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Real Talk On Sample Modeling Brass

Discussion in 'SAMPLE Talk' started by storyteller, Feb 14, 2018.

  1. storyteller

    storyteller Senior Member

    Dec 26, 2015
    Hey guys & gals -

    I’m in need of expanding my brass palette. I’ve been looking at Sample Modeling brass and could really appreciate real user feedback. Mixing doesn’t scare me. Programming passages doesn’t bother me. My questions are mostly pertaining to actual results. I've noticed that people seem to get enthusiastic about their brass in waves, then it dies down, then it rises again. For example, Blakus used it in his original templates, but now it seems like he has other libraries that appear in his template. Is it one of those types of libraries that is initially better than what you are dealing with, and then you discover it still isn't quite what you need? Or is it possible to do everything with it? I'm a big fan of playable effect articulations and such too. It seems those have to be programmed in Sample Modeling though? Can't find any real detail on that.

    Also - I am very well aware of the upcoming CSB and the nuances/pros/cons of the current libraries (well, except for Century Brass which is still new and I am curious about that one too... the centered sections concept is not ideal, but I like the sound I think...), so no need to comment about those (unless you have some Century Brass war stories already). This is purely about Sample Modeling brass and user experience.

    Thanks in advance!
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
  2. JohnG

    JohnG Senior Member

    Nov 13, 2007
    From the user demos and official demos I've heard, Sample Modeling does some things well and some thing a lot less well. I don't own it, so I am basing comments on the demos.

    Good: The "performance" character is very good, maybe the best; you can really hear the musician "play" the notes, with bends, articulations, and so on. It can have personality that often escapes a traditional sampled instrument.

    Less Good: The "it sounds like a real instrument" attribute falls far short, to my ears. I am not at all convinced I'm listening to a trumpet, for example.

    But maybe "so what?"

    If you are writing something that is soloistic, and especially if that composition is jazz or has a vibe like that, then Sample Modeling might be perfect. It may not sound like a genuine acoustic instrument, but that's not necessarily what we always want. Sometimes, instead, we are looking for expressiveness and in that area Sample Modeling does quite well.
    Lawson., Erik, jamwerks and 5 others like this.
  3. reddognoyz

    reddognoyz Senior Member

    SM brass is bone dry. It is also dead as a door nail. by that I mean no "performance" in the sample. I use a breath controller and it's great with SM brass. It will pretty much do what it's told if it's something the instrument is capable of. Sitting it in an orchestral setting isn't super hard, but it need to be done. Sometimes a "performed" vi will do a better job of sounding orchestrally brass like, if that makes any sense. I use both flavors and mix and match. The one thing about the SM brass is that you can really play in a performance, in fact you have to.....or, as I mentioned earlier, it's as dead as a door nail. Flat and lifeless. I find all of the orchestral libraries harder to play and it's more about programming them and kind of sticking to what you can do with the performance that's already there.
  4. fixxer49

    fixxer49 Bouncing Consultant

    Jan 13, 2013
    New York, NY
    i own it, and use it a fair bit. funnily, i just used the solo trumpet in a spot and it pretty much made the track.
    i'll tell you from experience - it takes some effort to get a good, realistic sound out of this thing. i usually have to place it in a space, via altiverb, and do some eq'ing to provide that believable sense of distance that we're used to hearing. there is some programming required, after-the-fact, to take advantage of a very agile set of expressive keyswitches. But, you are right - it's a bit of a painful [sonic] learning curve at first.
  5. LHall

    LHall Senior Member

    May 5, 2005
    Music City
    If you want to play parts as different individuals playing together to form a section, I doubt that you can beat SM's brass. I use them every day both in small and large jazz settings and orchestral settings as well. Yes, they take a little work to put them in a room, etc. But the work is worth it if you want to breathe any life into a performance.
    Casiquire, storyteller and reddognoyz like this.
  6. Henu

    Henu Senior Member

    Nov 17, 2017
    What Lhall said. I also use the section at work in pretty much every single project which needs jazzy horns.
    storyteller likes this.
  7. LHall

    LHall Senior Member

    May 5, 2005
    Music City
    If you want to hear SM brass in action a bit, go to my website and listen to Masquerade. All brass and winds are SM.
  8. Saxer

    Saxer Senior Member

    Mar 30, 2008
    Really natural sound, behavior, and playability.
    Different solo instruments to combine any section sizes.
    Control over vibrato, sound, transition time...
    Complete set of mutes.
    Usable in very different styles (jazz or classical solo, combo, big band, pop horns, brass band, orchestral brass...)

    You have to play it. Needs time to practise. Breath- or Windcontroller helps a lot!
    Unisono sounds convincing only when every single voice is played separate and non quantized.
    Dry (but has early reflections included).
    Possible but not easy to simulate 'round robins' for short notes by CC-movement.

    You can learn to play it or you get lost in editing. Brass-Ensemble libraries like Adventure Brass or Caspian are less detailed and sound only convincing in their styles. But then those libraries are much faster to use. I think that's the main reason for users to switch from SM.
  9. germancomponist

    germancomponist Senior Member

    Jul 11, 2007
    Yeah, you can rent a taxi instead of driving yourself. But then the taxi driver determines how he drives, not you! :)
    I think SM is a milestone in the VST world!
    Lawson., Syncopator, Erik and 5 others like this.
  10. PerryD

    PerryD Senior Member

    Mar 5, 2013
    As a "real" trumpet player, I find the SM trumpet to be the best virtual trumpet available. I have to use a breath controller for best results. I use some other brass libraries for polyphonic playing but no other brass library responds so well to player input.
    reddognoyz, Casiquire, jvsax and 2 others like this.
  11. pmcrockett

    pmcrockett Senior Member

    Nov 3, 2014
    Saint Louis
    As far as general buzz over the years goes, SM brass is one of the virtual instruments for which I've heard the greatest number of favorable vs. unfavorable opinions. It's up there with Omnisphere in that regard.
    Casiquire and storyteller like this.
  12. jvsax

    jvsax Musician

    Nov 25, 2016
    I use a WX-5 with the SM brass, and do a lot of post-editing on the breath curves and pitch curves, then add shakes, etc. For the type of music I write the results are incredibly realistic. On one particular tune I had a live trumpet reference track, and I used the WX-5 and SM trumpet and matched the breath and pitch curves phrase by phrase, and then used a curve-matching EQ between the tracks. The resulting track was sooooooo close to matching the live track.
    PerryD and storyteller like this.
  13. Geocranium

    Geocranium Senior Member

    Aug 28, 2012
    I see it as both a pro and a con depending on context. It's true that the instrument is so expressive that you can get the exact performance you want out of it. In that regard, SM instruments are amazing, and just about unmatched. On the other hand, this takes a lot of time to master, and takes a lot of time to perform each individual part (this is especially true if you don't have a wind controller). If you're on a tight deadline (I just finished up a project where I had to complete ~20 mins of music in a day), there are libraries out there that will get you an acceptable sound in much less time and with much less effort.

    If you're willing to put in the time and effort to get the perfect performance, SM will take you very far. Though I still don't think I've heard an SM Brass only piece that has the same level of bombastic as say, Hollywood Brass or Caspian. SM still tends to sound a little "thin" when you want to push out those big bwams or screaming lines and such. Perhaps I've just not heard enough SM brass...
    storyteller likes this.
  14. Geocranium

    Geocranium Senior Member

    Aug 28, 2012
    Also, as a side effect of being so knowledgeable about commercial sample libraries, I can ALWAYS pick out the SM Trumpet sound in a piece of music. The average person would never even question it, but it's so distinct that it just takes me out. Just a curse of living the sample life I suppose. :cool:
    Polkasound and storyteller like this.
  15. misterfincher23

    misterfincher23 Member

    Oct 2, 2016
    I agree that the sound of SM Brass is a little bit to thin for Epic stuff. But with the possibility to increase or decrease the individual harmonics its easy to achieve that tone.
    storyteller likes this.
  16. Hanu_H

    Hanu_H Senior Member

    Nov 7, 2011
    I love the sound of SM Brass and the playability is amazing. It's not my first choice for epic brass, but it can do it, CineBrass just gives me better results faster in that area. Perfect for classical music and lyrical solo writing. And still the best for pop and jazzy stuff. I don't have hard a time to mixing them or placing them on the virtual stage. I guess it's one of those libraries where you have to go the extra mile for making it sound alive. I think it needs a bit more experienced user than many other libraries. But it's also my go to sketching tool for brass melodies, you can throw any melody at it and it just works.

    storyteller likes this.
  17. OP

    storyteller Senior Member

    Dec 26, 2015
    Thanks for all of the replies so far. :thumbsup: I wish I could give more likes than just one per reply. It really has been a big help to hear some real-world feedback. A couple more questions (if you don’t mind).
    1. It was said earlier that round robins are difficult to manage. Can you elaborate? I’d hate to have the shotgun effect crop up all of the time.
    2. I’m not a wind player (I play guitar, piano, etc), so I’ve never felt inclined to use a breath controller. I have leap motion and the usual assortment of faders and knob controllers. Is a breath controller necessary for it, or would it be like learning a new instrument since I am not a wind player?
    3. How difficult is it to get a “fanfare” sound (fanfare shorts, etc) versus a more normal style?
    4. Regarding FX articulations.... how difficult are they to play/program? Wahwahs, rips, etc.
    It is certainly sounding like this should be my next addition. The questions are coming more from a standpoint of “ramp-up/implementation time” for my workflow and to know what I should expect stepping into it.
  18. ricoderks

    ricoderks Senior Member

    Jan 11, 2014
    Wow nice!
    LHall and storyteller like this.
  19. Ashermusic

    Ashermusic Senior Member

    Mar 27, 2006
    Los Angeles
    I own the brass, but rarely use them. I don't play a wind controller and the sound takes too much finessing to make it something I like because it is pretty thin. i hate that I have to give it a burst of cc11 every time.

    i am thinking of selling it actually.
    storyteller likes this.
  20. re-peat

    re-peat Senior Member

    Dec 12, 2004

    There isn’t any shotgun effect with SM instruments, provided you don’t repeat the same short note any number of times with the exact same velocity and the exact same controller settings. In fact, phrases of short repeated notes are often much more convincing with instruments from the SM series than with round robin samples, because the welcome variety you get from round robins is frequently also a cause for illogical inconsistencies in timbre resulting in an incoherent performance. Not so with Sample Modeling.
    (Important to understand with these instruments, is the impact that note velocity and cc#11 have on the timbre. A low velocity note with a high cc#11 value sounds entirely different from a short note with a higher velocity and a lower cc#11 value. Knowing when to use which type of note, or any variant in between, makes all the difference in phrases of repeated short notes.)

    A breath controller is no doubt a great tool to have in combination with the SM instruments — it can speed up the creation and recording of a musically convincing performance dramatically — but it’s certainly not essential that you work with one to get good results. I never have, and I can get by perfectly well by editing and/or drawing all the required controller data in my DAW.
    It helps though if you can find some way of inputting the most important controller data (often: cc#11) during the recording of a take, if only because it makes for a much more authentic performing experience. (And it’s much easier to edit a performance that’s already pretty solid in its rough contours to begin with, than to try and inject life from scratch in a completely flat and dead performance.)

    The big, bold red-hot brassy statement isn’t SM’s forte, in my opinion. It can be done (and some people have come up with remarkably good results), but it’s certainly not a sound that comes naturally to this software, I find, and a good brass library will usually give you quicker, if not more convincing results.
    To my ears, SM is at its best — and unbeatably so — between ppp and forte. Above forte, SM quickly lacks meat, punch and bite to its timbre. But again, with some exercise and effort (and perhaps the cunning use of some additional processing like distortion and exciters), a surprisingly convincing fff sound should be within your reach too.
    My music rarely goes there, so I don’t have much experience with creating a believable SM fanfare sound, but on the one or two occasions that I have tried it, I found the Clariphonic and some mild distortion — to add some high-frequency enhancement and grit — very useful to get the desired brilliance in the result.


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