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Tips for making the most of solo brass patches/instruments

Ihnoc

Active Member
I'm thinking of biting the bullet on Spitfire's wonderful Symphonic Brass library due to the Black Friday sale. Very recently I removed every ensemble patch from my template in an attempt to force myself into writing multiple trumpet/horn lines within the same section (ala Berlin Brass). It was very liberating. However, things started to fall apart when moving to unison, because of course they are playing the same samples!

Assuming you only had solo trumpet, solo horn and solo trombone patches to make your virtual sections:
  • what tricks do you make use of to make those three inputs distinct?
  • how do you keep them distinct when playing in unison?
  • do you even write this way?
  • do you find certain libraries lend themselves to this set up?
The classic tip is to transpose the line up a semitone (or tone), then set the pitch wheel control down to use a different sample. But what else ya' got?

Many thanks in advance.
 

sazema

Senior Member
It's a matter of player positions on stage... player breath strengths, player instrument type, player mistakes, player style of playing, etc etc, just image you are watching live performance somewhere...

I think you should be more focused on composition itself than in separating each instrument as solo, don't forget you're working with sample library not with real player in real environment :)

If you're working on some brass weight work then your weight can be on separating this stuff, if is really important.
 
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Ihnoc

Ihnoc

Active Member
It's a matter of player positions on stage... player breath strengths, player instrument type, player mistakes, player style of playing, etc etc, just image you are watching live performance somewhere...
This is actually why I'm so interested in this divisi for brass/woodwind. I recently had the pleasure of seeing Mahler's 6th Symphony at the Royal Albert Hall (sat in the choir seats) and at the 50th birthday concert for Michael Giacchino at the same venue. What I was most struck with was how few brass players were active at one time along with the orchestra, augmenting a line each. Equally, looking at the score for the original Star Wars film, the brass sections all move in and out of unison - typically 2 or 4 voices for horns, and 2 or 3 voices for trumpets/trombones.

I think you should be more focused on composition itself than in separating each instrument as solo, don't forget you're working with sample library not with real player in real environment.
You are totally right - it's always easy to overthink these things!
 

Saxer

Senior Member
A good trick is to use a unison section sound as the leading line and (additional) single instruments for lower lines. Though it's actually a 'wrong' setting (more instrument samples playing on chords) it sounds good. For unison parts just use the section plus one solo. Sample world is different to real life.

If you like a single line for each instrument (like I mostly do to print single parts for real players) use libraries that have enough different solo instruments to build your section (Berlin Brass, Samplemodeling, Dimension Brass, Chris Hein Orchestral Brass etc...)
 
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Ihnoc

Ihnoc

Active Member
Thanks @Saxer , that is a great tip. I guess you might want your ensemble on the bottom, if you were playing octave roots (because of overtones)?

I noticed Chris Hein is only £109 at the moment, which seems like a very good deal. I must admit I have been taken by insitu libraries like Berlin/Spitfire - the reaction of the room is just more convincing to my ears.

Assuming you are not creating the track for real players, and it will always be a virtual composition, which of SWAM, Berlin and Chris Hein do you reach for most?

Thanks again!
 

Saxer

Senior Member
Assuming you are not creating the track for real players, and it will always be a virtual composition, which of SWAM, Berlin and Chris Hein do you reach for most?
I mostly use Samplemodeling (brass is SM, SWAM is wood&strings only). Mostly because I use breath- or wind controller to play them and they work excellent for that.
 

Karl Feuerstake

Active Member
Don't write this way for Brass. The only time you should have 4 separate Horn lines is if you are writing for literally just a Horn Quartet, which would be a very rare or odd piece to write.

There are so many intonation problems for Brass instruments when in ensembles sitting very close to each other (most especially horns) when they have completely different lines. There are acoustical reasons that make it difficult for the player to tell the difference between what *they* hear and what *the audience* hears under these circumstances. This is why a harmony placed in the horns is usually divided as 1&3, 2&4, rather than 1&2, 3&4.


If you have a full orchestra going with each trumpet, horn, and trombone playing different lines then you are making poor use of ensembles. The ensembles are there to provide a wall of sound, to provide more emphasis to the part provided for said ensemble, not to play a million different parts. Having interesting / busy parts for each instrument is something you'd do in Chamber Music, but for Orchestral Music it is not a convention, and it suggests poor resource management, as you're not thinking about foreground / background. It may be worth studying some big orchestral scores and seeing how often there are multiple parts or lines within the ensembles (tends to be more common in Strings.) Having different harmonies within the groups is generally fine but we are talking about melodic / busy lines.

So I hope you will see there are both practical and conventional reasons why you shouldn't write this way, and especially so if you plan to have the music actually performed live. Unless you're talking about Chamber Music. Then by all means.
 
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Ihnoc

Ihnoc

Active Member
Don't write this way for Brass. The only time you should have 4 separate Horn lines is if you are writing for literally just a Horn Quartet, which would be a very rare or odd piece to write.
Thanks Karl, this is very interesting feedback. The context I was thinking about here is more for harmonic use, where say the trumpets + violins + flutes are playing melody in unison or perhaps two counterpoint lines, but the horns, trombones and tuba are filling out the harmonic texture with the rest of the orchestra - not busy.

It's really great to get some feedback on how best to apply the sections when looking at busy writing (which should unison in an Orchestral context) and a great steer for future writing. Thanks!
 

vicontrolu

Senior Member
I use a 2tp, 2horns 2tbs for everything. I am sure it could sound better but i never received a feedback like "this aint the right amount of players" or complains about the sound being too thick/thin.
 
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