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

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.

It’s still absolutely our goal that you should ultimately be able to produce a great-sounding mock-up in Dorico without needing to send the project to Cubase. But the two programs are starting in very different places, with Dorico having the added requirement that the notation must make sense, whereas in Cubase no such requirement exists, and if you want to have every single note being played back by a different plug-in assigned to a different track, you can do it. Notation software necessitates additional layers of abstraction between the music notation and the resulting MIDI, which I think is always going to be perceived by some users as awkwardness or lack of flexibility. But there is a lot more we can do to develop the software in this area, which we will do, but it cannot and will not come at the expense of balancing the development of features that address other use cases. Playback is just one facet of Dorico’s feature set. We cannot do everything at once. But you can expect every version of Dorico to take significant steps forward in the area of both automatic playback and providing more tools for you to shape playback as you wish – just as you can expect it also to include features to improve workflow, make the notation more beautiful, and make it more efficient to produce publication-quality graphical output.

Most sample libraries have ‘round robins’ for getting over the ‘machine-gun’ problem of re-sounding the same sample. Is this what you mean or something else?

Thanks Daniel, that’s the answer I was hoping to hear.
I understand that Dorico is first of all a notation program and that not everything can be deliverrd at once.
Playback is just one of Dorico’s feature set, you say , but it seems to me a popular one if you look at the views.
I also belief it’s one of the features where you’ll outperform the competition.

I’m just re-visiting a Suite for Wind Band that I wrote in 2006. I penned it in Sibelius 5 and have never heard a live performance. I downloaded ‘Note Performer’ demo a few days ago and apart from a few things I’ll have to tidy up (mainly percussion parts) Note Performer is doing a pretty good job of interpreting the Dorico score I did sometime when Dorico Version 1 first appeared. I think the crux to the question ‘Note Performer or sample libraries’ ultimately depends on what you’re working towards. If it’s a pitching job for a film or TV ad, I’ve found that directors and producers are people with limited musical imaginations where soundtracks are involved. It only needs the instrumentation to be off, and they won’t be able to hear the great melody you’ve assigned to the heroine and hear the canonic treatment of it just as she saves the day. They might just hear a naff synth sound. You might have been better leaving the idea just as a piano track and telling them it will be scored for orchestra. If you get the gig, depending on the ‘readies’, you might be able to employ an assistant to do the orchestral mock-ups, before recording it with live players. I think we’re some way off being able to reproduce even 50% of what’s doable in a DAW, simply because mixing and placing of instruments in a sound-field is as much a part of the whole thing as the notes and the genre.