One reason many MIDI compositions don’t sound convincing is legato. If the notes, especially violin phrases, do not sound connected, even casual listeners will know immediately.
This is especially the case with strings, but of course all instruments deserve convincing legato. I’m far from getting it 100% right, but I have discovered some aspects that I want to share with you:
- Whenever possible use legato samples. You might think you don’t need it, because they are CPU/RAM-intensive or you like the texture better in a sustain sample, but in the mix legato samples are more likely to sound connected and not be “disturbed” by other instruments or things that are going on in your orchestral mix.
- Be careful about stacking legato and non-legato samples. I have done that in the past and often it turned out okay, but sometimes the non-legato patch overshadowed the legato patch, masking exactly the legato which would have sounded convincing.
- If you use non-legato patches, be sure to overlap the notes. Too little overlap and the attack phase of the sample will scream “sample” to the listener. Too much of it, and it will sound mushy and kind of “wrong” in the sense of unrealistic.
- Don’t underestimate reverb. Some reverbs can glue your notes together in the most pleasant way, creating a sense of flow especially with violin parts. In fact, I think this is a major factor to consider, and I have recently discovered Valhalla for doing a superb job in the glueing business. 🙂
- Last but not least some advice you might find odd: Mind EQ !! If you reduce certain frequencies you might counteract the glueing factor from reverb or just the frequencies where the legato from your violins happens. I’ve had that in the past quite a few times and it took me a long time to figure out what it was that a decent legato disappeared after the mastering stage.
I hope this has been useful for you. If you have more legato strategies, let me know here or on Twitter. Happy composing and mixing!