments. This is not simple, may require quite complex setup of your studio, but this is possible. You can do this gradually. For example, while your DAW performs a piano party, you can use your MIDI controller keyboard to play live the flute party (MIDI-recording everything), then do the same with other instruments etc. 

Playing the flute part using a keyboard-based MIDI controller is as unnatural as fixing the notes one by one with mouse alone. In the end, either you know how it's supposed to sound and you'll eventually get it right one way or another, or you don't and it will sound synthetic, live performance (duh!) or not.

Agree Greg, but the question (see the discussion title) is how to add dynamics and bring life into the audio, not how to keep resemblance to peculiarities of specific traditional instruments. Of course you cannot use a MIDI keyboard to mimic a real flutist. There are, however, ways to attack this problem too. There exist MIDI interfaces to many non-keyboard instruments. This way the CC (Continuous Controller) codes can be and sometimes are created. 

I mean I don't have the time, Raymond, to learn how to become a recording engineer! I'm looking for some shortcuts, if there are any. and I'm getting some good feedback. And if it turns out that are no real shortcuts, then I'll have to decide how far I want to go with this stuff. I appreciate very much the time that everyone on this forum spends in an effort to assist fellow composers. I definitely don't take it for granted.
Raymond Kemp said:

michael diemer said:

And I just don't have the time!

 


OK why ask the question?
Why have folks offering opinion on a subject you don't really want to spend any time researching or learning?

I can tell you, you will get loads of help and advice if you really truly want it.

I'm inclined to agree, Andrew. But when I get feedback that I need more expression, I then must decide how much time to invest in the mechanics of mixing and mastering. You can really get bogged down there, even obsessed, and every hour you spend doing that is an hour you don't spend composing.

Andrew Gleibman said:

You will never reach dynamics of a live performance however CC or modulations you insert into the written score. Sorry for the harsh comparison, but this is like adding color to a dead body. I recommend trying to perform live some parts of your score using MIDI instruments. This is not simple, may require quite complex setup of your studio, but this is possible. You can do this gradually. For example, while your DAW performs a piano party, you can use your MIDI controller keyboard to play live the flute party (MIDI-recording everything), then do the same with other instruments etc. 

You mean like a woodwind controller? How about singing? Whistling?

Andrew Gleibman said:

Agree Greg, but the question (see the discussion title) is how to add dynamics and bring life into the audio, not how to keep resemblance to peculiarities of specific traditional instruments. Of course you cannot use a MIDI keyboard to mimic a real flutist. There are, however, ways to attack this problem too. There exist MIDI interfaces to many non-keyboard instruments. This way the CC (Continuous Controller) codes can be and sometimes are created. 

 

Beside the qualitative answers members give here, which are valid I might add, there are some general rules of thumb about dynamics that are standard. The following technique is used extensively in concertos to ensure that either the soloist, or else the accompaniment, can be heard.

Here is a Spectratone Chart of Tone Color which can be used to guide you as to the relative compatibility of instruments one with another throughout the registers of pitch that they occupy. This helps in at least two ways:

1) instruments that are in perfect or close combination one with another blend their sounds when playing at the same dynamic, and so, should one wish for one of the two to outshine the other, one must do something to achieve this (most often to place each in an opposite extreme of their range, but it is acceptable ... though not common ... to mark one much louder than the other), and

2) one can take advantage of a natural tendency for instruments separated by a few ranges of register to sound quite distinct from one another, regardless of dynamic markings; and so placing a melody line, say, in the middle to high-middle register and then the harmony in the bass and\or sub-bass register is a composing technique to automatically cause the melody to be heard distinct from any accompaniment one might write.

One can more subtly choose separation between spectrums of pitch than this, of course, and such skill is what gives certain pieces their characteristic sound and ambiance.

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