[Solved]Overall volume control and dynamics

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TenorAlan
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[Solved]Overall volume control and dynamics

Post by TenorAlan »

This is an unbidden essay on the matter of overall volume control for tracks and volume control by dynamic marks. References to the behavior of Overture are for version 5.6.3-3.

******

Suppose we are writing a score for a small brass ensemble. In Inspector>Expressions: Edit Dynamics, we have controller set to "007- Volume"

For each track, we see in the "little mixer" (Tools>Symbols:Mixer) that the "track volume" is set to 96, the default for the template we are using.

For the trumpet track, at a certain point we place the dynamic mark "f", and a little later, the dynamic mark "mf".

We bring the score to a fair degree of completion, and play it. One thing we learn is that the trumpet part is too loud compared to the other instruments

We also note that at the "f" mark, the trumpet sound gets a little quieter, not what we might have expected. And at the "mf" mark, it gets quieter yet.

We ignore this latter curiosity for a while, and deal with the overall "balance" of the trumpet. So, on the "little mixer", we move the volume slider from 96 to 75. We play the score again to see how this works out.

Indeed, at the beginning, the trumpet part is quieter, in a nice balance with the other instruments. But at the "f" mark, the trumpet plays louder, in fact as loud in this passage as it was with the original volume setting. At the "mf" mark, the trumpet gets quieter, but is not as quiet as it was at the beginning. It is fact as loud as it was after the "mf" with the original volume setting.

What is happening here?

With the original volume slider setting, MIDI Control Change message 7 (CC7 for short) ("Volume", sometimes called "channel volume") is sent, on the MIDI channel for the trumpet track:

• At the start of play, with value 96 (per the slider in the little mixer). The channel volume in the synthesizer is set to 96.

• At the "f" mark, with value 90 (as defined for that mark in Inspector>Expressions: Edit Dynamics). The channel volume in the synthesizer is set to 90.

• At the "mf" mark, with value 80 (as defined for that mark in Inspector>Expressions: Edit Dynamics). The channel volume in the synthesizer is set to 80.

Now we consider the second playing, with the volume slider set to 75. Now, MIDI Control Change message 7 is sent:

• At the start of play, with value 75 (per the slider in the little mixer. The channel volume in the synthesizer is set to 75.

• At the "f" mark, with value 90 (as defined for that mark in Inspector>Expressions: Edit Dynamics). The channel volume in the synthesizer is set to 90.

• At the "mf" mark, with value 80 (as defined for that mark in Inspector>Expressions: Edit Dynamics). The channel volume in the synthesizer is set to 80.

We see that although the setting of the volume slider affects the channel volume at the start of play, when we get to the "f" mark, the channel volume is set to what is was at this point in the score with the original volume slider setting. The setting for the dynamic mark just supersedes the "original" volume setting.

In other words, the volume slider for the trumpet track does not affect the volume of the trumpet throughout the score proportionally, keeping in effect the relative changes called for by the dynamic marks. That would be the behavior we probably would prefer.

What is the cure for this? I'll discuss that in part 2.

[End of part 1]
Last edited by TenorAlan on Fri Oct 22, 2021 12:22 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Overall volume control and dynamics

Post by TenorAlan »

[Part 2]

The MIDI "language" provides an elegant solution to this problem. We use Control Change message 7 ("CC7" - "volume") to control the overall volume of a track, and it is sent at the start of play to set one of the "volume controls" (they are in effect in cascade) in the synthesizer.

Then for each dynamic mark, we send Control Change message 11 (CC11 - "Expression") with the value established for that mark.

Consider that in the synthesizer, the volume for a channel is controlled by "compounding" the current values of CC7 and CC11 (just as if in an audio mixer console we consider the effect of the volume control for one source and the volume control for the overall output, these working "in cascade").

Now if, after the initial audition of our score, to reduce the impact of the trumpet we reduce the value of CC7, and this reduces the overall volume of the trumpet, keeping in effect the different relative volumes dictated by the dynamic marks.

How do we do that?

Here is the "obvious" way. We set the Controller in Inspector>Expressions:Edit Dynamics, as before to "007 - Volume". As we saw before, that makes CC7 be sent at the start of play with the value we have set on the Volume slider in the "little mixer".

That also makes each newly applied dynamic mark have the property that it works by sending a CC7 message. But we can edit each instance of that dynamic mark to make it use CC11.

Wow! What a pain. But we can make the job easier. When our score is ready to be auditioned, we select one dynamic mark and change its controller from 007 to 011. Then we check "Change all of this type - in entire score", and uncheck "Include values". Now, for each dynamic mark a CC11 will be sent, fulfilling the plan I described earlier.

Are there better ways? See in part 3.

[End of part 2]
Last edited by TenorAlan on Fri Oct 22, 2021 12:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Overall volume control and dynamics

Post by TenorAlan »

[Part 3]

I have recommended that in Overture we have two global "controller" settings.

• One would choose the controller be sent at the commencement of play (and in our plan we would set that to CC7)

• The other would choose the controller initially used by newly-placed dynamic marks (and in out plan we would set that to CC11).

Nothing has yet been done about that.

There is another ploy that can facilitate our following the desirable plan under the current working of Overture.

• While composing the score, have the controller set in Inspector>Expressions:Edit Expressions to 011. Thais will make all dynamic marks you deposit be set up to use CC11.

• Set the volume sliders for the different tracks as you think would be appropriate as to instrument balance.

• Before you play the score, change the Controller choice to 007. This will make the CC messages sent at the start of play be CC7, with values as set on the track volume sliders.

• Before you resume working on the score, set the Controller choice back to 011 so that any further dynamic marks you add will be set to use CC11.

• Then, if you later want to play the score, first set the controller choice to 007.

• Rinse and repeat.

One final matter. In our score, before we encounter the first dynamic mark, what "dynamic state" does the synthesizer assume (which, together with the explicit value of CC7, will determine the volume of the instrument before the first dynamic mark?

The answer is that some synthesizers initially assume CC11 to be 80 (which, with the usual default settings in Overture, would correspond to a dynamic mark of "mf". The MIDI Specification suggests that. But we can't be sure what our target synthesizer may do. And its CC11 value may be at some other value owing to what happened the last time the synthesizer was used.

So a good practice is to include a dynamic mark at the very beginning of each track, so things do not get off to an uncertain start. You might want to use "mf" if the instrument isn't expected to be in a "different" dynamic state at the start of the work (e.g., the opening of the third act of La Bohème). Of course, if it is, then use the appropriate dynamic mark. But always have some mark at the beginning of each track. If for some reason that offends your visual sensibilities, make it invisible.

******

Best regards to all.

Alan
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Re: Overall volume control and dynamics

Post by PeteFine »

Nice essay, T.A. :)
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Re: Overall volume control and dynamics

Post by Dean K. »

Not sure this is what you are looking for but because so much of what you are saying sounds like "mixing"...the best way I would go about it would be to disable all dynamics from affecting the playback (i..e. uncheck Play in the dynamic settings) and just use the CC7 in the DATA view.

What I do in my setup is find the output levels I am sonically comfortable with and control that within KONTAKT's volume slider or whatever the sampler might be and from there find the balance with either CC7 Volume, 11, 1, and others within the DATA view.

When you want the equivalent of mf for example, you draw it into the DATA view...BUT using your "mixing ears" it may not necessarily be the equivalent of 80 -  the idea is you do not need to use a preordained number... you are "mixing" where you feel it should be in relation to the other instrumentation. Again, not because Overture says that the value of mf is 80 for everything, of course, brass will be louder, especially depending on the quality and realism of the sample. So you decide what you are hearing and control it and when you want to return or change the level again just draw it in.

Once you begin using anything that affects CC7 or other CC parameters, you should definitely start your piece with what you feel is the appropriate level and don't leave anything out from start to finish or it will only remember the setting of the last place played back from.

Maybe that helps?

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Re: Overall volume control and dynamics

Post by PeteFine »

Dean,
This has been an interesting discussion. I am curious about your method/solution, as it seems that when dealing with data view you can only work on one instrument (track) at a time. On a large score of 20 staves or more, drawing midi volumes for each instrument seems like it would be extremely tedious. Alan's solution seems much quicker in the long run. Perhaps you have a method that I am not understanding.

I have been accepting the drawbacks of unbalanced default volumes in my orchestral libraries and exporting the score to a DAW (Pro Tools) and when an instrument is annoyingly too loud or soft I just export that one separately and adjust it in the DAW. This of course does not allow for accurate playback of the score in real time but produces a good final WAV file of the piece.

I wish OV did have a simple way to separate default volumes from dynamic mark settings. In addition, one of the things that has always bothered me (and maybe there is a solution I missed) is that after editing dynamic marks and hitting "In Entire Score", you cannot subsequently add a dynamic mark without editing it as well. The previously edited dynamic mark does not hold for any later additions. There should be a global setting for those dynamics that will hold true even if you later add more. Again, maybe there is a way that I have not discovered...?
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Re: Overall volume control and dynamics

Post by Dean K. »

Hi Pete,

It literally takes seconds to click the box which bypasses dynamics affecting volume. I'll try to give a bit more detail to the overall method but preface it within some context...

One way or another there is some work or tedium involved. It may sound worse than it is, and the end results reflect the effort. At this point, I have so many templates, some of which exceed 100 tracks/staves, but I can work pretty quickly through them all now.

I too have been working in Pro Tools for many years, now Logic, and also use Vienna Ensemble Pro to host my libraries/VST.

So, if we are talking about music production and the end product being virtually/digitally exported from Overture and professionally produced in Pro Tools or another DAW that's one thing...if we are talking about getting a well-balanced and produced mix out of Overture that's another, and then, of course, preparing a notationally accurate score for live performance...yet another.

It has to be determined beforehand really...how is one planning to work...and what is the end game.

I'm either attempting to create a realistic or well-polished instrumental mockup (which can be very messy and notationally incorrect, or incomplete at times) or if the composition (or any part of it) is to be performed, obviously it has to be notationally sound. For me, it's one or the other, and either way I can come back to it. Sure, there is another approach...which is trying to have the perfectly notated score from top to bottom and start to finish that also simultaneously plays everything back perfectly realistically. I just don't have the time to do both at once.

So with that out of the way...the method I was trying to get at is...

Let's assume people want to create a more realistic playback and a decent mix/production of their music all from within Overture (reducing volume conflicts). If it is important for you to use dynamics, I'd bypass their playback and control the volume in the sampler and go from there.

Depending on the samples...I may not even need to do anything beyond this and simply use velocities, expression, modulation, aftertouch, and vibrato...just put the sampler volume level right where it sounds pretty good, and then use expression, modulation, and/or velocities which will affect decresc. or cresc. or p, mf, ff etc. So no CC7 data anywhere is to be found...AND no need to touch ANY faders within Overture. At least that's how it can work in my setup with Vienna hosting the VST/libraries. Eventually, you find the right levels you want to finish your production off at or in our case record at and export from Overture to work within Pro Tools or another DAW. If I need to automate the volume then I return to CC7.

I am assuming (which might be a mistake) that if you leave every one of Overture's faders alone (at 0) for the track/stave, and if you only adjust the volume in KONTAKT or whatever sampler, you can put it at your desired volume. If you save your project it should remember this as well (the same goes for panning and use of other samplers besides KONTAKT).

If you need to go into CC7 - this will control the volume slider within the KONTAKT instrument or whatever sampler (while again leaving all faders within Overture alone @ 0). And just in case...you do need to make sure it is checked off in KONTAKT (under Accept Standard Controllers for Volume and Pan):
KONTAKT - Controller Settings.png
KONTAKT - Controller Settings.png (36.25 KiB) Viewed 2949 times
That gives you all the control, seaparation, and lack of conflicts you would need? If you feel the volume still isn't quite loud enough, there are simple options to boost it by another +6 or +12 under the instrument options. Or vice versa. There is also the master fader within KONTAKT which you can enable to view and control in KONTAKT"s GUI and increase (or decrease) exponentially.

If you leave your modulation or expression at a certain level you need to remember just like CC7 - the playback is only going to remember where it played from last...so you may need to put in a "piece of data" to return it where you want it. For example, let's say your desired starting value of an instrument is at 50, but you have been rehearsing a phrase later on in the piece where you raised it to a 100 value...and then you stop the playback in the middle of that instrument's 100 value. Obviously, if you then play from the beginning and you haven't set a CC value to return it to the starting desired value of 50...it's going to playback at 100 until it knows to return to 50. That's something I think you guys probably don't have an issue with but others may.

Either way, once you have various projects accomplished, you can just build off them and use them for templates...but yes, you gotta start somewhere.

There is another subject on making things sound more realistic and involving CC controls... but I've really got to go. I will say for example if you put in a p dynamic and a hairpin cresc. leading to an ff dynamic - notice the dots (under CC7) that bridge the line in Overture's DATA view as well as the preordained values. Perfectly and predictably robotic. Whereas if you record mod wheel, or knobs, or fader data from your MIDI controller or use freeform, straight line, parabola, or randomize with your mouse, you get many more dots between the notes so to speak...which is how you would accomplish more realism and better quality at the levels you want. In the end, you wind up with a better production.

Hope that was helpful somehow, gotta leave it there for now.

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Re: Overall volume control and dynamics

Post by Don »

I believe the above MIDI volume issues would be solved if Doug used CC7 for overall volume and CC1 for dynamics and hairpins.
That is what they are designed to do.
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Re: Overall volume control and dynamics

Post by TenorAlan »

Don wrote: Thu May 19, 2022 11:02 am I believe the above MIDI volume issues would be solved if Doug used CC7 for overall volume and CC1 for dynamics and hairpins.
That is what they are designed to do.
Yes, or even CC11 for dynamics, as that is a bit more appropriate.

But it is hard to do just that. We cannot separately set which CC will be used for ""overall track volume" (be affected by the slider in the "little mixer") and which CC will be the default CC for dynamics.

It would be desirable of those could be set separately.

Alan
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Re: [Solved]Overall volume control and dynamics

Post by Don »

You would always the mixer slider to be cc7 becasue that it is the overall volume of the track.
Dyanmics/hairpins or other suttle volume changes would use cc11,. This is how MIDI is supposed to be used.
Move on.
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Re: On "volume control" in Overture

Post by TenorAlan »

While I am at it, let me talk a little about MIDI Control Change 1 (CC01), "modulation". This is often suggested to be used for the purpose I described as being appropriately done by CC11 (expression).

In fact, CC01 has a rather empirical definition, often said to control whatever the control wheel of a MIDI keyboard instrument would do. But more to the point, it is usually described as modulating (thus its name) the "depth" of some effect, most often tremolo or vibrato.

I discourage its use for any type of volume control, such as for "expression".

Best regards,

Alan
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Re: On "volume control" in Overture

Post by PeteFine »

Hi Alan,
Interesting analytical discussion. I have also wished for an easy way to set relative instrument volumes independent of the dynamic mark settings. What I noticed, however, in a recent score, is that the "little mixer" as you call it, even if set to 0 does nothing to change the playback volume of the instrument. (I am using ASO, if that matters, and have done nothing to alter anything in the ASO instrument menus).
I should note that when I open the Track Inspector and go to Articulations page, the default Volume Controller indicates 001. Double clicking on any dynamic on that track/staff also shows it as 001. I can change this to 007 and hit Apply, but I see no difference. The instrument still sounds even if the slider in the "mixer" is set to 0. So, I can't get the mixer to set relative volumes for the various staves/tracks.
In ASO (and I imagine most Sound Libraries) there is a volume control for each intrument as well and that of course changes with each dynamic mark so it can't be preset for relative volume balancing with other instruments. In fact, if I set ASO's Volume Controller CC# setting to 1, or 7, it still just follows the dynamic marking.
I imagine someone else here on the Forum knows of a way to preset relative volumes that will not be affected by the dynamic changes encountered in the score, while allowing for those dynamic marks to still do their thing, only relatively for each instrument. It may be simple and I just haven't discovered it.
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Re: On "volume control" in Overture

Post by PeteFine »

Addendum to my post... In OV there is a Mixer page (Shift M) that, if each instrument in it's own instance of Kontakt, allows you to change volumes easily, and if you select "Audio" in that window and you change the individual track/staff volumes, it does indeed set it relative to the other instruments. So I think I've discovered a way! However, I don't know if it would work if all instruments were set to the same "instance", i.e. the same software instrument when choosing the instrument.
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Re: On "volume control" in Overture

Post by TenorAlan »

Hi, Pete,

Sorry I missed this note until now.
PeteFine wrote: Wed Jun 12, 2024 3:58 pm Hi Alan,
Interesting analytical discussion. I have also wished for an easy way to set relative instrument volumes independent of the dynamic mark settings. What I noticed, however, in a recent score, is that the "little mixer" as you call it, even if set to 0 does nothing to change the playback volume of the instrument. (I am using ASO, if that matters, and have done nothing to alter anything in the ASO instrument menus)
.
Yes, and I have no real idea whether the "MIDI-centered" observations I made relate to operation through ASO.
I imagine someone else here on the Forum knows of a way to preset relative volumes that will not be affected by the dynamic changes encountered in the score, while allowing for those dynamic marks to still do their thing, only relatively for each instrument. It may be simple and I just haven't discovered it.
What I described should do exactly that if operating on a true MIDI basis, but I have no idea how to transport those options to operation through ASO.

I have always thought that ASO operates on a quasi-MIDI basis, and so some of those notions should transfer.

But ASO may not respond to the same controller assignments I describe. I sorted some of that out from the ASO documentation some years ago, and when I get a chance I will review that and see if I can reconstruct my earlier findings.

Later.

Best regards,

Alan
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Re: [Solved]Overall volume control and dynamics

Post by TenorAlan »

Hi, Pete,

The lovely ASO manual is a bit imprecise about this.

It suggests (on page 19) that MIDI controller CC07 has its usual role as "track" volume control.

But on page 13, it discusses how one can assign different MIDI controllers for volume control, From the description, I suspect that this is in the vein of being used for dynamics. (CC11 is the preferred one to use for that.)

In overture, the controller that is used for track volume (what the slider in the "little mixer" sets) can be selected at the bottom of Inspector>Expressions. CC07 is my recommendation for that.

Sadly, this also becomes the default for the controller initially assigned for to each newly-added dynamic marking, so all those then have to be set to, I suggest, CC11.

Then ASO will have to be set to suit.

Etc.

Or maybe not.

Gotta run.

Best regards,

Alan
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