A boatload of questions regarding EWQL, VSTi instances, expression maps/playback templates, and more

Hey all! I’ve got a long post for you to read - there is a TLDR at the bottom with the short versions of all of my questions - for more info feel free to read these longer sections!

I’ve gone relatively quiet lately - I thought I had all of this figured out, but was on vacation for about two weeks and for the sake of hard drive space just used default libraries so that I would not have to carry my external drives with me to load the plethora of libraries that I’ve downloaded in the last few weeks.

I recently signed up for EWQL’s Composer Cloud subscription, which EXCELLENTLY has provided me access to some fantastic instruments which I can (in theory) use to make my pieces of music sound FAR more realistic, and that is wonderful - however, I’m having some issues with some libraries (particularly ones that I have downloaded from other users forum posts) that I can’t seem to solve. I’ve decided to take on the task of building out expression maps/percussion maps/playback templates for all of these instruments myself so that I may most simply make use of the instruments that I have access to in a way that works for my brain and is easy to remember.

I’ll first start with the issue that I’ve experienced with the downloaded maps from other users:
For some reason, when downloading (and setting up, I think properly) the expression maps/playback templates that I’ve downloaded (specifically for the Hollywood Orchestra Brass and Woodwind libraries, haven’t even made it to percussion or strings yet) Dorico does not seem to interpret them correctly. I have strange issues where I will install the doricolib files and setup playback templates and expression maps as notated in the “read me” files that come with the downloads but upon actual playback in practice does not properly emulate things like note duration, articulations, etc.
My thought is that perhaps those EMs and PTs (hope those abbreviations make sense) were perhaps designed on an older version of Dorico or were designed with the “Play” version of EQWL rather than the Opus one. I also do not typically use ALL of the key switches that are listed. These issues have led me to believe that since I cannot find/download one that works as expected, creating my own would work best.

So, I suppose I’m relatively new to this whole thing. I’ve been composing and arranging for many years now, since High School, and have used various programs but to be quite honest (before Dorico at least) I spent most of my time in MuseScore. As a former High School teacher, I often wrote music for my own marching band (and some friends) and mainly used MS to do that, but was quite fluent in Finale during college years as well. This, though, as I’m ramping up in my composing and looking to branch out and explore this more as a career option, is the first time that I’ve ever delved into the world of sampling and these incredible sample libraries. In looking to potentially create some sort of online portfolio where I can share my arrangements and compositions with potential clients, I want to provide as high quality of a mockup as possible without the use of a DAW.

Which leads me to my ongoing battles with Expression Maps/Percussion Maps/Playback Templates.

So, I thought I had correctly followed steps to create Expression Maps for some of the instruments, but ended up experiencing some similar issues to those experienced while working with the pre-downloaded ones. I am 100% certain that these issues are operator error and that somewhere along the line I am misinterpreting a step or something, leading me to not be able to correctly situate the map.

If someone is able to provide a step by step (I tried looking through the official Dorico Material/other forum posts and couldn’t find something that exactly worked) just to let me know exactly what is the expectation, that would be INCREDIBLY helpful in my process and MUCH appreciated. At this point, I am committed to the undeniably long-winded experience of creating all of these maps for myself, but to be honest I think I just lack the knowledge to do it without a little bit of assistance.

Secondarily, I’m also wondering if it has something to do with the way that I am setting up my VST instances. A colleague of mine had suggested setting each instrument up in its own VST instance, but he works primarily in DAWs (Logic, to be specific). I am wondering if, with EWQL and the Opus player, this is the correct course of action. I believe with relative simplicity (and the use of a dedicated playback template, once I get it fully set up of course) I should in theory be able to use fewer instances of Opus by assigning MIDI channels rather than by setting up individual instances, but I’m not sure if this is actually possible or not (I know with some libraries, BBCSO for example, it is not).

Lastly, I’m wondering how I can correctly identify/set up which MIDI CC # to control dynamics with per patch. There is a section in the Opus window which shows the assigned MIDI Control #'s, but I’m not quite sure what they mean. I don’t have a mod wheel on my keyboard, so from what I am aware of I believe that my dynamics should be controlled by CC11 which is assigned to “expression”. Is this correct?

If you’ve made it this far, you are truly a lifesaver for me - I’ve been teaching for a few years now and have stepped down to a lower position at a middle school in order to afford more time in my personal life to further a career as a composer, and I love everything that Dorico has offered me thus far in terms of creativity, comfortability, usability, and PARTICULARLY with the workflow. I have saved COUNTLESS hours of editing due to the sufficiently streamlined workflow in comparison to other programs that I have used, and for that reason I cannot bear to switch back to any other program. My only roadblock now is getting the sound to properly emulate what I’ve written. TLDR below in case you don’t want to read everything else:

  1. Expression Maps and Playback Templates that I’ve downloaded haven’t seemed to work and have provided weird playback issues (see above), and I want to take on the task of building my own but I haven’t been quite able to follow the available guides on how to do it - I’m hoping someone can provide a step by step guide to help me through that process (with as much or as little detail as you feel necessary)
  2. I’m not sure if for East West Quantum Leap’s Opus player I am setting up my VST instances correctly. A colleague who composes for film and primarily uses a DAW sets up an instance for each instrument (which is what I have been attempting to do), but I’m wondering if that is the best (and easiest) course of action or if I should set up an instance of Opus with multiple MIDI channels and route different instruments to them that way, ending up with less instances of Opus for the same amount of instruments.
  3. Particularly for the EWQL libraries (and the Hollywood Orchestra specifically) I’m having difficulties identifying (and understanding) what MIDI CC are for/what they do. I can’t seem to make my custom maps/templates properly convey dynamics using either CC1 or CC11, which is likely user error. I don’t have a mod wheel, so presumably dynamics cannot be controlled via CC1 regardless, but I’m not sure what the correct action is.

Again, thank you all so much for reading. I know I’ve typed a lot here… I don’t mean to overshare, but I want to make sure I provide the necessary context to make you all aware of the issues that I’m trying to overcome in order to complete my experience with this great program.

Thank you!

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As I only use the choirs from EWQL, I hesitate to contribute at all and won’t try to comment on specific Expression Map issues and I don’t know which maps you’ve tried out. On your second point, using multis rather than a separate instance for each instrument can often save on RAM as well as being easier to manage but both methods should work.

Just on your third point on CC’s. As a very general rule, EWQL libraries, like many others tend to use CC1 and CC11 controllers for dynamic control of longer notes in particular. CC1 tends to be for tone or dynamics- i.e the different dynamic layers which of course is related to volume but is not actually the same thing. CC11 is actual instrument volume which is misleadingly often referred to as “Expression”. Typically in Dorico, you want to set the main volume dynamic to CC1 and the secondary to CC11 as shown below so you can control both aspects. These controllers can be set individually for each articulation if required (it may be that with some shorter ones, velocity is recommended for the main volume dynamic but check your library documentation)

It’s irrelevant if you have a Mod Wheel – I don’t either on my current keyboard – you can still control CC1 through Dorico’s Key Editor.

A completely different approach if you use the Hollywood Orchestra is to invest in NotePerformer and the appropriate NotePerfomer Playback Engine. This sets up everything for you so you can just concentrate on composing!

For #1, I load up the KS (key switch) instruments. I then took a screenshot of the articulations page and kept the screenshot and a/the new expression map open and simply added the base switches. After I did all the main instruments with their default key switches, I went back and added some additional, more or less, required ones (trills etc.)

For #2, I use VEP but the concept is the same: load up as many KS instruments into one instance of Opus and simply route them appropriately in the Play page. Don’t forget to link the expression maps to the VST via the Endpoint.

For #3, There is very good documentation about every instrument in the Info window, e.g.,
Screenshot 2023-07-20 at 7.04.22 AM

Opus standardized most long patches with CC11 and CC1 but again, you can see everything the instrument has to offer in that information window. The key switch instruments have also been standardized and how one handles dynamics/CC1/CC11 etc. is very well documented in the manual.

Good luck…

PS @dko22 makes a very important point:

A completely different approach if you use the Hollywood Orchestra is to invest in NotePerformer and the appropriate NotePerfomer Playback Engine.

Time is money and the amount of time you will spend fiddling with these expression maps will greatly exceed the 200 or so $$ you will invest in Noteperfomer with HOOPUS playback engine. I did it have have thankfully not touched a hollywood expression map since.

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@dko22 and @derAbgang, thanks so much for the info! A few follow-up questions -

In regards to the creation of expression maps - I understand what you’re saying, in regards to setting up the key switches in the expression map; I TECHNICALLY know how to do it… I guess I more or less just wanted to make sure I was doing it correctly (or at least wasn’t missing some drastically important step).
I guess I’ll mention my process and hopefully one of you can tell me if I’m missing something. Right now I’m working on the Solo Flute patch from Hollywood Orchestra Woodwinds:

  1. Load up the sample in a standalone instance of Opus (separate from Dorico, just while I’m setting up)
  2. Open the Expression Map dialog on Dorico
    (I’ll mention here that I’m not sure at all what the “init” base switch does - I have not touched this)
  3. Add base switch for “Natural”.
  4. The only thing I do per switch is just add the key switch in the “actions” menu and assign to the correct midi note number, and previously I had just changed the “volume dynamic” to CC11. (based on the information you have provided I should set volume dynamic to CC1 and secondary dynamic to CC11)
  5. Move on to the next one.

Is this the correct course of action, or realistically is there another step in there that I’m missing?
And, in doing this, once I’ve correctly set up each map for each instrument it should playback correctly with the sufficient articulation and dynamic range for the expression that is notated on the page?
And, will this interpretation of the written material apply also to manually added articulations/dynamics, or only ones that were notated while I had specifically applied that key switch directly during note input? My thought (and hope) is the former, where I could do both - use key switches during input or add articulations after the fact, if I want to change something for instance - and have Dorico be able to “interpret” those articulations to function properly.

Second question - so, theoretically, NotePerformer requires zero (or minimal) setup? If what I’m presuming is true, that almost sounds like a no-brainer to me. At this stage, for my own benefit (and the fact that I’m quite familiar/proficient with the vast majority of other Dorico features, at least that I use regularly) I would still like to solidify my knowledge of expression/percussion maps and playback templates, in the case that I ever have to use them anyway. But, if NotePerformer is more or less “plug and play” and I can presumably import my EWQL samples directly into it to interpret rather than processing them through Dorico, that very well may be my next purchase.

A final NotePerformer question - the reason I’ve been led to believe that it will be easiest for me to create my own expression maps is this: the ones that I have downloaded (both from Dorico forums and elsewhere after extensive Google searches and people that have just sent me ones that they’ve made) nor the ones that I have attempted to make have all functioned incorrectly in one way or the other, at least specifically for the EWQL Hollywood Orchestra patches. I have used libraries that have functioned correctly (BBCSO Discover, a few of the Spitfire “Originals” packs, etc), but just haven’t found one specifically that will work with my EWQL library for some reason. Again, this is probably user error… but I couldn’t figure it out.
If NotePerformer works as you mentioned, where I only need to essentially import my patches into it and it will interpret them correctly (or at least that is what I assumed from your messages), does that mean that NotePerformer by default has already preprogrammed pseudo “expression maps” for those instruments built into it, or does it interpret through some sort of algorithm? Basically, the question in a slightly less long-winded form is this: If I purchase NotePerfomer, will it ALWAYS work with whatever library I put into it, or is there a chance that at some point I plug a library into the player and it does not correctly interpret leading me to have to learn whatever system NP uses and create my own?
I write for several marching bands in my area, and one of the things I’ve fought with the most since diving into Dorico is proper Drumline patches. I don’t own VDL (and don’t usually write the drumline scores, so haven’t had a reason to) although that is the standard for marching percussion patches, but the main reason that I used MuseScore so extensively previously is that myself and the gentleman whom I solely collaborated with/wrote my drumline books used it as well, and MuseScore has a decent DL library built in. While I am trying to further my career out from small jobs like the ones I do now to larger ones, right now most of my clientele is in the marching world - sending mockups to band directors with concert percussion in place of marching percussion is very awkward sounding, because those instruments are written for quite differently. I’m hoping that NotePerformer interprets in such a way that I don’t have to so much “program” it as I do with Dorico’s engine, which would in theory make it much easier for me to just import all of my instruments into it and take off, like you said, with the focus on composing rather than programming.

Either way, it seems like at least NP will work pretty seamlessly with EWQL and for that alone, it may end up on my list sooner rather than later, but just want to be solid on exactly what I will be getting when I purchase it.

… that’s fine. “init” isn’t really needed with the KS instruments but what it is, is a way to send reset or configuration CCs to the VST, e.g., for strings, make sure con sordino is off (CC15).

Once the expression maps are complete and you have them linked to the VST via end point configuration, the articulations you mapped will be triggered with articulations you input into the score. To confirm the mapping is correct, switch to the Play tab and make sure the base switches appear, e.g.,

I believe most of the EW expression maps floating around where created with Hollywood Play edition (including ones I posted a couple of years ago), not Opus and as a consequence are much more complicated and probably wrong (dynamics, e.g., was all over the map with the Play Hollywood… CC1 here, CC11 there, Velocity, CC1 for x-fade into different articulations) – it was (is) a pretty complicated library to setup correctly. Opus fixed most, if not all of those idiosyncrasies so creating expression maps are much easier for the Opus KS instruments. Actually, if you browse the articulations for, say, all the woodwinds, you’ll notice that the first 5 articulations are identical, same with brass and strings.

At any rate, NotePerformer + HOOPUS playback engine really is a no-brainer for the money. It is fully integrated with the Opus library – all you need to do is point it to the samples and, load up the instruments you want (“All” takes somewhere around 39GB of RAM but one rarely needs them all) and it will do the rest. You just need to apply the Noteperformer Playback Template and start composing. And yes, you can think of the playback engine as having a very intricate set of expression maps for 99% of the instruments in Opus and for articulations that aren’t mapped, it has “AI” (I hate to use that term but it is was it is) to do things like gliss, multi-note tremolo etc. and probably a thousand other things I don’t think about but "just work"™. It really is an incredible piece of software.

  1. I also had problems with pre-existing expression maps that I downloaded. I concluded that the best thing to do was to not use them and instead make my own. Search the forum for “Dorico Expression Map Editor.” I’ve found it indispensable. Also, be sure to look at John Barron’s hour-long plus expression map tutorial on YouTube. Anthony Hughes also has some good videos as well. I’ve watched them several times.

  2. It doesn’t really matter. Whichever you prefer, or whichever has the smaller memory footprint.

  3. Read up on what Midi CCs are all about online. Experiment with different CC1 and CC11 values and hear what they do with your library.

Good luck!

With NotePerformer there is an addon you purchase separately and specifically for each library. If there isn’t one for a particular library, then NotePerformer can’t work with it. Libs like EWQL have a huge set of options and capabilities- NP will only use a part of them, in a certain way, and there are compromises. You may decide it’s exactly right for you, but it’s unlikely you won’t at least wish for a better or different sound/interpretation at times.

Which if you act on that desire, leads to tweaking and expression maps, etc. Plus a mix of other libraries and tools. So no easy answer.

My best advice is to first firmly define your mission - just how good a sound do you want, and what time and effort are you willing to invest in it? I don’t think you face just one specific map issue, as much as that you stand at the beginning of a pretty substantial separate learning curve that not every composer chooses to climb -like not every composer chooses to study Jazz.

One specific thing - Dorico 5 includes midi trigger regions , which among other uses you can use to sort of manually prototype a short passage with what you expect the keyswitches in a map to do. It can be a way of helping figure out where a problem lies, together with observing the cc, dynamic, and playback technique lanes in the key editor. I don’t think you can really learn it without doing at least a few from scratch.

In any case, Welcome! And you aren’t alone. :slightly_smiling_face:

You can trial Noteperformer for 30 days for free. to test anything. I use composer cloud with it also.

And you can test the engine for opus with it for free as well.

yes, there’s absolutely nothing to lose as both NotePerformer itself and the NPPE HOOPUS engine can be tried out free. It’s also correct as @gdball says that NPPE does not support absolutely every articulation with the more sophisticated libraries - for instance portamento is currently missing which is somewhat annoying. I find the engines can also crash on occasion. But unless you’re going to manipulate the library to the ultimate degree (which would probably require a DAW anyway), it’s likely you’d be more than happy with the NPPE HOOPUS engine. I use both the Cinematic Studio and BBC Core ones and would never go back.

Having said, that, none of my, for instance, VSL libraries are supported and the considerable amount of work I put into creating my own maps for them has not gone to waste. By creating your own maps you – quite apart from anything else – learn how to use the libraries much better.

Although I haven’t had any full crashes with Noteperformer and Opus, I do sometime have to reload the OPus software again with the NP engine because one of the samples will glitch. But that’s the only issue I’ve had with it so far. 99% of the time no problems.

Agree 100%. Over many years I’ve been fiddling with playback rules from Notion, articulation sets in Logic, sound variations in Studio One and finally expression maps in Dorico. I know both EW Symphony and Hollywood libraries probably better than I should which is why I’m pretty impressed with NPPE HOOPUS. I already hear some flaws, e.g., snares are machine guns. There are other anomalies as well but all in all: satisfied with the purchase.

Wow folks, tons of great info here. Much appreciated.
Currently downloading the trial of NPPE to try out. I run on a MacBook though so I worry I may run into road blocks with resources on my machine. I’m going to test it out in the AM and depending on my level of success will either use that or will end up creating my own perhaps solely for the purpose of resource consumption and only using the patches I absolutely need. Thanks!

NPPE tend to be more demanding of system resources (though not in every case) than the libraries run natively. However, if you are short of RAM, increasing the size of virtual memory can help as NPPE is designed to use the swapfile when required – I was actually running a 51Gb template successfully with only 32Gb of RAM after changing my settings (though I just upgraded to 48Gb which certainly helps to reduce the strain on the hard drive and possibly the processor as well).

Hey again folks! I’m hoping to continue in the same thread, so I’m hoping someone catches this and is able to fill me in on this - using the same thread will limit my flipping back and forth between pages while working!

So, I tried NPPE with HOOPUS, and it sounds great!.. but not quite how I want it to. Before I totally commit to purchasing NPPE I want to mess around a little bit more with the expression maps in order to see if I can truly get them working the way I desire/expect them to.

So, at this point I’ve created an expression map for the flute patch I’m using that I THINK (keyword there…) works. Here was my process:
Added a new expression map, named it, etc.
Mapped all existing predefined keyswitches from said patch (3FL KS Master from HOOPUS)
Added to endpoint setup
At this point, I THINK I’ve done things correctly… BUT

My implication was that I should then be able to press the midi note associated with the KS, ex. C0 associated with “natural” or C#0 associated with Stacc, etc., and then receive that note in the output. However, what is happening instead is the “keyswitch” note is adding a written note to my flute part, putting a random unplayable C0 (or whatever note) at whatever rhythmic position I happen to be in.
The expression map is partly working though… if I manually add articulations (either with mouse click or keyboard shortcut) the program is correctly interpreting the playing technique associated with that articulation…

I think now I’m less confused on how to create the expression map and more confused on how to… use it I guess. From what I can see, it looks like I’ve correctly mapped the playing techniques to the expression marking - I’ve gone and checked them in the key editor to make sure that the changes are showing up in the playing techniques lane - I was just under the impression that I would actually be able to actuate those changes directly with the keyswitches I defined, and at the moment it doesn’t appear that is possible, which leads me to more confusion not about how it’s made but about how it is used.

Thanks in advance for your information!

You don’t play the key switch note in order to trigger the associated technique: instead, you create the associated playing technique, and Dorico will then play the required key switch during playback automatically. So if you’ve defined e.g. a switch for staccato, just add staccato articulations to the notes that you want to be played back staccato, and Dorico will issue the right key switch during playback to produce the right sound.

You appear to be in Write Mode. If you exit write mode (esc), you can preview the articulation using the keyswitches and notes won’t be entered into your score. But, if you want the articulations (glyphs) in the score, you need to add them in write mode and they will be correctly rendered (audibly) through the expression map when you play back the project.

Thank you both! That answers that and solves what is hopefully my last major hurdle… Now to finish these maps and write something.