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What Do You Prefer: MIDI CC or Velocity-sensitivity?


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This topic has been a subject of contemplation recently as I upgraded off of the horror that is PLAY and acquired some new high quality Kontakt libraries for my orchestra.

I noticed I can choose to either have the dynamic levels of the orchestral instruments controlled by velocity-sensitivity or by MIDI CC. It seems like a great number of people like CC automation as a macroscopic "sculpting" tool for dynamics and such, while others like me prefer velocity-sensitivity for a more note-by-note dynamic approach to humanization.

What do you prefer, and why? Keep this question in the context of orchestral instruments. Obviously CC is inappropriate for jazz-like articulations, for example... unless you disagree, then you're welcome to contest that statement as well. I'm curious.

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Honestly, for me it depends on the intention & patches utilized. If I'm going for sustained notes/chords/builds for brass and strings, then I always use CC automation. It makes swells and dynamics much easier and more natural sounding (I'm not sure how you'd do things like big french horn swells otherwise). I've found that woodwinds don't sound great with the dynamic crossfade patches in EWQLSO (Silver at least), so I use note velocity even for sustained patches.

It likely is a greater time investment for this approach if you're wanting note-by-note dynamic control as you'd need to zoom in and micro manage the automation to coincide with the notes. Still, I feel like it gives more versatility than note velocities.

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I actually prefer both (yes, I've done orchestral, recently). Velocity-sensitivity gives me the performance I want, in terms of the order/flow of the articulations used, before outlining the dynamics with MIDI CC; I basically try and decide how I want it to sound before I do it, right down to the articulations and the general volume I would want it at.

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The amount of micro managing involved in getting detailed CC automation is a reflection of the fact that, unfortunately, most of the MIDI controllers that are available to people are terrible for recording nuanced CC performances. CC control is ideally better than velocity control, but it needs to respond like velocity control in a note-sensitive way in order realize this ideal. The big issue is that most controllers can't tie their CC data streams to their note data in any meaningful way because note control and CC control are conceptualized as completely separate processes that don't interact with each other. There are solutions to this problem such as aftertouch and/or custom scripting (I use the latter), but if you're stuck with the usual keyboard + modwheel setup, getting detailed CC recordings that respond meaningfully to note boundaries is virtually impossible without a lot of after-the-fact editing.

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apples and oranges? i mean, isn't velocity all about multisamples and CC all about shaping the sound in other ways than switching the samples? unless it does crossfading, that is.

of course, midi CC becomes very powerful when you're using physically modeled instruments.

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I think we're mostly talking about crossfading across velocity layers via CC, yes. Or I am, at least.

IMO the problem with physically-modeled instruments is that, like I mentioned above, most MIDI controllers are not good enough at CC recording to get results that are accurate enough to drive physical models that require complicated inputs (such as stringed instruments). Traditional MIDI controllers are a big obstacle to effective physical modeling, and I think the market for complicated physically-modeled instruments will remain pretty small until MIDI controllers catch up with the software.

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