SLIDES AND PITCHBENDS
Pitchbends can be pretty tricky. But they can be used quite
a bit in the string solo patches and even, quite often, in the string
ensemble patches. They can also be used in the trombones since real
trombones have sliders. (The clarinet glissando in the Rhapsody in Blue
is a rare effect done, I understand, by forcing the pitch up with the
First, the mechanics: The default pitchbend is a whole step
(CC6 value 2) and this is fine if you don't want a wider gliss. If you
do, then you must change the range each time by using the "pointer" RPN
controllers, CC100 and 101 which are both set to 0 for pitchbend. Then
the following data entry CC6 is set to the number of half-steps
(semitones) of the bend. For example, a perfect fifth would have its
data entry set to 7. You can also leave the data entry at a single
position and modify the range of the bend but this seems best for a
mathematical whiz (which I'm not!).
If you haven't changed the pointer controllers in between
(i.e: point them to something besides pitchbend.) and want a following
pitchbend event with a different range in the same track, you need only
put in the new CC6 number.
The bend itself would ordinarily go at the end of the note
and might be best put in with a parabola tool if you have it, on the
theory that the slide would start slower and pick up speed at the end.
To avoid a minor disaster, it must usually start at 0 and be returned
to 0 on the new note. These glisses may be put in with a midi keyboard
or manually if your software allows it.
File of pitchbend examples: click to download.
Example 1: Solo violin patch. I've also softened the
expression at the beginning of the bend and this is usually a good idea.
Other factors and tricks: 1. A smaller range can often be
better than the full range and trial and error is the only way to
determine this. You may put in the full range of +8191 or -8192 with a
smaller CC6 and thus reduce the bend range.
Example 2: Sounds smoother I think.
2. Sometimes, when the gliss still doesn't sound right,
shortening the note duration up to the bend will do the trick. Again,
trial and error is necessary as it depends on the octave, loudness, or
Example 3: I've changed the patch to String Ensemble 2 (#49
or 50.) and put it an octave higher.
3. You may also, if you want the slide from another note
besides the main one, put in a "ghost" note and slide immediately from
Example 4: I've also shortened the "ghost" note and reduced
its velocity so it's really "ghostly".
4. Finally, you can actually put the string ensemble slide
in another track using a solo patch. The velocity and/or expression may
need to be softened to be convincing. The pan (stereo placement) needs
to be the same as the ensemble patch.
Example 5 is from Elgar's Cockaigne.
Alternately, there are the portamento controllers: CC5 sets
how long it takes to change the pitch by a half-step and CC65 is the
portamento pedal which turns it on and off. I haven't found these
controllers useful for my purposes (they seem best used for pop music.)
but include them in this MIDI file.
5. Here are slide effects using the two portamento
6. The last one using a "ghost" note. Note the slide down to
the first note from Example 6. I'd have to turn off CC65 to avoid that
but I thought I'd leave it alone to show the effect. If you don't hear
the 3 portamentos, then your sound source doesn't respond to these
Of course, the file(s) of the Elgar Violin Concerto, in the
solo part, has a great many pitchbends since a solo violin is apt to
slide a great deal even if, at various historical times, these slides
are done more quickly so they are less audible. But, though Heifetz and
others may have performed this way, we have pretty much come back to
the expressive slide. (Perlman and others.)
information on tempo