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Spitfire Solo Strings.. help?

StillLife

Senior Member
Please don't retire your Bohemian! I have the Bohemian cello, and I really do love it also . But it's not just that they're good at different things, it's more like there in nothing that one can do well that the other can do even passably.

Because that languorous continuously evolving smoother-than-smooth style of arcs of the Bohemian - totally impossibly with Spitfire (at least until they integration the progressive vibrato samples into the cello).

But honestly, once the euphoria of the instant gratification of the Bohemian wore off it became a major source of angst for me. You can't craft the arcs, you can only select from a menu of 5 beautiful, languorous arcs and then when its done (as much as 13s later) then you get to choose another. It's feels like trying to play tennis in waist high mud. Sure it "just plays" but it doesn't generally doesn't play anything remotely related to the composition I'm working on ...

... which is not at all a criticism of the Bohemian, but rather that I bought it profoundly naive not so much of what the instrument was capable of, but of what writing for cello is all about in general, and without really understanding what kind of cello lines I actually wanted to write myself. Since buying the Spitfire strings, I've actually gone back to the Bohemian, and no longer needing to make it sound like the what the Spitfire cello can do, I'm really starting to love it again. I also picked up the Tina Guo on sale, even though I previous dismissed it a far too narrow in its expressive range. Because having the Bohemian and the Spitfire and the Balkus, I find that there are still times when what I really want is precisely that tiny little fragment of real estate in the universe of all possible cello lines that Guo covers, and covers wonderfully.


I like that phrase "fourth aural wall" - it's exactly the concept I was going for. But let me see if I can refine it a bit.

First, please remember that this above noodle was explicitly to demonstrate the limitations of the instrument, and there's no reverb and only a bit of tree on it precisely to prevent it soothing out the bumpiness for the purposed of the demo. And I resisted the urge to clean up the arcs, again precisely because the goal was to show the limitations more than the strengths. Sculpting the cc1 curve a little more, avoiding tempos beyond the scope of the existing legato and adding more reverb would all help.


But it's also very clear to me that different people perceive this kind of thing very, very differently. Far better musicians than myself swear by the SWAM instruments - which, while intellectually, I can admire the SWAM's ability to model the expressive dimensions of solo strings, I find extremely unpleasant to listen to. Emotional and Chris Hein, while much better - also suffer in this regard to my ear.

There's also the effect of the Bohemian's phrasing, which even in some of the demos really struggles to integrate coherency with the surrounding context. It really took me a while to learn what was bothering me so much. But it's when the phrasing is somehow off, even before I had enough understanding of string phrasing to even recognize consciously what the problem was, its like there's an uncanniness that leaves me sometimes leaves me simply not wanting to listen to it as music (the litmus test of vis isn't whether we can 'fool' people consciously, but whether they want to listen to the results as music). At least with the 'synth-ness' effect I recognize this uncanniness. Phrasing issues are more subtle, but somehow more pernicious in their de-musicifying effects. (Or anti-musicality effects?)


And what I was saying above is absolutely not that I can't intellectually identify a 'lack of realism' - they choppiness is clearly there. But again, to my ear, the phrasing is more or less right. There's a passion in the performance, the performance is beautiful, it's a style that - again not something you use to score a film and 12 year olds being chased by dinosaurs, but that I happen to really like also (in addition to that more prevalent dinosaur-appropriate style).

So its like there's an intellectual 'four aural wall', and an emotional 'fourth aural wall'. And it's the 'emotional realism' of the latter that I ultimately care about.


In any event, ostensibly to help get my head around the instrument a bit more (but also to block out ambient noise in the cafe where I was working), I put that above noodle on repeat for about an hour this morning, and - the terribleness of the actual composition aside - I didn't find that it fatigued my ear at all. In fact I just really love the sonority of even this otherwise pretty terrible noodle. I just don't know if there's many of the Bohemian demos I could say the same for.

So I think the perceptive dimensions here are very interesting. So when you say:

"Even in the first few seconds I hear multiple breaking the aural fourth wall, and it does feel like some of my early fumbling. Not synthy, but it sounds very choppy almost like a mic cable is frayed. "

I'm absolutely not saying your wrong (about your own perception, obviously), but I'm curious how literally you mean that? Because while I hear bumpiness sure, I just don't hear anything this extreme at all.

And if it isn't hyperbole, I'm curious if your think perception might be textured by one or more of :

a) being a cello player and just knowing extremely intimately how a cello is supposed to sound?

b) being an extremely classically trained cellist from a school in which smoothness of performance is a non-negotiable sin quo non inherent the musicality of the cello?

c) coming to the instrument having been deeply immersed in the smoother-than-smooth musicality of the Bohemian instruments.

d) Just really liking that immensely smooth style of playing.

... or any number of other things, because it would obviously be absurd to suggest that I could even have much what shapes your perceptions.


I'm not a cellist, so I'm certain not saying my own perceptions are anything anyone else should be concerned with. Maybe I have the benefit of ignorance.

But - just thinking out loud here - when I think of the style of cello music that I really like to listen to, there's often a bit of ... choppiness would be too strong a word, but a kind of roughness or physical intensity, though not bombast to it ... it's not the silky smooth Mozart concerto, or even Yo Yo Ma. And it's an entire expressive dimension that just doesn't exist within the scope of the Bohemian cello. You can't even play it this style badly, it just doesn't exist within the universe of the Bohemian Cello.

So it would be ridiculous to suggest that the Spitfire cello is anywhere near as good as, say, Caroline Dale really tearing into an exquisitely beautiful (though not necessarily pristinely smooth) cello line. But at the same time, maybe my ability to integration the choppiness without breaking the fourth wall is somehow textured but just wanting to get out of the expressing straight jacket of the Bohemian's 5 beautiful, langorous arcs?


Just a thought.


In any event the Spitfire instrument do not "just play" - unless you count sounding like a dead cat playing. Which is what happens if you just plonk in notes like you can get away with (at first) on a Bohemian instrument.


But with a bit practice, and an understanding of how to craft the arcs, they do let you play they instruments, and draw performances out of them. And its not all that hard once you get the hang of it.


Just to be clear - I've been using the Bohemian as bit of a foil here, but I really do love it. And I've been going back to it lately with what I've learn about crafting arcs from the Spitfire instruments. And while I'm less convinced that ever but this whole "virtual perform" concept, I am really finding that theres amazing things to be done with it that you just couldn't do with anything else - though its still all about the arcs. The conceit that it "just plays" strikes me as a seductive promise of instant gratification, but one that obscures the actual depths of the instrument.
Great post. Emotional realism - exactly what I am also always striving for!
I do tend to disagree about your comment that you cannot 'just play' SSoS. I posted a snippet of (singer/songwriter-like) music that was me 'just playing' shorts and progressive vib articulations, just using the modwheel while playing. Hoping (and thinking) it did not sound like a dead cat... I do understand much more is possible with this lib, and you can really tailor the sounds to your needs.
I also have the JB violin, which is a remarkable instrument indeed, but just like ism had with bohemian, I am having a hard time to make it fit my tunes. With SSoS, I really have a sense I can make the strings sound how I want them to sound. There's an inherent musicality (or indeed 'sonority') to these samples that makes me want to play with them, make music (I guess it IS a drug, jbuhler...).
In case it wasn't obvious already: I love SSoS, for me best vi-purchase of the year.
 

Guy Rowland

Senior Member
ism - just playing with again now and putting it into the all-new template. The sound that is most irritating to me is that extreme ducking sound, as if someone has yanked the gain knob and very quickly turned it up / down by 10db. A very unnatural sound. It seems to be most pronounced when riding the CCs, something is going squiffy there.

I strongly agree with those who say that the spiccato overlay on the Total Performance patch needs to be adjustable - personally I'd set it more at the 100 mark, not 9. That pronounced dig is something I associate with whacking the keys pretty hard. I get that this is meant to be a virtuoso playing style but if rapidly guides you into this over-emphasised path that is wearing to listen to. The buttery legato transitions are such an extreme contrast that it doesn't help. Don't get me wrong, it sounds great in and of itself, but has to be more judicious in its application. Oh, and yes some of those rebowings are a) incredibly quick after the start of the note and b) pretty ungainly, which is more stuff to find ways around.

First time I loaded the articulations patch for the Virtuoso, none of the long articulations had any release triggers. I loaded the individual ones and they were fine, went back to the main combo patch and then the release triggers were there ok this time. Exactly the same thing happened with all the other combo articulation patches. Combined with that GUI issue I had earlier - which thankfully hasn't come back yet today in VE Pro - I'm pretty nervous about the reliability of the engine all round.

Then I had to get reacquainted with Sptfires's, um, idiosyncratic method of keyswitching. I needed to reassign all the keyswitches to my layout convention which is seemingly straightforward enough, but this doesn't actually work unless you click "Locked to Program Change" in the drop down menu of the padlock bottom left for every single articulation. If that strikes you as very odd indeed, well it does me too. If you don't do this, you get double allocations everywhere. Its thus taken me a loooong time just to get the first three instruments to basic setup.

Out of scope of this thread really, but I definitely buy into the whole Virtual Performer thing - just as we don't want to tell real musicians exactly how to play every single note, it is clearly the way forward for me to instruct a broad playing style rather than every single nuance. Bohemian accordingly loved me and told me I was simply wonderful from the very first notes I played (I don't find the different arcs too constraining, ism). It feels a bit like what Spitfire are trying to do here with the virtuoso patch, but its nothing like the same experience... by contrast Solo Strings is a mardy, borderline sarcastic and tempermental diva.

But that's something I have to make my peace with - Still Life has shown its possible to get lovely things out of this without hours of editing, so I should perservere. Once again available time has beaten me today to get it to a point where I can start actually writing something with it.
 
OP
EBicks

EBicks

New Member
Just wanted to say thanks for the input everyone! I didn’t expect to get such a large amount of great information when originally posting this.. ha ha. Looking forward to spending more time with the Lib to get the best out of it
 

ism

Senior Member
Great post. Emotional realism - exactly what I am also always striving for!
I do tend to disagree about your comment that you cannot 'just play' SSoS. I posted a snippet of (singer/songwriter-like) music that was me 'just playing' shorts and progressive vib articulations, just using the modwheel while playing. Hoping (and thinking) it did not sound like a dead cat... I do understand much more is possible with this lib, and you can really tailor the sounds to your needs.
I also have the JB violin, which is a remarkable instrument indeed, but just like ism had with bohemian, I am having a hard time to make it fit my tunes. With SSoS, I really have a sense I can make the strings sound how I want them to sound. There's an inherent musicality (or indeed 'sonority') to these samples that makes me want to play with them, make music (I guess it IS a drug, jbuhler...).
In case it wasn't obvious already: I love SSoS, for me best vi-purchase of the year.

You’re quite right. I was focusing very specifically on crafting a certain style of very orchestral line with the legato. Trust me, I can make it sound like a dying cat in this context.

But your piece - and this is why I found it so interesting - is a reminded of another huge sweet spot of the library - it’s sheer sonority.

The amazing thing about the first few demos of this library, which I think were released before the legato was ready - is that with not a legato transition in sight, they had an amazing solo string quality that I think is just in a whole other arm of the aesthetic universe from anything I’d heard with a sample library before.

So it’s a good reminder that I should get my head out of the legato for a bit and think about some of the rest of the library.

I’m going to listen to you piece a few more times before offering any suggests (though seriously, I am not an expert especially in pop. but it might be interesting to see if there are any technical tips from the orchestral legato world that might be relevant in the world of pop sonority.)

I might also go back to Christian’s in action video - which is a bit of a masterclass in crafting the sonority of the library in itself, and will probably offer you more insight than anything I can suggest.
 
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joebaggan

Member
What is the memory footprint for each of the Spitfire Solo Strings patches? I'm mostly used to libs with a small footprint and was recently surprised at how big (1gb) the Fluffy wind solo instruments are since I don't have a ton of RAM.
 

mventura

Member
What is the memory footprint for each of the Spitfire Solo Strings patches? I'm mostly used to libs with a small footprint and was recently surprised at how big (1gb) the Fluffy wind solo instruments are since I don't have a ton of RAM.
With the close and tree mics on each instrument is about 1 GB. There are economic patches that only have a few articulations. There also are individual articulation patches.
 

joebaggan

Member
With the close and tree mics on each instrument is about 1 GB. There are economic patches that only have a few articulations. There also are individual articulation patches.
Thanks, by "economic" patches, what size are those about? One thing I like about the LASS First Chair strings are that they are small size (e.g. 100mb) and fast to load, so wondering if SSS has similar size patches.
 

mventura

Member
Thanks, by "economic" patches, what size are those about? One thing I like about the LASS First Chair strings are that they are small size (e.g. 100mb) and fast to load, so wondering if SSS has similar size patches.
~500 MB with 2 mics turned on
 

ism

Senior Member
What is the memory footprint for each of the Spitfire Solo Strings patches? I'm mostly used to libs with a small footprint and was recently surprised at how big (1gb) the Fluffy wind solo instruments are since I don't have a ton of RAM.

First chair Vl /w 1 mic - 319M
Virtuosic Vl /w 1 mic & time machine disabled - 430M
Va 1 mic - 285M
Vc 1 mic 360M
 

mventura

Member
Anyone getting phasing issues with the viola? I get bumps/hiccups when going from p to f but not say mf to ff.
 
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