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Sketching in string ensemble patches, then switching to individual tracks/patches

Discussion in 'SAMPLE Talk' started by Soundhound, Mar 13, 2018.

  1. Soundhound

    Soundhound Senior Member

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    I do this fairly frequently, and have found that I wind up losing a bunch of time first getting the individual tracks to blend and sound like the ensemble track (which I usually like for the most part, but come to a point where I want more individual control, etc.) Only after this ordeal, only then can I finally get to the tweaking, more detailed control and writing I've been wanting to get to.

    I lost a whole day to that on a job recently and it played havoc with the deadline, and I realized this happens a lot.

    Is it a matter of having a well balanced template? I work from scratch, and though I have my go to libraries generally (Spitfire Chamber Strings for example) I find I always have to go through this ensemble to individual tracks rework process. I've resisted doing the template thing because I find I always windup using so many different sounds on a job that it seems unhelpful. I like changing things up and using new stuff much of the time as well...

    Maybe some libraries are better at doing this than others? Or maybe you have a process that helps you through it? Talking about strings for the most part here.

    Thanks!
     
    DarkestShadow likes this.
  2. muk

    muk Senior Member

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    Sketch the strings with a piano patch, not a string ensemble patch. It takes a bit of abstraction when writing, but that's the point exactly. That way you don't run the risk to get hung up with specific sounds of the sketch when working it out.
     
  3. OP
    OP
    Soundhound

    Soundhound Senior Member

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    Thanks, as I was writing the post that occurred to me. I've gotten used to the immediate gratification of hearing the parts played by strings as I write. When I'm not thinking of strings in particular I do write on piano at first for the most part. Maybe I do need to get back to writing on piano first for strings as well...
     
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  4. MaxOctane

    MaxOctane Senior Member

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    I'm trying to force myself to sketch on piano. Otherwise I get stuck trying to dress up the sound before the thing itself is fleshed out.

    Anyone care to post their before/after pieces? Sketch, then final?
     
  5. Henu

    Henu Senior Member

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    I can post, because I also need some help here from the more experienced peeps.

    I have actually the same sort of problem- I just started to practicing better arranging....first with piano, then transferring it to an ensemble patch. Thus far in the process, no problems! Until.... I continue.

    What happens then, is that every time I divide it into sections and start using proper samples for each (instead of one ensemble patch), everything sounds like complete donkey, no matter the library or the amount of reverb/ comp/ whatever glue used. It's somehow very "detached", very unbalanced and painfully sampled- sounding at times compared to the "synth-y" sound of the ensemble patch. At least that ensemble sounds balanced! :(

    So, I post my latest tryout here. I improvised a cheesy and bad, uninspired melody in 20 seconds as I just wanted to try out the process of praticing counterpoint and section- writing, so don't mind of the zero musical quality of the piece. :D The strings (both ensemble and the sections) are SSS, and on the section version there's quickly thrown some reverb and EQ into the master bus. Nothing is finished or polished, as I got so frustrated that I called it a day soon afterwards I had "finished" the section arranging.

    Let's see if you can tell what's wrong, because I can't. :(

    IMPROVISED PIANO SKETCH


    STRINGS: ARRANGED ENSEMBLE PATCH


    STRINGS: ARRANGED SECTIONS
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Mar 14, 2018
  6. leon chevalier

    leon chevalier Waste my time on VI Control

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    It's what I'm doing too! And sometime when I'm want to rearrange a few things, I come back to my piano project.

    The idea is to separate the composition process from the midi programming.

    Actually I have 3 steps :
    piano > ensemble quick render >
    (if quick render OK) final midi programming for each instrument.

    But I don't write for living so time is not a concern for me.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2018
    muk likes this.
  7. JohnBMears

    JohnBMears Senior Member

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    Lately I've enjoyed sketching on a single track using Logic's built in Piano+Strings/Pad instrument. It has a definite attack with the piano sound and has a sustain that doesn't sound thick or muddy but gives an idea of how some sustaining harmonies will sound when strung out together. Then I copy paste and edit to Vln1, Vln2, Vla, Cel, Bs....
     
  8. kimarnesen

    kimarnesen Senior Member

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    I write a lot of times with a string ensemble patch. But here's the trick: You want to have an ensemble patch layered to your individual string parts. So keep the string ensemble patch in addition to the separate parts.

    The string ensemble is recorded together in the room, so it blends better than just the individual parts. The individual parts were recorded alone in the hall, so they will always feel a bit disconnected because of that.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2018
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  9. JohnBMears

    JohnBMears Senior Member

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    But I suppose to really maximize that theory you'd want to make sure the ensemble patch you're using was really recorded that way. In that, Albion ONE has all the string players playing simultaneously, but the ensemble patch from Hollywood Strings is just all the individual patches grouped into a single instrument. I'd like to know which exact ensemble patches are from libraries actually recorded by the WHOLE string band in the room at the same time.
     
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  10. Batrawi

    Batrawi Senior Member

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  11. kimarnesen

    kimarnesen Senior Member

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    When writing for strings there are often notes spread in 5-6 octaves, so you can't really play like a string orchestra with just two hands. How do you approach that?
     
  12. Batrawi

    Batrawi Senior Member

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    well then you have to transpose the string section/patch itself as desired.
     
  13. Sears Poncho

    Sears Poncho Senior Member

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    You'll have greater success if you think of string parts as completely independent voices, which is what they are. What you're describing is "pads". That might work for movie stuff, I have no idea as I don't write for that. For writing for a real orch, think independently. The celli don't do what the first fiddles do, no way. Inner voices have a certain job, firsts have a certain job, basses etc. Moving lines help, moving at different times.
     
  14. Batrawi

    Batrawi Senior Member

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    What am saying has nothing to do with pads. Probably I wasn't clear from the beginning but the easiest way to understand what I'm talking about is to go watch Audiobro's Auto Arranger demos on YT (I bet everyone can agree that's a very authentic/good representation of what a real strings section sounds like). The thing is that I can do the exact same thing with an independent script that works with any library other than LASS.
     
  15. artomatic

    artomatic I Compose With My Ears

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    I used to always start with an ensemble patch but I have recently started to record individual parts. This method works best for me since I'm not a legit piano player anyway. It's a bit more tedious but I have more control per part, especially when transitioning to fast, shorts, etc. articulations.
     
  16. Sears Poncho

    Sears Poncho Senior Member

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    It's probably a good representation of what an "auto-arrange" feature can do, with a nice sample library. It's certainly not a good example of "good string writing". Granted, nothing is "one size fits all", but if I taught a class on writing for strings (I did at one point), the first thing I would suggest is to disable any "auto-arrange" features. :)

    C'mon, what I'm saying shouldn't be surprising or "revolutionary", just common sense. I play tons of charts, the string players can always pick out the "Aaah, a pianist wrote this and probably used Sibelius/Finale explode/auto-arrange" vs. "well-crafted, well-thought out independent voices, written with the range, characteristics and abilities of each section". A cello is not "low violin 4", it's a cello. ;)
     
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  17. JonAdamich

    JonAdamich Senior Member

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    This should be obvious.
     
  18. givemenoughrope

    givemenoughrope Senior Member

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    Like mentioned above you are writing pads or just writing vertically (harmony/chords) perhaps with the idea that not just CC expression will be tweaked for individual sections later but maybe counter melodies or different entrances, etc etc are added on later.

    Either way, I wouldn’t bother with the ensemble patches if you are just going to switch to section patches. START with the section patches, filter the midi input ranges, arm all of the tracks and write/sketch. THEN, go back and tweak, move parts, do separate CC’s, add whatever. You’ll have a huge head start bc you are using the samples that you’d use at the end. I do this by using Midipatchbay and sending my controller to 5 different IAC busses each filtering all but a specific range. It works for me.
     
  19. pbattersby

    pbattersby Senior Member

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    What I've done for recording strings, is use an ensemble patch for recording, using whatever chord inversions a piano player would naturally use to make chord transitions easier. With that MIDI recording, I take the 2nd highest note of the chord, drop it an octave to get a more open voicing. Then I take that modified MIDI recording and split that up into separate parts. I take each of those parts and see if I can add any passing notes or join any notes together, or add extra rhythm. If I've only recorded 4 parts and I want the basses to double the cellos, I'll copy the cello part to the bass part, but then humanize the copied bass part to get slightly different timing and volume. I humanize, even though it was never quantized, just so I don't get an identical copy.
     
  20. kimarnesen

    kimarnesen Senior Member

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    I agree. But we as composers can make our own rules, thankfully! I write for real orchestras, but for those who write for the samples they can do what they want if it sounds good I guess. You can also do unconventional things with real players. As an example I like to write extremely high solos for both the violin and cello. Not something you would learn in the most basic courses. And you can also use just cellos and double basses, and have then play in the range of violins or violas. Or do like Andrew Lloyd Webber in his Requiem: replace the high strings with a Yamaha string pad and have only realcellos and basses. So even if you write for real players or with real orchestration in mind, it doesn’t mean you must follow traditional voicing and other “rules.” But I think the important difference is when you break the rules with intention, because you want that special sound, and not just didn’t know what a string ensemble is.

    And, maybe I’m biased because I grew up with music notation, but I strongly recommend getting a notation software to see and hear what’s going on. Notation of music is also visually beautiful if you know it. I think it will give a completely new understanding of how the instruments work together. Use the inbuilt horrible sound if you wish, what’s important is what you see and not what you hear. Use reference scores and type in every single work in a clsssical orchestral work. There’s so much information there which you learn both visually because of the notation, and audibly.

    Sorry for the rather off topic post!
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2018
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