The MIDI 2.0 Orchestral Articulation Profile

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It is the goal of the for Orchestral Articulation Profile to provide a consistent way to encode articulation information directly in the MIDI 2.0 Note On message.

There are many orchestral sample libraries in the market, and they are essential for film scoring, game audio, studio, and live MIDI applications. These orchestral libraries have many kinds of articulations.  

For example, a string library might have a different set of samples for every articulation including marcato, staccato, pizzicato, etc.

However, there is no industry standard method-the method for selecting these different articulations has been different for each developer. Many developers use notes at the lower end of the MIDI note range for “key switching”, but the actual keys used are different between different developers. Some developers use CC messages to switch between articulations, but again there is no industry wide consistency. Some plugin formats now have the ability for per note selection of articulations, but again the method for inputting that data is different for different applications. 

It is the goal of the MIDI-CI Profile for Note On Orchestral Articulation to provide a consistent way to encode articulation information directly in the MIDI 2.0 Note On message, using the Attribute Type and Attribute Data fields.

In arriving at this Profile, a study was made of orchestral instrument families, choir, big band instruments, guitar, keyboard instruments, and various non-western instruments to evaluate the degree to which they share common performance attributes and sound production techniques. Notation symbols and performance indications were also considered to determine, for example, how successfully a violin note marked with a trill might result in a musically meaningful or analogous articulation when the part is copied to an instrument as far afield as timpani—all without the composer having to re-articulate the timpani part, at least initially.

The Profile provides a comprehensive yet concise system of articulation mapping that includes a wide palette of articulation types and supports articulation equivalence across eight instrument categories.

The Profile was designed to offer articulation equivalence — a system of articulation mapping that allows a passage articulated for one instrument to be copied to another track and playedplay back with an equivalent or analogous articulation, regardless of the target instrument type.

When implemented by sample library developers, the Profile will greatly aid composers in highly significant ways.

First, it will simplify the process of substituting or layering sounds from the same or different sample libraries; Second, it will allow composers to quickly audition and orchestrate unison passages by copying an articulated part to other tracks and hear them to play back with equivalent or analogous articulations.