|Instruction manual - Pizzicato 3.6.2||EN930 - Revision of 2013/05/29|
The virtual instruments
What is a virtual instrument? [Light] [Beginner] [Professional] [Notation] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro] [Drums and Percussion] [Guitar] [Choir] [Keyboard] [Soloist]
Before version 3.4, Pizzicato was only able to play a music score through MIDI interfaces and synthesizers existing on the sound card or as component parts of Windows or Mac OS X. With that limitation, Pizzicato had no way of improving or modifying the final sound quality of the music. The principle of MIDI playing is to send a series of commands telling what instrument must play and what are the notes to play, but nothing is said about the sound quality. So the final result was completely dependent on the sound card or external synthesizer. The same Pizzicato score could sound very badly or very nicely, according to the sound card or the synthesizer you had.
This limitation is also true for all music software that are limited to MIDI playing. To achieve a sound quality that is independent of a sound card, a hardware synthesizer or a software synthesizer, a music software must create the sound itself of the instruments and send it directly to the sound card. This requires two things. The first is the ability to compute in real time or in advance, the resulting sound of several instruments playing together, including the correct pitch of notes, the envelopes, vibrato effects,... The second is to have a good quality sound library, consisting of samples of real instruments that have been recorded from live musicians. We are happy to announce that with version 3.4, Pizzicato now includes these two features.
Using virtual instruments requires much more processor power, memory and hard disk resources than playing MIDI. The sound library delivered with Pizzicato is the Papelmedia library (original site: http://www.papelmedia.de/english/index.htm ). ARPEGE has bought the rights to distribute the Papelmedia library with all versions of Pizzicato. When you install the sound libraries, you need about 1.2 GB (1200 MB) on the hard disk.
According to the number of instruments playing together and the density of notes in the score, the processing power of a given computer may not be enough to play it all in real time. To avoid this problem, Pizzicato has a buffered playback function. This means that the sound of measures may be computed by Pizzicato in the background and stored in memory buffers. When Pizzicato plays the score, it plays the measures back from the buffers. You can in fact combine real time playing with buffered playing and select which instruments play in real time or not. You can of course also combine these virtual instruments with standard MIDI instruments.
Even if your computer is slow and does not have too much memory, you will be able to create an audio WAV file with the quality of the sound library. In future versions of Pizzicato, we will work on the speed and optimization of the audio playback functions in real time, so that more and more computers will be able to play all instruments in real time.
A virtual instrument is a structure that can be used by Pizzicato to generate the sound of an instrument or any kind of sound (explosion, birds singing, or any real world sound sample or synthesized sound in fact). In Pizzicato Light and Beginner, you can only use the General MIDI instruments of the library.
In Pizzicato Professional and Composition Pro, a virtual instrument is in fact a synthesis structure that can be created, modified, used, combined or imported from SoundFont files, as we will see in this lesson. The full editing features of a virtual instrument will be explained in another lesson, called Modular audio synthesis.
Using the virtual instruments [Light] [Beginner] [Professional] [Notation] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro] [Drums and Percussion] [Guitar] [Choir] [Keyboard] [Soloist]
By default, a Pizzicato score does not contain any virtual instrument. Instruments are defined by default to use the sound card MIDI synthesizer.
- Open the Ex044.piz document from the DataEN / Examples directory. Play the score with the yellow triangle button. You will hear it play through the MIDI synthesizer of your sound card. The MIDI instrument selection is done with the instruments view, in the Windows menu.
- To assign the virtual instrument, use the Edit, Assign virtual instruments to staves... menu item. Pizzicato loads the audio samples into memory. In the main palette (Tools menu), click the reference marks tool . The score is displayed with the reference marks:
You can see the virtual instruments just above the first measure of the staves. They are represented by the icon followed by the name of the instruments. They are visible when the reference marks tool is activated (its shortcut is ":").
- Play the score with the yellow triangle button. Pizzicato plays the score with the sounds from the included Papelmedia library.
- If you now open the instrument view (Windows menu), you will notice that the Synthesizer, Family and Instrument columns are disabled. The MIDI commands to select the instrument is no more active, as the instruments are now virtual instruments assigned by Pizzicato.
Since version 3.5.3, you can directly change an existing virtual instrument by changing the instrument selection in the instruments view.
To remove a virtual instrument from the score, point its icon with the mouse and use the delete key or the backspace key.
In Pizzicato Professional, we will see in the next section, a more advanced way to manipulate the virtual instruments in a score.
You can also assign a virtual instrument only to one or more staves. To do that, select the staves you want with the selection tool (see the lesson on selecting measures ) and then use the Edit, Assign virtual instruments to staves... menu item. If you do not select staves, all staves are assigned to virtual instruments.
- Click on the button in the score window tool bar. The dialog that appears show a popup menu called Audio playing mode. This menu has three possible choices:
- Audio playing per measure - In this mode, Pizzicato will prepare the playback sound and store it in a memory buffer. This preparation is done for each mesure of the full score. This mode may sometimes take a few seconds before the score starts to play, as Pizzicato must prepare at least the first measure before starting to play. While playing mesure 1, it already computes measure 2, and so on. In this mode, it is the preparation of the audio buffers that take much processor time. Playing the buffers does not take many processing power.
- Real time audio play - In this mode, Pizzicato creates the sound in real time, as notes are played. When several instruments are played together with much notes, your computer processor may not be enough at some point to make the sound continuous. In case you hear a jerky or interrupted sound, you should use the first mode, with audio buffers per measure. You can also remove one or more virtual instruments and use their MIDI equivalence, that will not need so much power.
- Play all in MIDI - In this mode, the virtual instruments are simply ignored. They are not deleted from the score, but Pizzicato plays all staves with the MIDI synthesizer. You can use this mode for instance when the sound is irregular with the real time mode or if Pizzicato is too slow while playing with audio buffers. This may for instance be the case for large orchestral scores. You can work them with MIDI and when the score is ready you can export it to a WAV audio file in good sound quality.
When you have MIDI instruments and virtual instruments playing together in the same score, you may hear some timing difference between them.
The most common case will be the MIDI instruments reacting faster than the virtual instruments. You can compensate this delay by the MIDI delay in milliseconds (correction for audio) slider that you will find in the Options, MIDI play option... menu item.
In case of the virtual instruments reacting faster than the MIDI instruments (this may happen if the MIDI instrument is also a software synthesizer, slower than Pizzicato), you can slow down the audio reaction time of Pizzicato by increasing slightly (by steps of 50 units for instance) the output buffer size text box that you can find in the Options, Audio setup... menu item.
- Open the instruments view, with the Windows, Instruments... menu item. Then select the MIDI parameters configuration (by clicking on the gray inverted triangle at the top left corner of that window). You will see the last column entitled Rtp, which means Real Time Playing. When you check that box, it forces the corresponding staff to always play its virtual instruments in real time, even if the memory buffered playback is selected as explained above.
- In the Options menu, select the Audio synthesizer volume... item. Pizzicato displays the audio synthesizer volume window:
At any time, it displays the activity of the virtual instrument player. You can adjust the volume with the sliders. If the sound level is too high, the bargraph will show a red portion. This means that the sound experiences a distortion and you should then decrease the volume level, as the sound quality will be bad. The bottom bar shows how much work Pizzicato must still do to complete the buffers of the audio playback system. You can keep this window open if you want.
The virtual instruments library [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]
In Pizzicato Professional and Composition, in addition to the features already explained above, you have full access to the music composition sound libraries through the conductor view. The principle is that you can select a virtual instrument from the library and drag it to the score. You can also duplicate instruments, edit them, create new ones or import them from SoundFont files found on the Internet.
- Open the Ex093.piz document in the DataEN / Examples directory.
- In configuration 3, area 2, you will find the Virtual instruments folder:
We will first explore the Papelmedia library, which is the default library Pizzicato uses when you assign instruments automatically.
- Open the Papelmedia icon. Then open the Woodwind icon. Several virtual instruments from that family are displayed:
- Click for instance the Flute instrument, drag it to the score and drop it right at the beginning of the first measure of the first staff. You must release the mouse inside the staff lines, not just above or below it. Then enable the reference mark tool (shortcut ":") and the score will display the position of the virtual instrument:
You can now listen to the score. The flute will be played by Pizzicato as an audio virtual instrument from the Papelmedia flute samples.
- You can now add a virtual instrument for each staff, for instance harp (from the plucked strings family) in the second staff and strings ensemble for the last staff. But you can also add virtual instruments at any time in the score, to change the sound playing the melody. For instance, you can drag a trumpet (from the brass family) to the third measure of the first staff. You whould now have:
You can now listen to the score.
You can remove a virtual instrument just by pointing the mouse on it and by using the delete or backspace key.
Most sound card now provide some reverberation effects that can greatly improve the sound result. You should try it. Check your sound card help file and control panel to see how it can generate such an effect and how much effect gives the best result. This feature must be adjusted outside Pizzicato and is only related to your sound card.
You will notice that there is another library tree called Papelmedia - SoundFont version. These sounds were imported from the original library as soundfont players. They can not be modified in Pizzicato. You can use them in place of other Papelmedia library. Some synthesized sounds may be played more accurately, but they will require more processing power. However, the differences will be minor. We suggest to use the Papelmedia folder, as all sounds have been reviewed and a few bugs fixed as compared to the original SoundFont library (looping problems, levels adjustments, some notes that were missing,...).
The Sampled Sounds originaly contains a percussion map with special percussive effects.
You can explore the Synthesized Sounds folder, as it contains many special sounds examples from what you can do with the modular synthesizer included in Pizzicato. Theses synthesizers will be treated in the lesson on Modular audio synthesis. Meanwhile, you can use them exactly as explained above to assign them to a staff to play the notes.
The Components folder may not be used as such. The items of this folder are components that can be assembled to create a synthesizer. You will find them useful in the Modular audio synthesis lesson.
You can double-click a virtual synthesizer icon directly from the score. Its editing window will display. You will find all details on this also in the lesson about the audio synthesizers.
Importing SoundFont files [Professional] [Composition Pro]
A SoundFont file is a series of samples of one or more instruments. This file format is quite popular on the Internet, and you can find thousands of these files. You can buy SoundFont files, but you will also find lots of them for free. It opens Pizzicato and your music composition to a world of new sounds.
When you download a SoundFont file, please read the licence contract. You will find a lot of files that were created by independent musicians for their own use and given freely for downloading by the Internet community. The licence may authorize you to use them in public records or not. It all depends on the author of the SoundFont, so you should refer to the site for this kind of information and respect the rules of copyrights.
A SoundFont file has the "sf2" extension. Here is how to import a SoundFont file. We will take an example from the site http://www.fox-gieg.com/rkhive/banks.html. In that page you will find a link entitled "Best Trumpet". Click that link and choose to save the file for instance on the desktop. The file is named besttrm.zip. Unzip this file and you will have a file named besttrm.sf2 on the desktop.
- In the library tree of the conductor view, right-click on the My library icon and select the Import a SoundFont file... menu item. A file open dialog box appears. Select the destkop and choose the besttrm.sf2 file. The following dialog appears:
You have two options to import a SoundFont file. The first option imports the file as a SoundFont reader. The resulting sound may be more accurate but will need more processing power. Also, you will not be able to modify the sound parameters.
The second option imports the file as a series of samples and all their parameters. This format is specific to Pizzicato and you can then edit all sound parameters, as will be explained in the lesson on audio synthesizers. This is the default choice, as most of the time there will be no difference with the SoundFont player and it will be less processor power consuming.
You can also ask to sort the banks and instruments inside the file. This is true by default, as it helps to find instruments in a file containing several sounds.
- Keep the default values and click Import. Pizzicato creates a document containing the virtual instruments found in the file. For the above example (you may use any SoundFont file), if you expand the document content, you will see the following:
These virtual instruments may now be used as any others inside Pizzicato scores. You can drag and drop them inside a measure and Pizzicato will play the sound.
You should know that a virtual synthesizer is copied into a Pizzicato document, but the audio samples are NOT copied. When importing a SoundFont file, Pizzicato creates a sub-folder in the Audio / SoundFonts folder of the library and stores the audio samples there as WAV files. You can see this very easily in the library:
So if you send a score to a friend, you should also send him the SoundFont file so that he can import it and hear the same sounds as your original score. If you export the score to a WAV file, this is of course not needed, as the WAV file will contain the full sound created from the score.
You will notice that any WAV sound that is displayed in the library may be double-clicked. The audio editor window of Pizzicato is then opened. You can also select a file in the tree (by clicking on it) and then click the play button and you will hear the audio file play.
Tuning [Professional] [Composition Pro]
As Pizzicato generates the sounds of virtual instruments, it has the control of the exact pitch (frequency) of each note. By default, the standard scale of frequency is used, as found on a piano. This is the equal temperament scale. Standard sound cards and synthesizers are all tuned on this base.
Contemporary music, baroque music, ethnic music or experimental music may need to use scales that are not tuned that way or that contain more or less steps than 12 per octave. Pizzicato Professional can help you to design such a scale and the score will be played accordingly.
- Open the Ex093.piz document from the DataEN / Examples directory and assign the virtual instruments by using the Edit, Assign virtual instruments to staves... menu item. Then click the button on the score tool bar. Click the Tuning... button. The following dialog appears:
The list displays all notes and their respective frequencies.
By default, the scale is computed automatically using the parameters displayed in the top right frame. Two parameters influence the tuning. The first one is the reference note and its frequency. Very often the A3 note is used as a reference to 440 Hz. You can change the tuning here. You may also select another note as a reference frequency. The second parameter is the number of division for an octave. The standard value is 12 half tones. If you set if for instance to 24, you will have a full quarter tone scale. Any change of these parameters will update the list of frequencies.
Using more or less than 12 steps per octave will create very special harmonies. You may be quite disappointed by trying to compose music with such a tuning, as most of the standard harmony rules do not apply anymore. You have to develop new approaches to find which notes will go together and build nice chords. This becomes very experimental. Note that the standard notation also will be disappointing, as the note names and position will still be the same, but the half steps will no more correspond. Composing music in such a case may be more easy by using the graphic note editor window and just ignore the note names.
If you disable the Automatic calculation frame, you can modify each frequency manually. To do so, click on one line of the list and you can change its frequency with the text box just below the list.
Once you have designed a scale (whether automatically or manually), you can give it a title and you can save it to disk with the Save this tuning... button, so that you can use it in other scores. Pizzicato asks for a file name and saves it. When you open another score, you can use the same dialog and click the Open a tuning... button so as to load the file previously saved. You will find a few prepared scales in the default folder. A tuning is specific to one score only and it is also saved within the Pizzicato document. If you send a score with a custom tuning to a friend, he will be able to hear it with the custom tuning.
Please note that the tuning will NOT affect MIDI playback. Only virtual instruments will play according to the tuning you specify.