I have had the GPO for 2 whole days now and I FINALLY finished re-arranging a hymn that will be on my upcoming "Orchestral Hymns Vol. 1" CD that I'm currently working on.
First, let the gushing begin:
1. I have been searching FOR 10 STINKIN' YEARS for a library like this. Over the last 10 years I have been using purchased Soundfonts and also Soundfonts that I've found on the Internet (after scouring for hours!). And, as you well know, nothing comes CLOSE to the GPO.
2. YOU PEOPLE ABSOLUTELY AMAZE ME!
3. I got the GPO on Friday, dinked around yesterday a bit, then last night I loaded up the various sounds (Cakewalk 3.11 PE) and tried a few more things out, and then I sat there with a silly grin on my face (this was at about 1:30 a.m. this morning) and realized...THIS IS IT!!!
Several months ago (before I heard about GPO and all that), I completed one song towards my new album and was actually quite satisfied with it (using the old technology) and I then determined that as long as I was going to go through the trouble of arranging 10 hymns using orchestra, I might as well at least make a passing attempt to see if anything had changed in the arena of orchestral libraries in the last 9 months or so. I am a HUGE fan of Roland ANYTHING, so I first checked out the HQ Orchestral DXi package and it's not bad, but quite spendy for what you appear to get.
I then SOMEHOW (I can't even remember how...duh??) stumbled onto the GPO main site and played the Shenendoah .mp3 file and was BLOWN AWAY. Then, like any good obsessive/compulsive, I immediately downloaded every single .mp3 file on the Garritan site, burned them all to a rewritable CD and slapped it in my portable CD player for about 4 days straight (going to and from work and other places), I literally immersed myself in all of YOUR works to see what this thing was all about.
As you can imagine, once you hear all the examples, the case is closed. Had to have it.
I'll shut up now and get you the link to the first attempt, but first here's some general information about the two files that I would like you all to hear:
Hymn: It Is Well with my Soul
Using Old Soundfont Technology: http://kevinselby.com/musicfiles/gpo/ItIsWellOld.mp3
Using GPO (and GPO only!): http://kevinselby.com/musicfiles/gpo/ItIsWellGPO.mp3
Both .mp3's are rough mixes, I would probably spend a bit more time tweaking all the tracks to get a better mix. In some areas of the song, the piano melody is eclipsed by cello counterpoint. I will definitely remix before it goes on the new CD.
Grand Piano Soundfont (which I will actually use for other projects, it's pretty good, however, a little bright and clangy for classical work)
Legato Strings Soundfont
Acoustic Bass Soundfont
Cello Soundfont (that used to be a Kurzweil patch that I converted).
Full Steinway Grand Piano (PERFECT for classical applications...LOVE that sound...they did a great job!). Loaded it as a DXi so I could use normal Sustain.
The remaining sounds were loaded as VSTi's and they used the mod wheel thing and legato sustain.
Section Basses Lush
Section Cellos lush
Cello 3 Solo
English Horn 2 Solo
French Horn 1 Ens
Some first impressions of the GPO and its relation to my first attempt:
1. The Steinway is VERY good, but being a solo pianist, I could stand to perhaps have a SLIGHT bit more dynamic variation. Don't get me wrong though...no complaints...in fact, it has caused me to really re-think just what I want out of a piano, especially if it will be mixed with the rest of the GPO sounds, and for that purpose, the Steinway, as it is in the GPO library, is perfect, I wouldn't change a thing. I just am always thinking of solo piano stuff too, and for that I'm VERY picky.
2. The strings are simply too gorgeous to blather on about (and besides, you all know that!).
3. The Oboe and Cello are to DIE for. They MAKE the song (especially for what I'm trying to do with hymns).
4. At first I thought it would be hard to break out all the parts and start arranging mostly one note at a time (the Legato Strings Soundfont I usually use allows me to do it all with one or possibly two tracks), however, once I set up the tracks, it was VERY easy and very satisfying. I know that to get the best possible realism, that I'm going to have to do it this way, so I'm glad it wasn't too tough.
5. You have to FORCE yourself to KEEP IT SIMPLE. The GPO sounds are SO good, that you sometimes want to just throw in another octave, or perhaps a violin part towards the end, but like anything in life, just because you CAN, doesn't necessarily mean you SHOULD. I think I will primarily build all of my arrangements simple at first, then perhaps add some things, get some opinions of folks, and then be ready to remove parts to keep it simple. There were 2 violin parts and a viola part on the ending passage and I ended up removing them because (and it's hard to even say this!), I just didn't need them to complete the thought that was in my head. The Bass Section and Cello Section (played VERY soft), did the trick. The slow swell at the end of a song that is almost cliche now.
6. Right out of the box, this library is SO EASY TO USE. Once I understood how to do simple crescendo's and decrescendo's, I had a ball playing with that aspect. I still have some learning to do to actually do it better, but I'm VERY enthused with the results of just two days of playing with it (about 8 hours total). I can see why Mr. Garritan didn't choose to use AfterTouch to do this...the Mod Wheel is MUCH easier to use (plus, not everyone has a keyboard with aftertouch I'm sure).
7. The vibrato's on the cello and oboes are PERFECT. Not too light, but not overbearing.
8. I didn't have time to set up individual sections, composed of 3 "players" each and so forth, so I just used the Section sounds. I can tell I'm going to have to experiment with this to see how I can get it to sound better.
9. I also didn't have time to experiement with the VAR1 and VAR2 knobs, but then I'm not doing a lot of runs or fast bowing in this piece...so not sure how much that would have helped.
10. I simply HAVE to figure out how to get Sonar's track volume and pan sliders to control each Kontakt volume and pan knobs. I don't want to have to go to each Kontakt synth rack to do this...I remember seeing something about this in the forum, so if you know how to do this right off the top of your head, chime in, otherwise don't worry about it, I'll troll through this wonderful forum and find the answer.
When I compared the two .mp3's for myself, the thing that just jumped out at me was the fact that the Old technology version doesn't "breathe". The strings sound the same ALL THE TIME...the cello sounds the same ALL THE TIME. And when I lifted the keys to stop playing, they stop very abruptly, whereas with the GPO instruments, I can use the mod wheel to pull my dynamics down and then let go. I'm not claiming to be the mod wheel genius here, but with a little effort, I'm definitely on my way! Wow what a powerful concept.
My wife came downstairs and listened to the piece and simply said, "well, you're going to take tomorrow off aren't you so you can work on the REST of teh songs for the new CD all day?". YES!!!! LOVE that spousal support!!
You will NOT hear the last of me (unless I die of absolute musicians ecstasy here!) and when I'm out driving around and what not, my mind can't can't help drifting back to whatever piece I'm working on and certain instruments that I "hear" might work in a particular part.
If I get the time over the holiday season, I will try to re-engineer/arrange a piece that my guitar buddy and I wrote together nearly 15 years ago (using two Ensonique Mirage's if you can believe that!) that we called "Sarcastando March" because we deliberately tried to write a piece that used every possible orchestral "cliche" (sustained 4ths going to the third, choppy "biting" bowing and what not) and I still have the .wav file that I pulled from the cassette (yes, you read that right) that we recorded it to. What a HUGE comparison that will be (if you can even stomach the original!).
Zowie this is a HUGE turning point in my life and my music.
A HUGE thanks to Mr. Garritan and also to all of you. I wouldn't have made the decision to purchase without hearing all of those lovely arrangements and songs that you folks have put together.
Okay, I must be going to bed...gotta get up early and get to work on my music!
Another addict is born.