Dynamic markings to Velocity

Hello everyone!

I need some help with tralnslating dynamic markings to velocity for East West Symphonic Orchestra.

A guy posted a translation from a scoring program (a velocity rule from Notion to EW), but I am feeling a little confused about it.

For example: The velocity for mf was 85, and another source said that the horns timbre should sound “brassy” (instead of soft) when they are playing mf. In EWSO I get to the brassy sound first when I reach 90 and above. So, I am not sure if the velocity translation is incorrect or if the info about brassy sound with mf is incorrect, so I thought I’d check with you guys.

I am new to orchestrations and obviously dynamic markings is an important thing. I’d appreciate any help, tips or tricks for this subject :slight_smile:


Unfortunately, there is absolutely no standard for how MIDI velocity or CC values map to dynamics levels, so this is something that needs to be done by ear, library by library. :confused:


As David says, sadly no standard. Like there is still no standard for articulations and how CCs are mapped etc.

I did make a bit of a cheat sheet to use as reference: How to Compose Music - Dynamics Chart - Professional Composers


Thanks a lot, @olofson and @Mikael ! I appreciate your answers! :slight_smile: And yeah, unfortunatly that was pretty much what I suspected as well.

I usually don’t mind going by ear (since the ear is our best tool), but since I have no experience or reference I’m feeling kinda lost :smiley:
I get that mp should be louder than p and mf louder than mp etc, but I can’t really tell how much louder each marking should be so to speak.

Mike, I guess your dynamic chart is at least a good starting-point (and it actually looks pretty close to the chart I mentioned).

Do you guys know on the top of your head if the timbre should sound “brassy” or soft with the horns in mf? Cause I think a good idea for me now is to dive a little deeper into how the instruments actually sounds in the different dynamic markings (and not only loudness).


Just checking, when you say “horns” are you referring to French Horns, or simply calling the entire brass family “horns”? :slight_smile:

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Haha yeah, I’m sorry - It was the french horns I was referring to (though I hope the rule applies to the whole family :smiley: ). Cause with french horns I get a smooth sound with lower volume and a more aggressive and brassy timbre with more volume - and I am basically not sure which dynamic marking that sound belongs to.

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I have personally found that french horns, and most lower brass seem to get “brassy” higher up in dynamics in most libraries exactly as you say. While trumpets and trombones for example gets that bright brassy tone far earlier. Since I don’t play brass myself I am not sure how they are in real life performance in terms of dynamics/brassy-ness :stuck_out_tongue:

@MaestroX Do you have any insights to share regarding “brassy/bright” tone vs dynamic level on horns? :slight_smile:

PS. Edit: I have also found some libraries the “cross-fade” range from soft mellow tone to brassy is very narrow, which I found very annoying, because I assume that range is much bigger in real life?


Well, in real life, brass are always going to sound…brassy :wink: But the horn does have a bit wider dynamic range. So naturally, the louder you get the more bright and brassy it will sound, but also keep in mind that the horn is often played “muted” with your fist inside the bell which will give it the classic warm, mellow sound, even at higher dynamics. Getting to f-ff is going to be mostly a brassy sound. Mezzoforte could be brassy if you don’t mute, mellow if you do.

Also irl, dynamic markings are really going to be a bit subjective; no exact level exists. (That’s why there’s a conductor :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:) As far as MIDI, it really depends on the library like @olofson said, since the samples may be recored with only one or two dynamic layers and not actually capable of playing p or pp.

If you don’t want to think about MIDI velocities, etc. you could always go with higher-end scoring software, like Dorico Pro, which I use. Just put the dynamic makings where/how you want and let the AI handle the playback. It’s not perfect, but I like it better than spending hours drawing velocity curves in my DAW :laughing:


Thanks a lot for you input, @MaestroX !
Yeah, I totally get what you mean :slight_smile:

My perception is also that the dynamic markings aint exact levels, which totally make sense. It was mostly the timbre thing that made me so confused, cause in EWSO there’s a pretty big difference in timbre from 89 to 90 in velocity.

The main reason I asked was because I want to try to recreate scores - for practice. I’m also learning how to read score sheets now, so there’s a lot going on in my brain at the moment :smiley:

Yeah, I am a Cubase Pro user myself and I’ve had my eyes on Dorico for some time too. I tried the free version of Sibelius and it was actually pretty cool. But basiclly I just want to look at a score and translate it into my Cubase session, if that make sense.

Anyways, I’m feeling less confused now and I really appreciate all your help guys! :slight_smile:

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Yeah, that velocity then is where their dynamic level changes. I use Cinematic Studio Brass, which is very realistic sounding, but has a lot of different dynamic changes based on note velocity and even articulation changes based on the keyswitch note velocity. Kind of a hassle. I just want to write music :sob:

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I totallt agree @MaestroX ! :smiley: I feel the exact same!
When I am in the writer mode, I just want to write music and not think too muuch about all these tweaks
(and that is a pro to why a notation program could be worth investing in). Though in the end, I think it would still be produced in Cubase with sample libraries, so I guess I can’t really escape from the tweaking process.

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Well I do know that Dorico Pro has a template to use Spitfire’s BBCSO as the default playback library, so you could just use the scoring software in conjunction with that for a great sound, but it requires a lot of RAM in your computer. Other than that, I use NotePerformer as the playback library, which is actually pretty good sounding despite being only $100. It has its limitations, but I just take the finished audio playback and import it into Studio One to make a final mix/master.

Here’s an example:

There’s also another specific scoring software built with a specific iPad that also integrates Spitfire or another library as it’s built in playback which sounds really good called StaffPad. @brandowalk uses this a lot.


Yeah, and I think I saw that Presonus Notion had something like that with EWSO too. I’ve actually heard some really good stuff coming out of noteperformer in both Dorico and Sibilius. And even though there is limitations, I’ve seen workarounds through some of them too. So yeah, I might pick up a notation program as well too, but it would be a little sad to say goodbye to my lovely EWSO.

@Mikael I’ve been applying the guidelines you provided and it’s actually really good starting-points :slight_smile:

And by the way @MaestroX I think the track sounded really nice! I liked it a lot :slight_smile:

Thanks, Matt @MaestroX . Good to hear from you. Nice track!

@PierreBerggren - here are some StaffPad examples if interested. I have been using the app for about a year, and it has changed my life! :slight_smile:


Hey Brandon! Thanks. I’d still love to get that StaffPad, even though I have Dorico Pro. I guess the more tools the better, right? Hope to hear some new music from you soon.

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Thank you @brandowalk ! :slight_smile: the app looks cool and it sounds really good too! Lovly and great music as well! I’m really impressed! :smiley:


Thank you, Pierre. StaffPad is not for everyone, but it does allow focus on writing music and less on technical midi stuff. It is a good ear trainer as well… much of the music I write now is away from the piano. Further, the freedom to write music just about anywhere is incredible (vs stuck at the computer).

It isn’t perfect, of course, and some would rather input by keyboard. But the playback quality is worth these minor frustrations I feel.

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