Music Composers Unite!
I recently purchased VSL Solo Strings and I'm learning to use the free VSL player that comes with that library. Dane Aubrun has posted some beautiful pieces on Composer's Forum using VSL so I asked him to help me. He has already shown me how to use a cross-fade controller to blend two articulations but I'm hoping that he can show us the basic method of loading and switching between articulations as well. We thought others might be interested or have suggestions so I started this thread.
Here is the short piece in my favorite key that I am learning on. I'm also posting an mp3 that NotePerformer produced from Sibelius for this score. I will send anyone midi or xml files on request since they are not supported on the forum as far as I know.
In case anyone's interested, VSL's VI series is still at bargain prices, single instruments as well as collections - except unfortunately the starter special editions, still at original list price. Well, it was a bargain for me when they cut the price earlier on except it got me hooked.
I bought the Vienna Instruments Pro player on offer at about £50. The free player was adequate for most things but the Pro player has some useful features for me, the big one is the slot rack with 16 slots, time-stretch and polyphonic legato/portamento so instead of needing several tracks for chordal portamento, it can now go on one track. You still need an extra track if the portamentos go in different directions but that can't be helped.
Until recently this player was about 3 times the price as it came with 3 licenses for people having multiple computers. VSL sensibly put this version out with one license.
Well, I have no commercial interest in VSL, just that of a composer looking for consistently good sounds, but I will say that the customer service is excellent as compared with Spitfire that seems non-existent. I had queries with the new player and VSL's detailed response came the next morning.
Spitfire's forum is difficult - considering its manuals are worse than VSL's there's nowhere to address a technical query about using their player. As far as I can see: no contact us button - so you take pot luck. I'm still waiting for a response from a couple of days ago. (I got the BBCSO "Discover" version free but it's unusable until I get an answer - except to make a big noise.)
That's too bad about Spitfire. Having a good relationship with customers seems like an obvious thing to do considering the price level and amount of complexity we are dealing with here. Spitfire has good sounds, hopefully they will turn things around
The Pro player has 'Human Performance Control'. That seems like a useful feature, have you tried that?
Have I tried it?
Yes and it seems to work but works uniformly across all lines/chords on the same track; comes more into its own with things like a string quartet. VSL claims you actually need it to take advantage of the “dimension” series which I can’t afford anyway.
It’s quite a complex subject and worth downloading the Instruments Pro manual to see just how infinite it is! Page 43.
What isn’t mentioned is It seems to cycle through a set of alterations triggered by each new note in the piano roll. There’s a row of buttons beneath the humanise curve window that run through as the notes play.
You can redraw each curve, add your own variations, use the toolbox to invert and reverse them, alter the mis-tuning range, time delay and so on, all controlled overall by three sliders to the left of the window: time delay, tuning and amount. To cut it out set the amount to zero.
One thing I’ve found useful as a learner is if you mess up the settings on one track you can just copy a set you like from another; and save settings in a file and load them as you wish.
In use it’s pretty subtle. I think they got it right – small human errors that even the best players fall to.
The Humanize Area creates something wonderful: Human Imperfection. From subtle changes in intonation to simulating stress-induced tuning corrections and slightly un-tight rhythmic passages:
Random patterns produce authenticity, be it in the string, woodwind or brass section. Additionally to these fixed variations, you can influence the intensity of the tuning curves and delay settings to create an even more random effect with real-time controllers.
= = =
Frankly, Spitfire has lost me. Still no reply so I "submitted a support request" today. If I go anywhere else it will be EW or somewhere. Spitfire's serial dropdowns ensure you massage even the simplest of your problems to fit one of their pat solutions. As the polite expression goes: stuff 'em! Worse than trying to query something with my energy company and it hates customers!
Thanks for they explanation Dane.
I once asked one of our pro members here ( a VSL user ) about introducing errors into his pristine renderings in order to make them more realistic and his reply was "After all that work and expense, no way!"
But I believe there is a point of compromise between accuracy and humaness that will be the most satisfying to our ears so I look forward to what we (you) are able to do in that regard.
The VSL website is confusing. I see Synchron strings, Dimension Strings, Syn-chronized strings. The woodwinds and brass get Synchron but no Dimension. I'm not seeing a clear explanation here, is this just a marketing scheme to maximize confusion and profits?
Just a guess but I think it's to do with marketing something new. Synchron plus a lot of Lego enthusiast packages. Big Bang.
My guess is that VI has reached full capacity. There's little scope forward. They must have sampled almost every instrument!? Besides, the VI series is ongoing at cut price (except the starter sets). I suppose they could put out a few specialist things like a flamenco guitar or banjo but who would buy them? A jazz flute would be nice.
So, Synchron is the new market product. Has its own player. It's supposed to improve things in certain ways, like making the volume between instruments consistent (which the VI series isn't). They've applied whatever processing they've used to some VI instruments to Synchron-ise them.
They've assured that support for VI will continue. I'll have faith that if things change they'll announce. They must have millions of VI users.
The Dimension series is a different recording technique and comes into its own with the Pro Instruments player humanise feature. Apparently, small groups are recorded separately miked well enough that you can get down to individual players. The VI Pro player will humanise each separately. It should increase realism for those for whom this is important.
Brass have been Dimension-ised and Synchron-ised.
I was ready to try the new synchron player but at the "your price" it looks like a conversion from what you've got already - which isn't what I want. I want to try it out without potentially disrupting projects that use VI. The blurb talks about the "time stretching" feature to change the speed of anything from portamentos to vibrato, tremolo; shortening or lengthening detachés/spiccatos under CC control. Nice but that feature already exists in the VI Pro player. I'll try something when a need arises and there's some money around. I've spent too much on this stuff already.
Spitfire hasn't written back yet....
Humanising in VI Pro | Time Stretching
There are two useful VSL videos on the subjects - they aren't mentioned in the user manual....I've just been corrected by the humanising one. Although it doesn't humanise every player in a group sample. e,g the Violins 1 section (which it can't as that's just one sample set), it will apply a different humanising variation to each note of a chord in a track. It's easy to use.
Same with time stretching which can be used to slow down or speed some aspect of a sample - like making a staccato very short or altering a portamento speed, vibrato etc. (Useful for a string quartet or similar.)
The video shows how to do this without affecting the release samples. Again it's quite easy but remember to click the "Render" button. It's only problem seems to be it will always do the stretch whenever you use that articulation. If you want to stretch differently for different uses of the articulation, duplicate the articulation in another matrix cell so you can switch between them with keyswitches or whatever controller you prefer. The limit on how many variations you can create is the number of spare cells you have.
With both these features you can save and load them. I've put my save files in the same disc as the samples.
One complication arises if you have an identical back up disc. You need to copy the folders (along with your custom presets) via a staging folder into the opposite disc.
It is impressive but also intimidating. I barely have time to write any music let alone tackle this learning curve. Of course I could think of it as a one time investment of time that would pay off later which is probably the best approach to many things.
I wanted to ask you about the use of cc11. I apologize if you have mentioned this before. I suppose you could assign a controller to cc11 for fine adjustments of volume that human players often make that might fall between the cracks of the velocity levels which we already use. I didn't notice this in the humanize video (haven't gotten to the time stretch one). Other libraries suggest this practice; I've used it with East West with some success, is that something that you do with VSL?
I’ve never used CC11. In the early days it seemed like an extra volume control but seemed redundant. The second piece I posted here used CC7 to control the volume of the notes – never satisfactory as it had no effect on the timbre. Then I re-read the manual and learned about velocity x-fade and have used that ever since. Only rarely I’ve used CC7 but it’s there if need be.
I just tried CC11 on an editor on the screen and, yes it’s just a volume control. I set it to various levels along with different velocities and only the volume is affected, not the timbre.
There’s almost nothing on the web or VSL. What’s there comes to the same conclusion. So I was wondering if both are included so that it could be controlled from a keyboard without affecting the master volume. Someone suggested using it to “fine tune” the velocity x-fade volume.
I honestly doubt you could refine humanising with it any more than with CC7 or CC2 but I haven’t explored slight variations in the volume except CC2 to do the occasional accent and things.
The humanise thing is so easy – not much of a learning curve except experimenting
Some suggestions. All in advanced view:
- decide the range of bad intonation you want – just underneath the little tool box there’s a button marked “50 cents”. You can change it to a bigger or smaller range. If you’re happy with 50 cents just leave it.
- if you want delayed entries there’s a Dly button just above the toolbox. Mine’s set to 20ms. You can click on this and enter a value manually.
- choose a set of variations from the dropdown to the right of the word “humanise” the button was set to “in tune random 1” but inside that button there’s a lot of variations to choose from.
- click the “perform” tab in the control area to the bottom left. It’ll show the humanise ‘amount’ controls next to the humanise area. The ‘tun’ slider is about the amount of the intonation error you want covering all the 12 variations.
- if you want delayed entries, use the ‘dly’ slider.
- set the ‘Hmz’ slider to control the amount of intonation and delay error together.
There’s also a little slider underneath the 50 cents button. You can stretch out the intonation curve if you want correction to take a longer time.
You can assign a CC to control Hmz if you want to vary it during a piece.
As for the “Thr” Threshold, it seems to be the amount of time after the last note played before it sets the variations back to the first button under the curve.
I honestly feel your pain with this. When I started I had to make a list of things to set as inevitably I’d miss something and it wouldn’t work right - from adjusting the panning to remembering to switch on the reverb adjust the keyswitch positions with deep instruments and the like. Later came adjusting the velocity curve when I couldn’t get the instrument quiet enough, then the slot rack fader….It’ll seem like second nature soon enough!
I begin to doubt there’s a more advanced player on the market. This humanise thing controls each articulation separately along with everything else that can be controlled. Most sample players and notation software do it globally.
This is all very informative. Thanks Dane for this information!
Since I only dipped my toe into the water here with respect to the Synchron player most of this doesn't apply to me...yet. There might come a time when I delve a little deeper into it. This information would be helpful.
I haven't given up on Spitfire yet. TBH I haven't invested in anything more at this point.I have IK Miroslav 2 , Komplete 10 ,and Amadeus. My studio will be in a transition to a different location eventually. The last time I disturbed a DAW computer was to clean it. Simply removing the cover and blowing out dust caused issues. I don't want to make any more larger changes until the move is complete. I might even be building a different computer at that point.
If the upgraded version of Spitfire discovery has closer mic positions which I am told it does I might be looking more at it. I might also give Synchron more of a go, They seem like a good company and when done right the sounds are pretty good.
2020 has been the year of sitting on my haunches. Thinking things over. Slow reaction times lol.
What I find interesting is in the beginning key switches were seemingly intended to be played on the respective assigned keys. All of these types of sample library instruments have something very similar in having key switches that are assigned to certain keys on a midi keyboard. Over time the key locations themselves have become less important since they are simply commands that can be dealt with in various other ways in DAW software. Some DAWs like Studio One Pro allow the insertion of key switches in an easier way by having a template set for the instrument and simply dragging the preset under the affected note. I'm not sure how that would apply to Synchron player. I'm guessing the same things still apply. If I set a template for it and drag the key switches it should respond the same as any other instrument.
I'm going to sound way picky here and that's not my intention. The solo instruments in VSL don't sound head and shoulders above many others I have heard. Not bad but sometimes a little less than convincing.
In the end I think some of the final result boils down to the composition intent. Is the composer composing for a sectional or are they trying to bring out individual parts or solos? For that I have mostly bought dedicated solo instruments from different companies...but that's me.
Hi Tim - It would be interesting I guess to do head to head comparisons of VSL with other companies and I wouldn't be surprised to see mixed results from doing such a test. The problem for me, besides the obvious limitations of time and money, is that there are so many factors involved in getting a good result and in judging the quality of one result against another. We have to consider the usability of the software and the skills and preferences of the composer/arranger as well. And then the accessibility of the company user support as Dane has pointed out. So many things to consider. This is why I value hearing from Dane and you (Tim) as well as others about all this, because I'll never figure it out on my own.
Tim, have you heard about the Chris Hein Horns? I have heard good things about them.
Hi Ingo, Yes indeed, it would be interesting to make head to head comparisons. I'm not sure how the results would sway those who have already had good results with one product. As you say, so many variables are involved.
There have been competitions in the past where composers used basic libraries and out performed others using much higher end tools. I am not implying I am one of those. No where near. It really comes down more to the composer in my opinion. Still it's great fun to listen to these libraries and determine what they are all capable of.
I also learn a lot form you and Dane reading your experiences with different setups.
Chris Hein Horns? I can only say I have heard of them. Now you have me curious! I mostly use NI Session Horns Pro when tracking sax and horn sectionals. There's probably a Chris Hein .vs ***** fill in the blanks there. If anything the competition right now in the sample library market gives us lots of choices!
We are pretty lucky Tim, pretty spoiled in fact when you consider what composers in the past had available to realize their compositions.
I'm sure you are familiar with the 'mixing' contests that are popular on some of the audio related forums, the general idea of course is that the competitors start with the same tracks and then try and enhance them using whatever DAW or mixing hardware is deemed appropriate for the contest. The results are surprisingly different considering that the tracks were identical to begin with. So it follows that someone who is adept at mixing and arranging midi mockups could make a lower quality sample library sound better than I could using a high quality library. Which is why I, along with quite a few others here, am leaning pretty heavily on NotePerformer. So what is your opinion of NP? It certainly does have limitations but some of the results are quite good to my ear. It seems to do better with larger orchestral ensembles, the smaller group or pop ensembles aren't as good IMHO.