12 Step Program to Transform Standard MIDI Into Beautiful Strings!
By Robin Prinzing

Recently Robin helped a friend (Mark Strozier) with his flute recital by providing GPO string accompaniment to the Mozart flute concerto. The music was posted on the GPO Forum and many were astounded by the natural sounded string work that Robin did. Robin is an accomplished vioinist and has a Master's degree in violin performance from the University of Washington. Robin shares his knowledge and extraordinary experience on how the realize string parts.

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Not intended to be a full guide. Consult the Garritan website for additional help.

Start with a good midi file. - Click the notes in; play them in; or find them on the internet.
Step 1: Obtain clean midi file. All notes input according to the original score.
Open in Sonar (or Sequencer of choice).

Step 2: Make decisions about moving notes between staffs.

For Example: move a couple of critical notes from the oboe to the violin.
Delete staffs you don’t want to use.
Assign to Garritan Personal Orchestra
Step 3: Change to ASIO audio driver in Sonar.

Step 4: Assign tracks to appropriate instruments in VSI.

Musical Interpretation
Step 5: Tempo changes where appropriate.
Ends of phrases might slow down.
Middle section might be faster.
Slow down at the end of the piece.

Step 6: Solo each track separately and record expressive control (CC1).

For strings, visualize the mod wheel as a miniature bow.

Step 7: For strings, clone each track.

Assign one as Violin 1 Short bow (apply short bow patch)
Assign the other as Violin 1 Long bow (apply sus patch)
Make decisions which long notes to delete from first track.
Make decisions which short notes to delete from 2nd track.

Step 8: Listen. Use piano roll tool to display CC1.

Modify measures that didn’t work by playing them in.

Sound and Mixing
Step 9: Use “Arm for Automation” to record changes in track levels.
Allows you to drop volume for some passages and increase others.

Step 10: Assign tracks to an AUX bus for effects.

Create Reverb on the AUX bus. (I used Lexicon Pantheon 40 foot hall)
Also experiment with Slow Compression (for warmth)
Caution: don’t over do it, just to hide. 60% seems good.
If it doesn’t sound good dry… you’re not done yet.
Get as realistic as you can, while dry.

Step 11: Bounce midi tracks to wav tracks. Keep the wav dry.

Sonar: Arm wav track. Solo midi tracks. Select All. Edit, Bounce to Track. Destination: armed wav track. Entire Mix. DRY ONLY.

Step 12: Assign wav tracks to the AUX bus and mute the midi.

Output final mix to mp3 or wav.
Musical Interpretation cannot be overlooked.
The standard midi file PROVES the need for musicality. It is rigid and mechanical sounding. All of the notes are the correct pitch and the correct rhythm.

The music needs artistic expression.

Shape phrases. How? Make sure the music surges to the top of the phrase and relaxes back down to the end of the phrase. All of that can be accomplished thru expressive tool and tempo. Careful not to HIT the last note of the phrase. That is a DEAD give-a-way you are a computer!

String tips:

Tip 1: The trill patches are key to correct sounding trills (as are tremolo).

Tip 2:
The business of separating short notes and long notes between two tracks has room for artistic license. Sometimes leave the note in both tracks – you get the clean articulation/attack from the short bow patch, and the correctly ringing of the tone from the sus patch. The staff view seems to be the easiest way to see what to do. Also trust your ear. Listen to areas with bumps in the sound and try changing the bumped note to the other staff/patch.

Tip 3: Chords must be broken to sound realistic. Bottom two notes should be played slightly before the beat and softer than the upper two notes.

Tip 4: Syncopations should rely on the short bow patch to sound clean. Otherwise they get muddy and synth sounding.

Tip 5:
Each string track MUST sound good alone. Dry. Until then, you’re not ready to put them all together. The easy way out is to hide behind muddy reverb.

Tip 6:
There is a proper time for crescendo and decrescendo. Long notes with slight crescendo add excitement. Long notes with slight decrescendo help relax the phrase to a quiet ending.

Tip 7:
Slurring notes together with the foot pedal can help legato passages.

Tip 8:
Use pan settings to “separate” the strings on stage. For example:
Violin 1 37% Left
Violin 2 13% Left
Viola 20% Right
Cello 0%
Bass 20% Right
Musical Examples:

Mozart Flute Concerto K313 - Garritan Personal Orchestra - Strings and Flute
Mozart Flute Concerto K313 - Starting Point.
Default Midi File from Classical Music Archives.
Mozart Flute Concerto - MIDI Example

Listen: Mozart Flute Concerto - MP3 Example

Robin Prinzing
Native of Pacific Northwest.
BS in Business and Music from Oregon State University, Corvallis Oregon,
1985. Attended Stuttgart Conservatory in Germany,
1983-84. Masters in Music (Violin Performance) from University of Washington, Seattle Washington,
Relocated to Kansas City in 1989.
Robin Prinzing's Website: http://home.everestkc.net/prinzing/

Thank you Robin providing this valuable information for GPO users!

For information about using the Strings in GPO, see the following tutorials:
GPO Ensemble Building
Master Class GPO STRINGS