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Topic: to sustain or not to sustain, that is the question!

  1. #1

    to sustain or not to sustain, that is the question!

    I just spent a lengthy amount of time creating an email for one of our members explaing the sustain pedal and how it controls legato sound. For those who are confused about this, it might be helpful. I am confident this has been discussed a number of times, but once again can't hurt.

    Here is what I recommend for you since you are creating your music in a notation program.

    Notation programs are specifically designed for producing scores of music, not the recorded music. Just as a sequencing program like Sonar or Cubase, Digital Performer, Pro Tools etc. is capable of producing good sounding music, they are no good at producing a professional score. Separate programs for different purposes. They can both produce a recording and a printed score, but very different. The one common thing that they do share is midi.

    If you have your music in a notation program, export that file to a standard midi file (SMF) then you can import that into your digtial audio workstation (DAW) or sequencer, and work with it from there.

    Once you have the midi file in the DAW, you can slightly overlap notes for better legato, and you can do all kinds of things like drawing in pitchbend for portamento, creating life-like legato sounds, as well as mixing and panning the instruments in stereo while intimately controlling things like reverb and balancing of the various audio tracks.

    Every nuance of the sound of each instrument needs to be massaged by you.

    Here is how the legato with cc64 works with many of Garritan sounds.

    The sustain pedal (cc64) controls notes sustaining just like a real piano, as long as the pedal is set to "sustain pedal + controller". This can be changed in the Kontakt player's instrument options. This can be found by clicking on the little icon of two gears in any loaded instrument. For any of the other Garritan instruments, you always want it set to "controller only" (cc only) You also want each instrument to have a setting of no more than 1 in the Voices: Max:. This can be seen in the window of the loaded instrument. Also, using the cc64 legato feature of Kontakt does not connect notes, you must make sure that notes are overlapping slightly, or at least touching, you have to use your ears here.

    Now that that is covered, we want the cc64 data (sustain pedal) to manipulate the sound of our instrument to create a true legato sound. When the sustain pedal is up, or released, each note you play will have an attack sound as part of each note. The velocity at which you play every note on the keyboard, will determine how aggressive the note sounds.

    Now think of this, it is not possible for a trumpet to play four notes legato, and have attack for all four notes. If there was attack for each individual note, it would be impossible for the notes to be c o n nected because he would have to stop playing each note, and attack the next note,,, right???? Now, if those four notes were played legato, only the first note would have attack, but the last three notes would not because they were not attacked with a new breath. So, what we need is for the software engine "Kontakt" to eliminate the first small portion of each sampled note (attack), but only if the sustain pedal is down (depressed).

    For a phrase of four A notes plying legato, this is what would be played and in this order,,,,

    Play the first A, then while this first A is still being played, depress the sustain pedal and hold the pedal during the rest of the phrase.

    A, then hold pedal, A, A, A,

    If you applied the sustain pedal before the first A, then it would be an unrealistic, impossible sound, since the first note of each phrase must have an attack sound, hence playing the first A THEN hitting the sustain pedal.
    All of this sustain pedal must be either played in real time or entered by drawing in this cc64 data into the midi track. If you choose to play it in, (way faster) use the overdub feature in your DAW. This will allow you to record new data in the same midi track without erasing any of the existing data such as notes or modwheel data. Speaking of modwheel data, I suggest playing it in real time too, your instruments will breath very naturally just like the emotion and and feeling that you use while you play a real instrument.

    Try it. I hope you have a midi keyboard of some kind.
    If you don't have a keyboard, get one because life will be miserable without one.

    A midi keyboard is the most logical thing too use to control various midi instruments. If you can, get yourself a Yamaha wind controller if you already know how to play a wind instrument, they are awesome. I don't use one but I am familiar with them.

    Also, check out this audio mixing tutorial I did for Garritan a while back.



  2. #2

    Re: to sustain or not to sustain, that is the question!

    Great, Dan - I've explained the sustain-Legato process many a time in Forum replies and by email. Now it'll be a simpler matter of just directing people to this thread--Excellent, thanks.

    Randy B.

  3. #3

    Re: to sustain or not to sustain, that is the question!

    Just to clarify something, why must instrument me set to one voice MAX? some, such as violins I sus+short (ensemble) default to 32 or something. Whats the problem there? You may want to explain why you say that in the first post, just so people understand it all.

    Otherwise, gd posting sir!

  4. #4
    Senior Member Leaf's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Dallas, TX

    Thumbs up Re: to sustain or not to sustain, that is the question!

    Thanks for posting this Dan, great info! I need to get a sustain pedal.

  5. #5

    Re: to sustain or not to sustain, that is the question!

    Thanks Randy, I can only imagine how many times we both have typed basically the same info about this, but this is so important for Garritan instruments. It is an ingenious idea and I believe Tom Hopkins came up with it.

    Ben, I can not describe what happens under the hood of the Kontakt player, except that I know the max voice number has to be one in order for the sustain legato feature to work properly. Tom Hopkins can explain it better than me, he is the programmer for GPO. It is so important to understand that by simply applying the sustain pedal in these phrases does not connect the notes, you must make sure that the notes are at least touching each other. Another unique thing about the max voice number being set to one, is that when two notes overlap, it doesn't matter if the previous note lingers long into the next note, because the next note is going to be triggered as soon as it appears, and in doing so, immediately stops the previous note. All of this will make more sense when one experiments in a program that allows the viewing of the midi notes, such as a piano roll view.

    David, you don't really have to have a sustain pedal, you can use any old pedal switch as long as the switch is wired properly to match your keyboard's sustain pedal input. Heck, you could use a guitar patch cord and short it out when you want to change from pedal up and pedal down

    he he ,, a peadl would certainly be easier and certainly faster. I zoom out in the piano roll view while I listen to the notes I just played. Then in overdub mode, I sit there and watch the notes, and do a little foot dancing with the pedal.

    It is good to take deep breathes and pretend you are the musician playing that phrase, and when you are about to run out of breath, and at a logical (musical) spot, make sure there is a gap where the player breathes. Make sure the notes are not continuous,.... as in someone creating a french horn track in a song that is four minutes long and the player never comes up for air for the whole thing kinda like this run on sentance.


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