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Topic: Paganini Capriccio N°1 from MIDI file

  1. #1

    Lightbulb Paganini Capriccio N°1 from MIDI file

    Making a good midi sequence with this kind of new, expressive instruments is not just a matter of technical skill and appropriate tools. It's more a matter of musical art.

    You need to frame a clear idea of your target, in terms of expressiveness and interpretation. The ideal approach would be to start from a midi recording of your own real time performance of the piece. This would help to preserve, through all subsequent editing, the original feeling and the nuances of your own interpretation.
    However, even if you are an excellent and clever keyboardist, taking advantage of low-speed midi recording techniques, this can turn out to be a very daunting task.

    In this case, a useful approach is to start from available midi (or notation) files, with the aim of trasforming an unavoidably sterile sequence by gradually introducing your interpretation. This can be carried out by recording your own expressive performance of at least some representative passages, and comparing it of the original midi, to get a better insight into the desirable rhythmic accents and tempo changes (rubatos).

    An audio track of the real thing is always an excellent guide to a realistic emulation of a solo instrument. For classical music, a lot of midi tracks, either free or relatively inexpensive, are available on the net.

    Some very good audio-to-midi applications also exist, able to convert a monophonic, or even polyphonic audio track into MIDI data. Don't expect a precise, out-of-the-box conversion though. Polyphonic audio tracks, but, in some case, even clear recordings of solo instruments with continuous pitch changes (as the violin for instance) need a lot of editing after conversion. But the rhythmic feel is totally captured, and the tempo pulsation is usually excellent by this approach.

    I used a mixed technic for the Bach's Solo Sonata, because the slow rubato was too hard to replicate by simply programming a tempo track. For the Paganini's Capriccio, I used an available midi file. To achieve some realism, it was sufficient to detect the basic tempo variations of the live track, and to apply them to the tempo track.


    first: you are an editor, getting the score.
    second: you are a conductor, searching for a good emulation of tempo changes.
    third (last, but absolutely not least), you are a performer. Where the real work starts!

    This is a "flat" and almost unexpressive MIDI file of the Capriccio, we use it as the starting point:


    opening it in the sequencer, this is the discouraging sight

  2. #2

    Lightbulb Re: Paganini Capriccio N°1 from MIDI file

    The first step is to make the tempo track realistic: this is feasible in reasonable time just working on the single bar internal pulsation, and on the phrase tension and rests. For a better understanding, follow the bar grid and the tempo value in the right ruler:

    (click the url to see the picture)


  3. #3

    Re: Paganini Capriccio N°1 from MIDI file

    The next step is adaptation of the score to the programming of the Stradivari:
    - Keyswitches must be included in the score, to provide the proper articulation.

    - Velocities must be tuned to attack strength and portamento rates (on overlapping notes). This is under your control by simply using the pencil tool in the velocity graphic window of your sequencer. The basic rules described in the manual must be known and used: read the manual!

    -Controllers must be activated by drawing it in the right graphic window of your sequencer. The first important controller is the Expression (CC#11), which provides control of the dynamics of the sustains.

    - When you want to add vibrato, both modulation (CC#1) and Aftertouch must be used. To obtain a good vibrato, you must know how a real violin plays. If you don't, simply listen to real recordings, and try to get the most realistic sound using your keyboard in realtime. When you are satisfied, try to reproduce the CC setting with your sequencer tools.
    A nearly randomly "wave motion" of the mod wheel during the sustain, is a good first approach to a realistic vibrato. By the end of the note, the vibrato usually becomes less intense, since the finger is going to quit its position. At the same time, the vibrato rate is usually increasing: a simultaneous “aftertouch up and modulation down” may yield very realistic effects.

    (click the url to see the picture)


    A fast and intense vibrato (both aftertouch and modulation up) yields a very romantic or decadent effect. However, very high, simultaneous levels of modulation and aftertouch (intense and fast vibrato) may sound unrealistic and are best avoided.

    -When expression, attacks and vibrato are well programmed/recorded, the sound is amazing. Too much...It may sound "too perfect" indeed. Now it's the moment of humanize it a little (or a lot...it's your choice;-)) using the pitch wheel. The pitchwheel is useful to mimick slide effects, if used in large amount (up to two semitones). But if you use it up and down with micro variations, again nearly randomly, the result is to simulate the lack of intonation, caused by fast fingering on a fretless instrument such as the violin. This tuning defects are more likely to be present in the high and very high register, because of the relative shortness of the string, as in fast virtuosistic passages or complex polyphonic phrases.

    Another excellent trick is to use the pitchwheel to start a note slightly detuned (in sharp or flat direction), simulating the immediate correction after the first touch of the experienced player, and the natural temperamento of some chromatic sound, not exactly corresponding to a semitone of a tempered keyboard instrument: it is more evident when the instrument play alone, or "sing" a free melodic phrase on a basic accompaniment. Pitch microchanges may also be used to keep "alive" a long sustained note.

  4. #4

    Lightbulb Re: Paganini Capriccio N°1 from MIDI file

    Now, we do it with the Capriccio:

    the target is to show different fast staccatos, spiccatos and the nearly "bouncing" effect of fast sautillé, using the nice arpeggios and double stop runs of the challenging Paganini's score. Doing this, we don't entirely respect the original score, based on a coninuous sautillè technic, but we introduce some variation (anyway realistic and musical) for experimenting purpose.
    This is the real sound of the sautille and double runs in real audio recording.

    We will use velocity changes for enhancing the attacks, low expression value to get a pp dynamic of the sustain, the E1 keyswitch to use short (spiccato) attacks, that creates the "sautillè" effect. No vibrato of course (no time to move the finger!), and a little continous pitch bending to simulate the difficult intonation (no time to find the right perfect position).

    (click the url to see the picture)


  5. #5

    Re: Paganini Capriccio N°1 from MIDI file

    This is the resulting MIDI file:

    Different combinations of velocity and expression produce different effects:
    velocity up and expression up simulate fast staccato or spiccato, medium velocity and very low expression aim at recreating a sautillé effect.
    Try your own mix to find out what you like!

    Last suggestions: chords and large double stops are best rendered by a slight arpeggiato, detaching the note-on in the piano roll editor. Before the arpeggiato you must include a D1 keyswitch to activate polyphony, keeping velocities high for better realism (chords require a strong bow attack). After the chord phrase, don’t forget to restore the proper KS (C1 for auto legato, or E1 for spiccato attack, and so on).

    This is the audio result, with a very little reverb (to keep near and evident the solo violin sound)
    http://www.webalice.it/fatis12/files/Capriccio n1.mp3

  6. #6

    Smile Re: Paganini Capriccio N°1 from MIDI file

    I hope that my Italenglish Tutorial is enough understandable to be useful, but don't hesitate asking me more about details.

    More coming soon....



  7. #7

    Cool Re: Paganini Capriccio N°1 from MIDI file

    The whole thread has been re-edited with Giorgio, just to make it more clear.

    Now it's "official"



  8. #8

    Re: Paganini Capriccio N°1 from MIDI file


    Outstanding presentation and demo of the "Stradivarius." The pictures submitted really make it easy to see what is going on with the controllers and the resulting sound files reinforce the student immensely.

    Thank you for taking the time to do this for us.

    Jack Cannon
    Jack Cannon--Toshiba laptop, 2.8 GHz CPU, 1.5 GB RAM, GPO4-JABB3-Auth. STEINWAY-Gofriller CELLO-Stradivari VIOLIN-COMB2-WORLD, FINALE 2009/11, RME Digiface, Cardbus, V-Stack---Mac Pro 2.66 GHz CPU, 8 GB RAM, DP 8, MOTU Traveler, MOTU Micro Express.--MacBook Pro 2.2 Ghz CPU, 8 GB RAM.

  9. #9

    Re: Paganini Capriccio N°1 from MIDI file

    This was a very clear and intresting step-by-step explanation of working with midi. Thank you!

    I haven´t the Stradivari in my hands but I was curious about one thing.
    Have anyone tried to use any of the "performance scripts" in Kontakt 2 togehter with the Stradivari, for example "Randomize pitch" or "humanizer"?

    "Every journey, even one of a thousand miles, begins with a single step."

  10. #10

    Re: Paganini Capriccio N°1 from MIDI file

    Quote Originally Posted by Fabio
    More coming soon....
    Grazie Fabio,

    It's a great help for 'real' playing


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