Percussion lines and virtual instruments


I’m planning my percussive kits in VSL, and am trying to find the right way of making them.

In VSL’S Vienna Instruments (VI), you load a preset, containing matrices, containing cells, contatining slots, containing patches (i.e., sounds, like a staccato or a sustain). In practice, a preset is a set of categories of articulations (the matrices), containing articulations (the patches).

The main question is: should I (a) devote a separate VSL preset to each separate percussive instrument (for example, a snare drum), or should I (b) consider a family of percussive instruments (all the drums) as a single preset?

For example, in case (a) I would have a single preset with all the articulations (hits, rolls) of a snare drum. In Dorico, I would devote an instrument with that preset to have that sound. When a different instruments has to go on that percussive line, an instrument change should replace an instrument/preset with a different instrument/preset.

In case (b) I would have all the drums (snare, toms, b.d.) contained in a single preset. In Dorico, I would have to select an articulation for each note of that instrument.

In case (a), I would simply ask Dorico to switch to a different instrument for that player and that percussive line. I will then have to add a percussive instrument label in the score where the change happens.

In case (b), I would have to apply articulations to each note of the percussion line, or VI would probably reset it to some default value.

I’m very much confused about the consequences of each choice. When used in Logic, for example, notes with no Articulation ID applied are reset to some default selection. So, I can’t simply apply an Articulation ID to the note when the instrument change is happening, otherwise my selection would be reset to some default. I guess the same would happen in Dorico.

With solution (a), I should be safer, because I would only make VSL presets with a single row in a preset/matrix, with the main instrument’s articulation always selected. But can I really be able to make this correspond to an instrument change in Dorico, with a different instrument shown in the same line of the previous instrument? In Logic, for example, this would mean using a different track.

If the above makes sense, can you give me some hint? One preset per percussive instrument, or a big preset for a whole family (as VSL did in their presets)?


I don’t have any experience with the percussion sounds in VSL, but as far as Dorico is concerned you ought to be able to make either approach work. The crucial part will be the percussion map or maps that you create. If you have a large preset with many instruments included in it, that is roughly equivalent to e.g. the Yamaha XG or General MIDI percussion maps you can see in Play > Percussion Maps. The main consideration here, I think, will be that you can basically only select sounds in Dorico by way of either assigning each sound to a separate MIDI key, or allowing the same MIDI key to be used but obtaining e.g. a different technique by also providing a keyswitch. You cannot practically use MIDI controllers to select different techniques for percussion at the moment, though this is something that will be possible in future.

If the VSL percussion preset is very expensive in terms of resources (memory size, disk performance, etc.) then that would be one reason to create a single percussion map that covers as many instruments as possible, as you can then use the same instance of the preset in a single instance of VE Pro to handle multiple percussion instruments in the project. If, on the other hand, it’s not especially expensive to load multiple instances of the preset, then I would probably personally go for creating a number of separate percussion maps, e.g. one for snare drum, one for cymbal, etc., as each percussion map will itself be more manageable.

I’m sure other users with more experience of actually using VSL with Dorico might have more valuable insights to offer.

Daniel, thank you very much for your answer. Very informative and enlightening.

Going from the ordinary pitched instruments to percussion kits, I must change my perspective. There is no need to select playing techniques as with a violin, since they are already included in the kit, one for each note of the keyboard. Hits and rolls are not separate patches, but different notes in the same patch.

VSL provides some additional patch/kit with their percussive instruments. For example, Snare Drums are available in as the basic kit, as a set of performed repetitions with varying dynamics, and as FXs. These are, in my view, to be considered as separate instruments in Dorico. (Then, they will probably be sort of ‘hidden tracks’, only useful for playback and not to be shown in the score.)

I can simply instantiate a different VSL instrument for each percussion kit to be used in a percussion line in Dorico. After that, I can drag a patch (that is, a percussion kit) in the VSL instrument, and let Dorico’s percussion map drive the right note.

In Dorico, each percussion line will be a separate player (Bass Drum will be a player, as will be Snare and Piatti). Each player will have all the different VSL instruments I have created for that category. For example, the Snare player will be assigned the Snare A, Snare B, Snare FX instruments. Instrument changes will decide which instrument will go to the percussion line corresponding to the player.

And each instrument will have a percussion map. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single map good for all percussion kits. So, I’ll probably have to create a map for each patch/percussion kit in the VSL library. Each percussive instrument is different, maybe much more than any other instrument.