Layering sounds - sustaining notes - brass over piano


I’m experimenting with layering Horns over Piano. This is new to me so please bear with me!

Here’s what I think I want to do:- (I reserve the right to change my mind!)

Primary sound is piano which is in its own rack in C3.

I want to use an expression pedal to control the volume of the Kontakt Horn section which is in another rack. This is easy enough normally by binding the pedal to the horn rack gain.

However, I want the pedal to affect the volume of new notes only - sort of like a sostenuto pedal. If I’m holding a note with horns sounding then I want that to continue until I let go, regardless of what happens with the pedal.

I think I need the pedal to scale the MIDI velocity into the Horns rack. Is this possible?


I have no idea but if we figure it out it could have some interesting applications for pads and guitar sounds as well… my initial thought is that you somehow have to only recognize increasing values from the pedal. Thus, with the pedal down you can hit a new note and swell up. If decreasing values are ignored you can then pull the pedal down and the notes will stay up. Then any new notes played will be silent and you swell up again. This means Cantabile has to differentiate between increasing and decreasing MIDI data. I have no idea if it does that or not!


Here’s more detail on my use case - bear in mind I don’t play horns, so not really familiar with the techniques, and I only bought the Horns VST today…

I have Kontakt set up so if I play a chord hard and hold it, it will crescendo the horns up and end in a stab a few beats later.

I think I want to use this so I hit the chord and hold it, and then take the pedal down so I can play other piano notes while the crescendo is happening.

This is just instinct though, and I may be over complicating things!


Ah, so the horns would only trigger when you have the pedal, say, all the way up?


Yes, let’s start with that! :slight_smile:


Doesn’t seem like that would be hard… I’d have to think for a minute about exactly how to bind it though, without Cantabile in front of me. Torsten may jump in at some point, he’s the guru of routing and binding! The velocity thing could work but I don’t think it’s the most elegant solution.


Al, you’re really pushing the boundary here :wink:

I’ve been using brass sounds layered with a piano for some time now - mainly because I wanted to have everything on one keyboard, with no wild jumping between keyboard zones, but rather simply blend in my brass for individual phrases.

I usually simply use a fader pedal to my second sound - don’t need notes to continue past pulling the pedal back. In some cases (longer reverb or delay tails), I use the fader pedal only to control the brass sound and leave the effects tails unaffected, but usually, I simply have a “_SoloVolume” fader, with everything related to the solo sound routed to that one - the brass sound and any effects on it as well. For short phrases (think of the brass phrases in the Blues Brothers version of “Sweet Home Chicago”), this is mostly good enough.

For your specific case (playing notes that stay up even after the pedal has been pulled back), I wouldn’t go for a modification of velocity (you’d need a simple ReaJS script for that; simply multiply velocity with CC value / 127). You run the risk of getting somewhat funny notes with velocities of 20 or 30 whilst pulling back or pushing up. May create some madness with Kontakt scripting…

There is a pretty simple solution in Cantabile’s routing features: use the “Condition” segment of the “Edit Route” dialog (click “omni”) for the route to your brass sound. In this segment you can define that events will only be routed when a certain CC condition is met - I’d go for “CC 11 is greater or equal to 64”. Now your notes will only be played when you have your expression pedal pushed up beyond halfway. Or you could use a simple switch pedal (sustenuto or soft) - you don’t need expression for a simple on/off.

But with an expression pedal, you could fade out your piano sound at the same time - I have never felt the need for it, because it often sounds a lot more dynamic with brass and piano joining forces, but in other songs, you might want to use an inverse binding from your expression pedal to the volume of your piano, so that it gets faded out when you play your horns.

Going further, you could also use Conditions to alternate between piano and brass - no layer anymore, you simply trigger horns OR piano depending on your expression pedal. Cantabile should take care of tracking the release of your respective notes, so you don’t get stuck or cut-off notes.

Give it a try and let us know!




Al, you’re really pushing the boundary here :wink:


I usually simply use a fader pedal to my second sound

This was the 1st thing I tried, but in my short time experimenting yesterday, I wanted to be able to add a sustained brass note over say a vamping piano chord, and keeping the brass sound enabled afterwards muddied the sound.

Perfect - that works! Thank you.

I expect I’ll get to this point, and probably will need Piano and Horns when the pedal is in the middle!

Thanks all, I’ll try and modify the thread title so that it reflects what we’re talking about.


I’m happy with the way this works now for brass sounds which I think tend to be shorter stabs and phrases.

I’ve now set up my 2nd expression pedal slightly differently as an experiment.

When fully pressed down it allows the notes to be routed to the vst and also puts full sustain on.
When less than fully pressed, it stops routing notes, but keeps the sustain on.
When fully up, it releases the sustain.

This means, I can press the pedal and play a chord. I can then lift the pedal slightly, but the 1st chord will keep sounding while I play something else with the piano sound. When I bring the pedal fully up, the chord will stop.

I didn’t find this particularly useful with brass, but next stop will be strings, and I think it will be useful then to start a strings chord, hold it, and play other notes on piano.

What other ways of layering do folk use?