What a Swell Feeling

I messed with a few different reverbs and I think found a combination that I like. However, I let a trusted friend listen to the track and he pointed out a few places where I think I need to go back and re-address the MIDI side of the recording. There were a couple of places where he felt like the piano part stumbled a little, and I agreed.

More importantly, he felt like the left hand of the piano was too heavy. Again, I agreed. I have a very strong left hand (I happen to be left-handed), and the velocities for my left-hand notes were all too high. I’ve actually already been through cutting them back on the piano roll editor once, but another round is in order.

I actually had another issue that my friend didn’t mention that would require revisiting the MIDI recording. While the cello sample is really beautiful, the long sustained notes betray the synthesized nature of the instrument. That is, once the note begins, there is no change or movement save the looping of the sample itself. Each note stays the same for its entire duration.

The key to this is to create volume swells within each note like a real player does with the appropriate continuous controller. In Finale, the Human Playback algorithms modify CC#1 to automatically create this effect. This data can also be added in after the fact in the piano roll editor.

The difficulty is that while GPO uses CC#1 to control volume (and key velocity controls the intensity of the attack), the soundfonts I’m using treat CC#1 as modulation like most of the rest of the MDI world. This leads to some funky, warbly notes when translated. One option would be to use Finale to record the volume swells and then try to find a way to re-map them to CC#11, Expression.

Drawing the controller changes into the piano roll window is unrealistic in Power Tracks because you can only draw straight lines, and a curve will create more natural-sounding results.

The best option at this point is to buy a new toy – an expression pedal. With this continuous control pedal I’ll record the CC movements on top of the existing note data. We’ll see how it turns out when the pedal finally shows up at my door.

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