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Topic: Any ideas on how to make GPO4 strings sound better, using ARIA player?

  1. #1

    Any ideas on how to make GPO4 strings sound better, using ARIA player?

    I hear a lot of unconvincing "virtual" string sound out there. I shy from writing at all from strings at this point, because it is disappointing to hear my work sound so synthetic.

    I bought GPO4, and Finale 2011 last year. I did not purchase the special violin; the package was a commission.

    I see that each instrument loaded into ARIA player can be played around with in all sorts of interesting ways. And I know that someone out there has a "general formula" for making a more convincing, rich, perhaps dark/fuller sounding string. The violin, of course is the most difficult to tweak.

    There are controls, and there is an equalizer -a mod wheel on the screen. Lots and lots of virtual possibilities. Does it help to use these? (My playing around with them changed the timbre, but not for the better.)

    So I am asking: does anyone have a better than default setting for the solo violin KS, to start?

    Thanks for reading. I hope we can soon all access tolerable default string sounds. [Just because we think they are okay does not mean that non-musicians will go for it. The reality is that most of us need a decent working sound, or it is just not inspiring to write for strings.]


  2. #2

    Re: Any ideas on how to make GPO4 strings sound better, using ARIA player?

    I have to admit that when I first purchased GPO I was bugged by the quality of the initial sound of the samples. After letting off some steam here in the forums I was kindly informed by several people in the community as to how to get some quality.

    For starters, let me just say that it IS possible to get realism and quality out of the samples so don't give up. GPO may be inexpensive compared to other libraries but in terms of quality it shines above many of the higher priced libraries.

    My first suggestion is to turn off the auto-legato. Honestly, I don't think it should be a default feature as I don't think it should be used until you understand how the sounds work. I don't use finale so I have no idea what kind of notation tools it utilizes but what I know from using Sonar is that the default velocity (Attack) value of all the notes is 100. That is actually a relatively strong attack and unless the music is forte I would shy away from it. As a rule of thumb I set all the note values for attack to 50. If you're playing on your keyboard this means to play the notes relatively soft. Also make sure your music breathes. I've never taken any musical courses outside of college choir but I think music should breathe and what I mean by this is that it should never stay at a constant volume. (I'm sure academia has a term for this but I couldn't care less what educators give names to) The CC1 controller will control the volume as well as the timbre. I would start with the mod wheel at about 3/4 of the way down. Any further will likely be too quiet and any higher won't give you room to grow. If you're a decent pianist (I am not) you can play a melody with your right hand and control the timbre (via the mod wheel) with your left hand. (Because I'm not a pianist and I don't use finale I do all of this digitally in Sonar.)

    As for the solo strings, I have my personal favorites. I like Violin 3 player 1 the best but I also like Violin 1 player 3 a lot. Cello 2 player 1 is my favorite cello. I haven't used a solo viola or bass for a while so I can't tell you which is my favorite.

    If all else fails turn on the ambience effect and crank up the send values in the mixer. One of the reasons the initial sound may not sound "good" is because we're used to hearing these instruments played with reverb. While other (overpriced) libraries have reverb recorded on the samples GPO gives you the option for the amount as well as the type of reverb. Every sample is dry meaning that it was recorded in a completely dead (in terms of sound) room.

    Again, let me say that you CAN get quality out of GPO. It may take some work but in the end you have WAY more options than you get with other libraries.


  3. #3

    Re: Any ideas on how to make GPO4 strings sound better, using ARIA player?

    Thanks, Dane.
    This is exactly the sort of information I was seeking. I will begin to play with the values as suggested.

    I am at the disadvantage of not having experience with a mod wheel. I am a notation-based writer, and I rely on lots of dynamic markings to create the phrases you speak about.

    Finale interprets hairpin crescendo and decrescendo in ways that I do not completely understand. I think what I am doing is crude at best, but it is at least dynamic. At least I have music with instructions all over it - the players are never confused.

    Take care,

  4. #4

    Re: Any ideas on how to make GPO4 strings sound better, using ARIA player?

    No problem. I wish I knew more about Finale to offer you better help in that regard. I notate everything myself and use a draw tool in sonar that works in conjunction with the CC1 controller. This is how I create dynamics. I've never notated crescendos. I've always had to create them with the draw tool. I would imagine that Finale has something like that.

    Also, you can use the variability controllers to ensure that you're getting a different sample each time you play a note. I would crank up CC22 to at least 15% and CC23 as much as you want. The CC22 controller will alter the pitch if you crank it up too high.

  5. #5

    Post Re: Any ideas on how to make GPO4 strings sound better, using ARIA player?

    [QUOTE=Dane Grant;674733]I have to admit that when I first purchased GPO I was bugged by the quality of the initial sound of the samples. After letting off some steam here in the forums I was kindly informed by several people in the community as to how to get some quality....

    Response: Anyone know how to turn off the vibrato function on the solo strings in GPO4 Orchestra. I am a professional cellist with a Master of Music degree. I don't know of too many cellists that have this kind of vibrato! All the other wonderful sound alterations Garritan provides for the strings are all great but the vibrato makes them quite irrelevant.

  6. #6

    Re: Any ideas on how to make GPO4 strings sound better, using ARIA player?

    Hi, I wrote some tips on sequencing for strings here:


    But using finale, while I love it, you are at the mercy of the HP feature. It does a great job - but there are extra steps needed to get strings sounding better that really can only be done with any accuracy in a DAW.

    Waving the volume envelope for example, adjusting expression and modulation.

    I found that layering the usual KS strings with the lush samples helps for slower pieces, and also adding one solo instrument on top of each ensemble is good too.

    And - let's be honest - there are limits with how good any particular library will sound. For most libraries, and especially GPO4, the range is wide - from awful midi GM sound to a very good sound where usually only the strings are showing signs of being flat. The brass and woodwinds in GPO4 outshine the strings by a good way. A good reverb goes a long way in helping the sound 'deepen' and mesh a bit more.

    About a year ago, using only GPO4 in Finale, I did this quick mock up of part of Elgar's Variations as a test. It's got too much reverb on it to my ears these days - but it helps deepen the strings. The first part is the GPO, the 2nd version then plays and that is the real recording (its not a great recording either)

    YouTube Music:
    My Channel

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Chandler, Arizona

    Re: Any ideas on how to make GPO4 strings sound better, using ARIA player?

    The vibrato in the solo strings is part of the samples so there is no way to eliminate it unfortunately. The discontinued Solo Strad and cello libraries did allow vibrato control with control of both amount and speed. There was an announcement quite awhile ago that a future library will offer this control again.

    I don't know of any other library that gives decent control for vibrato with solo strings. Most that do this just don't sound realistic.


  8. #8

    Re: Any ideas on how to make GPO4 strings sound better, using ARIA player?

    I listened to several successful pieces that are posted here and on the main webpage. For those of us who use GPO4 with notation programs like Finale, we are going to suffer a loss of sound quality if we don't have lots of time for tinkering. I do not understand the DAW way of doing things, nor do I know how to draw my dynamics, other than by traditional means (crescendi/expression marks). I am trying to catch up as I go along, reading tutorials and the User Manuals as I go.

    In trying some of the string options above; I ended up using too much CPU, and my computer is large, quite fast/one year old. A very full orchestra with lots of solo instruments is not practical at the notation stage. I collapsed my orchestra into two parts per staff, at least for now, in the winds/brass. Once I have my first orchestral score since 1995, I will be looking more at exactly how to use a Mod Wheel, or other controller device to add something of nuances. My current piece doesn't need a great deal of nuance, since it is a romp.

    I did notice that the actual string writing itself makes a difference in outcome [what a discovery!]. I wrote a section in 8 string parts, not too high, nor low: sounds lovely, swish and energized in the fast tempo I'm using. (quarter note > 200). Very high strings need caution: the tension of what they mean comes through, however, and that is pleasing. I have much more trouble with percussion cutting through appropriately than I do strings. I have to hear triangle and bass drum in my head, at present.

    This raises an issue, which really doesn't matter for most of us: are we writing for a playing orchestra, or for The Garritan PO4? In my case, I am trying to write with both in mind, since some parts are not coming to the surface as I hear them in my head. I make dynamic choices that I think won't work in real time, real life. So what. If Alan Gilbert calls me up, I'm willing to rewrite the thing from bar 1.

    Using string reverb is best done case by case. In an orchestral solo passage, it was too much as an echo to the harp (which is cool), and it needed adjustment. I cheated for now, and doubled with a moderately low clarinet, which is more interesting anyway.

    Writing music on the strengths of GPO4 is an interesting philosophical issue. I find that I really want to use the French Horns a lot because they are attractive samples.

    I appreciate all that I am learning through this NorthernSounds website. I came today to read up on the Double Bass, actually. I do not hear it sounding an octave below the cello, and I need to understand why.

    peace to all. sylvester

  9. #9

    Re: Any ideas on how to make GPO4 strings sound better, using ARIA player?

    You make an interesting point about ways of composing here - are people composing for an orchestra, letting good practice and sound orchestration technique rule the process, or are people leaning in the direction of the instrument samples that sound better, and sticking to those. Letting those drive...more cowbell!! Love that cowbell sample!!

    For me, it's certainly both - trying to pick the best of what I have, and the best of what I know about orchestration and melding them together.

    If you had a grand piano, I reckon you would want to play that rather than the keyboard in the corner. But if it was far more comfortable to sit at the keyboard and compose, you'd likely do both.

    I 'think' I showed with the Elgar sample above, that great orchestration wins out (It was an exercise in my Pro orchestration manual) - and the technical side of getting it to sound great comes after. Probably wise not to spend a lot of time striving for a great sound with a poorly orchestrated piece.

    I was a very reluctant mover from Finale to DAW. Very!! I hated the first month or so with the DAW and wanted to forget about it. I stuck with it though because technically it was proving to produce what I felt was finished works.

    But I do miss finale - I wouldn't use both however - exporting from Finale into the DAW just felt like I was downloading some messy midi file from the net and had to work on it from scratch. In the DAW I usually create 'finished' sounding music bar by bar.

    Stick with finale and get used to using the HP feature - it's awesome!!
    YouTube Music:
    My Channel

  10. #10

    Re: Any ideas on how to make GPO4 strings sound better, using ARIA player?

    My own take on this, from lessons learned some time back with sound modules, which apply equally with virtual instruments like GPO, is to understand instrument dynamics and how a VI imitates that.

    One of the major keys is instrument timbre as well as volume.

    My own initial experimentation with a very simple MIDI file, see below, was to experiment with note on velocities with percussive sounds, and expression levels (MIDI controllers 1 (mod wheel), 2 (breath) and 11 (expression)) with sustaining instruments..

    What I learned was that GPO behaves identically to my Yamaha and Roland sound modules in many ways.

    Dynamics for percussive instruments use the note on velocity to control both volume and timbre.
    Dynamics for sustaining instruments use one of the above controllers with identical values (as near as I can tell) as one would use for velocity.

    I created a MIDI file with two tracks assigned to channels one and two respectively, and put a simple scale from middle C up, in both.

    Track one uses note on velocity at eight levels, starting at level 8 and incrementing by 16 for each note.
    Track two uses controller 11 (my preference) at eight levels as above, with note velocity set at 64 for all notes.

    So, load a percussive instrument into slot 1 of Aria and play the MIDI file.
    Try all the percussive instruments you use in slot 1.
    Mute or unload slot 1.
    Or solo slot 2 and load any sustaining instrument into it. Then play the MIDI file.
    Listen to both the change in timbre as well as the volume level.

    From this I concluded the following as the centre value of each notated dynamic:
    ppp=8, pp=24, p=40, mp=56, mf=72, f=88, ff=104, fff=120.
    This matches exactly the range published by Yamaha in the mid nineties.

    So if we follow certain DAW's standard implementation of dynamics then we end up with everything sounding fortissimo.
    No wonder things don't sound good.
    If we use the default Aria value for mod wheel for sustaining instruments, which seems to be around the mid eighties (please correct me if I'm wrong here) they will all play with a volume and timbre of forte.
    Most strings sound much better, or more realistic (to my ears) at normal levels from 40 (p) to 72 (mf), as do many (most(?)) other instruments.

    But you try it and you decide for yourself.

    dynamics.mid: http://www.box.com/s/fzsbcrm7gdhvztem6xhf

    Please also note that pizzicato strings are a percussive instrument NOT a sustaining one.
    They respond to note velocity.

    Getting these values close to written notated values IMHO helps immensely as a starting point.
    Your opinion may differ, of course!

    Another 2d.

    P.S. Of course, you will have to transpose the notes up or down for piccolo or contrabass respectively.
    But you knew that! ;-)

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