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Topic: Opinions on a Solo Violin

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  1. #1

    Opinions on a Solo Violin

    HI all,

    Could I tap the brains here for an opinion on a solo violin patch.

    A friend of mine heard this piece and while he has a very good ear, I think a lot of the time he suffers from knowing it is a sample instrument, so criticizes it. He said 'the violin let's the orchestration down, some of the transitions between notes are completely unrealistic'.

    So, is he right? - I don't really hear any problems myself, but I am very close to the mix at this point.

    The transitions have been handled by the kontakt script - violin is LASS FC (Portamento and Legato)

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  2. #2

    Re: Opinions on a Solo Violin

    Don't know if he is right. Normally a solo violin plays in front of the first violins, at the left of the conductor. Now the sound is coming from the far right. It is also a bit too loud, but when you have placed it more in front of the orchestra maybe the total soundscape is different. About the transitions, don't overdo the portamento, it isn't gipsy music. And think of the fact that portamento can only exist when notes are played on the same string.


    See this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vU2EciADd8o

    Raymond

  3. #3

    Re: Opinions on a Solo Violin

    Thanks for that - don't think he made much sense to me in the video though - I'll have to watch that again :-)

    There are 8 portamento transitions in the whole piece, and 5 of them are only a whole tone distance. Is that too many? Or the distance too short?

    Without examining it too closely I think each separate transition could all be played on the same string...
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  4. #4

    Re: Opinions on a Solo Violin

    As far as I know he explains the difference between portamento and glissando. I put you on this video only to strengthen my arguments. The distance of a portamento is not that important. I've seen scores with just a half tone distance and scores with two or more notes distance. When jumping from one note to another over a greater distance, there is always some sort of gliss (or portamento-like) transition. From higher notes to lower the violinplayer estimates the spot for the next note almost exactly, but corrects this within a very short time. That is what we never hear, or at least not are aware of.

    Raymond

  5. #5

    Thumbs up Re: Opinions on a Solo Violin

    Hi Graham,

    I have to comment that you may be more flexible with your valuation for a couple of very good reasons:

    - this is not the rendition of some concert music, and it's not a well known Violin solo passage that you are used to listen performed live from some real virtuoso. In this case you should take a lot more attention to the realism of sound balance and articulation.
    It is your own artistic creation, and the orchestral sound is part of an emotional evocative soundtrack where lot of artistic even if digital intentions are exploited (reverb, mix, loudness, special effects and noises etc.)

    Personally I like the sound of the violin in the mix, and I wouldn't change, because of strange comments about realism. Change it only if it's not depicting your intention, until it does fulfill your expectation.

    - you are the composer and you may expect some of the effects being part of your creative will: sometime the composers of contemporay music ask the player for very unusual performing technics to reach the requested sound or effect (slides and portamento, beside microtonal variations or special bow technics being the most frequently explored in Violin).

    After that, yes several notes transitions are not realistic or at least not usual in solo violin. It can be considered a problem if your target is a natural and realistic sounding classical solo violin sound. The reasons are already explained by Ray, you overdo a bit the slide in point where it's not expected a real violin player would do it.

    I don't agree as told before about any need for sound balance changes: it is supposed to be a recording of a solo player with a direct mic + surround and orchestra multi mic recording. Even in a super professional live recording of JW holliwood scores it should be the case and it should be mixed at composer's and movie director's will.

    Very nice score and production by the way, keep doing improvements and study, but congratulations already!

    cheers
    FV

  6. #6

    Re: Opinions on a Solo Violin

    A fellow "Game of Thrones" fan! Well, we are legion, because it's an excellent book series and one of the most incredible TV series ever created.

    But not all the fans are as talented as you, Graham. Your piece "Winter is Coming" would fit beautifully in the show's soundtrack, adding interest to what I find to be the only unremarkable element of "Thrones," - its un-original and bombastically cliched music.

    Everyone's a critic, and it's a drag your friend was in critical mode when listening, intead of letting the piece wash over him as it's perfectly capable of doing.

    I can guarantee you, though, that you could produce The Best Possible recording with virtual instruments ever done by anybody, anywhere, with any amount of the best and most expensive programs in existence, and there would still be people who would pick it apart as being "unrealistic." I don't know why some people are like that, wanting to be so aloof to a listening experience that they're more intent on talking about how wonderfully acute their sensitivity to synthesizers is instead of giving the actual music itself a chance to effect them. I think those people are bores, and most likely harbor agendas to be destructive rather than helpful.

    Basically, I don't know what this friend of yours is talking about. I'm infamous amongst my friends as a perfectionist who takes forever to complete anything, but I would be perfectly happy with this violin performance if it was my music. If that makes me unsophisticated or something- what the heck ever.

    I love Fabio's advice, "...change it only if it's not depicting your intention, unitl it does fulfill your expectation." That's excellent. I feel that over 90% of the feedback and criticism people give each other is worth less than a grain of salt. People have all sorts of muddy reasons for what they say in reaction to art, and the vast majority of the time, the creator is much better off just shtrugging their comments off.

    Ok - But your friend has made the violin the topic. Here are my thoughts specifically to that:

    --I suppose he was talking about the use of Portamento, since you quoted him as criticizing the transition between some notes. I don't think what you have here is too much, even though this amount of Portamento is generally more avoided now than it was on into the first half of the 20th Century. This isn't academic, modern classical music, it's soundtrack music, and as such, is free to be more florid than other more "serious" genres.

    --I also suppose that the quality of the Portamento in this Library you used isn't as natural sounding as in some other sample Libraries, but it's more than acceptable. Putting on my analytical hat (the one I get bored wearing for very long) - I would also say this isn't The Best virtual violin I've ever heard, but it's also way above average, and more than just acceptable.

    --Side Note - The late, lamented Garritan Stradivari is still probably the best virtual violin ever made. It's almost tragic that it had such a short life. It was extremely detailed in its sampling, very versatile, and its Portamento feature sounded, to me, completely "believable." Port was easily triggered in that Library, determined by Velocity. The lower the velocity of one note following another, the more pronounced the Port. Most of the time, you wanted high velocities, or you'd end up with a falling down drunk Gypsy playing the bow. It was great the way that kind of control was possible just from playing the instrument, not needing to add a MIDI CC - and this programming was also used in the Garritan Gofriller Cello, and actually improved in that Library so it was more controllable.

    BUT - my point is that picking apart the violin was the last thing on my mind while listening. What I heard simply worked.

    The mix - To have the violin up front was exactly the right thing to do. It's like the cello solo in the opening of "Game of Thrones" on TV, in that it's clearly the lead instrument and mixed so it predominates when it should. That's soundtrack work. It would be silly and pointless to have done this as if it was being performed live, on a stage, without mikes. As Fabio indicated, it's been established for decades that in film soundtracks, the focus in mixes constantly changes depending on the needs of the moment. A good example is in the "West Side Story" clip I posted awhile back. At one point, suddenly the woodwinds are moved way up front, because in that passage, they're carrying the most important lines. After their moment in the spotlight, then move back to blend with the rest of the orchestra again. That kind of mixing is one of the ingredients that makes movie soundtracks exciting.

    SO - your thread here clearly pushed some of my buttons! lol - I've let my fingers fly on the keyboard in response, because I feel strongly about what I've said here.

    Your friend should go jump in a lake next time instead of giving you an unhelpful and rather pointless critique.

    Randy

  7. #7

    Re: Opinions on a Solo Violin

    Quote Originally Posted by Plowking View Post
    A friend of mine heard this piece and while he has a very good ear, I think a lot of the time he suffers from knowing it is a sample instrument, so criticizes it. He said 'the violin let's the orchestration down, some of the transitions between notes are completely unrealistic'.
    Actually there are some parts when one can hear that this is not a real violin. The other parts sounds perfect for me (from reality point of view), so if you had any chance to play it on a real instrument, that would add a lot

  8. #8

    Re: Opinions on a Solo Violin

    Great discussion everyone. Excellent points by all. Thankfully most of the people who listen to pieces like this are not focusing on the instrument quality but rather on the music. But I like to set the bar high for the sound quality on my pieces, and if there was some jarring part during it that sounded oddly fake, I'd probably notice that myself. Failing that I'd like it to be pointed out to me. It's healthy to keep striving for improved performances.

    But this time I felt that wasn't the case so I'm glad I started this discussion. I'll rethink the use of the portamento and get listening to more solo pieces to hear how they are handled.

    Glad you all liked the piece, and with Randy being a fellow Song of Ice and Fire fan is great to hear. I have to agree the music in the show is rather unremarkable, but the main theme is extremely popular. I found that when scoring to film, it's easy to be sparse and basic and get away with it throughout. The onscreen action driving the show instead - I think has happened with Game of Thrones. Thanks for the comment on youtube as well, Randy.

    My friend is certainly the kind of person who if told a real recording was with sample libraries, he'd start picking it part to sound like he knows what he's talking about - if he ever get's some libraries himself, which he plans to do at some point, he'll never finish a piece with that attitude.
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  9. #9

    Re: Opinions on a Solo Violin

    I think you did a magnificent job on this score Graham and I agree with all of the positive comments above. My only criticism would be that some of the transitions are a bit "rough." With some editing, I'm sure they would fit more seemlessly.

    Awesome score.....

    Jack
    Jack Cannon--Toshiba laptop, 2.8 GHz CPU, 1.5 GB RAM, GPO4-JABB3-Auth. STEINWAY-Gofriller CELLO-Stradivari VIOLIN-COMB2-WORLD, FINALE 2009/11, RME Digiface, Cardbus, V-Stack---Mac Pro 2.66 GHz CPU, 8 GB RAM, DP 8, MOTU Traveler, MOTU Micro Express.--MacBook Pro 2.2 Ghz CPU, 8 GB RAM.

  10. #10

    Re: Opinions on a Solo Violin

    I just listened once but I have to say this is very well done! I only noticed two semi-jarring portamentos in the violin and they were well done, but I believe they were treated with equal weight as the notes surrounding them when, possibly (IMHO) the slides should almost have been "throw-aways" or closer to the transitions a guitar player makes when changing chords; more like embellishments...shorter.

    All that said, however, this is beautiful work.
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

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