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Topic: Mighty Nazarite Samson

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  1. #1

    Mighty Nazarite Samson

    Samson! Judge of Israel.
    Samson! Dedicated to God for the deliverance of his people.
    Samson! Slayer of thousands, yet overcome by his own arrogance, lust, and rage.
    Samson! Who only at the end acknowledges his purpose and the Source of his Strength.


    Mighty Nazarite Samson


    I've been working on this character theme from time to time for several months now and something I'd like to expand upon in the future More than anything, however, this as turned into an up hill experimental battle attempting to fold in some samples from IO, COMB, and JABB (yeah, I fell for one of the 3 for 2 deals) into GPO to add a bit more depth and color. Even with my original sketch using samples from just GPO4 this project has been a bear to balance out. At this point I think I've worked out most of the rough spots that were getting on my nerves but I think I've become mostly deaf to everything else. Appreciate anything your ears can pick up on.

    Samples listed below are from GPO unless otherwise indicated.
    1st Violins:
    Violins 1 KS
    Violin Solo KS
    Violins 1 Lush
    Full Strings Sus 1 (IO)
    Solo String Overlays (IO)


    2nd Violins:
    Violins 2 KS
    Violins 2 Solo KS
    Violins 2 Lush
    Full Strings Sus 3 (IO)


    Cellos:
    Cellos KS
    Cello 1 Solo KS
    Cellos Lush
    Cello 2 Solo KS
    Cello 3 Solo KS
    Full Strings Sus 2 (IO)


    Violas:
    Violas KS
    Viola 1 Solo
    Violas Lush
    Vibrato Espressivo Full Strings (IO)


    Basses:
    Basses KS
    Double Bass 1 Solo KS
    Basses Lush
    Full Strings Sus 1 (IO)


    Winds:
    Piccolo Solo KS
    Flute Solo KS
    Flute Group 1 (Comb)
    Oboe 1 Modern Solo
    Oboe 2 Modern Solo
    Oboe 3 Modern Solo
    Bassoon 1 Solo
    Bassoon 2 Solo
    Bb Clarinet Solo
    Bb Clarinet Group 1


    Trumpets:
    SAM Trumpet Solo KS
    SAM Trumpet Section KS
    Trumpet 1 Solo KS
    Trumpet 2 Solo
    Trumpet 1 Open (JABB)
    Trumpet 2 Open (JABB)
    Trumpet Solo 1 KSm (COMB)
    Trumpets Attack (IO)


    Horns:
    SAM French Horn Section KS
    SAM French Horn Solo KS
    French Horn 1 Solo
    French Horn Solo 1 KSm (COMB)
    French Horn Solo 2 KSm (COMB)
    Full Brass Unison (IO)
    French Horn Overlay f


    Trombones:
    SAM Trombone Solo KS
    SAM Trombone Section KS
    Trombone Solo
    Trombone 1 Open (JABB)
    Trombone 3 Open (JABB)
    Trombone Solo 1 KSm (COMB)
    Trombone Solo 2 KSm (COMB)
    Trombone Overlay
    SAM Bass Trombone


    Tuba:
    SAM Tuba Solo KS
    Contratuba Solo
    Tuba 1 Solo
    Tuba


    World Instruments:
    Maqrunah
    Duduk
    Oud
    Santoor


    Percussion/Other: (all GPO4)
    Cymbals
    Snare KS
    Bass
    Timpani
    Tubular Bells KS
    Chromatic Harp 1

  2. #2

    Re: Mighty Nazarite Samson

    This paints a picture of darn tough Samson. I can see him holding his arms out with weapons in hand, ready to smite the bad guys. I like it. I see from your list of instruments that you were definitely interested in using your 3 for 2 deal.
    Nice post. Jay

  3. #3

    Re: Mighty Nazarite Samson

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Bendshadler View Post
    ...I've been working on this character theme from time to time for several months now and something I'd like to expand upon in the future More than anything, however, this as turned into an up hill experimental battle attempting to fold in some samples from IO, COMB, and JABB*...into GPO to add a bit more depth and color. Even with my original sketch using samples from just GPO4 this project has been a bear to balance out...
    Daniel! It's my turn to thank you for the full instrument list, like you thanked me for doing that on my recent music thread. It really is helpful info.

    * and WORLD! - When I was listening I hadn't looked through the instrument list yet, and was wondering what in the world you could have used for that exotic woodwind that has a solo somewhere past the 2:00 mark. What in the "WORLD" of course was the answer - You not only used instruments from IO, COMB, JABB and GPO, but also World! Which of those instruments you have listed from World am I hearing at that spot?

    Samson is certainly a complex and fascinating character to draw inspiration from. I'm impressed with how many different moods you packed into the relatively short span of your composition. Nice!

    Since you requested some critical feedback:

    --There's a quantized feel to the tracks which are holding back some of the potential power of the piece. I would suggest a use of some "humanization," which can be done in several different ways, depending on the program you're using. They all amount to a slight blurring of note-on events so the various lines aren't so impossibly precise.

    --There's an element I find unfortunate in the Garritan Libraries. By default, I find most of the instruments to have too fast a cut off. Happily, we have a Length control in ARIA. On a routine basis, I push that knob just a teeny bit on almost all instruments, giving them a less harsh sharp drop off. I hear that unnatural cut off artifact all through your track.

    --I think there's more fleshing out to be done with the arrangement that would automatically make you happier with the mix. Things sound a bit disjointed, very spread out in the stereo field, and at times unbalanced in a way that a mix can't really fix, because there are potential layers in the orchestration itself which seem to be missing.

    Using instruments (they aren't "samples"--they're virtual instruments constructed with sample sets) - from various Libraries in combination really doesn't call for any special tricks. Having more than just GPO simply expands our available palette. Do what you're doing, but don't sweat it out so much - Just load all the instruments you want to include, and you won't really find that any particular additional work is needed to make your virtual orchestra work.

    This is sounding pretty cool - If this was my piece, I'd be working with those things I've mentioned, and in particular I'd be giving a very critical look at the over-all orchestration, probably using more sustained strings as a bed to the more sparse segments, things like that.

    This is impressive, Daniel - I hope my feedback is helpful.

    Randy

  4. #4

    Re: Mighty Nazarite Samson

    Thanks Jay and Randy for the listen andincredibly rapid and useful feedback.

    ...somewhere past the 2:00 mark...Which of those instruments you have listed from World am I hearing at that spot?
    I've had world instruments for a year or so but I've mostly used it for noodling about on the EWI and this is my first time trying to incorporate it in a piece. I had in mind a brief image of the mystery of Samson's riddle he presented to the 30 Philistines at his wedding feast and a more ancient, eastern sound seemd appropriate. This spot is flute in the soprano, maqrunah alto, duduk tenor, with oud and santoor doubled in the bass. This was quite experimental. I don't really have a reference for how the maqrunah is typically played. Oud and santoor lines I've heard are typically much more rapid then how I employed them here. But the duduk! what a gorgeous sounding instrument. This has such a mournful, soulful sound, especially in Armenian music. I hope to do a much better job than this employing it in the future.

    --There's a quantized feel to the tracks which are holding back some of the potential power of the piece. I would suggest a use of some "humanization,"
    This is a very useful comment! In the past I've over humanized the timing to the point where I created sort of a pulsing, syncopated artifact that I was fairly deaf to but my wife who is more rhythmically sensitive could pick out. Since then I've been very conservative with my humanization. Currently I'm using the "schwa" script included with the free Cockos reajs scripter to add a random 0-10ms delay time on each note before they are sent to Aria. This seems enough to reduce the "organ" effect but does feel a bit stiff at times. I'll have to experiment with increasing/altering this.

    There's an element I find unfortunate in the Garritan Libraries. By default, I find most of the instruments to have too fast a cut off. Happily, we have a Length control in ARIA. On a routine basis, I push that knob just a teeny bit on almost all instruments, giving them a less harsh sharp drop off. I hear that unnatural cut off artifact all through your track.
    Also a great comment since this is something else I'm clearly not sensitive to. I've only really noticed the cutoff being unnatural in fairly rapid passages where I've had to (counter-intuitively) increase the length parameter. I will have to figure out a way to experiment with this. For reference, how far do you typically tend to nudge the length parameter?

    Things sound a bit disjointed, very spread out in the stereo field, and at times unbalanced in a way that a mix can't really fix,
    Another interesting observation since I have felt there is sort of a void at times in the piece that I don't know how to fill in, even in the warrior/battle section at about 50sec which is quite busy. In the end I added some light (by today's standards) percussion to this segment and this seemed to help tremendously, however it does still feel incomplete in a way.

    The way the arrangement works after the opening, the strings and brass are all over the place while the wood winds are virtually silent until 1:30-45 or so where things quite down and the winds take over for a spell. I suspect the "void" may be that I'm not using the winds to tie the brass and strings together. However, I'm not quite sure I know how to execute this without just having the winds get lost in the fray. I suppose this is something I'll have to study.

    I'd be giving a very critical look at the over-all orchestration, probably using more sustained strings as a bed to the more sparse segments


    I can imagine that it would create a more balanced transition by instead of going from:
    Strings + Brass + Percussion --> winds
    transitioning with:
    Strings + Brass + Percussion --> winds + light strings

    That way the strings continue to carry thing along (no rest for these guys I suppose.) Something else I'll have to play with.

    Using instruments (they aren't "samples"--they're virtual instruments constructed with sample sets) - from various Libraries in combination really doesn't call for any special tricks
    .

    I'm probably exaggerating the difficulty, especially since some of the problems I invented myself. For instance, for some reason I found it very important to figure out how to independently control the score for the five strings sections built up from 23 virtual instruments from a single piano roll. This I found quite a challenge to setup in FL Studio but it was not absolutely necessary to accomplish this.

    Other problems I had were more insidious. By the time I layered the trumpet section together to create a feel I was content with, over time it didn't register to in my ear/brain how loud really loud and overpowering the trumpets had become. What the metering displayed wasn't so bad compared to other sections so I didn't really realize there was a problem until at some point I found myself wincing when the trumpets came in.

    Anyhow, thanks again for the listen and the analytic feed back. Much appreciated!

  5. #5

    Re: Mighty Nazarite Samson

    An evocative piece with a great deal of expression. Very dramatic. I will leave the production comments to those who are far more experienced than I. It sounds like a new section is introduced at about 2:17 after the baroque type of passage. The transition seems very sudden and I might want to smooth over the join a little. I picked up on the quantized feel as well for whatever it is worth. And for whatever else it is worth it is something I have to work against as well. Nice work and it will be spectacular as you implement some of the suggestions you are receiving.

  6. #6

    Re: Mighty Nazarite Samson

    Hi, Daniel - Thanks for the reply.

    It looks like my earlier post was well recieved - that's great. While it's possible to give generalized notes on a work in progress, I usually find it trickier to get overly specific without encroaching too much on someone's creative process. Like I made a general statement about how it sounds like the orchestration needs more fleshing out, but since it's your music, I wouldn't be comfortable at all nailing down possible ideas beyond the general one I made about using the strings more continuously.

    For me, decisions made about fleshing out a piece are determined almost solely by listening. I keep playing a project, or a portion of it, over and over, and tune in to more musicial ideas my head comes up with as I listen. I try to not censor myself very much, so when a new idea pops up as I listen, I just stop the project for a moment, select an instrument's track, and I start playing the new line in, even if it's just one measure. It's easy enough to toss out the new ideas, or develop them. But all the new ideas are coming up with the goal in mind of layering and expanding the orchestration I've developed up to that point.

    The more left brained I am, thinking of formulae, rules etc - the less satisfied I am with both the process and the results. So, being more right brained and intuitive in the music making process is something I like to encourage people on.

    So - For this, maybe more strings, maybe more strings and woods layered - I don't know, I'd have to experiment - And I'm sure you're wanting to experiment as you progress on this piece.

    Pulling out a few things to respond to:

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Bendshadler View Post
    ...This spot is flute in the soprano, maqrunah alto, duduk tenor, with oud and santoor doubled in the bass. This was quite experimental. I don't really have a reference for how the maqrunah is typically played. Oud and santoor lines I've heard are typically much more rapid then how I employed them here. But the duduk! what a gorgeous sounding instrument...
    All of those are layered together, playing the same line-? But I'm guessing, from your response, that the Duduk is the actual soloist? What I'm hearing has a nice sound, I didn't stop to audition the various instruments you listed - But I certainly think the Middle Eastern flavor is very appropriate for the piece, and probably something I'd consider using even more throughout.

    About the quantized feel:

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Bendshadler View Post
    This is a very useful comment! In the past I've over humanized the timing to the point where I created sort of a pulsing, syncopated artifact that I was fairly deaf to but my wife who is more rhythmically sensitive could pick out. Since then I've been very conservative with my humanization. Currently I'm using the "schwa" script included with the free Cockos reajs scripter to add a random 0-10ms delay time on each note before they are sent to Aria. This seems enough to reduce the "organ" effect but does feel a bit stiff at times. I'll have to experiment with increasing/altering this.
    Hmm. I wonder how introducing randomization could cause a "pulsing, syncopated" feel? For sound to be that rhythmic calls for some factor to be repeated very precisely, like a tremolo set to one value, and the perfectly pulsing results. True randomization can't produce anything like that - So that's a mysterious thing you've said.

    The plugin you're using to add 0-10ms delay - Can it make notes play earlier? I don't see how something that only delays can produce a very natural result, because one of the hallmarks of music when a live ensemble plays it is that notes and sometimes entire passages will have all the notes rushed, coming in early.

    There's no question that the best "humanization" comes from just playing your music in the first place. Recording the lines from a keyboard, or other controller, with quantization off, produces the most natural sounding music since it's directly analogous to musicians playing in a group. And that doesn't call for incredible chops, and it doesn't mean the resulting MIDI clip doesn't need editing. What I do is record just a measure or a few measures at a time, then with the Snap to Grid off, I push notes that are just too far out of the pocket, leaving the rest.

    Sometimes, I'll introduce true randomization by using a Sonar script that will move notes both ahead and back, and I set the limit to how far notes can be moved.

    But all of that is only dealing with the Note On events, when the notes start. The other very important factors that have to be varied are velocity, note length, and dynamic volume control. To some extent those things can be randomized, but there's a musical logic to their variability as in when musicians are performing. It comes down to us realizing that we are those musicians - We need to play our virtual instruments in any and every way we can, even if our "playing" begins by inserting notes.

    Whatever tools are used, there's no avoiding some hands on, deep editing on a note-by-note basis. By the time I'm finished with a project, almost all of the notes have been touched on and edited in some way.

    Notice also that I'm talking about actually editing the MIDI tracks, not letting a plugin introduce randomization to quantized tracks. If your tracks are remaining quantized, and maybe even with a lack of variety in the velocity levels and note lengths, then you have no control of how the tracks are going to play back each time, if the plugin is truly introducing variety on a random basis - that plugin will supposedly be doing the job differently every time. No, you must edit your tracks themselves so you have actual control over how the piece is going to playback.

    About what I feel is an unnatural truncated ending to notes:

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Bendshadler View Post
    ...this is something else I'm clearly not sensitive to...For reference, how far do you typically tend to nudge the length parameter?
    It's just something to listen for as you audition your project as you work. Refreshing your ears by listening to a sample track done by a live orchestra helps a lot in listening for the details which you may find missing in your MIDI tracks.

    As a rough guide, say a default length is at 12:00 on the dial. I'll move the knob to approximately 12:30 - just a subtle amount. I audition the results by clicking the ARIA keyboard. What I'm listening for is a sweet spot where the note no longer sounds like a tape that's been cut off mid-note with scissors. We don't want a long fade out, just a millisecond of an ending which sounds more natural.
    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Bendshadler View Post
    ...In the end I added some light (by today's standards) percussion to this segment and this seemed to help tremendously...
    Yes! Adding percussion helps flesh things out immensely. As for other arrangement ideas, like I said at the start, you just need to listen over and over and let your musical imagination suggest new things that could possibly fill the sound out more.

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Bendshadler View Post
    I found it very important to figure out how to independently control the score for the five strings sections built up from 23 virtual instruments from a single piano roll. This I found quite a challenge to setup in FL Studio but it was not absolutely necessary to accomplish this.
    I'm not sure of what you mean here. Are you talking about displaying the notes and data for all those tracks at the same time in the PRV? If so, that's extremely helpful later in a project. In Sonar there's a way to lock the data of whatever tracks you want so you don't accidentally edit the wrong notes. But maybe you're talking about having all those tracks all feeding off of one MIDI track - and if so, that would be highly problematical--I don't think you mean that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Bendshadler View Post
    ...By the time I layered the trumpet section together to create a feel I was content with, over time it didn't register to in my ear/brain how loud really loud and overpowering the trumpets had become. What the metering displayed wasn't so bad compared to other sections so I didn't really realize there was a problem until at some point I found myself wincing when the trumpets came in.
    That kind of thing happens to everyone. After a certain amount of time in a session, we really lose our ability to really hear what's going on. Constantly coming back to projects the next day after a session is crucial. Every darned time we'll hear things we did the day before which aren't right, often concerning the balance between instruments.

    You're doing all your mixing there with your MIDI files. Frankly, I've always found that much more difficult than what I've done for years now. I do all my MIDI work, including the constantly changing dynamic volume control via CC11 (interchangeable with CC1) - And then I bounce my tracks to audio, and it's only with the audio tracks that I do my actual mixing. Before bouncing, when I'm still in the MIDI realm, I only aim for an approximate balance between instruments. I'm not overly concerned as long as it's "fine for now." Once I'm in audio, I find it then much easier to fine tune the balance, and develop a more complex, satisfying mix than I'm able to do only with MIDI.

    SO - Another long post from me, good heavens. I wish you the best on "Samson" as you go forward. It's certainly a worthy project, and maybe some things I've said here will be helpful.

    Randy

  7. #7

    Re: Mighty Nazarite Samson

    Randy,

    Thanks for another thoughtful reply. In answer to some of the mysteries I've created:

    Hmm. I wonder how introducing randomization could cause a "pulsing, syncopated" feel? For sound to be that rhythmic calls for some factor to be repeated very precisely, like a tremolo set to one value, and the perfectly pulsing results. True randomization can't produce anything like that - So that's a mysterious thing you've said.
    I had this idea at the time that if I turned off the "snap" feature in the piano roll and entered the notes in a loose fashion nilly-willy as I went along that I'd create automatic humanization. Instead I just created slopification. This despite the countless hours of honing my mouse skills with Starcraft which I invested in during my college years.

    There's no question that the best "humanization" comes from just playing your music in the first place.
    I can't argue that midi keyboard performance and nudging notes on the piano roll would give the best results, but I was hoping in this case a bit of live time randomization would create at least a partial humanizing effect. Reworking the math, it turns out 10ms would nudge the beat only about 1% so this accomplished nothing.

    I'm not sure of what you mean here. Are you talking about displaying the notes and data for all those tracks at the same time in the PRV? If so, that's extremely helpful later in a project. In Sonar there's a way to lock the data of whatever tracks you want so you don't accidentally edit the wrong notes. But maybe you're talking about having all those tracks all feeding off of one MIDI track - and if so, that would be highly problematical--I don't think you mean that.
    I actually do mean this in a sense. I routed up a sort of three tiered system. I have one piano roll setup to transmit to all 23 string instrument patches, with each of the five sections controlled by five different note colors. Below I have five more piano dedicated to each of the five string sections. In the bottom tear I have 23 piano rolls that control each individual instrument. So my top roll works like an augmented "Full Strings" patch, the five rolls below are like augmented "Sectional" patches and I still have the option to control each patch individually. The idea was to support a workflow of using the top roll to develop the basic sketch, using the five "sectional" rolls to work out the dynamics. Finally when I'm ready to prune all the leaves I could create an individual performance for each patch (or at least sub-groups of patches.) Call it trickle-down composition!

    This render was done in the "sectional" mode. The problem with this workflow that I'm finding, however (as is the problem with other trickle-down systems) is that its very hard to finally get anything down to the bottom of the pyramid.

    Once I'm in audio, I find it then much easier to fine tune the balance, and develop a more complex, satisfying mix than I'm able to do only with MIDI.
    As you've seem to have managed to convince Mr. Plowking of this I will simply accept this as best practice.

  8. #8

    Re: Mighty Nazarite Samson

    Very impressive, Daniel,

    I particularly like the bras/percussion parts: a powerful illustration of characterisation. I agree with Randy, that the quantisation is sometimes too accurate which make it almost godly perfect.

    Certainly worth to go on with it!

    Max

  9. #9

    Re: Mighty Nazarite Samson

    Hi Daniel.
    Quite interesting work. I really like the finale.
    The overall sound is thin to my ears.
    Fabio
    Arrigo Beyle / Milanese / Lived, wrote, loved -- Stendhal
    Being Italian is a full-time job -- B. Severgnini

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