(MS2) Dynamics Should Not Change the the Mallet Sound of Pitched Percussion Instruments

• Apr 23, 2015 - 21:58

Something that's been extremely irritating with my composing lately is that in MuseScore 2.0, the pitched percussion, particularly the vibraphone, will change its entire sound based on Dynamic level as if someone decided to hit the bars with different mallets entirely. For instance, it sounds as if I go from using normal vibe mallets at mezzo forte to using hard metal mallets at forte, to using very soft marimba-esque mallets at mezzo piano.

Basically, the dynamic should not at all change how "sharp" or "bright" sounding the instrument is. Forte should sound exactly like mezzo forte but louder, not as if you were bashing it with a hard plastic/metal mallet.


That's not really true - msot instruments *do* change their sound noticeably as you play them louder or softer. Now, whether the specific samples for any one particular instrument at any particular pitch happen to capture this as realistically as possible is an open question; if you have some particular notes on some particular instruments at some particular range of velocities where you think there is room for improvement, feel free to post those specifics.

You are also welcome to otherr soundfonts if you think there might be one that suits your needs better.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

From my experience as an actual percussionist it is quite true, at least with the vibraphone and (occasionally) the marimba. Playing a vibraphone at forte with soft mallets will not sound metallic as it does in MuseScore 2.0, and playing a vibraphone as piano with hard mallets will sound metallic, but quiet. What it the dynamics for the instrument is currently doing is basically changing the mallet hardness along with the volume of it, rather than staying with the same timbre.

In reply to by sihplak

I think there's a couple of things going on here.

First, you might try recording yourself playing. If you listenin carefully enough, you will find the timbe really *does* change. This is true for virtually all instruments, easily quantifiable and measurable. I can hear it quite clearly when I play vibraphone or work with vibraphonists. Again, whether the *specific* change heard in FluidR3 is 100% realistic or not is another matter, but again, timbre *does* change with the degree of force - this is a simple physical fact. A percussion instrument would have to violate the laws of physics on several levels in order to *not* change timbre as it is hit harder.

Of course, the change in timbre isn't the same as the change that happens with a change in mallets, but that leads to the second aspect of this: General MIDI doens't define separate sounds for the different mallets. The vibraphonists I work with will very often switch mallets during the course of a piece, but there is no way to specifically make this happen with a General MIDI soundfont except by using velocity switching. It's a compromise, but to me, a reasonable one, because often a vibraphonists *will* switch to a harder malleter when a louder dynamic is called for. So to me, it does pretty well capture the results I will actually get when I wirte for professional vibraphonists, which I do quite often.

But if you specifically want to be able to get a loud sound out of a soft mallet as well as a soft sound out of a hard mallet, you just can't do that with the single vibraphone single sound defined by General MIDI - you need separate sounds. So if you want that level of control, you are probably better off finding a speciality soundfont that does define separate sounds for different mallets. Or perhaps just find multiple GM soundfonts that happen to have been recorded with different mallets but uses them consistently.

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