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Topic: advice from the experts

  1. #1

    advice from the experts

    dear fellow musicians, years ago i bought a key board,2 proteus2 rackmounts, and a QX5 sequencer( anyone remember that one?). i really wanted to learn orchestration plus i have always loved the sound of a symphony orchestra. at that time,the proteus was the best sample player i could find with orchestra samples. at any rate, i bought the complete score for the nutcracker and proceeded to play it into my QX5, recording each instrument separately. 4 months later, i\'d completed it and recorded it to cassette along with poems from ogden nash between each song (performed by my daughter who was about 9 or 10 at the time). actually, i stole the poems from an old record of the nutcracker with the ogden nash poems recited by peter ustanoff (sp?). when it was finish, i was elated, made several copies, sent one to parents and each of my relatives. they all praised my daughter and i saying that they couldn\'t believe i had done this from a keyboard. as time went by,however,despite the accolades, i became more and more dissatisfied with the sounds and compositions i was creating that i stopped playing my rig and decided to try my hand at playing the piano(i grew up taking organ lessons). i now own a yamaha c6 which i really love. but, looking back, the time i spent working on the nutcracker was just about the most fun i\'ve ever had and i\'d really like to work with sampled instruments again-- it\'s just that i\'m so critical, i don\'t want to go back to the days of the proteus. sorry for the long preamble, but i would like the advise from experts on what i need, hardware and software wise to put together a really class orchestra rig. i\'ve been reading your forun for several months now and all this computer based orchestra sampling, sequencing, and recording sounds like a dream. please give me your opinion on what i need to purchase in order to build from scratch a top notch orchestra rig. PS-- i realize that the talent to produce the final product isn\'t something i can buy, but i have faith in myself to come up with that part of it. thanks in advance for your help.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Gary M. Thomas's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Myrtle Beach, SC (USA)

    Re: advice from the experts

    Well, first... let me say that I\'m no expert. The best sampled orchestra (in my opinion) is The Vienna Symphonic Orchestra Library. The sampler I\'d choose would be GigaStudio.... (version 3.0 is due out next month.) Make sure you get a top notch computer to run these on... (you might wanna \"build your own\" computer system with your choice of components) I am sure you\'ll get numerous answers to your post.... just thought I\'d start it out with my number one choices....... Gary

  3. #3

    Re: advice from the experts

    thanks gary, i\'m hoping to get a good idea of all the components i need, including a keyboard. also, i\'d like the rig to be completely computer based without external mixing boards, effects, etc. i don\'t know enough about computers to build one but i could probably handle installing any plug-ins i may need. thanks again for responding.

  4. #4

    Re: advice from the experts

    thanks again gary, you seem to be the only one interested in helping me unless the other members of this forum are in a totally different time zone and haven\'t woken up yet. i realize that my needs at this time are probably pretty boring subject matter for the \'experts\', but you have to start somewhere and, in my case, it\'s at the beginning.

  5. #5

    Re: advice from the experts

    I\'m NO expert, but I will say that GigaStudio is a great way to go. I\'d wait until the 3.0 release in early May (most likely). www.tascamgiga.com

    As for high-quality orchestral samples. You have alot to choose from. To start, check out :

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Orcas Island

    Re: advice from the experts


    Perhaps I can help (in addition to Gary Thomas).

    Working on the Nutcracker is a lot of fun. This past holiday season, we had the pleasure to work on this classic ballet for seven performances by the Northwest Ballet Theatre. Garritan Personal Orchestra was used as the orchestra for many of the selections that the dancers performed to. The audience could not tell the difference between the sequenced orchestra using GPO and the recorded orchestra. This year, there are several other ballet companies that have expressed interested in using GPO for their Nutcracker performances this upcoming holiday season. We plan to have the entire ballet (over 2 hours of music) completed using Personal Orchestra.

    You asked what you need to put together a really class orchestra rig. GPO ($249) may be ideally suited for your needs along with a modern personal computer, a sequencer (like Sonar or Cubase) and a relatively inexpensive keyboard.

    Tchaikovsky had specific instrumentation when he wrote the Nutcracker. GPO is unique in that can provide instrumentations any way you want rather than have predetermined sections dictated to you. What sets Personal Orchestra apart is its ability to build sections and ensembles from individual expressive instruments. If you want solos, duos, quartets, divisi lines or separate lines - you have them.

    For instance, Tchaikovsky scored for four horns that often play divisi. If you have a library that has 6 horns playing in unison, those six horns are recorded together, or hardwired, starting and stopping exactly the same way and sounding the same each time a note is played. If your piece required 2, 3, 4 (like the Nutcracker), 5, 7 or 8 horns - you are out of luck. And there would be no ability to play separate lines or divisi parts. Also, if your composition should happen to include a triad for horns, you may be stuck with 18 horn players. This is the same for other instrument groupings. With GPO you define the instrumentation you want in any combination you want for the brass, woodwind and even solo string instruments. Each instrument has its own individual character, is vibrant and expressive. When you have many individual instruments playing together, and each line is musical and expressive, it will be clear that this is the best way to orchestrate. If you want a similar instrumentation Tchaikovsky used when he scored the Nutcracker, you have it.

    Here are a few excerpts of the Nutcracker done with GPO:
    Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy
    The Overture
    Chinese Dance
    Ballet Scene 1 - An excerpt from Act 1, Scene 1, the Lighting of the Christmas Tree.
    Ballet Scene 4 - An excerpt from the 4th Scene (Dansante) of Act One from the Nutcracker.

    Some of these were done by users. For next year\'s performances we will work on the entire ballet to make it as close to the real thing as possible.

    Hope you don\'t mind the long post. I’m very excited about the ensemble building feature of GPO and the Nutcracker Ballet was the first performance using GPO.

    Gary Garritan

  7. #7

    Re: advice from the experts

    (Excuse me guys - the post below was written before I saw half of the posts above - must be some kind of time warp!)

    Steven, you\'re probably not hearing from anyone but Gary because most would probably agree with him.


    The last few years have seen some breakthroughs in technology which make the realistic imitation of an orchestra a much more achievable goal.

    First Nemesys developed Gigasampler/studio, the first sampler which could stream samples from hard disk. Sound sets no longer had to fit into 16/32/128mb of ram or rom.

    Then some whacky European guys came up with the idea of recording the various parts of a full orchestra, in EXTREME detail – using some clever software layered on top of Gigastudio. This is the Vienna Symphonic Library.

    Gigastudio has tended to be used a bit like a ‘sound module’ by most people – with sequencer and daw operations carried out on a second PC. This is because Gigastudio is coded at ‘kernel’ level and takes a fair bit of tweaking to make work with these other apps on the same machine. Gigastudio performs really well on a minimum of a PIII800.

    After Gigastudio came two other notable soft samplers designed to do the same thing – Steinberg’s HALion and Native Instruments’ Kontakt. Both these soft samplers are designed to work within a sequencer using the VST protocols (Kontakt will work stand alone as well). There are regular debates as to which is best, all I can say is that developers I speak to praise Hallion’s programming facilities highly. Kontakt is well thought of, but it’s disk streaming function has been problematic until recently (pops and clicks).

    The yardstick for these other samples seems to be how well they import Gigastudio library, which says a lot for Gigastudio.

    Native Instruments has entered into partnerships with several library developers and created specialised versions of Kontakt for certain libraries – like East West’s Quantum Leap Orchestra and Gary Garritan’s Personal Orchestra. I believe some library developers are a little hesitant to develop for HALion because Steinberg have strong ties with one of the larger library developers – Wizoo. Still, as long as HAL imports well, this is not that relevant.

    Gigastudio has fallen out of grace in the last couple of years while the Nemesys guys coded Gigastudio 3 for their new owners – Tascam - from the ground up. Many people wanted VST integration, others wanted unlimited polyphony (or at least limited only by the PC’s muscle), and after Nemesys conducted a user survey, the wish list suggestions ran into the hundreds.

    Gigastudio 3 should be out in the next couple of months, and offers several interesting features which make it very competitive. It will integrate on the same PC via Propellerheads Re-Wire protocol, which is very much like VSTi integration. It has unlimited polyphony. It also uses a relatively new type of reverb called convolution reverb which does for reverb what sampling did for synthesis. Ultimately, spaces sound much more real. Given that there are claims that Gigastudio 3 will require no more system resources than Gigastudio 2.5 when (using the same configuration – no convolver etc.,) the idea of running it on a 3ghz P4 looks pretty attractive.

    Libraries -

    The VSL is an unusual beast. Countless man hours have been spent creating as realistic a set of samples as possible - to the point where they\'re able to accurately mimic the sound an instrument makes BETWEEN notes. (yes - between). That may sound frivolous, but it wasn’t until users ended up with multi chromatic, multi velocity, multi articulated sample libraries and STILL didn’t feel like they were able to get a REAL solo sound that people realised that it was the transitions from note to note that we’re missing. The slurs, the slides, the tied notes, the palm mutes etc. - that’s where a LOT of the time that’s gone into VSL has been spent – and it shows.

    One caveat regarding VSL is that it is a resource intensive library. Depending on your arrangement requirements, it is possible that you may find yourself wanting a second, or even third, PC to run the library on. As far as I can tell, this is largely because it uses many, many samples, each one requiring a small amount of ram, and there\'s a limit to how much ram a pc will take advantage.

    Stringing a few PCs together isn\'t mind boggling, and lately there have been networking developments which can allow you to use one audio card with a few PCs - routing the midi and audio between master and slaves via a simple LAN cable. That’s cheap.

    Another popular \'all in one\' library is the East West Quantum Leap Orchestral Library. It also has a huge number of well recorded instruments, but EWQL used a very different recording approach. Where VSL is recorded with virtually no room ambience, the sounds in EWQLSO are recorded ‘in situ’ – ie on a real sound stage. The aim here was to recreate as accurate a recorded symphonic sound as possible ‘out of the box’. However, each sample is recorded with mics in 3 different positions, so you get to choose whether you want a ‘close miked’ sound, a lot of room, or something in between.

    Both VSL and EWQLSO were designed as no-holds-barred efforts to replicate an orchestra, and they do a great job, but you don’t get all that work for nothing. Recently, Gary Garritan the creator of the GOS strings library, released the Garritan Personal Orchestra - a full orchestral library designed so that it could be loaded into a single pc (even a laptop), and could be afforded by student musicians. It is well featured, comes with a Kontakt player, and is extremely inexpensive.

    Following the release of GPO, EWQL and VSL announced ‘cut down’ versions of their libraries. EWQLSO now comes in Silver, Gold and Platinum versions, and VSL is available in an Opus version. These are all extremely good value, and allow the budget-challenged among us to perhaps consider owning a version of all three libraries.

    Hope this helps put you a little more in the picture.


  8. #8
    Senior Member Gary M. Thomas's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Myrtle Beach, SC (USA)

    Re: advice from the experts

    Steven... for a good controller keyboard.... Check these out.

    Gary [img]images/icons/cool.gif[/img]

  9. #9

    Re: advice from the experts

    hi gary,matt,gary garritan,rick,and sharmy, thanks for your feedback. i really appreciate it.

    as far as sharmy\'s question on finances, i\'m willing to spend what it takes to have a state-of-the-art system, but,once again, i\'d like it to be all within the computer enviornment if possible ie. samples,notation/sequencing,mixing,effects,compression/limiting,and recording with the only outside gear being a controller keyboard,amp., and speakers. i get the impression that, at this time, this may require more than one computer,but, it sounds like some of the lastest sampler versions may change that--- is this correct. thanks again for the valuable feedback

  10. #10

    Re: advice from the experts

    i forgot to add something, the two most impotant things to me are the final product and the ease of use--- i\'m hoping to have a top notch system that doesn\'t fill up half a room with wires all over the place. my last consideration is price-- i don\'t want to sound flippant, it\'s just that this is a pure hobby for me,like someone who might love sailing,or have some other passion. so, the money part really isn\'t that important to me--- 18 years ago, i spent over $5k for a roland jupiter synth. that you could fit inside a $200 casio today (still bothers me when i think about it,but the music is #1) .

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