I'd like to post a couple of examples that I've done from Finale. I am still trying to figure out how to control volumes so you don't hear way too much of one instrument or distortion of the sound due to excessive volume, any pointers would be welcome.
I am writing small quickie arrangements for a woodwind dectet(10 piece?)
basically 2 woodwind quintets: 2 flute, 2 oboe, 2 clarinet, 2 horn , 1 bassoon , 1 bass clarinet. Having a fun time with it but definitely ready to learn the finer points of GPO hooked into Finale notation software....
The first is a familiar Tchaikovsky snippet from Swan Lake and the second is
a Nelson Riddle arrangement of Victor Young's 'Stella by Starlight' for the dectet...
These are sounding nice, while they are totally dry (no reverb) and they have the "overly perfect" sound of being done in a notation program. I see what you mean by the volume balances being off.
Well, first you need at least a touch of reverb. Totally "dry" sound doesn't exist naturally. In the real world, instruments are always heard with at least some natural reverberation, depending on the size and nature of the room. That has to be simulated in our recordings or the sound is extremely artificial.
Second, for notation programs to make proper sheet music, the notes are quantized, rounded off to sit exactly right on the staves. I don't use Finale, but I understand that people who use the "humanizing" utility in that program says the results are very good, and that it goes a long ways to re-introducing the imperfections that were taken out in order to make good looking, logical scores.
I use Sonar, being more focused on the sound, and the recording of my music, rather than on making sheet music. If and when the time comes for a live band/orchestra to play any of my material, I'm able to produce scores they can read from. But I'm saying that making a pleasing recording is my first priority--hence my use of a "sequencer" program, a digital audio recording program instead of a notation program.
Making full use of MIDI controllers--in GPO, that would primarily be cc#1 and cc#64--and Playing, not inserting the music--Those are the foundations for natural sounding recordings. I'm not sure how any of the performance tools like use of MIDI controllers works in Finale since I haven't used it--But it sounds to me like it's what's lacking in these recordings you posted.
You said you're having trouble with volumes. Are you making use of cc#1? Are you working with the initial volumes in the Kontact player?
If you're getting distortion when there's a thick section of a piece, this simply means you have the basic starting volumes of the instruments too high. Back their volumes off in the Kontact players until those loud full sections don't sound distorted.
I wouldn't know what to do if I wasn't able to mix audio track mix-downs of my GPO work. I work out the balances between instruments as completely as I can in the MIDI realm, but there's still much fine tuning of those balances to be done in Sonar's virtual mixer. Automating the faders in the mixer also adds an even wider dynamic range to volume control.
And so on.
I'll add that the majority of what I've heard being done in notation programs like Finale has less dynamics and more stiffness than what people are doing in DAW applications like Sonar, so it would appear there's just a limit to how far one can go in programs like that. As many people have said, they will choose Finale because there primary concern is Not to make good recordings, but to produce written scores--and that makes sense! Notation program companies keep adding more to their programs to aid users in getting a more natural sound, but printing sheet music will always be their primary function.
I did enjoy hearing your posts. Your question made me want to try and help. First thing--easiest thing--get some ambience on the instruments!
Thanks for the objective ear and comps, you are right, I am only using the kontakt player volume control to set a uniform base of volume and not using cc1 or 64 at the moment. I guess 3.6 DB is too hot and will have to back those levels off. I am beginning to see why one would need to use a sequencer for adding that 'human touch' element to a recording. Since I am using Finale to write arrangements for custom ensembles I really don't enter anything extra for the recording aspect of it - hence the dryness and balance issues you can hear but what you said makes perfect sense because i can hook midi controls to playback expressions in Finale and now I just need to figure out how to do that...
I found the ambience controls for the GPO so i will give those a try in my search for better reverbing....
I'm glad my long-winded response was taken by you in the spirit it was intended. You obviously love music and have carefully constructed the pieces you posted.
I have an analogy--If we prepare a document of data to share, say with a board of directors at a business, even though the document is the accurate, dry data, we still tend to want to present it attractively. So a good looking binder is used for packaging the report we hand in.
Perhaps it's something like that. We may be using notation programs for creating very accurate printed scores, but it's nice to add a few touches to make the presentation a bit more appealing-as in, using a little reverb to make the sound more natural.
And yes, you really do need to start using cc1 and cc64--the heart of making the GPO library come to life. Without legato--!? And the varying volume dynamics are naturally a major ingredient in music.
In the Finale 2007a update, a file "GPOHP Tutorial Supplement" was installed into the user manual folder, inside the Finale 2007 folder. Read that guide, it's quite lengthy, but will give you the tips you need to get the most from the Finale/GPO combination.
FYI - cc#1 in Finale is controlled by dynamics. If you want a good sounding piece, PUT TONS OF DYNAMICS IN. Even more than would would expect to see in a piece of written music. Create new dynamics that exist between mf-f, etc... Put dynamics on every single note if need be.
cc#64 is legato - in Finale this is controlled by adding slurs (phrase markings). Again put lots of these in.
Add hairpin crescendos/decrescendos also. Just notes on the page will sound stiff and mechanical. All of these other elements will make it more musical.
Technically, very much good to say about this; basically
As others have said, working more with dynamics, tempi,
phrasing, articulation, and reverb add realism and life to
a rendering -- not to worry; it takes a little time and
practice, but we all get there.
Trust your ears, Patrick -- I can hear already from what
you're doing that you're well on the way with this.
Hey thanks for the encouragement and pointers everybody!
When I listen to everyone else's recordings, I get a little discouraged just because it sounds so life like but you all have hit the nail on the head, I need to approach the GPO as if it were a real instrument and not simply a set of voices tied to static notation...
The GPO from the perspective as a performing instrument is quite new to me but you can bet I will start taking advantage of it through a sequencer and midi keyboard as opposed to just an alternative for sounds in my Finale notation package -
I found the tutorials in my 2007 directories and will look into those further.
Now if my live dectet can make the arrangements sound even close to what i originally had, that will be a cause for celebration too.