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Topic: Orchestral strings and MIDI ranges - VSO & GSt 3.0 Orchestra

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  1. #1

    Orchestral strings and MIDI ranges - VSO & GSt 3.0 Orchestra

    Hello all,

    Short question - Is there a resource available to explain how a generic 'Strings' MIDI track should map to multiple instruments like an orchestral string section? (I.e. - the group violins, violas, chellos, double bass - the four in the VSO library) What note ranges might apply to each instrument?

    Long question and background:

    I set up and started working yesterday with GSt 3.0 Orchestra. I am impressed at how much more effortlessly GSt 3.0 seems to be working on this hardware than 2.5/96 did. As I've never done anything with orchestral libraries before I grabbed a MIDI file online of Mars (Holst) to work with as a test case. Using VSO which came with GSt 3 and some instructions from Ted Vanya in another thread I was able to get much, but not all, of it sounding at least reasonable in a couple of hours. Most of this was spent trying to figure out what gig file to map to what MIDI channel and what instrument in the gig to use. None of it was spent looking at the MIDI notes themselves, other than quickly adjusting MIDI velocities and volumes in Pro Tools.

    Now I'm at the first 'step back and think about it' point and I'm looking at what was the weakest part of the sound for me - the strings. After a few minutes of looking at the notes I suddenly noticed that the range of MIDI notes in the string tracks are wider than the notes supported in any single VSO library. No matter what transposition I might choose in Pro Tools some portion of the notes would remain unplayed if I map the 'Strings' track to any single gig.

    So, what do I do? Do I build some sort of stacked gig setup that covers the range? That seems weak since I'm not controlling which notes go to which instruments.

    Do I take the existing MIDI Track and break it up into multiple tracks for each instrument, assuming I can do that without the score? (Not really interested in this as I'm only doing this work to learn, but it may be helpful to go through the process at least once...)

    Do I look for other MIDI files that have multiple string tracks broken out already? Not that interesting as there's no guarantee I'd find one.

    Maybe no one here deals with this as you are composing, but since I'm mostly a guitar player just playing with this stuff for the first time, doing it right and learning something is of a lot of interest to me before I try to do any writing using this sort of library. (I have primarily used GSt 2.5 with piano, synth and drum gigs up until now.)

    Thanks in advance for your ideas and pointers.

    Cheers,
    Mark

  2. #2

    Re: Orchestral strings and MIDI ranges - VSO & GSt 3.0 Orchestra

    Mark,
    I'm pretty much a rookie with GS3 and GOS. Since the string parts are not broken out in your MIDI file:
    Vln1
    Vln2
    Vla
    Celli
    Bass

    You might want to just fire up the Full Strings Lite and start there. If that doesn't cut it for you, you will need to break out the parts as above. Unfortunately, none of the GOS library instruments go above C7 out of the box. I just asked for and got some advice on how to adjust the upper range of the violins to cover this. If you want, e-mail me off list and I will send you the comprehensive sounding answer I got to that problem.
    Best,
    Kevin
    PS. I've never tried to learn orchestration from commonly available MIDI files. As such, I don't really have a clear idea of just how faithful they are to the original orchestration: Note you don't have the strings broken out as described above. Exactly how many MIDI tracks are involved and what are their assignments?

    K.
    kevjazz@rcn.com

  3. #3

    Re: Orchestral strings and MIDI ranges - VSO & GSt 3.0 Orchestra

    The trouble with your question is overlap in ranges -- violin from g (g4) to very high g''' (g7 and higher), viola from c (c4) to g'' (g6) approximately, 'cello from C (c3) to c'' approximately, and bass from E2 or sometimes C2 to maybe g' (g5).

    So if all you have is a single midi track called 'strings' it would be pretty crude to slice it apart by range -- better to find the score or a different midi interpretation that has each of the string parts recorded separately.

  4. #4

    Re: Orchestral strings and MIDI ranges - VSO & GSt 3.0 Orchestra

    Usually there's no problem with the lower range. At the high end I'm not sure that all the libs sample the instruments to the end of the fingerboard. And then there's the issue of harmonics. If the score was written for harmonics, this would call for very high notes that may be present in the MIDI file, but not available in Vienna Giga Symphony, since it doesn't have a harmonics articulation.

    BTW, I picked up the full score of The Planets from
    http://sheetmusicplus.com/store/smp_...=Sheet%20Music
    for all of $15. It would let you check the accuracy of the MIDI file.

    I also have the Essential Dictionary of Orchestration
    http://sheetmusicplus.com/store/smp_...=Sheet%20Music
    It's a great, quick reference for instrument ranges and techniques. It's not a deep learning tool, but it's handy to have on the desktop.

    -JF

  5. #5

    Re: Orchestral strings and MIDI ranges - VSO & GSt 3.0 Orchestra

    Quote Originally Posted by kevjazz
    Mark,
    I'm pretty much a rookie with GS3 and GOS. Since the string parts are not broken out in your MIDI file:
    Vln1
    Vln2
    Vla
    Celli
    Bass

    You might want to just fire up the Full Strings Lite and start there. If that doesn't cut it for you, you will need to break out the parts as above. Unfortunately, none of the GOS library instruments go above C7 out of the box. I just asked for and got some advice on how to adjust the upper range of the violins to cover this. If you want, e-mail me off list and I will send you the comprehensive sounding answer I got to that problem.
    Best,
    Kevin
    PS. I've never tried to learn orchestration from commonly available MIDI files. As such, I don't really have a clear idea of just how faithful they are to the original orchestration: Note you don't have the strings broken out as described above. Exactly how many MIDI tracks are involved and what are their assignments?

    K.
    kevjazz@rcn.com

    Hi,
    Yeah, it's a brain dead question. I asked it yesterday morning before I worked much with the strings track. As I sat there and looked at the MIDI I realized that the question, as asked, is not answerable. As you and Gugliel understand the ranges of the instruments overlap. There is only one strings track in this MIDI file. At about 2:12 into the piece this track has what are probably violins playing the same melody a major 3rd apart. A bit later there are 3 lines running about an octave ana ahalf together. Without the score it's jsut not possible to be really sure what's what.

    What I'm doing at this point, and again this is what an unemployed engineer does for fun when he's job hunting, is breaking the lines apart into multiple MIDI tracks and then looking at the ranges that each line covers. My intention is to direct them at different MIDI targets - violin, viola, chello, etc., based on what I guess Holst might have intended.

    I'm purposely leaving the CD on the rack for now and will drag it out after this is done and sounding better, just to see how close I came.

    As you're using GOS and I'm using VSO, the info might not be that applicable to my library, and I don't think this is my issue right now. More important to get each line playing an instrument it has a chance of playing correctly first. I'll get back to you off-line if it looks like I need to do that sort of thing.

    thanks,
    Mark

  6. #6

    Re: Orchestral strings and MIDI ranges - VSO & GSt 3.0 Orchestra

    Quote Originally Posted by JonFairhurst
    Usually there's no problem with the lower range. At the high end I'm not sure that all the libs sample the instruments to the end of the fingerboard. And then there's the issue of harmonics. If the score was written for harmonics, this would call for very high notes that may be present in the MIDI file, but not available in Vienna Giga Symphony, since it doesn't have a harmonics articulation.
    Good point.

    BTW, I picked up the full score of The Planets from
    http://sheetmusicplus.com/store/smp_...=Sheet%20Music
    for all of $15. It would let you check the accuracy of the MIDI file.
    Very interesting. Just viewing the second page they made visible in the score, which happened to be for this movement, it points up issues with this MIDI file again. This MIDI has no piccalos, English Horn, harp or gong, so there are obviously some significant differences between what I'm playing with here and what Holst actually wrote.

    As I'm doing this really just for fun I think I won't go to the point of spending money just yet, but the book looks like quite a deal.

    I also have the Essential Dictionary of Orchestration
    http://sheetmusicplus.com/store/smp_...=Sheet%20Music
    It's a great, quick reference for instrument ranges and techniques. It's not a deep learning tool, but it's handy to have on the desktop.

    -JF
    Thanks!
    - Mark

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