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Timing and instruments with a slow attack

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Timing and instruments with a slow attack

Postby jellyjim » Mon Oct 14, 2019 9:17 pm

Evening

Something occurred to me that I'd never really thought about before though on reflection it might be kind of obvious and is perhaps a quite fundamental musical question.

I only play instruments with a fast, if not immediate, attack; guitar and piano. Generally one aims to play to a grid (or 'in time') unless intentionally employing a feel or groove or behind/ahead of the beat, etc. Which is most of the time probably but you get the idea.

What do performers with an instrument with a slow attack seek to do?! Not much point starting a slowly bowed violin phrase on the beat as it might not even be audible for a half a bar! Is the peak of the bowed action the on-beat?

Does this make sense? Is it clear what I'm asking?

Thanks
Jim
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Re: Timing and instruments with a slow attack

Postby desmond » Mon Oct 14, 2019 9:20 pm

You modify your playing to get the feel you want, dependent on the part, the sound, and the control you have over it.

If you're an orchestral player, you're just permanently late - but that's ok, so it everyone else... ;)

It' like the old story from the guy first recording an orchestral session - when asked if the headphone mix was ok, he replied "I'd like the strings *sooner* in the cans, please..."
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Re: Timing and instruments with a slow attack

Postby CS70 » Tue Oct 15, 2019 12:05 am

jellyjim wrote:
Does this make sense? Is it clear what I'm asking?

Thanks
Jim

Well, it'not so different from a long a slowly raising volume swell or a really sustained note on the guitar.. :D

Timing is timing. You develop a sense for what and when - between your hands and you ears .. the only bad situation is when there's no good timing.
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Re: Timing and instruments with a slow attack

Postby Eddy Deegan » Tue Oct 15, 2019 12:12 am

I can relate to this question. I don't have anything to add to the replies above other than to confirm that it's a 'feel' thing. When it comes to sounds without a prominent transient, whether it's a string, synth pad or any other instrument, after instigating the 'note on' there will come a point when the 'swell' of the sound reaches a level where it becomes 'noticeable' and that's probably the point where it should coincide with something significant. This could either be other instruments doing similar, or a specific beat/bar which has prominence.

I can't say I've ever had difficulty with this but I use slow attack sounds fairly frequently and sometimes it takes a few tweaks, either in terms of multiple rehearsals if recording audio or via MIDI editing (which is mostly applicable in my case) after the fact to get it sounding just right. Often I have had to kick off a note/chord with a slow attack 'with anticipation' for when it will reach that noticeable point.

If it sounds good, it is good, and that applies to slow attack sounds as much as any other. Your ears are the final judge, so don't be afraid to advance or pull back the start of an amplitude ramp to fit the piece. Same goes for reverse cymbals - experimentation is the key to success :-)
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Re: Timing and instruments with a slow attack

Postby Folderol » Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:49 am

Pretty much agree with everyone else :)
It depends a lot on what else is going on as to how much lee-way you have. Mostly overlapping slow attack stuff is easier than mixtures of attack times. I also find that doing the slow stuff first (where practical) requires less shuffling afterwards than the fast stuff.
YMMV :tongue:
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Re: Timing and instruments with a slow attack

Postby jellyjim » Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:53 am

Thanks, interesting

I realise now of course I do play a slow attack instrument, sometimes. I fiddle with synfs. Though they tend to be off grid ambient noodles.

Here’s another related question. How do you write down a slow attack instrument, as in score it?
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Re: Timing and instruments with a slow attack

Postby Folderol » Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:57 am

jellyjim wrote:Thanks, interesting

I realise now of course I do play a slow attack instrument, sometimes. I fiddle with synfs. Though they tend to be off grid ambient noodles.

Here’s another related question. How do you write down a slow attack instrument, as in score it?
Easy... I don't :bouncy:
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Re: Timing and instruments with a slow attack

Postby Eddy Deegan » Tue Oct 15, 2019 12:08 pm

jellyjim wrote:Here’s another related question. How do you write down a slow attack instrument, as in score it?

Conventional scores are written for a known set of instruments (and/or voices) which are fairly standard in a wider sense. Thus a score written for one piano will work just fine when applying it to a performance on another.

If you want to score synthesizer sounds then you will need to annotate the score, or perhaps include a text-based introduction whereby you document the nature of any unusual sounds or envelopes you may use.

If it is clear from the start that the sound in question has an attack speed of, say, 3 seconds then you can simply place the notes in the appropriate location for the key-on, and anyone following that score later should get a similar result if they are also using a 3 second attack speed.

Baically, documentation is the key and the score is a big part of that but so are the written notes accompanying it if there are considerations such as using a slow attack sound or other 'bespoke' requirements on your part.
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Re: Timing and instruments with a slow attack

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Oct 15, 2019 1:12 pm

Eddy Deegan wrote:...there will come a point when the 'swell' of the sound reaches a level where it becomes 'noticeable' and that's probably the point where it should coincide with something significant.

That's exactly what I tend to do. It can be confusing visually if your slow attack string parts start 'before the bar', but if it sounds good, it is good ;)


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