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  • And Still No More Noob Questions: Bowing CS

    How does VSL determine up/down bow or slurring?

    1. Obviously there's a relationship between the -space- between the end of one note and the start of the next, but I can't figure out a 'rule' for when they get bowed together or not without a lot of trial and error. What determines whether notes are 'slurred' or taken as separate bows?

    2. Also: is there a way to 'tell' CS to: take a group of notes all in one bow direction (ie... 3 up-bows all sul G)

    3. Is there a way to  'tell' VSL to use an 'up' or a 'down' bow?

    Thanks again!


  • There are not specific up bows, or down bows, but articulations such as sforzando are of course down bows.  However the short notes are all alternating, and so when used on repeated notes are alternating up/down bows.  Also, the Performance rep samples such as legato/portato rep have these built in and played totally naturally within the sample.  Those are really good to use sometimes instead of the normal detache as they have a more subtle connectivity.  

    For slurs, the legato patches include both bowed legato and some sul legato depending on the note intervals. For example, you won't find a bowed violin legato between a low g and gsharp since it is impossible. So the best way to get a difference in "fluid" legato vs. less noticeable legato is to alternate regular legato patches with portamento patches, or with sul legato patches actually sampled on one string.  One thing I've done is to use a cell crossfade between the normal legato and the sul legato, and that gives you some good variations with a simple flick of the mod wheel. 

  • Thanks, that's very helpful. Where you write:

    "One thing I've done is to use a cell crossfade between the normal legato and the sul legato, and that gives you some good variations with a simple flick of the mod wheel."

    Where I'm getting hung up is in the logistics. If I set up a patch that does as you suggest, then I have -another- patch which uses the mod wheel to switch between note lengths for shorter notes, what's the 'best' way to toggle between all these different mappings? Do you use an external controller pad or just write them into the MIDI? after the fact (sounds -very- tedious). And... if you use an external controller, how do you keep track of which button does what? Just rote memorisation?

    Sorry for all the questions... I'm just trying to develop an efficient way to get the ideas into the computer faster. Right now, and this is no joke, if I -really- work on getting a line into the computer with all the expression I want, it's so slow I find myself losing my train of thought. So I usually end up just playing the raw notes and -then- going back later and adding all the expression---TEDIOUS!

    Thanks again,


  •  Yes I know what you mean.  It is a lot of controls that have to be managed.  I have ended up doing things in a simplified way so I don't have to think about anything but the music.  You can get endlessly involved in the technique, since VSL allows almost infinite possibilites.  Someone else probably sets things up completely differently and just as well, but I have recently been trying, in my attempts at simplifying, to have only keyswitches for articulations, and not CCs such as mod for articulations themselves.  That is different from what I suggested for the sul/legato crossfade.  But I stopped using that approach actually for the same reason you are talking about - that there are two many things being controlled by different controllers.  So by keeping  articulations controlled by keyswitch, and other things such as volume, expression, crossfade by CCs , you get a "feel" for the mod wheel (or other controller) as something active and evolving that is done to the more stable keyswitched articulation. 

    I must admit I always make up my own matrices and presets because I want to have a feel for everything from the ground up.  So they don't use all the options of the programming that is within the factory presets.  What I have also been doing is trying to create matrices that are uniform across the orchestra as much as possible and are the same in structure for all the instrument, so I get used to where the keyswitches are.     Examples of these cells horizontally and vertically (with a lot of empty spaces available) are -

    1st violins:

    legato; sustain; detache; staccato; sforzando; tremolo; trill 1; trill 2. 

    sul or portamento legato

    divisi sustain; detache; staccato; etc. as needed (next smaller ensemble with volume adjustment such as splitting Orchestral strings into Chamber, Chamber STrings into solos, Appassionata strings into Orchestral - the numbers don't match exactly but sound almost perfect)

    solo violin:

    legato; sustain; detache; staccato; dynamic (long); dymanic (medium); dynamic (short); sforzando; forte piano

    sul legato

    So with this system, you start with the "longest" notes - the totally connected ones, progress left to right to sustain but freshly attacked, then shorter and shorter note values, then less often used articulations.  And when you find you need something more, you can just add it to this basic structure at the end.  By using the horizontal cell switch, you then have all the slots below for the same kind of sound but varied, such as sul legato instead of regular, or divisi sustain instead of full ensemble.  This might seem insane, but in practice once it is set up it becomes familiar and very useable.

    I then have been applying to this basic structure mod wheel for controlling crossfade amount, and (believe it or not) pitch wheel for turning on or off crossfade.   The reason I do this is that the pitch wheel I never use for actual pitch adjustment, since that sounds horrible, and so it is a free controller. Since you want a readily accessable controller, the pitch wheel is right there on every keyboard. So if you set up the matrix or preset to respond to pitch wheel pressed down means crossfade, and mod wheel crossfade amount, it is very easy to ctonrl and totally separate from all those articulation controls.  I have also created a basic template in my sequencer which has at the first measure zeroing of all these controllers to their proper initial settings so they are not inadvertantly left on or off. 

    It seems you always have to add more than velocity crossfade, so that adds one more layer that has to be dealt with and that is the Expression CC11 which I just write or paint in within the sequencer.  But that is pretty easy and fun to do once you have everything else basically in place.

    This may be a crazy system but like you I have wanted to concentrate on the music and not have the programming be in the way while working on it.  So once you have a setup such as this, though it may be some programming to first create it becomes much easier to use in practice.

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    @Suntower said:

    Sorry for all the questions... I'm just trying to develop an efficient way to get the ideas into the computer faster. Right now, and this is no joke, if I -really- work on getting a line into the computer with all the expression I want, it's so slow I find myself losing my train of thought. So I usually end up just playing the raw notes and -then- going back later and adding all the expression---TEDIOUS!


    Welcome to getting professional results.  You are doing what most of all of us do here.  Including the people who have the best sounding results you will ever dream imagineable.  Lots of the best composers using this software, hand write every note and detail.  It's why theirs sets apart from the beginner.  I myself continue to strive for getting in as much in one pass as possible, but as you will find you have to draw the line somewhere and not let yourself go insane trying to setup a way to hit record, and sound like you are Mozart in one pass.  Remove those expectations now, because they are unrealistic (and I mean that in a helpful way).

    What you will find if you keep digging at it, is you will find a workflow that works great for you.  But as most of us have found, it's not right out of the box.  The most painful process is the unknowns of where to go, the efficiency can't be there when you don't understand it all.  For me, between MIR Pro and my templates I can get instant gratification, however it is not still a completed sound (for my mom it is, for professionals, it's lacking).  Things have to be tweaked and twisted (or re-recorded).  I have only begun to be that good at it after much time with the software, much frustration and much overwhelmness.

    Now I find myself getting near immediate workable results, but still have so much to learn about mixing and mastering.  Because they definitely add the polish and luster to the tracks.  I had to learn a long time ago, what I hand write in or record in real time is not  what it will be like after I finish polishing it.  But the real work comes AFTER I recorded my parts (changing keyswitches, massaging dynamics, program changes etc.)  And this has absolutely nothing to do with musical ability, none.  The only part where musical ability came in was in maybe helping you decide WHAT patch you would throw on that note.  Even then, sometimes the absolute complete opposite patch you would have ever though of, was the best to use at that time.  So logic doesn't always prevail.

    As a rule of thumb for me incase this helps.  A song that I record all the parts live I can be done in the same day.  The timing is done, perfect.  The general shaping is done, perfect.  Now when I change the key switches, the new sample sounds better, but no longer does my dynamic XFade match anymore, so time to edit.  One day of recording, 3-5 days of editing.  Takes me about one week per song.  Then I take a break from it because my ears are burned out of it.  I come back to it a week later and tweak more.  Then it's ready to be truly mixed and mastered by someone.  If I learn to do those steps also, you can bet your butt it will add more time (Especially since I have no idea how to do some of it).  Trained masters of those trades (mixing and mastering) can easily still take a full day with your one track, per phase. 

    Hope that helps.  Get rid of the frustration mode, it doens't work.  Relax, take a breath and don't expect immediate results or you are in for a world of hurting and disappointment.  The pace at which you get to where you want is up to you, no one else.  Stay focused on the goal, and after many failures you will one day realize my god, I have done it.  What a great day that is.


  •  Yeah I completely agree with that but didn't say it so directly.  The simple fact is - by using samples of the symphony orchestra, you are one person doing the work of 60 to 80 people.  So to expect that instantly to create exactly what you imagine, is not going to happen.  Though I'm sure you realize that, that's just putting it more extremely.   On the other hand, it is pretty astounding what you can hear simply pushing a few keys with VSL sounds.  Translating that into an entire piece of music though does take a lot of work.  Though once one finds a system of one's own, it becomes something you are used to and can develope some real facility with.  i also have the same feeling as maestro in that after doing all the MIDI and sample tweaking, then comes the mixing which is another entire world of technique.  But still it is exciting to get music to that stage and start working on it. 

    One thing I did not put so clearly is the idea that with the approach of a matrix or preset of your own, you can start with the minimum of what you need.  And you find that you can do a HUGE amount of music with just legato, sustain, portato/detache and staccato.  Many lines of music require nothing more than those.  So setting up matrices that use the minimum, and then expanding as more articulations are needed, simplifies the task enormously. 

  • You have to enjoy getting into the details to make VSL work. Personally I greatly enjoy it. I usually go through a piece very roughly the first time (only staccatos and legatos), and when the basic shape is there I work through each track one at a time, bar by bar, adding articulation details until each instrument sounds realistic on its own. If each track sounds realistic on its own, you know it's going to sound good with everything playing at once. But it's never perfect... listening to the whole ensemble usually reveals more problems, and you need to go back and tweak a lot of things before it really works. At times it's frustrating, but the frustration is eclipsed by the satisfaction when you can finally play it through with all the articulations and reverb, and it actually sounds like music.

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    @clamnectar said:

    You have to enjoy getting into the details to make VSL work.

    No... no I really don't. 😄

    I totally get all the speechifyin' about 'suck it up' and 'no pain, no gain'. I'm not looking for 'Hans Zimmer' style mock-ups. And although I -really- admire guys like... well, like Guy... who do Rite Of Spring on a DAW, that's just not what I'm aimin' for.

    My low rent friends ask me all the time now what I think of the VSL libs I own and I think I can finally say that, although they sound -way- better than EWQLO (which just reek 'video game') but I stll have a tough time -recommending- VSL because...and I think the replies I've receive bear this out... IT'S TOO FRICKIN' HARD OOTB. It's almost as if the programmers -intentionally- make it tougher than it needs to be... there's like this culture of 'manliness' with regard to how much suffering one endures to get the best results. Again I say: that Universal Mode s.b. included with -every- lib... and the default patches should be made a LOT more ergonomic. With the price of these things, some care should be taken for ease of use. There's no reason it -has- to require custom patching just to get something usable OOTB.

    @William.... thanks for the -very- useful reply. On the contrary, I now think your layout is how VSL should be -shipped-. The default patch...which I've been struggling with is intrinsically a right PITA. And my big problem has been thinking that I needed to figure out how to work -with- it, rather than making my own because I figured VSL -must- have had some deep logic behind the defaults. Well, now I reckon the only 'logic' to the default is that this must be the way they always did it so they just kept the same consistently difficult patches across the lib.

    Anyhoo... Some very helpful ideas here. Time to roll up my sleeves and create some patches. I don't intend to do all the hand-editing many of you so relish... I just wanna be able to get in the ballpark when I lay down tracks.



  • suntower - glad that is helpful. 

  • I, too, am in the process of learning a great deal about how to use the VSL libraries.  It is precisely due to being "hard" that such good results are possible with the VSL libraries.  If you take away all the tools and options, the results will be far more "canned".  It is well worth taking the time to map articulations note by note as each phrase requires.  As another already said, you are seeking to mimic the results of what 60-80 people are doing in one pass, following the conductor.  We not only have to be the conductor, but also have to play each musician's part, musically, as that musician would play it.

    If you have not yet purchased it (and if needs are smaller, wait for MIR Pro 24), getting MIR Pro would be a strong suggestion.  Although my computer power only allowed for MIR SE, it is a wonderful tool, and extremely helpful for those of us who do not excel at mixing, etc.

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    @Suntower said:

    there's like this culture of 'manliness' with regard to how much suffering one endures to get the best results.

    Nonsense. It's very easy to get good results in VSL relative to many other software toolsets, which sound bad no matter how you use them, and even easier relative to learning to play the violin. But there's still effort required. How exactly can it be effortless to create a convincing and nuanced performance on a complex instrument? The point of my original post is that if you want to take it as far as it can go, you can do it, but it's time consuming. If you want to do it halfway, as William says, you can get an awful lot of mileage out of just a couple of patches per instrument. But it might sound less than amazing, and that shouldn't be a surprise.

  • Thanks for the replies. Like I said... I ain't lookin' to fool -anyone-. I'm just trying to develop a way of getting rough ideas in place -quickly-. My end product (fpr now) is notation and live performance. So 'realism' is a relative term for me. Far more important is -speed-. I basically just need a way to -play- in real-time, legato, sawing, pizz and maybe spicc... and ideally hit the occasional double-stop, without stopping to 'draw'... exactly what Paul does in the Universal Mode video. Anything else, like harm or whatever? Sure, I'll stop and draw.

    I go on about Garritan Strad because they really had a nice concept re. ergonomics. Was it the last word in 'realism'? Of course not. But it gets you 80% of the way there in real time. So far with VSL, here's my typical day:  I take 1 minute to think up a string line consisting of: a few pizz notes, then a slurred passage and right into some detache sawing---maybe 20 seconds of music. Then I spend 10 minutes figuring out the 'ballet' I need to do in order to play that bit into the DAW... or -draw- it in. I get that right, hit 'play' and then realise that I did -something- that 'undid' the articulation on the next passage. D'Oh!

    Basically, I just find the default patches not very ergonomic. Hopefully, I can develop my own 'Universal Mode' so I can play something rough into the DAW as quickly as I can with Garritan. And then if I want, I can 'polish' it to a high 'burnish'.



  • I don't mean to lecture you, but you need to put the Garritan thing out of your mind. It is not a sample library, so it works in a different way. i could do what you described in real time with VSL, but then again I know exactly what patches I'm using and how to access them.

    I really do think your best bet is to think about what patches you want to use, how you can control them in real time and then set up your matrices and Presets accordingly.


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    @Suntower said:

    How does VSL determine up/down bow or slurring? ....

    Hello Suntower

    probably you already got all the necessary answers.

    Nevertheless, here are some sound examples. They will show you that you need to take the "correct" articulations for getting the feeling of up and down bows.

    Which is the "correct articulation?". That's a question of knowing your library (articulations) and how real string instruments do sound...

    And another tip: Forget the names and indication of all the samples. The correct ones are those which sound as the should and not those which got the correct names.

    So check out: (No. 21 and No. 26)

    Have fun


    - Tips & Tricks while using Samples of VSL.. see at: - Tutorial "Mixing an Orchestra":
  • I don't feel 'lectured'. I -do- think that the VSL community---like the communities of most great products---tend to be a bit touchy about -any- criticism.

    The bottom line, for me, is that the included Presets are not very user-friendly and I need to create my own. I've received some great advice on how to do it... so I'll do it.

    My grouse---and I think it's valid--is that the included Presets could be, and should be, easier to use OOTB. I just don't think they're particularly useful. And regardless of how one can work around it and how one should study and so on, for the kind of money they charge a little more instant gratification is appropriate. After all: under the hood a Mac is basically a Unix computer.

    VSL is a small company and they obviously choose to spend their time on other things, but I think it's reasonable for me to 'lobby' for what I care about.

    Again: thanks for the suggestions. The Beat Kaufman 'Basic Preset' is definitely the way (for me) to go.