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Up Strum

A Forum to Discuss NOTION

Up Strum

Postby dcuny » Sat Apr 30, 2011 3:09 am

NOTION 3 supports automatic guitar strums by using slash notation and guitar frames. :D

But it seems to play each strum as a down strum (roughly, a fast arpeggio from the top string down). A guitarist wouldn't normally do that - they'll alternate between down and up strums.

NOTION 3 allows up and down strums to be notated with the upbow/downbow mark, but (as the manual explains), this doesn't actually alter the playback of the sound. I believe this is true for Progression as well. This seems an odd exception for a program that's designed to play back notation as written.

Using the arpeggio gives a similar effect, but it's not quite the same as a strum.

Am I missing something, or is the up strum absent?
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Re: Up Strum

Postby Brian » Mon May 02, 2011 11:05 am

Actually, Progression just plays all of the notes in a chord at once. It is not really an upstrum or a downstrum. You are right in thinking that the up and down bow symbols can be used for notation and the arpeggio can be used for the direction of the strum.
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Re: Up Strum

Postby dcuny » Mon May 02, 2011 12:48 pm

Brian wrote:Actually, Progression just plays all of the notes in a chord at once.


Although the strum sounds the strings "almost instantaneously", the up and downstroke really are different sounds, and NOTION and Progression should support them. Otherwise, the guitar playback sounds very mechanical and wrong. Without it, I'd never want to use the NOTION guitar because it screams "sampled guitar".

The arpeggio isn't the same sound. The "strum" is a quick attack at the beginning of the note. The fingers or plectrum brush up or down the strings, so there's a slight gap between the sounding of the notes. On the up strum, the guitarist will often leave out the bottom strings, although they'll continue to ring from the prior stroke. This gives the up strum a slightly brighter sound. The strum then rings for the remainder of the note's duration. The upstrum is also typically play more lightly than the downstrum, because (1) it's played on strong beats, (2) it's physically easier to play a louder downstroke, and (3) it helps differentiate the two strokes.

In contrast, an arpeggio spreads out the attack of the notes over the duration of the note. It's also a sound that's used frequently with the guitar, but the strum is the more characteristic (and frequently used) sound.

For example, this is a MIDI "strummed" guitar, with up and down strums. Although it still sounds mechanical, you can clearly tell the difference between the two types of strums.

Thanks!
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Re: Up Strum

Postby Surfwhammy » Tue May 03, 2011 4:43 am

dcuny wrote:NOTION 3 supports automatic guitar strums by using slash notation and guitar frames. :D

But it seems to play each strum as a down strum (roughly, a fast arpeggio from the top string down). A guitarist wouldn't normally do that - they'll alternate between down and up strums.

NOTION 3 allows up and down strums to be notated with the upbow/downbow mark, but (as the manual explains), this doesn't actually alter the playback of the sound. I believe this is true for Progression as well. This seems an odd exception for a program that's designed to play back notation as written.

Using the arpeggio gives a similar effect, but it's not quite the same as a strum.

Am I missing something, or is the up strum absent?
Brian wrote:Actually, Progression just plays all of the notes in a chord at once.

Although the strum sounds the strings "almost instantaneously", the up and downstroke really are different sounds, and NOTION and Progression should support them. Otherwise, the guitar playback sounds very mechanical and wrong. Without it, I'd never want to use the NOTION guitar because it screams "sampled guitar".


I did a bit of checking the user manual for SampleTank (IK Multimedia), and it appears that you can record a real instrument; save it as a WAVE file; and then import it to SampleTank, where you can create your own user-defined sampled sounds . . .

There are some very specific rules for doing this, where the name of the WAVE file needs to be appended with the name of the root note (for example "C4"), and there is a velocity cue that can be appended to the file name, as well . . .

For example, you might create a WAVE file of specific style electric guitar samples running chromatically from C4 to C5 and call it "Feel Fine Strat C4 v32.wav", where the "C4" specifies the root note and "v32" indicates the velocity steps for purposes of doing "splits" or something . . .

A few other rules and procedures apply, where it appears that most folks use a WAVE editor and some other specialized WAVE editing software to tailor samples for use with SampleTank, but this looks to be reasonably straightforward and not so difficult to do . . .

I have not done this yet, but it is intriguing, so I posted a question about it in the IK Multimedia FORUM in the SampleTank section to get more information . . .

If it is not difficult to do, then this might be a solution for the problem of needing different types of strums for guitar, where for example you might record a set of guitar notes with upward strums and then get the WAVE file into SampleTank where it is processed to make it a user-defined "sampled sound" that SampleTank can use, and once it is a sampled sound that SampleTank can use, then you can use it in Notion 3 . . .

Yet another strategy is to get the Fab Four Instrument Collection (EastWest/Quantum Leap [EWQL]), which specifically has different types of strumming and picking guitar samples . . .

Guitars were sampled with up and down strokes, multiple velocities and picking styles, some with chords and effects.


[SOURCE: Fab Four Instrument Collection (EWQL) ]

The are audio samples of the Fab Four Instrument Collection at the link above (in the top-right corner), and they are very realistic, so the only drawback to the Fab Four Instrument Collection is that it is a bit on the expensive side relative to the budget here in the sound isolation studio, although for me it depends on what I need to do, since occasionally I make what for me is a big purchase for what sometimes maps to no logical reason, although I try to keep this to a minimum . . .

For example, I became a bit obsessed with Dubstep several months ago and purchased Reason 5 (Propellerhead Software), since it appeared to be the way people were creating Dubstep sounds, which it does. However, after using it for about a week or two, I realized that I can do the same thing with SampleTank 2.5 XL, which has the distinct advantage of being a VSTi instrument that Notion 3 can use, which is not the case with Reason 5, since Reason 5 is not a VSTi instrument (although I devised a way to export a Piano instrument as MIDI and then to import the Notion 3 generated MIDI file into Reason 5, where I can use it to play Reason 5 instruments, which I record in Digital Performer 7 by controlling Reason 5 via ReWire, which is both (a) truly brilliant and (b) a bit demented, but so what . . .

So what!

The various synthesizers in Reason 5 have very nice visual interfaces with elaborate controls, buttons, parameters, and so forth, and they are configured using the type of layout I used when I was learning how synthesizers worked many years ago, which included actually designing and building a synthesizer, so even though I used Reason 5 only for about two weeks, it refreshed my memory sufficiently to make it possible for me to connect the dots with respect to SampleTank, which makes it a productive purchase from my perspective, since making progress is very important here in the sound isolation studio, for sure . . .

For sure!

And on a related note, I am pondering the idea of writing a book about all this stuff, since it is a bit on the complex side, even when one is highly computer literate and understands a good bit about music theory and music notation, where one of the most important things in the grand scheme of everything is discovering how to use your money wisely, since most people are not fantastically wealthy . . .

What tends to happen is that people make a lot of typically small purchases for hardware and software that does only one highly specialized activity, where for example in the electric guitar universe over time people tend to have virtual festivals of $50 and $100 effects pedals that for the most part do a grand total of one thing, which they usually never use for more than a few days after they get the effects pedal, which is fine, except that when you do this 100 times you have spent enough money to get a 12-core Mac Pro, MOTU 828mk3, Digital Performer 7, Notion 3, and all the IK Multimedia virtual instruments and T-RackS 3 Deluxe, as well as some of the Wave Arts VST effects, the Melodyne Editor (Celemony) for advanced vocal processing, and AmpliTube 3 (IK Multimedia) . . .

So, instead of having a very nice digital recording, producing, mixing, and mastering studio, they have a big box of single-purpose effects pedals . . .

The key bit of information is that once one has a reasonably state-of-the-art computer, AmpliTube 3 is much better than a big box of single-purpose effects pedals, since it does a lot more than one can do with a big box of single-purpose effects pedals . . .

Having a plan is an excellent strategy, but there are times when one can wander a bit from what appears to be a very logical plan, which is fine with me if it maps to making progress and is not too off-budget, and in my recent bit of wandering off-budget to get Reason 5, I accomplished several useful things, including getting an Alesis ION Analog Modeling Synthesizer (which I already had) setup for doing MIDI with the MOTU 828mkII and the Mac Pro, as well as discovering a practical way to create MIDI instructions in Notion 3 and then using the MIDI exported from Notion 3 to tell Reason 5 what to play, which is a good thing to know how to do . . .

It also depends on what you want to do and what you need to do, but overall I think that the "big picture" involves composing and recording music in the digital universe, which from a practical perspective can be done professionally with a complete system (hardware and software) that costs somewhere in the range of 10 to 15 thousand dollars, with approximately half of the cost being hardware and half of the cost being software and sound libraries when you have a virtual festival of everything . . .

But since it takes a while to understand how a virtual festival of everything works in any practical way, yet another reality is that a $3,000 to $5,000 system (hardware and software) is more than sufficient for a year or two while you are learning how everything works, which is fabulous . . .

Fabulous!

And from an even more practical perspective, a reasonably fast Mac or Windows computer, Notion 3, and SampleTank FREE is plenty to keep someone very productive for quite a while . . .

I did everything on an iMac G5 for several years until it became obvious that the iMac G5 simply could not handle all the computing that needed to be done, at which point I had no option but to get a Mac Pro, yet I did as much as I could do with the iMac G5 before making the switch to the Mac Pro, which tends to be a good strategy when one has a limited budget . . .

Lots of FUN! :)
Last edited by Surfwhammy on Tue May 03, 2011 6:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Up Strum

Postby Surfwhammy » Tue May 03, 2011 6:18 am

As a bit of follow-up, based on the initial reply to my question in the IK Multimedia FORUM about creating user-defined samples for SampleTank 2.5 XL, it appears that this is something that is both possible and practical to do, so I need to do some experiments to discover how it works . . .

I can create individual note samples, where there is a separate WAVE file for each note ranging from E2 through G5, and the SampleTank will play the respective note when it gets the corresponding instruction or command from Notion 3 . . .

[NOTE: Guitar is one of the instruments that uses a special clef, where everything is made arbitrarily higher than it really is, so while Middle C (C4) actually is the C at the 1st fret of the high-pitch "b" string, on a guitar clef "Middle C" is considered to be the C at the 3rd fret of the low-pitch "A" string (C3), but I prefer to map everything to notes on the piano, which is the reason that I put the range at E2 through G5 (at the 15th fret of the high-pitch "e" string), since it avoids needing to do transformations and having different definitions for what should be one thing, which among other things is one of the reasons that I do everything on the treble clef but map the notes upward or downward when necessary, as contrasted to using bass clef, baritone clef, tenor clef, and so forth and so on. I can make sense of 88 notes, but when what really is the same note has multiple representations, it becomes entirely too complex, and I see no added value in representing one thing in a festival of different ways, because the fact of the matter is that there is only one actual Middle C, and from my perspective pretending that the C at the 3rd fret of the low-pitch "A" string is "Middle C" leads to confusion, since it encourages people to learn something that is incorrect, because it is C3 rather than C4, so if you never discover that it actually is C3 rather than C4, then you are teaching yourself to hear "Middle C" one octave lower than it actually is, which maps to yet another rule, which is that if you have a piano, then keep it tuned. And this logic is based on the fact that there are 88 notes on a grand piano an approximately 100 instruments in an orchestra, so if each instrument can play all 88 notes, this maps to 8,800 notes, which is a lot of notes to manage without additionally having to do transformations to discover which actual note some of the instruments are playing . . . ]

This does not solve the problem of upward and downward strummed chords, but I think there is a way to solve the strumming problems, as well . . .

Specifically, it appears that SampleTank simply plays whatever is in the WAVE file for a specific "note", so if the WAVE file contains a C Major chord where C4 is the root note, then when Notion 3 sends SampleTank an instruction or command to play "C4" for the sample set, then you hear a C Major chord as it is played in the WAVE file, with perhaps some additional processing to account for duration and other stuff, but I think that with a bit of experimenting it should be easy to determine how to manage duration and other aspects, although to get it very precise this might require doing very specific samples for tempo and duration ranges that might need to be small in order to get the correct initial attack, sustain, and release envelope of a chord . . .

On the other hand, it probably is considerably easier simply to play it on a real electric guitar, but I am intrigued by the idea of having user-defined samples for use in SampleTank with music notation in Notion 3, which is fabulous . . .

Fabulous! :)

P. S. Whether this is practical to do in the grand scheme of everything is another matter, but it appears both (a) that it is possible and (b) that it it not so difficult to do, really . . .

Really!
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Re: Up Strum

Postby dcuny » Tue May 03, 2011 7:41 pm

I've used and created sampled guitar strums. I've even created my own Soundfonts with guitar strums. If I wanted to go that route, I'd just pick up my guitar.

There are a lot of possible workarounds, but I shouldn't have to go that route. It just seems an odd omission.
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Re: Up Strum

Postby Surfwhammy » Thu May 05, 2011 3:54 am

dcuny wrote:I've used and created sampled guitar strums. I've even created my own Soundfonts with guitar strums. If I wanted to go that route, I'd just pick up my guitar.

There are a lot of possible workarounds, but I shouldn't have to go that route. It just seems an odd omission.


OVERVIEW

Before I switched my focus to the entertainment business, I was focused primarily on advanced software development, and my Computer Science background and experience gives me a different perspective on digital music products, for sure . . .

For sure!

At least in theory, I should be able to design and program a digital music application like Notion 3, but on the practical side of things I know how much work is involved, and while I should be able to do everything, I know that it is not easy and, in fact, is among the most difficult types of programming that anyone on this planet does . . .

So, instead of focusing on what Notion 3 does not do, I focus on what Notion 3 does, which from my perspective is the practical focus, since it makes it possible for me to do things that I cannot do otherwise, even when I limit the instruments to what I actually can play (electric guitar, electric bass, drums, and keyboards), which in the keyboard department includes an Alesis ION Analog Modeling Synthesizer and a KORG Triton Music Workstation (88-Keys) . . .

BACKGROUND

Generally, it is easy to get good recording levels and sounds with electric guitar, electric bass, and the two keyboard synthesizers, but it is not so easy to get good recording levels with the Really Bigger Drumkit™, although in theory it should be possible, but in contrast to guitars and keyboards, it requires high-end microphones that cost too much, which makes it impractical at best . . .

Image
The Really Bigger Drumkit™

[NOTE: This is an Instrumental Surf song that I did a few years ago, which is a bit like a blend of "Let There Be Drums" (Sandy Nelson) and "Wipe Out" (The Safaris), and everything is real instruments. There is one drumkit part, and while it might appear to be several drumkit parts with a lot of overdubbing, all the drums, cymbals, and Latin percussion is played in real-time with no overdubbing, which is one of the things I discovered how to do after pondering the layout of the drumkit for several months and doing a lot of experiments, where among other things I devised a strategy for "stacking" various cymbals and Latin percussion instruments so that I can play a set of them in one downward motion of a drumstick, since they places the drumsticks need to hit are arranged very precisely along arcs that end in the center of a tom-tom, floor tom, or something, and the Latin percussion instruments that are not in arcs are positioned so that I can do something similar but more in terms of making smaller intermediate motions that are very efficient, which when augmented with precisely timed cascading echo units maps to being able to do a lot of drumming with what actually are very small and simple motions, which among other things is one of the benefits of staying awake during Mathematics, Geometry, and Physics classes, which once you understand basic Newtonian mechanics makes it easy to understand (a) that a small motion at the handheld end of a 22" drumstick maps to a large motion at the other end of the drumstick and (b) that it is considerably easier and faster to make small motions than it is to make large motions, so the longer drumsticks essentially act as "motion amplifiers". And since nobody sells 22" drumsticks, I build my own drumsticks from 5/8" oak dowels. This is a headphone mix, and it is pretty good . . . ]

Sandy Nelson on Rock and Roll Drumming -- YouTube video

"Nuke Out" (The Surf Whammys) -- MP3

If you listen with studio-quality headphones like the SONY MDR-7506 at a reasonably loud level, then "Nuke Out" sounds pretty good, but it is not so good as it should be, really . . . .

Really!

I think that it is reasonable for me to suggest that I can play drums with a bit of proficiency, which is great, but I started playing drums mostly to add drums to Surf Whammys songs, since my primary instruments are electric bass and electric guitar, which also is the case with keyboards, where I started playing keyboards mostly as a way to get more sounds and to be able to add string and horn sections, since the KORG Triton Music Workstation has sampled orchestra modules with nice presets for strings and horns, all of which is great, except that doing the instruments with music notation and IK Multimedia virtual instruments in Notion 3 sounds a lot better, and I can do things easily with music notation that I cannot do with the real drumkit and keyboards, for sure . . .

"(Baby You Were) Only Dreaming" (The Surf Whammys) -- MP3 (9.2MB, 280-kbps [VBR], approximately 4 minutes and 24 seconds)

For sure!

Even with electric bass, which is one of my two primary instruments, the reality for recorded sound is that it takes a virtual festival of bass instruments to get a deep and rich bass TONE, which is another excellent way I use music notation and IK Multimedia virtual instruments in Notion 3 and is yet another way that I can do bass parts which are not so easy to play on electric bass, although I can do it on electric bass if I need to do it that way . . .

Mostly, I do real electric bass only when I need to play what I call "textures", which is easy to do on real electric bass but is virtually impossible to do with music notation . . .

QUESTION: What does this have to do with upstrumming guitar chords?

Great question! :D

DETAILS

There are a lot of things that NOTION might do that have great potential to be fabulous, but from the perspective of practicality I like what Notion 3 does, and when it does not do something I need to do, my strategy is to devise a way to do it, which is where the information about creating user-defined custom samples in SampleTank comes into play . . .

It is natural for guitar players to focus on strumming and to know that a downward strum does not sound the same as an upward strum, which also is the case with a virtual festival of way one can use a Herco Flex50 bronze guitar pick for individual notes when playing lead guitar solos, but I am not convinced that this is something that everyone in the known universe knows and appreciates at any significantly obvious level, so while there is merit to having advanced strumming capabilities via music notation and virtual guitars, I think that it makes sense to focus on devising a practical solution, which is where there are three primary solutions when one is a guitar player:

(1) Play it on real guitar and record it in the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) application that you use in your complete digital recording studio solution, which in my case is Digital Performer 7 . . .

(2) Create your own user-defined custom guitar samples and get them into SampleTank, since Notion 3 works wonderfully with SampleTank virtual instruments . . .

(3) Get a library of guitar samples that (a) works with or as a VSTi instrument and specifically has a range of strumming and picking styles, such as the Fab Four Virtual Instrument (EWQL) . . .

The practical realities here in the sound isolation studio are (a) that I know how to do (1); (b) that I am quite intrigued by (2); and (c) that at present I cannot afford to do (3) . . .

I did a bit of additional checking regarding doing user-defined custom guitar samples, and since I have the Groove 3 video tutorial on SampleTank, I watched the module on importing sounds to SampleTank, and it appears to be straightforward, which matches the information I got in the IK Multimedia FORUM, so I am going to do some experiments to make sense of it, sooner or later . . .

And I am intrigued by the idea of having my own electric guitar sample library, since I can do a lot of things that are not possible otherwise with sample libraries, especially since (a) I have a specific technique for everything I play on lead guitar and (b) I am beginning to be able to map specific techniques to music notation . . .

I might need to have a bunch of individual guitar tracks, where each one plays notes from a specific user-defined custom sample, but this is what I do when I am "sparkling" instruments, so it is not a big deal for me to do, and even when I am using Jazz chords, I do not use so many different types of chords, which tends to minimize the required set of sampled chords, and the same general strategy applies to the way I play and pick individual notes . . .

The only aspect that might be a bit troublesome is tempo, but from a practical perspective the same minimizing rule applies, since I tend to focus on just a few very specific beats per minute, hence should be able to devise a generally representative set of samples if I do a bit of advance planning and map everything in a sensible way, which from the perspectives of Computer Science and Mathematics mostly is a matter of determining the optimal way to reduce a virtual festival of information to an optimal subset of permutations, where the key is to devise a way to replace a set of permutations with a single combination, where for example I can create a set of samples that has only Major Barre Chords played as if they were individual notes, such that if I want to play a C Major Barre Chord at the 8th fret on the low-pitch "E" string, then the corresponding music notation is a C3 on a regular treble clef or a C4 on a treble clef that is arbitrarily set to play notes one octave lower, which is something that Notion 3 lets me do easily, which I also can do as a C5 if I want to do it so that all the "notes" actually are in the normal range of the treble clef by setting the specific treble clef in Notion 3 to play notes two octaves lower . . .

And it is entirely possible that by doing this exercise I might actually discover how to play electric guitar from music notation in real-time on the fly, which has great potential for being useful in the grand scheme of everything, which is fabulous . . .

Fabulous! :)

P. S. There are quite a few ways that NOTION can be enhanced by adding a generous level of database "smarts" that make it practical to do geometric and mathematical work based on a variety of music theories and systems, only one of which is a bit on the mysterious side and then only is mysterious because so few people know enough about mathematics and geometry to make sense of it, and from my perspective it makes a lot more sense to keep the focus on composing and orchestrating with music notation and virtual instruments than on tinkering with sound libraries, since there are plenty of sources for virtual instrument sound libraries . . .
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Re: Up Strum

Postby dcuny » Thu May 05, 2011 7:24 pm

Differentiating an "up" strum from a "down" strum isn't an advanced technique, it's basic.

And while your Computer Science background and development of advanced software may give you a different perspective, to my (apparently uneducated) ears, the guitar strums are unmusical, mechanical, and unusable.

NOTION does many other things brilliantly, so it's an unfortunate oversight.
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Re: Up Strum

Postby Surfwhammy » Wed May 11, 2011 11:42 am

dcuny wrote:Differentiating an "up" strum from a "down" strum isn't an advanced technique, it's basic.


True!

dcuny wrote:And while your Computer Science background and development of advanced software may give you a different perspective, to my (apparently uneducated) ears, the guitar strums are unmusical, mechanical, and unusable.


If what I wrote appeared to question your hearing and understanding of guitar, then I apologize, for sure . . .

For sure!

My intent was to focus on determining what is practical to do within the capabilities of Notion 3, where it is important to understand that at present my focus primarily is on DISCO and Pop songs . . .

dcuny wrote:NOTION does many other things brilliantly, so it's an unfortunate oversight.


In some respects, it depends on each person's perspective, which is fine with me, and it also depends on the specific genre, but I do not consider it to be an "oversight", because while it is virtually trivial to do on a real guitar, I am not convinced that it is trivial to do in the virtual instrument universe, where "it" in this instance is upward and downward strumming, although as noted in my previous reply, it appears that the Fab Four Instrument Collection (EWQL) has up stroke and down stroke guitar samples, as well as various types of finger-picking samples, which might make it trivial to do depending on whether one can specify upward and downward strums with music notation in Notion 3 in a way that maps to the EWQL VSTi instrument actually doing upward and downward strums, where "trivial" maps to what essentially is $350 (US), which here in the sound isolation studio is not so trivial, really . . .

Really!

I would expect a saxophone player to be a bit more attuned to the finer aspects of saxophone notation and samples, and I think that the requirements are a bit less stringent for electric guitar in the DISCO, Heavy Metal, Pop, and Rock and Roll genres, but I also think that the requirements are more stringent for acoustic guitar, especially when there are not so many other instruments . . .

[NOTE: If there is a general rule, it probably is that the more instruments and voices, the less it matters, since everything tends to blend and to blur, but the fewer instruments, the more it matters, especially for acoustic guitar, as well as some styles of Jazz electric guitar. And it will be quite a while before any virtual guitars are able to sound like Paco de Lucía in the Flamenco guitar arena (a personal favorite) . . . ]

Picking and strumming is a major aspect of playing guitar (acoustic and electric), and when I think about it in an immediately conscious way the fact of the matter is that I have very specific uses for downward strums, upward strums, and arpeggios, as well as chord slides, but most of the time I do not think about it so much, preferring instead to do it intuitively in real-time on the fly, and while I generally avoid composing lead guitar solos in advance, it is not unusual for me to work on a rhythm guitar pattern for several weeks, with the work being a combination of (a) selecting and sequencing chords and (b) developing a rhythmic strumming and picking pattern . . .

However, when I am doing music notation for guitar, I focus more on chords and phrases but without a lot of attention to how the chords and phrases are strummed and picked, since for the most part I am quite happy when I get the sound of the guitar the way I want it . . .

After pondering it for a while, I am not certain that I would have had any specific thoughts about strumming and picking for virtual guitars, and the only thing that comes to mind regarding picking involves certain types of single or double note phrases that need emphasis and have special timing considerations, where an example is the slowly ascending guitar counterpoint lines in "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" (Beatles) . . .

OBSERVATION

In some respects, I think that at least in theory it is possible to transcribe anything that can be played on an instrument, but there are so many articulations, nuances, techniques, and so forth and so on that in the grand scheme of everything it is not very practical for several reasons, including the facts (a) that every real instrument is unique, which is the case even with keyboard synthesizers manufactured by robots, (b) that every musician is unique, and (c) that the level of detail required to map a Gestalt is vast to the point of being essentially impractical based on currently available technologies . . .

So, instead of focusing on using Notion 3 as a vehicle for giving extraordinarily precise instructions to real musicians, my focus is much simpler . . .

Essentially, I view Notion 3 as a musical drawing tool, similar to the way Photoshop is used to draw pictures . . .

Notion 3 has tools, palettes of instruments, and so forth and so on, and it has a rendering engine that assembles the musical "drawing" for listening . . .

The Computer Science aspect comes into play as the result of knowing without doubt that behind the scenes everything happens according to algorithms on digital computers, so for example while it might be philosophically intriguing to think that there is an infinite range of something on a computer, the reality is that it always is finite, even when it is virtually infinite, because it is constructed illusion . . .

So, instead of expecting Notion 3 to adjust itself to what I want to do, my approach is to discover how to adjust what I want to do in a way that is consistent with the Notion 3 capabilities of which I am aware and have verified, and from this perspective I do not consider Notion 3 and virtual instruments to be substitutes or replacements for real instruments . . .

From a different perspective, it is like Crayola crayons, where there are different sets and, with perhaps a few exceptions, everything is very discrete in the sense of a standard pack of 64 Crayola crayons having 64 distinct and clearly defined colors . . .

You can do a bit of blending and other techniques, but if you need an in-between color, at some point you need to devise a way to create your own unique crayon . . .

GUITAR PALETTE

After pondering the general concepts of strumming guitar strings, I think that it might make a bit of sense to devise a way to do upward and downward strumming, as well as being able to gradually strum chords as if the notes of the chords were arpeggios, and this might be a nice suggestion for a future version of Notion, since it makes sense and is something that guitar players do for very specific reasons . . .

But rather than attribute the absence of specific upward and downward strumming to an "oversight", I prefer to consider it from the perspective of what in the computer programming universe is referred to as the art of controlling "scope creep", where it is nice to be able to do everything but the reality is that it is better to do something well than to do everything badly or not at all . . .

And after doing a bit of researching and thinking on how one might create a set of user-defined custom guitar strumming and picking samples, my current perspective is that I simply do not know enough about the specific requirements from a programming perspective to determine whether it is a relatively easy task or an extraordinarily complex task, although I tend to think that it is extraordinarily complex . . .

My current understanding of Notion 3 is that whatever is heard is the result of several things, some of which are emulated by processing computer algorithms but others of which are done simply by playing different samples of articulations, where some of this is done behind the scenes in the MIDI universe, which at present is a bit of a mystery here in the sound isolation studio . . .

Without going into too much detail, I did an experiment earlier this year or perhaps last year with French Horns, and at one point I had a Miroslav Philharmonik French Horn COMBI loaded with a set of perhaps 8 different French Horn articulations, and my recollection is that depending on the way the music notation was articulated, different French Horn "instruments" played the notes, so instead of one "instrument" in the COMBI playing all the notes, the specific instrument playing at any given time from the set of 8 instruments varied depending on the articulation, so I think this is the way it works behind the scenes, although at present I have not delved into this in much if any depth . . .

To be a bit more specific, I think that I had a staccato French Horn and a few other French Horn articulations loaded in the COMBI, and when there was a staccato note, it was played by the staccato French Horn in the COMBI, but regular notes were played by another French Horn instrument in the COMBI, and this was FUN to watch, since when the standalone user interface for Miroslav Philharmonik is visible, its mini-keyboard shows the notes as they are played, and the selected "instrument" is high-lighted in the list as it is played, so if you position everything correctly, you can see how the music notation in Notion 3 maps to notes on the mini-keyboard and "instruments" in the COMBI list, which is quite fascinating to watch in real-time, and it helps me to develop perspectives on the horizontal and vertical mappings of intervals, where for me a keyboard has a horizontal mapping for intervals, but a musical staff (for example, the treble clef) has a primarily vertical mapping for intervals, which is one of the things that makes it a bit difficult to devise a mental mapping for lead guitar, since from this perspective each string of a guitar essentially is a keyboard but since there are six strings on a standard guitar there are six stacked keyboards, so there also is a vertical component, except that the stacked keyboards are offset, and the high-pitch "G" string to high-pitch "b" string interval makes it all the stranger and illogical in some respects, which is compounded by the fact that most people do not realize that it is very illogical from a mathematical and geometric perspective until sometime after they have learned so many chords and lead guitar phrases that it simply makes no practical sense to correct the problem, if there is a way to correct the problem, which I suppose is possible, at least in theory, but so what . . .

So what!

With this bit of information in mind, it is important to understand that Notion 3 has what I think is an unique ability with respect to guitar, which as best as I have been able to determine only happens with the Notion 3 virtual guitar . . .

Specifically, the guitar in Notion 3 supports elaborate guitar tab articulations, gestures, and other techniques, including string bends, vibrato, whammying, and so forth . . .

I have no idea how this is done behind the scenes, but I have a few guesses, and for this reason I think that practical considerations were the determining factor with respect to controlling "scope creep" and to deciding which techniques were most important in the grand scheme of everything . . .

Image
Guitar Tab Articulations ~ Notion 3

As best as I have been able to determine, these guitar tab articulations are very specific to the Notion 3 guitar, which is based primarily on attempting to use them with a virtual guitar from SampleTank 2.5 XL (IK Multimedia) where none of the guitar tab articulations did anything with the IK Multimedia virtual guitar, which tends strongly to suggest that the Notion 3 guitar has a bit of additional artificial intelligence happening . . .

Switching to the universe of Computer Science, Mathematics, and Physics for a moment, common sense and a bit of information about the way user-defined custom samples are handled in SampleTank 2.5 XL suggest that it requires a set of 44 separate samples of individually picked notes for each specific type of note picking for each specific type of TONE, although this can be reduced to some extent by augmenting the TONE with AmpliTube 3 (IK Multimedia) . . .

This covers the 40 notes from open E on the low-pitch "E" string to the G at the 15th fret of the high-pitch "e" string, but one of the more expert SampleTank folks explained that it is necessary to include two empty or blank samples for notes below the lowest note and two empty or blank samples for notes above the highest note, which is done to prevent the SampleTank engine from emulating additional notes . . .

For example, a typical set of such sampled notes will look a bit like this for the real notes, where each WAVE file has one note at the indicated value for a specific duration and beat per minute tempo :

Code: Select all
"Strat Herco Up Pick 8th 200bpm E2.wav"
"Strat Herco Up Pick 8th 200bpm F.wav"
"Strat Herco Up Pick 8th 200bpm F#2.wav"
.
.
.
"Strat Herco Flex50 Up Pick 8th 200bpm G5.wav" 


I have not done the experiment to verify this, but it makes intuitive sense to me, because it is important to have the attack, sustain, and release of each note, which common sense strongly suggests is specific to the duration of the note, which in turn is specific to the tempo in beats per minute ("bpm"), and intuition also strongly suggests that this generally excludes allowing the SampleTank engine and Notion 3 to cause any aspects of the notes to be emulated, which at the extreme maps to having quite a few groups of sets, where the enumerating factors are note duration (whole note, half note, quarter note, eighth note, sixteenth note, thirty-second note, and sixty-fourth note) and tempo, where for tempo one might limit it to 10 commonly used beat per minute tempos . . .

Doing the arithmetic, if you also include single dot values for the note durations, then there are 12 note durations, 10 commonly used beat per minute tempos, and 44 samples per specific Herco Flex50 single note picking technique, which maps to 5,280 individual note samples spread over 120 sets, where each set has 44 samples, 4 of which are blank or empty . . .

If there is a way to map a specific sample to a voice, which appears likely, then one can have four voices on a staff, although it is a bit entirely too busy, so forget about doing it that way, and instead focus on keeping everything simple, which maps to needing 12 staves for one specific type of Herco Flex50 note picking . . .

Keeping everything at least a tiny bit simple, if one allows only one type of Herco Flex50 upward picking and only one type of Herco Flex50 downward picking, then this maps to 12 staves for upward picked notes and 12 staves for downward picked notes, which covers the range of whole note to sixty-fourth note durations and corresponding single dot durations at a specific tempo in beats per minute, but this does not include string bends, vibrato, whammying, tapping, chiming, and so forth and so on . . .

And since every one of the sample sets is "heavy", this is at the upper limit of what Notion 3 can handle in one score for all practical purposes . . .

Each additional articulation maps to yet another 12 staves and 528 individual note samples, where each staff maps to a specific note duration . . .

So, if one limits the additional articulations to upward bends, downward bends, vibrato, and perhaps three types of whammying, then this adds 12 more sets of 12 staves and 528 individual note samples, where these 6 articulations are done with initial downward motions and separately with initial upward motions (which is the reason for 12 sets rather than just 6 sets), although it actually is a bit fewer, since it does not make a lot of sense to do whammying on a sixty-fourth note at 200 beats per minute, really . . .

Really!

At this point, there are 168 staves, and a good bit of what one does on lead guitar with single notes is covered . . .

However, there also is the matter of chords, and chords are handled the same way for purposes of getting very precise sounds, where instead of a set of 44 individual note samples with the already explained enumerations for duration, tempo, and so forth, there is a set of perhaps 52 specific Barre chords with the same types of enumerations, where for example there is a set of 52 samples of Major chords running from open-position E Major all the way to the whatever chord makes sense at the 15th fret, which I suppose probably an open-position D Major chord but an octave higher, since the general idea is to have three subgroups of Major chords, where one subgroup has its root on the low-pitch "E" string; another subgroup has its root on the low-pitch "A" string; and yet another group has its root on the low-pitch "D" string, which makes a bit of intuitive sense, for sure . . .

For sure!

So, if you mostly are focused on Rhythm and Blues, Rock and Roll, DISCO, Pop, and Heavy Metal, then for the most part one needs Major, Minor, Major 7th, Minor 7th, Ninth, and Diminished chords, which maps to 6 different types of chords, which come in downward strummed and upward strummed flavors, for a total of 12 sets, which can be expanded by two types of whammying to make it 24 sets, which maps to 24 sets at 12 durations at a specific beats per minute tempo, which if I am doing the arithmetic correctly maps to 288 additional staves . . .

With 168 staves for individual notes and 288 staves for individual chords, this maps to 456 staves for a lead guitar solo, which maps approximately to 20 Notion 3 scores at 20 to 25 staves per score . . .

SUMMARY

I think it is important to observe (a) that IK Multimedia pretty much rules the amplifier, loudspeaker, and effects pedal emulation market with its AmpliTube 3 festival of products and (b) that it appears likely that none of the current IK Multimedia virtual guitars distinguish upward and downward strums, although there are IK Multimedia virtual guitar samples for different types of individual note picking techniques but more from a perspective of TONE than picking, per se . . .

As explained (see above), there is a way to create your own very specific strumming and note picking guitar samples for with SampleTank, which in turn makes it available in Notion 3, but no matter how it is done with unaltered samples, it maps approximately to 22,000 individual samples over 456 sets, which is a bit beyond mind-boggling . . .

Mind-boggling!

So, it mostly is a matter of determining whether there is a practical way to do it, which is a possibility . . .

One possibility is to do a series of experiments to determine whether there is a specific amplitude and frequency envelope for a generalized upward chord strum and a generalized downward guitar chord strum with additional respect to attack, sustain, and release, which probably is the case . . .

If there are two such envelopes, then this might be an easy way to emulate an upward strum and a downward strum as specific articulations, and it might be possible to do this simply "by ear" once one devised an algorithm for a filter, which probably is not such a difficult thing to do, since there is a good bit of information about the way various TONE controls for electric guitar work, which is where I would start, where the most obvious type of filters are LRC filters (Inductor, Resistor, Capacitor), where a downward strum will have a heavier bass emphasis while an upward strum will have a heavier treble emphasis . . .

[NOTE: For reference, "L" is the abbreviation for "inductor" . . . ]

With this in mind, yet another possibility for a virtually trivial solution is to have two staves for guitar, where one staff is modified with one of the T-RackS 3 Deluxe (IK Multimedia) VST plug-ins for doing amplitude and frequency response filtering such that it has a more downward strummed TONE, while the other staff is modified in a similar but different way to have a more upward strummed TONE, which in the grand scheme of everything fits nicely with my strategy for "sparkling" an instrument, and in fact is one of the ways I solve the problem, although I never actually considered it from this particular perspective, since my primary focus is on TONE rather than technique . . .

This can be enhanced by using one of the T-RackS 3 Deluxe VST plug-ins for compressing and limiting, since it should be possible to modify the envelope this way, and there are other types of VST plug-ins that do something similar in one way or another, although setting the various parameters tends to be very specific to duration, so I am not certain how well this will work when chords or notes are sustained or played at different durations . . .

In other words, the only time I wander into controlling articulations at the individual note or chord level in the music notation universe is when it appears to be the easiest or perhaps only way to get a specific type of TONE . . .

For example, consider the guitar accents in the most recent version of the "basic rhythm section" for the new Surf Whammys song, "(Baby You Were) Only Dreaming", which now is mixed in Digital Performer 7, since the virtual instruments come from two separate but synchronized Notion 3 scores for a total of 31 "heavy" VSTi instruments, which is fabulous . . .

[NOTE: One of the guitars is the Notion 3 guitar, and it is at top-center where it does vibrato and whammying, but all the other guitars and instruments are IK Multimedia virtual instruments, so everything is "heavy". The electric "Viking Strat" heard at far-left and far-right every once in a while is augmented with "Moog Jellysquids" playing the same chords, which adds a surreal Leslie rotating speaker effect. This is the first time I have used the Notion 3 guitar, and I really like the way it works. When the soundbite is recorded in Digital Performer 7, I have the option of running it through AmpliTube 3, which is quite intriguing. At the highest resolution or quality, the AmpliTube 3 VST plug-in is "vastly heavy" in terms of computer resources, so it works better on the Mac when I run it in Digital Performer 7, where I use it only long enough to get the TONE I want, at which time I bounce it to disk and switch to using a soundbite, since like Panorama 5 (Wave Arts), which is the other "vastly heavy" VST plug-in, it does not take many instances to bring Digital Performer 7 to an abrupt halt. If I do not use any VST effects plug-ins in Notion 3, then I usually can get 25 "heavy" VSTi instruments in one Notion 3 score, which is a very nice number of instruments for purposes of building a song in layers in the techniques made popular by Phil Spector ("Wall of Sound") and George Martin (Abbey Road Studios, Beatles), which is the way I do everything here in the sound isolation studio, except that I am working to move it to a higher level where the focus is on what I call the "Spherical Sonic Landscape"™, which is an elaborate multidimensional vector space that at least in theory has the potential to make it possible to have a bit of FUN in the mathematical fourth dimension (a personal favorite, along with Calibi-Yau manifolds). And for purposes of being precise, everything is done with music notation and virtual instruments in Notion 3, with the Notion 3 generated audio recorded and mixed in Digital Performer 7 via ReWire, where some of the more electronic Dubstep style sounds are enhanced with a bit of carefully timed cascading echo units . . . ]

"(Baby You Were) Only Dreaming" (The Surf Whammys) -- May 9, 2011 -- MP3 (9.2MB, 281-kbps [VBR], approximately 4 minutes and 23 seconds)

Fabulous!
The Surf Whammys

Sinkhorn's Dilemma: Every paradox has at least one non-trivial solution!
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Re: Up Strum

Postby dcuny » Wed May 11, 2011 1:01 pm

You've pointed out that impracticality of using a sample library to capture all the various sorts of guitar chords. However, NOTION could fairly easily support a smaller group of chords (Maj, min, min7, sus4) and vastly improve the sound quality. Given the option of using a MIDI guitar strum with a "fancy" chord (like Am9) , or a sampled strum with a "plain" chord (like Am7), I'd go with that option. They could even support an "automatic" feature, where if "real" guitar strums were selected, it could automatically fall back to the best sample.

But I doubt that's a priority for NOTION. I think the guitar options are primarily there for lead guitarists looking for a good notation tool, and playback of strums was more an afterthought.

Besides, NOTION already "understands" how to play various articulations via MIDI. The various guitar articulations (bends, etc.) certainly sound like they're implemented via MIDI.

I don't believe that implementing an up strum would be difficult for NOTION's programmers. But I can believe that it's not a high priority item.
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