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Using Garritan Keyswitches



Musicians know there is more than one way to produce sound out of any instrument. When studying orchestration and arranging, we learn the idiosyncrasies of each individual instrument and how to best leverage them.

Garritan libraries have a number of instruments that use multiple techniques – a violin can bow or pluck, a cello section might play con sordino, and brass instruments often are called to play a variety of different mutes – so how can a musician easily switch to these instrument-specific performance techniques when using the Garritan sounds?

Many Garritan libraries include instruments with keyswitches. These instruments contain multiple sets of samples for each pitch, offering access to different articulations and techniques that you can easily switch between without needing to load a new patch or send any program change messages. This is very useful while playing a Garritan instrument live, or when writing for a larger ensemble.

When selecting a Garritan patch, you can easily identify those that contain keyswitches by a “KS” at the end of their names. Once you’ve selected such a patch, the specific Keyswitches can visually be identified on the left side of the ARIA Player’s on-screen keyboard player in pink.  The currently selected keyswitch is a light peach color.

Aria Player screenshot 625

When performing live you can access these keyswitches by playing both the pitch you want the instrument to perform AND the associated keyswitch (often far below the range of the given instrument) to produce the desired technique.

When using a notation program you will want to use the notation patches, which also have keyswitches, but are coded and intended for notation software.  They will be the patches that start with “n-“. The notation programs will use MIDI to trigger them through their playback controls. In a notation program such as Finale or Sibelius, most keyswitches are automatically triggered through the use of an expression or technique text, respectively. The notation interprets your text expression and executes the keyswitch seamlessly.

Wondering how to create your own keyswitches in Finale? Want to hear more about other Garritan tools to help you on the fly? Have any other questions? Please leave a comment for us below.


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