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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A virtual orchestra is not an orchestra in the sense of requiring many players, a hall, a conductor, an audience. A virtual orchestra is a medium that expands the sonic pallet of what a solo musician can achieve and, like any medium, can spawn good music, bad music and a multitude of styles and approaches. As when we speak of "piano music", we're not talking about a particular style or genre of music, we're speaking only of the medium (the piano) that the music is expressed with. Same with virtual orchestration and the virtual orchestra.

I've worked in this medium since the mid-1980s and have seen it evolve and advance in remarkable ways. I was recently asked to to a masterclass/interview for Sound Bytes magazine; here it is if you're interested in reading it:

READ

Best,
Jerry
www.jerrygerber.com
 

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Good article!
I just moved up (for me) to Logic 9, and it has some virtual orchestral instrument samples. I'd like to get the Vienna set, and have a sampler disc of it.
According to Rick Beato, these virtual orchestras are valuable to soundtrack composers, since producers will want to hear what it sounds like even if it will later be played by a real orchestra.

Like many, my big hero is (was) Frank Zappa. His comments about the financial unfeasibility of having orchestras play your music were very enlightening, and somewhat depressing, so, yes, let's hear it for virtual orchestras! If it walks like a duck...
 

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Good article!
I just moved up (for me) to Logic 9, and it has some virtual orchestral instrument samples. I'd like to get the Vienna set, and have a sampler disc of it.
According to Rick Beato, these virtual orchestras are valuable to soundtrack composers, since producers will want to hear what it sounds like even if it will later be played by a real orchestra...…………………………......
Gone are the days when composers bashed out a score on a battered old piano and say the immortal words..."of course it'll sound much better with a real orchestra". Me and Jerry worked through the transition from live to virtual in the early 90's much to the loss of many real sessions. Jerry has embraced the virtual and writes accordingly, I write as though for real.
If you get VSL, consider the Synchron series as that places the instruments in an acoustic space, rather than the original sample sets which where recorded dry and need additional processing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Gone are the days when composers bashed out a score on a battered old piano and say the immortal words..."of course it'll sound much better with a real orchestra". Me and Jerry worked through the transition from live to virtual in the early 90's much to the loss of many real sessions. Jerry has embraced the virtual and writes accordingly, I write as though for real.
If you get VSL, consider the Synchron series as that places the instruments in an acoustic space, rather than the original sample sets which where recorded dry and need additional processing.
Hi Mike,

Doesn't MIR achieve the same, or similar results? When I drag instrument icons around in a MIR soundspace, both panning and distance from the front of the stage are impacted. The advantage of dry is I can control how close, or how distant, the instrument sounds by changing reverb parameters. I like that flexibility. Since I haven't tried Synchron instruments I don't really know the difference though...
 

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Hi Mike,

Doesn't MIR achieve the same, or similar results? When I drag instrument icons around in a MIR soundspace, both panning and distance from the front of the stage are impacted. The advantage of dry is I can control how close, or how distant, the instrument sounds by changing reverb parameters. I like that flexibility. Since I haven't tried Synchron instruments I don't really know the difference though...
Yes of course Jerry, I was just informing MR of the fact that one set is dry and the other wet and that the dry would need extra software to 'place' it in acoustic space as he may not have known. As to the results, well as you know, that is subjective and dependant on work preferences. I haven't gone down the Synchron route as of yet and am sticking to the original Cube VSL atm, along with other sample sets. I do remember hearing some Tchaikovsky string pizz. music with Synchron strings and being very impressed with the dynamic range - for once the pp sounded like it should for that particular technique.

MR, Synchron samples also include the room in the recording, which can be tweaked by selecting different mic combinations and levels along with wet/dry balancing.
 

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Thanks for the info, mike375.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Yes of course Jerry, I was just informing MR of the fact that one set is dry and the other wet and that the dry would need extra software to 'place' it in acoustic space as he may not have known. As to the results, well as you know, that is subjective and dependant on work preferences. I haven't gone down the Synchron route as of yet and am sticking to the original Cube VSL atm, along with other sample sets. I do remember hearing some Tchaikovsky string pizz. music with Synchron strings and being very impressed with the dynamic range - for once the pp sounded like it should for that particular technique.

MR, Synchron samples also include the room in the recording, which can be tweaked by selecting different mic combinations and levels along with wet/dry balancing.
I know what you mean about the dynamics. If VSL came out with Cube 2 with the 8 dynamic layers--ppp, pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff, fff--I'd definitely upgrade. That does mean upgrading everything though; the CPU, SSDs, backup capacity, etc. I think that's what you're referring to, sometimes I want a pp sound but the sample is actually more like an mp. I have to then use cc7 or cc11 to try and match the dynamics of that note to the phrase, and though it works OK, it would be much better to have those velocity-levels built into the sample so that the energy of the sample is actually softer. That would quadruple the size of the library so maybe that's why we're using 4 velocity levels, at least with VSL.
 

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VSL Synchron strings have 8 dynamic layers and are worth checking out. There were some initial problems and at first, they sounded quite synthy to me and I wasn't the only one who thought so. I haven't checked them out for a long time and might re-visit to see what improvements they implemented. One issue in particular was the legato transition iirc, but they subsequently bought out a fix for it with a new function in the software. The wind release has more velocity layers too apparently, but I couldn't see any mention of more dynamics for the dimension brass release.

It's a real pain sometimes having to cheat with cc11, but as you say, it can be convincing when done in a musical way. Using cc11 or cc7 in this manner is also a good reason to have a unifying reverb over everything because one can also take out the reverb too if one isn't careful when riding down an instrument.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
VSL Synchron strings have 8 dynamic layers and are worth checking out. There were some initial problems and at first, they sounded quite synthy to me and I wasn't the only one who thought so. I haven't checked them out for a long time and might re-visit to see what improvements they implemented. One issue in particular was the legato transition iirc, but they subsequently bought out a fix for it with a new function in the software. The wind release has more velocity layers too apparently, but I couldn't see any mention of more dynamics for the dimension brass release.

It's a real pain sometimes having to cheat with cc11, but as you say, it can be convincing when done in a musical way. Using cc11 or cc7 in this manner is also a good reason to have a unifying reverb over everything because one can also take out the reverb too if one isn't careful when riding down an instrument.
It's kind of weird that they call the new library "Synchron" because that sounds to me more like what we'd call a synth rather than an orchestral library.

I once paid a well-known mastering engineer to come to my studio and give me feedback. He told me I should use different reverbs for the different orchestral sections. I tried it for a few months but came to the conclusion that using one reverb to unify the soundspace works far more effectively. It taught me an important lesson: Well-known mastering engineers can be wrong. What might sound great to one person might not to another. If objectivity is anything, it's taking into account how subjectivity is ever-present and, at least in the perception of artistic works, not even possible or desirable to remove.
 

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Synchron refers to the studio they recorded in - it looks fantastic.
That's interesting about the mastering engineer Jerry, was that before MIRpro? Before spatial placement was possible, the practice was to manipulate a sense of depth via tweaking the pre-delay and tail of the reverb. It made sense to alter these parameters for each orchestral section (it still does!), but these days with samples being recorded in position and with room also baked in, there is no real need for several reverbs. Although I still think one unifying reverb is appropriate for disparate sample sets as they don't all tally in terms of acoustics...as we know.
I agree that reverb and wet/dry ratio is entirely subjective. For me, I used to reference great recordings and sometimes mock parts of them up to balance the template and emulate the space,.....I bet you've done your fair share of that too right? Have a listen to this, a mock-up I did of part of Ravel's Le Tombeau. You can download the reference and mock-up here...

https://we.tl/t-uU3e0sd2V7

The one regret I have is not buying the Ircam/ Flux Spat reverb when it was sold separately - it is quite stunning, but I would have needed to go back to skool with it to get to grips with its complexity. When I was ready to buy it, they'd bundled it with sound designer stuff I don't need anymore and hiked the price up severalfold. It's well worth checking out if you haven't already.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Synchron refers to the studio they recorded in - it looks fantastic.
That's interesting about the mastering engineer Jerry, was that before MIRpro? Before spatial placement was possible, the practice was to manipulate a sense of depth via tweaking the pre-delay and tail of the reverb. It made sense to alter these parameters for each orchestral section (it still does!), but these days with samples being recorded in position and with room also baked in, there is no real need for several reverbs. Although I still think one unifying reverb is appropriate for disparate sample sets as they don't all tally in terms of acoustics...as we know.
I agree that reverb and wet/dry ratio is entirely subjective. For me, I used to reference great recordings and sometimes mock parts of them up to balance the template and emulate the space,.....I bet you've done your fair share of that too right? Have a listen to this, a mock-up I did of part of Ravel's Le Tombeau. You can download the reference and mock-up here...

https://we.tl/t-uU3e0sd2V7

The one regret I have is not buying the Ircam/ Flux Spat reverb when it was sold separately - it is quite stunning, but I would have needed to go back to skool with it to get to grips with its complexity. When I was ready to buy it, they'd bundled it with sound designer stuff I don't need anymore and hiked the price up severalfold. It's well worth checking out if you haven't already.
I can't remember whether it was before or after I started using MIR Pro. I think it was before. This mastering engineer had little experience with music made with sample libraries, in fact he seemed quite indifferent and didn't really "get" my music at all. I almost threw him out of the studio but since we had a deal, I paid him and he left. In any event, MIR does change things, as you said, because by placing the instruments in the sound-field it adjusts the reverb parameters accordingly.

I've never been one to spend loads of time on reverb. I find a setting a like and usually stick to it; a darker hall with about a 2-2.5 second reverb time and a pre-delay of around 20ms).
I've spend many hours listening closely to recorded orchestral music but have only done a few virtual interpretations of sections of pieces by Brahms, Bach and Ravel. Here's the Ravel piece, an excerpt from the first movement of his string quartet:

http://www.jerrygerber.com/mp3/Ravel String Quartet Excerpt.mp3

Honestly, I know I can do better as I didn't spend a lot of time on it...p.s I'll download your example later this afternoon, gotta go meet my wife for lunch now!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Synchron refers to the studio they recorded in - it looks fantastic.
That's interesting about the mastering engineer Jerry, was that before MIRpro? Before spatial placement was possible, the practice was to manipulate a sense of depth via tweaking the pre-delay and tail of the reverb. It made sense to alter these parameters for each orchestral section (it still does!), but these days with samples being recorded in position and with room also baked in, there is no real need for several reverbs. Although I still think one unifying reverb is appropriate for disparate sample sets as they don't all tally in terms of acoustics...as we know.
I agree that reverb and wet/dry ratio is entirely subjective. For me, I used to reference great recordings and sometimes mock parts of them up to balance the template and emulate the space,.....I bet you've done your fair share of that too right? Have a listen to this, a mock-up I did of part of Ravel's Le Tombeau. You can download the reference and mock-up here...

https://we.tl/t-uU3e0sd2V7

The one regret I have is not buying the Ircam/ Flux Spat reverb when it was sold separately - it is quite stunning, but I would have needed to go back to skool with it to get to grips with its complexity. When I was ready to buy it, they'd bundled it with sound designer stuff I don't need anymore and hiked the price up severalfold. It's well worth checking out if you haven't already.
Mike, that digital rendition of the Ravel excerpt is really amazingly close to the original recording. I can barely tell the difference. The winds sounded ever-so-slightly different (certainly not worse in any way, maybe a hair more "metallic"?) in the virtual version, but not even close to interfering with the sound quality or musical interest of the piece.

My excerpt I posted is also Ravel, it's OK, but I know if I had spent more time on it I could have improved the phrasing and tempos...
 

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yeah, metallic..... the oboe right? I was more interested in placement and space than timbre and couldn't be bothered going through all the oboe samples I have to match up to the reference. I did notice the wide panning of the wind in the reference and aimed for that although I've recently reigned the width back in a touch. I was also particularly interested in the string timbre and getting the pianissimo and florid legato to sound convincing.

You set yourself a challenge with the Ravel 4tet but did well with it. The placement sounds very nice and the wet/dry is spot on for me. The challenge with solo string sample sets is overcoming the musical shortcomings and actually making them sound convincing. Sure, you could have sculpted more - it never ends does it? - and the dynamics are by default limited, with the effect of narrowing the expression. If I'm anything to go by, you probably got bored after a while of doing this. After some issues and musical problems where resolved with my template during the Ravel mock-up, I didn't see the point in continuing and just abandoned it.
A string 4tet is the one thing I haven't bothered mocking up because of the limitations. The disconnect between what I'd want in the sound and knowing what is possible in real life as opposed to the actual playback, would drive me nuts with frustration.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
yeah, metallic..... the oboe right? I was more interested in placement and space than timbre and couldn't be bothered going through all the oboe samples I have to match up to the reference. I did notice the wide panning of the wind in the reference and aimed for that although I've recently reigned the width back in a touch. I was also particularly interested in the string timbre and getting the pianissimo and florid legato to sound convincing.

You set yourself a challenge with the Ravel 4tet but did well with it. The placement sounds very nice and the wet/dry is spot on for me. The challenge with solo string sample sets is overcoming the musical shortcomings and actually making them sound convincing. Sure, you could have sculpted more - it never ends does it? - and the dynamics are by default limited, with the effect of narrowing the expression. If I'm anything to go by, you probably got bored after a while of doing this. After some issues and musical problems where resolved with my template during the Ravel mock-up, I didn't see the point in continuing and just abandoned it.
A string 4tet is the one thing I haven't bothered mocking up because of the limitations. The disconnect between what I'd want in the sound and knowing what is possible in real life as opposed to the actual playback, would drive me nuts with frustration.
I do prefer to spend my time in the studio inventing new pieces!
 

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IMHO, it's much easier to find real musicians and involve them into your project than trying to make natural sounding tracks made of samples. A couple of students that can play all parts, part by part. They are always poor and hungry and they would just be happy to get extra 10 bucks.
 

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IMHO, it's much easier to find real musicians and involve them into your project than trying to make natural sounding tracks made of samples. A couple of students that can play all parts, part by part. They are always poor and hungry and they would just be happy to get extra 10 bucks.
Yes, that's a possibility for sure, even more so if one has their own recording facility. I've just recorded a soloist for my Violin Concerto remotely which proved successful.
I would say that if one can use samples well and knows their way around a DAW, it's also possible to get convincing results without the hassle of organising a recording, although the effectiveness and success of such relies heavily on the type of music and samples used. Depending on how you view things one might prefer a more accurate rendition of a more complex piece within a DAW as opposed to an under-rehearsed, poorly recorded or less competent performance.

Still, all said there's no substitute for the real thing (yet!!?), especially when it comes to samples versus real string sections and solos so I am and will always be firmly in the live/recorded performance as much as possible camp.
 

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No. I am not interested in "virtual" anything nor anything created using AI. Not only am I not interested I am strongly opposed to these endeavors.
The real world of composing for media and Pop has a different view on the virtual orchestra SA. I know there are serious composers who 'mock-up' too, if only via a music notation programme and a good sample set - something like NotePerformer, although that does have an AI functionality. In the right hands, one can get a good feel for what's on the manuscript if the music is suitable.

This thread isn't about AI for composing btw. If it was, I too would be less in favour.
 
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