Surprising Playback Sounds in Elements 3.5

I am new to Dorico so it is very likely I am doing something wrong. However I am surprised and rather disappointed with the quality of playback sounds I am getting.

Here is what I am doing and maybe someone will spot something wrong…

I have created a score with three instruments. I selected two trombones and a theorbo. I wrote several bars to test the sounds and when I play this it sounds like a cinema pipe organ and certainly not two trombones and a theorbo.

I am now wondering whether my expectation of reasonably persuasive sounds in playback is misguided and perhaps I am using the wrong product.

The sound set included with Elements is not the optimum. You might investigate Note Performer to see if that can provide you with more satisfactory sounds at a relatively low cost (including a monthly purchase option).

(Dorico Pro has a larger, somewhat better HSO soundse, but many still prefer Note Performer to the HALion sounds. For more realistic sounds still, one has to purchase more expensive libraries depending on one’s individual likes and dislikes.)

Thank you Derrek. Again I find that this is a very positive forum.

The sounds are not only sub-optimum; they do not sound at all like the instruments I chose.

I’ll look at note performer as you suggest.

I am trying to migrate my (amateur) work from Notion 6 but this is giving me pause for thought.

The sound set in Elements is nothing to write home about, but it seems like something is wrong in your project. It certainly should sound like a trombone, albeit a cheap one.

In play mode, try reloading your playback template.

Thank you. This idea looks promising. I am not sure that I ever created such a thing as a playback template. How exactly do I reload this playback template? Sorry to be dense.

For instructions on how to change or reset a playback template, see here in the Elements manual.

No need to apologise for asking questions - this is a very friendly forum, and people here are happy to help!

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I can see the template. It offers four choices: HSSE(elements); HSSE(se); HSSE+HS0 (Pro);

I presume I should choose HSSE(elements). But then I cannot hear a theorbo. If I choose HHSS+HSO (pro) I get a sort of plucked sound for the theorbo but no sound for the trombones.

The ‘trombone’ sound still sounds nothing at all like a trombone.

The HSSE (Elements) playback template corresponds to the sounds that are included as part of Dorico Elements by default. I’m not sure off the top of my head whether that includes a theorbo sound. The sound quality/variety/alternative techniques are limited to what’s included in the sounds provided.

All sorts of other sound libraries are available separately - one popular one is NotePerformer, it requires little manual setup and the sounds are rather good (speaking in a personal capacity).

Thanks again.

If only the HSSE (elements) is included I wonder why there are choices.

Anyway I have come to accept that the sounds are very poor with the SE license. I have looked at the NotePerformner list of instruments and It does not really suit me as an additional purchase as I really would want early instruments (especially sackbut and theorbo and possibly cornetto).

In my previous use of Notion 6 I could adjust the sounds of packaged instruments to sound quite reasonable. I guess I could use Dorico for notation and then export music xml to Notion - rather clunky but may be good enough.

If anyone knows of a reasonably priced Dorico compatible set of early instruments I’d be keen to know.

Thank you so much for your attention.

I have created a brand new score. I am not clear what I have done differently but now the instruments sound reasonably like their named versions.

I clearly have a lot of study to do before I am going to be capable here.

Thank you all for your patient help.

Update: I have added Note Performer and can see how it will all eventually work out well. If anyone knows of a VST library that is good with renaissance and baroque instruments I’d be glad to know.

I seriously doubt you will find a theorbo sampled anywhere.

The closest you’ll probably get is something like a nylon-string guitar… maybe something like a folk/Irish harp?

These sound pretty good: The Conservatoire Collection | Baroque and Renaissance Sample library for Kontakt | Soniccouture

Thanks. Yes I have seen this VST also. I will try it when I have become more competent with Dorico. The Instrument samples on the internet sound fabulous. Pity there are no sackbuts or curtals in the offering.

I am pleased with the trial version of Note Performer as far as I can tell listening on my Mac book speakers. Unfortunately when I try listening through hi-fi via bluetooth I are no progress Because…

  1. Dorico has a problem, it seems, with bluetooth on the MacBook Pro
  2. Note Performer will not let me export sounds into an audio file as it is only the trial version.

If anyone has a fix to bluetooth on a MacBook Pro (M1) I’d be pleased to know.
[late edit - I have sorted out my bluetooth problem - see below]

I’m not sure that any DAW or Score app will send to Bluetooth - I cannot get Studio One, Dorico, MuseScore to see Bluetooth device for output. I suspect it may be possible using Soundflower but haven’t tried.

As to Note Performer. I think most of the sounds are far better than the lowest level Halion - I’m on Elements too and found the sounds horrible. Some of Note Performers (brass, from memory) are rather squeaky, but I also have Miroslav so use that when NP fails me. But for down and dirty quick composition NP is great in my opinion. Also things like Pizz. and dynamics are automatic so no messing about with performance scripts.

Why not just pay for the first month of NP @ $9.99, and see how you get on with the whole package? That’s what I did and decided to keep paying so I’ll own it after a year. If you don’t like it it’s only cost you a couple of decent coffees (or artisanal beers…!)

I have solved my problem with bluetooth. I did not realises it had to be set up in Dorico preferences. Now I can hear the sounds properly over bluetooth to the hi-fi system.

I am pleased with what I hear with the Note Performer sounds - confident to purchase the library.

Thank you for your help.

Ooh happy to hear Bluetooth can work with Dorico - I need to do that fix too then!

Assuming that you have got your Bluetooth speakers connected to your Mac Computer. Then…

Use the menus…
Dorico preferences
Audio device
---- Select your audio device

Alot of people might tell you right off the bat to ‘go buy new sounds’. That is certainly an option that may well serve your needs, but before you do that take some time with demos, and play a bit more with what comes with Dorico.

The HSSE implementation Dorico is setting up out of the box is far from ideal for this type of instrument library but the instrument(s) themselves aren’t that bad! The good news is that it HAS been improving with each new version of Dorico. Same plug in and library, but small changes in how it is all implemented have been coming. For what Dorico misses with the default layout upon loading a score…YOU have quite a number of tools to ‘fix it and shape it up’ to your score’s needs, and YOUR preferences/tastes.

It can get a little frustrating since something that is comfortable to sit there and compose all day with isn’t quite what you’d want to render down into a performance mix to be shared with the world. Don’t give up though…it gets much easier as you go, and your ears learn where to go to make the adjustments you require.

The advantage to the Basic HSSE setup that ships with Elements is the huge pallet of sounds you get while taking up minimal system resources (both in storage and in computer processing to make them play). Another advantage is how ‘flexible’ the arrangement of sounds are. They don’t just work for one genera or style of music…but…can be ‘shaped and staged’ to fit medieval, renaissance, baroque, romantic, classical, jazz, rock, world, EDM, whatever you like!

It’s actually a quite respectable General MIDI set of sounds but one needs to stage and mix it. Out of the box you get a ‘rompler’ with a lot of simple raw/dry samples. One simply needs to put them in a better sonic ‘context’.

  1. Use Reverb and Chorus to put the dry sample into some kind of ambient perspective. You can do this directly inside HSSE itself, as well as through VST inserts on Dorico’s mixing console.

One basic idea is to first mute the FX channel on the Dorico Mixer, open HSSE, and create a basic ‘stage ambiance’ inside HSSE itself using the built in Reverbs on the AUX buses of HSSE (You have 4 of them, and a respectable set of effects built into HSSE). This is REALLY helpful when shaping up brass sounds.

If it’s a tutti/section instrument…add a touch of chorus in HSSE as well.

Enable the FX send in Dorico’s mixer to the main reverb channel again (your main room/hall context…Dorico uses impulse based convolution reverb here by default).

  1. It is easier to take things away that are ‘too much’, than it is add things to a sound that don’t exist in the sample. Hence, many pro-line general MIDI libraries are INTENTIONALLY a bit on the harsh side. When instruments are more exposed in solo or small ensemble situations, use EQ to roll off the harsh overtones. When there are many instruments playing at once you might want to add more of the overtones back into the mix for parts you want to pop out of the mix more.

Most HSSE sounds that ship with Dorico have multiple levels of EQ and filtering built into the patch. In the least a 3 or 4 band shelved EQ, and some even have some rolling notch filters to hone in specific narrow frequency ranges and enhance or remove specific qualities (air/body/resonance/etc). Make use of these HSSE controls to ‘shape the tone’ of the instrument to better fit the context of your musical passage.

Yes, you can teach any control in HSSE to be remotely controlled, and make changes to them in real time using expression map triggers, or via the controller lanes in the play tab.

In addition to what ever EQ you can do in HSSE itself, you can also use the EQ on the Dorico Mixer, and even add VST inserts.

  1. Pan and stage the ensemble. Out of the box Dorico throws everything on top of each other at center pan and sets all the volume faders to a theoretical norm. Pan these out more! If you want a part to sound further back, send more of it to the reverb FX channel. If you want it to sound closer, lower its reverb a little and either raise the volume slightly or pull all the other instrument faders down some, OR, open HSSE and stage it out there so it blends well at that ‘default’ fader setting that Dorico throws up.

  2. Explore the play tab of Dorico. Quite a few instruments that ship with HSSE are pretty responsive to ‘note velocity’. I.E. Higher velocity can cause filters to open or close and alter the overall timber accordingly. Use the play tab’s velocity lane to get more control over these variations.

Use CC11 (expression volume) in the play tab for dynamic variations over time (hair pins showing on the score may use this as well).

Don’t forget that you can save presets of your tweaks in HSSE. Don’t forget that you can also save instrument end points and make your own templates that Dorico will open by default.

It all sounds daunting and complicated at first, but it’s not as hard as it sounds. Big and fancy libraries have a significant ‘learning curve’ to use as well…since they also have ‘options’ and loads of ‘instrument presets to audition and learn how to use’.

So…take a little time practicing with HSSE and Dorico’s mixing console. Actually open the plugin, read the HSSE User Manual. Dig a little deeper into the features and abilities of Dorico Mixer.

If you decide you need nicer and bigger libraries, I can assure that anything you learn playing around with HSSE, the Dorico Mixer, and the play tab will TRANSFER to your nicer libraries. It will be knowledge and practices that you will apply again and again, in any DAW, with any sound libraries. Hence, you can start learning today, before you spend another dime on even ‘more stuff to learn’.

I think you might be pretty amazed at how good you can get the base HSSE General MIDI library to sound.

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Thank you Brian for all this insight. I will indeed study the possibilities in more detail. … I guess it is a matter of watch this space. My starting point is to try to tame the trombone sound and then see how much by tinkering I can render it into the softer voiced sackbut sound. In any case your excellent treatise has given me some homework. Thank you.