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Dear Forumites,

Ray and myself regret to inform you that this competition is as it says in the header, cancelled.

We still think it was a worthy adventure because the winner could well have benefitted from this, but lack of interest has dictated otherwise.

Our thanks go to HS and Socrates for their willing participation and to all who supported the idea in this and other threads.

I'd like to add a special thanks and show of gratitude to Ray for agreeing to be a part of this.


Time to get back to what now seems like the breezy job of composing.

Dear Forumites

I am writing to see if anybody would be interested in entering a competition to select a piece of concert music written by one of you to be programmed by myself and mastered by Ray. 

I have at my disposal high end orchestral samples that can be used to show the winner how their score would sound in a more realistic way. The samples are not perfect nor a replacement for real players of course, but the difference between what I can offer and whatever notation software is used for rendering is very marked, so much so that when the winning composer hears his/her piece, they may well get a nice shock! The fact that Ray has kindly offered his considerable skills in mastering for whatever comes out of my studio, means that the winner will have a full quality professional recording of their piece. 

I know some here will have the same pro samples as me and I respectfully ask them not to apply as I would like to limit this to those who can only use notation software for playback. 

I was thinking of setting this up pretty much the way Gav has set up competitions in the past
( and I thank Gav for his advice in this matter) with me choosing one out of the best 3 pieces voted for by the forum members to work on.
All this would be anonymous of course, but once the winning piece was announced online, I will have detailed discussions with that composer regarding performance details and interpretation. 


The music should be a concert work of between 2- 6 minutes for small, up to large orchestra. For clarification, a full orchestra can comprise up to (but not essential!) triple wind (auxiliaries are allowed) full brass up to 6 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 tenor trombones, 1 bass trombone and 1 tuba, percussion a4 if required (all mallets and non pitched perc available) 2 harps and full strings. Chamber orchestra is a paired down orchestra and personnel numbers can be left to the composer but there must be a minimum of around 20 players although if strings are used, then the composer must specify how many in each section. Please note that divisi in strings is also possible, with a limit of a3 for each section. 

No choir or avant-garde techniques should be used because they are not very convincing at present with samples. Any style/period of music is permitted and pieces will NOT be judged on this. The piece can be anything from an overture to a symphonic poem in any mood and on any subject if you need one to write with, but it must be a concert orchestral piece.

What I will be looking for whilst judging, apart from a good piece of music, is clarity of intent in the score because I will have to in effect perform it, this means as detailed a score as possible regarding articulations and dynamics. If I feel there is a problem with the scoring in terms of balance or performance on an instrument, I will gladly liaise with the composer in order to find a solution they are happy with. 

You can submit more than one work if you wish, but not with the same alias and you can submit a work previously posted on this forum. If you are interested please let me know in this thread. 
  Entrants should then submit mp3 and full score for each piece they enter and forum members will then be asked to vote for their three favourite pieces, the winner will be chosen from the top three. If the interest is there, I will sort out the next anonymous posting phase using Gavs’ advice and set-up procedures.

Deadline for entrants to register - 15th September

Deadline for entrants submission - 30th January

Here is a well known piece programmed by me in order to give you an idea of the quality of the samples I will use on the winning piece. There are 2 files, one is live, the other isn't. I didn't try too hard to create an exact replica of the live recording and it is possible to tell the difference, but they are pretty close. Also this file has no mastering applied to it, which will be done by Ray on the winning piece. Hopefully this will entice a few more entrants.

Any questions, please ask here and I shall endeavour to answer, as an added bonus, it will also bump the thread. 


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yes, time spent and learning curve was always one of my big questions regarding VSL, but as Mike said, it did not take very long for this piece, which as "an introduction/guide to the orchestra" I imagine it can be demanding. I suppose it often is a matter of choosing the right sample from a lot of alternatives for the particular sound and technique/effect you have in mind and Sibelius usually will obey to what is notated… but correct me if I am completely wrong.

Very nice mockup indeed.  I could tell almost immediately the difference between the mockup and the real recording, but mostly because of the mechanical character of the former (which I'm sure you can easily fix, given enough time, but I understand that's not the purpose here). In terms of the timbres of the sampled instruments, however, I'm very impressed.  Looking forward to seeing what my fellow composers come up with for this competition.  (And hoping I'll manage to crank out a piece in time for the deadline. :-D)

The realism comes first from the sample quality, followed closely by careful cc and articulation work. Socrates is correct in that knowing which articulations provided by a sample set will work best and are the most appropriate in a given situation, is an essential skill to develop. I read from the full score and play the parts in.

Extremely well done mock-up Mike..very impressive! :)

And I wish you (and Ray) all the best with your competition--very generous of you both..hope all goes well and I look forward to hearing the entries and winner!

Thanks Bob

@Bob M,

Thanks Bob, let's hope a few more folk enter.

@Bob P,

Not really after anything other than showing how more realistic the samples I have are when compared to notation software playback.
All options regarding mic position, stereo field and size of string section are on the table for the winning piece, which will dictate what sound is best.

Daw playback and real feel are not mutually exclusive and both will be the goal when recreating for the winner. You are reading too much into the differences between the live and sampled version.

I fail to see what purpose there would be in doing a few bars of the Britten in notation software, it must be self evident to folks thay what I have presented is way beyond notation software in terms of realism and that is the point of the prize- an opportunity for someone to hear a more realistic rendering of their music, I did not say it would be perfect, because it can't be.
Sure, notation can have different soundsets but it does not have the in depth cc control to eke out a more musical performance. Notation playback can and does distort a composers' perception of orchestral sound and musicality, more so than good samples do, ( as well as dictating how they write because of a lack of articulation variety and performance technique) and it is this false impression a composer gets of his music that I would like to address in this competition. The winning composer will have to get used to a new sound, and it will hopefully be an equivalent paradigm shift to when one hears the music one has written being performed live, even though the performance is a sampled one.
He or she will also be able to write divisi and try out some other effects like sul pont or harmonics divisi and hear how they may well sound live, none of this is convincing in notation software.

Doesn't this tie in with your regular - and basically correct - assertion that once in the hand of players, a performance will be different each time? Mike's mockup to me, ignoring the fact that it's midi, just sounds like it's in a different space rather than it possessing a different sound endemic to midi mockups. Perhaps the way to look at it is that Mike, as the entire orchestra, will have his own interpretation, much as a real orchestra will have theirs, with the added ability to choose from a whole suite of virtual spaces in which to house the virtual players.

Bob Porter said:

One of the recordings has very wide stereo separation. This "group" is either very big, or really spread out. The instruments occupy a definite space on the "stage". Every note of every instrument sounds perfect. Volume between groups of instruments is very good, maybe too good.

The other recording sounds like a smaller group on a big stage, recorded with maybe two microphones. Instruments farther away from the mics are not as clear. The stereo spread is much smaller. There is less definition between groups of instruments.

Actually Dave, you have hit on another aspect here. I will have to interpret the winning score from all angles, balance, tempo, rubato, and all the things that make a performance. I will of course consult with the composer on these matters, but yes your assertions are right as far as I'm concerned.

Our talk does raise valid points and is appropriate for the competition. Perhaps another thread could explore these issues further as I agree that they are an interesting facet of the way music is produced.

Hi Mike, any chance you could post your DAW project file or exported Midi file for this?  Would be interesting to see what the Midi looks like as far as how you used CC's to make for a more realistic mock.  I use Cubase Pro myself, and certainly don't have your quality samples, but may be interesting to open up the Midi file and have a look at that (and may be fun to play it back with my lesser quality samples hehe).  

I'd also be interested in seeing how you approach the automation side of things, if it's convenient.

eboats said:

Hi Mike, any chance you could post your DAW project file or exported Midi file for this?  Would be interesting to see what the Midi looks like as far as how you used CC's to make for a more realistic mock.  I use Cubase Pro myself, and certainly don't have your quality samples, but may be interesting to open up the Midi file and have a look at that (and may be fun to play it back with my lesser quality samples hehe).  

@Dave and Eboats,

I'm pretty sure you wont be able to make any sense of this, but here it is. The problem being that Spitfire audio uses uacc for cc and articulation work, VSL and others use complex key switching. This means that for example, release control is on cc17 for Spitfire sounds whilst it is cc23 for VSL. The only thing you will be able to sensibly glean is expression/ velocity control riding. I use 2 tracks for each part, 1 for notes and the second for cc work, although sometimes that gets mixed up! The template is  organised into instrument groups, wind, brass etc. and the arrange page is arranged in score order from top to bottom.

All cc work is done over bluetooth via apps on an iPad. Mixing is done in Logic ProX with a Motu1248.


No, that makes some sense. I have to use a combination of keyswitching and CC (annoyingly I have no KS string libraries so I need 20-odd tracks for 5 sections), but it's always interesting to see how someone more experienced approaches it and their project flow. It looks like Logic X or whatever you're on has upgraded the CC panel significantly - I can only switch between expression, modulation etc but you apparently have real-time control/view over multiple channels simoultaneously. I'd upgrade but I'm worried about stymieing my workflow for months.

"All cc work is done over bluetooth via apps on an iPad" - so you play back the project and input expression live? What apps do you use for that? I have a Faderport but haven't got it to work for years so using mouse has become second nature, I'd never explored other options.

Do you have the multiple instruments like trumpets condensed into one track?

It's interesting to see you use volume automation as well, I almost never use that except for incorporating live instruments I have no midi control over. That said, I've had to recently for some percussion instruments where the velocity dropoff is uneven (127 - 100 loud, 99-50 inaudible) and there's no CC options.

Thanks for taking the time to post.

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