extensive sound library expression maps vs. just using Note Performer (opinions sought!)

I’m used to doing detailed mockups with an extensive sound library in Logic Pro for demos for clients, and (once approved), exporting MIDI into Dorico entirely for producing playable charts.

What I’m wondering is: are we at the point where it COULD be viable to do mock-ups right in Dorico with those same libraries via expression maps, etc.? Specifically: is there an easy way of using my extensive library within Dorico that will provide the sort of finessed expression I can produce in Logic?

I ask because if I’m understanding correctly, creating Expression Maps in Dorico will certainly allow the more expressive libraries to default to using the most appropriate articulations, and I’m also presuming that by default Dorico will apply dynamics according to certain built-in rules depending upon which articulations and dynamic markings are in the score. However, is there really a way even with all of this to “automate” the expressive playback of static samples (even ones well-programmed via Dorico Expression Maps), in the same way that NotePerformer applies seemingly some sort of “A.I.” to automatically shape phrases in idiomatic ways?

Barring this, is Dorico yet setup to allow me to easily bypass the automated dynamic interpretation it applies, and for me to instead create things like my own CC11 Expression or CC1 Modulation MIDI data myself (similarly to how I do it in Logic: by recording via realtime MIDI playback/manipulating the appropriate MIDI controllers for CC11 and CC1, etc., then editing/tweaking after the fact?)

I ask because while I know it’s possible to edit CC11 and CC1, etc. in Play Mode in Dorico, I know others have talked about the conflict between this data and the automatic “Dynamics” data Dorico defaults to using. And (ultimately): is the end result worth the enormous amount of time it appears it will take to set up Expression Maps for my specific libraries and edit things, etc., vs. simply using NotePerformer?

Thanks for any thoughts (and apologies that I’m such a newbie at this particular aspect of using Dorico!)

  • D.D.

You certainly should be able to do much more than before in Dorico 3.5, though only you can be the judge of whether it’s enough for your own needs. One of the new additions to Expression Maps is that they can switch between short and long samples automatically, based on the note length and tempo. This addition alone opens up the range of articulations that can automatically be accessed. There isn’t yet the ability to have switches conditional on dynamics (so you can automatically drive pp vs ff variants of an articulation), but we hope to extend the Expression Map conditions in that direction in the future.

Another addition which I think is valuable for the workflow you describe is that you can see the basic dynamic profile in the Dynamic Automation lane, and that’s populated directly from the score. You can see p/f dynamics, as well as sfz and fp, and these also have editable envelopes. However, in 3.5 you can also see the actual CC values that will be output in the CC Dynamic Lane, so you can see the effect of the edits you make to the dynamic lane. You can draw or record CC automation over a region of the CC lane to override it just in that area but keep the automatic behaviour everywhere else.

The Dorico model is to try to represent and edit things at a higher musical level first (the Dynamic lane), whilst showing you what it maps to at a lower level and giving you the ability to override it (ie the CC1/11 lane).

Perhaps another relevant question is: do your clients find NotePerformer’s output good enough? If so, then I’d do everything in Dorico because it cuts out the need to use an actual DAW. Dorico 3.5 has CC editing, it’s true, but only one lane is visible in a play window at a time. Logic is more flexible in this regard.

Has anyone actually heard (or perhaps actually worked with) something played back from Dorico with any third party sounds? I’m definitely interested in this as an option but there isn’t much around in the way of demos. I’m pretty surprised there aren’t some demos from the team using a common arrangement of libraries - just to prove the point that its actually worth all the hassle to setup.

Here’s some drivel I quickly wrote to run through with CSS.


My first taste of playback in Dorico - I normally just work in the score editor with no playback, it’s great! I love it (just thought I should say that first up - I love Dorico). The play window is pretty annoying to work with coming from a more conventional DAW. Simple use case here and does sound ‘more lush’ than it would in NP I reckon. The whole experience is just a bit too full on and seems like the system couldn’t really be set up easily to accomodate more complex material. Even getting into the realms of using more ‘one shot’ artics like shorts seems really annoying to define the note lengths, and I must confess I don’t yet understand the relationship to general playing techniques… Can I trigger a staccato articulation without marking it in the score? It really feels like pick your tedium. I’d seriously love to hear some playback from someone who really knows how to set it up because right now the whole experience leaves me feeling kind of depressed and overwhelmed.

Fhrw: nice! I’d be curious to know how much of the piece you shared was performed via Dorico automatically interpreting your dynamics/playing back proper articulations, etc. via Expression Maps (etc) or whether you also did some Play Mode editing (to the “Dynamics” lane or CC data or…?) Still trying to figure out if there’s a viable workflow and whether it’s worth it over just sticking to Logic for mock-ups, and then using Note Performer to check the score when in Dorico (as I’ve been doing up to this point). Also: I should probably know but what is “CSS”?

Thanks for sharing -

  • D.D.

Hi Rob,

I basically just put it in an played using the Legato articulation in CSS (Cinematic Studio Series). It’s a kind of contrived simple example so it kind of works but I can’t imagine doing anything large scale in it - the whole system just feels really cumbersome and ungainly for some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on. I guess we’ve built up so much muscle doing this in our DAW that it feels really intimidating having to start fresh somewhere else with a new system. I have hopes to get it set up so its more plug and play but am going need to do a lot more figuring out and amass the courage to do so.

The plus side - I actually didn’t need to do much (although the example is extremely forgiving). Just had to adjust some of the velocity on the starting notes (maybe I could alleviate this in EM) and also manually legatoise the lead line in the piano roll so that I could leave the score bowings marked how I would in reality. That would get old pretty fast too. I love the idea of this working but I for one would love some more documentation and real world examples of this being used because I’ve got a lot of methodology from working in a DAW that seems pretty hard to replicate.

Noteperformer for me has obviously got a fairly unpleasant sound but in my experience, the balance is strikingly close to a real orchestra most of the time. God forbid you want to play back something other than an orchestra - in that case its best (and maybe this is true all the time) to look inward to your mind’s ear. Part of me feels that the allure of playback is like a poisoned chalice. On the other hand I regularly have to deliver samples as a finished product and if I could notate a score and get a pretty good playout I’d be a happy customer: and I’d probably notate more music rather than just writing a wall of crap straight into logic to underscore a scene.

Just about everyone who has heard my output from NotePerformer is impressed. The reason is the clarity and inner balance which does indeed bear a reasonably close resemblance to a real orchestra even if the actual instrument quality is still a bit on the crude side which makes it a dubious choice for chamber and instrumental music.

The obvious Holy Grail might be for something that uses Note Performer-like automatic interpretation but with larger and fuller sample libraries. Right now it feels like working with my existing samples in Dorico to achieve DAW-like mockup results might take just too must programming time and muscle vs. just doing it in a DAW for realism and the using Dorico with Note Performer to check things (as I typically have been doing).

I did use Note Performer/Dorico as my actual mockup demos for one orchestral project but otherwise have been sticking to Logic when I need to please a client. I would LOVE, though, if more people might be willing to share how they’ve used more extensive sample libraries and Expression Maps (combined with any Dynamics or cc tweaking in Play Mode) to produce DAW-level Dorico demos and - if so - what their process was and whether they thought it was worth the investment of time to setup and implement.

  • D.D.

I’ve moved to Dorico+Noteperformer for some projects that previously required Logic or DP mock ups using EWQLSO. The approach I take is to switch out the bits that don’t sound right to EW. The switch outs take work but it saves time on the whole.

Thanks. Anybody doing full-on DAW-like mockups using larger sound libraries, completely with Dorico? What is your process? How are you fairing?

  • D.D.

Every music sample I’ve heard from Noteperformer makes me think it needs heavier samples, more Mbs per sample to give it more realism.

I don’t think that would keep the cost down though. And it certainly would cost more CpU and memory, but that’s not so much of a problem anymore.

Speaking of auto-interpretation, Spitfire’s libraries ship with some nice scripting embedded in them for making playback more realistic. I’ve been so pleased with them that I use their samples almost exclusively, now, and combined with Dorico’s superb playback capabilities (especially since version 3.0), I’ve gotten to a point where I’m really happy with what I can do in Dorico alone, with almost no tweaking, now that I’ve gotten my Kontakt multis and expression maps just about where I want them (after much toil).

Here’s an example of something that I composed recently, played back in Dorico. That’s almost entirely with expression maps, with very little tweaking in Dorico’s Play tab. As Dr. Walmsley mentioned, one has to be the judge of whether what can be done in Dorico is good enough; for my purposes, it certainly is.

Here’s playback by Dorico:

Here’s the original track in the DAW with the same libraries and live soprano.

For the moment there’s no fine grained option in Dorico to adjust playback as easy as you could do in Cubase or alike. What I mean is, if you want to change the playback sample of a single note it will take you considerably more time.

I know both. For me this is practically at least as fast and precise in Dorico as in Cubase, but in my opinion it is much clearer in Dorico 3.5 than in Cubase.

What would be a fast why to change a repeating staccato note with another staccato sample to avoid the machine gun effect?
The new condition rule will trigger always the same staccato sample. The only way I see is to create a custom playback technique and assign it to this note.
I would like a faster, easier way to do this, so this is way I’m a bit disappointed with the new expression maps evolution.
For sure the rule conditions and dynamic lane will result in better defaults, but fine tuning is still much work. I expext this to be easier in Cubase?

For example, the Libary can support this with automation (layers).

For me the question boils down to:
Do they have plans to make Dorico playback as flexible and powerful as any other programs (Cubase inclusive)?

That’s what I was hoping for when I switched to Dorico because it was looking promising.
Now I start to feel a bit different because of the Cubase integration plans.
I understand that selling 2 programs could also be a plan.