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Topic: Sample Fatigue

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  1. #1

    Sample Fatigue

    Hi,

    I dunno if this has been discussed before, but I think about this a -lot- now.

    Background: Most everything I do with sample libraries is in support of my 'prog rock' type music. I use sampled drums, piano and organ, but most other samples (orchestral for example) are -not- mixed as 'critical' elements. IOW: they are usually in the background or in fills. In short, they don't carry the pieces. I've only done a few commercial (movie) things and in those I was -very careful to also not try to do any ochestral 'heavy lifting'.

    Why? Because, sorry to say it, but almost always I just hear the 'sampledness' of it and I totally cringe. I keep wondering -why- guys keep generating this kind of stuff (...er... aside from the budget thing...)

    I've started to have some theories on this:
    1. Maybe the ear gets 'accustomed' to the crappiness of samples. IOW, if one spends all day working with samples, perhaps one loses perspective of just how crappy they sound relative to real players. (There -are- exceptions, I know.)

    2. Maybe some people hear sampled orchestral stuff as a different 'pallette'. I was listening to a 'period instrument' recording of Beethoven's Piano Concerti yesterday and boy the fortepiano and old strings really sound 'sampled'. Almost like a Yamaha CP-70.

    3. Maybe working with samples on a keyboard stunts one's ability to orchestrate. IOW: maybe working from a 'keyboard' inhibits real orchestrating like Strauss in favour of 'faux David Foster' style arranging.

    4. Or maybe people just -force- the samples to behave like a 'real' orchestra... trying to do various effects that can't yet be done well with samples, instead of -avoiding- those things and using only bowings, etc. that can be emulated easily.

    Anyone care to comment on this? If my theory is correct, I wonder if y'all take counter-measures to 'cleanse the pallette' and regain perspective.

    It just seems like, after all this time, things would sound -better-. I know y'all care about this stuff so please don't take this as disrespect. Just something I think about in my own work.

    Your thoughts?

    ---JC

  2. #2

    Re: Sample Fatigue

    Interesting thoughts. I think there is some truth in your points.

    You definitely do hear a lot of novices using samples very poorly. They either use the wrong keyswitch for the a particular passage, or simply don't know how to orchestrate, even at a fundamental level. When you hear this, it is easy to blame the sample libraries.

    But if someone wrote a horrible short story, you wouldn't blame it on their typewriter?

    There are many examples of very well written and orchestrated pieces with sample libraries. They are an instrument in and of themselves and it takes someone with great skill and knowledge to be able to use them. Each of the libraries have their strengths, and it take a lot of time and practice to learn what they are. There are not many that are fluently using these libraries. Similar to for 100 guitars sold, there may be only one that ever achieves a professional level of performance.

    Yet with these libraries, everyone who buys one, immediately thinks of themselves as a composer and arranger. And they post them on these forums for all to hear. I think we are just hearing a lot of novice work.
    "International Award Winning Arabic Fusion"
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  3. #3

    Re: Sample Fatigue

    My, very subjective, impression of most sample libraries are that they were constructed primarily to be background pads. To make sampled instruments carry a piece take a lot of work -- and, even then, I seldom find the end result satisfactory.

    I think sampling is a rather limited technology and the future lies in physical modeling -- or a sampling/physical modeling hybrid.

    I am currently using sampled sounds only to create demos that can be used as a blueprint for live performance.

  4. #4

    Re: Sample Fatigue

    I think the problem is that we already know the ideal situation that we're all aiming for - i.e. perfect imitation of real instruments - and, with each step forward, rather than applauding just how brilliant the technology really is, we moan that it's not there yet.

    With other stuff we tend to applaud progress, and call it cutting edge, because we haven't even begun to imagine how much further it could really go. I'm betting when the Model-T Ford came out, noone complained that it wasn't a Porsche.

    It is frustrating when samples fall short, and we're definitely not at a stage where you could think of releasing an orchestral CD done with samples. But I'd say we've reached a stage where samples have revolutionised the learning of orchestration. 15 years ago, to do what you can now do with Sibelius and GPO in an afternoon, you'd have had to spend days writing out parts, then potentially years listening to sporadic performances and making revisions until it sounded the way you heard it in your head. Even the greatest orchestrators usually continued to revise pieces for years. Stravinsky never finished revising the Rite.

    Maybe samples/modelling/synthesis will get there one day, but some of the inbetween stages aren't as useless as we sometimes pretend.

  5. #5
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    Re: Sample Fatigue

    your doing it wrong. You need to put in a cd of music you like an mix/produce to that. If your doing orchestration then pop in the style of orchestration you are doing and mix to it with samples.
    How do samples have anything to do with Orchestrating?!!!???!!!???!!!
    you have the instrumnet sounds, you have the instrumnet performances, you have the hall sound for the instruments, Sky is the Limit!
    All I can Say is...HA!...HA!...HAAAAAAA!!!!!

  6. #6
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    Re: Sample Fatigue

    ok one thing I just wished some devs had better documentation for there samples.
    Having just one page that shows the articulations and CCs that are used is not enough. I find it kind of a pain when I have to go through everything test it out then try and get realism with it and fail then try something else then combine things. It's like trail and error for trying to get a sound or feeling I need.

    So yea the whole samples falling short does suck, but Let's look at what Wendy Carlos did! and that was way back!
    All I can Say is...HA!...HA!...HAAAAAAA!!!!!

  7. #7

    Re: Sample Fatigue

    Sampled sound has been seen for a long time as a "screen shot" of the real thing, and that was right ! a velocity controlled volume and LP filter were not enough to make a good work. But nowadays, articulations are a real improvement for great scoring : for each note event, you have a choice... but the reality is : who know what this right choice is ? I think you've to master acoustic instruments and orchestration so as to make scores working fine.
    But, like I said about acoustic piano performances made with plugins, you've to manage with pros and cons of a virtual instrument. We must thing about a score is intended for a definite goal, and the knowledge and choice of librairies help to reach what you're taking aim at. You're a like a wizard : to make listeners think you made a choice, not under constraint of a limited technologie. One day, I had a customer - a scoring master - who reports to me his disapointement about the EWQL platinum plugin : he done the mistake of using it as a midifile library ! round-robin / mod-expressives / switchkeys.. articulations unused, what a pity !
    My little hint : compose/score with the libraries or plugins that will be used to generate the final audio file. That's probably the reason you need few different libraries for that solo cello legato sound !
    I do think the future of sound will be a real time resynthesis of... sampled sound.
    Cheers everybody,
    Phil;-)

  8. #8
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    Re: Sample Fatigue

    Right on Phil!!^_-
    All I can Say is...HA!...HA!...HAAAAAAA!!!!!

  9. #9

    Re: Sample Fatigue

    4. Or maybe people just -force- the samples to behave like a 'real' orchestra... trying to do various effects that can't yet be done well with samples, instead of -avoiding- those things and using only bowings, etc. that can be emulated easily.
    I'm curious, how do you emulate bowings exactly?

  10. #10

    Re: Sample Fatigue

    It isn't always the brush that is the problem, sometimes it is the painter

    I have run across people that don't put much time into their mockups for a few different reasons, some of which are:

    1. Lazy - They don't think it matters or they don't have the time.

    2. Don't care - They simply don't care if it sounds synthy

    3. Naive - They don't understand that it sounds bad.

    4. Lacks skill-set - The person can't effectively target key issues and resolve them in their pieces. They know a part sounds worse than others, but they just don't know to do.

    5. Pride - Sometimes a composer will say, it is not the production/samples, but the composition that counts. And while that may be true to an extent and for certain applications, if you are presenting your works to a person, or body of people in a manner that is quite below a level of standard quality, expect to have your book judged by the cover haha Some people can listen and judge a piece with unbiased ears, however I find the number of those peoples dwindling on forums at an alarming rate.


    Needless to say, if we could all make our mock-ups sound like a live orchestra, we would be doing it , unfortunately samples do have some limitations as well, and while clever programming can defeat most of those villainous situations, there are times where it is just impossible to make a clarinet sample "fit" with the rest of the orchestra, or to make the percussion fit just right. Sometimes there are defects in the artists' brush
    Sean Beeson
    www.seanbeeson.com
    Composer for videogames, film and television

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