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Video - legato technique that I've come up with so far
Last post Tue, Feb 20 2018 by suon, 6 replies.
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Posted on Thu, Jan 11 2018 02:08
by suon
Joined on Sat, Sep 04 2010, Posts 106

The first minute of the demo is the version of legato I think is the best - I think it's quite natural and smooth, yet agile when needed.  I'll be very happy to hear people's honest opinions about it.  The video then continues to show other legato techniques, so that you can compare for yourself.


Interesting thing about polyphonic legato blur versus monophonic legato blur: The release in polyphonic legato mode behaves differently than the legato blur feature - you can manually create legato blur by overlapping MIDI notes.  As far as I can tell, it is equivalent to "delaying" the release, unlike legato blur which seems to increase the duration of the release fading out.

I found that making blur that way, with poly legato, actually works pretty well, in some ways better than legato blur.  I think it might even be possible to control release time in poly legato mode, too, but I did not try to experiment with that, I was satisfied with the legato that I got.


Posted on Thu, Jan 11 2018 03:35
by ddunn
Joined on Fri, Aug 03 2007, Posts 83

Very nice! Indeed.  Thanks for the great post.

Posted on Sat, Jan 13 2018 04:26
by suon
Joined on Sat, Sep 04 2010, Posts 106

ddunn - thanks!

I received some offline questions about how I approach doing fast string runs and rips.  I thought it would be nice to share on the forum directly.

Some examples of runs I've made with this approach, most of these using the VSL Special Editions:

So here's my thought process - it starts by considering the psychology a performer playing a fast run. The notes will be faster than a performer can track rhythmically, so they will be estimating how fast to play the notes to start and end at the right times - I call them "anchor notes".  If the run is long enough, there will also be some anchor notes in the middle of the run too, usually on a beat.  A performer just estimates the speed of notes between these anchors - specifically I think performers will usually play those between notes slightly faster than necessary, until they're about to arrive at the next anchor note. This gives them room for error to make sure they will can arrive to the next anchor note correctly.  Then, the one or two notes before an anchor will be slightly longer to compensate for going slightly faster on previous notes, and finally the next anchor note lands closer to the desired beat - maybe not entirely accurately, but close enough. The anchor also might get held just slightly longer, or slightly accented, or both, before continuing to the next string of fast notes.

Example - same youtube video I linked earlier in this thread, at 0:26, the A-major scale is two octaves.  I put one octave roughly per beat, and used the A note every octave as the "anchor notes".  If you listen carefully, you'll notice a slight lingering just around completing the first octave of the run, right in the middle.  It also has an accent - though I think I may have overdone that accent a little =)

For what it's worth, this is what I think I've observed about myself when playing string runs, and I've also seen similar results in piano pieces, when I've recorded myself playing the keyboard.

OK so, putting this analysis to use, here is what my process usually looks like to fine tune a strings run:

  1. identify what the anchor notes would be, place those coarsely where I want when recording/entering the MIDI
  2. tweak the in-between MIDI note positions, lengths, overlaps, and velocity CC, to reflect all these principles mentioned above.
  3. Layering instruments or microphone positions can also help, because it gives you the opportunity to shift MIDI note positions differently for each instrument, which is a much more natural blur effect than just overlapping MIDI notes.
  4. experiment with different articulations and velocities on the anchor notes, and pick an articulation that captures the style I want.  Especially the beginning and end notes - staccato, fortepiano, sfz, marcato - all have slightly different types of attack which can greatly change the character of a run.  The attack can usually be further sculpted by fast velocity xfades, too.
  5. experiment with blurring the run, between *and including* anchor notes.  I usually try to make the beginning of the run slightly less blurry than later into the run.

Finally, for very dedicated, obsessed MIDI tweakers, it also helps to think about three different legato transition types on string instruments:  (a) performer only needs to move a finger, (b) performer needs to shift the position of their hand along the fingerboard, and (c) player needs to move their bow to a different string.  When a performer only needs to change fingers, they can be fast and less blurry.  When a performer needs to shift their hand, they can have a slower but more messy transition.  When a performer needs to move their bow to a different string, the transition may not be as messy, but can still be slower and inaccurate in timing.  I usually don't go this far, but actually with Synchron Strings I found it useful to think about, in order to decide when to use fast legato versus slurred/fast portamento legato.

Hope at least one person finds this useful.  I enjoyed the challenge of trying to put this in words, anyway. Cheers!

Posted on Sun, Feb 11 2018 23:01
by suon
Joined on Sat, Sep 04 2010, Posts 106

Hi all,

Someone on YouTube requested me to make a similar demo using Close microphones.

So here it is - https://youtu.be/gyMI2UXPjnM

I'm glad they asked me to try this, because I like the mix better than my previous video.  Feel free to give honest feedback about the mix or the legato in this video!

Posted on Tue, Feb 13 2018 22:32
by stephen limbaugh
Joined on Tue, Feb 23 2016, Los Angeles, Posts 282


On the opening figure, that 'E' seems to have a less natural feel to it... somewhere between a fortepiano-cresc and the players dropping the phrase, then at the last second cresc into the next figure.

Maybe the note should push into the next one?  It feels "dropped" ... if that makes sense.

I see the patch is on the Fast Legato -- maybe on that note introduce a little bit of slot x-fade?  What does that sound like?

I think what you've got isn't "incorrect" but there may be a better musical choice?

2019 MacBook Pro, 8 core i9, 32gb RAM. Heavy Digital Audio PC slave, 6 core Xeon E5-1650, 128gb RAM. Logic 10.6.3. Big Sur & Windows 10.
Posted on Tue, Feb 20 2018 19:02
by suon
Joined on Sat, Sep 04 2010, Posts 106

Are you referring to the C, literally the 6th note of the passage?

I see what you mean about considering to sustain it more.  The good news is that this was just my programming choice (for better or worse), and it would be possible to sustain it more, or like you suggested, to add more of the marcato xfade.  You can see the MIDI CC curve that shapes that note at 0:36 of the original version of the video.

My original thinking, I may have ignored details about the attack and sustain for that note - I was thinking about how, as a violin player myself, I would probably have performed it with a touch of molto vibrato and faster bow speed on the sustain part of the note.  I definitely could have experimented more with that CC curve at that time. =)

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