Microtonal Support

Discussions about our next-generation scoring application, Dorico.
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Microtonal Support

Post by composerjude » Fri Jun 17, 2016 2:46 pm

Support for microtonal tuning of playback, and microtonal notation was mentioned occasionally in the "Making Notes" blog comments & discussion. Is there more information about how this will work in Dorico?

As may of you know, in Sibelius one needed to use MIDI pitch bend messages to achieve fine tuning in playback. While this is a really powerful method for creating audio files, the MIDI message applied to each staff, so each staff needed to be monophonic if one needed different notes tuned simultaneously. If one also wished to produce a score, a different file needed to be created for the score. Will this still be the case in Dorico?

Also, how will the fine tuning work in the interface? I've been told that MuseScore allows users to simply right click on a note and alter the tuning of the note via a +/- cents dialog. Will it be as simple as MuseScore, or more like Sibleius' use of hidden MIDI messages (which requires keeping a database of frequently used MIDI messages)?

Finally, will Dorico integrate the fine tuning with existing systems of microtonal accidentals? The two I encounter the most are sagittal notation and the Ben Johnston system of notation.

Thanks!

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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by Daniel at Steinberg » Fri Jun 17, 2016 3:32 pm

Playback of microtonal accidentals is up in the air at the moment – playback is not sufficiently well-developed for us to be able to say how this might work. But there is at least the potential for this to be done without requiring a proliferation of MIDI channels, because HALion supports VST 3 Note Expression, allowing control of what would normally be channel-wide data on a per-note basis, including pitch bend.

As for how microtonal accidentals are handled semantically within Dorico, you can specify a tuning system with any number of equal divisions of the octave. Within that, you can specify a temperament definition, which defines how many EDOs there are between each diatonic step from one C to the C above it.

You can also define your own accidentals, which define a specific number of EDOs delta either up or down from the written note, and organise them into custom key or mode signatures. When you input music, you can shift the pitch of the selected note by a small step (in 12-EDO music, this would be a semitone; in 24-EDO music, a quarter-tone; in schemes with larger numbers of EDOs, to the next accidental in that direction), and cycle through the available accidentals that way. All of the accidentals will also be shown in one of the panels in Write mode.

We haven't defined the Sagittal system or the Ben Johnston system out of the box, but all of the accidental symbols are in Bravura, and the features we will provide should make it possible for you to do this yourself.

At the time of writing, we do not yet have the dialog needed to define your own accidental types or tuning systems, though all of the underlying support is there. Hopefully the dialog will be implemented before the initial public release: if not, it will come shortly thereafter.

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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by composerjude » Fri Jun 17, 2016 3:51 pm

Thanks Daniel,

Will there be support for non-EDOs of microtonal music, such as meantone or extended systems of just intonation?
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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by Daniel at Steinberg » Fri Jun 17, 2016 4:29 pm

No, we don't have any support for non-equal divisions of the octave at the moment. Nothing is ruled out for the indefinite future, but it's not something we anticipate adding in the short term.

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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by composerjude » Fri Jun 17, 2016 4:44 pm

On the initial release, will there be a means to adjust the tuning of individual notes (with or without MIDI channel proliferation)? Starting in a 24-EDO environment is already a huge step up; fine tuning from that point would be much more easy to handle than what I'm currently doing in Sibelius.

If there will be fine tuning capability in the initial release, will it be via MIDI pitch bend or some other means? My only other point of comparison is MuseScore, which sounds similar to what you mentioned above:
Daniel at Steinberg wrote:But there is at least the potential for this to be done without requiring a proliferation of MIDI channels, because HALion supports VST 3 Note Expression, allowing control of what would normally be channel-wide data on a per-note basis, including pitch bend.
I'm looking forward to seeing/hearing how this comes together. Even if I have to use single channels/staves to achieve my result, starting with the capability to define the EDO will be an enormous step in the right direction.
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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by Daniel at Steinberg » Fri Jun 17, 2016 5:05 pm

The playback side of things I cannot give any definitive information about at the moment. Adjusting the pitch of an individual note via VST Note Expression will be possible using HALion, but I'm not sure how this will need to be controlled. I suspect we will need some kind of special property for a note that sends the right kind of message to HALion to adjust the correct note. It's unlikely we'll get this fully realised before the initial release as there are much more fundamental things not yet working, but we hope over time to make the program useful in this area.

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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by composerjude » Fri Jun 17, 2016 5:13 pm

Thanks for the clarification Daniel.

Will pitch bend MIDI messages be available in the initial release?
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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by Cor anglais 16 » Fri Jun 17, 2016 6:27 pm

Daniel at Steinberg wrote:As for how microtonal accidentals are handled semantically within Dorico, you can specify a tuning system with any number of equal divisions of the octave. Within that, you can specify a temperament definition, which defines how many EDOs there are between each diatonic step from one C to the C above it.

You can also define your own accidentals, which define a specific number of EDOs delta either up or down from the written note, and organise them into custom key or mode signatures. When you input music, you can shift the pitch of the selected note by a small step (in 12-EDO music, this would be a semitone; in 24-EDO music, a quarter-tone; in schemes with larger numbers of EDOs, to the next accidental in that direction), and cycle through the available accidentals that way. All of the accidentals will also be shown in one of the panels in Write mode.
Re. meantone or expanded just intonation support: the above makes it sound like these systems could be constructed out of EDOs fairly easily. All you would have to do is define the size of an octave as a large number of EDOs (say, 512) and then size each half step according to however many EDOs outside of equal temperament your specific temperament requires... if that makes sense. :) Perhaps Daniel would be able to say whether this is indeed an accurate analysis?

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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by arnberg » Fri Jun 17, 2016 8:31 pm

And please remember that Harry Partch is hot again since the release of the latest Paul Simon-album.
Crank up the Chromelodeons! :lol:

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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by Daniel at Steinberg » Fri Jun 17, 2016 11:18 pm

Yes, you can make the EDOs arbitrarily small. If you want to set 1200 EDOs, you can do so.

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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by Rob Tuley » Sat Jun 18, 2016 12:06 am

Daniel at Steinberg wrote:Yes, you can make the EDOs arbitrarily small. If you want to set 1200 EDOs, you can do so.
Maybe I'm missing something here, but isn't the basic reason for creating a different number of "EDOs" about notation (i.e. microtonal accidentals), not playback?

Just intonation (i.e. intervals with frequencies that are exact integer relations like 7:5) can never be exactly expressed as an integer number of EDOs - if that could be done, theorists wouldn't have been inventing different temperaments for hundreds of years already!

In a system for defining playback pitches like Scala, "standard" historical unequal temperaments are often defined to 6 decimal places of a cent (i.e. 6 decimal places of a 1200 EDO system). Of course there will probably be pitch approximations made somewhere in the playback chain, but I don't think approximations should be locked into the definition of a temperament in Dorico.

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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by ComposerChris » Sat Jun 18, 2016 1:41 am

I, too, am interested in Just Intonation for playback (as well as dynamic tuning systems like Hermode tuning). I suppose part of the question is how tuning ends up being implemented in playback. E.g. if a LUA script can (eventually) attach VST Note Expression tuning information (and/or MIDI pitch bend) to the playback data, I'd be very happy. Of course, explicit support for non-EDOs (i.e. rational divisions of octaves) would be most welcome, too! :-)

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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by bengtberger » Sat Jun 18, 2016 10:49 am

which brings us back to my old question from your Sibelius days, Daniel. The saregams of Indian music and the various tunings in ragas (which will of course be available once the non tempered tunings are there). Now, I don't expect that saregams will be there in an early version of Dorico, but is it imaginable within the way Dorico is planned?
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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by composerjude » Sat Jun 18, 2016 3:29 pm

Daniel,

Thanks again for following up with us. I'll reiterate that the most important things (for my workflow at least) are preventing channel proliferation by allowing fine tuning to be per-note, rather than per channel, and that this isn't achieved via an arcane MIDI pitch bend message (as is the case in Sibelius). Ideally this would be expressed in cents since everything we'll be doing is in reference to a 12-EDO system as the baseline.
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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by Daniel at Steinberg » Sat Jun 18, 2016 6:06 pm

Rob is correct of course that just intonation tuning can't be expressed exactly if you require EDOs, but HALion does support Scala files, so I believe you will be able to load a Scala file into HALion to apply whatever temperament is required.

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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by ComposerChris » Sun Jun 19, 2016 7:03 am

Sibelius allows attaching arbitrary MIDI tweaks to notes... Will Dorico provide a similar mechanism for Note Expression data? If I could attach pitch deviations to individual notes (especially with access from LUA), then I think Dorico will have everything necessary for a complete implementation of Just and dynamic tuning systems via LUA (with an appropriately implemented VST3). I.e. like Sib would allow "~B0,10" to be attached to a chord (really a whole-channel operation), is there a way to attach "~NoteExpression_PitchChange10" to an individual note?

Alternatively, is there any way for me in Dorico to have standard sharps/naturals/flats display, even though I might be using >12 EDO accidentals to get correct playback of, e.g. 7th harmonic pitches?

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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by Daniel at Steinberg » Mon Jun 20, 2016 9:36 am

I refer you to my earlier reply in this thread, Chris:

viewtopic.php?f=246&t=98652#p545066

We haven't yet determined how you will be able to send arbitrary VST Note Expression messages to plug-ins, but I would hope that in the future this will be possible.

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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by jsbergin » Thu Jun 30, 2016 2:08 am

I have read this thread with great interest, and simply want to clarify that what I'm doing in Sibelius now can at least be done in Dorico in similar (perhaps better, but similar is fine!) fashion:

I use 72 EDO and am happy to use MIDI messages for playback, i.e., ~BO,64 etc - it's a chore to put them all in, but I'm fine with it - as long as it can happen at least that way in Dorico.

For notation, I use a font of 6 microtonal accidentals developed by composer Ezra Sims that I installed, and which I access via the symbol menu in Sibelius. Each one needs to be adjusted individually in the score first, then the parts; again, labor-intensive, but it gets the job done - could I still plan to do this? If not, can I customize my own accidentals?

This is crucial for me - so I thank you in advance for any information!

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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by composerjude » Thu Jun 30, 2016 2:26 pm

@jsbergin

It appears that you'll be able to configure any kind of EDO you like in Dorico, so you're work will become much easier. It seems like playback will be taken care of, but looking back at the thread that hasn't been clearly stated.
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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by Daniel at Steinberg » Thu Jun 30, 2016 4:46 pm

jsbergin wrote:If not, can I customize my own accidentals?
Yes, you will be able to define your own accidentals, so you should find that things are considerably easier than they are in your current software. Playback of microtones is still a bit of a mystery at the moment, but I will share more information about this when I can.

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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by composerjude » Thu Nov 17, 2016 5:36 pm

Daniel,

Would it be possible to update us on the status of this topic? What I'm interested in is being able to individually fine tune each note without the the need for using a MIDI pitch bend command, which would require the proliferation of channels (or staves in the case of Sibelius). As per your previous comments, it seems this will not be problem. What I'm also interested in, is if those adjustments can be connected to the use of custom accidentals (or any accidental)? This way these fine tunings are automatic (once configured by the user) and won't require manual adjustment inside of Play Mode (I'm assuming this would occur in Play Mode).

(I was at the NYC demonstration last night and I meant to followup up on the microtonality questions, but we ran out of time. And thank you for the presentation! It was really good and I'm looking forward to more great features coming along.)
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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by Daniel at Steinberg » Sun Nov 20, 2016 5:49 pm

Sorry that we didn't get a chance to discuss this further in NYC, Jude. We had a hard stop and they were really serious about throwing us out of the building by 9pm!

The idea for playback is that we will be able to use VST Note Expression in HALion and other enabled plug-ins to allow the fine tuning of pitch for individual notes on the same channel. We don't have Note Expression support implemented yet, and I can't say for sure when it will be implemented, but the plan is that this is the way it will be done.

Certainly, when we get there, the amount of sharpening or flattening of the pitch in playback will be determined by the pitch delta (i.e. the number of EDOs by which the accidental raises or lowers the written pitch) defined in the tonality system.

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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by composerjude » Sun Nov 20, 2016 6:27 pm

Daniel at Steinberg wrote:Certainly, when we get there, the amount of sharpening or flattening of the pitch in playback will be determined by the pitch delta (i.e. the number of EDOs by which the accidental raises or lowers the written pitch) defined in the tonality system.
The above statement has me confused. Will all microtonal adjustments require being inside of some sort of EDO? Many systems of just intonation and temperament are explicitly not equal divisions of the octave; so I'm not sure why EDOs even play a role in this system.

My initial reading of this statement leads me to believe I have to figure out how many pitches occur in the octave, then I can use the tonality system in conjunction with VST Note Expression to individually flatten or sharpen a particular pitch.

For instance: if I'm working in a fixed, 21-pitch system of just intonation (i.e., where the sharps and flats are not enharmonically equivalent), I would set my "pitch delta" to 21, then individually select the accidental that applies to each of the 21 discrete pitches -- in this case, 7 natural pitches, plus 7 sharps, plus 7 flats -- and then use HALion's Note Expression to sort how much the particular naturals, sharps, and flats are raised and lowered, respectively.

Is my description correct above? Admittedly, this topic is difficult to explain over a messaging board.

My preference would be to assign one of the many accidental glyphs available a property of lowering or raising a pitch automatically once it's placed in the score. (Although I can already predict problems with my system.)

It sounds like you're all working on this problem, and I appreciate the effort. it's not an easy problem to solve.
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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by Daniel at Steinberg » Sun Nov 20, 2016 8:23 pm

I'm no expert in this area (to put it mildly) but as I understand it just intonation doesn't fit neatly into a system whereby you can express each accidental as a fixed number of EDOs, because the precise amount by which the pitch is raised or lowered depends on the scale in use. As such, Dorico's system isn't intended to handle just intonation.

It is my understanding, however, that you can use Scala files in HALion to provide playback that approximates just intonation, without needing to do anything specific in the host program (whether that's Dorico or Cubase).

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Re: Microtonal Support

Post by Rob Tuley » Sun Nov 20, 2016 8:41 pm

Whichever way to try to slice it, you have the basic limitation that the MIDI standard for defining "notes" thinks there are exactly different 12 notes in an octave. Scala lets you make a "global" tweak to change the pitch of those 12 notes away from equal temperament. Presumably, the VST3 note-based pitch controls are relative to the "base line" pitches set by Scala.

So you may still hit some limitations if you want to work with "precise" just intonation and a scale of more than 12 notes, because you want to pitch-shift the same "MIDI note" by two different amounts.

Actually, Scala doesn't do anything that can't be done a different way, i.e. by creating samples for every MIDI note in whatever temperament you like. But of course it's much more convenient to use Scala, especially if you want to experiment with different temperaments.

There is also the practical problem of how accurately the sampler interprets the pitch-shifting data. If it rounds off pitch shifts to the nearest cent anyway, much of this discussion becomes irrelevant. I've no idea what HALion does internally, but the user interface only lets you "fine-tune" a patch in increments of 1 cent. In the old Creative Labs soundfont player engine, this was even more obfuscated, because the engine used pitch increments that were smaller than 1 cent, but not an "exact" fraction of a cent, so when you specified a "1 cent pitch change" you actually got either more or less than 1 cent, depending how the rounding errors worked out.

Here be dragons, as the medieval map-makers used to say...

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