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Topic: How to improve midi mockup of ravel (midi + mp3)

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  1. #1

    How to improve midi mockup of ravel (midi + mp3)

    Hi,

    I have created a midi mockup of Maurice Ravel\'s \"Pavane de la Belle au bois dormant\" from the Mother Goose Suite (Ma Mere l\'Oye).

    As reference, I compared it with a recording of the same piece by a real orchestra: the 1994 recording played by the Berliner Philharmoniker, conducted by Pierre Boulez and published by \"Deutsche Grammaphon).

    What is sadly missing in my midi mockup, compared to the real orchestra recording, is aliveness. I have tried a number of things to approve the aliveness, but those did not help enough and I am now rather stuck what to do further.

    Do you know how I can get more life in my midi mockup?

    If you would like to try it yourself, here you have links to the midi file, an Audio Logic 5.5 file and my final audio (mp3) file:

    http://users.raketnet.nl/woodwind/Ravel%20-%20Pavane%20-%20T%20and%20E.MID
    http://users.raketnet.nl/woodwind/Ravel%20-%20Pavane%20-%20T%20and%20E.LSO
    http://users.raketnet.nl/woodwind/Ravel%20-%20Pavane%20-%20T%20and%20E.mp3

    Please note that I used GPO, so the midi (and logic) file are optimized for GPO. They contain controller messages for expression and portamento that are appropriate for GPO but will be completely wrong when you try to play the midi file using another orchestral library, so you may have to remove these controller messages.

    [Track Nr] Instrument according to the score {GPU instrument used}
    [1] Flute 1 {Flute Solo V}
    [2] Flute 2 {Flute Solo V}
    [3] Oboe {Oboe Classical Solo}
    [4] English Horn {English Horn 1 Solo}
    [5] Clarinet in Bb {Bb Clarinet Ens 1 + Bb Clarinet Ens 3}
    [6] Clarinet in Bb {Bass Clarinet Solo}
    [7] French Horn {French Horn Ens 1 + French Horn Ens 2}
    [8] Harp {Chromatic Harp 1 Lite}
    [9] Harp (Harmonics) {Harp Harmonics 1}
    [10] Violins I (sordino) {Vlns 1 Lush Mute}
    [11] Violins II (pizzicato) {Vlns 2 Pizzicato}
    [12] Violins II (arco) {Vlns 2 Sus+Short}
    [13] Violas (pizzicato) {Violas Pizzicato}
    [14] Violas (arco) {Violas Sus+Short}
    [15] Cellos (pizzicato) {Cellos Pizzicato}
    [16] Cellos (sordino) {Cellos Sus+Short Mutes}
    [17] Cellos (arco) {Cellos Sus+Short}
    [18] Contrabasses (pizzicato) {Basses Pizzicato}
    [19] Contrabasses (arco) {Basses Sus+Short}
    [20] Contrabasses (harmonics) {Basses Sus+Short Mutes}

    My approach for this piece was very time consuming. It has cost me much more then a single afternoon or weekend (which is often mentioned by other GPO users for creating their demos). So I am also very interested how I can improve on this aspect.

    1) Entering the score:

    As I am a slow note reader, I have not played each part of the orchestral score in real-time, but instead entered the score in (the score editor) Overture.

    I then exported the score to a midi file and imported that in my sequencer Audio Logic. In Audio Logic, I found that the duration of all notes were shorter (by 10%) then I had entered them. So if you have a phrase consisting of four quarter notes in a row, there is a time gap of 10% between each of those notes. These gaps are created by Overture (so much for legato phrases) and I had to remove them manually in Audio Logic.

    2) Overall balancing of all instruments

    With GPO, to change the volume of each instrument you can use the modwheel (expression) midi controller. The first thing I tried was to look at the pp, p and f indication on the score, \"translate\" this value to a corresponding expression controller value and insert a controller message for each instrument / phrase. Sadly, the overall effect did not come anywhere close to what I heard on the actual orchestra recording.

    So instead, to find the correct volume for each instrument, I added an audio track in Audio Logic and inserted the recording of the real orchestra. Next I muted all midi tracks except one instrument and then slowly increased the volume (expression controller) of that GPO instrument until it matched the volume of the same instrument on the audio track. I repeated this for all instruments and all phrases. This is rather time consuming, but resulted in a much better balancing between all instruments.

    3) Get the tempo right

    One aspect to get my midi mockup sound more alive was to let the tempo change within the piece. I created a click/tempo track, listened to just the audio track of the real orchestra and hit the C key on each beat. I then played my midi tracks using the new created tempo track, but then discovered that now my midi mockup had too much life as it sounded very much like a drunken sailor. :-) So I examined the tempo track and replaced the abrupt tempo changes with gradual tempo changes which I drew using the graphical tempo editor. The end result sounded much more natural.

    4) More expression on individual instruments

    To get more life, I have added more expression to (only) the instruments that play the melody (the flutes and the clarinet).

    By listening carefully to the real orchestra recording (played on half speed), I tried to hear the gradual volume changes in these instruments and drew a kind of volume change graphs on my paper score. For the clarinet, I then played and recorded the volume changes in real-time using the modwheel. With the flute, I got better results by drawing them graphically in Audio Logic.

    I used a light portamento effect on the con sordino strings.

    5) Getting the correct instrument color.

    The lush muted strings played by GPO sounded brighter then on the real orchestra recording. I softened the string using a simple low pass filter.

    GPO offers only one \"velocity\" level for the clarinet, which in this case sounded to \"harsh\". The score asked for \"pp\" and to get this softer tone, I created and used a clarinet ensemble.

    The score also asked for the contrabasses playing harmonics, something that GPO does not offer. As alternative, I transposed the track one octave higher and played the track using muted basses.

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    Rob.

  2. #2

    Re: How to improve midi mockup of ravel (midi + mp3)

    Rob,

    I\'ve been working on a mockup of this very same piece, on and off, for a few weeks, also using GPO. I don\'t have time just now to write a long reply, but here are a couple of thoughts:

    - I played in all the parts rather than step-entering them. Recently I\'ve decided to go back and redo the solo parts using my wind controller rather than using the mod wheel as I did in my first pass. What you\'ve done so far sounds pretty good, considering that it\'s step-entered.

    - The first long flute note is a problem, because of the fixed tremolo/vibrato. In my mockup I\'ve been vacillating between using Time Machine II in full Kontakt to vary the tremolo in those long notes, or interpolating a note using the NV flute patch, hand-adding some tremolo with my wind controller.

    - You\'re right on about the problem with pp notes in GPO: for the most part the samples are bright forte or mezzo forte, and then they get a dynamic mid-frequency EQ cut with modwheel control, which works amazingly well in many cases, but is nonetheless a compromise with reality. (Ironically, a well-known competitor is trying to make a case on his web site that GPO instruments are too \"dark\" -- which just goes to show how much confusion there is in all this to be taken advantage of.) I haven\'t yet decided what to do about the pp strings at the end of the piece. I\'ve been slowly reprogramming some of my other libraries to play in Kontakt GPO-style, and I\'m intending build my own little ensemble using some pp solo violin samples, for passages just like that one.

    - As I learn more about how all this is done (not being by any means an expert or a pro), I\'m constantly reminded of the truth of what BruceR and others have said all along about how much can (and should) be done via processing the individual tracks after they\'ve been rendered to audio. Could be that you could take care of most of the issues you think you hear through more detailed track-by-track audio processing.

    Greg

  3. #3
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    Re: How to improve midi mockup of ravel (midi + mp3)

    The tempo still sounds a little too straight. This is one of those pieces that the tempo is more rubato. Speed up towards the 2nd beat and then slow down more towards the end of the measure. Put the tempo changes in for about 4 measures and listen to your results. It\'s surprising how much a real orchestra varies tempo from beat to beat. I find slow pieces and waltzes are the toughest.

    I\'ve been bugging Gary for a flute without so much vibrato. I find the Dan Dean Woodwinds flute works much better for this kind of playing.

    BTW, Ravel is not easy to mockup and I always find it quite a challenge.

  4. #4

    Re: How to improve midi mockup of ravel (midi + mp3)

    Hi Greg,

    [ QUOTE ]
    I\'ve been working on a mockup of this very same piece, on and off, for a few weeks, also using GPO.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    When you have finished it, I would love to listen to it.
    I am finding out that a score is not so absolute and that there is much interpretation involved. So I am very interested in how your version will sound!

    [ QUOTE ]
    I\'ve decided to go back and redo the solo parts using my wind controller

    [/ QUOTE ]

    I can imagine that this will make a big difference with all wind instruments.

    In my case, as I am keyboard player/hobbyist with no wind instrument experience, it is probably safer to stick with the modwheel. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]

    [ QUOTE ]
    I\'ve been vacillating between using Time Machine II in full Kontakt to vary the tremolo in those long notes, or interpolating a note using the NV flute patch, hand-adding some tremolo with my wind controller.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    What is the Time Machine?

    I am using the Kontakt Player and with that I do not seem to be able to add tremelo (that is, adding artificial tremelo and controlling the LFO amount). Or should I create tremelo by sending pitchbend control messages?

    [ QUOTE ]
    You\'re right on about the problem with pp notes in GPO: for the most part the samples are bright forte or mezzo forte, and then they get a dynamic mid-frequency EQ cut with modwheel control

    [/ QUOTE ]

    The mid-frequency EQ cut is something I had not really heard yet. I have listened today to various solo woodwind and brass instruments, but I find it difficult to hear the changes in tone color when using the modwheel. Could this be a difference between playing GPO with the kontakt player versus the full Kontakt sampler?

    [ QUOTE ]
    how much can (and should) be done via processing the individual tracks after they\'ve been rendered to audio. Could be that you could take care of most of the issues you think you hear through more detailed track-by-track audio processing.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Sadly, I do not know much about audio post-processing yet.
    I will ask my music tutor for his help (he is currently graduating as sound engineer, so he should know everything about this aspect).

    Thanks for your reply.

    Rob.

  5. #5

    Re: How to improve midi mockup of ravel (midi + mp3)

    Hi Haydn,

    [ QUOTE ]
    The tempo still sounds a little too straight. This is one of those pieces that the tempo is more rubato. Speed up towards the 2nd beat and then slow down more towards the end of the measure. Put the tempo changes in for about 4 measures and listen to your results.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    I will try that.

    [ QUOTE ]
    It\'s surprising how much a real orchestra varies tempo from beat to beat.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    You are right.
    I had already heard the gradual tempo changes between measures and have put these (as good as I am able to) in my midi mockup, but have not gone to the beat level yet.

    Again, lots of lively interpretation going on (in this case concerning tempo) which is not obvious from reading the score.

    Thanks for your reply.

    Rob.

  6. #6

    Re: How to improve midi mockup of ravel (midi + mp3)

    [ QUOTE ]
    When you have finished it, I would love to listen to it.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    That would be fun. You\'re giving me an incentive to finish it. One twiddly thing holding me back was trying to figure out the actual pitch of that bass harmonic. Apparently Ravel wasn\'t consistent in notating harmonics, and I haven\'t yet figured it out, listening to recordings.

    [ QUOTE ]
    In my case, as I am keyboard player/hobbyist with no wind instrument experience, it is probably safer to stick with the modwheel. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Modwheel works amazingly well. I was pretty pleased with the first GPO mockup I ever did, using just the modwheel.

    [ QUOTE ]
    What is the Time Machine?

    [/ QUOTE ]

    It\'s a midi-controllable time-stretching function in full Kontakt. It doesn\'t quite work well enough to be relied on heavily. By time-stretching the tremolo or vibrato recorded into a sample you can vary it somewhat.

    [ QUOTE ]
    I am using the Kontakt Player and with that I do not seem to be able to add tremelo (that is, adding artificial tremelo and controlling the LFO amount). Or should I create tremelo by sending pitchbend control messages?

    [/ QUOTE ]

    For flute tremolo you probably wouldn\'t want to use any pitchbend at all, because it\'s almost all amplitude vibrato. Wiggling the modwheel is your best bet. In fact, it has seemed to me that with judicious use of the modwheel you can sometimes give the illusion of varying tremolo/vibrato. It\'s all in the wrist ;-)

    One of the tricky things about flute tremolo is that there\'s quite a bit of audible variation in the breath noise, even when the flute is pretty far back. So simply wiggling the modwheel on the NV flute sample doesn\'t quite make it, because you don\'t hear the breath noise rising and falling. A slightly more detailed instrument might crossfade some sampled breath noise under modwheel control.

    [ QUOTE ]
    The mid-frequency EQ cut is something I had not really heard yet. I have listened today to various solo woodwind and brass instruments, but I find it difficult to hear the changes in tone color when using the modwheel. Could this be a difference between playing GPO with the kontakt player versus the full Kontakt sampler?

    [/ QUOTE ]

    There\'s no advantage to using full Kontakt in this regard. The change in tone color, I think, is meant to be subtler than you might get if you were to use the more common dynamic low-pass filtering. The idea behind doing a dynamic mid-range EQ pinch, I think, was to be able to leave some high-frequency \"presence\" in.

    [ QUOTE ]
    Sadly, I do not know much about audio post-processing yet.
    I will ask my music tutor for his help (he is currently graduating as sound engineer, so he should know everything about this aspect).

    [/ QUOTE ]

    I never cease to be amazed at all the twenty-somethings on this forum who on the one hand haven\'t listened to anything like the amount of classical orchestral music that I have, but who on the other hand have far, far better ears than I do for what makes a good-sounding reverb. And I\'m not being sarcastic; they really do. Because I\'m so backwards in this area, I lean heavily on Cakewalk\'s FX3 Soundstage plugin. I love that little beast. I am learning, though, how to use it just to set the soundstage, and then use impulses for reverb tails. But it does seem to me that some of the issues you\'re grappling with, such as not being able to get a \"soft\" enough sound for this particular piece of music, might be solved through imaginative soundstaging, by using GPO\'s \"ensemble builder\" idea to the hilt -- particularly with the strings -- and by spreading the instruments over a deeper field than could happen on a real stage. But I\'m groping my way along too slowly to be able to tell you that with certainty.

    Next, let\'s work on the Jardin Feerique from the same suite. Man, if we could get that soft string sound right in the opening few bars, we\'d be heroes!

    Greg

  7. #7

    Re: How to improve midi mockup of ravel (midi + mp3)

    hi Greg

    i just wanted to make a small comment on what you said about the 20 + years people and reverb, i am totally amazed at the number of ways the human ear can focus on sound, you mentioned your orchestral history, but you can also compare the other ways the ear functions, in interpretations, improvisation etc

    i hope i am not out of place here but the ability of the human ear and brain to focus on sound in so many different ways is a wonder to me

  8. #8

    Re: How to improve midi mockup of ravel (midi + mp3)

    Hi Greg,

    [ QUOTE ]
    One twiddly thing holding me back was trying to figure out the actual pitch of that bass harmonic. Apparently Ravel wasn\'t consistent in notating harmonics, and I haven\'t yet figured it out, listening to recordings.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    I have only a limited amount of note reading skill, so I was already happy that I could decipher all the special notation on the score (such as the harmonics) and now we cannot even trust the score itself. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/frown.gif[/img] [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

    [ QUOTE ]
    For flute tremolo you probably wouldn\'t want to use any pitchbend at all, because it\'s almost all amplitude vibrato.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    You are right.

    [ QUOTE ]
    with judicious use of the modwheel you can sometimes give the illusion of varying tremolo/vibrato. It\'s all in the wrist ;-)

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Seems like a RSI risk to me. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

    [ QUOTE ]
    One of the tricky things about flute tremolo is that there\'s quite a bit of audible variation in the breath noise

    [/ QUOTE ]

    I have thought about adding some breathing noises, but sadly they are not available in GPO. XSample does have effect sounds on their woodwind CDs, but no breathing noises either.

    [ QUOTE ]
    The change in tone color, I think, is meant to be subtler than you might get if you were to use the more common dynamic low-pass filtering.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    For my ears, maybe to subtle.
    I would have liked it when GPO would have an extra midi message controlled low pass filter as most synthesizers have.

    [ QUOTE ]
    does seem to me that some of the issues you\'re grappling with, such as not being able to get a \"soft\" enough sound for this particular piece of music, might be solved through imaginative soundstaging, by using GPO\'s \"ensemble builder\" idea to the hilt -- particularly with the strings -- and by spreading the instruments over a deeper field than could or would happen in a real concert.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    I can imagine that.

    [ QUOTE ]
    Next, let\'s work on the Jardin Feerique from the same suite. Man, if we could get that soft string sound right in the opening few bars, we\'d be heroes!

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Well ... I have worked on the Pavane on and off during two months, much longer then anticipated, so I am a bit wary to take upon another midi mockup soon. Also, I have so much other things that I am working on, like orchestration, transforming my improvisations to real songs/pieces by learning composition, etc. So many interesting projects and too little free time for doing them. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/frown.gif[/img]

    Jardin Feerique is a really beautiful piece. I had already step-entered the opening part of Jardin Feerique, but have not added any expression modulation or tempo modulation yet. This piece surely requires lots of them!

    Even without any expression and without audio processing (except for reverb), I was surprised that the basic sound of the GPO strings is allready not to far from the real orchestra sound. It should be softened a bit though. And it does need lots of expression and tempo modulation.

    This are links to the midi file and mp3 file:
    http://users.raketnet.nl/woodwind/Ravel%20-%20Jardin%20Feerique.MID
    http://users.raketnet.nl/woodwind/Ravel%20-%20Jardin%20Feerique.mp3

    Greetings,

    Rob.

  9. #9

    Re: How to improve midi mockup of ravel (midi + mp3)

    Hi Charles,

    [ QUOTE ]
    i hope i am not out of place here but the ability of the human ear and brain to focus on sound in so many different ways is a wonder to me

    [/ QUOTE ]

    It\'s a wonder to me, too. I spent many years learning how to make a \"big\" sound on a classical guitar, completely without regard for the reality, which was that most of my performing experiences would require sound reinforcement, which entails a fairly drastic adjustment in playing technique. All the time I was playing out, I never felt I really learned the secrets of outstanding sound reinforcement. It made me feel for a long time that there was an impenetrable divide between the acoustic and the electronic world, and that I had better keep to my side.

    Now that I\'m up to my eyeballs in computer music, seems as if I\'ve managed to slip into the deep end of the pool first, having read a few too many computer music textbooks and gotten all engrossed in the technicalities of \"advanced\" sample and synth programming without having undergone the usual apprenticeship in general audio engineering that many of the forum regulars take for granted. No doubt that\'s why I keep coming across as an idiot savant in all my posts.

    Too bad we don\'t live for several hundred years!

    Greg

  10. #10

    Re: How to improve midi mockup of ravel (midi + mp3)

    Rob,

    [ QUOTE ]
    Even without any expression and without audio processing (except for reverb), I was surprised that the basic sound of the GPO strings is allready not to far from the real orchestra sound. It should be softened a bit though. And it does need lots of expression and tempo modulation.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Ahh . . . you\'re right -- it comes close enough to make you feel it must be feasible somehow to get it really happening. That\'s a tribute to Ravel\'s orchestration, as well as to GPO. Bars 20-22 of this piece are one of those all-time never-get-tired-of-it transcendental moments for me. I\'ll have to psych myself up to feel as if I deserve to play them.

    Greg

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