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Old 2003-10-26, 10:15
drumyon drumyon is offline
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
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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!