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Old 02-26-2010, 04:23 PM
Sherry C's Avatar
Sherry C Sherry C is offline
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Default Using Note Velocity and Volume to get good performance balance in Composer

Hi friends,

Here's a tip for help in creating balanced performances of the different instruments in your song files in Composer.

There are a couple of different parameters that affect how loud a particular note sounds: Note Velocity and Volume.

Note Velocity is how "hard" a note gets hit (or blown, or plucked, or whatever.) A lot of sound libraries use Note Velocity to make a difference in how the note actually sounds, called the timbre of the note. For instance, some libraries will have a different timbre for notes that have a high velocity versus those of a lower velocity. This corresponds to the difference in hitting a piano key quite hard versus tapping it softly, or bowing lightly versus really digging in with the bow. Saxophones are affected by this, and can either be quite smooth, or have a pronounced growl, depending on the note velocity. So note velocity is generally used for changing the loudness/timbre of notes in a staff relative to the notes before or after it in that same staff.

The Volume graph, then acts as a "mixer" function between the different instrument staves. You can adjust the relative volume of each staff (either at a constant value, or using the Graph drawing tools) to balance out the different instruments, and give an overall pleasing mix to the performance of your file.

So, for a file with, say, 4 different instruments, you can use the Note Velocities to give the dynamics (loudness or timbre differences) for each single instrument's performance. After you get each instrument to sound roughly like you think it should sound through the song, then you can use the Volume graph (or absolute number value) to mix all four instrument staves to sound balanced with each other.

Of course there will need to be some tweaking along the way, but the basic idea is:
Note velocities for each instrument/staff performance, then
volume graph to balance overall levels.

It's also worth noting that sometimes for files you may find, the Note Velocities and Volume differences will be tweaked for using certain MIDI devices. For instance, I use a lot of soundfonts for my own music writing and background track creation. When I tweak the performance of a song, I do it based on the particular soundfont that I will be using to create the backing track. A file that I've tweaked for the Taiji Generation GM (general MIDI) soundfont will not sound the same when I play it using the Microsoft GS Wavetable, or the Merlin Creative GM soundfont. The same is true for other MIDI playback devices. So if you grab a MIDI file from a page that says "optimized for playback on the XXYY soundcard/synthesizer/NameYourDeviceHere", then you might want to try playing it back using the same device, or you may want to tweak the performance of the file so it sounds best on your device. I've found a few files that sounded pretty bad until I tweaked them to sound better on my playback device.

If you want more information about how to work with Note Velocities and Volume, you can read about them in Composer's Help/Users Guide. If you want a bit more information in an example situation, please let me know and I'll put together a little demo video that shows these concepts in action.

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