I understood that NP offered more expressive performance than static samples. For some reason, I can’t really hear this.
I do hear Dorico responding to dynamics and articulation marks, but, in this respect, I don’t hear differences with NP, VSL, or Halion (although the instrument sounds are clearly different).
They say it’s possible to use NP to control and add expressiveness to other VSTs (like VSL). If that will actually make a significant difference, I will study this forum and Wallander’s help to see how to set it up.
I know very serious and recognized composers who swear by NP for scoring and mock-ups–that’s how I learned about it–but I am just not hearing the benefit.
The Wallander demos sound really good, but I can create pretty impressive mockups in my DAW. When I A/B my own scores I don’t hear it,
A little snippet of a score that demonstrated an A/B comparison of NP v. another VST might be instructive. (I asked Wallender for one of their scores. They were extremely nice but declined for legal reasons.)
I think the differences are really obvious in the automatic balance of the instruments of the orchestra, and the consistency of the musical phrases, no matter what articulations are triggered. So look for some string works with runs, and some pizz, legato, spiccato passages, you should clearly hear when it’s samples put together or NP playing some music
@MarcLarcher , Thanks. Balance is a huge consideration. Samples are generally all at the same level out of the box (e.g., 0 db, -3 db)–even though a flute at ff has a radically different volume than a trombone at ff–so it takes considerable experience to create a realistic balance; and to your point, a ff pizz is not nearly as loud as a ff downbow.
If anyone can offer sample files, I’d really appreciate it.
My goal is to stop creating separate DAW mockups and scores.
NotePerformer plays beautifully.
It’s not perfect, obviously. I don’t think any single library is able to just play the music as notated, a score that you would give to musicians, and not come across a few minor issues.
For example, I have a “duet” section in my 2nd symphony that has two snare drums playing cross-rhythms to each other, one is with snares, while the other is without snares. The one with snares is a bit too loud, and a bit too easily drowns out the snareless drum, both being at a soft dynamic. I’d have to set different dynamics for the two instruments to get a good performance from my score, except with real musicians they would automatically balance the sound themselves.
So here and there, there will always be some minor issue.
But then, my recording with NP isn’t meant to be performed in front of an audience or committed to CD. It’s a demo, hopefully, as convincing as I can make it, in essence a “proof of concept” of my score.
I think it’s ease of setup and use. The user doesn’t have to spend a lot of time jumping through hoops to get some sounds playing. It installs everything you need to start using it, near instantly.
While composing, you can easily add/remove staves/players/instruments and they just ‘work’ for the most part.
It’s not going to interpret every score perfectly, but it’s quick and easy to rough it in without wrestling with the various plugins and mixers. You don’t have to worry about building custom expression maps and stuff to get at the basics.
NP provides a decent template to simply start using Dorico and getting decent instant results.
It’s possible to gradually build a lot of this kind of functionality on your own (templates that get reused as you go) but it does take time and studying to learn how to do it.
For a hard core mock-up…that’s a whole new thread. Personally I’d take it to a tracking DAW, prep it for atmos and whatnot (modern surround mixes) spread it all out over many tracks and instances (precision control over every phrase down to the individual audio sample) and build my ‘own’ playback interpretation, but again, that’s TIME and a whole different approach to ‘listening’, ‘mixing’ and ‘interpreting’ each phrase for each instrument or section.
Note Performer will never sound as good as what you can make out of your DAW (depending on your skill with a DAW, of course). The point of NP is to balance quality with convenience - for those with weak DAW skills, or at least those who just prefer to work in traditional notation.
Most notation editors, their focus being on the engraving, have pretty bad sample performance. Finale and Sibelius, out of the box, are pretty god awful. This is why Finale added Garritan to their set up, which was basically them paying a license fee to set up Finale with a “default” set of sounds that were better than what they produced, because they’re not experienced in the sample making industry.
Dorico does better with this by default because they’re coming from Steinberg, which already has extensive experience in the DAW and sample library realm to pull from for their base sounds.
NP is competing against the sound quality from Sibelius, Finale, MuseScore, etc, and NOT competing against DAW productions made with VSL, Spitfire, Orchestral Tools, etc.
If you’re not very good with the tech in a DAW, then NP will likely produce better sounding results than you would with a DAW, because it doesn’t require all of that DAW skill. If you ARE good with a DAW, and have decent libraries you know how to use well, then NP will not sound as good as that.
I’ve had several clients over the years who hired me to do their mockups, and I basically talked them out of continuing to hire me (or reduce my contribution) by showing them NP when it became clear that the quality it produced was good enough for them, it was vastly cheaper than me doing it, and it gave them more flexibility to make tweaks without having to do a whole revision process with a contractor (me).
I have VSL Synchron Special Editions I and II and Dimension Strings on my scoring computer (as well as the older Special Editions). I don’t believe NP4 works with these libraries (only Synchron Prime). BBCSO is highly recommended, but I have been married to VSL for many years.
I’d still like to figure out how to make NP sound better. Their demos sound good–for the most part–but my results have been very disappointing. A sample score would be nice.
I am working on a new piece in Dorico and will see how the NP version sounds.
Should I start with the mixer flat (all levels at default)? That would never happen in a DAW.
For someone who who wants to work with ‘orchestra sounds’ and who doesn’t know how to use a DAW? For someone who hasn’t spent years developing ‘mixing ears’? For someone who just wants to load one program and build a score to communicate and collaborate over?
NP may well yield far better results than such a user would get using a DAW for many months. Maybe even years.
For someone who isn’t really interested in getting intimate with plugins and libraries, expression maps, automation lanes, and more…products like NP are a godsend. Such people may NEVER get a better performance and mix on their own than NP can provide ‘right out of the box’.
If I have a student who wants to focus on high level composing for full orchestra, I’ll recommend they eventually get NP so they can focus on composing, and learning the ins and outs of engraving.
If I have a student who intends to direct and conduct actual orchestras, bands, choirs, etc…well, I don’t think they have much time to learn audio engineering as well. As ‘directors/conductors’, coordinating performers and specialized experts is big part of what they NEED to master anyway. If they can find, or develop players of 132 different instruments that they don’t really play themselves, they can also find and develop audio engineers to delegate to if and when they need it.
Furthermore, Libraries and workflows are changing for people who need to crank out a lot of ‘production quality’ content quickly. They learn shortcuts that can lead to useable scores in things like games, film, and video with minimal post editing. Compositions tend to be ‘simpler’ at the score level. The nature of acoustics in a fully artificial realm are a bit different from a real world orchestra (best voicings, what to double and why for balance, etc). So many things critical to making an arrangement work with a real orchestra or ensemble in a real room can actually ‘muddy up’ or even ‘ruin’ an artificial mix (though technology is improving for this stuff, it’s also quite ‘expensive’).
People who have to crank it out fast learn a lot of time saving tricks. They’ll often simply compose for the libraries they have as opposed to trying to find a library that can ‘perform the audio-vision in their head’. I.E. If they don’t have a suitable sound for a given passage they’d had in mind, they’ll simply change the arrangement to use a sound that they do have. They already have in mind, “I will deliver a product that is very close to being ready for the target medium exactly like it is.” For many situations, NP is perfect for this; although it can require a ‘different way of thinking’ (compose for the pallet of sounds you have, change the composition itself if it’s not working…the audience will never know if you’d started out wanting a string quartet with a violin solo, but instead went with a clarinet choir add oboe, or even a bunch of new-age synth sounds. They will never know you really wanted double stops on a single bowed instrument, but instead went with pairs of players who are not double stopping, and they won’t care that the score would look rather stupid to a ‘real orchestra’).
For someone who is pretty adept at working in a tracking DAW, the delta can be quite significant…in the hands of someone who knows how to use a DAW and has developed ‘mixing ears’. Thing is, it’s not for everyone to even try, and you don’t learn it overnight. Until you’ve practiced a great deal and have a personal system and workflow in place, it can take way longer to do a mix than it did to write the composition.
Then there is ‘mastering’. Yet a whole new artform!
In the DAW you can get to every VST Parameter in the plugin and automate it with precision, but the DAW is pretty dumb. You have to give it every little instruction…
You can more easily visualize and control groove and timing.
If there is something can’t do with VST controls, you can easily instant render things as needed to raw audio and smooth out flaws, or introduce details.
You can throw filters, enhancers, eqs, reverbs, and compressors anywhere you need them (even for single notes, or portions of notes).
Doubling parts, transposing, changing instruments/sounds, fixing phasing issues, working with alternate tunings, and more…all things a pro level DAW can do with a few clicks (if you know how).
The mixing and monitoring tools are far more extensive. More mixing standards and systems are supported (Mono, Quad, Surround of many flavors, and more).
If you’re talking about NP native sounds, the better you can mark your score with dynamics and phrasing the better the playback result (musical interpretation) will be. In terms of mixing, everything comes out of a single stereo bus so there really is no mixing. In a sense the mixing is the result of a balanced orchestration which imo is one of the biggest strengths of NP.
There also is an inherent danger of over-marking using NP (or basically any library). I know that it tries to be really smart in order to avoid the need to “state the obvious” but there currently is a limit of how far you can push it.