Vibrato, pitch, and MPE questions

As a keyboardist armed with a breath controller, I'm gaining appreciation for the expressive subtlety of vibrato beyond just strength, but varying rate, and skew both in time and in pitch (up/down/centered) and would really love to be able to play as much of this in as possible...which seems very possible with this software but I'm having some difficulty getting the control I want. This kinda comes to a frustration and a wish:

  1. First the frustration: is there a cap (maximum) or better yet a response curve for vibrato sensitivity? Pitch bend wheels and sticks (like mine) often have too limited a throw and too much deadband, and breath/wind controller bite pressure response varies widely based on where your mouth/teeth are relative to the reed switch...even mapped to my continuous damper, it's difficult to smoothly introduce a small amount of vibrato and too easy to overreach into that 3-step flutter mode. I wind up clamping down values in Logic and have to remember to toggle that transformer off when going to other I missing way(s) to do this things within the instrument?
  2. Second, what I'd really love is an MPE mode: I've found the Roli 'squishboards' to be game changing with other modeled instruments, allowing me to actually play in all the subtlety described above. But so far as I can tell, the maximum 400% pitch sensitivity doesn't get anywhere close to the 48 step range Roli's scheme seems to depend on. Is there any current way to make this happen with the brass? Anyone know any tricks to get Roli to output a standard range pitch bend at the expense of multi-note slides? Could there ever be a Roli/MPE friendly mode, since there's such good support for breath already?

***the other reason this would be especially cool for ensemble use is justifying chords. Being able to reproduce that goosebump-inducing perfect interval when good horn players push or pull their notes to perfect justification would be really enticing, and well within the realm of possibility on a Roli

What I can already manage with a (problematic) pitch stick tells me that the instruments already respond in all the right ways, but whether this is a tech support question or feature request, I'd be very interested in more capable and reliable control over it


  • edited November 3

    When using a Breath Controller, the "natural way to do a versatile "vibrato" (in fact technically a modulation of the expression, rather than the pitch) for wind or brass instruments is using breath pressure.

    This seems to be not exactly easy to do when playing, even though any sax player I worked with had no problem at all with that. In fact I have been too lazy to practice this decently, hence with my virtual instruments such as Flute, Trumpet and Sax, I use the built-in Vibrato functionality. I use the TEC BBCv2 Breath Controller and an appropriate Midi keyboard. So I mapped vibrato intesity to aftertouch and vibrato speed to head tilt left/right. This works just fine for me. I do have vibrato inbtensity on the mod wheel, as well, for a continuous vibrato, but I never use this when playing.

    OTOH, wind and brass instruments in fact also can do pitch vibrato, which is mapped to pitch bend in the software instruments. I use head nod forward/backward for this. Of course I can't do a vibrato that way, but a decent musical modulation is easily doable. I understand that pitch vibrato does not sound nice with Flute or Sax (in fact like a broken old record). Maybe with the Trumpet, it might be interesting.

    Additionally I use the pitchbend Wheel on keyboard for flutter and the "bite" of the Breath controller for growl, which both are just fast expression vibrato variants.

    The BBC features versatile curves for all it's parameters. This is also very useful, even though it would be perfect if the communication between the BBC and the software would be with high resolution CC, which both are not able of.

    If necessary, I use (in fact I created them as Reaper "script" plugins) Midi "filter" plugins if the source and destination devices don't fit together as desired.

    I use MPE with the Seaboard to play the solo violin. As I use the Seaboard with a real MPE synth (just a press of a button away), as well, the Seaboard always is in MPE mode. I did a Reaper plugin that translates the MPE stream to standard Midi to work with standard "solo" plugins like the SM Kontakt Violin. I indeed was able to set the pitch bend so that finger sliding fits with the key positions and I can slide an octave up and down. This is enough for the performance, and sounds astonishingly nice with the AM Violin. I did not yet try to use the Seaboard with the Trumpet, even though I think using the Seaboard and the Breath Controller together might be an interesting extremely versatile setup.

    All this works quite well, but I still have to do some tweaking of the setup and a lot of practicing the playing before I will be able to get really satisfying results with the violin.

    I am stunned that you think you might be able to use the MPE keyboard with normal (48 semitones) pitch bend setting to control the pitches of chord notes so fine that you get perfect intervals when intended ! Good luck !

    In fact I think I could do a Reaper plugin that does this trick when triggered by a key-switch or e.g, a pedal.


  • edited November 3

    Sorry I ment ... sounds astonishingly nice with the SM Vilolin ...

    I also do have the Audio Modeling Cello, and with same that setup also works well.

    AM just laumched an upgrade to their Strings and this seems to feature MPE mode. But I did not yet try that.


  • Yes...I am indeed practicing breath-only tremolos for flutes (never been a wind player), but the embouchure involvement for brass makes it seem dubious I'll ever get a convincing effect with just CC2, even if I do eventually develop the diaphragm for it.

    You're getting at exactly what my pie-in-the-sky wish would be, actually; it's been the Roli in combination with BBC2 for string and reed instruments that has proven astonishingly expressive and intuitive enough that it feels quite limiting to go back to just dialing in a vibrato LFO, especially with the overshoot difficulty I was trying to solve.

    As for the 48-note range, I have to assume that it's the resolution that makes it somehow work, but I haven't needed reaper to make the Roli function even with now-defunct WIVI instruments (in Logic Pro) and can say without speculation that I can absolutely make pitch adjustments with more precision and repeatability than any other control I currently have. Their curve control over deviation from the initial touch point works very well for accommodating small changes within a gigantic range.

    What's tantalizing here is that It seems like all the sonic capability is already there in this modeling engine and all that's needed is the right control interface ...I guess my issues are with the specific hardware I have here. I'll have another go with the BBC2 nod/roll sensors you mention - when setting it up initially, I found them awkward and difficult to center reliably (which is great for curdling milk, but not so much for music). Best use I have for nod so far is bow position on strings, where roughly centered is close enough, and the occasional wander out to the extremes is doable.

    As it is right now...

    my favorite contols for LFO-type vibrato are Bite pressure on the BB2 and my continuous damper pedal, as both are spring-returned to zero by default, quick, and don't hamper my fingering. I've never especially liked After Touch for vibrato as I've had difficulty engaging it quickly enough after initial strike to make, say... alternating (straight/vibrato/straight) runs work. If I were aware of any way to map AT directly in SM brass (apart from reaper/Logic transformer rerouting), I might mess with Roli's as it seems a lot easier to modulate than my keyboard's pressure strip.

    I have one eye on Expressive E's Touché controller in the hopes it would amount to a decent, progressive and detent-free pitch bend to accomplish much of what like the Roli for, while using the standard pitch bend range...mostly checking here first to see if there's something I'm missing in the software, and uh...beg/plead for new features :)

  • edited November 3

    This, btw, is great news...I haven't bitten on the SM strings yet (soon) and would LOVE Roli control.

    For AM's Cello, I'm currently using breath for bow (expression), sustain (continuous) for bow pressure, regular expression pedal for bow position, and Roli for all pitch control which is about as close to an actual fingerboard as I can imagine- vibratos, slides, and the subtle portamento that happens on long reaches. It is both gratifying to play and, arguably, a bit more convincing to listen to.

    [EDIT: also I must now apologize for the déjavu. I'm seeing in my past discussions that I posted nearly the same thing here before, and it's been long enough I completely forgot about it. Still interested in any way to set an upper limit for vibrato if there's any way to do that other the limit the incoming midi values]

  • Well I'm learning things...

    After some trial and error, I have vibrato (Trumpets) responding to After Touch by selecting CC 129 ...which puzzles me a little, but works

    It's mostly as difficult as I remember on my studiologic's conventional pressure strip AT, but quite a bit more more manageable on the Roli and may convert me away from the foot pedal. While I did run right back into the overshoot (accidental flutter) problem, I stumbled into a much better solution than I had before by using Logic's "modifier" MIDI plugin. Since this is applied to the track, I can scale the incoming AT value down 75% without screwing up other instruments using the same hardware. Can't believe I didn't know about these before

    So, while I would still wish for the facility to manually play vibrato in, this gets me a more usable automated one.

  • edited November 10

    The fist part of the flute solo in the beginning of this piece shows the aftertouch vibrato being rather realistic (IMHO). The keyboard I use is a really aged DX7.



  • edited November 10

    Yeah that sounds great.

    I have been getting on better with brass vibratos after scaling the incoming midi (using midi transformer) but I'm kinda ambivalent about AT vs foot pedal - the latter having several advantages including physical travel (easier for me to gauge), and being isolated from fingering, which it seems to me most real vibrato is, being a function of mouth and diaphragm applied independently of note selection (unless you're a trombone player using the slide).

    I'll try to illustrate my point about performed vibrato, using AM's oboe (sorry Giorgio...but your horns are in there!) as it is Roli-friendly and can thus establish the comparison. Here's simple modwheel-controlled LFO vibrato to accompany BBC2 - certainly not bad, but the longer you listen the more canned it sounds:

    What I have gravitated toward instead is fully performed vibrato using the Roli for pitch + BBC2 for breath/expr (and in this case a foot pedal for formant/embouchure variation) - I can change the character of even the same note a fair bit on those sustains by rolling my finger from the initial 'strike' :

    And to the above point about justification, here's just the one dominant E flat repeated with vibrato skewing to 'settle' it into the underlying chord changes. To me the resulting note has a different...color...despite being E flat the whole time.

    ...Since these are things you CAN do with these modeled instruments, I'd really like to flex this power as much as possible with the brass since it all sounds fantastic in virtual orchestra setting

  • Seaboard finger wiggling (frequency) and AT pressure (expression) vibratos are automatically combined ny the movement of your hand. I feel with strings this makes perfect sense.

    Now combining this with the BC is interesting for woodwinds etc.

    Great analysis

    Thanks for sharing this.

Leave a Comment

Rich Text Editor. To edit a paragraph's style, hit tab to get to the paragraph menu. From there you will be able to pick one style. Nothing defaults to paragraph. An inline formatting menu will show up when you select text. Hit tab to get into that menu. Some elements, such as rich link embeds, images, loading indicators, and error messages may get inserted into the editor. You may navigate to these using the arrow keys inside of the editor and delete them with the delete or backspace key.