Your Thoughts on Chris Hein Solo Viola?

Discussion in 'SAMPLE Talk' started by Parsifal666, Feb 17, 2019.

  1. Parsifal666

    Parsifal666 I don't even own a DAW, I'm just a troll.

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    I already love the workflow and dry samples in the Hein solo violin and woodwinds.

    I'm a bit late in buying this (been doing my best with the 8dio Adagio solo viola), and I'll be buying all the CH strings and brass anyway (eventually).

    But the viola would be first for me, and I'd LOVE to hear the opinions from both experts and not in regard to this v.i. in particular.

    Please accept my gratitude in advance.
     
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  2. Mark Schmieder

    Mark Schmieder Active Member

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    I own it, but haven't successfully used it in a project yet as I already dedicated so much time to key-switching VSL Viola in those pieces. But in standalone testing and comparisons, the French Viola in particular -- followed closely by the Canadian -- is the warmest and most natural sounding solo viola to my ears of anything besides VSL.

    Embertone Fischer would place between those v2 expansions and the original v1 sound from Chris Hein's library, to my ears, and the latest release of Audio Modeling's Viola can get me really close to all of those libraries (but I don't have the patience to spend the time it would take to make convincing tracks with SWAM strings).

    As a clarinetist, I have a special love for the viola as the music can usually be played on either instrument. I know it isn't much-loved, but I think many people misjudge its importance. It might not be the most beautiful timbre when 100% solo, like a cello can be, but I still think it's important to have a fairly warm and harmonically rich example to use in ensemble work.

    The other viola library that passes my test is the one from Fluffy Audio, but I consider it redundant in my own collection due to the other choices. A good buy though, well played, and fairly warm.

    I forget the deal, but I think the price scales down on each Chris Hein buy, once you own one or two. Sometimes you'll see two-for-one sales at Best Service also. A recent sale just ended (I think).
     
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  3. thesteelydane

    thesteelydane Senior Member

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    Hey now!

    I don't own the CH viola, but timbre wise it sounds good to me - like a viola should! I can still tell that its a virtual instrument, there's that slight midi-ish quality to the demos, but that's ok. The only thing that beats it timbre wise is the viola in the new Spitfire solo strings - it's limited as a virtual instrument, but the sound is spot on.
     
  4. Casiquire

    Casiquire Senior Member

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    I do think it sounds beautiful as well. Since you mentioned it I have used VSL before as my main solo strings and it really is no competition. The inaudible crossfades are a more tangible example of the differences between the instruments, but there's also just a certain something about the performances and motion that was captured by Hein's instruments. Almost any expressive legato line can be played straight in just using the Dynamic Expression patch and it just sounds good already. Of course it would take some tweaking to get anything to sound truly real but a tiny bit of effort goes really far here.

    I'll try to be fair here and mention the downsides but it's very nitpicky. These instruments are fantastic.

    There will be a slight learning curve coming in from VSL. For one thing the layout is very different and VSL is king when it comes to customizing your workflow. Not that Hein isn't flexible, but you're coming from a platform that couldn't be *any more* flexible. The only other downside I can think of is that the Extended instruments don't have all the same articulations as the main instrument. They still have just about everything you could need, it's just worth keeping in mind from a template standpoint. Also it seems that get better ave better at sampling as time goes on, of course, so the new instruments sound even better than the originals, so it would have been nice for them to have the full range of articulations.

    I know it's a personal choice. In my experience the upgrade from VSL and Embertone to Hein was significant and I never reach for the former two anymore.
     
  5. Mark Schmieder

    Mark Schmieder Active Member

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    Oh, I was referring to people's perception of the viola as an instrument; not any of these libraries! I personally LOVE the viola, but I'm used to people saying they find it an ugly, harsh, or brash instrument. That's what I meant by "it might not be the most beautiful timbre when 100% solo". I'm just showing respect for those who hate the viola as an instrument. :) They seem to be the majority.
     
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  6. Mark Schmieder

    Mark Schmieder Active Member

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    Good to hear your experience coming from VSL Viola to Hein's. One of the things I use Viola for a lot, is Jazz and Klezmer music. I've been more successful getting convincing idiomatic playing with the VSL Violin than the Viola. I tried the Chris Hein Viola on some of that material over the holidays, and didn't have immediate success due to a smaller articulation set, but marked it as something to return to when there's more time. So far, the one I have had the best luck in getting into my more detailed final production workflow is the Chris Hein Horn in F.
     
  7. MrLinssi

    MrLinssi A glorified bedroom musician.

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  8. Mark Schmieder

    Mark Schmieder Active Member

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    I have Spitfire Solo Strings and keep forgetting they're new vs. something that has been replaced or is about to be replaced. I often get confused by Spitfire's offerings due to the frequent restructuring, rebranding, and upgrade-replacements. I tried to figure out which ones to delete over the holidays so I won't keep getting confused over which are the ones that warrant the most time at this point.
     
  9. Casiquire

    Casiquire Senior Member

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    The viola is one of the best instruments in the orchestra! I never understand the violin obsession myself. It's so shrill and piercing, the viola is a bit deeper with more body. Like the designer used the violin as a rough draft and then fixed it by making a viola haha

    Out of curiosity, what articulations did you feel you were missing? Keeping in mind that many articulations that VSL has, like their dynamics patches, can just be played in to Hein via modeheel. With that in mind, I can't think of hardly anything that Hein doesn't have covered.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2019
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  10. Mark Schmieder

    Mark Schmieder Active Member

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    Although the understanding of music history changes as more early instruments and documents get unearthed each decade or so, my understanding is that the mandola and viola came first, and the diminutive names for mandolin and violin indicate their derivation from the primary alto voice (just as the gamba family was led by the viola of that grouping).

    Anyway, glad to know that there are others who appreciate the least-liked member of the "violin family" (a misnomer in itself, as the contrabass is a remnant of the gamba family, and has only had a few revisions to conform it a bit more to modern violin/viola/cello).
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2019
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  11. Mark Schmieder

    Mark Schmieder Active Member

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    Having just recorded a VERY short placeholder mock-up of a clarinet-led middle eastern style piece (accompanied by viola, cello, and double bass), that I wrote while in Spain and Portugal last spring (I don't usually wait that long), and feeling very frustrated by the baked-in dynamics patches in VSL, I now have a less intimidating project that is nowhere near completion, as a better testbed than what I have been using lately, for testing Chris Hein's Solo Strings and their approach to modulated dynamics, vibrato, etc.

    Hopefully I will reach the same conclusion as Casiquire. I often use the tzigane patches in VSL to try to approximate what I'm hearing in my head, but only for a few notes here and there as it's a bit much otherwise. SWAM's strings have improved over time and are getting there. If Chris Hein's strings, and especially the viola, can combine the accuracy of good sampling with the playability and expressivity of SWAM, then we're done. :)
     
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  12. Mark Schmieder

    Mark Schmieder Active Member

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    I've already made the switch. :) So much more organic! Not quite as convinced with the double bass, but I think if I find a good ratio for the body, I'll be fine (I have body and room switched off until I have everything else set the way I like, and definitely with have both at WAY lower settings than the defaults regardless).

    As it's a lot to absorb at once, I haven't yet found where the articulation set availability is talked about. This frustrated me during a MUCH shorter audition over the holidays as well, as I see all these articulations that I want and need but are greyed out (19 are shown as available). So I'm not sure if that's for future expansion, or if some of the other orchestral products enable those and they're generic across the range (for instance, the terminology is fairly neutral, and detache is not listed, so this may explain the greyed out articulations as not part of the sample set for the Solo Strings).

    To clarify, I'm talking about the full-page view of articulations. If I click the overview button, it shows me the key assignments, which is not what I am talking about. I thought this would be like Chris Hein Horns Pro (the jazz and big band package), where I can select unloaded articulations on a given keyswitch, but each keyswitch only lists the 19 that are already in use.

    Just as in December, I am preferring working with auto vibrato curves vs. the synthesized vibrato that comes from modulation. That may change when I start using the Yamaha WX5 again though. I do notice though, that the longer articulation presets default to auto vibrato and the shorter ones to LFO vibrato.

    My overall approach is the same as for VSL, which is to have a parallel keyswitch track, copy/paste the main track, shorten everything to 5 ticks, uniform note velocity of 64 (so I don't get confused and think it's a music track), pull ahead by about 12 ticks (I have learned over the years that simultaneous note and CC or keyswitch can cause non-deterministic behaviour or even glitches in the note starting with the previous setting), then play with the articulations and only cull the redundant keyswitches once confident of all choices.

    I learned that approach from Beat Kaufmann's VSL tutorials, a few years back, and it changed my life. Previously, I didn't really have a strategy. And though this isn't a super-short process, it is WAY shorter than any of the other approaches I have tried over the years, and also is more flexible and leads to greater success and satisfaction with the results, at my end.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2019
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  13. Mark Schmieder

    Mark Schmieder Active Member

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    I'm done for the night. I might continue to tweak settings over time, or switch to more of a live playing approach to better take advantage of modulation based dynamics and the like, but even taking a basic part and applying auto vibrato and keyboard-only dynamics, gives me far better results than VSL when it comes to solo strings in a sparse context such as this haunting clarinet melody that I wrote.

    Speaking of the clarinet, I had forgotten how good the one in VSL is. I simply never use it because it's way more work for me than just using SWAM as a placeholder and then recording real clarinet later on. But I think this one in VSL still has the best timbre of any that are out there, plus the articulations such as the marcato and others, are very realistic.

    Back to Chris Hein Solo Strings, tonight's more lengthy session in conjunction with deeper reading of the user manual, reinforced what my short session in December concluded. Basically, I find that ANY of the Body settings muddies up the harmonic structure in a way that ruins counterpoint between two or more members of the string section. I tried enough combinations of settings that I am convinced this is just not an approach I like, just as I reached the same conclusion (after many painful hours) with the Body Resonance control on VSL's new Synchron Pianos.

    The Room reverbs, which include nice plates, are pretty good, just as in Chris Hein Horns Pro, but I ultimately ended up turning them off here, as this is an incomplete piece at this point and I don't want to bake it in. Even though Chris picked MUCH better convolutions than are typically found in Kontakt libraries or in Kontakt itself, I still think I'd prefer using MIR or another VSL reverb on a mix buss send.

    The thing that really surprised me was the Auto-Dynamic setting, which I gave up on, as I got weird doubling effects now and then. Perhaps that's how x-fade of velocity layers is supposed to work, for it to be smooth, but it threw me off because I felt like I had two players instead of one. I may end up using that feature on other material though, for expedient mapping of some of VSL's articulations in the dynamic set.

    This is a simple piece that I wrote, with strings playing mostly long notes and a few grace notes. But that also really focuses on the true character of the samples, which are just outstanding! For this particular piece, I ended up preferring the balance that resulted from picking the first EX choice for each member of the string section.

    I also notice that this library suite produces far more usable "quiet notes" than most. I feel that the balance of bow to body is perfect; I like to hear the bow a bit, but in some libraries it feels like the mic was on the bow itself!

    As I would need to re-play the parts from scratch in order to take advantage of the "long legato" feature (vs. the automated "short legato"), I don't yet know how realistic that sounds, whether using it for portamento or smooth note transition, but it does sound to me like the automatic "short legato" (which you can turn off) does result in detache playing, which is often preferred.
     
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  14. Mark Schmieder

    Mark Schmieder Active Member

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    I'm at the office so can't check the user manuals at the moment, but thought I remembered one of the other Chris Hein libraries explaining the "Room A" and "Room B" choices for the "Body". Was it so you could stack two reverbs, such as a room and a plate?

    When I tried those two, they sounded more natural and blended better, but perhaps that's because this was also true of the right-hand-side reverbs, which I nevertheless chose to disable on final tracking so I can use standard buss sends and pull in MIR, Hybrid, and Convolution Reverb from VSL.

    I'm just curious though, as I wasn't able to find this documented in the Solo Strings manual, but it was late at night and I was fading.

    Similarly with Round Robin, which is barely described at all, so I want to make sure it isn't a randomization of velocity layers or whatever, vs. alternate samples at the same velocity. I suspect the latter, which is more typical, as everything sounded more natural and blended better with it on, even though the default is for it to be off. And again, maybe it was gone into detail elsewhere in the manual and I konked out before I found it.
     
  15. Wolf68

    Wolf68 I should compose something.

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    I always had an eye on it. waiting for the next sale.
     
  16. Casiquire

    Casiquire Senior Member

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    I do prefer the auto vibrato, they LFO sounds bad. But more than that, I prefer the natural baked in vibrato the most. As for detache, the longer short patches are good for that. I'm not sure what you mean by greyed out articulations? Keep in mind the EXtended instruments do have fewer articulations.

    I do like some of the body settings but just the shorter ones.

    Agreed on VSL's clarinet. VSL is still my favorite overall on winds. Though I do like some things about Hein's, the bar is just too high from VSL.

    As for the long legato, it does sound fantastic but I feel like I always need to tweak it just a bit from the default. Sometimes out of the box it doesn't behave exactly the way I want it to. My recommendation with these instruments is figure out how they work within your workflow, and then take a half hour to go instrument by instrument on the ones you plan to use most and set the long legato settings, the keyswitches, the dynamic controls or curves, the IRs, or anything else you feel is important, and save it. I save it as a multi to keep it separate from the original instruments and then I can quickly have all my settings ready when I'm working on a new project.

    I'm glad you seem to be having fun with them!
     
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  17. Mark Schmieder

    Mark Schmieder Active Member

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    Casiquire, thanks so much for illuminating the issues! I had assumed "Extended" meant "more articulations"! I stopped using the non-EX instrument patches, thinking those were from the first version and were just there for people who didn't want to change the sound in existing projects!

    Oh, I just realized that "EXtended" may mean "extended beyond the natural note range".

    Well, I have enough to work with tonight once home -- I think this will quickly take me to final or near-final workflow with this stuff, so that I don't lose much time in switching some near-final projects from VSL Solo Strings to Chris Hein Solo Strings.

    My next test will be tzigane parts on the Viola (and then the Violin as well).
     
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  18. Casiquire

    Casiquire Senior Member

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    Extended instruments have great tone and fewer articulations. Originally there were only two violins and two cellos, etc, so the Extended instruments are like extra. Extended RANGE is a thing as well, just as you describe.
     
  19. harmaes

    harmaes Member

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    Have they fixed the buzzing sound when using dynamics via xfade or keyb&xfade? I read that in ensemble strings this was fixed?
     
  20. Mark Schmieder

    Mark Schmieder Active Member

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    I bought Ensemble Strings a few weeks ago during the sale, but haven't had a chance to use it yet. I can't remember if it came out after the extensions to the Solo Strings, or between the initial release and the extensions. I'm hoping to get a chance to work with Ensemble Strings this weekend, and will keep in mind your queries.
     

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