Order of the Cynthian Palm

General Info and My Sequencing Techniques

These are selected MIDI files which are either new or in an unusual form like the all-in-one Elgar and Brahms Symphonies and the Elgar Violin Concerto plus the GS files which are GM on the other sites (Enigma). It also includes the Myriad "singing" and playing scores as well.

Most of my "normal" files are available at Classical Archives but the Poulenc "Suite Française after Gervaise" may be found at the no-longer-updated Classical MIDI Connection and the UK site.

I've been requested to write a little on my sequencing techniques though it's too large a subject to put in more than a brief description:

I, like everyone who sequences orchestral scores, put all the tracks in one at a time (usually with step-entry rather than real-time.) taking care to follow the expression. (Even when expression is not indicated, some shape to the line is desirable.) I will do several measures at a time and adjust the general balance as I add tracks. I usually only make fine adjustments in tempo later but may do it roughly as I go along. Vibrato may be done with System Exclusive messages, put in by hand or entered in real time with a MIDI keyboard using the modulation controller ("mod wheel", CC1) depending on the effect I want.

The orchestra is, by nature, a contrapuntal instrument and even block chords are produced by a combination of mostly single notes. So the horizontal line in each (sustained) instrument must always be worked out satisfactorily and blended with the other lines to make a good vertical sound.

It must be borne in mind that a sustained sound is like a living thing and should not remain at a steady level most of the time if the sound is to be dynamic rather than static. With a percussion (piano, harpsichord, drums etc.) instrument where there is an attack and a decay of the sound, this should be handled by velocity only. In a sustained sound, I use the expression controller (11) for crescendos and decrescendos on single long sounds. On very long sustained notes, it's still a good idea to vary the volume slightly even if it's not in the score. For short ones, velocities generally suffice. For fps, fzs and accents on long notes etc., I use the expression controller accordingly. Of course, I set the volume (CC7) at the beginning of each track usually to 100, and only change it if I need more sound in a certain area.

In a cantabile passage, I may set velocity to an average level for the expression involved, say 50 or 60 for pp, 70 for p, etc. In these passages, an attack may be softer at first and then swell on the same note, perhaps with a decrescendo after. The expression (or volume on some soundcards.) controller is the only way of doing this. In many instances, it may be necessary to adjust velocities in these passages due to the limitations of sound sources which may change sound quality and volume from one note to another. Soloing the track and listening carefully is the only guide here. In addition, I have increasingly found that, in two-note slurs, it is best to lower the velocity on the second note if it's in a decrescendo.

I generally use Strings 1 (48 or 49) for brilliant string passages and Strings 2 (49 or 50) for legato work.

I don't agree with those who insist on creating these files without listening to recordings, if they exist. MIDI sequencers are mostly not that familiar with the orchestra and the effect intended may not be immediately apparent from the score. I know for example, in my own case, how much I underestimated the volume of the brass instruments. If the sequencer has individuality, then listening to other performances will not be harmful. If he or she doesn't, at least it will be "correct".

A good musical education is a big help to get comfortable with different styles. I learned a great deal, for example, from various teachers that I met as a piano accompanist to violinists and other instrumentalists. One especially good instructor (though perhaps not as a teacher of violin technique in the earlier stages.) spoke of how to take the space needed for a musical effect and this has really stuck with me. There is no substitute for a cultivation of a sense of musical style.

I've learned a lot by opening and listening to other files to see how certain things are achieved and even opening poor sequences can be an educational experience in seeing how they aren't achieved.

Next page: Beginning of new file and how I approach it.

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