Condensing and playback

Maybe this is a dumb question, but what the heck: What, if anything, do Dorico’s score condensing capabilities mean for playback, going forward?

I mean, it’s fine for Dorico to play identical notation on two solo trombone sounds, for example, but what if I’d rather use an a2 sound when the 'bones are playing the same stuff? It would be cool if Dorico were smart enough to make the switch from solo to a2, right?

Or does Dorico already do this in some capacity, and I just need to set it up?

If they’re playing the same stuff, why would you put them on different staves and condensed them after and not on a solo staff playing an a2 sound?

To avoid having another staff to manage, just for playback purposes.

Since Dorico can now calculate when instruments can be combined into a single staff, I’d prefer simply to notate all of my woodwinds and brass as solo players.

Condensing doesn’t have any impact on playback as things stand, and the reason for that is that the music for the individual instruments is still there, still played back in exactly the same way as if condensing wasn’t switched on: if you switch to Play mode you’ll still see, say, your two bassoons routed to two separate channels just as they would be if condensing weren’t switched on.

So there’s no specific support for things like a 2 because you always have two channels in playback anyway.

The area where we would definitely like to build some additional smarts is in the handling of divisi strings, since that’s kind of the reverse case: you start with a single channel, and might then want to be able to produce different combinations dynamically, including different group sizes and even soloists.

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Sure, but if I’ve got a2/a3 samples, then I might want to avail myself of them; a sample of multiple instruments playing in unison is likely to sound more realistic than multiple solo samples playing simultaneously, and it would require fewer resources of my computer, as a bonus. In any given library, there might even be sounds that are available only as multiple-instrument samples.

I just figured it might be nice to take advantage of Dorico’s condensing capabilities by scoring all of my wind and brass parts on solo staves. Support for a2/a3 samples under this approach in playback is just a thought, really; it’s not something that I would consider so much as a medium priority item. I was just wondering how anyone else felt about it.

I’m not sure there’s necessary a direct correlation between condensing and the use of these kinds of samples, though? Presumably even if the score weren’t condensed, if the bassoons happened to find themselves playing in unison you might want to avail yourself of those samples? Dorico could certainly identify passages where like instruments are playing in unison, but it might be tricky to get it to then e.g. switch to a different endpoint for that passage and mute one or both of the existing solo instruments. It’s not impossible, of course, given sufficient time and will.

I appreciate your indulging me on this topic, @dspreadbury. I know it’s kind of… out there.

In that scenario, there would be no visual component associated with the playback of unison samples. That’s the only difference that I can see, but I think it’s a significant one, since playback in a notation application is mostly about the aural interpretation of the written. (Or have I got that wrong? I admit that I may.)

I suppose that what I’m suggesting is that score condensing is the kind of powerful and eminently useful feature that tends to create new expectations of an application. I suspect that this issue, or something like it, will come up in the future, as Dorico’s condensing of scores works its way into everyday usage by more composers.

I think @MiloDC could achieve the effect he wants using independent voice playback. If two trombones are playing a particular section in unison, the notes in that section of the first trombone staff could be changed to a different voice routed to the a2 samples and the notes in that section of the second trombone staff could have playback suppressed.

I could do that, yeah. I just thought it would be super cool if Dorico’s condensing algorithms could be reflected in playback, as well; after all, what you’re talking about is just the kind of mundane playback-associated work at which Dorico excels.

I was thinking the same thing, but it is admittedly more work-intensive than having Dorico do it automatically, if that were practical consdiering the extra programming involved. Still, since I have the impression @MiloDC is or has been accustomed to working with DAW’s, he might find the extra effort worthwhile in the end result until Dorico does decide to implement such a system automatically.

(Ah, I see Milo got there ahead of me.)

I’m still trying to decide what I want to do. Score condensing is an awesome wrench that has suddenly threatened to make my whole workflow less efficient than it could be. (I’m looking at my a2/a3 wind and brass staves, and I’m like, what do I need you guys for, really?)

Honestly, I figured I might be spending a fair amount of what little social capital I have just broaching this subject. I’m just glad no one has told me that it’s a ridiculous idea (yet), and that I should sod off.

You could achieve what you want with different playback per voice like -I cannot see his name on my phone- mentioned or with playing technique assigned to different channels and propre mapping, but I really cannot see how Dorico could do that automatically since it completely depends on the vsts of the users. Could be done for Halion though.

In its current (3.5) state, yeah, it’s not doable. Dorico doesn’t support automated switching of voices (meaning instruments, generally), only of playing techniques.

Implementing the switches manually isn’t all that complicated – it boils down simply to changing voices, after all. I suppose the simplest way to go about it would be three separate voices for all of the staves of an instrument: solo, unison, and null / nothing (i.e. mapping to no sound, which would be more intuitive than suppressing playback). It will just be a pain to have to manage the voice changes by hand. Probably worth the extra work, though.

I feel like I should know for certain, but I don’t guess there’s a way fully to link the contents of staves, right? I mean, if multiple staves are meant to play the same thing, then I should only have to edit one of them to see the change on the others. Some kind of staff mirroring like that?

It would be way more efficient to create playing techniques a1, a2… and link them to your sounds via channel change then to fool around with multiple voices. But it always depends on the way your vsts work. What I don’t get is why on earth your writing on 2 or 3 staves if all the instruments play the same??? The only reason I could see would be to do exactly the opposite of what you’re aiming for, i.e, using individual samples for each instrument instead of the an a2 or a3 patch.

It isn’t as simple as creating playing techniques, because multiple staves would have to be affected. Specifically, along with a sample change on one staff, one or more additional staves would need to be silenced. There is no provision in Dorico for altering playback on a staff from some other staff.

Because I want the consolidation and splitting of staves to be automated entirely. If I write for multiple instruments on a single staff, than I am manually condensing notation. I want Dorico to do that for me.

For example, say I have three trumpets playing the same notes. In the full score, they condense down to a single staff, with “a3” notation applied to them automatically. Later, I decide I want one of the trumpets to do something different for a few bars; all I have to do is alter the notation on the one staff, and I’m done. I don’t have to manage multiple voices on a single staff, I don’t have to notate how many instruments are playing (“a3” or “1.” or “2. & 3.” etc. – Dorico handles all of that), I obviate the messy scenario of solo staves and a unison staff, I’m not required to split and rejoin the staff manually when the notation gets crazy, etc.

Ideally, I wouldn’t even have to bother with manual voice changes, but because Dorico isn’t smart enough to work out the playback, I’d still have to set one or two of the staves to different voices (one at solo, and one at a2 if that sample is available). That would take minimal effort, though.

To illustrate my point further, open this file:

trumpets_a3.dorico (2.3 MB)

Say I lay down some notation of three trumpets doing exactly the same thing for thirty-two bars. Then, a week later, I decide that I want to do some Steve Reich thing, and I spend the next couple of days messing around with the music, having the first trumpet do its own thing at the fifth bar, and then later having the second trumpet do something else starting at bar nine, and so on.

As I’m messing around in this way and figuring out where I want to go with the music (galley view), why would I want a unison staff at all? I’m totally fine with how the condensed score (page view) looks at any given time; Dorico puts everything on a single staff at first, then generates additional staves, or reduces the number of staves, as the complexity of the notation warrants.

That’s the approach that I prefer to take as I compose. Just concentrate on what the individual players are doing, and let Dorico worry about combining them where appropriate. It would be even sweeter if Dorico intelligently switched the playback to a# and solo sounds accordingly, though for now, this can be achieved most intuitively by changing voices manually (as I’ve written).

I cannot upload your file now., I’m not in my studio.
I think I understand what you aim for, but in a way I think you’re mixing up notation and playback.
For notation, I perfectly agree that it would be quite cool if Dorico worked the other way around : expanding as needed instead of condensing where possible. I imagine sorting out the proper parts could be a bit tricky but I’m sure it wouldn’t be a big deal for Dorico’s team. I just shipped a piece where all string are in divisi per instrument so I can feel your pain (and it didn’t hurt as much as my ears did when the chef called me upon receiving the score :slight_smile: ).

But for playback, there’s absolutely no way Dorico or any other notation software can guess what sounds you have in your computer unless you’re using the factory sounds. So if I take the piece I’ve mentioned, Dorico would have to find an 18 1st violin patch, then 2x 9 violins patch for a normal div, 3x 6 violins patch for div 3… and 18 solo violins for full divisi! Even if I had all these in my system, I would have to tell it where to find them and how the use them. Unless they implant a system that would automatically recognize every vst on the market. This probably can be done but we’re talking Microsoft’s budget here, not Dorico’s. Windows 10 can even not fully recognized my Hp printer…
Anyway, if your main concern is to trigger a solo patch or an a3 patch where needed, I still believe the most efficient way would be to work on a single staff and switching sound through playing techniques without voices assigned to different patches. You could add extra staves for divisi where needed, but you cannot get proper parts out. If you work with a staff per instrument and want to print parts, I cannot see a work around that would allow you to switch to an a3 patch without copying the music in the three parts (copy to next staff is your friend there) and muting two of the staves.
This being said, it was a nice a chat but I have quite busy weeks coming up so I won’t be around much to comment.

Well, I’m thinking of woodwinds and brass. Strings are an altogether different animal; normally, you don’t even see divisi string samples in sound libraries. That group of instruments would require a different approach, I think; I certainly wouldn’t lay down one staff for every violin, viola, cello, and double bass in the orchestra.