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Topic: GPO and MIDI - Humanising the Performance

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  1. #1

    GPO and MIDI - Humanising the Performance

    First, I do know that there is nothing to beat actually 'playing in' parts into a score for that 'human' playback feel. However, my work flow remains the MIDI route and I want to achieve the very best performance possible through this route.

    For those who 'play-in' parts into their notation editor/sequencer there is a tool to tighten the performance timing, the 'quantization' tool. It wouldn't really be an option to go through even a 'modestly sized' score and quantise each individual note one by one. We need simply to select the whole score, however large and involved, select the 'Quantization' tool and the tolerance value and the tool does the rest .. voilà .. a well-timed score with random timing 'imperfections' and as such retains the 'Human Performance' factor. Well, what about the exact opposite; the other way around, i.e. Take a MIDI score with it's unnatural timing perfection and de-time it randomly to humanise the performance.

    I have read several threads and articles, including our own DP Dan's excellent tutorial. However, I still have a myriad of seemingly conflicting brain-waves and unanswered questions.

    From what I have read, I believe there are two ways to achieve the same effect. The first is to physically move notes a few ticks out of time. The second is to leave notes as they are but to alter the attack on notes randomly.

    (1). Are the two methods I describe above really the same thing or are they indeed two different methods?

    (2). If they are different methods which is considered the most effective?

    (3). There are tools in Finale (Randomize) and Sonar (Humanize and Random Time). I have tried these tools and when I examined the scores there was no change; the notes were exactly as they were. I have been told that the tools randomises the attack and not the timing as such. When listening I could hear no difference. Should I either be able to see or physically hear any difference?

    (4). Are there other industry standard or professional tools that will either randomise 'de-timing' of notes and/or attack to 'humanise' a MIDI score i.e. Select the whole score, select the 'De-time Tool' and voilà, every note is 'de-timed' randomly to create a humanised performance?

    (5). Does anyone actually visit every note in their score to randomly de-time or just a cross section of notes in each part?

    (6). Sonar uses 'ticks' (960 = quarter note) as its smallest timing unit of measurement and Finale uses EDUs (1024 = quarter note). Too much adjustment would put the work out of time whilst too little would make it still sound too perfect. Is there such a thing in the world of the professional audio engineer of what is considered the optimum de-time?

    (7). If it's just a cross section of notes de-timed, roughly what kind of percentage does the trick, less than half, less than quarter, just a few notes here and there?

    (8). In GPO, I understand that the instrument sections such as Violins 1, Violins 2 etc. have been prepared with random attack which is fantastic. If using just one section with GPO, say violins 1, am I right in saying that we should have a nicely 'humanised' performance and that no further de-timing should be necessary.

    (9). If (7). above is incorrect, why would it need further work?

    (10). When using more than one instrument section with GPO, say a string orchestra, as each section has been 'prepared', is it still necessary to de-time each section?

    (11). I have read that some people add a solo violin (or other instrument?) to a score to give the strings more presence. I have experimented with this and, personally, for me, I dislike the effect and would prefer not to do this. Do you add a solo instrument every time irrespective?

    (12). If you do add a solo instrument irrespective, doesn't processing the score through de-timing the attack or actual timing of the notes alone create a sufficiently 'warm' 'humanised' performance without adding other instruments?

    Well, that's it for now. If anyone can help with any of the above questions I would be really grateful.
    Michael
    Patience is a virtue, sensitivity is a gift

  2. #2

    Re: GPO and MIDI - Humanising the Performance

    Hi, Michael!

    Wow--now that Was quite a post, and full of good questions. I was set to touch on at least some of what you brought up, but I see you've withdrawn your post, wanting to whittle it down. OK, well, I'll take a look again when you've put up your new version.

    But I was ready to say a few things in reply:

    When you said, "...It's just that those of us who work the MIDI route have to do the opposite..."

    --That's not accurate. Those of us playing music with a keyboard are also working "the MIDI route." Perhaps that's just a fine point, but see, it's not as if using a notation program is totally different from using a DAW. It's all MIDI work. And as you pointed out, a lot of editing is required in both approaches, to yield the best results. For tricky, fast passages, for instance, I'll hand-insert notes also, even though most of the time I'm using a MIDI keyboard.

    --You were talking about Quantizing, but didn't seem to understand that it's Never done to an entire track at a time. Portions of tracks are selected, with the quantizing factor constantly being changed, depending on what kind of note values are included in each section. And when quantization is used, one always has the choice to not make its effect full rounded-off 100% quantization.

    But I use quantization only extemely rarely. I generally look through and listen through a track and with quantization turned OFF, I nudge individual notes forward or backwards if they're just too far off from the pocket. That way the truly "human" element is left intact.

    Finally, you must know that in Finale there's the humanizing plugin which everyone says does an excellent job of playing back a notated score's perfectly quantized tracks so they sound more like they were played.

    Now, I await your re-write. I'm not at all sure if I've addressed anything you were actually wanting to talk about. lol.

    Randy B.
    (rbowser)

  3. #3

    Re: GPO and MIDI - Humanising the Performance

    Well .. that was quick Randy

    I felt my original post was embarrassingly too long and so I've shortened it somewhat

    I've left my original 12 questions intact though and, as always, thanks for your response; I do value your expertise and advice.

    Hmm .. that's interesting about Finale's humanizing plugin .. I've not discovered that yet .. and I'm a seasoned Finale user ..

    I'll saunter off to have a look at that.

    I know you are familiar with Sonar's CAL but as I've mentioned I can't seem to get results using that .. will try that again also.
    Michael
    Patience is a virtue, sensitivity is a gift

  4. #4
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    Re: GPO and MIDI - Humanising the Performance

    Wow very good questions. I'll come back to this one to see the answers.

    Not that it matters i guess, but i wondered after reading those if a measure of quarternotes that has some of them detimed, such as increased in length, would other quarter notes in the same measure be automaticaly decreased in length, or would the time length of the measure grow?

  5. #5

    Re: GPO and MIDI - Humanising the Performance

    Hi Michael,

    good questions you posted here.

    I have many answers to you, but I need time to translate them into your language right. I will come later ...... .

    My best,

    Gunther
    "Music is the shorthand of emotion." Leo Tolstoy

    Listen to me, tuning my triangle http://www.box.net/shared/ae822u6r3i

  6. #6

    Re: GPO and MIDI - Humanising the Performance

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael_uk
    Hmm .. that's interesting about Finale's humanizing plugin .. I've not discovered that yet .. and I'm a seasoned Finale user ..
    Randy may have alluded to Finale's Human Playback, plugin as well as real-time (they do the same), which humanizes note start. You could also try the MIDI Tool; it offers some ways to humanize velocity/note start/note duration.

  7. #7

    Re: GPO and MIDI - Humanising the Performance

    Quote Originally Posted by germancomponist
    Hi Michael,

    good questions you posted here.

    I have many answers to you, but I need time to translate them into your language right. I will come later ...... .

    My best,

    Gunther
    Hello Gunther,

    Thank you for going to the trouble to do this for me. I do appreciate it.

    I wish I could speak your language, I admire people who are able to speak more than one language.
    Michael
    Patience is a virtue, sensitivity is a gift

  8. #8

    Re: GPO and MIDI - Humanising the Performance

    Michael,
    If you are a Finale user then I think you will find HP to be a terrific tool. With people like EtLux creating renderings using HP you know that the tool is very powerful.

    I know you use Sonar and I can't speak to it. FWIIW, Cubase provides several ways to randomize note attack times that I have found very useful. For instance, there is a `magnet' feature that says randomize attack based upon this range around the beat.

    -Kevin
    We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams …
    24" 2.4 Ghz iMac, OSX 10.4.10, MOTU 828 MKII, 2 Glyph 250 Gig external drives, Logic 9, Finale 2008 GPO, JABB, Strad, Gro, Reason 4, EWQL Storm Drum, Adrenaline, Symphonic Choirs, SO Gold,All Arturia Synths, Many NI Synths, Spectrasonics Synths, KH Strings, VEPro on a Windows 7 4x 2.8 Ghz 12 gig of RAM

  9. #9

    Re: GPO and MIDI - Humanising the Performance

    Hello again, Michael

    Let me go through your post and see what I can come up with.

    BUt first off, haven't you noticed that sprinkled throughout many of the Forum posts about Finale, that people refer to HP? That's Human Playback, the magic tool which compensates for the necessary quantization in notation. I've always had the impression HP is rather essential to getting good results in Finale recordings/renderings. Clearly this is the tool you need most to investigate.

    "...However, my work flow remains the MIDI route and I want to achieve the very best performance possible through this route..."

    Might as well get concepts straight--It's ALL "the MIDI route," Michael, whether one is working in a DAW or a notation program. Just a smallish point that I'd like you to understand better. Whether we're hand inserting notes, or really playing them, we're using MIDI--we're creating data which triggers MIDI sounds.

    "...It wouldn't really be an option to go through even a 'modestly sized' score and quantise each individual note one by one..."

    And nobody does that. We may tweak some individual notes, sure, but quantization is applied to sections at a time, not single notes.

    "...We need simply to select the whole score, however large and involved, select the 'Quantization' tool and the tolerance value and the tool does the rest .. voilà .. a well-timed score with random timing 'imperfections' and as such retains the 'Human Performance' factor..."

    No, the entire score is never chosen in one fell swoop to do proper quantization. As I said in my first reply, sections of various sizes are selected for quantization. You'd have a mess trying to do the whole thing at once--though I suppose some people might try to simplify their work that much. And as usual, short cuts only make for less-than-satisfactory work.

    "...Well, what about the exact opposite; the other way around, i.e. Take a MIDI score with it's unnatural timing perfection and de-time it randomly to humanise the performance..."

    As we're saying--that's the purpose of Finale's Human Playback feature, and my understanding is that using its various parameters, the tool can be used with a great level of sophistication. There are randomizing tools in DAWs like Sonar also.

    "...From what I have read, I believe there are two ways to achieve the same effect. The first is to physically move notes a few ticks out of time. The second is to leave notes as they are but to alter the attack on notes randomly..."

    Hmmm. Change the actual attack envelope on the sample or sound? I've never heard of doing it that way--When you change the attack of a sound, you've drastically altered its characteristics. The attack is the main ingredient for us to hear and identify what the sound is supposed to be. Not sure where this idea came from--?

    "...There are tools in Finale (Randomize) and Sonar (Humanize and Random Time). I have tried these tools and when I examined the scores there was no change..."

    The Staff View in Sonar offers a quantized view--It's not necessarily an accurate view of where the notes are actually falling. If they're inside a certain window, close to the note value, they will display properly. The view where you can actually see the effect of randomizing applications is in the Piano Roll View--that's where you see the absolute display of where notes are actually starting and stopping.

    "...I have been told that the tools randomises the attack and not the timing as such..."

    That has to be your misunderstanding. Those tools are randomizing the start time of notes--which is the "attack" when used in that context, but that's not to be confused with the attack envelope of a sound, as explained above--for instance, the "chiff" of a Flute.

    "...Should I either be able to see or physically hear any difference?..."

    Well--yeah, you should see and hear a difference. --

    "...Are there other industry standard or professional tools that will either randomise 'de-timing' of notes and/or attack to 'humanise' a MIDI score i.e. Select the whole score, select the 'De-time Tool' and voilà, every note is 'de-timed' randomly to create a humanised performance?..."

    Already answered. You can't push an entire piece through a slicer-dicer and expect it to come out instantly sounding more real. There's always user interaction involved when using whatever tool you're using to randomize note events.

    "...Does anyone actually visit every note in their score to randomly de-time or just a cross section of notes in each part?..."

    By the time I'm ready to record one of my projects, I really have pretty much looked at all kinds of data for each note--velocity value, volume value, its onset, its length etc--I work slowly mainly because I know it pays off to pay detailed attention to every note. SO yeah, I come close to doing what you're saying. But maybe it's 2 or 3 seconds I've spent on looking at one note--it's not an inCredibly slow process. But as with everything concerning my music, I figure Any amount of time it takes is worth it.

    "...Is there such a thing in the world of the professional audio engineer of what is considered the optimum de-time?..."

    Safe to say that No, there isn't. There are no templates for anything in music or audio which will work for every occassion. We have to use our ears and our judgments--is this too tight or too loose for this section of this particular song, etc. I think you're hoping to streamline and assembly line your music more than is practical to actually do.

    "...In GPO, I understand that the instrument sections such as Violins 1, Violins 2 etc. have been prepared with random attack which is fantastic. If using just one section with GPO, say violins 1, am I right in saying that we should have a nicely 'humanised' performance and that no further de-timing should be necessary..."

    No, that wouldn't be right. The random attack is in those ensemble instrument patches--But they've become one sound, that particular patch. If you have that patch playing too perfectly, then you'll have the same problem of an overly quantized sound.

    "...If (7). above is incorrect, why would it need further work?..."

    Because in essence, playing an ensemble patch and a solo patch is essentially the same thing. It's still a single sample being played.

    "...When using more than one instrument section with GPO, say a string orchestra, as each section has been 'prepared', is it still necessary to de-time each section?..."

    Usually. Again, use your ears. If you're detecting the dreaded "Organ" effect--it's because too many notes are starting at precisely the same time. In your scenario, at least one of the tracks needs to be shifted or randomized to break up that effect.

    "...I have read that some people add a solo violin (or other instrument?) to a score to give the strings more presence. I have experimented with this and, personally, for me, I dislike the effect and would prefer not to do this. Do you add a solo instrument every time..."

    I always add a solo string instrument to each section. I don't know why your results with that technique have been unsatisfactory, but I would guess it's because you didn't mix things well into a good balance. The solo instruments can't play at the same volume as the ensemble instruments--they would be too loud. I bring the volumes of solo strings down until they're almost disappearing in the group. But when I mute them, suddenly the string section isn't as believable, proving that it helps to have them in the project. It's an approach that can definitely work.

    "...If you do add a solo instrument irrespective, doesn't processing the score through de-timing the attack or actual timing of the notes alone create a sufficiently 'warm' 'humanised' performance without adding other instruments?.."

    Irrespective--of what? I don't know what you mean there. And I don't get the rest of the question--How could adding natural randomness in onset times mean that you can then use less instruments? You want to use as many virtual instruments as you would in the real life situation, always.

    OK--came to the end of your post. ---Gotta run, really don't have time to improve what I've written--hopefully at least some of this will be helpful, Michael.

    Randy B.
    (rbowser)

  10. #10

    Re: GPO and MIDI - Humanising the Performance

    "Random" is not "humanized". Quite the opposite imo.

    Humans act purposeful, even in music (most of the time).

    Hannes
    All your strings belong to me!
    www.strings-on-demand.com

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