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Topic: How do you control levels the Pro way in a sequencer?

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  1. #1

    How do you control levels the Pro way in a sequencer?

    Ok so I can fumble around with GPO and set the levels ‘intuitively’. But I would like to understand what is the ‘professional’ way to set levels – if there is a such a thing.

    My understanding of the problems and issues is this:


    First there are what I a could term the 'real instrument' issues. Real instruments can sound different in different parts of their ranges. A flute, for example, cannot play softly in its upper range, different strings of a cello have different timbres, what’s pp on a tuba is less piercing than the same pp on a triangle. I tend to think of these issues in terms of the musical settings pp mf ff etc.. whereas what I shall term the ‘sound engineering’ concepts I think of in numerical controller values. The real instrument issues have an impact on how the figure or phrase 'sits' in the orchestral moment - if it is toward the front or rear or the sound stage.

    Like many others, I use GPO with a sequencer (SX2 in my case). I have a template set up in my sequencer so that for each instance of Garritan there are eight audio channels showing in the mixer. Each Audio channel has its own strip in the mixer.
    All the midi channels are hidden in the mixer, for two reasons. Firstly using just the audio fader (not the midi-velocity fader) for each track reduces the levels of complexity when trying to control levels. Midi velocity faders are Not suitable for volume control in GPO because volume is controlled by modulation data (on the whole). Secondly using Audio strips in the mixer gives me access to all my VST plugins – if desired. There is a wider range of midi plugins than there are midi plugins. Also, most importantly, I have set Garritan Ambience as a send and can control the wetness or dryness of any individual instrument using the mixer’s send fx in the audio channel strips.

    So far so good (I think!).


    Now, say that I were to load eight different instruments into an instance of GPO and have all of them on separate midi channels in arrangement window and with different corresponding audio strip in the mixer. Say that I have paired mid channel 1 with stereo out 1&2, midi channel 2&3 with What would be the best 'pro' way to balance orchestral levels?

    As I understand it, for the majority of instruments velocity controls brightness and choice of sample. What I think this means is that if you have a velocity setting of 16, then you get a pp sample (i.e. a recording of an instrument being played softly) if you have a setting of 128 then you get the treble forte sample. These samples would have completely different acoustic properties because acoustic instruments sound so very different in different ranges. Additionally the sample is brightened up a bit using sound engineering FX - EQ.

    Depending on the instrument, samples of different volumes can pierce the sound stage (come to the front or rear of the foreground/background) unequally. Some instrument’s pierce through no matter what others are blendable and more inconspicuous in the harmony or chord.

    Next we have the continuous controller, ‘modulation’ -which controls volume. I think I am correct in saying that this is used to contour individual notes(?) rather than to a track as a whole. I use this to give volume-ic expression to a musical phrase.

    Next there is the question of balancing the sounds of each instrument in the group. Here I am confused. I could either use the volume control offered in KONTAKT, or I could use the audio mixer strip in SX. Not sure what to do here.

    Building sections:

    If one wants to build up a string section from individual instruments, say 8 violins for first violins, it seems that one needs to set the volume data to very low, in order that you don’t get a disproportionately loud group. One also has to bear in mind that the appropriate sample (pp, mf, fff etc) needs to be selected.
    What do you guys do with velocity? My first instinct was to set it all to 64, but would this produce the right samples – I don’t think so.

    How is the velocity question controlled?

    How are the audio levels controlled?


    How is this all done please – am I making things to complicated? Has anyone got any methodology?

    My brain is starting to hurt.....

    Thanks
    Zero

  2. #2

    Re: How do you control levels the Pro way in a sequencer?

    Quote Originally Posted by ZeroZero
    Ok so I can fumble around with GPO and set the levels ‘intuitively’. But I would like to understand what is the ‘professional’ way to set levels – if there is a such a thing.

    My understanding of the problems and issues is this:


    First there are what I a could term the 'real instrument' issues. Real instruments can sound different in different parts of their ranges. A flute, for example, cannot play softly in its upper range, different strings of a cello have different timbres, what’s pp on a tuba is less piercing than the same pp on a triangle. I tend to think of these issues in terms of the musical settings pp mf ff etc.. whereas what I shall term the ‘sound engineering’ concepts I think of in numerical controller values. The real instrument issues have an impact on how the figure or phrase 'sits' in the orchestral moment - if it is toward the front or rear or the sound stage.

    Like many others, I use GPO with a sequencer (SX2 in my case). I have a template set up in my sequencer so that for each instance of Garritan there are eight audio channels showing in the mixer. Each Audio channel has its own strip in the mixer.
    All the midi channels are hidden in the mixer, for two reasons. Firstly using just the audio fader (not the midi-velocity fader) for each track reduces the levels of complexity when trying to control levels. Midi velocity faders are Not suitable for volume control in GPO because volume is controlled by modulation data (on the whole). Secondly using Audio strips in the mixer gives me access to all my VST plugins – if desired. There is a wider range of midi plugins than there are midi plugins. Also, most importantly, I have set Garritan Ambience as a send and can control the wetness or dryness of any individual instrument using the mixer’s send fx in the audio channel strips.
    That's good!

    So far so good (I think!).


    Now, say that I were to load eight different instruments into an instance of GPO and have all of them on separate midi channels in arrangement window and with different corresponding audio strip in the mixer. Say that I have paired mid channel 1 with stereo out 1&2, midi channel 2&3 with What would be the best 'pro' way to balance orchestral levels?
    Just use the volume in the Kontakt player for monitoring the different instruments while you are building the piece. If the computer starts to have problems with alot of instruments, you can always print (record) the individual instruments to audio tracks and SAVE! You could always go back and re-record a section of any instrument if you find that the part you previously recorded is not right.

    As I understand it, for the majority of instruments velocity controls brightness and choice of sample. What I think this means is that if you have a velocity setting of 16, then you get a pp sample (i.e. a recording of an instrument being played softly) if you have a setting of 128 then you get the treble forte sample. These samples would have completely different acoustic properties because acoustic instruments sound so very different in different ranges. Additionally the sample is brightened up a bit using sound engineering FX - EQ.
    pretty close, if I understand correctly, Tom Hopkins does use something as simple as EQ to brighten up a sample, it is a different sample, I think anyway

    Depending on the instrument, samples of different volumes can pierce the sound stage (come to the front or rear of the foreground/background) unequally. Some instrument’s pierce through no matter what others are blendable and more inconspicuous in the harmony or chord.

    Next we have the continuous controller, ‘modulation’ -which controls volume. I think I am correct in saying that this is used to contour individual notes(?) rather than to a track as a whole. I use this to give volume-ic expression to a musical phrase.
    If you play all soft notes for a violin for instance, and decide that a few notes should sound like FF, increasing the modulation will not take care of it properly, you really need to go into the instrument track and make proper adjustments to the "velocity" for the notes in question

    Next there is the question of balancing the sounds of each instrument in the group. Here I am confused. I could either use the volume control offered in KONTAKT, or I could use the audio mixer strip in SX. Not sure what to do here.
    use whatever you are most comfortable with.

    Building sections:

    If one wants to build up a string section from individual instruments, say 8 violins for first violins, it seems that one needs to set the volume data to very low, in order that you don’t get a disproportionately loud group. One also has to bear in mind that the appropriate sample (pp, mf, fff etc) needs to be selected.
    What do you guys do with velocity? My first instinct was to set it all to 64, but would this produce the right samples – I don’t think so.

    How is the velocity question controlled?
    I am assuming that so far we are talking about a system where you are using a keyboard controller to "play in" these parts to the sequencer. If that's the case, you should make an effort to play the notes softly, or loudly like the instrument would be controlled, and use your left hand for the mod wheel while you are recording the part. You can always go back and "overdub" new "better" mod wheel (modulation) into the same midi track. Always erase the old modulation data, that's what I do

    How are the audio levels controlled?
    Of course, there are so many different ways to achieve great results, but this is what I do. Once I have a number of tracks that I am pretty sure are correct, I record them to audio tracks. Then I use the mixer volume fader for that track from that point on, assigning reverb, and even volume automation to keep things sounding decent while I create other tracks. I could not stand to try to create a new track with the previous stuff sounding like poo poo..



    How is this all done please – am I making things to complicated? Has anyone got any methodology?

    My brain is starting to hurt.....

    Thanks
    Zero
    I hope this helps you some, it is, of course, just how I do my projects. It's not necessarily the right or wrong way, but just one. It's the way I like to work.

    Hopefully some others will share their ideas

    DPDan

  3. #3

    Thumbs up Re: How do you control levels the Pro way in a sequencer?

    Thanks for a quality post - your insight:

    'If you play all soft notes for a violin for instance, and decide that a few notes should sound like FF, increasing the modulation will not take care of it properly, you really need to go into the instrument track and make proper adjustments to the "velocity" for the notes in question'

    ..was a real gem to me - I was asking which one, answer both. Its a pity that (polite request) Tom or Gary doesnt post the thresholds for the changing of samples then control could be exact... never mind use my ears I guess.

    I had another insight myself, on the point about whether to use the Kontakt player volume or the audio strip fader in SX2 to control volume level for the whole track. The answer is that the volume level in Kontack is for Instrument which concievably might be on more than one track in the performance window - so use the channel strip fader in SX usually - when you are just paying attention to the level of a particular section/passage of music.

    Anyone else care to contribute? Hopefully we could settle level issues for a lot of new users (like me!)How about the GPO demigods?

    Thanks again DPMAN your post helped me a lot.
    Zero

  4. #4

    Re: How do you control levels the Pro way in a sequencer?

    I'm glad

  5. #5

    Re: How do you control levels the Pro way in a sequencer?

    Dan,
    I was rereading your post andcame across..

    'Once I have a number of tracks that I am pretty sure are correct, I record them to audio tracks.'

    I am not sure I would do things this way. I can't remember you naming your sequencer, but in SX there is a freeze function so you don't need to bounce things to audio. Freezing is like atomatic redeemable boucing 'recording to audio' - it saves CPU. You can also lock tracks.

  6. #6

    Re: How do you control levels the Pro way in a sequencer?

    Hi 0, I use Digital Performer. But yes, you can freeze the tracks as opposed to recording them to audio. I record mine to audio because that way, when I am ready to mix the project I can do so with all the recorded tracks. Also, it allows me to remix the piece at a much later date without the original synths, GPO or any other programs that were used to create the sounds.
    Just an option
    DPDan

  7. #7

    Re: How do you control levels the Pro way in a sequencer?

    Quote Originally Posted by DPDAN
    Hi 0, I use Digital Performer. But yes, you can freeze the tracks as opposed to recording them to audio. I record mine to audio because that way, when I am ready to mix the project I can do so with all the recorded tracks. Also, it allows me to remix the piece at a much later date without the original synths, GPO or any other programs that were used to create the sounds.
    Just an option
    DPDan
    Hi DPDAN:

    If you didn't go to "freeze" tracks in DP 4.12, how would you set up your MIDI tracks to go directly to a WAV file (one of the DP audio options)?

    And, secondly, how do you convert MIDI tracks to Audio tracks in DP 4.12?
    If answer is too lengthy, please use my email address.

    Best,

    Jack Cannon
    Jack Cannon--MacBook Pro (2015, 13") GPO4/5, JABB3, Auth. STEINWAY, YAMAHA CFX, Gofriller CELLO, Stradivari VIOLIN, COMB2, WORLD, HARPS, PIPE ORGANS, FINALE 2014.5, Mac Pro 2.66 GHz CPU, 8 GB RAM, DP 9.5, MOTU Traveler, MOTU Micro Express, MacBook Pro (2012, 13") 2.2 Ghz CPU, 8 GB RAM.

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