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my chamber strings sound like a bad synth pad
Last post Fri, Jan 01 2010 by rverne10, 11 replies.
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Posted on Sat, Jun 21 2008 12:16
by ardvaark
Joined on Sat, May 03 2008, Posts 22

can somebody please help me with my workflow

i got solo strings and it all sounded great working the same way, but with chamber strings, it just sounds bad

i set up a few articulations using each vienna instrument as a single instrument in my chamber "string quartet" , eg legato, portamento, exp, sus vib, dyn 3s.  These are keyswitchable, vertically arranging cells (i really don't get how to add the horizontal thing, and the x fade thing doesn't seem to work, and the matrixes look great but don't seem to match what i'm playing unless i load lots, whereby i may as well build my own)

i play in melody

i losely quantize  (not really, just get everything close to "on time" so it's workable)

i apply keyswitches in my recorded cubase track - lots, to nearly every note it seems, as leaving the one for a while always yeilds a nasty surprise like an odd attack or volume or something.  Oh, and i know cubase keyswitches are an octave out too.

i hand edit any suddenly loud notes - these seem to happen a lot with chamber strings, but not with solo strings - why are they so touchy?  They seem to have a huge change in timbre from velocity 88 to 90!  Anything over 90 sounds hideous - synthy and extremely heavy on the top end.  Turning down the filter or exp seems to cut out all other colour though

i set up the mod wheel for vel x fade (can't hear much difference between this and the exp so whats the point of having 2 volume controls?), press "w" on the vienna instrument and "record" cubase, and play back the track, moving mod wheel where appropriate to shape string sound.

i hand edit the bits that got out of control in cubase.  This is the right place to edit yes?  If i don't record it in cubase - where do i actually edit it?  It seems some other posters here have said certain functions in cubase don't yeild nice results - but if i don't record it here, where does the vienna instrument actually hold it in the "written" form for editing?

i just turn the exp down a bit to cut out some of that god awful harshness.  Should i be actually programming/automating exp as well as the mod wheel, or just set it to desired level.  Should i be playing with attack, release etc If i should, seems to be a lot of programming....

at this stage, i now note that every time the volume rises i get that horrible synth sound

i try eq ing just a little in cubase, to seperate each instrument and cut the nasty synth monster

i pan each instrument in cubase, not understanding why other posters have said not to do this in cubase - it's actually about the only thing that sounds ok and adds a little more realism.  i've downloaded the vsl thingy that's supposed to do the wonderful panning for me, but there it sits uninstalled as i'm already having nervous breakdowns taking forever to learn small steps such as the above - the last thing i need is another variable

i add reverb - more for instruments furthest away, less for closer ones.  I just added it as a plug in from cubase - no edits, because although I've read how everyone seems to talk about the early and late reflections and delay times etc,  i don't understand how to do this, and can't find any simple, easy to use reference on the subject.  Anyway, I put it on a send and dial in just a little as desired for each instrument (i like a very dry sound anyway).  I know it's only cubase reverb, but can it really make a bad synth sound so much worse?  Apparently so!  No matter how little I use, i now have a wash of sound that turns my chamber strings into a tsunami symphony! 

I once again give up, wondering what on earth i've done wrong to the chamber strings, when the solo strings seemed to shine so effortlessly

Posted on Sat, Jun 21 2008 18:38
by jbm
Joined on Fri, Jan 16 2004, Posts 1150
I'm not going to go into much detail here, as it seems pretty clear that this is a matter of personal taste, but the fortissimo samples from the Chamber Strings will sound a bit harsh; a single fortissimo note from 6 violins is kind of a cutting sound. And so it should be! Why else call it "fortissimo"?? There's not enough of them to get that smooth, lush sound, so they will definitely "cut in" a bit. I would suggest perhaps velocity limiting your tracks in Cubase, as you clearly don't seem to like the highest velocity samples in the library. I can understand if you find that single notes in a line are popping up above the velocity switch - that can be annoying, but there's not a lot you can do about it, other than hand-editing those notes to bring their velocities into the same range. Using the velocity xfade is also an easy way around this. Basically, the velocity xfade just allows cross-fading between different velocity samples, and allows this to be controlled manually by a CC value, rather than by MIDI note velocity. Just keep in mind that, whenever two velocity levels are being cross-faded, your ensemble size effectively doubles - going from 6 to 12 violins, for example. This probably won't be a huge deal, at least not for a composition set-up, but purists find it a bit misleading.

Personally, I've never found the Chamber Strings to be "synthy" - I've been very happy with mine! If you're building large, block chords with them you might find it a bit artificial sounding. But again, this is because the number of players is effectively being multiplied with each note in the chord, and there's really nothing that can be done about that, except for perhaps using the Solo Strings for some of the notes - that is, if you want a 6-note chord for violins, you should, technically, be using solo strings, not chamber strings. Anyway, unless something really strange is going on, I can't say much else, except that it's probably just a matter of taste.
Posted on Sat, Jun 21 2008 20:32
by Mahlon
Joined on Sun, Jan 08 2006, The decadent South, Posts 441

aardvark,

Can you post an example of the heresy? Chamber strings are a little strident, but still natural soudning to me. As a sidenote, how do you feel about the sound of chamber strings in the examples of others? Do they sound synthy as well?

Mahlon

Posted on Sun, Jun 22 2008 06:24
by ardvaark
Joined on Sat, May 03 2008, Posts 22

"Basically, the velocity xfade just allows cross-fading between different velocity samples, and allows this to be controlled manually by a CC value, rather than by MIDI note velocity. Just keep in mind that, whenever two velocity levels are being cross-faded, your ensemble size effectively doubles - going from 6 to 12 violins, for example. "

This is helpful - i didn't know that about the velocity xfade - thank you.  I'm not sure i understand the doubling though - does this mean that if i have 2 notes, one after the other, that at the moment i move from the 1st to the 2nd i'm actually hearing 12 violins, and at the beginning of the 1st and end of the 2nd, i hear 6 violins?  What happens if there's no overlap eg the 1st finishes when the 2nd starts - does that stop the problem?  I overlaped the ends of notes in the chamber strings, as even the legato patches were sounding like individual notes, ie disjointed.  With the solo strings i didn't do this, as the legato patches took care of this.  I'm not near my vsl computer at the moment, so is it possible the synthy sound i'm hearing is from this overlap?  If so, how do i get the patches to sound legato otherwise?

"If you're building large, block chords with them you might find it a bit artificial sounding."

Nope, standard 4 part harmony writing.  The most experimental I've been is by doubling the cellos and the violins - like a divisi.  Possibly too much and should use solo strings to do this then?

Oh, and yes I loved the demos.  In fact it was the  Holberg Suite-Sarabande that sold me.  I was really after that smaller more initimate sound because I've worked more with symphonic libs in the past.

Unfortunately, I can't post an example as I have no way to do so, but I can email one if someone would be kind enough to host it for me.

Cheers

Posted on Sun, Jun 22 2008 18:14
by Beat Kaufmann
Joined on Fri, Jan 03 2003, Switzerland/Brugg, Posts 1720
ardvaark wrote:

Unfortunately, I can't post an example as I have no way to do so, but I can email one if someone would be kind enough to host it for me.

Cheers

 

bk[at]beat-kaufmann.com 

Beat 

____________________

www.beat-kaufmann.com 

www.musik-produktion-createc.ch (Konzertaufnahmen, Musik mit Samples)
at www.beat-kaufmann.com : MIXING an ORCHESTRA - TUTORIAL
Posted on Sun, Jun 22 2008 19:15
by jbm
Joined on Fri, Jan 16 2004, Posts 1150
ardvaark wrote:

I'm not sure i understand the doubling though - does this mean that if i have 2 notes, one after the other, that at the moment i move from the 1st to the 2nd i'm actually hearing 12 violins, and at the beginning of the 1st and end of the 2nd, i hear 6 violins?  What happens if there's no overlap eg the 1st finishes when the 2nd starts - does that stop the problem?  I overlaped the ends of notes in the chamber strings, as even the legato patches were sounding like individual notes, ie disjointed.  With the solo strings i didn't do this, as the legato patches took care of this.  I'm not near my vsl computer at the moment, so is it possible the synthy sound i'm hearing is from this overlap?  If so, how do i get the patches to sound legato otherwise?



The doubling results from the cross-fade itself; the cross-fade is literally fading between two samples at different (adjacent) dynamics. This is why you hear a more continuous change in sampled velocity - they're being mixed together. Actually, though at certain dynamics it's not noticeable, there is probably a doubling at all dynamic levels of a velocity xfade instrument.

If your 4-part writing is over 4 string groups - violins, violas, cellos, basses - then you should be fine. It's just worth keeping in mind that any chord played by violins only, for example, will result in a much more "thick" sound than you'd get with a live divisi part. The doubling of violins and cellos is totally "legit" - no worries there! ;-)

The overlapping you've applied manually could be causing some of the "synthy"-ness, since it might make it sound a bit like a string pad with a slightly long decay, and also because every "overlap" will be effectively doubling the size of the ensemble. The legato patches only sort of do this, since the duration of the overlap is so short that it's probably not perceptible (it's really just to avoid any "popping" at the sample boundaries)... But, as I said, it's almost impossible to know, since this is such a subjective evaluation. Personally, I found that my ears really changed when I stopped playing parts, and started sequencing them in a notation program. I think this is because I was no longer experiencing the bizarre disjunction between playing a keyboard and hearing a bowed instrument - they just don't work together (for me, anyway). When I was able to simply listen, somewhat objectively, I found the sounds to be much more realistic than I'd originally thought. We're pretty clever creatures, human beings, and we hear everything in terms of context. This also applies to idiomatic writing. If your writing isn't "string-like", then your samples will sound more synthy than they would in a really well scored passage. I don't want to assume anything about your writing, but if you're curious about that, maybe program in some string music from a score you really like - just to check that it's not something about your writing that's throwing your ears off.


J.
Posted on Mon, Jun 23 2008 15:24
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5390

My immediate rection to this, whether wrong or right, is that you do not want the Chamber Strings sound to begin with.  You want a softer, richer sound that comes from a larger ensemble, and the Appassionata Strings would be more appropriate.  The actual size of the recording group is of far less significance than the sound you get with it in samples.

Posted on Mon, Jun 23 2008 15:47
by jbm
Joined on Fri, Jan 16 2004, Posts 1150
Yes, I suspect you're right, William. How's it going, anyway? Hope all's well.

cheers,


J.
Posted on Tue, Jun 24 2008 15:34
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5390

Good - I hope you  are doing well, James

Posted on Wed, Jul 02 2008 23:17
by ardvaark
Joined on Sat, May 03 2008, Posts 22

well after another week of playing around with my chamber strings and mixing various amounts with solo strings, I've come to the conclusion that they truly are every bit what they say they are - they sound brilliant - exactly the sound i was after!

it seems the attacks and volumes within each articulation respond well to tweaking, but the main thing I found was to not despair until vel xfades and exp have been programmed.  I used to these just being a bit of an add on, and normally i automate everything in my mixer in cubase, but theres something about the action within the vsl instrument that is very intuitive here.

anyway, just wanted to say thank you to all who jumped in to help

Posted on Fri, Jan 01 2010 03:08
by rverne10
Joined on Tue, May 26 2009, Southfield, Michigan, USA, Posts 110
ardvaark wrote:
I just added it as a plug in from cubase - no edits, because although I've read how everyone seems to talk about the early and late reflections and delay times etc,  i don't understand how to do this, and can't find any simple, easy to use reference on the subject.  Anyway, I put it on a send and dial in just a little as desired for each instrument (i like a very dry sound anyway). 

Be careful here-adding too much reverb will make the sound you are talking about.
go here -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
http://www.harmony-centr...s/tips/technique_reverb/ for an easy to understand read about reverb-takes a light hand on the reverb-you want to leave in a lot of the 'stringy' sound that the VSL samples have. If you edit it out that stringy sound (bowing sounds, etc), well, that's what a synth string sound is all about. ----------------------------------
Main thing is to keep reverb time in the Cubase plugin close to the so called ideal time-about .9 sec. and push the size to something around 100-150-then push diffuse out to where the graphic display right above that button shows the sound to be filling up the size you have allocated. =================================================================================
Second thing- all good string sound really boils down to three main issues, articulation and then articulation and then articulation. Are you an instrumentalist-particularly wind or string>? If not get near a musician or a book about articulations-the tutorials around this site are pretty good including the Vienna Academy.
Cubase 10, Windows 10 64 bit version 1809, MOTU Audio Express, M-Audio Oxygen 88 keyboard contoller, USB connection, Radeon Rx 480, AMD FX 6300 six core processor 3.50 Ghz
Total Physical Memory 16 GB
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