This article is a guest post by composer Derek Bourgeois
In this article I will try and take the user through the various stages of actions needed to use most of the facilities available to create a large orchestral playback using external VSTs and Sibelius 7.
I am confining myself to the VSTs I own myself which are Sibelius 7 Sounds, East West Symphonic Orchestra, East West Symphonic Choirs, VSL Special Edition, and VSL Full Percussion.
Some of the instructions here may well be very familiar to readers, so you may want to select the sections that are relevant to any problems you may be having.
It’s worth saying at this point that to use these libraries successfully you need a fast computer running with a 64 bit operating system and sufficient RAM. I use 24 GB of RAM, but half that should suffice for most projects. Also if you have your libraries on a Solid State Drive (SSD) the loading and saving times are dramatically improved.
Sibelius 7 Sounds is different from other VSTs inasmuch as it uses its own playback engine, and allows only one instance to be used because it has built in 128 channels. The only important thing when the Sibelius Player is added to your sound configuration is to select the correct soundset. To select a soundset double click in the column labelled Sound Set. You should see something like the following depending on which libraries you have loaded.
Sibelius Player does all the rest itself, and if it is the only VST selected you will probably only need the Mixer to adjust playback details and balance.
CREATING AN INSTANCE AND USING THE PLAYBACK DEVICES DIALOG
Using any other VST you have to create an instance using the device that comes with the Library. For East West products this is called Play and for Vienna Symphonic Library you use either Vienna Ensemble, which is free when you purchase any VSL Library, or preferably Vienna Ensemble Pro which is much better because it keeps your instances loaded even if Sibelius is not running and has far more sophisticated features.
An instance is a set of up to 16 channels each of which is dedicated to a particular instrument.
When you buy an East West Library you will also need to buy a Sibelius Soundset for that Library available from the Soundset Project, where you will find brilliant soundset for most of the East West Libraries. These come with full instructions as to how to create your Play instances that will work with the appropriate soundset for the Library you are using. the Soundset Project also provides a series of files called multis which load all the sound files that you need for the instance to work. Basically the first two instances are dedicated to Woodwind, the next two to Brass, the fifth is percussion, the sixth solo strings, and the seventh ensemble strings. These instances are used by the soundset to activate effects such as mutes, pizzicato, flutter-tonguing and a host of other effects, as well as choosing the correct instance and channel for every normal instrument automatically.
Assuming you will have followed all the instructions correctly you may then want to create additional instances of your own using non-standard instruments that are available in the library. I suspect that most of these extra instruments will be less often used percussion, so I will take you through how to create an extra instance. You can name your instances by double clicking on the Device name and I have named mine Play 1 through 7 which are the soundset’s own instances, and an extra one of my own called Play 8. I will take you through how I created Play 8.
Firstly you have to invoke Play/Playback devices which is brought to the screen by clicking the (very) little arrow in Sibelius 7/Play/Setup You will then see a screen like this (you will see that I have created a lot of instances many of which I will describe later.
To create my Play 8, first you have to invoke the Play setup screen by clicking on the Show button. You then have to load into Play 8 all the instruments you want in that instance and select a channel for them. You will see below that my first instrument is a harpsichord, and I selected it by choosing the correct Drive letter where my Library is stored, then selecting the Correct Library (in this case East West Symphonic Orchestra Platinum Instruments) selecting Platinum Strings and then Harpsichord and finally Harpsichord.ewi which is the file containing the necessary data for the harpsichord to play. I then have the opportunity of loading or replacing the existing entry.
You can test the sound by clicking on the notes of the keyboard you can assign the MIDI channel using the button to the mid left of the screen. But if you want to do anything cleverer you click on the button on the top marked Player. You will then see this.
You can see from this screen that you have the ability (if you wish) to fine tune just about every aspect of the sound. You repeat this process to create all the other sounds you want in this instance (up to 16).
But this won’t work yet.
You have to create a manual soundset using the Manual Sound Sets tab in Sibelius Playback Devices in which you instruct Sibelius what sounds you are going to use for that instance.
You will need to select the Device (Play 8), the sound set (EWQL Play v3). You have to tick the “Use manual sound set box, select the number of channels you are going to use (in my case 8) then channel by channel you select the Program name from the drop down box. You can test this to make sure the sound you hear corresponds to what you expect to hear. Then you must apply it. Gradually you will build up the list that you see on the right of the dialog. (see below)
But you’re not done yet. The relationship between the Manual sound set and the Sibelius mixer is a very delicate one, and for the sound to have any chance of working correctly first time round when you apply it to your score, you have to tell Sibelius what your preferred device is for that sound ID. This is where things get complicated because although you can tell Sibelius what instance to use from which VST you can’t tell it which channel. The preferred sounds and mixer work on Sound IDs and if you have a load of different percussion sounds in one instance, to the mixer these are often just percussion and it’s likely to get the channel wrong, and this is where it can get frustrating at times. I’ll come back to this aspect later to tell you of the various ways I have found to overcome the problems that I have encountered.
This is a sample of what I have in my preferred sounds. Don’t overlook this step because it is extremely important for preferred sounds to the bulk of the selecting work for the mixer. (see below)
The second part of this two-part series will deal with integrating VSL Vienna Instruments into Sibelius.