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Predefined user instruments

and other digressions about instruments

In this chapter, we will learn the different ways to use and create predefined user instruments.
You will also find other useful information about standard or user-defined instruments here.
First, here are some reminders about how digital instruments are managed by the program.

What is a digital instrument?

For Melody/Harmony, a digital instrument is a set of digital sounds (samples), along with parameters describing them. Digital sounds are digitally recorded real instruments, playing a given note.
For some instruments, only one sound is necessary. But for many others, it is necessary to record several sounds to define an complete instrument: instrument timbre (tone) can vary significantly depending on the note played. To play a different note, the program needs to distort the recorded sound in order to match the required frequency (pitch). This process is only possible within a given range.
For example, processing a note recorded from the 3rd octave of a piano in order to make it play a note in the 5th octave will produce a strong distortion, which leads to a noticeable corruption of the sound.
So, to define an instrument, several digital recordings of the same instrument, made at different pitches, are necessary, in order to be "not too far" from the recorded note.

In addition, a set of parameters are related to these digital sounds, to explain to the program how to play the sample. For example, just as note velocity (power at which the note is played) has an influence upon the volume, it can also alter the sound timbre. The high-quality velocity parameter lets you define frequency filters to be applied depending on the note velocity.

These various parameters will be explained in more detail later.

Instrument bases, a.k.a. sound bases

Many digital instruments are provided by default in the software.
In order to comply to current standards, these instruments are sorted according to the GM/GS (General MIDI/General Standard) specification, also followed by most MIDI synthesizers.
Instruments are grouped together into sound bases.
Several sound bases are available, in different qualities. The better the quality, the bigger the sound base.  For example, the simplest sound base, GMLTBASE, is about 500 Kb, while the most elaborate,  GOLD, is about 300 Mb...
The main benefit of a sound base is a smaller size for the music (song) files. Thanks to the sound base, a music file only contains notes and other symbols. The digital data needed to play the sounds are provided once and for all in the sound base.

User instruments

Nevertheless, it is possible to use other instruments besides the default ones. To do this, it is necessary to define a user instrument.
In this case, of course, digital data for the instrument are saved in the music file, which will increase its size.
For example, a 10-second sound, sampled at 44 kHz, takes about 880 Kb. The music file size will therefore increase dramatically.
It is possible to reduce this size by saving your file in .mu3 format instead of the standard .mus format.  In the .mu3 file format, sounds are packed using the Vorbis Ogg encoding. Loss of quality is slight, but the file size is divided by 10.

Predefined user instruments

Available in Harmony Assistant starting in version 8.4, this feature lets us use user instruments exactly the same way we use default instruments.
To select a default instrument, we use two lists in the instrument editing box:
In the left list are found instrument sections (Ensemble, Brass, Reed ...); in the right list, instruments that belong to this section (Violin, Cello, Contrabass...).
User instrument groups can be added to the list on the left. A little red star in front of these user instrument group names shows that the instruments are user-defined.
Selecting one of these groups will show the group content in the list on the right, just as it does for standard instruments. Selecting a user instrument becomes as simple as selecting a standard instrument.
But be careful! In order to enable your music file to be played on any computer other than yours, even computers that do not own the user instruments you are using, data for these instruments will still be saved into the music file. So, music files that use user instruments will be much bigger.

How to install predefined user instruments

Usually, predefined user instruments are supplied as an archive which, once unpacked, produces a folder. Simply drag and drop this folder into the "Sounds" subfolder of the "Myriad documents" folder.
The folder name will be the instrument group name. Each instrument included in the group is stored as an independent file with the .mui extension (Myriad User Instrument).

Sounds can be packed using a slightly lossy packing scheme, enabling a packing ratio (size reduction) of about 1:10 while preserving a very good quality.

If the file name (before the .mui extension) ends with "set", for example "Heavy drum set", it is considered a percussion instrument set. This group will only appear in lists if the instrument is in "drum" mode. User drum sets do not appear in list if the instrument is in chromatic (non drum) mode.

Creating a user digital instrument

Here are explanations of some important parameters for user instruments.

First, the general settings for all of this instrument's sounds:
  • Relative volume: the instrument master volume, from 1 (very faint) to 1000 (very loud). This allows you to balance the instrument relative to others, without having to alter the recorded sounds it is made of. For historical reasons, 0 provides the same effect as1000.
  • Velocity-volume link: the influence of note velocity (power at which the note is played) on its volume. This depends on how the real instrument is constructed and played.
  • High quality velocity: If this setting is active, you can define a set of filters that will be applied depending on the note velocity.

The following settings can be adjusted for each recorded sound the instrument uses.
  • Note range menu: this sound will be selected if the note to be played belongs to this range.
  • For this range, the pitch of the recorded note (for a drum instrument, set 0)
  • Group: When music is playing, only one note can be played from the same group.  If a second note in the group begins, the new note cuts off the previous one. For example, this can be used in drums to enable the closed hi-hat to stop the sound of the open hi-hat.
    • 0: no group, polyphonic instrument
    • 1-9: system groups (used by standard instruments)
    • 10-200: user groups
    In case of doubt, use 0.
  • Attack: Sound attack rate. Attack is the rate at which the volume rises at the beginning of the note. The larger the value, the faster the rise. 0 means "no attack": the sound will reach its loudest volume immediately.
  • Decay: Decay is the decreasing slope of the sound volume while the note is "depressed". It varies from 0 (no volume decrease, for example flute, organ...) to 9999 (which will make the sound very brief).
  • Release: Release is the decreasing slope of the sound volume after the note has been "released". It varies from 0 (no volume decrease) to 9999 (sound stops immediately). Usually, this value is larger than the decay. NEVER USE A RELEASE OF 0 AND AN INFINITE LOOP AT THE SAME TIME: THE SOUND WILL NEVER STOP.
  • Loop fine adjustment: While note is "depressed", the sound loops on (repeats) a portion of the sample. Finding a good "loop point" is a fundamental component of creating a nice sound. A poor loop will make the sound produce "ticks" each time it loops. Tools in the "Effects" contextual menu can help you to find a loop in the current selection range. But usually, loop points are adjusted "by ear".  For example, zoom in on the part you consider the most interesting, ask the program to play the selection range infinitely, and move the range until you are satisfied with the result.  Sometimes it is not possible to find a good loop point. Then, you have to record the instrument again, and be careful that the note is as flat as possible in terms of both volume (no tremolo) and pitch (no vibrato).  The loop fine adjustment lets you define a "floating point" loop point, in order to set it more precisely.
  • Infinite loop: When the note will be released, the portion after the loop point is played, unless the loop is marked as infinite. In that case the loop will continue to be played while the volume decreases (release).

How to create predefined user instruments

If you use certain user instruments often, it is useful to make them easily available by creating a user instrument group.  This is also an easy way to share instrument sets with other users. A special page allows you to download for free a selection of the best instrument groups we receive. Do not hesitate to send us yours...

Here is how to proceed:
  1. Create a subfolder in the "Sounds" subfolder of the "Myriad Documents" folder. Give a clear and descriptive name to this subfolder: this name will appear in the instrument group list in the program. If the instrument group is a drum set, end its name with "set".

  2. In Harmony-Melody, edit your user instrument and select "Save predefined instrument" in the "Action" contextual menu.
  3. if needed, type in a comment for this instrument. This comment will be displayed when user clicks the "?" icon in the instrument list.
  4. Select whether you want the instrument to be packed (Vorbis Ogg encoding) and the packing ratio.
  5.  Select the previously created folder as the save location, and enter a name for your instrument.
  6. That's all: your user instrument can now be selected from any of your documents, just as a standard instrument can.

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