Newbie questions about play mode / articulation configuration

Since there’s no Play Mode chapter in the online manual, I don’t feel guilty about posting this question.

I’ve got an existing Dorico score and want to assign (let’s say) the oboe to Cinesamples Oboe. I’ve figured out how to add a Kontakt instance. (This is already vastly easier than Sibelius.) I can load the Cinesamples Oboe into Kontakt. I can assign the correct Kontakt instance to the oboe track. It makes noise when it should. So far so good! Manual, schmanual.

I know that Dorico has a special relationship with its bundled HALion plugins so that (say) a staccato mark will trigger the staccato articulation sound. I’d now love to set up the same connection with my Cinesamples Oboe. I am dimly aware that Steinberg has something called an expression map and that this is probably where all that magic lies.

The Setup Plugin Playing Techniques popup menu looks relevant, but doesn’t seem to do anything when selected. Not with Kontakt, Play, nor with the bundled HALion plugins.

Where do I go from here? Help appreciated with ardor.

You are indeed very much heading along the right lines. The next step is to open the Play > Expression Maps Setup dialog, and look at creating your own expression map for your Cinesamples Oboe. If you take a look at e.g. the ‘HSO Violin Solo’ expression map, you’ll hopefully figure out more or less what’s going on: for each entry in the list of techniques on the right there is a list of one or more actions that are necessary to obtain that technique – typically the use of a specific keyswitch or MIDI controller.

You will find that Dorico’s expression maps support is not 100% complete: notably, the notion of “exclusion groups” – by which a particular set of techniques that are exclusive with one another or with other techniques played by the instrument (think e.g. pizzicato and snap pizzicato, which would be in the same group and exclusive with each other within that group, but would also be exclusive with another group of techniques that would include e.g. arco, col legno, and sul ponticello, etc.) – is not yet implemented, which means that you may have to insert an additional “nat.” playing technique to reset things back to the ‘Natural’ playback state before switching to another technique.

There are other Dorico users who have achieved a lot of good results even with the limited functionality on offer to date – if you search for posts by e.g. Brian Roland that discuss expression maps you will find lots of useful information.

Thanks as always for the help, Daniel. I’ll look for Brian’s posts for further elaboration.

Speaking as someone who delved pretty deeply into configuring Sibelius along these lines (I know what a SoundWorld is), I love how easy it is to set up plugins and configure the “AI” behind articulation switching.

Is the “Setup Plugin Playing Techniques” popup menu functional? I wasted a lot of time trying to get that to work and wish I had known to just go to the Expression Maps Setup conventional menu.

Another followup question: I actually don’t appear to be running into the problem you identified, and I’m not sure why I’m not. (So consider this the opposite of a bug report.)

I set up a test where I created my own expression map for 8DIO’s Anthology celli, which allows articulations to be easily assigned to different key switches. I duplicated the Halion celli combi expression map, renamed it, and changed the key switch values to match how I’d set up Kontakt with the 8dio celli.

I was able to switch back and forth from normal playing to staccato to pizz to tremolo without any problems, by using the usual notational symbols in the score. (Dots on the noteheads, tremolo markings, “pizz” as a playing technique, etc.) What issues should the nonfunctional exclusions be creating?

The Setup Plugin Playing Techniques menu item is not functional – sorry about that. We’ll remove it until such time as it is functional!

The sorts of issues you are likely to experience are things like trying to go to “mute” from “pizz.”, which will not necessarily do what you expect. You can to an extent mitigate these issues by defining combinations of playing techniques (e.g. +pizz +mute) in the VST Expression Map, but this does tend to get ugly pretty quickly.

Is the issue that

  • playing styles are mutually exclusive, even when they shouldn’t necessarily be?
  • playing styles that by nature should end when another one begins, don’t?

or something else?

Knowing the specific answers to these questions without having to run extensive tests will save me significant time and energy.

It’s the latter, i.e.

Understood - but FYI I haven’t run into this problem. In my above test I was able to switch between nat, pizz, stacatto, and tremolo without apparent issues. The “Playing Techniques” bar below the track in Play Mode seemed to reflect the proper playing style.