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Dear composers,

I've been struggling to find the right software to orchestrate my works. I have tried Reason on my Macbook Pro, but I find the sound way to unnatural (especially the violin parts). I wonder, since you have more experience, what are your favorite programs to compose/orchestrate with? Which program creates the most realistic sound and is not to hard to use?

Thanks in advance!

Charlotte

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Hi Charlotte,

You appear to have found a solution to the problem for now.

It took me a long time to get software, and to get it adjusted properly, so that it sounded reasonably authentic for string instruments,  and most especially for violins in the higher registers.  The problem has been even more difficult for solo violin.

I found that Logic Pro, with additional applications and instruments, met most of my needs.

(I am not advertising this product, since for all I know there may be ways to attain the same results with Reason or Sibelius or some other application).

Here is an example, a piece I composed about a year ago.

(See link below).

This work emphasizes the role of solo string instruments, but also contains solo piano and numerous other orchestral effects.  

The violin(s) have been created and adjusted using an EXS24 setting.  I have created a series of violin instruments, just for this piece, adjusted to be as little as 20 cents apart in tuning, for the particular effects I have in mind.  If you use glides and/or pitch bending, as I have done here, in addition to other effects, the sound becomes much more authentic, I believe.

Here is the result:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFDS9f-K6U4 

(I suppose we can post links here, as part of the general conversation, since there is a link button.)

You'll hear some solo string effects in the beginning, but the clearest demonstration comes after the first minute.  Some of the best solo string effects appear at about 4:00 in the video.   You'll also hear some software effects that come from a "World Instruments" application, that offers an "Irish fiddle" and a "Chinese Erhu" (traditional two stringed Chinese violin).

Another way to generate string effects is by using "sound sculpture" in Logic.  This seems particularly good for the cello and for the double bass.

I'm working on a piece now that features the double bass in a combined orchestral and electronic framework.

I have attached a file to this message, which contains a very short excerpt.  (You may hear a flute at the beginning, and at the end, but you can ignore that).

The file name begins with the words "Double Bass," and it is the double bass portion of the piece that I want to put forward.

Imagine three double basses, playing together in what sounds like a brief cadenza.

The one in the middle always plays pizzicato.  The other two, on the left and the right, play using a variety of techniques, and so vigorously that one feels the instruments may break apart. Listen with a good set of headphones, if you can.  There are dramatic glissandi and grinding effects.  (I actually have five double basses simulated here, but in real life three would probably suffice).

As in a traditional cadenza, the content is a reworking of a theme which has already been stated and partly developed by other instruments.  That will be difficult to grasp since I present the double bass passage out of context. 

But what you may find of interest, is the extent to which the sound of a double bass, or perhaps any string instrument, can be produced, using sound sculpture.  I won't take the time to explain how it works here, but it is very different from a traditional synthesizer.   The actual grinding, the friction, the rubbing of one object against another, such as a bow against a set of strings, or air against a set of strings-- and various types of motions, such as striking, bouncing, dropping, etc -- can be produced.   (The piece may sound pantonal, but it is actually moving in and out of a heptatonic Indian mode, and settling on the tonic.  There is a great deal of pitch bending, gliding, and there are some partly randomized effects, held within a tight framework). 

So I am interested in your opinion.  

After listening to some of these effects (in the linked and/or the attached piece), what do you think?  How does the authenticity of the sound compare with other computer generated instruments you have heard?

Attachments:

I use Finale 2012.

I havent tried Sibelius vbut these two programs are the flagships for composers.

Finale is really just like having pencil and manuscript in front of you and then you can immediately play back what you have written.

So money is not an option then?! All these Vstii

Get a good notation programme and an orchestra to play your music Charlotte,saves so much time tweaking midi files!!

Yeah, orchestras are much cheaper than VSTi gear these days :)

If you have a local amateur ensemble write for them. Nothing like getting music played by people and not computers.

Oh, I do agree completely. Only this gets very complicated when you decide you totally want to write for a symphonic orchestra, and unfortunately there's no amateur symphonic orchestra around. They aren't very common, either. The sensible solution would be to write mostly for what's available, but here comes the question: what's more important, the music or the need to have it performed at all costs?

Here we go with this old nutmeg! I am not going to hijack this thread to discuss this one though.

I hear what you're saying  Sam. but HALion,s biggest downfall is it's resolute dryness.  With a good reverb programme, a good engineer can make HALion sing

Sam Umar said:

Hi Charlotte. When I got my Cubase 5 and started composing using HALionONe as the VSTi I was not very satisfied with the sound I heard, so I've tried several other VSTis, including Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra, East West Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra, Miroslav Philarmonik, and the most recent I am using now, Garritan Personal Orchestra.

I am quite satisfied with the sounds of Miroslav and East West. So maybe, you could also try those or any other great VSTis, such as Vienna Symphonic Library, although I haven't tried that one, but I've been listening to the samples. :)

Yes, I agree with you, Simon. Most of its sounds really need reverb involvement, but some, like soft strings (if I'm not mistaken), already sound okay in their default stand.

Simon Godden said:

I hear what you're saying  Sam. but HALion,s biggest downfall is it's resolute dryness.  With a good reverb programme, a good engineer can make HALion sing

Sam Umar said:

Hi Charlotte. When I got my Cubase 5 and started composing using HALionONe as the VSTi I was not very satisfied with the sound I heard, so I've tried several other VSTis, including Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra, East West Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra, Miroslav Philarmonik, and the most recent I am using now, Garritan Personal Orchestra.

I am quite satisfied with the sounds of Miroslav and East West. So maybe, you could also try those or any other great VSTis, such as Vienna Symphonic Library, although I haven't tried that one, but I've been listening to the samples. :)

Thank you for this info!  & Also thanks for asking the same questions I have!

James Semple said:

Hi Charlotte,

It depends where you are having issues with virtual orchestration. If you are finding the interface/workflow awkward for actual composition or orchestration then I agree that either using pencil and paper or some kind of notation software (like Sibelius) would be the answer.

 

If the problem is down to the quality of the virtual instruments then ... welcome to the never-ending world of trying to make mockups sound realistic. Basically you will need sequencer software and a professional level set of orchestral samples.

 

At the moment East West are doing an exceptional deal on their Symphonic Orchestra but it tends to have a fairly cinematic sound by default. It depends what you are looking for overall.

 

I use Cubase (and occasionally pencil and paper and advice from some amazing orchestrator friends) and I use a LOT of sample libraries. You can see more details at http://www.jamessemple.com/studio.html. If you check out my page here at Composers' Forum then you can hear some of my mockups.

 

Realistic orchestral mockups require a fairly serious hardware setup so you might find my approach won't work for you. One of the best possible approaches for beautiful and realistic-sounding orchestral 'sketches' is Spitfire Albion. It's even designed to be run on a laptop.

 

Solo strings are one of the hardest things to mock up however again I would recommend Spitfire for this. Their Spitfire Solo Strings library is reasonably priced and sounds amazing (because it's top-class British performers recorded by a world-class engineer with top-quality equipment in AIR Studios in London).

 

If there's anything else you'd like to know then message me and I could set up a Skype session.

 

cheers

 

James

Hi Charlotte. I would definitely recommend using the EastWest Symphonic Orchestra and then maybe adding to it with Hollywood Strings. It sounds real and it is what many composers use to write their music, such as: Thomas Bergersen and Nick Phoenix who write theatrical trailer music. I can almost guarantee that you have heard something by them at some point in your life. For just writing music (not having a "recording" of it) I use Musescore (which is like Finale, but free) or a pencil and paper for the note input. Hope this helps! :)

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