Muse Sounds strings timing/volume issues

• Apr 27, 2023 - 18:10

So I have a score I wrote in MS4 initially using the native MS Basic sounds but wanted to try it through Muse Sounds Strings so I downloaded and activated them yesterday. But as soon as I applied the new hotness I had a slew of dynamic/timing/tone issues I had to go back through and adjust to get the playback sounding right which really cluttered the score and made it look over-arranged like I had to add courtesy marks on every bar to stop the musicians from rushing. I get that MS4 is not necessarily a virtual instrument but has better support for articulations than anything else I've tried that doesn't cost mad cash so I was hoping to use it even if the workflow is a titch clunky. That all said, it'd be really nice if Muse Sounds string player could pay a bit more respect to the time as I've marked it without having extremely explicit workarounds. Since the problem only appeared in Muse Sounds I feel like whatever this issue is it may live in the closed-source code for Muse Sampler where I can't do anything about it.

A. Is it possible to replace the Muse Sampler component with something else or maybe use Muse Sounds as a regular SoundFont on the hope it's less "expressive" with its timing that way?

  1. Dynamics: The gap between mezzo-forte and forte is huge. Both in volume and tone. Forte has an active and full tone of a section playing well, mf is a good soft tone that is still solid enough to not sound weak but forte blasts it out of the water on volume, especially for the cellos and violins. So it becomes difficult to notate a section where the orchestra is playing mf supporting a more sonorous melody in the upper strings playing forte. I have to either chose forte tone and lower the volume in a DAW after export or choose reasonable playback volume and try to replicate tone by attempting to puppeteer the virtual player by adding dynamic articulations to almost every note of the phrase.

  2. Mush notes: Muse Sounds doesn't seem to believe string players can clearly articulate consecutive 16th notes at the same pitch. 2 use cases: 1st violin section, 145BPM 4/4, sawing away at a D6 sounds more like consecutive 8th notes with a strong accent on the attack. Viola section, 109BPM 4/4, straight consecutive 16ths on an E3. Sounds more like bad triplets, like a clipped Dah-dah-da' than 1-ee-and-uh. It does better when the notes change like making a short scale run but plays it as if the player had decided to slur the notes rather than change bow for each one. Best workaround I have is to mark every note with a tenuto-accent.

  3. Timing around staccato notes: Staccato notes seem to compress the timing around them when switching note values. IE staccato quarter followed by non-staccato 8ths. If I surround 4 8th notes with staccato quarters it almost seems to introduce a swing to the 8th notes because the quarter note duration becomes clipped, rushing into the 1st 8th note of the group, overcorrecting back on the grid then rushing off the last 8th note to get to the next staccato. The workaround again is to mark accents on everything, staccato-accents on the surrounding staccato notes and a tenuto-accent (which seems to have a more even velocity than regular accents) on the final 8th note.

  4. Velocity is meaningless: I had a phrase where the violins playing fortissimo staccato open G strings was just a hair too obnoxious but I still wanted a staccato note. Since I could tell a real player to ease up offa their G strang I figured the Muse Sound equivalent would be going into note playback properties for that note and adjust its velocity a hair to pull the aggressiveness back a bit. But it doesn't even matter that it's staccato even regular notes don't respond. If we need to deal with large gaps in volume between dynamics and overzealous articulation markings having very loud set volumes we really need a way to tell playback to turn it down a scooch for some notes. None of the notation markings seem to function globally as moderators to the dynamics so if I need to make manual velocity adjustments to notes to get the nuance I want like how I'd ask live people for it, Muse Sounds needs to actually care.

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All my complaints too. One thing I've noticed is that the strings need a "running start" --- if you start two bars before the ones you're really interested in, the new notes don't seem like a 'surprise" to the virtual instrument. But the cello is so hard to work with. If you're writing a piece that will be read by a human player, it's a drag: you have to make a whole new part, with a lot of ridiculous and fussy timing and articulation and dynamics indications that would drive a real player crazy.
That said, I recently found a Mozart Sonata in which the violinist is faced with a passage made up of a series of dotted eight notes + 16th rest. I think it was written for a student, but it would be interesting to see how fussy composers are (never mind Stockhausen et al!)

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