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Topic: 1st GPO mock-up

  1. #1

    1st GPO mock-up

    I've had fun learning Overture and GPO by doing a mock-up of Alexander Borodine's "On the Steppes of Central Asia":

    Borodine: On the Steppes of Central Asia

    Although part of the standard orchestral repertoire, it's kind of at the back of the shelf (most likely because it's so unassuming). I've always loved this piece, as it's one of the best examples of basic orchestration that I know. It essentially consists of two melodies, first passed back and forth and and then played in various combinations.

    Comments are appreciated!

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    UK- teeming with life....

    Re: 1st GPO mock-up

    Darwin, I can\'t really comment too much on the accuracy of this piece (although I do like Borodin) as I don\'t know it well enough.... although I do recognise the well known theme in the second half which was used in a film or some pop music I believe. However it really does sound like that which I would expect to hear.....and mostly sounds totally realistic.

    I like the way the brass comes in at around 3:00. I think the piece is beautifully produced although the strings tend to have some \'sucking\' effect in the second half around 4:00. This effect almost sounds how you might expect the strings to sound if they were played backwards. I think there are other ways of using the strings to overcome this and I think these have been discussed in the forum.

    Bear in mind that I\'m being very critical here....the piece really is a fantastic effort.....very admirable.


  3. #3

    Re: 1st GPO mock-up


    I think this Borodine is very nicely realized. Very natural, realistic and soothing.

    Tempo is a little fast to me, especially the first presentation of the melody.


  4. #4

    Re: 1st GPO mock-up

    Hi Darwin, very nicely done. I have a few comments for you. I would increase the violins\' pitch to around 15.6 on the master tune or use the tuning knob on the Kontakt player and set it to (.12) provided your other instruments have not been altered. Something else that I noticed and it might not be anything you have done, around 2:45 where it is supposed to get much louder, it doesn\'t, but it becomes distorted somewhat, perhaps it got that way during the MP3 conversion and then around 3:10 it should get quiet again, but in fact it stays the same volume. If you are using audio compression on the entire mix, I would get rid of it. Oh man, that annoying looping of the flute at the end, but that\'s part of an inexpensive sample library and certainly not your fault. One of the reasons I want to get GOS, NO LOOPING, at least I think that\'s the case. Great job though! Alot of work and time went into this I\'m sure [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img] Super job!!!!

  5. #5

    Re: 1st GPO mock-up

    A big thank you to each of you for your kind words of encouragement! I will try to address each of your observations as best I can below.


    I noticed the \'sucking sound\' too. I have a number of theories, apart from the patch itself. First, I tend to push the strings too far forward because I\'m so knocked out having a decent string sound for once. Second, most of these passages are violin 1 & II in octaves, doubled by flutes in octaves, so that may tend to exaggerate the \"breathing/sucking\" artifact. Also, I kind of went overboard with the modulation, trying to bring out the fast notes (especially the turns in the \"Eastern\" melody) without having to resort to short bows. So there are likely things I will do differently in the future.

    Another cause might just be the eq of the strings, which, at least for the short bow + sus viols I & II, tend to be quite bright. Yet, I\'d rather have this situation than strings that are too muffled. For mock-up purposes, I find this is fine. Maybe Gary will add some rudimentary midi channel or patch-oriented eq to the GPO studio someday. I will likely never go into full-blown mixdown mode and am satisfied to accept GPO sounds \"out of the box\".


    The tempo comment is interesting. In fact, I felt the same way, reducing the overall published tempo from 92 bpm to 90 bpm, but still felt the first two melodic phrases sounded a bit rushed. This is especially felt when listening to the final flute phrase at the end of the piece and then hitting playback again from the beginning. I\'d considered some soloistic license (rubato) at the beginning, but then thought that perhaps these initial statements of the theme would best be played plainly, as a more stark contrast to later restatements.


    The pitch issues concerned me from a previous post I\'d read a few days earlier. Do you mean the sustained viols at the start, the melodic lines, or both?

    As for the sustained octaves, I had something of a technical problem. First, the score calls for the sections to slowly feather in over the first 40 measures. To do this I used the gagli solo viols, but I actually used two patches, gagli ens1 and gagli ens2, and then tuned these 10 cents apart (+5 viol I, -5 viol II), gradually increasing the volume. Maybe this is what you are hearing. I used such a large relative detuning because, having performed this piece, the viols rarely play this in tune, as it is very high up the fingerboard. Incidentally, I picked the gagli solo patch because it had the least vibrato on the notes I needed, as I was looking for almost a \"white sound\" for these sustained notes.

    Speaking of high, I had another technical problem in that the top sustained note is a non-harmonic e7, while none of the violin patches (solo or ensemble) extend beyond d7. (Actually, all these violin patches really need to go up to at least g7. These notes may not get used much, but they need to be there). So I had to detune the gagli ens1 & 2 patches up a whole tone and adjust the transposition in Overture\'s \"tracks\" window. I had a similar problem with the clarinet in \"A\" on the low end. As it turns out, this score uses the lowest note of the \"A\" clarinet in one phrase, so I had to detune the Bb clarinet a half step to pick this note up. Maybe Gary can extend these ranges in a future release, or better yet, someday provide a separate \"A\" clarinet as well!

    As for the volume, I\'m using no compression. The tutti at 2:48 is scored with the modulation pretty much wide open, and the meters on the Ambience reverb noticeably jump higher, so I\'m not sure what the problem could be. Also, I have no distortion on this end, either in the .wav or .mp3 playback.

    I agree that 3:11 could be softer, as the transition is from ff to mf. The modulation levels are cut way back here, but the lowered-velocity pizzicato strings, even at that level, tend to dominate the mix. However, after having previously considering it, I left it as is because it sounded more ominous, which is what I think Borodine might have been shooting for. Then again, maybe it\'s just me; I really like ominous! In any event, the passage quickly quiets down by 3:27.

    Thanks again for everyone\'s input -- it will help make future work that much better!

  6. #6

  7. #7

    Re: Revised

    Hi Darwin, the strings are more noticably flat around the 30 second mark when the horn comes in, it is a good reference for pitch, and after hearing the horn you realize how \"under\" the strings are. The pitch of all the solo violins is great to my taste, it\'s just the vlns lush mutes and vlns lush as well as some others, but the solos are fine in the program. Still sounds great, I always have to fix the pitch of certain things.... I\'m really picky though [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img] Still a great job!

  8. #8

    Re: Revised

    Darwin, very beautiful job, especially the chamber music sections. I also love this piece and conducted it a few years ago.

    Here are my 2 cents:

    As a general comment, is there anyway to make the articulations sound less \"chopped off\" at the end of the slurs? This is also something I\'ve come across and my workaround has been simply to mix different layers with different bows. I really would like to know if someone knows how to fix this.

    Maybe you could take more time to breath at the end of the phrases on occasions, like the English Horn solo, for example.

    The general pace of the piece is a tricky thing as I remember. It always seems that the tempo at 2\'45 is a bit fast for the beginning. I tried to solve it by starting a bit tentatively and taking the real tempo when the first pizz come in.

    When you get to the strings singing theme, they sound a bit subdued. I know it says P cantabile, but there should be room to make a dim at the end of each phrase. This is especially true when the violins have it in the G string.

    You might want to check the notes at 5\'05 (letter G in my Eulemburg score). I think you are playing a G# in the 2nd bassoon. It should be just like the clarinets 8 measures later.

    I especially enjoyed the \"sharp\" feeling of the first clarinet solo. VERY REALISTIC!! [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/cool.gif[/img]In my performances, the horn entrance seemed always low afterwards, but actually he was the one right on!

    Congrats. again and keep the good work!


  9. #9

    Re: Revised


    I finally checked the piece with a tuner and find that the upper string parts do vary in pitch quite a bit. You have very good ears! Sustained notes (and this piece has a lot of sustained notes) can really expose any tuning anomalies in the samples that might exist, either overall or on specific pitches. So in the future, it might be a good practice to spot check any sustained passages where accurate tuning is desired.

    I think my problem is that I have been exposed to too many strings sections over the years! I\'m quite forgiving when it comes to string intonation. As long as it doesn\'t make me cringe or start eyeing the exit, I\'m usually OK with it. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

    Thanks much for giving a second listen!


    I tend to round down the modulation at the end of a phrase, but even that doesn\'t help in some cases. Unlike with the winds and brass (who need to breath), I think extending note values full length for most string phrases might help and could have done more along those lines. Unfortunately, it\'s a constant battle between clarity and expression with synthetic string parts.

    Breathing is something I always try to keep in mind, and tried to stay aware of it as I was laying this out. Borodin has all these tenuto marks in the English horn part (Kalmus edition), yet your observation is correct that a real player would have to breath somewhere in there, despite the tenuto markings (unless he is the only circular-breathing English horn on the planet).

    The pacing recommendation is a good one. Things could be a bit looser until a definite tempo kicks in and that practice could be applicable to a lot of other works as well. This is something that perhaps only a good conductor would have insight into. Modeling music in GPO is very much like conducting in (extreme) slow motion, so any observations you can toss out along these lines is very much appreciated.

    The sul G section should come up in volume. I\'m finding the \'mixing thing\' is very difficult to get right...it\'s sort of like juggling seventeen water balloons at once. Part of the problem is I have to mix this stuff with headphones only, which further complicates the matter. As with regular monitors, maybe using several sets of headphones of varying quality for reference might help correct certain obvious balance problems.

    I can\'t believe you detected the G# in the 2nd bassoon...great ears!! Amaj7 vs. A7 is an interesting variation, but certainly not what Borodin wanted. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/blush.gif[/img]

    Thanks for listening and taking the time to provide such detailed feedback!

  10. #10

    Re: Revised

    Hi Darwin, really picky ears are great, but sometimes a curse.... like you said, we just have to be forgiving of players and their instruments that are somewhat inaccurate by their nature (fretless). It would be really awesome if all the string players had perfect pitch, then they would know to change [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img] Oh well, what would life be like without them,, ? oooooh I don\'t even want to think of that... I have a piece all done for posting, but I have no website to upload it to. I basically copied (by ear) Dvorjak\'s demo piece that is on the website. I love that thing. I am a recording enginner and I play all the parts in by ear, no sheet music, although I can sight read to sing, I can\'t sight read to play. I only had three months of piano when I was seven, so now since my purchase of some midi gear and GPO, I have just recently been able to let out the gifts that God blessed me with. I use Digital Performer for sequencing and digital audio, and a separate Dell PC for GPO with an RME Hammerfall HDSP 9652 soundcard. Hey, maybe I could send you the MP3 and you could post it for me? Then you could tell me what you think, because your talent is evident and I would like to know. Thanks Darwin

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