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Separate single instruments vs. a3 instruments
Last post Fri, Feb 21 2020 by PaoloT, 7 replies.
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Posted on Sun, Feb 16 2020 22:59
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 559


After having worked with the Dimension Strings and Dimension Brass, I can now appreciate how good it is having separate instruments making an ensemble.

The Dimension libraries are, however, expressly recorded to make an ensemble. Not so the separate woodwinds, like Flute 1 and 2, or Clarinet 1 and 2.

Is still the use of a3 instrument to be preferred, when writing unisono parts, or with the advancements of VI and MIR using two separate instrments to make an unisono ensemble is now the best practice?


Posted on Tue, Feb 18 2020 18:27
by esperlad
Joined on Thu, Nov 07 2002, Posts 233

The three unison wood wind instruments work quite well for band music.

If you are using the flute (for example) in an orchestral setting, and you have three flutes, three different instruments may work better. If the unison passage is extensive, then perhaps the three flutes playing together would be more ideal. 

Posted on Tue, Feb 18 2020 18:42
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 559

In other words, it depends on the context. The example with band music should show that if you need a very compact sound, the a3 instruments are better. In classical orchestra, where a more transparent sound is needed, maybe separate solo instruments may work better.


Posted on Wed, Feb 19 2020 18:22
by esperlad
Joined on Thu, Nov 07 2002, Posts 233

The context is important to consider. With the Concert Band example, the flutes playing together create the sound one would expect. The clarinets are also ideal for this purpose.

If you are writing for three orchestsral flutes, you probably will want to decide which of the Flute 1 and 2 to use depending of the passage. The Also flute may be helpful if you are writing the third flute in a lower register.

Posted on Thu, Feb 20 2020 21:55
by stephen limbaugh
Joined on Tue, Feb 23 2016, Los Angeles, Posts 240

My personal opinion is that if your string size is like the Dimension Strings setup, 8-8-6-6-4, then you shouldn't need woodwinds in groups of three (except for special solo passages for something like an alto flute...).

But if you are using a larger string ensemble, like 20-16-10-10-8, definitely make use of the a3 instruments.  For example, if you have a melody in the flutes and 1st Violins and it is forte or louder, then I'd for sure use the flutes a3 patch for balance purposes.  If it is a soft melody, use just 1 flute for strings that large.

For tutti sections, check out the final presto from Mahler's 5th Symphony (I attached a screenshot).  For the last 6 pages, the flutes play a4, oboes a3, clarinets a3, and bassoons unison a2 with the contra playing an octave lower.  Those groups double the string chords' top note.  Notice Mahler doesn't try to fill out the chord, but because the brass is playing the melody, all unison, very loud, those woodwind chord notes would be totally lost.  So, he just has all of the high winds play the top note of the dominate root--dominate root--tonic root.  Plus, so it's not too soft beforehand, that wholetone scale is also in a3 unison.

Instances like that I would say are the main function of a3 VSL patches.

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Posted on Fri, Feb 21 2020 16:05
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5458

That is good info on the Mahler.  I would add that the balance issues don't really matter that much in orchestral sample useage.  For example,  if you are using a huge string ensemble, you can easily use the solo woodwinds simply by adjusting the level.   Being strict about what would happen with a live orchestra in numbers is not necessary and more importantly,  the ensemble woodwinds, though the timbre sounds very good,  are not as espressivo as the solo woodwinds.  So if the music demands that you would want the solos. 

But on the concert band you have to use them for sure, because there the sound demands a large ensemble of winds and it is normal in band to have doubled instruments in unison.  Tom Champe got me thinking again about dong some concert band music, and it is possible to do a very realistic symphonic band with the combination of solo and ensemble woodwinds.  

Posted on Fri, Feb 21 2020 16:30
by PaoloT
Joined on Tue, Dec 27 2016, Posts 559

Thank you everybody for the very informative hints!


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