Order of the Cynthian Palm


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 lips.)

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 patch (reverberation.).

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 that one.

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 controllers:

Example 6

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 controllers.

Example 7

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.)

Edward Gold

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