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Classical orchestra/piano set up

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Classical orchestra/piano set up

Postby Beethoven2 » Mon May 21, 2012 9:55 pm

Hi all,

Was referred to this forum from someone over on musicradar. I'll post what I asked there. If anyone can give some advice I'd be really grateful:

I'm in the happy situation of being able to afford to set up a decent home studio. My initial ambition is to record solo piano pieces (neo-classical) that I've written over the years, and produce a decent studio quality CD from those recordings with a view to self-publishing. After that, I want to expand into full orchestration and produce classical orchestra pieces that don't sound like a cheap organ. Finally (I told you I was ambitious!) I want to be able to produce a decent score from the recordings.

I've been researching and come to the conclusion that I need a DAW, some kind of monster sample library and probably one of Finale or Sibelius to produce the score.

While it's not true that money is no object, I want a decent set-up. I don't want to spend money and time learning to use a system that I outgrow within six months and most orchestral mock-ups I've heard produced on anything other than top-of-the range equipment are extremely poor fascimiles of the real thing (no offence anyone - and I'd love to be corrected). I've been looking at the EWQL orchestral packages, at DVZ Strings and Garritan.

I imagine I'll be doing it all through midi, with very little, if any, acoustic recording.

Does anyone have any ideas:
Which DAW works best with which sample library and scoring package?
Which sample library really delivers a decent sound without endless midi-tinkering (even EWQL can sound a bit flakey on some .wav files posted on the internet)?
What hardware I'll need beyond what I already have (below)?

I have an ACER Aspire M3910 i5 [email]650@3.2GHz[/email] running Windows 7 64-bit
Soundblaster x-Fi Titanium HD soundcard
Midi keyboard (an old Roland HP330e)
Midi-interface.

Alternatively am I being unrealistically demanding, and producing compellingly realistic orchestral music on computer just isn't yet possible, and I should wait until I can afford my own orchestra (lol!)?

Any help would be really, really appreciated. Currently lost in the huge range of choice available and I want to get on with it.
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Re: Classical orchestra/piano set up

Postby Bob Moose » Tue May 22, 2012 11:48 am

Well just some hints, not a full answer (no time)

Beethoven2 wrote:I've been researching and come to the conclusion that I need a DAW, some kind of monster sample library and probably one of Finale or Sibelius to produce the score.
I think many movie sound tracks are made exactly like this today. When you cannot have an orchestra, or want to spend the money somewhere else, it's the only solution anyway. On the one hand it takes a longer time than writing music and having it played by a band, but on the other hand you don't need any recording room (by far the most difficult point), orchestra, microphones, preamplifiers and recorder.

Which DAW works best with which sample library and scoring package?
If you export the Sibelius/whatever score to a MIDI file, then you can use any DAW. It is even possible to route MIDI data flows between different softwares.

Which sample library really delivers a decent sound without endless midi-tinkering (even EWQL can sound a bit flakey on some .wav files posted on the internet)?
A properly sampled instrument should contain many velocity layers (I mean 50-100) or a synthesis equivalent to many velocity layers, and lots of playing modes. Good luck for finding it, I know only a few instruments like this. And you will need a proper controller to play it in live.

Otherwise, be prepared for some tinkering sessions. Not endless, but usually quite long -- and not MIDI, as MIDI is just a communication protocol. At the end it will never really sound like actual instruments, but it can somehow fake it. Listen to the demos on the VSL web site, it will give you an idea.
For music with advanced playing modes, it's nearly impossible though.

Alternatively am I being unrealistically demanding, and producing compellingly realistic orchestral music on computer just isn't yet possible, and I should wait until I can afford my own orchestra (lol!)?
It's possible but it remains a simulation, and today the simulation is not better than the actual things it simulates. I thought electronics could be a way to invent new instruments, or improve the flaws of the ones that already exist. But it's the contrary: most sample banks are only incomplete emulations, even if it is certainly possible to make more complete ones in many cases. Piano sample banks all have key noises and pedal noises, but, most of the time, only a few velocity layers, recorded from a piano that was not always perfect. And how many of them have half-pedal?
In my opinion sample bank makers are rarely doing it the right way. I guess it's difficult to find people that are both musicians and software developers today.
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Re: Classical orchestra/piano set up

Postby BJG145 » Tue May 22, 2012 12:03 pm

VSL tends to come up in discussions of heavyweight libraries. There are various well-regarded libraries to deal with specifics; eg LA Scoring Strings or the ProjectSAM titles. You might consider multiple computers to run them, using something like Vienna Ensemble Pro.

If you're going for a piano sample library, you might look at Synthogy Ivory among others.

Also consider things like: audio interface, acoustic treatment, monitoring, mixing desk or control surface.

I don't think the choice of DAW is too critical these days.

Check out Hans Zimmer's Pirates of the Caribbean setup to discover how overboard you can go.

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jul07/a ... irates.htm
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Re: Classical orchestra/piano set up

Postby muso steve » Tue May 22, 2012 3:45 pm

Hi,
If you don't plan on having real musicians playing the music why do you need the scores?
Is it simply that (like me) you find it easier composing in notation?
You might find that the right DAW can provide good enough notation features for your purpose (personally I don't).

My personal preference is for Sibelius, quick and easy to use, and does lots of automatic formatting for you. A score and parts can look professional with very little effort. I've never used Finale, but I've often played from Finale produced parts and they never quite look 'pro', I would guess the final formatting stage is more of a hassle to do.
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Re: Classical orchestra/piano set up

Postby BJG145 » Tue May 22, 2012 4:46 pm

If you wanted a score and a CD, I'm guessing you'd need both Sibelius and some DAW like Logic or Cubase for the best results...? I'm wondering which you'd start in before transferring to the other, or whether you'd work pretty much from scratch.
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Re: Classical orchestra/piano set up

Postby Bob Moose » Tue May 22, 2012 5:35 pm

BJG145 wrote:If you wanted a score and a CD, I'm guessing you'd need both Sibelius and some DAW like Logic or Cubase for the best results...? I'm wondering which you'd start in before transferring to the other, or whether you'd work pretty much from scratch.
Also, it is always possible to send MIDI data from Sibelius to the DAW in realtime

But yes, all this depends on how you prefer to work.
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Re: Classical orchestra/piano set up

Postby BJG145 » Tue May 22, 2012 6:09 pm

(I'm thinking that trying to program the articulations you'd need for a decent rendition in Sibelius could be a PITA, though I've never tried.)
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Re: Classical orchestra/piano set up

Postby Beethoven2 » Wed May 23, 2012 10:04 am

Thanks for replies so far (keep 'em coming). I've moved on a bit, bought Synthogy's Ivory grand piano software (thanks for the tip). I checked it out - outstanding. I understand it has a lightweight sequencer called Cantabile packaged with it, so I'll use that initially for phase 1. I'm going to carry on looking for orchestral samples in the meantime. I'm leaning heavily towards DVZ Strings. The quality of articulation, ease of use, nice turnkey solution of their own DAW support the idea, the lack of woodwinds and percussion at present vote against it, but hey-ho - baby steps. What I can't find is anyone who's actually using it to pick their brains. Anyone here?

With regards to the score, I'm a traditionalist and have always found composing on a score easier. I think I have to bite the bullet and get to grips with sequencing, since almost unanimous opinion is that the scoring packages do not rate anywhere near a good DAW for articulation and sound quality. However, I thought that you would need a score in order to "publish" the work. Am I wrong?

Many thanks for info so far.
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