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Topic: My Thoughts on Handling Strings in GPO

  1. #1

    My Thoughts on Handling Strings in GPO

    May this post be of some benefit, especially to the new user of GPO.

    In continuation of the discussion on GPO’s string patches, I have a few comments to make.

    Note: This information pertains to GPO2 on Kontakt Player. I do not know what changes may have been made to these patches in subsequent versions of the library so relevance may be a factor when considering these ideas.

    As we all agree, GPO’s strings could be a lot closer to fidelity. They have many weaknesses. And that presents the serious user with a real problem when it comes to attaining any measure of realism in the final render.

    Nevertheless, I do believe that fine recordings are quite possible; as is evident in Qccowboy’s scherzo, Sinequanon’s Mahler, as well as numerous other offerings showcased on these forums over the years.

    I have carefully explored the possibilities in these strings, both group and solo patches and find that, with care, one can achieve a satisfactory recording. In addition to what has already been stated by other members, I will describe the steps I take to the production of fine string renders.

    I use GPO together with Overture SE. I always work dry! I believe it is not a good idea to sequence with any spatial effects, such as reverb, applied. If the piece sounds good dry, then it will sound very good later when properly moistened.

    1) Solo Strings:

    I always use the Gagliano for solo violin works since it does not suffer the same obvious drawbacks as do the others.

    After loading the raw note data with note duration values of 90%, I begin by randomizing my velocities. After initially establishing special attacks according to my score, I draw horizontal “S” lines throughout the course of the track in my velocities pane, like a sine-wave, as if I were squiggling out the words on a to-do list.

    Next, I enter my general dynamics (CC1) data with a “free hand” to avoid any geometric symmetry in the line. When a violinist bows a note in crescendo, he/she will not, indeed, cannot do so following a geometrically perfect incline. So I freely randomize all dynamics, making sure to establish the intrinsic characteristics of bowed strings by appropriate handling of attack and release.

    Then I establish my bowings by use of slurs and CC64/68. This works fine unless one is using the GPO Strad or Guarneri, for they have serious issues that I will address under number 2.

    Next, I move on to an extremely important step, that of carefully controlling note length through use of CC21. Always using the various patches with their default polyphony setting, I choose to control “note overlay” or “note bleeding” strictly by use of this controller. First, I set 35% as my default note length instead of 50% because I notice a slight hang in the sound that hampers my efforts to achieve the crisp note articulation I seek. Then, at any point where I have a fast note progression, I set the length to 10% for the duration of that progression, regardless of whether the passage is slurred. This keeps fast figures, trills, and the like clearly articulated at all times which, in turn, keeps the virtual string performance as close to fidelity as possible.

    Finally, I add just a pinch of portamento with Pitch Bend to impart a somewhat organic “human hands” quality to the performance.

    P.S. It is also quite useful to pitch-bend the low G up a fifth in order to attain what sounds like an open D when desired.

    2) String Quartet:

    In dealing with string quartet music, I have found the need for careful preparation.

    Instruments used: vln.1-Gagliano, vln.2-Guarneri/Stradivarious, vla.-viola solo, vlc.-Vuillaume

    First, I set up my score with all the required tracks plus one additional track for the second violin. I always use the Guarneri as the second violin because of its less obvious looping when compared to the Stradivarius. However, because of the Guarneri's vibrating open G, I assign the Strad to the second vln.2 track in order to use its non-vibrating open G.

    Because of the way the Guarneri was recorded, I have found it impossible to use CC64/68 unless the slurred notes are of long duration or of slow progression. The immediate intense vibrato that results from the cutting off of the initial attack to facilitate a smooth slur results in an annoying, unrealistic sound when applied to short note values or fast progressions. The best remedy for this is to set all the notes of such progressions to duration values of a little more than 100%. This gives the sense of hearing a series of slurred notes under one bow.

    The rest goes as stated in section 1.

    3) Small String Orchestra:

    For small string ensembles, I always build my string choirs thus: 5 first violins, 4 second, 3 violas, 2 cellos, and 1 bass.

    I devised this plan because only three violas are available for use.

    Along with the previously mentioned measures, I am able to heighten realism here by applying a technique suggested to me by Larry Alexander in which I slightly reposition, horizontally, the various doubled instruments within each group. This is very effective in reducing the amount of audible phasing in these instruments that, unfortunately, share many identical samples.

    4) Large String Orchestra:

    The main point I’d like to make here, in chorus with what many others have previously advised, is just how important it is to double the section string patches with solo string patches (except during bowed tremolos). Without this step, the string orchestra always has a distinctly, flat, almost “synthy” sound to it. But with it, especially when the dynamics are randomized as described in section 1, the sound is beautifully defined and glistens with almost life-like vibrancy. Be sure to draw CC1 “sine-wave” lines in opposition to one another so we can hear the solo and section patches weave in and out of each other, thus further enhancing the realism of the experience.

    I will not get into the application of reverb, for it is a subjective choice. Suffice to say that one should take care, lest one damage an otherwise fine render.

  2. #2

    Re: My Thoughts on Handling Strings in GPO


    Wow! Thank you very much for this insightful and informative tutorial. I know many people here will learn much from your instructions.

    However, I do not use the GPO strings rather the original GOS. The GOS is extremely life like and thus the reason I do not use the GPO. I do often combine articulations for greater emphasis of melodic line and can relate to your efforts with the large string section example.


    PS I also use OVERTURE!
    "...Wiktor's a Jekyll-Hyde personality..." - Lycos Music

  3. #3

    Re: My Thoughts on Handling Strings in GPO

    Hi Sean,

    thank you for sharing these valuable insights! I already use sometimes a few of the tricks you mentioned (putting solo instruments over sections), but much other info you gave is new to me, especially the CC tips and the mentioning of the lengths.

    I will consult your post for my next renditions!

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