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Topic: String Sampling

  1. #1

    String Sampling

    Hi all,

    I apologize if something like this has been posted before, but I was listening to demos from various sample libraries, and I noticed something rather interesting. Maybe it's because I'm a string player, but without exception I found the percussion, brass, and woodwinds of each library to be much more convincing and realistic than the solo or ensemble strings. They just seem to have a more synthesized sound to them. It is especially noticeable in transitions between notes. Glissandi/portamenti seem much more realistic to me when listening to sampled winds than strings, and sampled brass seem to have a much more convincing attack than accented strings.

    On a similar note, I've noticed that more samples doesn't equal more realism. I've been very impressed with the Gofriller, especially in relation to other, more expensive solo cello samples on the market. With the other libraries, it seemed as if the programmers were trying so hard to recreate each kind of attack and stroke that they neglected to retain any continuity between samples.

    Is it my string-biased ear, or are string instruments inherently more difficult to digitize while retaining the integrity of the instrument? Is it because samples are more "pianistic" in nature?
    Maybe I should have come up with a more original username.
    Finale 2009b, GPO4, JABB KP2, Gofriller KP2
    Windows 7 Ultimate RC (64-bit)
    Core 2 Duo E8500 3.16Ghz, 4GB 1066 RAM

  2. #2

    Re: String Sampling

    Being a brass player I have had similar negative reactions to brass samples in many libraries. I think it is the intimacy with one's instrument that causes this (not to mention some weak samples here and there). I find myself somewhat less critical of string samples than brass so I would say it's in the ear of the beholder.

    Having said that, after working with the Garritan brass samples for a couple of years I have found combinations and methods (thru trial and error and the great advice on this board) that get good results. Also I use projectSAM brass and although the method is different for use, I find that very realistic results can be created.

    I have found it very helpful to attempt to play the samples like the instrument sampled instead of a keyboard (I'm not a keyboardist anyway) and then tweak the envelopes of the recorded performance in my sequencer (I use SONAR for sequencing and FINALE for notation).

    As stated above this board has fantastic advice and very helpful, knowledgeable and friendly people on it to help you. I have learned so much here.

    Hope this helped.
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

  3. #3

    Re: String Sampling

    Hi cellist,

    right on. We have to recognize samples as what they are and what they are not. They are fantastic help for composing and triggering creativity. Additionally they can halfway serve as a low budget replacement for real strings in certain situations especially if they are not used for too long and mainly for short articulations, pizz or drones.

    Playing melodies is still something good live players can do in an entirely different league, this is just how it is. The play of a good strings section with all its colours, shades and transitions is something very special.

    The interesting thing is that the better composers are with samples the more they appreciate the real thing. I am glad I can help composers to beef up their work by live recordings and most of them have all the newest and most expensive libraries, and handle them extremely well.
    All your strings belong to me!

  4. #4

    Re: String Sampling

    FWIW I played selections using all my string libraries for my niece, who is a violinist. She said "Sure. I could make my instrument sound like that . . . if I never rosined my bow". Since then I have been using the sample libraries which evidence the least amount of string noise, and sweetening them further with the smallest amount of convolution reverb. That's about the best I can do with my samples. And I won't even go into the limitations of articulations and bowimg techniques - especially for the solo instrument libraries.

    As for other sampled instruments, the most realistic sounding libraries I own are (in order of convincing-ness):

    - electronic instruments (synth, organ, electric guitar, electric piano, etc.)

    - plucked strings and percussive keyboards other than piano (celeste, glock, harpsichord, harp, acoustic guitars, etc.)

    - some percussion (especially bells and cymbols)

    - pianos (a good one will give you acceptible quality as part of a rhythm section, I don't think any would satisfy a real pianist for solo work)

    - Westgate's French Horn library

    - reeds (other than saxes)

    - strings

    - brass (other than French Horn)

    - saxes

    - vocal libraries

    Again, these are based on just the sampels I own. Your actual milage may vary, depending on what samples you use, what type of music you are making and how it is mixed. Though I hope this will serve as a rough guide for newbies trying to figure out how best to spend their money.

    Allegro Data Solutions

  5. #5

    Re: String Sampling

    We tend to judge things as composers/musicians and not as listeners sometimes...

    I swear I get very frustrated with 95% of the compositions around me!

    Strings are not perfect, winds are not perfect, percussion are almost perfect!...

    What I've found perfect thus far in the sampling world:

    1. The trumpet by samplemodeling. The same people behind the strad and the godriller made this. It's simply stunning!
    2. GAST! Yes... "Little" Garritan, "GPO" Garritan, "Cheap" Garritan has created a MASTERPIECE of enormous proportions! If only people would get through their bias on the name they would see that this is simply a masterpiece!
    2.5 The strad and gofriller! Yup! Garritan has done it again...
    3. Pianoteq. Not the sound, but playing it feels... real! -.

    I'm a pianist but have no problem admiting that a virtual piano can sound real. No problem at all. I have a huge problem with EW samples (for example), but they do sound so big and huge and WOW that I try to forget my musicianship and think of my clients! Big = good!

    In other words: There is a small percentage of people who would like to have samples that sound 100% real. The rest of us, use them to equate what we would like to get from a live recording and would cost tons of $! (if this makes sense). A pitifull thought really, but...

  6. #6

    Re: String Sampling

    I think my take is slightly different because I am using samples not for final release, but for demos that a real orchestra (hopefully) will play one day. So, for me they don't have to be perfect. They just have to be good enough for us to tell what they will sound like in a live performance.

    But I have played around with doing a little scoring for some videos that I have shot. Really short, simple things. For these, I find my choice of instruments is somewhat influenced by the quality (and realism) of the samples I have available. I didn't use French Horns until I bought the Westgate library, I didn't use strummed guitars until I got Real Guitar, etc.

    Allegro Data Solutions

  7. #7

    Re: String Sampling

    Quote Originally Posted by nikolas View Post
    The rest of us, use them to equate what we would like to get from a live recording ...
    What do you mean by equate?
    All your strings belong to me!

  8. #8

    Re: String Sampling

    I think he means many of us use sample libraries to approximate the sound we might get with a live orchestra.
    Maybe I should have come up with a more original username.
    Finale 2009b, GPO4, JABB KP2, Gofriller KP2
    Windows 7 Ultimate RC (64-bit)
    Core 2 Duo E8500 3.16Ghz, 4GB 1066 RAM

  9. #9

    Re: String Sampling

    Sampling of an instrument is and will probably always be an approximation much the same as that of a robot will always be an approximation of a human. As imperfect as a human is ("to err is human"), we can do wonderful and creative things with musical instruments that I am willing to bet were not part of the original design idea of the maker. Likewise, sampling is a tool to be explored and it is still up to the user to make it produce what they are after. If that means tweaking, than tweak but in the end it will still be an approximation of what a human can do and probably using much less time to produce the effect than tweaking a sample.

    My hat is still off to Gary and his company of people who have provided a great tool and at a easily accessible cost.
    [Music is the Rhythm, Harmony and Breath of Life]
    "Music is music, and a note's a note" - Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong


  10. #10

    Re: String Sampling

    on the last project i worked on, i presented a piece for the opening titles that included a cello 'quartet' made from the garritan gofriller and no one in the room could tell they were sampled instruments. the technology implemented to crossfade tremolos and for bowing is outstanding and goes very far in terms of realism. the best comparison i can make in terms of quality is to some of the stringed instruments in silk. the silk samples and amount of articulations are amazing. however, in the modwheel-to-increase-tremolo patches the crossfade is obvious and a tonal change in the recordings is relatively evident, and there's not much control over bow strokes.

    overall i think bowed and blown instruments (woodwinds and brass) have so many subtleties to playing technique that they're the hardest to simulate. for me as a (lapsed) trumpet player i always find brass the least convincing. surprisingly for some reason - and it must relate to the timbre/tone - is flute...i usually find flute to be pretty realistic.

    the easiest to replicate? harpsichord, of course.

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