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History of recording...

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History of recording...

Postby hollowsun » Mon Feb 24, 2014 11:51 pm

I enjoyed this recently.

Potted history of recorded sound. Nicely done, nicely presented by Howard Goodall. Shows how we've gone from having to stand in front of large horns at a particular distance make something muffled to the present day.

Thought it might be interesting to others here.

Kind of puts things into some perspective as well while we worry about 96kHz/192khz sample rate and 16/24-bit word lengths and plug-ins, the current obsession with compression and mastering and so on.

Whatever ... enjoy.
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Re: History of recording...

Postby Ian. » Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:38 am

I want one of those gramophones. The orange one where he's sitting on the grass is so cool!
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Re: History of recording...

Postby Chaconne » Tue Feb 25, 2014 5:24 pm

Good stuff ! I don't know how I missed this first time around. That pro-tools shot seams to be around 1998 or something? 2000 edits for a Verdi opera - did I hear correctly? I would have guessed a hundred or so as an upper limit if that, I would think they would have to choose maybe best arias from a handful - an perhaps comp one or two - beyond that what are they doing?!
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Re: History of recording...

Postby Ian. » Wed Feb 26, 2014 7:56 am

It looked like they were taking bits and pieces from numerous performances to me. It's funny, when i heard 2000 edits i didn't actually think that seemed like much for making a good sounding composite from old vinyl performances.
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Re: History of recording...

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Feb 26, 2014 12:18 pm

Chaconne wrote:2000 edits for a Verdi opera - did I hear correctly?

Yep!

...beyond that what are they doing?!

Editing for total perfection! That particular example worked out at an average of roughly an edit every 8 seconds. That's not that unusual for that kind of recording, sadly. I've sat in on digital edit sessions at Sony Classical where -- quite literally -- every note in a bar came from a different take!

Some soloists are incredibly neurotic about the material that gets released on their CDs, and so they end up with a 'creation' rather than a true 'performance' -- although that's not that different from a lot of contemporary music created in a DAW through MIDI editing, micro-dynamic fiddling through fader automation, and all the rest.

The modern tools allow people to manipulate things to this degree... so they do!

Goodall's whole series was very good, and that programme was very enjoyable. The castrati recording was scary too!

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Re: History of recording...

Postby hollowsun » Wed Feb 26, 2014 12:43 pm

Not in my experience.

In classical music, it's not uncommon to splice the best takes together although most I know involved in recording classical prefer a straight run through ... but sh!t happens - the odd blip here and there ... not noticeable in a live performance because it's over and done with but for repeated listening on a recording, it can stick out like a sore thumb. But if there's a major 'blip', often quicker and easier to just do it again.

2,000 edits seems excessive and I was also a bit surprised when I heard that - it's not like the musicians/singers involved are incompetent. In my experience, it's typically just the best takes of movements that are segued together, occasionally the odd mid-movement splice but generally splicing movements together (editing an orchestra, whatever, on full tilt mid movement is a bastard ... I've done it ... with tape - even with modern editing techniques and sophisticated crossfades, it's still a bugger and best avoided).

Besides which, most orchestras of a decent to high calibre can just, ermmm, 'do it in one' (maybe two) and then nip off down the pub.

Mind you, opera divas were involved who are not known for their lack of preciousness!
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Re: History of recording...

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Feb 26, 2014 1:00 pm

hollowsun wrote:Not in my experience.


As I said, I've sat in on digital edit sessions at Sony Classical where -- quite literally -- every note in a bar came from a different take! (It was a solo piano recital as I recall, from a VERY well known classical pianist!) And from the conversation I had with the editor what he was having to do wasn't that unusual for some kinds of material.

I was shocked!

I've often replaced a section or two -- anything from a few bars up to half the movement -- in classical recordings, because of some issue that the producer/conductor identified and retakes were made with that in mind. I've replaced the odd individual note or two to fix fluffs too, but I wouldn't entertain editing to the kind of level discussed above in a classical piece. I think you should edit to save a performance, not to create one! (This was the declared approach of Nimbus' too).

Sadly, not everyone takes the same approach.

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Re: History of recording...

Postby hollowsun » Wed Feb 26, 2014 1:39 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote: The castrati recording was scary too!
Remember that incident when they played the world's oldest known recording and the Beeb played it on a news item on Radio 4 and the presenter collapsed in giggles?

I suppose we should consider ourselves lucky that we have technology to transform voices. Back in the day, it would have been a trip to the local barbers to have your naggers removed to become a castrati

Dunno how the BeeGees did it - maybe it was their fashionably tight 70 flares!

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Goodall's whole series was very good, and that programme was very enjoyable.
He makes good programmes and is a gifted and knowledgeable musician. But he has a nice style of presentation ... makes a lot of stuff digestible to even the layman. His Story Of Music was excellent ... like the 'Big Bangs' series in essence but kind of betterer. I particularly enjoyed the first two episodes with the 'invention' and evolution of notation and then onwards to the Baroque period, equal temperament, etc.. But then I'm a sucker for plainsong, early chorale and church music and the Baroque period. YMMV!
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Re: History of recording...

Postby hollowsun » Wed Feb 26, 2014 1:48 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:I think you should edit to save a performance, not to create one!
Agreed... totally.

Ideally, you shouldn't need to edit at all - have sh!t hot players just doing their thing but easier said than done, of course.
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Re: History of recording...

Postby Aural Reject » Wed Feb 26, 2014 2:31 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
hollowsun wrote:Not in my experience.


As I said, I've sat in on digital edit sessions at Sony Classical where -- quite literally -- every note in a bar came from a different take! (It was a solo piano recital as I recall, from a VERY well known classical pianist!) And from the conversation I had with the editor what he was having to do wasn't that unusual for some kinds of material.

I was shocked!

I've often replaced a section or two -- anything from a few bars up to half the movement -- in classical recordings, because of some issue that the producer/conductor identified and retakes were made with that in mind. I've replaced the odd individual note or two to fix fluffs too, but I wouldn't entertain editing to the kind of level discussed above in a classical piece. I think you should edit to save a performance, not to create one! (This was the declared approach of Nimbus' too).

Sadly, not everyone takes the same approach.

H



Done it both ways....interestingly, some 'artistes' think that you can even replace notes that they never played / sang....which is an interesting approach....
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Re: History of recording...

Postby The Red Bladder » Wed Feb 26, 2014 2:45 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:I was shocked!

I think you should edit to save a performance, not to create one!

You should see the crap I've got in front of me right now! I have 30 pages of score with over 400 edits - the producer even wants single notes cut in half! And that's just one movement!

The first gig I did for this clown had just two or three edits on each page - now it's pretty much every bloody bar is from a different place. Best note in the margin so far - "We seem to be missing an F in stave two, bar three. Can you patch one in from somewhere?"

This just is not music anymore.
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Re: History of recording...

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Feb 26, 2014 3:00 pm

The Red Bladder wrote: This just is not music anymore.

I agree... but it's always the same. Because they know the tools now allow it, they want you to do it!

The solution is to make your editing time so expensive that it's cheaper to get it right in the recording session.. but whatever you charge, some wannabe straight out of college will do it for next to nothing...

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Re: History of recording...

Postby Kev Adams » Wed Feb 26, 2014 3:00 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
hollowsun wrote:Not in my experience.

As I said, I've sat in on digital edit sessions at Sony Classical where -- quite literally -- every note in a bar came from a different take! (It was a solo piano recital as I recall, from a VERY well known classical pianist!) And from the conversation I had with the editor what he was having to do wasn't that unusual for some kinds of material...

Sort of calls into question the worth of the Radio 3 Saturday morning feature where they analyse all the recordings of a certain piece and then recommend the best. They make reference to the musicianship and the conductor's interpretation (and yes, the quality and balance of the recorded sound) but they don't consider the skill of the audio editor who has carefully patched all the best takes together.
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Re: History of recording...

Postby The Red Bladder » Wed Feb 26, 2014 3:34 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:some wannabe straight out of college will do it for next to nothing...

H

I wish they bloody would - I've got piles of this stuff to plough through! I'll pay them - the trouble is that the standards are very high and our pet wannabe has to be very musically literate!

People say "Oh I'll do all that!" and then they look at the EDLs and wish that they had shut their mouths!
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Re: History of recording...

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Feb 26, 2014 3:51 pm

Kev Adams wrote:Sort of calls into question the worth of the Radio 3 Saturday morning feature where they analyse all the recordings of a certain piece and then recommend the best. They make reference to the musicianship....

And that kind of forensic analysis is the very reason why some musicians feel the need to edit to the extent they do!

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Re: History of recording...

Postby Kev Adams » Wed Feb 26, 2014 4:29 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Kev Adams wrote:Sort of calls into question the worth of the Radio 3 Saturday morning feature where they analyse all the recordings of a certain piece and then recommend the best. They make reference to the musicianship....

And that kind of forensic analysis is the very reason why some musicians feel the need to edit to the extent they do!

H

I have to say, as someone who listens to a lot of classical music but lacking a rarefied musical education (learnt the rudiments perched on the piano stool next to my mum, didn't do any grades, didn't go to the Royal Academy of Music, played mostly traditional music) I do find myself thinking that Radio 3 presenters should have their own space reserved in pseuds corner. Except perhaps Sean Rafferty.
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Re: History of recording...

Postby Tomás Mulcahy » Wed Feb 26, 2014 7:24 pm

Great documentary, thanks!

The Red Bladder wrote:"We seem to be missing an F in stave two, bar three. Can you patch one in from somewhere?"

This just is not music anymore.

Euh. Replace the whole lot with VSL. They'll go "Wow, that's great, it sounds just like the movies!".
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Re: History of recording...

Postby Ian. » Wed Feb 26, 2014 8:27 pm

I don't understand the principle difference between creating music by way of creating extensive audio composites and inputting and editing midi events in a midi editor. It's more laborious but i see no difference personally. After all, how many different samples of that particular piano's G did they take before releasing it to the world? Same thing, no? Just the sound selection is being done at a different stage in the process. But hey, maybe i'm lacking a certain perspective.
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Re: History of recording...

Postby hollowsun » Thu Feb 27, 2014 10:23 am

Ian. wrote:I don't understand the principle difference between creating music by way of creating extensive audio composites and inputting and editing midi events in a midi editor. It's more laborious but i see no difference personally. After all, how many different samples of that particular piano's G did they take before releasing it to the world? Same thing, no? Just the sound selection is being done at a different stage in the process. But hey, maybe i'm lacking a certain perspective.
Given that the subject in this instance is about classical music, that is all about ensemble performance (but then so is ... or should be ... a lot of - most of - other musical forms ... classical, rock, pop and so on ... country, folk, world, whatever). To assemble what should be a performance by (in the classical world, at least) top rate musicians is, to many, to miss the point. Sure, to fix the odd thing here and there for a recording is one thing but, I dunno, to 'assemble' a classical recording bar by bar is somehow amiss.
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Re: History of recording...

Postby Tim Gillett » Thu Feb 27, 2014 11:06 am

I agree. There can be a price to pay though for the musician(s) who needs that amount of "surgical" editing. Performance before an audience becomes somewhat problematic. Being judged by the standard of one's own perfect recordings might be a bitter pill!

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Re: History of recording...

Postby Kev Adams » Thu Feb 27, 2014 11:41 am

hollowsun wrote:... Sure, to fix the odd thing here and there for a recording is one thing but, I dunno, to 'assemble' a classical recording bar by bar is somehow amiss.

Totally agree. I have had a few illusions shattered by discovering how many edits classical producers require.

Sadly the same perfectionism and smoothness has become a requirement in recorded traditional music. I suppose we edit because we can.

Off topic really, but I'm always startled when classically trained musicians who can only read from the dots, encounter a trad session and are bemused by the absence of music stands and a conductor. "How do you do it?" they ask. Sitting in a trad music session in a pub with half a dozen or so good players you sometimes get to the point where the music lifts off and you can float on it as a player. Could well sound awful to listeners who don't get it, but it reaffirms the original communal aspect of music which is to play for the joy of it and to bond in mutual creation of something, ephemeral though it may be. Can you really capture that by recording it?
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Re: History of recording...

Postby tacitus » Thu Feb 27, 2014 12:10 pm

At my more recent wedding the band that played for the first half of the reception were all readers and the jazz band that played after them were all non-readers, so we had the jazzers standing there amazed at the facility of the readers to convert the dots into music followed by the amazement of those players when they saw the jazzers playing organised music with no dots at all.

But whichever way you do it, the performance is the thing, not the edited result. When I edit classical recordings, I do try to stick to a minimal 'tidying up' regime and I don't have the time or the hunger to do 2000 edits. I think a lot of people get hung up on tiny imperfections that, truthfully, probably add character as much as they fall short of perfection. I'm not advocating doing everything in single takes, but there's a world of difference between splicing two takes from the same session together and pasting in notes one at a time to cover up actual weaknesses of the player(s). More or less the only time I've resorted to note-by-note repairs is on organ recordings where the organ has been the culprit rather than the player.

Oddly enough, as I've improved as a performer myself, I've become less keen on recording myself. Possibly I do miss the live performance aspect, but I suspect there's an age-related realignment of priorities going on somewhere.
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Re: History of recording...

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Feb 27, 2014 2:05 pm

Tim Gillett wrote:There can be a price to pay though for the musician(s) who needs that amount of "surgical" editing. Performance before an audience becomes somewhat problematic.

Just to be clear, in the example I cited above the pianist didn't 'need' note by note editing in my view. The recorded performance was superb by most people's standards.

However, the musician appeared to want a 'perfect' performance on the CD -- I was told this was because of the fact that people can (and apparently do) scrutinise the recording note by note.

A public performance is a one off thing that can't be repeated and analysed ad nauseum, so it's a different kind of experience. I think people approach a public performance in a different way to listening to a CD, and are more willing to accept minor flaws live than they would on a recorded performance.

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Re: History of recording...

Postby hollowsun » Thu Feb 27, 2014 3:28 pm

Kev Adams wrote:Sadly the same perfectionism and smoothness has become a requirement in recorded traditional music. I suppose we edit because we can.
Indeed ... dog licking his balls syndrome ... because he can!

Kev Adams wrote:Off topic really, but I'm always startled when classically trained musicians who can only read from the dots, encounter a trad session and are bemused by the absence of music stands and a conductor. "How do you do it?" they ask.
Well, the old 'dot reading automatons' thing/myth is not strictly true, certainly not with younger players. As I have mentioned hereabouts, my daughter plays with several orchestras (BBC Welsh, Welsh Sinfonia, National Welsh Youth Orchestra and others and a year or two ago, she played in the film 'Hunky Dory' and did the soundtrack). All her orchestral friends and colleagues can play without having the score in front of them ... or even the conductor! In fact, for one gig, they had a Bach evening done traditional stylee (not the original viol de sambas, obviously) ... standing up. no scores, no conductor, just playing together and off each other. String quartets do much the same - they may have the scores as a reference but but like modern buses ... no conductor!

For the film thingy she did, there wasn't even a score - it was largely sort of improvised - the MD would just call out instructions. Sometimes, members of the ensemble would make suggestions and they'd try them out ... they may make it through or may not.

But the score is typically there simply as a guide ... they're not actually reading it as such. When my daughter does solo recitals on violin or piano, she never has a score.

It's a bit like when authors do those book reading events for their latest publication ... like when JK Rowling would read out extracts from her latest Harry Potter book. They read from the book so I don't understand why some musicians following a score get so much flak, as though it is somehow 'wrong'.

The thing to remember is that unlike a band, it's not just a few musicians with a bit of freedom to play around with things but maybe 100 musicians who have to perform as one big instrument so another talent a classicalist has to have is the ability to subsume themselves into the greater good, as it were, otherwise it would be bloody mayhem if everyone of them went off and extemporised (which they - or most - are quite capable of doing ... though in fairness, they might not all be able to jam like some jazzers or rockers).

Some rock musos (several well known ones) have complained that working with orchestras is dull and boring (thus reinforcing the myth) ... possibly because the orchestral arrangements those orchestras are given are dull and boring and don't amount to much more than playing pads in the background. My daughter's done enough sessions like that and it's all they can do to stay awake! In that respect, a half decent sample sound library can invariably do that job as, indeed, could a half decent polysynth perhaps.
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Re: History of recording...

Postby hollowsun » Thu Feb 27, 2014 3:54 pm

Tim Gillett wrote:I agree. There can be a price to pay though for the musician(s) who needs that amount of "surgical" editing. Performance before an audience becomes somewhat problematic. Being judged by the standard of one's own perfect recordings might be a bitter pill!
The whole medium of recorded music has provided something of a double edged sword in more recent times ... performers who want to sound on stage like they do on a micro edited, quantised, auto tuned, over-compressed recording ... and the audience expect that too.

And there's the cynicism ... a drummer who can play ... "must be quantised" ... a bass player who can play ... "must be sequenced" ... a singer who can actually sing ... "must be auto tuned" ... and so on.

To paraphrase, music will eat itself.
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Re: History of recording...

Postby ConcertinaChap » Thu Feb 27, 2014 6:01 pm

Kev Adams wrote:Sadly the same perfectionism and smoothness has become a requirement in recorded traditional music. I suppose we edit because we can.

Worse, we edit because that's what the customer wants. Folk clubs and sessions are loose and easy and fun. That idea somehow gets lost as soon as you put a singer or musician in front of a mic. At least none of my fellow folkies have asked me to use Melodyne yet ...

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Re: History of recording...

Postby Kev Adams » Thu Feb 27, 2014 7:01 pm

hollowsun wrote:
Well, the old 'dot reading automatons' thing/myth is not strictly true, certainly not with younger players. As I have mentioned hereabouts, my daughter plays with several orchestras (BBC Welsh, Welsh Sinfonia, National Welsh Youth Orchestra and others and a year or two ago, she played in the film 'Hunky Dory' and did the soundtrack). All her orchestral friends and colleagues can play without having the score in front of them ... or even the conductor! ...

...But the score is typically there simply as a guide ... they're not actually reading it as such. When my daughter does solo recitals on violin or piano, she never has a score...

...The thing to remember is that unlike a band, it's not just a few musicians with a bit of freedom to play around with things but maybe 100 musicians who have to perform as one big instrument so another talent a classicalist has to have is the ability to subsume themselves into the greater good, as it were, otherwise it would be bloody mayhem if everyone of them went off and extemporised...

All points taken and totally agreed with. Even so, there are musicians who are unable to play without dots even if they are at home playing to the family cat.
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Re: History of recording...

Postby Mike Stranks » Thu Feb 27, 2014 7:53 pm

In my work with a local amateur and good choir, the conductor/leader much prefers a complete retake of any piece that has 'problems'. We've only once resorted to a 'best bits' approach with a highly complex piece which the choir was struggling with a bit.

On the other hand... working with a local SATB folk-based small choir they were very particular about the sound for their first (and probably only) CD and some very detailed work was needed including copy and paste of phrases from choruses and level automation on half-notes. All good fun though!

And back to the general history of recorded sound... went to the Museum of Mechanical Music in Northleach today. Amongst the exhibits was a wax cylinder recording which astounded me with its relative fidelity and S/N ratio.

Well-worth a visit if you're at all interested in music-boxes, polyphons, mechanical pianos, barrel-organs and such-like.
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Re: History of recording...

Postby ConcertinaChap » Thu Feb 27, 2014 8:02 pm

Kev Adams wrote:Even so, there are musicians who are unable to play without dots even if they are at home playing to the family cat.

Sadly quite correct. I have a friend, a very competent musician, who really wants to play by ear (by which I mean not playing tunes you've memorised from the dots but picking up and playing tunes in sessions without recourse to score at any time) but she is so dependent on score she brings tune books with her to sessions and frantically leafs through them every time a new tune is started. She is an extreme example but she isn't alone in this in the sessions I lead.

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Re: History of recording...

Postby hollowsun » Fri Feb 28, 2014 10:38 am

ConcertinaChap wrote:Sadly quite correct. I have a friend, a very competent musician, who really wants to play by ear ...
How is that "sadly"? She can't play by ear ... so what? Lots of musicians can't read music. Not sure how that makes them better than those who can.

But I do find it surprising that your friend cannot play by ear at all and you certainly can't tarnish every classicalist with the same brush.

And a lot of sight readers learnt to be sight readers by playing by ear ... they'd have their piano (whatever) teacher play a new piece, pupil picks it up by ear and memorising it while following 'the dots' and it all clicks with them ... then they use a combination of memory from ear and following the dots to nail the piece. Over time, they don't necessarily need to hear it first because they acquire the (enviable IMO) skill to read and play fluently such that you can pretty much throw some manuscript at them and they can pretty much just play it then and there. And also, there comes a time when they've learnt the piece when they don't need the dots to refer to.

My daughter was a bugger for that in the early days ... she'd be given a new piece and would ask her teacher to play it so she could the gist of it and she'd memorise the best part of it by ear. Then in conjunction with 'the dots', she'd nobble the piece. Now she can just read it and in many - even most - cases, 'the dots' are just a guideline to refer to. In an orchestral situation, one eye on the conductor, the other on the score and their instinct following the other players and their technique is such that they don't even have to think about it.

If it's a tricky piece, my daughter (and many others I know) will buy the piece from iTunes or look it up on YouTube and learn bits of it by ear in conjunction with the manuscript.

It's just not possible to make the statement that classical musicians can't play by ear, only from dots because it is not true. Some maybe, but I'd say that's rare... in my experience.

Furthermore, one day, you might actually have the ability/budget to use an orchestra, string section, brass section, choir, whatever in your work ... or maybe a a solo violin, cellist, flautist, whatever - you'll be grateful for those dot followers ... they'll be in and out before you have time to finish your cuppa!!

I have several TV, ad and library composer chums who often just get a violinist (*) in ... and/or maybe a cellist or some woodwind ... to augment orchestral parts made with sample libraries and it's remarkably effective - adds some life and 'humanity' to otherwise static samples. They print out the part(s) in Logic (whatever), hand it to the player(s), a run though or two, record and they're done ... because they can read the dots so fluently. And sometimes, the player(s) will offer advice (authentic orchestration techniques, etc.) or recommend some changes, whip their pencils out and write 'em down and off they go and nobble it one!

And this needn't cost much because, believe it or not, classicalists are as passionate about playing as any other muso. If you have a local music college, you'll likely find some students who'll do it for the craic, the experience and a few bottles of cheap plonk!

I just tire of the 'them and us' attitude ... as though classicalists are some alien species. We're all musicians however we go about it, whether it's reading dots or jamming and improvising and we can learn from each other.

(*) And very often, hire a violinist and you get a violist too as many can play both.
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