Learning Curve

It was a busy Easter, so I didn’t get much done in the way of music or soundfont creation. I did work a bit tonight, so wanted to report what I have learned…

I’m now at the point where I’m turning all of my individual wav files into a cohesive soundfont. There are two pieces of software that I’m aware of to do this – Vienna and Viena. Vienna (with two n’s) is by the Creative folks who make the Soundblaster cards that use soundfonts in the first place. Viena (with one n) is by the Synthfont people – the software that plays soundfonts. Both are free.

As for which is better, so far I pretty much like Viena better. It has a grid editing screen where you can make changes to the individual parameters of your samples fairly easily (although being able to change a mess of samples at once would be even better). The only advantage to using Creative Vienna that I’ve found so far is an easy graphical interface for setting key and velocity assignments. This makes it easy to see if you’ve screwed anything up. In Viena you have to do all this numerically. This will become important as you continue on my journey with me.

I started with the Go and Do syllables (see here for layout) and have just now realized as I am writing this that I screwed up the key assignments. My thinking was that I would start with the most commonly used syllables (which are really pa and ta) and get them working as practice. That explains why when I played my results they sounded funny. I was playing the tone thinking I was playing the slap. Makes sense now.

Anyway, what I learned tonight is applicable, regardless.

First, what I learned about assigning the keys – they must be a range, even if the range is only one key – i.e. 53-53. Velocities are similar – range even if it’s a range of one.

Once I got this figured out and tried to play my rudimentary soundfont, It just didn’t sound right. The left hand was playing really low and the right hand was playing really high. What was up with that?

Well, the second thing I learned tonight is that each sample has an assigned “start key”, which is what the sample player assumes is it’s native pitch. It then pitches up or down from there. I’ll have to see if you can set this pitch when you import the samples, but my program thought they were all middle C, which means the left hand was transposed down half and octave, and the right hand up by the same amount.

I got the start key straightened out, and tried playing the font again. Now the left hand was playing perfectly, but the right hand was still screwy – sounded wrong and occasionally I got double pitches. Creative Vienna to the rescue (I told you this would come in handy). Using the graphical interface I discovered that one of the samples was mapped to the entire velocity range (producing the odd overlaps and double triggering). I remapped the samples and opened back up in Viena, to discover that many of my “start key” values had disappeared. Once I got them back in, the font played exactly as I intended, except for that whole wrong syllable thing.

If I can get to it this weekend, I’m going to see if I can import and map another syllable. My fear is that I can only import samples into a patch once, and will have to start over with everything I did tonight.

At least I know how to do it now (which was my purpose in the first place). I’ll let you know…

Djembe, Soundfont Editing ,

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