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Topic: Synthesizers complementing samples

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  1. #1

    Synthesizers complementing samples

    As most of you know, sometimes samples are not enough! Sometimes you need to bring out certain articulations that are simply not available in our current libraries or you are looking for a different color, but with certain familiar articulations (up/down bow, tongueing, etc.)

    My question is: In synthesizer terms, what is the difference between an upbow and a downbow? Is it something that can be explained in simple sound design terms?

    This morning I was listening to Switched on Bach again, and it is incredible the subtlety and nuance Wendy Carlos was able to get out of a late '60s Moog.

    I'd appreciate any tips you may have

    Diego

  2. #2

    Re: Synthesizers complementing samples

    I don't really think upbow/downbow can be explained in technical terms, then again I'm no sound designer. On my cello I can pretty much make a downbow sound like an upbow and an upbow like a downbow. A good cellist will be able to disguise his ups and downs very successfully. However a downbow typicly doesn't have the ability to have as much 'grit' as an upbow, but an upbow certaintly can too have grit.

    -Chris

  3. #3

    Re: Synthesizers complementing samples

    I would say that in general up-bows probably tend to be a shade less aggresive than down-bows but that's a pretty big generalization. They probably tend to be *slightly* softer and have *slightly* slower attacks, if I were going to try and put it in synth terms. Anyway, that would probably be a good start towards programming a virtual up/down bow. And I'd change the timber of one slightly. I'd probably try and make the down-bow a tad brighter if that were possible.

    (Do I have my ups and downs backwards?? Should up be stronger than down??)

  4. #4
    Senior Member fastlane's Avatar
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    Re: Synthesizers complementing samples

    I remember my brother practicing the violin and it was all pretty gritty. We had to get beyond ear shot it was so painful. I can't remember why he took up the violin but it definitely was not his calling.

  5. #5

    Re: Synthesizers complementing samples

    Quote Originally Posted by FredProgGH
    I would say that in general up-bows probably tend to be a shade less aggresive than down-bows but that's a pretty big generalization. They probably tend to be *slightly* softer and have *slightly* slower attacks, if I were going to try and put it in synth terms. Anyway, that would probably be a good start towards programming a virtual up/down bow. And I'd change the timber of one slightly. I'd probably try and make the down-bow a tad brighter if that were possible.

    (Do I have my ups and downs backwards?? Should up be stronger than down??)
    Right, and there could be a very subtle crescendo in upbow, decrescendo in down-bow. If you have multi-stage envelopes to play with.

  6. #6

    Re: Synthesizers complementing samples

    FredProgGH, no, you don't have them backwards.
    However, don't make the upbow drasticly lighter than the downbow. Like I said, a good string player will regulate attack, grit, crecendo/decrecendo all by what's on the page or his/her interpretation. The downbow has more ability to be much stronger than the upbow, and the upbow as the ability to be much lighter than the downbow, but a good string player will regulate that based on the music, and most music has written downbows on really strong attacks and stuff.
    In other words, there should be a good range where the ups and downs have the same capabilities, and the upbows just get a little lighter than the downbows and the downbows get much heavier than the upbows.

    -Chris

  7. #7

    Re: Synthesizers complementing samples

    Would the phase of an up-bow be reversed from a down-bow?

    I'm thinking I heard that somewhere... But don't quote me on it.

  8. #8

    Re: Synthesizers complementing samples

    I don't see what reversing the phase would accomplish. I think you can accomplish most of what you're after just by adjusting the attack and decay, and maybe the sustain.

    I can imagine taking a string patch you like, and making several different versions of it with different envelopes. Maybe a faster attack and quick decay to simulate downbow, possibly with a very subtle slope downward in the sustain if your synthesizer supports that. For upbow, a softer attack, less decay, and a slight upward slope in the sustain. Then many different variations of these basic shapes to add some variety to the playing style. (I'd expect you'd have to do something similar to the filter envelope, as well.)
    Dan Powers
    www.danielpowers.info

    "It's easier to be a composer than it is to compose."
    --Ray Luke (1928-2010)

  9. #9

    Re: Synthesizers complementing samples

    Everyone else is offering some good technical suggestions, so here's yet another angle. Thinking in terms of what's happening physically might also offer some inspiration when tweaking your synth settings.

    Given the position of the violin and the angle of the arm / bow, a downbow allows the hand and arm to exert more pressure on the string. The bow is above the string, so by pulling it down, you're bringing it towards the string, so to speak. With an upbow, you're trying to keep the bow in contact with the string while actually pushing it away from the string.
    So, when you're tweaking the old ADSR settings, think about the fact that in one direction you're digging into the string and bearing down on it whilst in the opposite direction you're at best skimming the surface of it.

    As an exercise in contrast, playing guitar with a pick has a different upstroke / downstroke scenario. Since the pick is (philosophically) at a 90 degree angle from the string, you're positioned to get much the same sound picking up or down on a string. The difference in tone is much more notable on chords, as the downstroke starts the sound with the lower strings and an upstroke brings the chord in with the higher strings first.

    Mind you, none of this is 100% technically correct, but it should give you yet another perspective and set of creative ideas when you're trying to capture the same feeling.
    Christopher Duncan
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Author of
    Unite the Tribes and The Career Programmer
    www.PracticalUSA.com


  10. #10

    Re: Synthesizers complementing samples

    Thanks for all the excellent opinions. Time to go and experiment some more

    Diego

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