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A VSL Commission?
Last post Thu, Jan 14 2021 by William, 14 replies.
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Posted on Fri, Jan 08 2021 16:52
by jim p
Joined on Fri, Jan 08 2021, Dumfries, Scotland, Posts 3

Firstly, I am new to VSL and to this forum and apologise if this thread is a duplicate of one that already exists (I couldn't find anything). Please direct me to that thread if you happen to know!

I'm trying to evaluate VSL as a vehicle for my own compositions as I've liked the realisations I've heard. I don't know which product would be best for me (there are so many!) so I'd like to commission someone to 'perform' a short composition of mine using an appropriate VSL product (for a fee to be agreed). If it works out, then I'll know it will be possible for me to do it myself.

I think it would be sensible to start with something small like a movement from a string quartet (3-4 minutes in length). I can supply a PDF score, midi file, mp3 audio and perhaps other formats.

Please respond if you or someone you know would be willing to discuss this project.

Thank you!

Jim
Posted on Fri, Jan 08 2021 19:41
by Acclarion
Joined on Sat, Aug 15 2015, Canada, Eh!, Posts 525

Hi Jim,

While I can't assist you directly with your request for someone to do a mockup of your piece, I can suggest that while that approach may give you a sense of what is possible with VSL instruments, you will ultimately be at the mercy of the competence/effort of the individual that you have hired.  Working with midi, especially to realize a piece with all the nuances and aesthetic considerations you likely would expect (based on your suggestion of a string quartet) requires an inordinate number of hours, which may make it less feasible, unless you find someone willing to do it for the sheer pleasure, and not for adequate compensation.

The other concern is, that even if you are satisfied with the individual's rendition of your piece, it doesn't do anything to help you with your own efforts.  That will require a fair amount of practice, experimentation, and oodles of patience.  Remember, your musical skills/composition chops have no bearing on your ability to feel comfortable working with daws, virtual instruments, plugins, mixing, and mastering.  Most of us that pursue this, coming first from a musical background, suffer years of frustration as we hone our skills.  There are amazing composers that wouldn't have the skill/patience/desire to ever render their pieces with virtual instruments, and there are less accomplished composers that possess a lot more skill in terms of computer music production chops.

With all that being said, my suggestion to you is to definitely try to find someone to commission (trust me, there are many composers that will welcome a pay day doing what they love, even if it is less than an ideal amount), but to also demo a few of the virtual instruments offered by VSL and try your hand at it yourself.  I believe you can demo them for 30 days (could be wrong on this?) so while an "expert" is working on your piece, you can at least explore the articulations, and workflow with your preferred DAW.

Hope this helps, and best of luck!

Dave

p.s.  if you do get your piece done by someone, please share it here, along with your own thoughts on how it turned out!

www.DavidCarovillano.com - NEW SITE!
www.acclarion.ca - concert accordion & clarinet duo
Posted on Fri, Jan 08 2021 20:20
by jim p
Joined on Fri, Jan 08 2021, Dumfries, Scotland, Posts 3

Hi Dave,

Many thanks for your speedy reply and wise suggestions.

I do expect to purchase a VSL product at some point and I also expect it to take some time to become skilful at using it.

I take your points about the rendition of the piece and I'd hope to be able to hear some of the expert's prior work before commencing. As to the performance itself, I'd really want to leave that to the performer. I feel the composer should relinquish control whether it's to a VSL renderer or a real string quartet. The music has to work under different interpretations. I may not like the result but I'll be confident it will be competently done!

I also hope to glean a few pointers from the expert on things like what libraries and articulations were used, what was hard or easy to render and so on.

Anyway, I'll be glad to share it here together with any thoughts and advice I receive.

Many thanks again for the advice.

Jim

Jim
Posted on Mon, Jan 11 2021 13:53
by FedericoAsc
Joined on Fri, Jul 17 2020, Vienna, Posts 16

I have little doubts that solos and quartets are the most difficult compositions to render with music libraries. The principle is that the more you expose your instruments the harder is to get realistic mockups. The reason is that many solo instruments are not yet as realistic as sections are, because solo instruments carry much more detail. So quartets are the most difficult thing to do. Chamber music can be done, but it requires *a lot* of skills, time and patience. As an example, I think my best mockup so far is Vivaldi's Winter:

https://youtu.be/e8MGz2B3pnE

I did it in 5 days, and it required a lot of learning in the past.

Strings are the most difficult sections to render, especially violins. Again, according to the exposure principle, you can make your life easier, by combining them with woodwinds and brasses. For example, one could do a perfect mockup of e.g.  Mozart Symphony 40. Then it comes the bigger symphonic/cinematic music, and that can be done quite realistically nowadays. This style of music minimizes the exposure of single instruments, as far as expressive solos are avoided.

So my advice is to try at the beginning with at least chamber size orchestras. With a quartet you're going to be probably a bit disappointed.

Posted on Mon, Jan 11 2021 15:13
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5561

That's true about quartets and solo instruments which are so exposed and not in big masses of sound, and therefore usually more involved to do with MIDI.  Also what Dave said so nicely is the reality of it, and made me think of something not so nice -  ask Joshua Bell to play a violin solo you composed, and then you will know you can do that also, if you obtain a violin?

People think VSL and MIDI are just technology.  They are far beyond mere technology.  They are a musical instrument in themselves.  Like other instruments, you get out of it as much as you put in.  That's true of many sample libraries, but none of the others have the musical depth, detail  and control of VSL which allows this level of expression.    

Posted on Mon, Jan 11 2021 15:51
by jim p
Joined on Fri, Jan 08 2021, Dumfries, Scotland, Posts 3

Hi Federico,

I am most grateful for your comments and caveats. I rather liked your version of 'Winter' on YT. My main comment would be that the strings in the lower registers don't have quite the 'attack' of the real thing - this seems to be something that's especially difficult to capture.That the test is hard will I hope make it a good test of VSL (and the renderer).

I have been corresponding with a VSL expert and he's going to have a go at a few bars of my composition. It requires a lot of double stopping from the violins and viola and a legato line from the cello. If it turns out OK and he agrees I'll post the final result.

I have some experience with other libraries and have indeed found strings to be unsatisfactory. I was motivated by Jay Bacal's rendition of the Ravel string quartet but I'm only beginning to appreciate just how much skill was involved in making it.

Thanks again for your input - please keep up the good work!

Jim
Posted on Mon, Jan 11 2021 17:34
by FedericoAsc
Joined on Fri, Jul 17 2020, Vienna, Posts 16

My humble opinion on the matter is that nowadays orchestral libraries (VSL included) are nothing short of amazing, but there is no *solo strings* library having at the same time: complete dynamics/articulations and what I call “physicality”: richness, resonance, texture and tone quality. There are libraries with very realistic physicality, but lack articulations. There are libraries with enough articulations, but lack physicality. So I think that technology is mature, just nobody has caught the apple yet. Afterwards, I think that one will be able to do realistic mockups from quartets to symphonies.

Posted on Mon, Jan 11 2021 18:22
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5561
There is no such thing as "complete dynamics" because there are an infinite number of them. Also the full VSL Solo Strings are incredibly " rich and resonant" - that sort of description is totally subjective and purely your own preferences of sound, not an absolute as you seem to state.
Posted on Mon, Jan 11 2021 19:25
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5561

I have to add that one thing that strikes me repeatedly about VSL is how different the instruments sound on different pieces, different mixes and styles.  This is because of one thing - the extreme dedication to both purity of sound and truly representative detail that one finds in all the instrument recordings.  This makes even the earliest instruments VSL sampled - such as the tenor trombone, the first woodwinds and strings, etc. - timeless and of great value in the newest recordings.  And the reason for this timeless quality is simply the musicality of the sampling approach, capturing what instruments actually do in methodical detail, and doing it with extremely high quality of recording. It is that approach which allows the richness and resonance that varies radically, just like live instruments, depending on what the piece is, the size of ensemble, the venue and the mix.     

Posted on Mon, Jan 11 2021 20:27
by FedericoAsc
Joined on Fri, Jul 17 2020, Vienna, Posts 16

I mean, it's not a matter of preference. It's a matter of how real an instrument sounds. You may like or not the tone of a particular violin, that's the subjective part, but whether it is close or not to a real violin sound is quite objective.

Posted on Mon, Jan 11 2021 21:01
by FedericoAsc
Joined on Fri, Jul 17 2020, Vienna, Posts 16

Also the infinite dynamics argument is wrong. It’s like saying that since time is continuous, one cannot make cinema, since a film will only be a finite sequence of pictures. The point is that the brain fills the gaps, so actually one needs only 25 approximations of infinitely many instants. The human ear can as well be fooled with enough dynamic layers, the expression control and the brain filling the gaps. Moreover, a recording is a finite sequence of digital information (bits), so there are no infinite dynamics even in a live recording, which proves my point.

Posted on Wed, Jan 13 2021 19:53
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5561

Originally Posted by: FedericoAsc Go to Quoted Post

I mean, it's not a matter of preference. It's a matter of how real an instrument sounds. You may like or not the tone of a particular violin, that's the subjective part, but whether it is close or not to a real violin sound is quite objective.

That's illogical. There is no way to quanitfy "close or not to real" - that is totally subjective and based on whatever parameters one wants to create, which again is subjective.

Your second point actually contradicts you, not proves.  With samples, since expression can be used to modify velocity, it is in effect infinite based upon the whims of the performer.  So again - it becomes infinite in the subjective perception of the listener. 

This is all very cute to discuss, but not worth spending much more time on since it's just being persnickety - something people on internet Forums spend a lot of time and energy on.  

Posted on Wed, Jan 13 2021 21:45
by Seventh Sam
Joined on Sat, Dec 29 2018, Posts 197

Originally Posted by: William Go to Quoted Post

People think VSL and MIDI are just technology.  They are far beyond mere technology.  They are a musical instrument in themselves.  Like other instruments, you get out of it as much as you put in.

As someone currently embroiled in learning this "instrument", I couldn't agree more.  I find the more I treat sequencing and sample programming as an art and craft unto itself rather than a "get sound quick scheme", the more I'm floored by just how surprisingly expressive these little rectangles on a piano roll can be...

Posted on Thu, Jan 14 2021 02:14
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5561

Yes, that's very true.   I've been using VSL since it first came out in 2002 (first available in my area) and I still feel that I have not even come close to realizing a tiny percentage of what can be done with it.  And with things like Dimension Strings it is even more complex to the extent that just tiny changes in how you do the various MIDI parameters, as well as the mix, create enormous musical differences.  The expressive complexity of the library overall, performed by a sufficiently expert programmer, is at least equal to a single traditional music instrument played by a master. 

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