When you take a midi track and humanize it in your DAW, do you typically edit the start times by hand or is there a better trick to doing this? FYI, I have Sonar 4.
If you do edit the start times, whats your typically rule of thumb to take a rigid MIDI track and make it sound more realistic?
(Background - since I'm not quite a composer/arranger yet I'm working thru the whole process with an existing score. I first spent some time learning Sibelius by inputting it into Sibelius. I then exported it to midi and moved it to Sonar so I could experiement with using Gold articulations a bit as well as mixing. I'm now in the part where I'm trying out the different articulations and adjusting velocites. BTW - I tried the humanize feature in Sibelius, but I didnt notice a big difference between settings...)
One flexible way to adjust start times in sonar is to draw a fluctuating tempo curve (<V>iew <T>empo), with the 'quantize' button turned off.
To adjust them randomly, you might also use a cal program called "randtime.cal" (I think it comes with sonar, optional installation, or its on the cakewalk website). Use Alt-F1 to get a CAL loader.
If your dynamics levels (key velocity) are all the same too, then you need to adjust the velocity of notes, and if the notes are long, you might need to add an expression curve (controller 11) in the <V>iew <P>ianoroll panel of sonar.
Then you might want to play with the pitch of the samples, too -- but sonar does not have a good way to draw them in (the drawing panel is far too crude and results in giant movements). For this and other more detailed changes you might use <V>iew <E>vent window, then insert or cut and past the pitch wheel controllers. Works for mod wheel, too, and the different controllers some instruments need to adjust attack and release time.
Here is a cakewalk progam called humanize.cal (don't know who wrote it, or where I got it, since there are no comments or copyright in the text). Put it into a file called humanize.cal (using notepad.exe), save it in sonar's "Sample Content" folder, then run it with Alt-F1 (adjusts selected events only, select a track by highlighting it, select a range by typing in a range in the upper toolbar area for select range):
I second the approach of subtely changing the tempo map continuously, ESPECIALLY for material with drums. People tend to shift note ons for drum tracks but I feel that's wrong- drummers are *very* good at hitting things at the exact same time. The human-ness should come from tiny deviations in tempo. For orchestral music due to the large number of players shifting note ons can have a good effect.
Probably the best way to humanize is to get a written score, and re-perform each part horizontally, as it was conceived. It's also the best way to really learn a piece. Once you have played every part, you will know it exceedingly well.
Thanks for the good feedback. I discovered the humanize.cal after I posted and tried it a bit. I'm currently running into an error, but havent troubleshooted it much yet.
Specifically, the score I'm using is Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man by Boosey & Hawkes. I figured I'd take baby steps and start with a well known piece for a brass section (with a little percussion) only. Plus, my own experience as a brass player should allow me to recognize the brass articulations in Gold easier than say the string articulations which I'm not familiar with.
That being said - I purposefully used Sibelius to input the score to get some screen time with Sibelius. But, it would be pretty easy for me to go back and play this score in also to capture my own humanizing.
I like "percentage quantizing" (i.e. only quantizing a specified percentage of the way to the target note value), and I like "humanizing" (randomizing start times, etc.). But I find they both sound quantized even if you get notes to flam in a realistic way.
What does sound very realistic is groove quantizing. If you tap in a bunch of, say, 16th notes and use that as your grid, it sounds like you know how to play - which of course is the best way to do it, as Bruce says, but some of us can't always do that . To avoid everything lining up perfectly, you can also create different grooves for different parts to introduce subtle variations, or use a combination of strict grids and created grooves, or percentage quantize to your grooves.