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SWAM + Sylphyo setup

Taming the most realistic virtual instruments out there.

Audio Modeling's SWAM Engine virtual instruments are arguably one of the best options out there if you're looking for realistic reproductions of the beautiful acoustic sound of traditional wind and string instruments.

However, because they're designed to be played live and support many different controllers, they offer a large number of settings that can be difficult to master. And while the default settings are perfectly fine when starting to play with the Sylphyo, a tailored setup makes a world of difference in realism, expressiveness, playability, and enjoyment.

Here is a recap of our preferred settings (only those that change from the defaults), both on the SWAM virtual instrument and on the Sylphyo.

Foreword

The main thing to keep in mind when configuring and playing the SWAM virtual instruments is that dynamics (i.e., the breath intensity) should work like in traditional instruments: when playing mezzoforte, the breath CC value should be near the middle of the dynamic range (or a bit lower), not near the maximum.

Just like in a traditional instrument, you should have to exert a high effort to be able to play fortissimo (that’s why I recommend to set the Sylphyo's breath range to the maximum you can tolerate, and to set all expression curves to Linear).

If you feel it's too quiet with these settings, then increasing the volume of your sound system is better than decreasing the dynamic range.

Setting up your SWAM virtual instrument

These settings can generally be applied to any SWAM engine virtual instrument (Flute, Oboe, Saxophone, Cello…), however some options are only featured in a few instruments and not others. We also differentiate some settings between the Winds and the Strings.

Don't forget to save your settings to be able to reuse them later!

Main screen

  • Attack sens.: Express
    This allows you to nuance the intensity of sound only with your breath.
  • PB U/D: ±2.0 (Pitch-bend)
    This matches the pitch-bend range of the Sylphyo.
  • Transit. time / Port. time: CC
    This is not used on the Sylphyo now, but maybe in a future update.
  • Expr.Rel.Stop: OFF (Strings only)
    This way, pianissimo notes sound right away.
  • Compressor: 1
    Ensures the maximum volume difference between pianissimo and fortissimo.

Options

  • Expression Curve: Lin 0 (Ex 0.7 for Strings)
    This way, the amount of breath you produce to play mezzoforte notes stays in the first half of the dynamic range.
  • Env Attack Speed: 10.0 (Strings only)
    This enables you to play tremolos by flutter-tonguing.
  • KS Oct.Transp.: Off
    Disables the key-switch functionality that might get in your way while playing.
  • Attack Start: 2
    Set 4 for the lowest latency, and set 0 to get more realistic attacks.
  • Expr. Trigger Mode: Off
    This way, pianissimo notes sound right away.
  • Breath ppp: On
    This makes the sound more realistic, and allows you to better utilize the pianissimo part of the breath range.

MIDI Mapping (for the Winds only)

This is only for the Winds family: Flutes, Double Reeds, Clarinets, and Saxophones.

  • Expression: CC 11
    This maps to the intensity of your breath.
  • Vibrato Depth: Not mapped
    This disables the automatic vibrato. Use Shake vibrato instead.
  • Harmonic Structure: CC 76
    This maps to roll control. It slightly changes the sound depending on your posture.
  • Growl: CC 1
    This maps to the slider. It allows you to make growling sounds when you slide downwards from the middle (get back to a clean sound by sliding upwards from the middle).
  • Formant: CC 75
    This maps to elevation control. It adds a bit of brillance when your Sylphyo is horizontal, and makes the sound darker when it is vertical.
  • OverBlow (ON OFF): CC 13
    This maps to the bottom edge of the slider. It offers a transient way to do overblowing.

MIDI Mapping (for the Strings only)

This is only for the Strings family: Double Bass, Cello, Viola, and Violin.

  • Expression: CC 11
    This maps to the intensity of your breath.
  • Vibrato Depth: Not mapped
    This disables the automatic vibrato. Use Shake vibrato instead.
  • Accent: CC 76
    This maps to roll control. It slightly changes the sound depending on your posture.
  • BowPressure: CC 1, from 64 to 127
    This maps to the slider. It allows you to make scratching sounds when you slide downwards from the middle (get back to a clean sound by sliding upwards from the middle).
    Alternatively, assign CC 1, from 0 to 127, to Play Mode instead if you'd like to switch to Pizzicato and Col Legno playing during your performance.
  • Bow Position: CC 75, from 64 to 0
    This maps to elevation control. It positions the bow further from or closer to the bridge, adding a bit of brillance when your Sylphyo is horizontal.
  • Harmonics: CC 13
    This maps to the bottom edge of the slider. It offers a transient way to perform two levels of harmonics.

Settings on the Sylphyo

All these settings can be found in the Settings menu. Please note that while the following settings will improve your experience with SWAM virtual instruments, they might not be good for playing with some other virtual instruments. Also, make sure you are on the last version of the internal software.

MIDI Mapping

  • Breath > Breath rate: Medium to Maximum
    This depends on the processing power of your computer; the higher the better. This allows flutter-tonguing and other very quick effects to be played with higher fidelity by SWAM virtual instruments.
  • Velocity: 127
    This disables dynamic velocity, which introduces a very slight delay and is not needed with SWAM virtual instruments.

Breath

  • Range: 800 to 3000
    Set this to the highest possible value that doesn't make you breathless. If you want to increase air resistance to get closer to, e.g., a saxophone feel, cover part of the hole in the bell with some adhesive tape.
  • Curve: Linear
    You might prefer the default Log curve, but Linear allows you to play pianissimo to mezzoforte comfortably in the first half of the dynamic range of the SWAM virtual instruments, and to be still able to go up to fortissimo if you put in extra effort.

Keys

  • Key-bend (BETA): Disabled (Enabled for Strings)
    It is more useful to be able to bend both sides on the Strings, but perfect key-bends are a bit difficult to perform.
  • Key noise (BETA): if you like it, Enabled (Disabled for Strings)
    With the SWAM winds, this allows you to make key noises without even blowing, just by touching the keys of the Sylphyo.
    If you set this and find key noise volume too high, set Key noise to 0 or 1 in the main screen of your SWAM virtual instrument.

Congratulations for making it to the bottom! Now you should be able to enjoy your performance at least a couple times more.

Don't hesitate to send us feedback about these settings, or to discuss them in our forums.