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drumyon 2003-10-26 10:15

Section Arrangement tips tricks or treats...
 
Someone was asking the other day about orchestral arrangements. So Ill try and relay some stuff about the way I go about section arrangements. You can use or abuse what you can from it.

This can be done with most ANY section-based instrument that you are trying to create realistically.
You'll need CubaseSX, Nuendo or some other rewireable DAW for this work.

Say you want to put together a nice horn section for a funk tune, and you have a good selection of samples, and an adequate enough system to handle the overhead. By the way I can't say enough about using GOOD quality sample sets that comes with an adequate amount of tonal variation and expressions. In order to build truly REALISTIC sounding sections one MUST have these basic building blocks.

Things to look for in sample sets include a proper collection of the following;

Swells (sforzando's) from ppp to FFF (vel mapped)
One Shots (Staccatto's) from ppp to FFF (vel mapped)
Long tones (legato's) from ppp to FFF (vel mapped)
Trills - from ppp to FFF (vel mapped if possible)
Shakes (for funky horns especially) from ppp to FFF (vel mapped if possible)
Slides - from ppp to FFF (vel mapped if possible)
Spills (up and down) from ppp to FFF (vel mapped if possible)

It really matters not what format your samples are in, AKAI, EXT24, GIGA, etc as long as they are GOOD! The good sets (patches) will have a real sample for every single note (or at least most) in the scales of the instruments rather than simply mapping fewer actual samples to a larger range of sampler notes in order to simulate a Full Range scale for the instrument. Fewer samples means that you have to rely on the sampler to pitch-up or pitch-down the real sample that it has to work in any particular range in order to synthetically produce sounds for those keys that fall in between where the REAL SAMPLES lay on the keyboard. When looking at sample disks always look for full scales of sampled instruments as these are generally going to be the best sounding patches to work with.
In order to be able to use these higher quality samples sets you'll need to be able to get them off the disks and into a format that the Reason samplers can use. The use of tools like CD-Extract can take any one of the before mentioned sample disk formats (and many more actually) and convert them directly to NNXT format (complete with vel/key mapping intact). As always the Propellerhead Reload utility is an INVALUABLE tool for use with AKAI format sample disks. Reload is (I believe) freely available to all registered Reason users. Good incentive to register eh people? :)

So let's build the section in REASON starting with the Trumpets.
You will need to determine beforehand what types of expressiveness you will need in the project. This will dictate what types of samples you extract from your sample disks for use with the NNXT samplers that make up this section. Seeing as we are doing a funky type of project we will definitely need at least Swells, One Shots, Long tones and Shakes. It should be said that there are some types of expressions like Trills, Slides and Spills that one can easily build in the MIDI editor that can sound hauntingly realistic. So depending on the amount needed of some of these expressive types you might just save some ram by building one or two and copying them around. It should also be said that attempting to build Swells, Long tones and Shakes are way to time consuming (for me at least) to make them SOUND CORRECT so to each is own... Anyway, fire up 4 NNXT's and load your Trumpet Swell patches into one, the One Shots into the second, the Long Tones into the third and Shakes into the fourth. If you need more patches for simply fire up some extra NNXT's and load away. Label all the samplers accordingly that make up the section. Proper labeling is imperative as improper labels will drive you nuts later on when you need to find an individual patch in order to tweak or tune something. Fire up a SPIDER audio combiner and patch all the sampler outputs (stereo or MONO, you make the call here, just be consistent with whatever you choose) to a single SPIDER Input. Label this SPIDER "trumpet" and plug its output to a Hardware interface channel. Of course if you end up using more that 4 samplers for a given instrument you'll need to daisy chain a couple of SPIDERS to tie all the sampler outs together. Repeat this same procedure with the Trombone section and then with the Saxes. What you'll end up with is 12 (or more) NNXT samplers, ~4 samplers per section and SPIDERed into a single (or two for stereo) HW interface channel(s), loaded with the all the patches that you are going to need to trigger for an entire brass section made up of X# of Trumpets, X# of Trombones, and X# of Saxes.

So now that the actual "section" is built, we can now proceed to the getting the section to do what you want it to. For this you'll need your rewire capable Digital Audio Workstation. The basis of what ill be describing here will mostly apply to the Steinberg DAWs but the principles can be applied to any rewireable DAW.

Ok. So in the DAW, you'll first need to set up some Rewire channel in the mixer. First, pull down the Reason device manager. Remember the Reason Hardware Interface channel numbers that you plugged each of your instrument sections into above and now label and active the same numbered Rewire channel in the manager and label it accordingly. As you activate each channel in the manager you should see a rewire channel strip pop into the mixer panel with your label on it. This is where you will control your audio playback of the sections individual instruments (i.e. Trumpet, Sax and T'bone).
Now, here is where it is going to get a bit trickier. You are going to need to create MIDI tracks for each NNXT sampler so that you can trigger any expressive type from any instrument anywhere in your project. The number of MIDI channels you need to create will directly correspond to the number of NNXT's you created above. I.E. if you created 4 NNXT's per instrument you will have 12 total separate MIDI tracks controlling your brass section. For example, first Trumpet MIDI track will control Swells (as above). So, in the inspector for that MIDI track you would setup the "midi out" to point to the name of the Reason NNXT that you loaded your Trumpet Swell patch into (you named them right?:). Just repeat this procedure for each of the separate patch elements of the instruments and as always, LABEL! LABEL! LABEL!
So now that you have your section all ready to roll in the DAW, let's test it to make certain MIDI is flowing TO Reason and AUDIO is flowing back to the DAW. Double click in the lane of each MIDI track and then double click again to bring up the "Key Editor". You should be seeing a grid window with a piano roll on the left hand side. Set your cursor over the piano roll and click/drag up and down the keyboard. You should be hearing the audio from whatever patch is loaded into the particular NNXT you are triggering. Repeat this process for each of the section controlling tracks to make sure you are "firing on all tracks" so to speak.
It should be obvious to you at this point that keeping the MIDI controller tracks grouped to instrument will help immensely while programming your arrangements. Also I find that the Score Editor is an INVALUABLE tool for arranging on a Multiple Part level. It should also be pointed out that velocities will need to be balanced among the tracks so that continuity is maintained throughout. This method will require TWO project files be loaded into two simultaneously running applications, one for Reason and one for the DAW. Always remember to SAVE, SAVE, SAVE both files to keep your project in SYNC!!!

Once the horn arrangements are finished the original DAW project file should be saved in preparation for audio export. Basically what you will doing is exporting/compiling your section MIDI tracks, instrument by instrument into single 32bit Floating point audio instrument files which will then be re-imported into the project, and in whole, replacing all the MIDI controller tracks used above.
This is accomplished by "muting" all the channel strips in the DAW mixer EXCEPT for the one instrument you will be exporting.
EX. Say you're ready to export a complete, compiled trumpet part to disk. ON the DAW mixer MUTE ALL audio channels EXCEPT the TRUMPET rewire channel. Set the channel strip to MAX gain before clipping, NO EQ, and NO FX!! Also, in the track manager MUTE all MIDI controller tracks EXCEPT the MIDI tracks that control the Trumpet samplers. This will reduce the MIDI Rewire overhead a bit. Now, EXPORT AUDIO as an interleaved 32bit floating point .wav (or .aiff) and name the file accordingly.

When you have finished exporting the audio horn tracks I would suggest making a COPY of the original DAW project file and opening it. First, delete all the MIDI controller files. Then import your finished Trumpet, Sax and Trombone audio files into the DAW and place them into the timeline keeping note of proper sync with the rest of the project. Continue on with the rest of the project with THIS file as the main project file. If you do need to make a change to the Horn arrangements you can simply load the previous DAW project file with the MIDI horn parts, edit away, and re-export when you are done. So if you're not sure if you'll need to make changes here or there to your original arrangement, keep that original DAW project file safe and handy!

Anyway, this is a little insight on the way I do arrangements with sections. It's the best way I have found to be able to have maximum flexibility at hand when doing attempting to build REALISTIC sounding MIDI section arrangements. Hope it helps in some way.

Cheers!

drumyon 2003-10-26 10:52

a few extra things...
 
A couple of things I neglected to mention in the previous post was Tuning.
Or actually DE-Tuning to be more exact. In simulation of REAL sections, in this
case a horn section, there will always be present some slight tuning variations
among the instruments. Even the very BEST horn players don't play every note perfectly
accurate, pitch wise. So, in order to NOT sound too sterile, it is common practice
to DE-Tune the samplers by a slight amount to obtain that ever so slight amount of
"funk" that will get your section sounding fuller and more like the real thing.
It only takes a few "cents" plus or minus between instruments, but consistency
is champion when working with a bunch of samplers in tandem.

There are many things one can do to fatten up the horn section. The first of
which would be simple delay. A slight delay (say 4-6 ms) from Left to Right on
each instrument can make a world of difference to a small sounding horn section.
You can also slightly increase the DE-Tuning mentioned above (use discretion here)
to obtain a fatter section sound. Be careful here for obvious reasons. Another
method which is VERY easily done with this method of MIDI arrangement is simply
DOUBLING (tripling or even quadrupling) the Parts! Not enough OOMMPH! for you?
Just add another 3 or more players to your section! It's as easy as adding an
extra track or note to your timeline or key editor.

The last thing I wanted to mention is the Stereo spread of the horns in the mix.
Panning everything dead center gives a more concise "section" feel to the horns.
When panning left to right (trpt-left, TBone-center, sax-right, etc) gives more of
a spatial "personality" to the section.

Cheers!

EditEd4TV 2003-10-26 16:21

Re: a few extra things...
 
This is all great info drumyon. I just wanted to add a few tricks I've used. I've found that using the SAME sample set for a horn section sometimes ends up sounding just like that - the same sample stretched across your built up chord. I realize it's hopefully completely different samples, but sometimes it just has that feel of just being a sampler. To solve this, believe it or not, sometimes I'll take a completely different instrument, like a tuba tuned up high, or a trumpet tuned down low and muted a bit, to just play one note in the collective whole of a brass section chord. Just that one note to vary the sonic picture can really help make it sound more "real". This would apply to layering to emulate more than one horn player on the same note as well. If you put the same sample, maybe 3 NNXT's with the same patch, and each play the same note, trying to simulate 3 horn players on the same pitch - it sounds bad. Even if you detune the samplers a bit, it sounds like one sample going through a chorus - the waves beat against each other and go in and out of phase - it doesn't work for me. So I'll do the same trick - use different samples. Use one horn, one trumpet, one tuba, all tuned up or down to meet each other on the same pitch - and you gotta do some filtering to get the tone correct. Some people might argue that this sounds wrong. I don't know. Works for me. You do need to make the authentic horn be the loudest though, and let the other instruments just color the sound.

I used to do this same thing with synth brass patches - sort of the same thing. I'd find some great synth brass patch and do some section for a song and it sounded cool, but obviously an analog synth. I'd just have to add ONE sampler doing the lead melody within that brass part, do some creative pitch bend stuff, vibrato here and there, and man... suddenly it didn't sound synthy anymore. Did it once too with a sampled string section and had a real violin player come and lay down just one part and it suddenly made the whole section sound convincingly real.

Anyway... there's my 2 cents for today... :)

:A couple of things I neglected to mention in the previous post was Tuning.
:Or actually DE-Tuning to be more exact. In simulation of REAL sections, in this
:case a horn section, there will always be present some slight tuning variations
:among the instruments. Even the very BEST horn players don't play every note perfectly
:accurate, pitch wise. So, in order to NOT sound too sterile, it is common practice
:to DE-Tune the samplers by a slight amount to obtain that ever so slight amount of
:"funk" that will get your section sounding fuller and more like the real thing.
:It only takes a few "cents" plus or minus between instruments, but consistency
:is champion when working with a bunch of samplers in tandem.
:
:There are many things one can do to fatten up the horn section. The first of
:which would be simple delay. A slight delay (say 4-6 ms) from Left to Right on
:each instrument can make a world of difference to a small sounding horn section.
:You can also slightly increase the DE-Tuning mentioned above (use discretion here)
:to obtain a fatter section sound. Be careful here for obvious reasons. Another
:method which is VERY easily done with this method of MIDI arrangement is simply
:DOUBLING (tripling or even quadrupling) the Parts! Not enough OOMMPH! for you?
:Just add another 3 or more players to your section! It's as easy as adding an
:extra track or note to your timeline or key editor.
:
:The last thing I wanted to mention is the Stereo spread of the horns in the mix.
:Panning everything dead center gives a more concise "section" feel to the horns.
:When panning left to right (trpt-left, TBone-center, sax-right, etc) gives more of
:a spatial "personality" to the section.
:
:Cheers!

Intenzity 2011-06-05 20:07

Oh man, this is great stuff. I have been trying to make both a dub and funk horn section combinator patch to use over and over and these things will help greatly.

Good stuff!!

Droog 2011-06-05 22:08

great information, i have never to this day found a deccent string collection suited to disco , funk jazz. i can write the music i just end up using synths because the string samples sound dreadfully fake.

zarathustr 2011-06-05 22:08

Some other stuff

Well I'd start with the question "well, why would you want to use R+R anyway?" I mean once you're rewiring / sending MIDI from another DAW anyway. I think it makes some sense to give some critical wether it makes more sense to use reason + record.. versus keeping it all in the DAW.. I mean one stage of things ought to be thinking critically about this, and it may vary from project to project... And maybe this is made more so where so many sample libraries come with a sample player.. and whatever advantages or disadvantages might be associated with that.

I would add.. you probably want to look at "what the real thing looks like." Stuff like.. well how many notes can a horn play at once? So.. you have X number of horn players.. and.. you know.. in an orchestra there's specific locations of these guys.. particularly in relationship to other sections.. so in creating you're virtual sound stage, you'll want to take that into consideration no doubt... and in how you arrange stuff... and.. and.. and this really goes along with it.. a key is to work out, to some extent or another "how to think like a horn player" as a pose to a keyboard player or.. whatever.. in terms of how you write the parts.. Like.. what's there range.. how long can they blow without passing out.. if you leave one of those guys out for x part of the composition.. you know they are getting bored.. and hey, you gotta pay them union fees anyway.. so.. might as well use him..

I go with the "have multiple sample libraries" so that you have that kind of tonal variations.. in you're pallet.. and that each part of a section should sound different.

Somewhere along the line I think there's such a thing as creative license and you do kinda want to craft a sound.. I mean maybe less so for straight out classical.. (the one place where a digital sound is preferred over an analog sound) so I'd say it's ok to do things differently that what "real is," but you probably want to understand real first..

Why would you use an audio splitter instead of a mixer? A mixer seems simpler?

Umm...

So I kinda feel like it's ok if there's.. the sampler doing a certain amount of pitch bending on the level of the sample map.. here and there.. I mean.. for those of us who started doing this stuff pre giga sampler.. but.. you know.. ideally you probably want to go so far as to be able to do round robin stuff.. where if you play the same note twice.. it'll play a different sample..

For a lot of instruments I'll use some kind of random on the velocities so it's not sound so robotic.

I think this bit about pitch.. is particularly important with strings... that is they are supposed to be a little out of tune... err.. well that's the thing about strings.. they are expressive with pitch..

I'd actually recommend reviewing the MIDI standard.. cause there's a lot of stuff built into the standard that's especially set up for doing orchestral work..

I think there's a lot of.. complexity. I mean.. in terms of understanding the performance articulations of different instruments.. ideas of different registers.. how they can have different colors... etc etc etc..

One of the way's I often work is.. I'll write a few measures at a time.. and this way.. I don't have to be super smart about orchestration.. or.. the conventional kinda compositional process.. where you have the question of what are the specific implications of the tonal colors in the pallet.. and to think about all that stuff before I get to the business of actually programming in the notes.

Or to put it another way.. if I write stuff out a few measures at a time.. I get instant feed back on how things sound, and can adjust it.. easier then I can if I write or program things out a section a time.

So this makes RAM more of an issue... around which you have to balance stuff. On my system I only have 6GB of RAM.. I say only because for me this feels really limiting.. and is part of why I say "its ok if you don't have a sample for each individual note" because.. you need to think about how to balance.. things.. like is that the most important thing, is how many velocity layers you have the most important thing, or how many instances.. and what performance articulations might you want to drop.. just cause.. of where you're at: It's a question of balance.

Traditionally.. writing serious orchestration work has been the domain of the desktop.. and often with you're larger sample libraries.. you'll need multiple desktops!!! (and I'm talking really powerful desktops at that).. but basically.. sample libraries take up a lot of space.. lap tops never have enough hard drive space.. and often it's more difficult to add more RAM to a lap top then it is to a desktop.

But.. you don't have to go all that far if you just want to try you're hand at it.. or to use orchestration stuff as an element in your work.. in fact.. if something is a background element.. you can really cut down on the detail requirements (RAM) quite a bit.

But you know.. ideally you want to be going 64-bit OS, with like.. as much RAM as you can afford.. RAM, it should be added, is often kinda reasonably priced.

Oh.. back to this bit about.. sample layers and having a different pitch to every note.. optimizing a patch... which is to say.. not using a different sample for each note.. and working out how many velocity layers you really need.. is kind of an art. I mean you look at something like the Garritan Personal Orchestra.. that's a good example.. in that they managed to make it both light weight.. in terms of how big all the samples are and whatever.. and sound good. Perhaps not idea, but good...

And for christ's sake.. I deal is probably some huge VSL thing.. consisting in the 5K area, requiring multiple desktops? And even then you'd probably want stuff from other libraries..

and.. yeah.. idk, that's some thought anyway.

Wizburg 2012-03-06 10:15

Drumyon,

Thanks for your answer I have been trying to work that one out for a while, I not this was written in 2003 I am wondering if you still use reaosn particular 6 or at least a more recent version if there is a better way to do this.

Dave


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