6 weeks ago I asked you for advice on how to improve my renditions of ragtime orchestra arrangements on my web site http://www.ragsrag.com/vo/vo.html. I was overwhelmed by your response and started right away to revise all tunes, using the advice I got from you.
I still use Sibelius out of the box as opposed to using a DAW and I will stick to that, because frankly DAWs intimidate me. However, I've made one great step forward on the software side: I purchased GPO 4 and skipped Sibelius Sounds. So now I use GPO 4 for strings and JABB 3 for everything else (e.g. brass, winds, percussion, keyboard). The sound is now much, much better!
Important advice I got from you included using more reverb and using the ”live playing” feature of Sibelius. So I increased reverb from ”Ambient hall” to ”Concert hall” and experimented a bit with the ”live playing” feature, to see how it worked.
In Sibelius you can set velocity, start position and duration for each and every note and that's fine but not possible to do in real life for an orchestra score, especially not for the hundreds of orchestra scores on my web site. ”Live playing” is determined in Sibelius by the Style settings in menu Play|Performance. There are three parameters there to set: Espressivo, Rubato and Rhytmic feel. The last one I disregard.
Espressivo introduces randomness of velocity with the alternatives Meccanico, Senza espressivo, Poco espressivo, Espressivo and Molto espressivo. Meccanico and Senza espressivo does nothing (meaning that the volume is a constant for each set value ppp-fff) and Poco espressivo, Espressivo and Molto espressivo randomly alters the volume from the set value, note for note. Roughly it seems that Poco espressivo has a range of about +-10 %, Espressivo +-25 % and Molto espressivo +- 30-40 %. I decided to use Espressivo.
Rubato introduces randomness of start position and duration with the alternatives Meccanico, Senza rubato, Poco rubato, Rubato, Piu Rubato and Molto Rubato.
Live duration is rather straight forward: it's randomly varied from Senza rubato (+- 1 %) to Molto rubato (-4 % to +8 %). This seems rather limited but the worst thing is that each instrument varies exactly the same amount if they have the same written note value and are in the same position in the score. This is the opposite of a live performance where truly random variation per instrument is to be expected! Meccanico does not modify the default values (which are in turn dependent on the % setting of unslurred notes).
Live start position is also randomly varied, from Senza rubato (-2 % to + 6 %) to Molto rubato (-11 % to +20 %). Here it is even worse than for Live duration: the "random" value for each note - regardless of note value - with the same written position in the score is identical. To make the score sound "live" of course each instrument must vary individually to imitate a real musician.
With this knowledge I decided to set the Rubato parameter to Rubato (Sibelius engineers do not have much appreciation for selecting words, do they).
With these settings and with the use of GPO 4 instead of Sibelius Sounds I believe I have taken several steps forward towards reaching my goal: to have at least decent renditions of ragtime orchestra arrangements on my site.
As for modifying all pieces on my Virtual orchestra page I still have some work to do. I started modifying them right away almost six weeks ago when I didn't have the knowledge I have now and when I still used Sibelius Sounds. So although I have modified most pieces only the ones modified the last two or three days are completely to my satisfaction.
Here is one sample which I believe is representative for my current knowledge: my own arrangement of my own composition Rag's Rag http://www.ragsrag.com/vo/vo_ragsrag.mp3