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’.
- 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).
- 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.
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.
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.