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Topic: List of commonly used articulations?

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  1. #1

    List of commonly used articulations?

    I am quite new to orcestral writing, but have been pop-writing for a number of years, and skilled in both ear training and harmonic principles, theory, and the like. All of that is useless, however, in the light of orchestral lib programming with my main instrument be a guitar rather than a flute or a viola and knowing the various commonly used articulations.

    I have Miroslav and noticed how some of the patches seem to be "missing" some of the articulations of, say, the Kirk Hunter libraries (not that this is wrong or "bad" for any reason). I do have some orchestration books but they seem to deal more with dynamics and layering rather than answering instrument-questions like this.

    Would anyone know of any sources that list, show, or otherwise describe the most common "usable" articulations of the various orchestral instruments? Not the more arcane or special effect-type ones, only the more commonly used ones.

    I am only sorry that my ability to formally study composition is limited by location and family responsibilites and can only rely on guidance of those more skilled like other posters here.

    Thank you very much,

    - A

  2. #2

    Re: List of commonly used articulations?

    Hi,

    a basic but essential list for string instruments:

    legato : means that notes are 'bound' or tied together. With other words they are played without any pause between the notes or with an infinite bow.

    staccato : means that notes are 'pushed' or played each for its own with an attack. The bow is scratching the string a little bit for the attack, but the amount of this attack makes a world of difference. Very variable from elegant (think Mozart) to brutal (think action music). Staccato is one word for say ten or twenty variants.

    pizzicato : means that the string is not bowed but plucked with one finger like a guitar.

    =============================

    These are the basics, and one can already do lots with them. The others are derivations of these basic articulations:

    Non-legato EDIT or detaché /EDIT: The bow lies on the string like with legato but changes its direction leaving a little break or attack. Can be done by samples with legato patches, sometimes also with staccato patches.

    Portato : Bow is 'drawn' which means, several non-legato notes on one bow. The notes are deviated but sort of blend into each other nontheless. Can be best emulated by alternately using two tracks with legato patches.

    Tremolo : Very fast non-legato, with other words the bow changes its direction very fast, and each player individually. Sounds like a bee swarm. To be done with an extra pad or with a legato or staccato pad and more than one tracks.

    Marcato : Similar to staccato with a strong attack but slower, and bow does not leave the string. Think of powerful steps.

    Sautillé : Similar to staccato but the bow is hopping lightly on the strings. Think of elegant horses.

    Trills : Every player of the section does the trill in own timing, so it is different from a trill with a single patch. Can be emulated by either trilling with more than one track or by extra patches.

    Sul tasto : Playing softly bowing at the fingerboard. Think romance.

    Sul ponticello : Playing harshly bowing at the bridge. Think Psycho murder scene.

    Hope that helps a little,


    Hannes
    All your strings belong to me!
    www.strings-on-demand.com

  3. #3

    Re: List of commonly used articulations?

    Wow!

    Thanks, Hannes - that was super - I only expected a link or something!

  4. #4

    Re: List of commonly used articulations?

    What Hannes just wrote here are indeed common articulations. But remember, you are working with samples, not real players. Sometimes you'll find that for example the sampled legato-violins will do a better job for certain things than the detache-violins even though this contradicts how a live violin-ensemble would play it. When working with samples the most important thing is to be able to make music that in the end sounds good, not because you followed every rule in the book but because you were perfectly aware of the fact that these were samples and in the world of samples nothing is really "illigal" (so to speak)....

    Chris

  5. #5

    Re: List of commonly used articulations?

    Here is a general idea how to approach to string (and wind) instruments:

    For pianists tend to think of notes like little bullets. Pow, pow .. :-) A note has a basic strength but once it is hit with the right amount of velocity the only thing you can mess up is not to finish it at the right time. So basically: Hit and forget.

    For string players a note is an individuum with a head, a belly and a tail. Or, I should say, a formed head, a formed belly and a formed tail or end.

    The head is the attack. The note can come out of the nothing, have small, medium or big attacks ... or could also be tied to the note before.

    The belly is how the note develops. Can increase or decrease in volume, or both. Like with real stomachs all sort of things can happen. In the belly of the note the timbre of it is also most hearable - think of EQing.

    The tail is the end of the note. It can fade out to zero. It can end abruptly. It can end with another attack sound. It can end with a further increase in volume. It can be tied to the next note.

    Each and every note on a string (and also wind) instrument has these three components. All the so-called articulations are just variations of these - with the exception of pizzicato which is a category of its own.

    This is the reason why I personally don't use different patches for strings any more but emulate them all from one patch that basically is a legato patch plus variable attack. But mileage varies here.


    Hannes
    All your strings belong to me!
    www.strings-on-demand.com

  6. #6

    Re: List of commonly used articulations?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hannes_F
    Hi,
    legato : means that notes are 'bound' or tied together. With other words they are played without any pause between the notes or with an infinite bow.
    To clarify... in string parts, generally it is not "legato" or "phrasing" that is marked but rather bowing. That is, if you want notes to sound connected, they will generally be played on one bow stroke. Tempo and dynamic level limit how many notes can be taken on a single bow. However, bow changes can be made rather innocuous.

    To write grateful parts, it is important to understand the mechanics of various instruments.

    As for samples... it depends if you are trying to simulate real instruments or not, including their limitations.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Nigel W's Avatar
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    Re: List of commonly used articulations?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hannes_F
    Here is a general idea how to approach to string (and wind) instruments ......

    This is the reason why I personally don't use different patches for strings any more but emulate them all from one patch that basically is a legato patch plus variable attack. But mileage varies here.

    Hannes
    Hannes, that really was very succinct and nicely put.....if you're in a sharing mood, would you feel like describing your "one patch plus variable attack" approach? I'm curious. Does that mean you've reprogrammed your own sounds, or does that approach already work with particular presets/a particular library?

    best

    Nigel

  8. #8

    Re: List of commonly used articulations?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nigel W
    .....if you're in a sharing mood, would you feel like describing your "one patch plus variable attack" approach? I'm curious.
    There are a few ways to do this:

    *Start with sustain samples with big attacks, and assign a controller (such as mod wheel, velocity, whatever you want really) that increases the attack time. This way you can get various attack types from one sample. Some libraries lack marcato sustains, so this may or may not work for you.

    *Start with a sustain that has a soft attack, and also grab a staccato/short/spiccato/etc. Layer them, but assign the volume of the staccato sample to the controller of your choice.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Nigel W's Avatar
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    Re: List of commonly used articulations?

    Quote Originally Posted by Von Richter
    There are a few ways to do this:

    *Start with sustain samples with big attacks, and assign a controller (such as mod wheel, velocity, whatever you want really) that increases the attack time. This way you can get various attack types from one sample. Some libraries lack marcato sustains, so this may or may not work for you.

    *Start with a sustain that has a soft attack, and also grab a staccato/short/spiccato/etc. Layer them, but assign the volume of the staccato sample to the controller of your choice.
    Thanks VR!

    - that's actually what many of the string patches I had for my Roland S760 did. Some might say it's not completely authentic, but any kind of dynamic modulation is going to add expression to a sound.

    I guess using two tracks is simply another way of getting the layering without reprogramming your patches.....is that Hannes' technique then, or does he have another "secret weapon" ;-)?


    Nigel

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