Recording Dynamics & Expression One at a Time, Together Independently, or Paralell?

When using MIDI sliders to record MIDI CC 1 and 11, what is the best approach for getting the most realistic sound? Should they be recorded one at a time, together but somewhat separate, or together but parallel (the exact same movement on two fingers). I've seen it all!

Based on what I've seen on YouTube, it seems composers like Guy Michelmore uses just his mod wheel while playing. Christian Henson frequently uses two sliders at a time while Marc Jovani uses three sliders for added vibrato. Is it a matter of skill, laziness, or preference?

What do you prefer and why?


  • Matter of preference, I would say, there is no rule around that, do what you feel most comfortable with 😊

  • I believe that Christian (as a face of Spitfire Audio) would know that the products they produce rely on composers using the Dynamics, Expression and Vibrato to get the most natural and realistic sound out of these samples.

    For me, I like to be able to use these controls while live recording a section, but also have the advantage of going into these settings later for fine tune editing.

    With anything, practice enhances skill so this would serve to improve workflow, saving time in having to edit later if you're able to learn the nuances of your faders early on.

  • I personally set the expression in advance and modify it after the modulation is in. I find the modulation controls enough of the volume to handle most of the heavy lifting without affecting the mix. After that, I'll go in and edit the expression again if I have to. Personally, I find the expression to be quite the intense CC control to where I don't want to use it too much... Plus combining it with the modulation for me is just waaay too much difference in volume from one set to the next.

    I think I'd have to get so used to having my fingers move more independently. Another issue would be my controller: the faders don't move smoothly enough for me to gently "brush" the dynamics and volume and vibrato where I want them haha. And only one wheel so I do the modulation first. There's also a case to be made for using drawing tools and/or not doing anything by hand by placing in CC curves and ramps.

    So for me: a lot of lack of skill, definitely not laziness as I program by hand if I don't use the faders, and it's my current preference with my current hardware.

  • whilst i've generally been recording them one at a time... i'm currently setting up the CCs to my maschine jam to see if using touchstrips will work easier for me

  • I love using the sliders! I use 2 most of the time, sometimes 3 (not always using the vibrato). Imho it's as important as what I'm playing with my right hand. Most of the time I play "correctly" when recording but not getting the left hand (the sliders) right so I end up re-recording it over and over until I get the dynamics and expression right.

    Like previously stated there is no "right" way though. Do it the way you like best; that's the best way to go about it.

  • Oo fun addition, do you dedicate your best hand to playing or modulating the CCs?

    I am pre-dominantly right-handed (also a small time piano player). I think due to the placement of the faders on my keyboard, I've been doing notes-left hand and faders-right hand. Not exactly ambidextrous; I definitely prefer to do notes-right hand and faders-left hand. Keyboard is 90deg right of my desk and faders are on the right half of the keyboard.

  • Hi there,

    The samples spitfire make are designed to be used with mod wheel for the dynamic control and expression almost as a trim pot to balance that instrument / section against the rest of the band. This stems from the days us old fogeys used to have slave machines running our samples. Because there could be multiples of these machines it was impractical for us to save an instance of how the instruments were mixed / balanced for each cue, whats more these machines usually sat in machine rooms. So the rule was "you don't touch the slaves!!!". This led to massive templates because we needed the slaves all set up for all possible circumstances so we didn't have to go into machine rooms to fiddle with them (whats more they were usually PCs running Gigastudio so were strange and unfamiliar to us). So the upshot was we had to do all of our mixing via expression and dynamics via mod wheel, ie mixing with MIDI. Now because we couldn't save an instance of each machine for each cue it was imperative that we inputted the expression level FOR EVERY INSTRUMENT we used in a cue, EVEN if that instrument was already set at the right level. Why? well because if you then moved onto a cue where you thought the instrument was too loud and pulled the expression back then returned to your other cue the instrument would then be too quiet!

    Back in those days directors would actually have time to work with us in person and it became paramount that we could recall cues on the fly with them and they would recall perfectly. The absolute nightmare would be pulling up a cue and it was badly balanced. These red-faced moments were frequent enough to make the act of wiggling the expression and mod faders for before playing EACH AND EVERY INSTRUMENT EACH AND EVERY TIME YOU PLAYED IT not only second nature but punishable by death for assistants and people collaborating between duplicate slave systems.

    So in a round about way our fingers became glued to the expression fader and for me anyway it started figuring in my performances of the instruments as I played them in. It kind of super hypes the dynamics of the instruments in a way which is unnatural and purists like Paul Thomson would not adopt this method as you're not only fading up and down the instrument, you're fading up and down the room and the release triggers. So used poorly it can sound a bit weird.

    In general I use expression for less detailed balancing with modulation being more detailed and nuanced. This is why I believe it is important to have CC11 for your middle finger and CC1 for your index finger as it has a dedicated tendon and is better at detail. I don't often use vibrato as I find it fiddly but I probably should! Personally I very rarely use articulations that have vibrato control which is why I somewhat bullishly didn't allow three faders on the Spitfire plugin. My argument was why have a dedicated fader for something that will rarely have a function. But you must always give THOSE two a wiggle! Even if the days of MIDI mixing are way behind us.

    A good discipline is to actually try and do your arrangements using MIDI and then when it comes to mixing you have free reign over your automation faders to approach it as an engineer would.



  • I’m a lefty and wouldn’t want to use the sliders in my right hand. Since the piano is somewhat “undynamic “ (except for how hard the note is pressed) and I want to use my “best hand” on the thing that has the biggest impact on the sound.

  • I was going to buy a new keyboard with faders to control midi cc,s but in the end stuck with my old korg m1 and bought a three fader controller on ebay.Why do manufacturers put faders in the middle of their keyboards !!???'s really annoying trying to play and cross your left arm over to reach the faders..!!!!😨😨😨☹