Music Composers Unite!
I recently purchased VSL Solo Strings and I'm learning to use the free VSL player that comes with that library. Dane Aubrun has posted some beautiful pieces on Composer's Forum using VSL so I asked him to help me. He has already shown me how to use a cross-fade controller to blend two articulations but I'm hoping that he can show us the basic method of loading and switching between articulations as well. We thought others might be interested or have suggestions so I started this thread.
Here is the short piece in my favorite key that I am learning on. I'm also posting an mp3 that NotePerformer produced from Sibelius for this score. I will send anyone midi or xml files on request since they are not supported on the forum as far as I know.
As far as switching articulations, you use keyswitches. If you don't know yet, they are simply notes outside of the playable range of the instrument. They produce no sound, but they cause a change in the artic. Like between legato and pizzicato. I use Cakewalk, which is set up an octave below what is typical, so in addition to putting in the keyswitch note, I have to transpose it up an octave. that threw me for awhile until I figured it out.
You might consider joining the Vienna forum. although you may wait for an answer. At least that has been my experience. There are also tutorials, if you can locate them. their site is a bit confusing.
I found the free player rather confusing. took me awhile to figure it out. now I use the Synchron player which is more logical, but requires an instance for each inst.
Thank you for helping here Michael. Yes VSL doesn't seem to be supporting the older free player very well. I've used keyswitches with the East West player and they are off an octave also, that's confusing. But the VSL player has a matrix and an 'x, y' system that may or may not apply here so I'm trying to learn about that. Yes, the forum is a good idea too.
Just to note, there was an update to the VSL basic player the other day. They do seem to be concentrating on Synchron at the mo with its (different) player but there must be many thousands of musicians using the Vienna Instruments player.
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Ok, about keyswitches.
With VSL the default seems to be C1 for the first cell in the matrix when you select a new instrument. If you put together a matrix of 10 cells/articulations, they'll read from C1 to A1. The maximum you can set in an X-axis row is 12. You can also create 12 rows Y-axis giving you a maximum of 144 cells in the matrix. LOL, if that isn't enough you can have at least a dozen matrices switched via a thing called the matrix list. (more later).
(If you select a preset the x and Y axes and a selection of matrices is set up for you.)
C1 (first cell) is fine with instruments with a range that doesn't go below C2, so it gets the cello, bass clarinet and anything above that in..
If the instrument goes deeper (Double bass, bass trombone etc) you have to change from these default keyswitches. You need to move the whole set down an octave (or more) to something like C0 to A0...except you may have a clash with other default keyswitches (more on this in a moment).
To alter the range of keyswitches you need only work on the first one (the original C1). The change will ripple appropriately through all the cells in the row. Working from the Basic view, you point the mouse arrow close to C1 in the Matrix Contol 'box' to the middle-right.
You'll see a tiny two-way arrow appear (eventually)- when you aim right.
This shot shows that arrow next to C1.
Left click the mouse on this arrow and hold, then drag the mouse toward or away from you depending if you want to move the whole bank of keyswitches down or up. You'll see them changing in the Matrix Contol panel as you go. The mouse arrow will go way down or above the Matrix Control box but that doesn't matter. Stop when you get to the keyswitch 'note' you want.
You'll also see them move up or down on the keyboard at the player's bottom.
This is where you might hit a clash. If you move the keyswitches down an octave, and have a matrix row of more than 9 you'll clash with the A / B keyswitches (they're set to defaults of A0 and B0, and are used with certain articulations). You can tell if they're clashing because the A / B switches shown on the keyboard change colour to a hatched yellow.
But the fact is you can change the positions of all keyswitches so you can change the A / B ones to other notes, or move your articulation keyswitches to different notes.
You can also change keyswitches in the Advanced view where they're listed under 'X - Y - A/B in the middle panel.
One last point - another potential clash:
To the left of the player is a panel called the Matrix List. If you have more than one matrix the bars in the list will be numbered with notes, each representing another keyswitch to change between matrices. (Like there's nothing to stop you having a matrix for a clarinet then another one beneath for a bass clarinet - or any other instrument - or more articulations of your main instrument.
Be sure none of these numbers clash with your articulation X and Y keyswitches. As with the rest you can move them way down. I usually move them right down to C-1. If they do clash your articulation keyswitches won't work properly...as you'll find out!
My usual set up for a violin and viola are: X axis: C1 to B1; Y axis C2 to D2 (just 3 rows). The cello is X axis C1 to B1; Y-axis C0 to D0.... which leaves the A/B keyswitches untouched.
Finally, you don't have to use keyswitches for articulations. You can use any controller not used elsewhere. I personally prefer keyswitches. Trying to divide something like the pitch-bend controller into say 10 zones in Reaper's midi editor is more than any ordinary pain!
Hope that's helpful because one doesn't immediately tumble to the player letting you set the keyswitches where you like.
If you're writing legato you'll presumably use the "Perf Interval" legato. As you know, one note has to butt against the next note in time. If there's more than about a 50 m/second gap the legato won't work. So you can save yourself time by setting up legato and if you want a couple of adjacent notes non-legato, just leave a small gap. Saves having to keep switching between legato and sustained.
Same with portamento.
BY THE WAY, the posting edit time ran out with my previous post before I could add that I'm no expert...There's still much more to learn.
That's working fine. Bullseye!
Are you ok about adding reverb?
For anyone not familiar, Go into the player's Advanced view. Click on the reverb tab in the performance controls panel in the bottom left. It'll bring up a new blank panel if reverb isn't switched on. At the right hand side of that panel is a small list:
Bypass / None / Algo / MIR.
Unless you've installed MIR, click on Algo.
That'll bring up a graph and some sliders. This is VSL's default algorithmic setting. (I've found it acceptable as it is for chamber music but...) you can alter the dry/wet ratio, the damping and trailing out with the sliders, or adjust the dry/wet and tail by clicking on the graph Y and X lines and moving them.
You can assign a midi controller to adjust the dry/wet ratio if you need to change it dynamically.
If you have other reverb plug ins you can just leave VSL's reverb set to "none" or "bypass" and route the track to it through Reaper.
The VSL Slot Rack.
I already wrote some notes about this in response to a Critique post but they were incomplete.
The slot rack gave me problems when I first tried it – VSL’s passing mention seemed a bit misleading so in case it’s giving others trouble, here’s my take. It really is a nice gadget!
The slot rack has two purposes:
1) To let the composer combine instruments. each can have a different articulation (and can be set to an interval between – doesn’t have to be unison.
2) To let the composer dissolve / cross-fade between two articulations or mix them dynamically so that ‘new’ articulations can be created. These articulations don’t even have to be the same instrument – whatever’s in the slots will be X-faded.
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The slot rack is in the player’s Advanced view (click on the Advanced tab on the top right hand side. Its just left of the word “Preset”). In my basic player there are 4 slots not labelled but relate to various editing features in the panel below. Top pair: 1a, 1b, lower pair: 2a and 2b.
Whatever articulation is ready to play, it will appear in slot 1a.
You can then add another instrument / articulation combo in slot 1b. Simply go to the patches for this second instrument, choose what you want and drag it into slot 1b. A small circular button appears between, leave that as it is.
You can adjust the dynamic range of each slot in the editing panel (below). Firstly click on the slot you want to adjust. Then click on the Y-axis graph tab and move it up or down. You can also balance the dynamic level between the two with the sliders just below the graph.
The interval between the two doesn’t have to be unison. Set the interval with the interval adjusters just above the graph. Point the mouse arrow to the little arrow signs on the adjusters, hold and slide them up or down (within the limits of what you’re allowed to do).
If one instrument runs out of range it will just stop playing.
This pic works with the first sound clip below – a) violin alone; b) violin legato with horn staccato; c) same but horn goes deeper than violin compass; d) oboe + vn section detache interval of a 5th between.
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Cross-fading between slots
Choose your two instrument/articulations and set them in slots 1a and 1b. Let’s say you want a smooth cello sustain moving gradually to tremolo and back again. Let the main artic be the sustain. Set that up as a matrix cell – choose a blank cell and drag the Vc-sustain to it - or simply drag it to slot 1a and it’ll fill that blank cell….just that you must choose the blank cell first by clicking on it on the matrix or in the Matrix Control panel.
Next, choose your alternative patch and drag it to slot 1b. The little circular button appears. This time, click on it to bring up a little cross, thus making the crossfade active.
Go back to the player’s Basic view and click on an unused slider N/A button just above the keyboard. From the dropdown, click on “slot X-fade”. It will assign that slider to Midi CC 20. Unless you want CC20 for something else, that’ll do just fine.
You now go to Reaper and in the midi editor lower portion, create channel 20. You can now X-fade between the articulations by drawing an increase/decrease in the CC20 levels with the mouse ad lib. Here’s an example of a cello going from sustain to tremolo and back again. Then another one with cello and double bass pizz.
In the second sound clip below there's the Cello going from sustain to trem then back again - and the next example is X-fading between a cello legato and double bass pizz.
You don’t have to use it as a dynamic X-fader. You can set it to any level and leave it so, for example, if you want to give the attack of a sustained note a little extra punch you set your main sound as sustained and the alternative as detache or staccato, then set the CC20 level to give just the sound you want.
Lastly, you can load as many instruments in as you have slots. Mine has 4 but the more advanced player has 8. But you can only crossfade between sides a and b.
Please comment and above all correct me if I’ve got something wrong, missed out or it doesn’t work.
Sorry, the x-fade examples are here. Ran out of edit time again.
Great stuff Dane, but a couple of questions if you will:
When I export a midi file from Sibelius it fills in velocity values in the velocity channel which interfere with the breathalyzer controller I assigned in VSL. If I delete those it deletes the piano roll so I just set them as low as they will go which gave me the result that I posted, I don't know if it is still interfering or not. Is there a better way to deal with this? Sib may have a fix for this, I should check before bugging you I guess.
I notice you have a full orchestra loaded. Do you use separate instances of the VSL player for each instrument / DAW channel? And how much memory does it take to load a full orchestra?
I have the VSL solo strings library, it has a sustain with vibrato articulation for violin but I don't see a sus non-vib, am I missing something? And is there a way to control that vibrato?
The cross fade recordings are very cool by the way!
Many thanks for the comment. I didn’t have enough time to do longer, more varied examples. The slot X-fade is limitless within the samples one has. With strings for example I have legato, portamento, perfect trill and usually 2 sustains each with a different artic. in the 1b slot.
Ok, memory used. A piece I’m about to submit has 26 instruments. 69415 samples taking up 4.338 Gb of memory. (The score is bigger as all strings except Bass are divisi but they use the same samples).
Looking at Task Manager/Performancce, with the OS, background programs, Norton, Word, Task Mgr, Reaper and VSL running is using exactly 10 Gb, it says!
The big memory eaters are legato, portamento and perfect trill.
Not sure about midi files because I don’t know the intricacies of Sibelius. Did you export a pure midi file from Sibelius? Asking because I saved some no-frills midi files from an old midi sequencer which I later imported into Reaper. Reaper asked me if I wanted to expand the file into however many midi tracks were in the original. I did. (Also asked did I want to import a tempo marker which I didn’t). I've now converted them to VSL.
One I’ve just looked at came with the original velocities. Although still a beginner I found out about the Velocity X-fader, set it up for all instruments, set the level in CC2 about halfway, got the basic articulations sorted out then turned the Velocity channel to Velocity Off. Nothing was deleted.
With a couple that contained (non-VSL) piano, I had to leave Velocity On as it uses that controller. CC2, the Velocity X-fader for other instruments took no notice of what in the ‘Velocity On’ channel. VSL seems to override that control.
So, did you send a particular sort of midi file to Reaper? Like there are MusicXML(?) or some such. I used a pure midi, a nuisance as I had to sort out what track is what instrument but it also comes with no tricks.
Interesting one, this.
A Tip for anyone looking for a portamento wider than an octave.
It's possible to do portamento further than an octave on a real string instrument. VSL allows only an octave.
Getting around the limitation means inserting an extra very short note between the start note and the target note. I suppose it's forcing VSL to do a double portamento.
In this shot that small note occurs between the B4 and D6. It's on G5 halfway along the piano roll.
In this and the following example I've set the keyswitches to D2 (portamento) and G2 (legato) to get them in the pic. These are arbitrary. Set them wherever you want as long as they match the Vienna Instruments player Matrix Control keyswitch list.
You can also get that sound produced by some violinists when they portamento part of the way then move onto the target note with a different finger. It's likely to occur if the player has to play the higher note on the next string but it can also happen on the same string.
For this you need to insert a short note between the starting and target notes as before (this time just a tad longer than in the first example. AND you have to keyswitch to legato during that short note as shown in the following shot).
The MP3 gives both examples.