Legato playback on natural switch : note length issues?

In the library I use (Spiftire - SSO), I prefer to use Legato patches (rather than Long) as Natural switch. So both slurred and natural notes would get the legato playback.

Therefore, in the expression map I set the Natural switch to trigger Legato patch. In addition to that, I set its length to 105% ( this note overlap being important to trigger correct legato playback).

However, Legato switch has an important behavior : while all notes inside a slur have a 105% length, the last one does not. This is really important because if the last note was set to 105%, it would sometimes prevent next articulation from playing-back !

How can I set my Natural switch so that last note in a natural group has 95% length, as in the Legato switch ?

Perheaps there are more straightforward ways to achieve this.

Meanwhile, the following workarounds are too cumbersome to be used :

  • Use slur whenever I want legato playback. Not usable because score would be filled with slurs.
  • Reduce manually last note of natural groups to 95%. Too cumbersome.

Anyone confronted to the same problem (@MiloDC) ? How did you solve this ?

Thanks !

You could create a custom Playing Technique called legato (or whatever you wished) and assign it to the legato Playback Technique in your expression map and then hide the markings in your score.

You should then be able to extend the legato over all notes but the last and let that revert to a Natural technique which is not assigned to legato.

Admittedly it’s a bit of extra work, but if one wants to really fine-tune the sound, one can probably expect that to be the case. (The Dorico mind-reading feature that customizes their AI response to what each user wishes is understandably still a ways in the future.)

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Thanks for your reply @Derrek.

Everything is nearly working as expected (legato playback for both slurred and natural notes), it’s just that I would like last note of natural group to behave as if it was slurred (that is, go back to default 95% length instead of 105%). If this last note stays at 105%, it sometimes “eats” the next articulation and prevent it from starting !

I can’t use a custom hidden “legato” technique and exclude the last note from the legato technique, otherwise the transition between the penultimate and last note won’t playback properly as legato.

Plus it is really useful to assign legato playback to Natural technique because there’s nothing to do : natural just plays as legato !

Of course I could slur everything since I want legato as main articulation, or reduce manually last note of natural groups to 95%, but there must be a better way ?

Sorry, @Tarknin, I don’t have this problem, because I always notate my legatos using slurs. Dorico and Spitfire do the rest.

You mean, you want the exact same behavior that Dorico executes for slurred notes, right? You want the next-to-last note to play at 105%, but you want the last note to play at the natural duration (< 100%).

@Derrek’s suggestion makes sense to me. Define a custom technique, which your score would need for the players, anyway (otherwise, they’d play the notes in the natural/ordinary fashion). I definitely wouldn’t modify the Natural expression technique.

This is odd because for example when I look at your “Spitfire Violin I, Ensemble” expression map (see screenshot), it seems your “Natural” switch triggers perf. legato patch of your “Strings_A multi” (by relative channel change action), doesn’t it ?

Exactly ! For natural articulations, 90% of the time I prefer a legato playback. When this is not the case, I’ve created a custom hidden “long” articulation.

This is a good idea, unfortunately this technique doesn’t allow last note to have a length of 95%, as usual slur does. If the last note stays at 105%, it sometimes “eats” the next articulation. I hope this is not confusing ?

the BBC SO works in a similar way and I’ve found after a considerable experimentation the same – i.e. a legato patch should be used for natural. I set the length at around 100-102 which usually seems OK and the slight overhang at the end of a group is seldom problematical. If it is, I simply shorten it.

In other words I can’t right now think of a nice shortcut to doing this. I’m used to fine-tuning the lengths of notes as big differences in playback can occur with small differences in note length. For me it’s all just part of the workflow with this software but am also interested to hear from anyone who can come up with a smarter way of working.

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Thanks @dko22 !

I just finished some experiments and came to nearly same conclusion as you. I noticed that for winds and brass, the last note having a length of 105% is not a problem (I have not reproduced yet issues where the last note prevents next articulation from playing). But I found several occurrences of this problem with strings. So I just reduced “Natural” switch’s length to 100% : legato is still triggered*, and no more issues with triggering next articulation !

*This is an odd behavior : I thought note overlap was required to trigger legato, but this is apparently not the case for strings. However, for winds and brass, a value stricly superior to 100% seems necessary to trigger the legato ( 100% length was not enough for a consistent legato, from experiment I’ve made).

So no problems anymore yet.

I really think Dorico should allow to prevent the slight overhang at the end of a group of notes, as with slurred notes. This would prevent issues described here and tweaking involved after. Perheaps I should create a feature request for this.

Yes, but Spitfire’s “Performance Legato” set is poorly named. It does a lot more than just play legato, it interprets incoming MIDI and alters its playback intelligently.

For example, in this passage from a score of mine, there are no keyswitches, program changes, or channel changes. This is “Performance Legato” playback only:

For my workflow, you see, “Natural” doesn’t really mean “play this dryly.” It’s much more like ,“Hey Spitfire, just play this however you think it would normally be played.”

Oh ok, I understand better !

There’s more information here.

As you can see, Spitfire’s performance scripts take into account things like when a note begins, its duration, the pitch of the note, the current dynamic level, the amount of vibrato (CC21) assigned to the channel, and how these values relate to adjacent notes.

Thanks, I already read this very interesting document, but I never thought of relying almost exclusively on “performance legato” for interpretation. I “only” use it for legatos, runs, portamento, but never for shorts or even simple longs, tenutos and so on…

I have to think about this and do some experiments !

Yeah, as I wrote earlier, my approach is to let Spitfire do its thing with the performance patches, and go to individual techniques in custom banks only when the performance scripts aren’t sufficient.

My mistake, early on, was overly engineering my expression maps, which I had to do before I discovered the Spitfire libraries.

I may very probably end up doing the same !

@Tarknin I should say that at the moment, I don’t use use generally legato as the default for woodwind because the actual “long” sound is OK for when you don’t actually specifically want a legato. The biggest reason for needing to get rid of it with strings is simply that their long patch is simply so inflexible and often sounds wrong. It is better to invoke it manually with a custom p.t for polyphony or certain rare occasions where it is actually the correct sound as you do. Brass is quite complex and I’m still experimenting. Again I use the BBC SO so there may be some differences with SSO though the basic programming ideas seem similar.

@MiloDC important point on Spitfire “legato” interpreting incoming MIDI and altering playback intelligently, including taking account of exact note length and starting point. This is one of the joys of Spitfire – it can phrase completely naturally and dynamically without you doing anything. The problems when they exists tend to lie with the first and last notes of phrases. Repeated notes also often have to be manually separated (at least with the BBC SO) with the degree of separation sometimes making for big differences in playback.

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Might I ask a beginner’s question related to this topic? I’m trying to set up Spitfire Studio Brass (well, one patch of it actually - Horns a4), and I think I’m almost done. The playback responds to dynamics, and to articulations - but I can’t get it to return to ‘normal’ playing after an articulated note - it just keeps the articulation even though the note itself isn’t marked with one. Here’s a video of a short test:

All the articulations and dynamics are observed in bar 262, but in b. 263. although the dynamics are respected, the articulation playback remains marcato (including the shortening of the duration).
As you can see, the info on the last note of 262 is:

Base switch- natural
Internal effects - marcato
Active techniques - marcato
Expression map - default

The first note of b.263 info is:

Base switch - natural
Active techniques - natural
Expression map - default

Looking at an expression map earlier in the thread, I can see a ‘Natural’ switch, but I haven’t got one on this patch:
Expression map 2

Is that the reason playback doesn’t return to ‘normal’ after an articulation, or are there other settings I need to make?

All maps should have a Natural switch. This is what Dorico uses in the absence of any other articulation.