Iconica no polyphonic legato, why?

Hello all.

I just had the experience in Iconica Section & Players that strings (Violins I,II Standard, Violins I,II etc) only play single notes when using Legato. With Sustain it works. But I need legato, because Iconic Section has no legato for strings. For whatever reason.
Another post here says, yes, it is logical, it has to be like that. You can find it here,

Iconica - NO Legatos work (SOLVED) - #8 by David_W.

So I did a search on the subject and found a 50/50 split. Some agree, but also on a forum someone from Vienna says.
“All our instruments that contain legato can do this, whether it’s the Vienna Instruments PRO Player or the newer Synchron Player - just don’t forget to enable poly-legato”.

But I found out how to do it, and indeed you can enable Legato Poly Mode in the Synchron Player.
I then checked Halion Symphonic Orchestra, which also has polyphonic legato. For example, “Violas Legato 12-24 Players”.

So the question is, why not in Iconic?

Thanks in advance

I don’t don’t know the why of it, but I’ve observed that it’s something that some libraries are designed with, and others not. For example, The Kontakt orchestral libraries have monophonic legatos.

Hi Steve,

ok, but the decision should be. If I offer a professional sound package with the title “Orchestrated for Masterpieces”, then there is only one criterion: optimal reproducibility of orchestral music. And I am not aware that strings cannot play legato in several voices.

The term “Legato” in DAWs is not really an exact synonym for the musical term legato

The question is whether the composer can achieve the result they need.

Even if that were the case, that’s not the point. Legato is delivered. It’s about “polyphonic” legato. There is a reason why orchestral libraries come with a variety of articulations. This is not about legato. Again, it’s about polyphonic legato. And no, the composer cannot get the result he wants if he wants polyphonic legato because the library does not support it.
This might be one reason. From the Steinberg help page, document articulations.
“The numbers of players given are for a large orchestra - in some cases there may be fewer or even more players, but these numbers are a general reference”.
Ok, string I means a whole section with a number of strings is recorded. Polyphonic would double that number. Makes sense.
But now comes the big but.

  1. The complete Iconica Opus has only 4 solo instruments. Trumpet, trombone and French horn. But guess what, these cannot be played polyphonically either.
  2. I already wrote it. Halion Symphonic Orchestra provides polyphonic legatas, also for multiple instruments, such as “Violins II Legato 16-32 Players”.

It is a pity that I have to look for workarounds, or use libraries that are even supplied virtually free of charge for this reason. The Vienna comes with VEP.
For me this is a conceptual mistake by Iconica. Sure, for €999 I can’t expect a jack-of-all-trades and make compromises, but I am a little disappointed.

Polyphonic Legato isn’t really a universal norm. Does it exist in the other orchestral libraries you use aside from Halion Sym. Orchestra?

As an example have a look at how Spitfire Audio makes “polyphonic” legato available: https://spitfireaudio.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360016804678-Spitfire-Legato-Patches-What-is-Polyphonic-Legato-

They do a workaround using a variable, in this case velocity, that allows their system to do it.

Hi Steve, yes one, as I wrote in my first post. See also the screenshot.

Perhaps polyphonic legato is actually quite unusual. I would have to ask someone more familiar with classical music. But then I’m surprised that Vienna offers it. They should know.
And thanks for the spitfire audio link. Interesting approach.

I haven’t looked at Iconica yet, but it might be that ‘legato’ is achieved by applying a pedal (CC68, and perhaps even some implementation of the portamento pedal (CC65).

Just because a library calls something ‘legato’, it doesn’t mean that’s really what it is or sounds like in real world translation. In the case of HSO, it simply means the attack phase at the beginning of the sample is really smooth and steady.

For ‘ensemble/tutti section’ sounds in HSO, ‘legato’ is often the ‘only’ sustained articulation for the bowed instruments. If you want sustained passages to get more ‘bite/attack’ then you’d layer in some other stuff on the same channel. Maybe a spiccato or staccato at a much lower relative volume.

Various libraries out there have different ideas on what legato means, and how best to implement it. The various instruments also require different techniques to make it happen. It can get complicated fast…so a few libraries have some ‘scripted options’ (like the legato run in some Hollywood Opus instruments) that might or might not work so well for a given passage (and most certainly might not work well for a polytonal passage such as a violin solo with a lot of double stops). Only way to know is to give it a try.

The ‘expectations’ and technical requirements of achieving legato from an ensemble/section of instruments can be quite different than it is for a solo instrument. Library designers try different things and give us users different options, but in my experience to date, none of them are going to work well in ‘every passage or situation’. So they give us ‘options’ to ‘try’.

Some instruments are truly monotonal. In the real world, you can only play one note at a time. Others, like bowed and plucked strings, you can double stop and get more than one note at a time.

For some libraries achieving ‘legato’ is a ‘pedal’ effect that causes the attack and release phases of the sound to change.

I.E. to simulate changing finger positions with the left hand on a violin, yet the bow movement remains steadily in motion in the right hand. I.E. to change the tongue for a brass instrument from a hard Ta, to a soft Da or La, or not to tongue at all.

As long as it involves one note at a time (mono), then it’s pretty simple to invoke a nice legato using one of the three mainstream methods.

  1. Use CC68 to trigger a change for the attack phase of a note, perhaps start the sample playing at a later point in time, and as long as the pedal is held, also extend the note-off sustain for several milliseconds.

  2. Use a keyswitch that effectively does the same thing as the pedal method does above, maybe with some scripts to cycle through a round robin collection of sample layers.

  3. Do nothing…and have the composer use the regular sustain samples, but the composer simply overlaps the note-on and note-off positions in the sequence until things sound more ‘legato’ (through crossfading). This technique is pretty good until you get passages where the same note repeats in succession (composers have been known to use a second MIDI channel for making general MIDI legato passages that need to repeat the same note often, and will alternate between the channels while overlapping the end of a former note with the start of the present note).

Furthermore, many instruments also involve some portamento when it comes to ‘legato’.

I.E. to do a fast legato passage on a ‘real’ violin, it’s nearly impossible not to have ‘any’ audible portamento throughout an entire passage (one would need to make every subsequent note in the passage come from a different string to achieve it…and then again, that technique still has its own unique sound that no sample library I know of attempts to duplicate at this time [a complete chromatic set of samples for every string that the user can pick on demand]).

Most libraries are still not using enhanced abilities of Note Expression or MPE, but instead use traditional MIDI and CC events to ‘play’ the instrument. I.E. CC11 can control expression volume, but it will be applied to ALL NOTES sounding on the same channel at the same time. If a legato (CC68), portamento (CC65), or sustain (CC68)pedal is applied, it goes for ALL notes sounding on the channel at the same time. For this reason, many solo instruments go into a true mono mode where it’s not possible to play more than one note at a time. If you play a second key while a first one is already down, you get a ‘smooth’ note change, and for many instruments some portamento is automatically applied.

All this means it’s pretty difficult to implement a ‘polytonal’ legato for a given instrument, over a single channel that wouldn’t drive CPU usage considerably higher, and perhaps also require some kind of ‘pre roll’ action to see a bar or so ahead into the music to do some kind of ‘analysis’ and make choices.

Now, some libraries might offer access to a lot of different sample layers where the attack and release phases are altered in order to better simulate playing legato for specific instruments or families of instruments, and they might also allow playing more than one note at a time on a channel; however, unless the instrument is using a more advanced sequencer with note expression or something similar, there’s no way to get portamento and crossfading effects working properly if the instrument is in a ‘polytonal’ mode.

So, even if a library shows you something named ‘legato’, it’s probably not TRUE legato (portamento and potential scripted crossfading effects invoked) unless the track is in a ‘mono’ mode.

In the case of HSO, it applies to ‘tutti or ensemble’ programs/patches. It just means you get a ‘string section sustain’ with a very ‘subtle’ attack phase to the sample. In HSO, if you want sustains with more punch/bite, then you’ll have to ‘layer it up’ with an ensemble spiccato.

As for the ‘poly legato’ mode provided by some libraries…

Most likely all that is doing is disabling the portamento aspect of things, and changing the attack/release phases of the loaded instrument.

Again, I haven’t had a chance to take Iconica for a test drive, but I suspect it’s possible to make it do something similar. Especially if you have a full HALion at hand.


Hi Brian
Thank you very much for your very detailed explanations and tips on the implementation. Iconica offers the option of importing the expression maps from the instrument. This also works quite well. I will test your suggestion with cc68 and the others.
Your post has definitely answered the question that I had about the possibilities of legato.
I was just thinking of real strings. 2 or more players can play a melody legato in 2 or more parts without any problem. But as already mentioned, in a sample library different rules apply.