Which NPPE to try first in Dorico (Solo violin priority)

I first want to thank the users on this forum for your excellent help as I got started with Dorico a few months ago! I did purchase Noteperformer at your advice, and I really appreciate it so far! Now, that I’m starting to get the hang of things, I need advice again for what to purchase next. I’m mainly focused on composing for piano, solo violin, and solo cello (duets with accompaniment, and trios). The piano and cello sounds in Noteperformer are decent, but I am still struggling with listening to the solo violin, which can be piercing or whiny. Since solo violin is the main feature of my compositions, I want to invest in a library that will give me decent solo violin with the convenience of Noteperformer. I understand the difficulty in replicating a “real sounding” violin virtually, but I’m looking for the best virtual option that can work easily with Noteperformer and Dorico. What options would people suggest? Do I go with a NPPE, and if so, which one is best for solo violin? Thanks in advance for your input!

BBCSO’s solo strings are among my favorite, but the only downside there is you have to purchase the entire BBCSO Pro orchestra. It goes on sale a few times a year and you just missed the last one, but it’s a lot to spend for mostly just solo violin. It has a great sound but it also has some quirks. If you aren’t writing larger ensemble stuff I’m not sure I would recommend it.

Alternatively you could get Spitfire Solo Strings which is supported by the Spitfire Symphony Orchestra (2017) NPPE. I like it a lot when it works, Violin 1 especially has a really nice clarity and crispness to all the articulations. But it can be hit or miss, some issues with fast legato and the library can have quite excessive vibrato, Violin 2 is especially over the top (think 1940s Hollywood romance).

I have not used it but perhaps the best and most practical choice might be Cinematic Studio Strings Solo. On the whole people seem to love CSS, it is known for having a really good sound and scripting and articulations.

I have also not used VSL Synchron-ized Solo Strings but having used the other VSL Ensemble strings, I find they work incredibly well and are a joy to write with, and VSL is great quality.

I also always recommend to google the NPPE pages for individual engines - because it can tell you exactly what techniques are supported by the engine (since not all available articulations are). This might help inform your decision because it would be prudent to invest in a library and engine combination which can support the kind of writing you wish to do.

On the plus side with any of these solo suggestions, most of the engines are connected to larger library collections, so if you buy that engine you’ll have access to those other instruments too if you upgrade later on.

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Spitfire solo strings seems to me to be better behaved with Noteperformer 4.5 rather than 4.4. Rapid legato passages are much better, though still not perfect.

The best solo violin by common consent is the Joshua Bell. Much depends on what you want the violin to do— do you write mainly concertos and do you need more modern advanced articulations (which rules out many)? The only solo violin I use with NPPE support is Cinematic Studio. If you write warm, lyrical music and don’t mind the reverberant acoustic of that instrument, it might well be suitable (and indeed I posted a quartet movement on the forum a wee while back using this library)

Thanks! I’ve heard excellent things about Joshua Bell VST, but I’ve also heard that its compatibility with Dorico is iffy. Do you use it successfully in Dorico?

I’d like to check out your quartet movement!

Thank you for the detailed response! That’s very helpful!

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Good to know, thanks!

I come from a classical background
and once spent many days comparing all kinds of string libraries.

What I like best of all is

Spitfire Audio - Abbey Road Two: Iconic Strings

But I can’t say how good the suitability for Dorico is.

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I don’t use the Joshua Bell myself— am going mainly on its reputation. It may well not be the easiest to use in Dorico. If you can’t find the thread on my 12th quartet finale, I’ll look up the link when back from holiday on Thursday.

PS just search String quartet no. 12 under all Dorico threads and it comes right up.

Also, there is one NPPE/solo strings option you can try out for free: both Cine Series for Musio (which includes solo strings) and the relevant NPPE are available on a trial basis.

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EW Hollywood Strings has a solo violin. You could get a month of Composer Cloud membership to try it out with NPPE.

Just to give an idea of the sound, here is Ravel’s String Quartet, first movement. It has been in edit forever, and there are very little tempo changes and nearly no smoothing. VSL SYzd SE, Solo Strings. NPPE does something strange to the balance, but here it is.

Ravel - Quatuor (NPPE-VSL-SYzdSE)

Paolo

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Yes, there is a strangeness to the balance… So are you recommending VSL SYzd SE Solo Strings + NPPE anyway?

I don’t have a comparison with other solo string libraries, so I can’t recommend them over others. For basic sounds, they seem to sound quite real to me. The Special Edition doesn’t have many techniques, but it seems that NP can deal with it well enough.

The balance is something that has to be finely crafted for the target library. I admit not having done anything in this sense for this example. I don’t know, for example, why the first violin is fading in at the beginning, and have done nothing to fix it.

There is also something that I don’t know if happening as intended or by mistake: the selected violoncello is the second one. It’s very different from the first, older one, and maybe it was intended this way because being more controlled in dynamics.

Paolo

I just tried the VSL SE solo strings in NPPE for the first time just now. Considering that NPPE only seems to use six articulations which is around half of the total available even in the vol 1 edition, it’s surprisingly musical and expressive. One problem is that only vol1 is currently supported – to get a decent range of artics (including pretty basic things like trills), you need the second SE volume which many of us will have bought

Certainly you can get more differentiated results with the dedicated solo strings libraries but of course they are not supported by NPPE and because there are so many artics. I’m not sure if they ever will be. A shame because NPPE can certainly produce something that feels musical even out of the limited resources of SE vol1 only. But purely for violin tone, there are certainly more subtle options out there --although the native NP solo violin is certainly not one of them.

Incidentally, if you’re still interested in in CSS solo strings, the movement I posted is here Box

Interesting. Thanks for taking the time to respond to my question!

Thanks, @dko22! It was nice to hear your quartet… some lovely nuanced moments there! Did you use CSSS plus NPPE to achieve that result? I’m also curious how the CSSS would do with faster, more dramatic violin passages and staccato, since it seems they are most loved for their lyrical legato.

Do you normally use NPPE or do you tweak with key switches (and all that complication that I don’t know how to do)?

The CSSS would definitely be an upgrade from NP basic sounds.
You mentioned that you also tried VSL SE solo strings in NPPE. Does it sound better or worse to you than CSSS?

yes-- this was CSSS+NPPE. I tend to use CSSS in more lyrical works (particularly strings plus piano) as indeed the legato is the greatest strength. It can do faster music as well, though – if you want an example then maybe try out a scherzo such as the short one in my 8th quartet starting 14’ 11" on Reelcrafter here chamber works
Still, I find VSL often best for fast music, although overall, I’d certainly prefer CSSS to VSL SE. Certainly the sound is better.

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VSL SE is an older dry library. They are coming out with a Synchron Solo Strings library fairly soon (next few months).

I don’t really like any of the older VSL dry libraries aside from the woodwinds and percussion, personally. My template is mostly the newer VSL Synchron libraries now.

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well of course the SE libraries have all been “Synchronized” and reprogrammed so they’re no longer dry-- I don’t use the VI stuff any more, either. The upcoming Synchron solo strings is one I’m very interested in as well and I’m hoping the tone will be rather better than the original but of course there’s no guarantee.