This is my first ever post in this forum, though I'm not new to the Garritan libraries, having reviewed GPO, JABB, Stradivari, Gofriller, and, most recently, Garritan Concert & Marching Band for CakewalkNet (www.cakewalknet.com) over the years.
Generally in my reviews I make a point of using the library I'm reviewing on a real recording of one of my normal songs (I mostly write country, pop, and rock). However, I didn't have anything to use marching band instruments for the CMB review (www.cakewalknet.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=647&Item id=2), so I decided to experiment with writing something new, expressly for a marching band, and, more specifically, the "Marching Band" configuration spread across two multis in CMB. The composition, arrangement, orchestration, and recording ended up taking a lot longer than my review, but the piece I came up with is finally finished, at least unless/until the point when I find a real band interested in "beta testing" it and have to tailor it for practical use by a real ensemble since I'm definitely not an experienced composer for this type of group.
Anyway, the final song, "Primary March" (so named both in honor or the political season and because it is my first, and to date only, march) can be found at:
This was recorded in SONAR 7, and uses the VST version of KONTAKT 2 Player. I used the Marching Band prt1 and prt2 multis, except that I substituted the Garritan Cymbals for the TapSpace Cymbals. I also tweaked the panning and levels of the preset to try to more or less map a band seating chart I found on-line after getting some comments on an earlier mix that the drum positions didn't quite seem right. I used the stereo outs of each instance of the K2 player, except that I redirected the TapSpace drums (Bass/Tenor/Snare) to a separate output so I could give them less reverb as another comment I'd received on the previous mix was they seemed like they were in a much larger space than the other instruments. (The reverb used is Cakewalk's PerfectSpace, set on a far concert hall setting.) I also did add some processing to the Mix/Master bus, including PSP MixSaturator on a light preamp setting, PSP MixTreble (to give a little more bite to the parts and aid in the feeling of separation), DSP/FX Widener (to restore a little of the depth I lost in making the changes I made after receiving the first round of comments), PSP VintageWarmer (to simulate mixing to tape), and PSP Xenon (mastering limiter plus bit reduction, dithering, and noise shaping to go down to CD quality).
Very timely music and well done I might add, both in composition and production. Given that it is election related it is clearly not confusing enough Oh ok, all kidding aside, yes it is very much in the style of the great march writers and I am enjoying it immensely.
This type of march is an instant time warp for me - puts me back 45 years sitting in the band room. Thanks for posting this. Also, I appreciate that you gave so much valuable information on the mixing procedures you used; not many people do that and it helps.
A BIG hearty welcome to The Listening Room, rickpaul!
You've done great work covering the Garritan Libraries at Cakewalknet for some time, so it's really great to see you here now with some music for us to hear.
In a nutshell - I've never heard a better CMB project. This sounds fantastic, and would make an excellent demo for that library.
I think the key to your success with this is that you are an Instrumentalist, recording in Sonar. Nothing beats the actual Playing of instruments when assembling recording projects.
Side note--A recent post on another thread pointed out that The Garritan Strad was designed to be an instrument played in real time, but that things had apparently changed since so many people are trying to assemble performances on The Strad in notation programs. That isn't quite right--of course some excellent recordings/renderings can be produced in notation programs using The Strad and other Garritan Libraries, but it still remains that actually Playing these virtual instruments is still possible because of the programming.
Your band piece here is simple and straight forward, and I suppose people with more marching band compositional experience might do even more with the arrangement. But what you do have is nice and clean. The result is just great.
The care you took with panning, use of reverb, as well as your very musical arrangement and savvy at using Sonar--it all adds up to what I've already said - one of the best CMB recordings I've ever heard.
There is No sign of the dreaded "organ" "calliope" or "squeeze-box" effect, as it's been variously described. That unnatural sound only happens when notes are quantized with the band impossibly hitting their notes in absolute unison.
First, I'd like to thank all who've taken the time to listen to "Primary March" and provide feedback. I have a general problem keeping up with web boards (as opposed to NNTP newsgroups), so I probably won't post much here, but I've often checked out the Garritan forums while doing research for my reviews or just trying to keep up with what is new in the Garritan portion of the world with respect to upcoming products.
I generally prefer to address individual comments privately, rather than add a bunch of replies that more or less say, "thanks," to a thread, but I did want to address some comments Randy Bowser made in his response that I think may be of more general interest.
As I see it, the main Garritan ensemble libraries -- i.e. GPO, JABB, and CMB -- have two key purposes:
One is as a composer's, arranger's, and orchestrator's tool. In that context, the main purposes are to provide a wider palette of useful instrument sounds than the typical notation program provides and to provide a higher quality set of sounds than even the best notation programs provide, with the net result being helping the composer/arranger/orchestrator better judge the ultimate results of his/her efforts. I really have not taken much advantage of the Garritan tools in this context for two reasons. First, I am mostly writing and recording country, pop, and rock songs, and about the only time I reach for a notation program in that context is to document the end results (e.g. writing a lead sheet for copyright registration purposes), or when I'm working with an arrangement that is more complex than what I can handle through pure experimentation while recording (e.g. a string quartet part within a pop ballad, a brass section within an uptempo pop/rock arrangement, etc.). Second, the notation program I use, Finale Allegro 2007, doesn't support VST libraries, and the latest Kontakt 2 Player-based versions of GPO, JABB, and CMB don't run under Garritan Studio (and K2 standalone doesn't provide a MIDI port interface for Allegro, either).
The second use is as a set of tools for simulating real instruments, be it emulating a specific type of ensemble composed solely of instruments from the Garritan libraries or in the context of some other ensemble augmented by instruments from the Garritan libraries. In this context, the Garritan libraries are competing with everything from General MIDI modules to high end sample libraries costing multiple thousands of dollars and sometimes taking up hundreds of gigabytes of storage. In this context, the playability and expressiveness of the instruments is important, because, whether you are trying to perfectly emulate an acoustic instrument performance or simply make a musical performance of a sound that is acoustic instrument-like, it ultimately comes down to being able to play a musical instrument with the kind of expression one might get from a real instrument, be it acoustic or electronic. Having to do a lot of programming of parts, for example to switch articulations, switch volume levels, etc., just isn't very fun musically, and this is where the Garritan instruments tend to set themselves apart from (and above) the much bigger libraries. That is even more the case with the Stradivari and, especially, the Gofriller. This is the primary context in which I have used the Garritan instruments. While "Primary March" was my first composition directly for an ensemble composed solely of instruments in the Garritan collection, I have used Garritan instruments a number of times in my "more normal fare". For example, if you were to listen to songs on my SoundClick page (www.soundclick.com/rickpaul), you would hear the Stradivari playing the fiddle parts on "Love Holds On" and "Take Advantage of Me", the Stradivari and Gofriller playing the violin and cello parts on "Elizabeth, Lately", and GPO playing all four instruments in the string quartet on "Can't Give Up the Love". (I also have a recording that is using JABB for its brass section, but it is not on-line at this time.)
In my case with "Primary March", had my notation program not been more limited than the high-end ones, I would have used CMB for both purposes. As it is, I started out composing in SONAR with CMB sounds and simple experimentation, but fairly quickly got to the point of more complexity than SONAR's notation capabilities can handle. Thus, I had to go over to Allegro to flesh things out, and ended up having to use Allegro's built-in sounds as guides while fleshing out the composition and working up the arrangement and orchestration. Even had I been able to render the piece with CMB instruments inside Allegro, though, I knew I would ultimately need to go back to SONAR (or, in the generic sense, whatever recording program I might have been using), to play the instruments to truly achieve the most musical performance. Had I had access to a real live ensemble, that may have proven unnecessary, as I could have just taken the piece into the band room and put it in front of real instrumentalists. Since I don't, though, I wanted to achieve as close a result to that as I could, given the facilities and limitations I have.
I realize not everyone will have the time, or want to take the time, to truly utilize the full potential of these instruments. And, let me assure you, it does take a lot more time to play 33 parts, recording each as an overdub, then edit the bits that don't quite make it from intentions into the performance, than it does to render a piece from notation. Others may be sufficiently limited as players that it may be impractical, even given a large amount of time, to attempt to perform their own pieces. In that case, there may still be quite a bit that can be done through meticulous MIDI editing -- for example drawing in mod wheel curves and sustain pedal (slur) events -- but that can make things take even more time. (While I did play all my parts manually, I also put in a fair amount of time cleaning those up at the MIDI editing level.)
However, for anyone who is willing to put in the effort, I do think you will find the results can be worth it, hopefully taking the believability of the "rendering", if you want to call it that at that stage, up an order of magnitude. And, for me, that is where the true potential of these instruments -- even moreso that Stradivari and Gofriller -- shines through. There is, of course, a big advantage in just the first step of using the better sounds. But it is in playing the instruments where you can inject the difference between what is written in a piece of notation, and the humanity a real player injects into a performance of that piece of music.
As a related aside, it is interesting what Randy mentions about the organ/calliope/squeezebox effect. When I was working with Allegro's built-in sounds on this piece, the sax section sounded almost exactly like an accordion to me. It even got me thinking of making this an Oktoberfest piece. ;-)
One last thought: If you are a player, and thus far have only been using the Stradivari and/or Gofriller for rendering sounds, you are really missing out on a treat. The Gofriller especially, having truly taken what was started with the Stradivari to a new level, is a lot of fun to play, and may well be the most expressive software instrument going at the moment, once you learn to play it. And that last notion, learning to play these instruments, is a consideration. Getting the most out of any musical instrument takes a bit of practice. Thankfully, though, not as much as learning guitar takes a lifelong keyboard player. ;-)
You've indicated you don't think you can participate much here, but there's one very quick and handy way to keep in touch:
--Have your settings so that you get auto-mail every time there's a new response added to a thread you're involved in. The email link takes you right to the thread, you can reply if you want - No need to keep visiting the Forum to search for things.
And you need to click on the email link to Stay subscribed to a thread.
We think it's a great way to maintain the sense of community here for people to respond right here on the bulletin boards to the folks who have added replies to our threads. Sure, sometimes there's not much more to say than "Thanks," but that keeps the community alive and thriving. And usually, more to say will occur to you as you stop to write that public Thank You.
So, along with Tony, let me express the wish that you Do get more involved than you think you might have time for. Do that auto-mail thing---you'll see how easy it is to stay in touch.