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All of my instruments are Midi, How do I make them not sound like Midi's

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This is probably a dumb question; the most logical answer is "buy better soundpacks". But before I invest in more VST's, I just wanted to ask the professionals if there was anything I can do in the way of mixing/EQ that generally makes things sound more realistic. A lot of the instruments I use in my mixes I don't actually own the real life version or even know how to play them. 

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What I would do is at least learn how to theoretically play the instruments. If you can imagine how a real person would play the instrument, it would be easier to model that. For example, if you were to model someone playing electric lead guitar, you probably should consider when they play any of the following:

- hammer-ons and pull-offs, tremolos, portamento (single notes), portamento (chords)

- pinch squeals, tap harmonics, etc.

- whammy bar vibrato, finger vibrato (light, hard), etc.

- pitch bend via finger, pitch bend via whammy bar

- tapping down/up vs. picking/strumming down/up

- chokes, mutes, etc.

and so on.


Then once you have an idea of the features you would need, then see if there's a way to emulate these features.


If you can't afford the libraries you want (tends to be $50~500, more or less, with what I've seen), then some of the major things I would say you should concern yourself with are:

- human timing via MIDI note rhythm (avoid 100% quantization for realistic instruments)

- human volume variation via velocity magnitudes

- faster passages tend to be sloppier than slower passages

- consider note length variation and overlap

- pay attention to when playing the same note yields the same exact sample; that usually is the problem to contend with on free VSTs

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What Tim said, basically.


Though at a certain point, you may need better samples than whatever you're using. Lower end libraries etc. tend to not have much in the way of articulations and you can only simulate so much through other means. The mixing will not make it sound more "real". It'll just give you a better mix of fake sounding instruments!


Also, respect for the Avatar avatar and name.

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A lot of it will depend on the VSTi. If it sounds like MIDI it'll mostly sound like MIDI. Depending on the instrument you can make them sound better, but not necessarily realistic. Here's a few suggestions:


1) Adjust the velocity of each note to an appropriate level. This is especially important with percussion(specifically snare drums) unless you're aiming for that rapid-fire bullet percussion sound. Some samples(usually the higher end ones) also have velocity layers and adjust their sound based on the velocity, so keep that in mind as well.


2) Make use of any articulations the instrument has. Orchestral VSTs tend to include sustain and staccato variations, and even sectional and solo options. Similarly, guitars might have options for chords or solo. If that's the case, use the appropriate version to get the sound you want. If you find an instrument's attack hits too hard and there are no options to change it, you can adjust the volume and make a "fade-in" effect on each note to help mask it.



3) Study the instruments you're sampling. Learn how they work and what they can and can't do. Try to stick to realistic octave ranges.



I'm really not an expert on this, but hopefully that helps out a bit.

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I would definitely do what the following have said. It is not only important to input the notes but to actually automate them to where you are somewhat forcing them to sound realistic. And not only is it important to automate the instruments themselves but to automate the space and effects along with the music to give the piece more of a shape. Maybe your Violin patch needs expression and modulation for more dynamics? Need to change to staccato with MIDI data, use key switching! Got a Flute patch, let's add breath automation data to give it more of a realistic sound... etc.

I'm not an expert, although I am currently in the process of absorbing mixing and automation techniques, however we will forever be students so don't limit your knowledge and say that you are complete! There is so much to learn even for the experts out there, so for a random word of encouragement, don't give up and keep experiencing new ways to input your knowledge to learn more along the way!

Also, don't be afraid to play around and Practice these skills... it's not only a matter of what you know but application is a must.

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When I used MIDI/free sounds, if I didn't like the sounds I had, sometimes I'd try to "cheat." For example, by putting a trombone sound in the range of a trumpet, to get a softer "trumpet" sound. Or EQing them to get the right sound. ToneBoosters used to have a free equalizer that was basically a godsend for simple tone adjustment. I can send it to you if you PM me.


For percussion, you should alternate between different velocities to avoid the machine gun effect. Put accents at different places to give it some personality.


And you'll probably have to add some extra reberb, but try not to overdo it. You can study orchestral seating arrangements to see how much each section should get. (Strings < Woodwinds < Brass < Percussion)

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  • 2 weeks later...

One thing that might help a lot is adding varying amounts of distortion/overdrive to a sound.  Small amounts to bring some warmth and higher amounts to make things more raw and bring out harmonic content.  A small amount of distortion added to an overly pure/clean "midi sounding" sound can go a long way.

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