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Topic: Doubling the cello

  1. #1

    Doubling the cello

    In my score for the music theater, I have two cellos. Sometimes, they play separte parts. Sometimes, they play in unison. I have a number of solo strings libraries. Only one of them has more than one cello instrument -- and I don't care for the way it sounds when two of them double on a part. To me, it seems like two cellos playing in unison, in real life, don't sound like this.

    But I'm not an expert. I don't completely trust my judgement on this. I can't afford to buy any more sample libraries at this point. So, I'm wondering, of the following sample libraries, which combination would give me the most realistic sound?

    Dan Dean Solo strings advanced. These are the strings I use all the time, for most pieces. I wish they had sampled a second cello, the way that they did for the second violin. Just using the same cello instrumet twice doesn't seem to do much but increase the volume. If I double the normal version of the arco and sp instruments with the short attack versions, it sounds muddy at times. If I double the same instrument and turn off cloaking on only one of them, it sounds the most realistic to me.

    I have Kirk Hunter solo strings (original version, converted from giga format for Kontakt 2). It appears that all the samples come from a single instrument. It has a lot of character. Too much, in fact, in most cases. I find that I can double the DD cello trem with the KH version, if I decrease the volume quite a bit on the latter. It almost sounds like 3 or more cellos playing. I like it, but I don't know if two real trem cellos sound like this. (I also use the DD pizz cello sometimes, if I want a more substantial sound and the cello is playing the bass line. And I use all the string bass samples from this library quite a bit. But I never double these.)

    I also have GPO, which you would think would be all I really need. It has several solo cellos, with vaiations of each. Unfortunately, I don't care much for any of the solo strings from this package. They just sound harsh and muddy to me. I only use them when I need the strings to play a sustained sound that lasts longer than the ones from the other libraries (which are non-looped) and there is a lot of other stuff going on.

    Finally, I have the old PS Advanced Orchestra samples in giga format. These are heavily key switched instruments which are such a pain to convert, that when I need one of them I usually just make a new Kontakt instrument and drop all the samples in one at a time. They don't sound all that great. But, for all I know, these could be the best and I have a lot more to learn about scoring strings than I though. (I hope not. The violins sound all right to me, using just the DD libraries).

    In summary, I like the DD cloaked and uncloaked sound best. But, though I want the resulting demo to sound as good as possible, of course, the most important thing to me is that it sound realistic. If two cellos in unison in a particular passage will sound terrible, then I want it to sound terrible now, so I can change it.

    I hope this makes sense. Thanks.

    Allegro Data Solutions

  2. #2

    Re: Doubling the cello

    Yeah... there are still a few kinks to be worked out<G>...

    I have used Dan Dean, Peter S, and GPO, I am not familiar with Kirk Hunter. I own, and use, GPO and the Presonus Orchestral library.

    My experience is that we have finally gotten close enough to the solo instrument sample library that it is quite usable (in the case of Garritan's Solo Violin and Cello instruments - in the right hands - it's down right scary how good we have it!)

    Large ensembles were easier, though in no way easy, and I think we've got lots of really good choices there. I use GOS now, but I'm going to invest in LASS as soon as practical.

    That leaves those odd ball configurations that few seem to have given a lot thought, and two of something would be high on that list. I thought, back in the days of modular synthesizers, that the solo instrument would be the most difficult challenge, but it isn't... is it?

    Using cellos (I'll stick to cellos from here on out, but it applies to almost everything) from two different libraries has always sounded pretty bad to me. Perhaps I just have not hit the right combination of libraries, but it just doesn't work for me. And using the same instrument, even using various detuning tricks, doesn't work well either, at least not for anything I've owned or used.

    Right now if I were to tackle this I'd use GPO. I'd use two different players, and I suspect it would work well. I've used two players for other instruments and been pleased with the results. Now I have to try cellos!

    I did try using the Gofriller and one of the GPO players together once, and that worked out nicely. If you have access to Gofriller it would be worth a try.

    And to answer the root question... two cellos playing together can sound heavenly or...
    Bill Thompson
    Audio Enterprise

  3. #3

    Re: Doubling the cello

    Thanks for the feedback. But I am not sure that I know what you mean when you say "use two players". Do you mean Cello 1 Ens 1 and Cello 1 Ens 2 in GPO? (As opposed to Cello 1 and Cello 2 ?) I tried both and they sounded worst of all to me, compared with the other libraries.

    My niece is a violinist. I attended all of her high school concerts. And, even with kids, I don't recall cellos in unison sounding that muddy. (My niece hates all my string samples, by the way. She thinks my solo strings libraries sound like the players never rosin their bows.)

    As far as GPO goes, I didn't see a lot of difference between instruments in the same Ensemble. As understand it, all the Cello 1 Ens instruments are derived from the Cello 1 solo instrument, which I assume was the actual recorded sample from the live instrument. I am not sure why the ensembles would sound better, but I have noticed this with the violins: the three violins of any ensemble sound better together than all three solo instruments together.

    Allegro Data Solutions

  4. #4

    Re: Doubling the cello

    might be me that is missing something...

    my impression was that you needed to provide the sound of two cellists playing, sometimes in simple unison, sometimes not.

    In GPO there are solo and ensemble 'patches'. When I need to mock up something with two players I'll use "cello player #1" and "cello player #2" and it works pretty well. I don't make heavy use of the ensembles or sections... yet.

    Now I have not (yet) used "cello player #1" and "cello player #2" - but I have used this approach with trumpets, horns, flutes, and violins, and it has never sounded muddy or phase-y or in any was bad.

    And I have heard two cellists play together live, and man-oh-lordy-dear, it was a lovely sound!
    Bill Thompson
    Audio Enterprise

  5. #5

    Re: Doubling the cello

    Now I see where we're getting confused . . .

    In GPO (Kontakt version) the manual refers to the Cello patches as "Cello 1 Ens 1", "Cello 1 Ens 2", etc. and "Cello Solo 1", "Cello Solo 2", etc.

    When I select these same instruments in Kontakt 2, they are identified as "Cello 1 Plr1", "Cello 1 Plr2", etc. and "Cello 1 Solo", "Cello 2 Solo".

    So, are you saying it's more realistic to pair two of the solo cellos, or two of the dervied instruments (Cello 1 Plr1 and Cello1 Plr2, for example)?

    Allegro Data Solutions

  6. #6

    Re: Doubling the cello

    As a rule, the Solo instruments have more vibrato and expression when playing, which makes them less suitable for ensemble work. The intent is that Cello 1 Plr 1, Cello 2 Plr 1, etc, be used. That being said, Don't use Cello 1 Plr 1 and Cello 1 Plr 2 for unison, because those are derived from the same sample set. The various players are totally different instruments recorded by different players.

    Here's a tutorial on using the various player patches from GPO to build ensembles.

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