• Register
  • Help
Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 24

Topic: Where to start?

Share/Bookmark
  1. #1

    Where to start?

    Hello everyone!

    I've built a website to document ragtime piano and ragtime orchestra music from the ragtime period 1900-1920 with about 200 piano compositions and 100 arrangements for 10-12 piece orchestras. Each tune is illustrated with a music sheet pdf and a mp3-file, created in Sibelius 7 and its built in sound library Sibelius Sounds plus Garritan Jazz And Big Band 3. I use all the tricks available in these programs, but fail to produce reasonable recordings - the trumpet sound is flat, the strings uninspiring etc but so far I haven't been able to do better. Compared to the sounds produced by most people on this Forum it's simply too mechanical and unnatural (the piano sound is perhaps acceptable) - you can see for yourself on http://www.ragsrag.com if you are interested.

    My question is simply this: what hardware/software do I need to get a more realistic sound? The only possible solution for me would be to postprocess the Sibelius files that I already have - not to start from scratch. I've put in about 30 months in this project already and I'm doing it as a hobby, not for a living. My computer is really powerful and I'm on Windows 7 64-bit.

  2. #2

    Re: Where to start?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ragnar Hellspong View Post
    Hello everyone!

    I've built a website to document ragtime piano and ragtime orchestra music from the ragtime period 1900-1920 with about 200 piano compositions and 100 arrangements for 10-12 piece orchestras. Each tune is illustrated with a music sheet pdf and a mp3-file, created in Sibelius 7 and its built in sound library Sibelius Sounds plus Garritan Jazz And Big Band 3. I use all the tricks available in these programs, but fail to produce reasonable recordings - the trumpet sound is flat, the strings uninspiring etc but so far I haven't been able to do better. Compared to the sounds produced by most people on this Forum it's simply too mechanical and unnatural (the piano sound is perhaps acceptable) - you can see for yourself on http://www.ragsrag.com if you are interested.

    My question is simply this: what hardware/software do I need to get a more realistic sound? The only possible solution for me would be to postprocess the Sibelius files that I already have - not to start from scratch. I've put in about 30 months in this project already and I'm doing it as a hobby, not for a living. My computer is really powerful and I'm on Windows 7 64-bit.
    You need to turn on some kind of "Human Playback" and add some reverb.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Frank D's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Suburban NYC
    Posts
    1,020

    Re: Where to start?

    Hi and Welcome, Ragnar!

    WOW!! What a wonderful site you have created ... preserving an important part of American musical history ... in Sweden! Just tremendous.

    OK, I can help you on WHY your recordings sound mechanical, but we'll need some other Garritan Users who work and create their music as you do: from within a notation package. I create all my music in a DAW (Sonar), and then export the MIDI to a notation package (Finale) to create scores when I need to. One way or another, the points I'll list need to be addressed; I just can't help you in affecting them in the Sibelius world.

    I base these comments on your rendering of "Maple Leaf Rag" ...

    1.- Mix it better ... trombone is completely overstepping the rest of the ensemble; way too loud.

    2.- Pan the individual parts more ... this helps any ensemble mix.

    3.- Alter the start and end times of all the individuale parts, especially in any vertical structures (chords) ... if you have a concerted voicing of four voices and they all start and end a quarter note at precisely the same time, it sounds like you hit a 4-note chord on a keyboard. Individual players, no matter how good they are, will be slightly off on the attacks and decays. Accomplish this by altering the note start and end times by several ticks, so some are starting before a strict beat, and some slightly after. If I have six instruments hitting a chord, NONE of them start at the same time ... they are all a little off from one another. Then do the same for the note end times.

    4.- Add Continuous Controller data ("CC") ... this is big and is time consuming, but I can tell you from experience, it goes much faster the more you do it ... but this is a biggie!! (NOTE: this does NOT apply to keyboards and indefinate pitch percussion)

    CC1 - This is volume data that can (and should) change DURING a note. Velocity is only good for one value per note; CC1 can allow you to attack a note loud, then back-off the volume, then, bring it back up ... all in the span of a single note. Of course it's more important to do this on longer-held notes. The difference is astounding. It makes the music breath and sound so much more realistic. You can add this from the mod wheel, or draw it in as I do in a controller window.

    CHANNEL AFTERTOUCH - This will give you vibrato (in most cases ... always consult your manuals as to what controller data an instrument will respond to).

    PITCH WHEEL - This will allow you to scoop-into/out of notes, and subtly vary the pitch during a long note so it can go a little sharp or flat to not sound too perfect ... use with discretion! This controller isn't as important as the previous two, but can nonetheless make the music more realistic/'imperfect'.

    There are many more CC's to use, but these are the big ones ... now I hope someone will step forward and help you affect all this from within Sibelius.

    Good luck and keep up the great work on this project ... I plan on visiting your site many more times!

    Best regards,

    Frank

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Canyon, Texas, USA
    Posts
    135

    Re: Where to start?

    I am also very impressed with your project. It really seems worth the effort.

    I have not used Sebelius but until recently I have tweaked a number of Finale files to produce better playback. I am now using Logic Pro to tweak and mix pieces written in Finale.

    I suggest the following:

    1. Make a copy of your score to use for audio purposes. If needed add extra staves so that no instruments share a line. This will allow you to edit them independently. In this score insert extra measures and write out all repeats. Good performers almost always make modifications in dynamics, articulations, and sometimes even the notes when playing a repeated passage. This will allow you to do so also.

    2. Adjust the dynamic markings for best playback of large regions of the work. Pay close attention to getting the proper timbre (tone quality) for each instrument. Fine tune the overall volume of each instrument with the mixer to get proper balance between instruments without changing the timbre.

    3. Add additional hairpin dynamics, accent marks, staccato dots, etc. to each line of the score to represent stylistic interpretation by a good player. If needed use the MIDI tools for key velocity, MIDI start and stop times, continuous data, etc. to get even finer control over these. I suggest using the solo playback buttons and working on only a few instruments at a time. I think it can be a big help if you have a good mental image of your favorite musician playing each line. Try to simulate what that player would likely do.

    4. All wind instrument players must breath. Shorten notes in appropriate places to simulate the rests that naturally occur when a wind player breathes.

    5. Finale has a randomize MIDI data feature that will allow one to quickly adjust MIDI start times and stop times to simulate the slight imprecision in attacks and releases that always occur in ensemble performances. I'm sure Sebelius has something similar. I prefer to choose what instrument wiil be the last to stop a note so I almost always set at least one manually and randomize the others. Sometimes the human playback option will do a very nice job of this for you.

    6. Use the mixer to position the various instruments from left to right and add appropriate reverberation.

    As you become more critical of your own work you will likely want the control that using a Digital Audio Workstation can give you. I have just made this leap and already think it is worthwhile. Controlling MIDI data is generally easier and more intuitive in these programs and they produce professional results.

    I wish you the very best of luck with this project. I hope a Sebelius user will respond and give you sone program specific information that will make the job go faster. In Finale it would take a lot of time to get really well polished results. But, it can be done.

    Norman Nelson

  5. #5

    Re: Where to start?

    Hi, Ragnar

    I actually discovered your site some time ago, and I just love it. Very impressive, these archives of all this fun ragtime music.

    The audio files don't work for me on the site though. They come up as M3U files instead of MP3s--M3Us are playlists for a group of MP3s--All I know is they don't work on my machine as they've been programmed on the site. I can right click over a playback arrow and use "save as," which downloads individual MP3s.

    I listened to a sample download, the one labeled "vo_ragsrag.m3u." The great arrangement can certainly be heard clearly, but yes, it's not a realistic recording. It seems OK, though, and demonstrates the score files more than adequately. This sounds a bit like the MIDI files people used to put online all the time, and which can still be found sprinkled across the internet. Those were/are strict, quantized files that play a computer's soundcard, and always sound mechanical because of the quantization, lack of any varying in the velocity values (they're often all at 100), and of course also because of the simple computer sounds being used on the soundcards.

    What you have here is better because of the quality of the samples you're using. They have that similar mechanical sound though because the notes are notation-perfect instead of humanly "sloppy", and there's no dynamic work with velocity values, fluctuating volume work - all that sort of thing.

    Using reverb would make them much more alive, you could do that simply enough, and I think you'd be happy with the results.

    Frank and Norman have given you excellent, expert advice. I'm not sure, from what you said in your original post, if you really want to go back in and do all this enormous amount of work to the files you already have. You said the only possible thing you could do is do some "post process work" with the Sib files you have - I think you mean the rendered audio files?-- Most of the advice you're getting is for the kind of MIDI and notation editing that would make the instruments sound more natural.

    So, if you just want to work with the audio files you already have - careful panning, and use of reverb--AND automated volume (to compensate for the lack of MIDI volume data)--those would get you closer to what you had in mind. The results will still be overly perfect, and therefore unnatural, since the original MIDI data is quantized.

    BUT - I think you may have the wrong expectations for what you're doing. It's a great service for your visitors to hear playback of the scores - They're not necessarily expecting life-like recordings. I think they would be most interested in just hearing these pieces in some manner. And of course, the perfection of the notation playback is rather like a piano-roll, which we associate with ragtime.

    Randy

  6. #6

    Re: Where to start?

    Hello there Ragnar, you certainly do have quite a project going on here! Though I use Finale, and not Sibelius, I would like to note that Norman's idea of creating a separate audio file for each piece is very useful. I know in Finale you need to jump through some hoops to get something sounding the way you want (like creating custom expressions or articulations that act as value-setters for different settings like pitch bend or vibrato). I'm not sure if this is something Sibelius offers or not, but Finale's Human Playback feature does work wonders. It helps reduce the need to make minute adjustments to the recording in order to make it sound less computerized.

    Sometimes I find that writing a score for the audio file first can be easier; though, the biggest exception would probably be when multiple instruments are on the same staff, but the case may be different in Sibelius. Sometimes, if you write for the audio file first, you can tackle each unusual situation as it arises, rather than waiting until the score is complete, then trying to figure out where to begin!

    Another good word of advice you seem to already know: ask here on the forum! There are plenty of knowledgeable people here, a good number of which use Sibelius, that can help you out! Best of luck on your wonderful site!
    Michael Obermeyer, Jr.
    youtube channel
    soundclick page

  7. #7

    Re: Where to start?

    Hello Group,

    I got a mail message reminder from this Forum about Briffs reply and I thought I would get another one for each reply after that but I didn't. So I missed checking the Forum again for new replies. Now I see that I actually got several long and informative replies, all on the same day. I'm overwhelmed - this Forum is certainly something! I will reply to each of you separately asap and start with Briffs.

    Briff wrote:

    <<You need to turn on some kind of "Human Playback" and add some reverb.<<

    After reading this I started right away to add "human playback" and more reverb to all (or most) of the orchestra pieces. So far I've modified about two thirds of the original arrangements in the following way:

    1. In the Play|Performance setup I changed the Style from Meccanico/Poco Rubato to Rubato and the reverb from Ambient hall to Concert hall. If I'm reading the Sibelius User Manual right the Rubato (or higher) setting is necessary for kicking in the "human playback" feature. I guess I didn't realize this before.

    2. In the Play|Mixer setup I discovered that it was possible to change reverb also for each individual instrument, so I increased the reverb for all brass instruments and 1st violin.

    These two simple steps definitely produced a better result than before. I would have added a sample file but I'm not allowed to add attachments. Maybe this direct link to Scott Joplin's" Euphonic Sounds" will work:

    http://www.ragsrag.com/vo/vo_euphonicsounds.mp3

    Thanks for your comment and kind regards

    Ragnar

  8. #8

    Re: Where to start?

    Hello Frank,

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank D View Post
    Hi and Welcome, Ragnar!

    WOW!! What a wonderful site you have created ... preserving an important part of American musical history ... in Sweden! Just tremendous.
    Thank you for those kind words. Even though I have loved and played ragtime for more than 50 years my work with this site has been very rewarding: I have found several new ragtime composers and ragtime compositions that I didn't know of before and I have learnt a great deal on how to arrange orchestra music.

    I base these comments on your rendering of "Maple Leaf Rag" ...

    1.- Mix it better ... trombone is completely overstepping the rest of the ensemble; way too loud.
    Getting the loudness of the individual instruments right is a big problem for me. There is a volume slider (0-127) for each instrument in the mixer for the overall volume and then I can use expressions from ppp to fff to modify the volume of each instrument throughout the score or even adjust the velocity for individual notes. However, when played together the outcome is often not the expected. As an example the trumpets often cannot be adjusted loud enough and all other instruments have to be softened instead.

    2.- Pan the individual parts more ... this helps any ensemble mix.
    I do try to adjust pan and reverb for each instrument to place them in space - however I don't have any suggested values so I don't really know if I'm doing it right. As I understand it pan is left-right position and reverb is front-back position. As an example, for Maple Leaf Rag that you listened to the figures are:

    Piccolo pan -1 reverb 31%
    Clarinet pan -1 reverb 13%
    Cornet pan +9 reverb 13%
    Trombone pan +20 reverb 7%
    Drums pan +15 reverb 49%
    Piano pan -31 reverb 9%
    Violin 1 pan -23 reverb 13%
    Violin 2 pan -23 reverb 29%
    Violoncello pan -10 reverb 29%
    Contrabass pan -1 reverb 50%

    Does this sound reasonable to you?

    3.- Alter the start and end times of all the individuale parts, especially in any vertical structures (chords) ... if you have a concerted voicing of four voices and they all start and end a quarter note at precisely the same time, it sounds like you hit a 4-note chord on a keyboard. Individual players, no matter how good they are, will be slightly off on the attacks and decays. Accomplish this by altering the note start and end times by several ticks, so some are starting before a strict beat, and some slightly after. If I have six instruments hitting a chord, NONE of them start at the same time ... they are all a little off from one another. Then do the same for the note end times.
    Interesting comment. I must experiment a bit to see what this can achieve.

    4.- Add Continuous Controller data ("CC") ... this is big and is time consuming, but I can tell you from experience, it goes much faster the more you do it ... but this is a biggie!! (NOTE: this does NOT apply to keyboards and indefinate pitch percussion)

    CC1 - This is volume data that can (and should) change DURING a note. Velocity is only good for one value per note; CC1 can allow you to attack a note loud, then back-off the volume, then, bring it back up ... all in the span of a single note. Of course it's more important to do this on longer-held notes. The difference is astounding. It makes the music breath and sound so much more realistic. You can add this from the mod wheel, or draw it in as I do in a controller window.
    I guess this is what is needed to get a realistic sound! But how can it be done in my case? I cannot see that it is possible in Sibelius (and that's why I asked for a way to post-process the Sibelius output). Can it be done by adding MID-controllers? I think this is possible in Sibelius.

    CHANNEL AFTERTOUCH - This will give you vibrato (in most cases ... always consult your manuals as to what controller data an instrument will respond to).
    I use a mix of virtual instruments from Sibelius Sound (SS) and Garritan Jazz & Big Band 3 (JABB): wood winds and strings from SS and the rest from JABB. There are more mixer controls for SS-instruments than for JABB in Sibelius. For SS-wood winds there are individual settings for Attack, Release, Vibrato and Vibrato delay; for SS-strings there are individual settings for Attack, Release, Legato attack and Legato release. These are overall settings and I don't know how to use them. Anyway, I would need this type of controls especially for the cornets.

    PITCH WHEEL - This will allow you to scoop-into/out of notes, and subtly vary the pitch during a long note so it can go a little sharp or flat to not sound too perfect ... use with discretion! This controller isn't as important as the previous two, but can nonetheless make the music more realistic/'imperfect'.

    There are many more CC's to use, but these are the big ones ... now I hope someone will step forward and help you affect all this from within Sibelius.
    I sure would love to use these features. Thanks for your very valuable advice. Perhaps with more investigations I will find a way to do this.

    Good luck and keep up the great work on this project ... I plan on visiting your site many more times!

    Best regards,

    Frank
    Thanks and I will continue my work.

    Kind regards

    Ragnar

  9. #9

    Re: Where to start?

    Hello Norman,

    Quote Originally Posted by jandjnelson View Post
    I am also very impressed with your project. It really seems worth the effort.
    Thanks, I'm glad you liked it.

    I have not used Sebelius but until recently I have tweaked a number of Finale files to produce better playback. I am now using Logic Pro to tweak and mix pieces written in Finale.
    That sounds interesting. Can Logic Pro read Finale files or do you export a MID-file from Finale or what?

    I suggest the following:

    1. Make a copy of your score to use for audio purposes. If needed add extra staves so that no instruments share a line. This will allow you to edit them independently. In this score insert extra measures and write out all repeats. Good performers almost always make modifications in dynamics, articulations, and sometimes even the notes when playing a repeated passage. This will allow you to do so also.
    This I do already. I start by making a true copy of the original arrangement, which I use to produce the pdf-score. I then save a renamed copy to use for the audio file. I can never use the original dynamics and articulations so I change them as needed but I never change the notes as my audio files are supposed to demonstrate the original arrangement. I often do use different dynamics in repeats though and sometimes the silencing of some of the instruments to achieve some variation.

    2. Adjust the dynamic markings for best playback of large regions of the work. Pay close attention to getting the proper timbre (tone quality) for each instrument. Fine tune the overall volume of each instrument with the mixer to get proper balance between instruments without changing the timbre.
    I'm afraid I don't know how to adjust the tone quality for each instrument. How is this done?

    3. Add additional hairpin dynamics, accent marks, staccato dots, etc. to each line of the score to represent stylistic interpretation by a good player. If needed use the MIDI tools for key velocity, MIDI start and stop times, continuous data, etc. to get even finer control over these. I suggest using the solo playback buttons and working on only a few instruments at a time. I think it can be a big help if you have a good mental image of your favorite musician playing each line. Try to simulate what that player would likely do.
    This I do too but not to a very large extent. There is a so called Inspector in Sibelius which I can use to set Velocity, Start position and Duration of each note individually. I must admit that I so far have used only Velocity and Duration and never Start position. I should mention that there is an overall setting in Sibelius where one can set the duration for unslurred notes to a percentage of the written value. For that I always use 80%.

    4. All wind instrument players must breath. Shorten notes in appropriate places to simulate the rests that naturally occur when a wind player breathes.
    Well, that I haven't tried. Does it make a noticeable difference?

    5. Finale has a randomize MIDI data feature that will allow one to quickly adjust MIDI start times and stop times to simulate the slight imprecision in attacks and releases that always occur in ensemble performances. I'm sure Sebelius has something similar. I prefer to choose what instrument wiil be the last to stop a note so I almost always set at least one manually and randomize the others. Sometimes the human playback option will do a very nice job of this for you.
    Yes, Sibelius has something similar. However, I wish I could save the randomized settings for a certain piece and tweek these beacuse sometimes I'm not satisfied with the results. As it is, notes where I have specified velocity/start position/duration are played as specified and the rest are interpreted by Sibelius.



    6. Use the mixer to position the various instruments from left to right and add appropriate reverberation.
    This I do too but maybe I don't do it right, see my answer to Frank.

    As you become more critical of your own work you will likely want the control that using a Digital Audio Workstation can give you. I have just made this leap and already think it is worthwhile. Controlling MIDI data is generally easier and more intuitive in these programs and they produce professional results.
    I'm afraid I don't know how these things work. I am willing to invest in software/hardware if I could use the output from Sibelius as a starting point. Logic Pro is for Apple computers, isn't it? I'm on Windows 7, 64-bit. Is there a corresponding software available for Windows?

    I wish you the very best of luck with this project. I hope a Sebelius user will respond and give you sone program specific information that will make the job go faster. In Finale it would take a lot of time to get really well polished results. But, it can be done.

    Norman Nelson
    Thank you for taking the time to respond to my questions. Sibelius is a complex software package and I probably haven't even made the most of the available features.

    Kind regards

    Ragnar

  10. #10

    Re: Where to start?

    Hi Randy,

    I'm sorry that the m3u-redirection files do not work for you. I wonder why? When I started my ragtime site I googled for recommended ways of playing audio files from web pages and using m3u direction files pointing to mp3-files instead of linking directly to mp3 files was recommended, I no longer remember why.

    If you have problems, certainly some others have too. I will take a new look at what other people do on the web. Or if you or other people here have a recommendation?

    And yes, you are probably right that I might not necessarily need to improve the sound of the orchestra files as they still will work as illustrations for the scores. However, after realizing what some people can achieve with virtual instruments I simply started longing for more natural sounds in my own samples. I will never achieve a professional result I guess but I do have time to fiddle (I'm retired) and I'm curious enough to learn more about audio. After all, when I started with my site in January 2010 I know zero about these things. No I know a little bit more but not yet enough.

    Thanks for your reply and kind regards

    Ragnar

    Quote Originally Posted by rbowser- View Post
    Hi, Ragnar

    I actually discovered your site some time ago, and I just love it. Very impressive, these archives of all this fun ragtime music.

    The audio files don't work for me on the site though. They come up as M3U files instead of MP3s--M3Us are playlists for a group of MP3s--All I know is they don't work on my machine as they've been programmed on the site. I can right click over a playback arrow and use "save as," which downloads individual MP3s.

    I listened to a sample download, the one labeled "vo_ragsrag.m3u." The great arrangement can certainly be heard clearly, but yes, it's not a realistic recording. It seems OK, though, and demonstrates the score files more than adequately. This sounds a bit like the MIDI files people used to put online all the time, and which can still be found sprinkled across the internet. Those were/are strict, quantized files that play a computer's soundcard, and always sound mechanical because of the quantization, lack of any varying in the velocity values (they're often all at 100), and of course also because of the simple computer sounds being used on the soundcards.

    What you have here is better because of the quality of the samples you're using. They have that similar mechanical sound though because the notes are notation-perfect instead of humanly "sloppy", and there's no dynamic work with velocity values, fluctuating volume work - all that sort of thing.

    Using reverb would make them much more alive, you could do that simply enough, and I think you'd be happy with the results.

    Frank and Norman have given you excellent, expert advice. I'm not sure, from what you said in your original post, if you really want to go back in and do all this enormous amount of work to the files you already have. You said the only possible thing you could do is do some "post process work" with the Sib files you have - I think you mean the rendered audio files?-- Most of the advice you're getting is for the kind of MIDI and notation editing that would make the instruments sound more natural.

    So, if you just want to work with the audio files you already have - careful panning, and use of reverb--AND automated volume (to compensate for the lack of MIDI volume data)--those would get you closer to what you had in mind. The results will still be overly perfect, and therefore unnatural, since the original MIDI data is quantized.

    BUT - I think you may have the wrong expectations for what you're doing. It's a great service for your visitors to hear playback of the scores - They're not necessarily expecting life-like recordings. I think they would be most interested in just hearing these pieces in some manner. And of course, the perfection of the notation playback is rather like a piano-roll, which we associate with ragtime.

    Randy

Go Back to forum
Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast

Tags for this Thread

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •