NotePerformer 4 for dummies

I realize there is a very lengthy topic on NP4, but it is mostly relatively deep discussion by folks who have a lot of experience with NP and some of the high-end libraries it will now support. That topic is here: NotePerformer 4 Released

It seems to me there are some very basic questions that might be on the minds of users who are not so deep into that, such as:

  1. If you have NP3, you can upgrade to NP4 for free. Is there any downside to doing that if you don’t have any immediate intention of buying a high-end library?

Answer: I think the answer is that NP4 has a few minor improvements you may or may not notice, and there is no harm in using the free upgrade.

  1. The big feature with NP4 is “playback engines”? What are these and what do they cost?

Answer: I think the answer is that you must purchase a particular engine that matches the high-end library you own (or will be acquiring separately.) If you do this, you can use that library seamlessly in Dorico without having to give any thought to playing techniques. However, I cannot find any list of the supported playback engines and what any of them cost.

  1. For a user who has no high-end library but may now be interested in taking that leap, what is the best library to use for genre ___________? In my case, I do mainly big band and combo charts. It seems to me the playback engines supported so far are oriented toward classical orchestra. I don’t see any support yet for libraries like Eastwest or other libraries for “the commercial sound”.

from the Scoring Notes review…

Here are the currently supported libraries:

Spitfire BBC Symphony Orchestra Core
Spitfire BBC Symphony Orchestra Pro
Orchestral Tools Berlin Orchestra Berklee Edition
Cinesamples Cine Series for Kontakt
Cinematic Studio Series
EastWest Hollywood Orchestra Opus Edition
Steinberg Iconica Sections & Players
Audio Imperia Nucleus
Vienna Symphonic Library Synchron Prime

I agree that this information should be prominent on the NP web site.
IIRC they all cost about $90 (USD). Clicking on an engine button in the NPPE will give the actual cost and an option to download a trial version.

Thanks. I’m not sure any of those libraries would be worth the money for a contemporary big band sound. The Hollywood orchestra sounds like what you would expect – a bunch of classical players acting like they can interpret jazz.

From what I can tell, the good sounding contemporary jazz libraries are:

  • Fable: Broadway big band - $2300 – ouch!
  • Straight Ahead: Atomic Big Band - $530
  • ProjectSam: Swing more – $400

There are probably more, but these sound authentically like contemporary big band players to me. I guess I will wait until NP supports one of these, although I doubt I’d ever spring for the $2300 Fable set.

Arne has said (probably in this thread, or this one) that NP is designed primarily for concert type music rather than jazz.

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That’s a shame. One of the improvements that comes with the basic upgrade to NP4 is that some of the jazz articulations now work without any high-end library (scoops and falls – maybe others).

I’d like to think that it was a decision to prioritize classical orchestra initially, which makes good sense. It seems that supporting at least one jazz-oriented library would be a good decision as resources permit. I’m not sure that the support would have to be radically different, jazz versus classical. If you listen to the “Hollywood brass” style libraries, the phrasing may not be off, but it is the sound concept that is so wrong. Whether it is the Hollywood Bowl, Boston Pops or movie studio orchestra, the players all go for that big, dark sound. A big band often plays with a lot more bite and grit, and that ought to be mostly captured in the sound library itself, without needing too much from NP4.

The Broadway sound is a little closer.

OK, since this thread is labeled as being for Dummies, I’m going to take the plunge and reveal just how dumb I really am. Here goes:

My original impression of Noteperformer, when it was first released, was that it was a way of avoiding tweaking various sampled libraries to make them align with what one wished them to sound like, and instead letting the NP software emulate the total sound picture at any given moment at any point in a score, rather than combining discrete sounds to resemble tutti and similar effects. Perhaps I seriously mis-understood, but I thought it sounded like a great idea at the time.

After this latest release, my impression is that my original idea of what it was was seriously flawed, and that it is just one more attempt to combine sampled sounds to emulate what the original orchestral sounds would have been like. And so, not only am I not interested in the upgrade, I think I might not even be interested in NP at all, if that’s all it is.

Somebody please correct me if I’m totally on the wrong track now, or was before, or both! And the bottom line is this: What’s the advantage of NP over any other sampled or syntheisized library of orchestral sounds?

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The upgrade from NP3 to NP4 has little improvements if you are using the sounds supplied by NP. If you were not happy with that before, then you will not be much happier now.

Did you use NP3? I always thought it was well worth using, although far from automatically creating a fully realistic sound. It still does what it did before without buying any extra libraries.

I don’t usually score for orchestras (maybe one score a year or two) so I am just not that concerned about realistic rendering for orchestra. But it sounds to me like NP4 with the supported libraries can be really great without any tweaking. And some of those libraries aren’t that expensive. I’ll leave it for others to chime in on what might be the best price-performer among the supported orchestral libraries.

When we say “tweaking”, you do have to notate articulations, slurs, dynamics in order for NP to guess at the intent. But you don’t have to change any of the MIDI information, and that’s a pretty big deal, I think.

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In comparison to the HSSE & HSO libraries included with Dorico, NotePerformer gives remarkably more realistic playback, particularly of orchestral music. Most instrument sounds are better and the musical phrasing is remarkably better provided one has input the appropriate articulation marks and dynamics.

However, in comparison with premium third party orchestral libraries used alone, NotePerformer alone (that is, without any NotePerformer Playback Engines used in conjunction with third party libraries) has less realistic instrument sounds, particularly for strings, but still excels with respect to musical phrasing.

To get the best of both worlds, NotePerformer 4 used in conjunction with one of the several libraries for which a NotePerformer Playback Engine is available (at extra cost but less than US $100 per third party library you already own or later acquire) allows you to get both the better sound quality of a premium library and NotePerformer’s superior musical phrasing, all without a lot of work making manual adjustments to playback.

Remarkably, NotePerformer costs only US $129 and has had no charged upgrades for years, if ever (I have used NP for years and have no recollection of ever paying for an upgrade, even for NP4) and a free trial is available for download at


I just wanted to mention that this isn’t compatible with Dorico either. I have the Fable Broadway Lites library and have never been about to get “notation mode” to work properly. A year and a half ago they said they would be coming out with an update “soon” that would fix this, but we’re still waiting …

I played in a band for years with the Trombone player that Fable sampled for this, and he’s a fantastic musician. I’d love to get this to work with Dorico, but so far no luck.


How well does NotePerformer work with Baroque music that has no expression marks?

Broadly, it does very well; though by default it makes every phrase without a slur non-legato, which is either what you want, or … not what you want. You can of course add hidden legato markings in the score. If there are no expressions, then inevitably, it will be … expressionless. :grin:

I did ask Arne if he would add a ‘Bassi’ instrument that played Cello and Contrabass, with the latter down the octave, but he said that this should be done in Dorico rather than in NP.

Here’s NP4 native:

Here’s BBCSO through NP:

And here’s my own expression maps for OT’s Miroire library.

Obviously, none of them do the implied double dotting. BBCSO is legato where it ought be detached, and detached where it ought to be legato.

Miroire has the appropriate early strings sound, but it’s very difficult to stop the short notes from popping out when you switch between different articulations. It has a single “Basso Continuo” instrument, which has Cello and Bass, plus a bit of bassoon.


When transcribing baroque music, I put a hidden ‘non vibrato’ at the beginning of every string part, otherwise everything will sound horrible (IMO). Other than that, I find NP’s rendering quite acceptable.


The articulations might be unfortunate, but it is still quite the bump in realism when you switch from NP4 native to BBCSO. Amazing, really. I’ve always appreciated NP for what it is (palatable demos) but seeing the two demos side by side, I can understand why Arne made the decision he did with NP4.


No matter how much I like NPPE, OT’s Miroire is clearly the most appropriate library from those three examples. Music esthetics do matter (and I understand all our fellow jazzdoricians that long for a jazzy NP engine…)


Indeed. I do find that I have to tailor the Expression Map to each different piece I play. If only there were some technology that would act as some sort of mediator between Dorico’s notation and the VST…

Yes, and from my standpoint, the articulations aren’t the biggest issue with the jazz sound. It is really the sound concept the players use. Most classical music wants a broad, full sound. Even fff passages may sound raucous, but still there is a certain “brick” nature to the sound, like flipping on a switch and immediately getting the full blast. Modern jazz is typically a more aggressive approach, and often separation between notes, especially quarter notes.

The timing could be adjusted by NP, but I don’t think you can make a classifal sample sound like a jazz player would approach it. Indeed, there are some excellent jazz players with out local professional orchestra. I have heard the conductor mention that after the summer season, where many of them might be playing pops and jazz gigs during the orchestra’s hiatus, there is a 2-week adjustment before the orchestra sounds the way the conductor wishes.

I do agree that NP can and should do a better job of dealing with legato, non-legato. I find it necessary to write far more slurs in jazz parts than I would normally. It doesn’t really hurt anything, but sometimes I feel it clutters the parts unnecessarily. If I really want notes separated, that what the staccato mark is for. NP seems to turn anything without a slur into a staccato.

In short, I could live with the processing NP4 does, if only NP4 would do that same work with a library that has more commercial-sounding samples for the winds.

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You can adjust the Expression Map to turn on Legato for the Natural expression. I think it’s CC19 to 1.

I’m interested in seeing how much adjustment can be made with all the myriad CCs in NP. As Pjotr says, you can turn off vibrato.

I bought an upgrade from BBCSO Discover to Core on one of Spitfires sales, but was not able to use it so far, because my PC is not fast enough with only 8 GB RAM. I think it is time for a new computer this year …

You are talking about Dorico expression maps? So I would need to set this for each NP instrument I am using?

Yes, you’d have to duplicate the map for each different instrument/effect you wanted. So you could have “NotePerformer Jazz”, with legato switched on.

Or draw in CC data; or use/create playing techniques that trigger the effects.