The biggest problem with virtual instruments in live context

The better VIs sound amazing, but in too many VIs you can not control dynamics via velocity, but only via mod wheel or some other controller.
That’s ofcourse assuming your’e dependent only on the VI interface and what the developer implemented in it.
As a piano player I’m used to to control dynamics first and for all by velocity, I can accept that vibrato and some other stuff is controlled by other controllers like mod wheel and others, but not dynamics.
(dynamics can be a represantion of different velocity layers, or volume, or something else, it really depends on the VI and its nature, but in the end it supposed to let you play expressively like a piano player).
Is there a way to overcome this with Cantabile?
A way to traform velocity to CC messages?
I know in Cubase Artist there is a MIDI transformer and you can do it(although it doesn’t designed for live usage as Cantabile…).

Well, in many instruments dynamics is a transition from one volume to another. It’s rarely expressed in terms of a piano, i.e. just notes being triggered at different volume or intensities (well, often it’s both but the continuous transition is the important thing). That’s why so often dynamics is assigned to a continuous controller. Key Afterpressure can make make an excellent substitute. But, in any case I think it’s probably a simple binding to remap velocity to CC11. I’ll have to look though (I’m sure someone will jump in and confirm that). It’s true that it’s really easy to run out of hands and feet to control all that stuff live! I personally think feet is the way to go. Expression pedals are great for that stuff.

OK but I like to have both options, to use expression pedal and to use velocity if I want.

If you or someone else here can confirm it is possible to transform velocity to CC11, I’m going to buy Cantabile immediately, even if just to try how well it works for me.
I already have few sample libraries I’m craving to try out this thing with them, since I never use them for live playing because of this issue.

Also, if I can transform any MIDI channel to any MIDI channel I want, this is going to be so great, because it’s so usuable in many cases and can solve many problems with VIs and live playing.

I hople all this is possible with the Solo version of Cantabile though.

Velocity is per note. CC11 is overall expression. I can’t imagine why you would want to map one to the other? It would make the volume of the whole instrument leap up and down with each note played.

The_Elf, I didn’t think of it like that, but now I understand.
So I was right, it is a major problem with too many VIs.
As a piano player I want to control dynamics through velocity most of the time, and I think that the developers of the many VIs which are without this possibility, just didn’t meant that their product would be used in a live context, but for studio only.
This is very sad.

I wonder whether the Korg Kronos(which is IMO the hardware king) has patches where you control dynamics only via mod wheel, in its stock sounds or in its expansion libraries.
I think I still have to do a lot of research before I’m deciding whether to go with hardware rig or with software rig.


Not knowing your particular style or situation, I am going to throw my 2 cents in for what it’s worth. There are youtube videos of famous piano players (usually rock n roll, pop, etc) using VI’s in concert. Some that come to mind, Billy Joel, Elton John, Gregg Phillinganes (Micheal Jackson, David Gilmour, and most anyone you can name), and so many others. They push a gutted piano shell out to stage that only has a MIDI 88 keyboard in it. Apparently they have no problem using VI’s. Gospel and Jazz cats are also using them. Velocity doesn’t seem to be a problem with them. I don’t have the answer, but I’ll bet there is one.

Organs, clavinets, harpsichords - none of these are velocity sensitive and have to use pedals or levers to change their response.
I doubt if there is anyone producing a virtual piano in this day and age, and for a good while now, that is not velocity sensitive.
A weighted keyboard driving a synth or organ is my definition of horrible. A piano keyboard on an organ type sound, the same, notwithstanding that once you start stacking sounds, any choice is OK. It has to be!

I think it’s totally reasonable to carry at least two keyboards and use them for the appropriate responding VSTi.
But - there’s no rules. There’s nothing to stop you playing a piano with a wind controller if it floats your boat. :slight_smile:

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I mainly referring to acoustic sounds like brass, strings, accordion(didn’t found any decent accordion library with velocity option), woodwinds, etc…

That might be because accordions don’t have velocity sensitivity. :slight_smile:The bellows control the overall volume of the instrument, like a pump organ.


So you saying this is acceptable with accordion VIs? Maybe even necessary?

And what about other instruments like brass, woodwind, even strings? Fact is that some developers do let you use velocity and some don’t.

Brass, woodwind and strings instruments work acceptably with velocity sensitivity ONLY for simple, single notes runs. They all come across far more realistically with an expression pedal simply due to the nature of the instrument being emulated. Some of the top end VIs like SWAM use some form of expression (pedal, breath controller) in addition to velocity for full control over your sound.

I strongly recommend you get used to using an expression pedal where appropriate. It will take the sound and expressiveness of your performance up a level.

Unless the library in question is using velocity splits for dynamics. Very common to be offered presets with the option of velocity switching or modwheel x-fades.
In any event, it’s not too tricky to open up the sampler, Kontakt or Halion etc, and dial in a little velocity sensitivity.
I wonder which particular libraries are giving this issue?

I’m just saying that a real accordion is not velocity sensitive.
As I said in the previous post, it’s not too tricky to turn on velocity sensitivity.
Which library are you working with? In Kontakt?

Hey @hag01

I don’t really see the problem you outline as “the biggest problem with virtual instruments in live context” at all. Most VST instruments can be controlled very nicely with velocity, aftertouch and maybe a bit of modulation and expression pedal.

I guess the problem lies mostly in the libraries you have chosen for these sounds. If they are built mostly with a production focus, it actually makes sense to be able to control their dynamics after the initial trigger - that’s what makes brass, strings and accordion so special. With velocity, it’s essentially “fire and forget” - once a sound is triggered, the dynamics are “locked in”, unless you use other controllers like aftertouch or expression pedal to modify later.

There are a number of libraries/plugins that are designed to be played live - these mostly allow to control (part of) the dynamics via velocity. Some examples:

  • Session Strings (Native Instruments)
  • Session Horns (Native Instruments)
  • SRX Orchestra Expansion (Roland)

Regarding velocity sensitivity and accordions: as an accordionist, I would be horrified :scream: to have a velocity-sensitive accordion VST instrument - the only way to play an accordion authentically is to have no velocity sensitivity at all and control all its dynamics with the bellows. How to translate this to a conventional keyboard setup is a different story - maybe a breath controller would come in handy?

Same with strings and brass sounds - a breath controller can help these sounds come to life! Or if you’ve got the money to splurge on a ROLI seaboard or similar controller, that’s also an option for more expressive dynamics shaping.




Torsten, Thank you for thoughtful answer.
My conclusion from you words is:
Not every virtual instrument is good for live performance or even meant to be used in live performance, we have to find the ones that was designed better for live performance.

I understand now better why those accordion VIs has no velocity sensitivity, it was good the see a real accordion player view point.
Though I still wonder whether in hardware keyboards with serious accordion sounds there is no velocity sensitivity.
I’m talking about really serious stuff like this for example:

Also, if I’m going with your line of thoughts, I have to aks myself why it is OK to have velocity sensitivty in brass\woodwinds\strings VIs, but not in accordion VIs.

Regarding your question, I think I’d use an expression pedal for accordion sound.

It’s a simple matter of what sounds best. A single note quick brass line may sound ok with nothing but velocity sensitivity, but it will lack convincing expression. Instruments like that need to be able to swell in a flexible mannerto be played well, and velocity sensitivity not only cannot achieve this, but actually takes away from it when played with a breath controller or expression pedal. The only exception I’ve found is the SWAM instruments.
In these the breath/exp controlled sets the overall intensity of the sound. This includes both volume and tone. The velocity only sets the initial hit of the sound which quickly moves back to the previously set intensity.

Instruments like brass, strings or woodwinds don’t simply change volume when played harder. They also change tone, which the better VIs will emulate. It is simply impossible to convincingly reproduce these sounds with velocity alone.

This does NOT mean they are not playable live. I use a combination of a breath/bite controller, an expression pedal and 2 keyboards to play multiple exclusive instruments at once, all live. It just takes some practice, and the realism you’ll achieve is SO worth the work.

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Brass etc IS velocity sensitive. Brass is velocity (speed of breath) Pressure (the ‘strength’ of the air flow) and timbrally sensitive, via the shape of the mouth. Fingering does not make the sound louder or softer in the keyboard definition of ‘velocity’.
A multi switched velocity sample can be very effective when played as, in the most basic application of that approach, the entire sound is determined by the initial strike. There will be no influence over what follows that initial strike unless some other control is applied.
That’s why, for total authenticity, Big Twisty is 100% right. Keyboard players, until recently, only had control of on/off switches. We’ve now arrived in a world where aftertouch, breath controllers and controllers like the ROLI mean that if a library is equipped to handle it, we can play electronic sounds with unprecedented expression.

Lastly, if you want your accordion patch to play with velocity sensitivity, you can. Depending on the VST instrument you’re using, you can dial in velocity sensitivity.
The ‘correct’ real world can be ignored and you can have exactly what you want, although aftertouch or an expression pedal would be far more authentic.

My heart tells me to go with software rig, but my head tells me to go with hardware rig.

A computer with softwares is more appealing for me than messing with a keyboard, computer is the natural enviroment for me.
However, I’m affraid from playability issues with virtual instruments, because many of them was created solely for studio productions, without the live players in mind.

For most of the sounds I want and need, I’ve found virutal instruments with the option to control dynamics\expression through MIDI velocity and not through MIDI CC, which is the natural way for me to play as someone with piano background(I’m not talking about organ and harpsichord sounds which don’t have dynamic layers anyway).

I think accordion is the only instument I haven’t found a VI for, with the possibility to use velocity to control dynamics\expression, but after seeing Torsten3d and Ade words, who have much more understaing than me about how real accordions work, I think maybe what I’m after is not so good.

I still think it is a shame that great VST instruments like NI Symphony Series for example, doesn’t have the velocity option.
And I’m afraid that one day I’ll really need some specific sound I don’t have yet, of some specific instrument, and I won’t find a virtual instrument that works for me for my live playing, which is also high quality sounding, detailed, and versital(that’s how I want all my virtual instruments, that’s one of the reasons I prefer software on hardware).

I will do a bit more research before I’ll get a final decision, but I think that eventually by the end of this year\the beginning of the next year, I’ll buy at once most of the VST plugins I need and want+Arturia Keylab 88+Cantabile Solo, as a start point.

Let me go out on that long limb. Do you really think you are going to get anymore out of the hardware than VSTi’s? You really haven’t stated how you are intending to use your rig. You are somewhat obsessed with velocity on an accordion and brass, yet I don’t see anywhere in your comments that you know how to play any of them. Why are you seemingly trying to relate the velocity of a piano to every other instrument? Unless you understand the instruments, and how they are played, you are not going to make them sound real out of the box anyway.

Again, we do not know your gig status (or experience). We all have our fears. My personal fear is of playing a gig with an over-anal perfectionist destroying the gig before it even starts. If I need an instrument I don’t have in my 2TB drive, then I will improvise with something else, because I CAN, and the audience will be fine with it. If you are playing with a band, and you have a ridiculously loud guitarist, your “high quality sound” will not matter. Again, we only know your repeated velocity fear and nothing else.




Might I suggest perhaps the way to go is with instruments that were already designed as hardware synths? Roland Cloud and the Korg Legacy might be the way to go. With the Roland Sound Canvas and SRX Orchestra you’d have some pretty decent sounds that respond the way you’re used to. Same with the Korg M1, etc. And then you can coast into the Kontakt world at your own speed. Just a thought… you’ll still save a lot of $$$ over the old hardware equivalents.