Composition with only pitched drums

I have a project, composing a piece with many pitched drums, drums that can play melodies like Timpani drums, with distinctly different timbers, in Dorico.
I have started with the most common pitched drums, Timpani drums, excellent, no problem. One can play any note on them which is what I am after. I am using the Timpani from VSL, (They could be from any other sound library) I now need tuned drums with distinctly different timbers so they will be heard as distinctly different sounds. For example, tuned timbales, tuned Tom Tom’s, tuned roto drums and hopefully several other tuned drums with distinctly different timbers. This is where the problem is. Most vst drums apart from Timpani are understandably not tuned, they produce a particular pitch.
So far, apart from the mentioned Timpani drums, I have only found and bought one very economically VST, the Epic Tom’s Ensemble from SOUND PAINT, these can be played in any note like Timpani drums. I am trying to find out if SOUND PAINT roto drums and Tom-tom ensemble drums are also playable. Unfortunately, it is not so easy to communicate with SoundPaint customer service, they do answer emails, but information is rather minimalistic. SaundPaint make a very interesting free software. The Key Switch Rack,

With this, one can assign instruments and articulation to any keys you choose on your keyboard. I have the feeling that perhaps with this software, in Dorico I should be able to make my own working expression maps for SOUNDPAINT.

Here are my three questions:

  1. Are SOUNDPAINT roto drums and Tom Tom ensemble drums tuned to all or most notes?
  2. How exactly can I make expression maps for tuned SOUNDPAINT drums? (Since these are tuned drums, I need expression not percussion maps.)
  3. Are there other VST drums of other manufacturers, that are playable in many notes like Timpani drums are?
    Thank you so much.

I have found the answer to my first 2 questions.

  1. Yes, SOUNDPAINT roto drums and tom toms are tuned to most notes.
  2. Answered by Soundpaint. “You cannot currently load individual velocity samples as their own keyswitches no”.

Therefore, most likely SOUNDPAINT is not compatible with DORICO at the moment.
Since Dynamic markings are essential in Dorico for playback, If the answer to my third question is no. I might have to learn to use a DAW if I wish to continue with my project.

As a drummer and percussionist growing up I like this idea and would love to find such instruments myself (I’ve been guilty of tuning my drum kit toms to pitch so I totally get it!). I’ll have to check out the Soundpaint offering.

To answer your question, I don’t see why you would need velocity acting as keyswitches, though I don’t know how keyswitches operate in that instrument. What would the keyswitches change between on something such as toms? Do they offer different playing techniques like using mallets vs sticks?

Otherwise yes you could simply create an expression map and play it tonally. You would most likely need to create a custom instrument (may just be a Dorico Pro feature, not sure), since regular toms and rotos will be on a percussion (non-tonal) staff. In cases like this I would duplicate a pitched percussion instrument (like a marimba, doesn’t really matter), rename that to roto toms or whatever.

Then connect this to your VST in the play tab. Under expression maps, with percussion, there’s often not a whole lot to be done fortunately, since toms are basically struck once and that’s about it. You could map tremolo to rolls if the library offers this. But honestly it shouldn’t be all that complicated. Good luck!

It is really nice that someone is interested in this strange subject. Though it is understandable that so few people are.

It appears that most if not all percussion instruments from Soundpaint are tuned like Timpani drums, I have the Soundpaint Epic Tom’s Ensemble working in Dorico, and easily assign the various drums to the 5 line treble or base clefs exactly as I do with Timpani drums from Noteperformer and VSL, they sound as they should in playback, but they do not react to any markings in DORICO because it is as far as I understand not possible to create an expression map for them, because they do not work on the principle of keyboard keys assigned to trigger articulations. That is why the Soundpaint team informed me it was not at the moment possible to trigger velocity. If one is content with not being able to alter the volume of the different drums in any way, that is OK. I find it impossible to compose that way in DORICO, as far as I can see, the only marking the SOUNDPAINT drums react to is the trill, so one can write, and playback drum rolls which is nice.
I have downloaded and am beginning to study REAPER DAW, Since SOUNDPAINT Is designed to be played in DAW’s I hope in Reaper I will not only be able to set loudness, velocity, expression values, but also take advantage of all the numerous sound variations Soundpaint offer for every drum.

Possibly there was a misunderstanding about your question? If you asked “can I trigger velocity with a key switch?” and they said, “no,” well that’s not surprising as that’s not normally how it’s done anyway. In a Dorico expression map, volume dynamic isn’t mapped to a key switch, but rather to note velocity, or one or two CCs, or even a combination. It’s probable that Soundpaint is using either note velocity, CC1, or CC11(or both CCs) to control volume, as that’s how almost every sample library does it.

As for other articulations, those are commonly set with either key switches, or different CCs.

If all these things are controllable in a DAW, they should be controllable in Dorico.

Did they send you any kind of manual with the instrument? All this should be documented there.

I’m fairly confident we can get you working in Dorico, none of what you are looking to do is that far out of the ordinary.

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OK, I downloaded it and on the two free patches I tried, they are using Note Velocity to trigger dynamics. In Dorico, the Default expression map uses a Base switch called Natural that is already set to trigger volume dynamics with Note Velocity. If you use that on your toms, you will at least get all of your dynamics working in Dorico.

Now, as far as triggering other articulations, just having a quick look at Soundpaint, you may have to do that with program changes, which you can certainly do in Dorico, but it is a bit more involved.

Edit: actually, looking at your first post, you may also be able to do it using their Keyswitch rack. Since I don’t own your tom library, I can’t help you with specifics on that, but please feel free to ask questions.

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I am not sure what and why the soundpaint team told you this, perhaps they misunderstood, but this is not the case. Velocity works perfectly well with all kinds of instruments in Dorico. Of course you’re able to alter the volume of drums through various methods - immediate dynamics, hairpins, and manual editing of velocity and CC1/CC11 automation lanes.

Out of curiosity I tried out Soundpaint and set up a basic expression map for toms, using a 5-line pitched staff. It sounds great to me. Velocity sensitivity is working very well, as are dynamic markings such as immediate and hairpins to adjust how it sounds.

As far as I can tell with the toms, there honestly isn’t much here in the way of articulations to “keyswitch,” though if you wanted to do that, I’m sure it would be possible.

I am definitively going to try this; I hope I can manage. If not, I will ask questions.
I have been busy changing some SP instruments in my DORICO score to instruments from my Garritan World Instruments. There are lots of drums from India, Africa and all over the world which work perfectly straight out of the box.

I am definitively going to try this; I hope I can manage. If not, I will ask questions.
It might take me a few days. I have other work.

I have not yet ever set up an expression map. Could you please share that one with me?

Thanks so much.

Honestly the expression map is essentially the same as the default one. There isn’t much to do here other than dynamics (which default expression map can cover). I haven’t discovered any utility at all for keyswitches in this instrument, since it doesn’t really contain different articulations. Also, unless we’re talking about a different product, but the Epic Toms patches aren’t exactly what I would call pitched in the most tonal way possible. It’s helpful to create an instrument which is a 5-line pitched percussion staff, but if you notate say a major arpeggio or something, it really doesn’t sound much like a chord to me. I haven’t verified with a tuner to be sure (I don’t have perfect pitch) but just by ear it does not seem like they are truly mapped to actual pitches, but rather, the sampler allows you to play certain samples higher and lower creating the illusion of pitching up and down.

Do you know which patch you’ve discovered which has tuned toms? Maybe I’m using the wrong one.

I still don’t manage to change the volume of any DRUM in Soundpaint, which is really the only thing I urgently need to be able to do. I wish I could, I wish I knew how to set either note velocity, CC1, or CC11(or both CCs) to control volume. As for “the Epic Toms patches aren’t exactly what I would call pitched in the most tonal way possible.” I am using the Drums from Epic percussion ensamble, I suspect from the Soundpaint videos that they are as “in tune” as the ones in the Epic Toms and as in tune as a drum can be, with all its loud overtones and white noise. Agreed no chance of playing chords. But melodies like with Symphonic Timpani drums are recognisable.

I just said chords as an example of an obvious way of hearing whether or not they are pitched - but in any case, none of the patches I load appear to be mapped across the keyboard according to traditional pitch - it seems somewhat random, with some black and white keys having nearly the same pitch or a microtone of a difference. Many of the patches also reset the tom sound after an octave or less. So I’m not sure if I’m using the wrong patch here, but I don’t think that Soundpaint intentionally mapped these for specific pitches per se… But if you know of a patch which is actually pitched fully across the keyboard let me know, I’d love to play with that.

That said to answer your question, here is how I would set it up.

First off you can duplicate the default expression map if you wish. Select the Base - ‘Natural’ switch. What is important is to check this box which says Secondary Dynamic, and make sure it says CC 1, as I highlighted here:

Notice how it will use note velocity as the primary volume dynamic, and CC1 as the secondary - this secondary one acts almost like a volume fader, so everything will still be dynamically sensitive to velocity as drums should be, but you can also influence the overall volume through dynamic markings and hairpins in your score, resulting in an overall natural volume balance.

I also created this expression map which I am attaching here. To use it, you simply need to select ‘import library.’ Soundpaint Epic Toms.doricolib.zip (1.5 KB)

Next connect your tom track to this expression map here under the Play tab:

You’re not done yet - now we have to set up Soundpaint to ensure it responds to CC1 for dynamics and volume. From what I’ve seen digging around in their patches, it seems the settings vary, but most of the dynamics and filter settings are tied to CC1 in the Matrix tab found on the right of the instrument -

However I have found to really get the effect of volume, you need to connect the master volume to CC1 as well - simply right click the Volume slider at the top and it says “add Midi CC automation” which will bring you a pop-up, then move your mod wheel on a midi controller and it should link up to CC1. Having done this you probably want to save this patch so you have this setting saved for the future.

Now velocity, immediate & gradual dynamics should affect all elements together as one. What is nice in the soundpaint matrix is the fact you can adjust each parameter’s response range - so with volume you probably don’t want to go all the way to its lowest amount, I would put it maybe about 1/3rd of the way, so it’s more natural that lower dynamics don’t fall into complete silence -

Screenshot 2024-03-21 at 3.35.11 PM

In addition, as needed you can adjust the overall range of dynamic response for CC1 within the expression map (1 to 127 in the screenshot I posted above).

Hope that helps!

P.S. Lastly please let me know if this happens to you as well, not sure if it’s a bug in Soundpaint, but sometimes when I move my controller to set CC1, it will then randomly set itself to CC21 - no idea why!

In the Epic Ensemble Majestic Percussion I bought, the tom toms, snare drums and timpani drums I believe are tuned, also other percussion instruments, but I agree, in some octaves they have a note or two that are not in the scale and sometimes the character of the sound changes as one goes up and down the scales. It seems tuning was to an extent a chance thing. I do remember in one of the SP videos, can’t remember which, there was something about one being able to tune them. Perhaps I misunderstood. I guess one would have to not use some notes, very few though, to make a melody. Unfortunately, I have not gotten to that stage because I have not had the time lately, and because I still can’t do what you have so kindly tried to explain to me. As you see from the expression map that I tried to create there is no Conditions box and though I’ve tried I can’t make it appear. I’ve looked at the “Using Expression Maps in Dorico” VIDEO, but no help there eider. I’ve downloaded your Sound Paint Epic Tom.doricolib and imported it in “Import Library” set Port 1 Ch 4. But still unfortunately your “Sound Paint Epic Tom” does not appear on the Ex.map: drop down list. I think all this is beyond me I’m afraid. Very frustrating.



I believe the only way I will manage this is if with a program you can share my screen privately.

I’ve managed to control the volume on this crazy SoundPaint Majestic Percussion drums, but the effects! specially the reverb is ridiculously intense and all over the place. Someone please tell me how I can get rid of it. I just want drums to sound normal, with normal reverb.

I don’t have the epic drums on Soundpaint, however…

Dorico adds reverb by default (see the inserts channel of the mixer, where you can switch it off, change it, remove it…)

Soundpaint includes its own reverb (under effects) which you may prefer to modify.

Having also tried the Soundpaint stuff, I have discovered they wash everything in tons of reverb and delay for some reason. The presets are very wet.

For my own purposes I have been taking their presets and removing reverb entirely, by turning it off in the effects tab on soundpaint. And then where it says ‘program’ I right-click and save as a new user preset, with the added suffix Dry.

Then it’s usually too dry, so I will add a reverb send in the Dorico mixer and send my channels there manually – so it sounds more natural and in the same room with other instruments in my project. This has been sounding sounds much better and more useable than their excessively wet presets.

To answer your other questions about the expression maps, I don’t know why it’s not appearing for you. I think the filename might be different from the name as it appears in the actual drop down list?

Regarding conditions, I’m not sure what you wish to do there, but as of now there’s not much you can really do with conditions in Dorico - basically only duration of notes, none of which will really have any meaning with percussion instruments. I am hoping in the future they will open up the conditions to introduce many other possible logical controls and arguments, beyond just note duration.

Hope that helps.

Great, thanks, just what I needed to read! Totally agree, ridiculously wet, apparently because of how they were recorded, so I’ve just eliminated them all from my score, but after reading this you’ve just written, I will try your method of getting a dry sound.
I did finally manage to follow your instructions; would you believe part of the problem was simply that I had not unzipped the file?
I have found this plugin that I hope will be very useful in creating drums of different timbers, tuned to every note in the keyboard, which I believe is what we are both after. The problem for me is that it works with DAW, s not with DORICO, but perhaps it is worth learning REAPER to be able to take advantage of it. Very interested in your opinion on this plugin.
djswivel.com/producst/knocktonal KNOCKTONAL
in YouTube there is a video about this titled "Is this Plugin The Best Drum Tuner Ever?

Perhaps this is not the best software to use, but it must be possible to, by modifying a good drum sample, create the sound, the timber, of that drum in, all notes and so creating a tuned virtual instrument usable in DORICO. Probably, I imagine, one would need extra steps to make all the samples respond to the correct stave lines in DORICO.

Perhaps to complicated?

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In Reaper and all DAW’s, as I’m sure you know, since your technical knowledge far excedes mine, there is also Musical Instrument Multisampling, which is a way of creating playable instruments, using a different sample every few notes to keep them sounding real. Perhaps with Noktonal one can produce from one original drum sample, the necessary higher and lower, adequate, real sounding samples?
Perhaps, I would not be surprised, there is in REAPAR and other DAW’s tools that can do what Noktonal does.