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Indiana James and the LASS-ed Crusade

Yeah ... I really apologise for these awful blog titles. I simply can't resist.

This post is an informal follow-up to my posts on legato strings and creating my template. Given that my legato strings post was so popular and that the strings are usually the backbone of people's orchestral templates I felt it natural to go in this direction. In a future article I'll discuss work with VSL woodwind, EW brass and various Kontakt customisations.

A Bro and His LASS

Also, since the last two posts, something really important happened: AudioBro released the 1.5 update for LASS.

If you don't think this is a game-changer then you really need to get over to AudioBro.com right now and take a look at the new videos. The capabilities for improving workflow are just amazing.

This isn't going to be a long advert blog for LASS but I can say that this new functionality has meant that for my current template I've pretty much stripped all of the strings out except LASS. I've kept in a bit of Symphobia and Omnisphere strings for basic pads but everything else is LASS now.

Also, the new update includes a slightly sweeter tone and improved tuning.

Just to give an example of how powerful the new AA is, here's an example of me messing around with it. This is a single take with my right hand playing the keys and my left hand on the modwheel (and this is before I even understood properly how to use the sustain pedal with AA). There has been no touching up whatsoever to this. It's a single improvised take and I'm not a keyboard player (in case you can't tell).

http://www.jamessemple.com/music/lassaatest.mp3

The Holy Grail of Sampled Strings

Hey cool I managed to tie back into the blog post title! Anyway I think most composers here would love to be able to write complex string parts that sound realistic but aren't going to take ages of meticulous programming. A lot of my previous discussions have been about workflow. Professional composers often have crazy deadlines and for everyone else spending hours tweaking MIDI information just isn't fun or inspiring.

Wouldn't it be great to be able to write full polyphonic legato/portamento parts in one pass? This was one of my points in my previous legato strings post and we are now at that point. LASS with AA can do this. As much of my previous template was based around trying to fake this with various tricks, I no longer have to do this any more.

So my current strings section of my template is now the following: -

String Pads: Omnisphere Transparent Adagio, Symphobia Soft Sustain Dynamic, Symphobia Solo Strings Sustain

LASS: 4 tracks (first chair, divisi A, divisi B, divisi C) for each section except basses where I use a single track.

That covers legato strings. All other articulations are a mixture of various libraries. I can say that I recently included the excellent Native Instruments Session Strings and I love them. For driving staccato they're great and sound particularly natural.

Verb is a Doing Word

... and if that's true then perhaps reverb might be translated as re-doing. It would certainly be appropriate for me! I've changed my reverb setup countless times (or perhaps at least 8 or 9 times). Even now I'm looking at changing it again. Reverb is particularly important for making strings sound realistic.

In my previous template (which I am still keeping) I used distant and close strings. I've moved away from that with the new template. My short articulations have less reverb on them but the legato strings have a fair amount on them now.

I'm currently looking at a setup using sends to various reverb ambiences. The strings use a send to a strings reverb (mostly ER but some tail) and then a second send (of a far smaller value) to an ambient reverb. Finally I have a send to a Lexicon PCM 90. I know this seems like a lot but I find the three reverbs suitably wash out the sound and add space.

The first two reverbs are Altiverb (although I've been experimenting with the Vienna Convolution reverb and Aether and they both sound great). I've noticed that concentrating on adding reverb tail and less ER gives me the kind of sound I prefer. It sort of washes out without adding too much harsh room sound.

...and the Point of All This?

Yeah I appreciate that this post has been less dense than some of the others but I really wanted to demonstrate how my new template has worked for me. Here's an example of a piece I produced this week. I'm still in two minds about the string sound ... for this version I used an exciter as well to get that smooth James Newton Howard sound.

http://www.jamessemple.com/music/sentimental.mp3

All thoughts and comments are welcome.

cheers

James

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Comment by James Semple on August 27, 2010 at 3:02am
Hi Jan, thanks I'm glad you like the string sound. I did use the Vienna Exciter on them. I really like the Vienna Suite plugins.

Most intonation issues with LASS are now sorted with the last update (version 1.5) and in general they have a slightly sweeter sound. I don't find them to be a problem.
Comment by Simon Godden on August 6, 2010 at 1:09pm
Some gorgeous music there James, nicely written too. However, your strings are really the star of the show here, and what I would give to use LASS for the second movement of my symphony. I've spoken to Andrew too (on V.I. Control), and he does come across as a really nice bloke.
Comment by James Semple on July 30, 2010 at 2:01am
Hi Jeffrey ... good point about LASS Lite. In the interest of full disclosure, I don't work for AudioBro in any way however I have met Andrew Keresztes and he's a really nice guy.

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