Advanced playback techniques

There was a recent thread on how to get better at playback. Here’s a thread to collect more advanced techniques, which may have already been touch upon or covered elsewhere.

I’ll start with tails on longs versus shorts. As Christian says @ Spitfire Audio


Because of the nature of virtuosic playing styles, all world class players will allow long notes to die off a little before becoming silent. This is called ‘diminuendo’* and is the reason short samples often sound wetter than long. It is imperative therefore that you track-lay and / or apply differing amounts of blending reverb to shorts (less) and longs (more).

As much as I agree with the playing style (and have always personally done it, it’s just human nature and not virtuosic), I hated putting the patches on different reverbs. One, it’s ugly and two, it felt like a filthy hack. But now with Dorico I think we have a proper solution - modify the note length in “Playback Options Override”, and add a volume/expression scale down on CC1 or CC11 (typically, library dependent)

Here’s a mock up using my first instrument (clarinet) and HALion
This sounds very natural, and makes the clarinet much more realistic and livens up HALion. In this case I didn’t set the playback option and just manually lengthened the tenuto note. With wind instruments you just let your breath die away which is vary natural, to give a long tail. The trick is to make sure you end the niente before the start of the next note or you’ll get a quiet hiccup. Obviously this should only apply to notes which have space before the next note, which also highlights my issue with a brute force reverb, which applies it to everything. Reverb is a separate topic that maybe we’ll cover in a different post.

Super advanced The final natural note cuts off (at least with HALion) too much I think for a real clarinet. That air column doesn’t naturally want to die off that much. There are a couple of solutions. One which is the naturally wet libraries such as Spitfire will give that to you (and trouble you on the shorts presumably). Or two, you can also lengthen and to a faster niente. I would only do this on a critical part of a major solo.

  • n.b. actually that’s wrong AFAIK, it’s called “niente”, diminuendo is an explicit notation to decrease in loudness, not necessarily to silence. Also don’t they mean “that’s why LONG samples sound wetter than short”? At any rate, some libraries have niente samples, such as EWHO (East West Hollywood Orchestra). The advantage of a true niente sample is that tonal character of an instrument changes with volume, and assuming they sampled at the different volumes all the way to silence, with one of these you can capture that spectral timbre changes.

Daniel “Auto niente” would be a fantastic feature to add. I would think an override, on a per expression switch basis would do the trick.

Continuing on note durations, I find Dorico plays dotted eighth and sixteen too mechanically. Consider a condensed Death Star theme to demonstrate

The initial note needs a figurative breath before the sixteenth, which likewise needs to be shorter than played (with HALion here).

I first tried this by using a condition

But, if correct, didn’t do it. What I wanted was to use a staccato patch if the note length is ‘short’ (whatever that means). So moving on to the quick and dirty is to shorten the notes

This is better, but the initial note is missing the ‘gravitas’ that the London Symphony did in the recording. So a little emphasis via CC1 would help. Through some setting Dorico already made a decent go of it in some ways this can be better.

Here’s some drawn in CC1. Tip - it’s quicker to draw this in rather than play it in and you can do multiple lines quickly. A fast easy way of doing this is getting a tablet display. I can recommend the XP Pen - the Artist 12 isn’t expensive. Text is a little small - you can scale it, but for drawing lines it’s fine. Here’s a little CC work that took all of a minute

… the forums aren’t allowing me to add more than three attachments. I’ll have to continue this in another post.

OK I actually worked this longer, it took some 5 or 10 minutes. But this is an important solo so probably worth the time

Here’s the drawn in CC1 and adjusted note length

Here’s an audio clip of the default Dorico output, and the one shown above. The first version is default Dorico output, the second one is the tweaked
Star Wars - Flow (340 KB)
I had to compress it before the forums would upload. Anyhow here you can hear what some simple note shortening and CC1 can do to improve the playback. From here I’d put it on a better library like BBCSO before commiting any more time to it, but already it’s sounding better.

What’s of note is that in these posts so far, the only modifications have been made to note duration and CC1.