Working with HALion Sonic SE 3 within Dorico

I’ve been holding off on asking some questions about working with HALion until I had done some experimenting, but my experiments have led to nothing but frustration.

Let me first describe what I am trying to do:

I’m at work on an opera that has two synthesizer parts, both of which work only with General MIDI sounds – on purpose. (My musical interest here is to work with these sounds in mostly extreme registers that they were not initially designed for.)

For the purposes of playback (a necessity for the presenters for this project) I am treating the Synths as doubling instruments, loading in extra instruments that I then had hoped to edit in HALion.

Question #1 – Is this a good strategy at all?

Question #2 – Does HALion have a complete GM MIDI library? (In particular I have been looking for GM 109 – Timpani – because I want to use the sound outside of the range permitted by the ‘normal’ HALion Timpani.)

Question #3 – If HALion does have a complete GM MIDI library then which drop down menu will let me access it most easily?

Observation: I find that in trying to work with the “Edit Instrument” panel within HALion that I have to click on the item two steps above the one I want in order to activate it. This interface seems to be very buggy.

Further comment: While I understand that HALion does not reside within Dorico, it does seem to me that the documentation about how to work with the version of HALion that Dorico accesses for playback is woefully inadequate. I did look at the HALion manual itself, but the screen-shots that it showed for the Edit Instrument pane looked different, having different features and so forth.

HALion is a Steinberg product, is it not? So why the disconnect?

The version of HALion that is provided with Dorico is HALion Sonic SE 3, and you can find the operation manual for that here.

The problem you’re experiencing with clicking on the HSSE interface and the click being offset could be related to the display scaling value you have chosen in Windows. What do you have set that to?

It’s also worth trying to update to the latest version of HSSE, in case that will fix the display offset issue. You can download the latest update here.

As for whether HSSE includes a complete set of General MIDI sounds, yes, it does.

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If you drag the Halion window to a slightly different position this offset corrects itself . (That’s my experience in Windows 10.) This was mentioned in another thread, but I can’t remember where.

A strategy that provides the result that you want - who’s to argue? The catch may be in this phrase: “…I then had hoped to edit …”.

Not specific to HALion, but somewhere along the way (1980’s when experimenting with different synths would be very pricey) I got it into my head that I could make any given synth do whatever I wanted. Now I would say that all electronic instruments have a certain character and that editing only goes so far. There are times when the sound you’re after is most easily acquired from a different synth - despite the power of samplers.

For that reason, while the doubling makes sense to me, I wouldn’t limit myself to the use of the General MIDI palette overmuch unless it does in fact do exactly what you want. Just speaking for myself though.