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Topic: Work for String Orchestra - Your feedback and suggestions are welcome!

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  1. #1

    Work for String Orchestra - Your feedback and suggestions are welcome!

    After many difficulties and apparently dead-end paths, I finally finished a mix of the first of three movements (originally composed as a sextet in 1993, revised for string orchestra). Instrumentation: Vl I, Vl II, Vla I, Vla II, Vc I, Vc II, Cb. The title of this movement is The Voice of the Stream.

    Here is the link to mp3 file: https://app.box.com/s/fytxfrnb2231nq4ehv9n

    The issues:

    GPO strings- 1) Can't get them smooth enough in 16th note passages, especially pp repeated figures like g-e-g-e-g-g-e etc. Plus, viola is the weakest set of samples to my ears.

    2) I tried using Miroslav Philhamonik for the 2nd Vla section & 2nd Vc section, as phasing would be an issue with GPO. However, very frustrating, as the samples all swell way to much on sustained notes (I couldn't get rid of this effect in my DAW by messing with modulation and velocity parameters); sought support, but to no avail. Plus, issues with controlling volume input from the SampleTank engine. MP samples seem to be designed for molto espressivo.

    3) I wound up using only the section samples; after trying to mix in solo instruments to liven it up a bit. Unfortunately, merely copying tracks without going back through and totally redoing velocity, modulation, durations, etc. does not work. I even tried building sections from individual instruments, as I know some have advocated, but I have a life, after all, sort of...

    4) Finally for the 2nd Vla and 2nd Vc sections I duplicated the 1st sections, changing things like portamento, CC21 and CC@2; then froze those two tracks to avoid phasing issues. That worked, I think.

    In GPO I used the Large Symphonic Concert Hall Convolution setting, as it seemed to work for my ears at the time. However, you'll notice a fairly thick texture at times. I have done no EQ or other adjustments to date.

    Thank for any suggestions you might have. John
    John Newell
    www.johnnewellmusic.com
    GPO4, Garritan World Instruments, Digital Performer 7.24, Finale 2012, Miroslav Philharmonik

  2. #2

    Re: Work for String Orchestra - Your feedback and suggestions are welcome!

    Hi, John - This is certainly sounding much better than I expected after reading your text. In fact, it's sounding Very good. You want it better, I understand, but I wanted to say right off that I think what you have right now is doing a very nice job of demoing your piece.

    Referring to your numbers:

    1) You want smoother soft 16th note patterns that you use throughout. I assume you're inserting a down pedal (CC64, value of 127) after the attack of the first note but before the second note starts, and then you're bracketing the passage with a CC64 Off value of 0 at the end.

    Something else you need to do is sweep through the velocities of the passage so they are extremely low - below 10, even as low as 0.

    Yes, Viola is the weakest of the GPO strings, and probably the weakest instrument in the whole Library. There it is. It can stick out, so needs to be kept lower than you may prefer, when using nothing but GPO strings.

    2) You said you tried to control the Miroslav swells with "modulation"-but that isn't the volume control for that Library. You would need to try using CC11, Expression Volume, to tame the swells. GPO uses CC1 or CC11 for volume (they're interchangeable) - but CC1 is usually used in soft synths to control Modulation, which is vibrato.

    3) Adding a soloist to each string section in GPO really is just about mandatory for a piece which is strictly for strings, like yours. The level for the soloist has to be carefully set so that it's barely noticeable. I'm not sure why it's not working for you. Making a copy of the original track is good, but you don't need to do all the laborious editing you mentioned. Use a "random time" routine to mess up the timing of the notes just a smidge, and it will instantly be different enough from the original group MIDI track. In Sonar, there's a CAL routine for this kind of randomization, and every DAW program has something of the sort.

    You were wise to not attempt building sections from individual instruments. Some time back, maybe two years ago now, we ran an experiment here at the Forum to see if that approach could actually sound good - Our conclusion is that it can't. I spent a lot of time trying to make it sound good- and it just didn't. Group patches+Soloists sounds infinitely better, and is obviously so much easier to do.

    4) I'm not sure why you're getting phasing, which you mention twice in this thread. If you're using the same patch twice, for sure you'll have phasing - but Violins 1 and Violins 2, for instance, don't have phasing when you use them together. I think I must be misunderstanding the structure of what you're doing.

    The Concert Hall sounds fine for this. Wherever you feel it's getting too thick, you can automate the reverb channel's slider to go down a bit - it often helps to have less reverb when there's a loud, thick passage - and when done carefully, having less reverb for those sections isn't noticed, it just sounds better.

    I had to turn the volume knob on my interface up much more than usual. That made me curious, so I downloaded the track to have a look in Sound Forge. As I expected, your overall volume is extremely low. The loudest peaks are at around -8 DBs. I used a Normalize filter to bring the volume up to where it should be, ended up with peaks at around -.6 - and it was much better. That made the loud sections match pro "loud" levels which I'm used to hearing.

    -- However - I feel the dynamic range of the piece is just too wide. I know you want an extremely dramatic contrast, but even with the overall volume of the file fixed, I still had to turn my interface's volume knob up to hear the soft passages very well. I feel that all of the soft sections could be tripled in volume, and you would still have a large contrast between soft and loud, but the listener wouldn't need to be playing with the volume knob while listening.

    One more small point - you have three seconds of silence at the beginning.

    Randy

  3. #3

    Re: Work for String Orchestra - Your feedback and suggestions are welcome!

    John: Tremendously engaging and haunting. I really enjoyed this piece! The slow crescendo a few minutes into the piece is very effective and captivating. Can you post the score?

    I would probably cut some of the repetitive material in the first few measures and "get right to it." Just a constructive thought.

    Art
    Arthur J. Michaels
    https://www.facebook.com/composerarthurjmichaels

    Finale 2000 through Finales 25.4 (currently using Finale 25.4)
    Garritan COMB2, GPO4, GPO5, Audacity 2.1.3
    Core i7 860 @ 2.80 GHz, 8.0 GB RAM, Windows 10 Home Premium x64
    Dell 2408 WFP, 1920x1200
    M-Audio Delta Audiophile 2496
    M-Audio AV-40 monitors

  4. #4

    Re: Work for String Orchestra - Your feedback and suggestions are welcome!

    Randy, I can't say how much I appreciate your feedback.

    Quote Originally Posted by rbowser- View Post
    Hi, John - This is certainly sounding much better than I expected after reading your text. In fact, it's sounding Very good. You want it better, I understand, but I wanted to say right off that I think what you have right now is doing a very nice job of demoing your piece.

    Referring to your numbers:

    1) You want smoother soft 16th note patterns that you use throughout. I assume you're inserting a down pedal (CC64, value of 127) after the attack of the first note but before the second note starts, and then you're bracketing the passage with a CC64 Off value of 0 at the end.

    Something else you need to do is sweep through the velocities of the passage so they are extremely low - below 10, even as low as 0.
    I put the velocity levels very low, as you said, and this made a difference. I'll try CC64 now!

    Quote Originally Posted by rbowser- View Post

    2) You said you tried to control the Miroslav swells with "modulation"-but that isn't the volume control for that Library. You would need to try using CC11, Expression Volume, to tame the swells. GPO uses CC1 or CC11 for volume (they're interchangeable) - but CC1 is usually used in soft synths to control Modulation, which is vibrato.
    Maybe that will work. Again, I'll give it a try.

    Quote Originally Posted by rbowser- View Post

    3) Adding a soloist to each string section in GPO really is just about mandatory for a piece which is strictly for strings, like yours. The level for the soloist has to be carefully set so that it's barely noticeable. I'm not sure why it's not working for you. Making a copy of the original track is good, but you don't need to do all the laborious editing you mentioned. Use a "random time" routine to mess up the timing of the notes just a smidge, and it will instantly be different enough from the original group MIDI track. In Sonar, there's a CAL routine for this kind of randomization, and every DAW program has something of the sort.

    You were wise to not attempt building sections from individual instruments. Some time back, maybe two years ago now, we ran an experiment here at the Forum to see if that approach could actually sound good - Our conclusion is that it can't. I spent a lot of time trying to make it sound good- and it just didn't. Group patches+Soloists sounds infinitely better, and is obviously so much easier to do.
    I kept the solo instruments, just muted them. What you say makes sense; I'll try #1 and #3 suggestions on those tracks and get back to you.

    Quote Originally Posted by rbowser- View Post

    4) I'm not sure why you're getting phasing, which you mention twice in this thread. If you're using the same patch twice, for sure you'll have phasing - but Violins 1 and Violins 2, for instance, don't have phasing when you use them together. I think I must be misunderstanding the structure of what you're doing.
    I used separate patches for Vlns 1 & 2. It was for the violas and cellos that I duplicated GPO patches, as I wasn't happy with Miro. Phil.

    Quote Originally Posted by rbowser- View Post

    The Concert Hall sounds fine for this. Wherever you feel it's getting too thick, you can automate the reverb channel's slider to go down a bit - it often helps to have less reverb when there's a loud, thick passage - and when done carefully, having less reverb for those sections isn't noticed, it just sounds better.

    I had to turn the volume knob on my interface up much more than usual. That made me curious, so I downloaded the track to have a look in Sound Forge. As I expected, your overall volume is extremely low. The loudest peaks are at around -8 DBs. I used a Normalize filter to bring the volume up to where it should be, ended up with peaks at around -.6 - and it was much better. That made the loud sections match pro "loud" levels which I'm used to hearing.

    -- However - I feel the dynamic range of the piece is just too wide. I know you want an extremely dramatic contrast, but even with the overall volume of the file fixed, I still had to turn my interface's volume knob up to hear the soft passages very well. I feel that all of the soft sections could be tripled in volume, and you would still have a large contrast between soft and loud, but the listener wouldn't need to be playing with the volume knob while listening.

    One more small point - you have three seconds of silence at the beginning.

    Randy
    Well, whaddya know? My DAW has a Normalize function. And I'll try playing with and automating the volume in my DAW's Master track. Should I do that before Normalizing?

    Thanks again! John
    John Newell
    www.johnnewellmusic.com
    GPO4, Garritan World Instruments, Digital Performer 7.24, Finale 2012, Miroslav Philharmonik

  5. #5

    Re: Work for String Orchestra - Your feedback and suggestions are welcome!

    Quote Originally Posted by gogreen1 View Post
    John: Tremendously engaging and haunting. I really enjoyed this piece! The slow crescendo a few minutes into the piece is very effective and captivating. Can you post the score?

    I would probably cut some of the repetitive material in the first few measures and "get right to it." Just a constructive thought.

    Art
    Thanks for your comments, Art. I'll be posting sample score pages of the entire three-movement work soon, and will let you know. John
    John Newell
    www.johnnewellmusic.com
    GPO4, Garritan World Instruments, Digital Performer 7.24, Finale 2012, Miroslav Philharmonik

  6. #6

    Re: Work for String Orchestra - Your feedback and suggestions are welcome!

    Quote Originally Posted by John Newell View Post
    ...I put the velocity levels very low, as you said, and this made a difference. I'll try CC64 now!
    Good, and yes you Must use CC64 if you want legato. Look that up in the GPO manual and it gives a good explanation of how it works.

    About using CC11 actual Expression Volume control in Mirsolav:
    Quote Originally Posted by John Newell View Post
    ...Maybe that will work. Again, I'll give it a try.
    Good, because I'm rather sure CC1 doesn't control volume in that Library.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Newell View Post
    ...I kept the solo instruments, just muted them. What you say makes sense; I'll try #1 and #3 suggestions on those tracks and get back to you.
    It really shouldn't be too much work, John. Just muss up the start times, as I suggested. I double soloists with group patches all the time like that, and with the relative balance between solo and group set well, it works nicely.
    Quote Originally Posted by John Newell View Post
    ...I used separate patches for Vlns 1 & 2. It was for the violas and cellos that I duplicated GPO patches, as I wasn't happy with Miro. Phil.
    I see. You're going for a much larger group of instruments than I've generally worked with. With violins 1, 2, violas, cellos, basses, and each with a soloist - it's always seemed large enough for my needs. But you have additional lines for the extra groups, hence your need for more instruments. I would suggest trying lines combined on single MIDI tracks - as in, cello 1 and 2 just played by one patch on one MIDI track, rather than having separate MIDI tracks. I think you mean you have two separate lines rather than trying to beef up the sound of one line?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Newell View Post
    ...Well, whaddya know? My DAW has a Normalize function. And I'll try playing with and automating the volume in my DAW's Master track. Should I do that before Normalizing?...
    Definitely do automation before Normalizing - that's a final step to insure that you're using the full DB range available. If you would use an actual audio editing program like Sound Forge or Audacity, that makes things easier even though it involves the extra step of importing your mix and then fixing low volumes etc. in that second program. You're trying to do all the work, including mastering in your DAW program, and people do that, but traditionally mastering has been done in a dedicated program - and that does work nicely.

    Randy

  7. #7

    Re: Work for String Orchestra - Your feedback and suggestions are welcome!

    Wow, John, what a piece! This is rather stunning, love the way you build you climaxes, in either direction. Tensions are carefully crafted, either building up by degrees or applied abruptly. Everything makes perfect sense and the whole piece is absolutely coherent and balanced. Rather amazing, really!

    I understand your concerns rendering-wise. Well, you got yourself into troubles as both strings libraries are difficult to handle. GPO strings do not have a lot of "sounds" you'd need for this, and there also is a certain "static-ness" to the samples. Miroslav strings, on the other hand, do have most of the sounds but they are difficult to pull out as you'd have to load lots of different programs and split the tracks among them, assigning specific passages to specific patches. Doesn't really help that Miroslav doesn't have keyswitched programs.
    The main concern to my ears is the lack of expression. This is a piece that begs for interpretation, especially in the realms of vibrato and the simulation of the variation of bows speed. Some phrasings could use those real-world super fast bow sweeps.
    When the texture becomes more dense things tend to fall into place, but in case of exposed lines trouble get in. Both in the violins and cellos.
    None of the above is strictly your fault, except maybe that this is a rather demanding piece rendering-wise.

    Considering that these are samples, though... I think that the rendering, too, is way more than decent and surely is enough to get the idea of your lovely composition.

    Sincere congratulations.

    Fabry

  8. #8

    Re: Work for String Orchestra - Your feedback and suggestions are welcome!

    Thank you so much, Fabry. The suggestions I've received are terrific, and I still have much to do. This is getting to be the busy holiday performance season, and it'll be a bit before I have time to try the things that I've learned from you and Randy. Yeah, the Miroslav Phil seems, for me, more complicated to work with. I'm very encouraged, though, and will post the next version soon.

    Thanks, John
    John Newell
    www.johnnewellmusic.com
    GPO4, Garritan World Instruments, Digital Performer 7.24, Finale 2012, Miroslav Philharmonik

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