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New Orchestral piece. Need some perspective, please.

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New Orchestral piece. Need some perspective, please.

Postby FMiguelez » Mon May 14, 2012 5:43 pm

Hello, everyone.

I’ve been working on this orchestral piece for the past 2 weeks or so.

I changed my setup and tools and this made me come out of my “comfort zone”.
I’ve been changing the orchestration, the mix, etc., and I think I’ve lost perspective.
I want to finish the piece, but I don’t know what I’m doing anymore… it’s been too long :roll:

Even though I put it here in the “Showcase” forum, I’m not sure it’s ready for primetime. You’ll tell me…

My main goal was to develop the music and make it tell a story (it's for a love scene in the Niagara Falls) and to make it sound as real as possible.

Any comments would be most appreciated.

Everything done with DP7.24.

Enjoy!

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/74701841/Un%20B ... 4-2012.mp3
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Re: New Orchestral piece. Need some perspective, please.

Postby jbyerly1 » Mon May 14, 2012 7:18 pm

I am really dreading being the first post here. I am many years from once being a very good Oboe player that I dropped for Bass guitar in college so my terminology is very week now. It all sounds well written. You accomplished foreplay>climax>post pleasure with the emotions that get stirred. I seam to hear more sforzando instrumentation which pulls my ear away from the composition as a whole or maybe just mixed in the forefront a little. I hear some cool little exotic hand percussion maybe in the soft parts as ear candy

I cannot now and maybe never be able to create something this beautiful so take it for what it's worth
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Re: New Orchestral piece. Need some perspective, please.

Postby MIDI Life Crisis » Mon May 14, 2012 9:50 pm

You asked... so I'm going "critical" here. If someone wants to call me on being "negative" don't waste your time. I'm not listening. ;)

The theme is lovely and the piano part is often exquisite and elegant. Of course, scoring to picture is all about context and since I cannot see what is being accompanied, it's hard to know if it "works" in context or not. Here are thoughts in random order as I listen thru the work a few times while writing....

In general, the horn part seems to be crescendoing and blaring out of the mix, perhaps as part of the patch. I would start by evening that out a bit.

Sometimes so much is happening that it is obscuring the line. For example, at about :50 to 1:22 the oboe (flute?) is in a high-ish register with the strings accompanying in a similarly high register as well. This creates a conflict in my ear. If the strings were in a higher tremolo or harmonic, the winds would seem to be "hanging" from them. Conversely, if the strings were lower, the winds would be resting on them. As it stands now, they are competing for attention.

In general, there is a lot going on much of the time. At 2:28 it sounds more like an organ than an orchestra. That might be fixed by thinning out the instrumentation.

At :24 maybe the harp could stand out more (by letting the other instruments pull back a bit).

---------------

Rather than go on about what I'd change, I'll tell you I'd do if I was hired to rework the score.

Start by removing anything that is not a "theme." IOW, pull ALL supporting instruments and play just the main thematic material. Be sure that structure is sound and what you really want.

Then I'd add ONLY the parts that support the melodic line and not one note more.

Listen to this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ny6OkWLRzo

At about :38 pay attention to the simplicity he uses to support the main theme. At 1:06 listen to the way he makes the complex piano part stand out while still supporting it with strings. When the piano drops out the orchestrations takes over again. Give and take.

Let me finish by saying I am not conservatory trained in orchestration so my suggestions and observations maybe be academically retarded. But in listening to the greatest composers works, simplicity rules. Or as Brahms once put it: 'The notes I put into my works aren't as important as the notes I leave out.'

Truer words have never been spoken, especially when it comes to orchestration.
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Re: New Orchestral piece. Need some perspective, please.

Postby mhschmieder » Mon May 14, 2012 11:34 pm

FM, thanks to alerting me to this post; I literally NEVER check this forum and forgot it was here, as I kind of assumed it was for beginners' scratchpad ideas, just like the "user postings" at most other forums I see on the web. So I figured anything designated for eventual commercial release (however limited in scope), live stage use, or music for films would be out of place here.

Anyway, I concur with most of MLC's remarks. It is a lovely piece and shows courage in attempting so many swells and other phrasings and articulations that tend to be so difficult using MIDI techniques. I focused primarily on the technical as a result, so am not yet sure if I agree with MLC about stripping it down, as I'm not sure of the intended context or usage.

Basically, it is jarring from the beginning due to the brass. The woodwinds are almost always lush and smooth to these ears, and being a woodwind player I tend to be more critical of the winds than the brass. I have not yet perfected the art of producing a realistic and smooth brass swell yet myself, so if you are successful in this I'll want to know your tricks. :-)

So, in general, the brass seems to jerk from one volume level to another, both in terms of actual volume and in terms of timbre. I am guessing this is less of a MIDI programming issue than the choice of brass sound sources. I'm not sure what you have in your arsenal.

The piano also sits poorly with me, both timbrally and from a sound stage perspective. It sounds a bit phasey, wiry, and "in the wrong space" compared to the other instruments (too echoic, and in a way that doesn't match the overall ambience), and also the notes sound wrong for the attack velocity. That is, the timbre doesn't match the perceived attack level.

Overall though, the mix seems balanced, but in conjunction with smoothing out the brass, their current highest level would be too high after correcting for that. Perhaps in light of MLC's comments, some of the contrasting parts would pull back a bit as well, adding light harmonic support and rhythmic counterpoint without being brought too much into focus.

The stereo image and depth seem overall realistic to me for a medium to moderately large hall, such as a typical bowl-shaped symphonic hall. The piano doesn't fit the space, but the other instruments sound believable within the context of the space you have placed them into.

Again, the woodwinds impress me quite a bit, and the piece itself is quite nice and keeps the listener's attention and interest as well as providing some emotional contrast and minimizing unnecessary repetition that wouldn't contribute to the "story" the music tells.
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Re: New Orchestral piece. Need some perspective, please.

Postby FMiguelez » Tue May 15, 2012 10:11 am

Guys, thank you so much for your detailed responses.

Perspective is what I needed and perspective is what I got! :)

The most obvious thing, upon listening to the piece with fresh ears after reading your comments, was that the Horns' dynamics are too exaggerated indeed. I will definitely try to soften them so they don't jump that much out of the mix.

Regarding the orchestration, I agree. It's quite busy. There are a lot of counterpoint lines; I guess I got carried away!

I'm not sure I want to go back to the drawing board and re-orchestrate to "thin" it because that would basically destroy my original concept. I'd rather take those comments into account for my next piece. IOW, I'll learn from this and try to write simpler (as in less is more) next time.
I'd dread going back that far back with this piece. It's getting old. I think I need to move on.

But what I most appreciate about the comments is the realization that I really need to keep things a bit "simpler" and not obfuscate the orchestration so much.
And this is something I've had trouble with since I was at college. I remember my teachers always liked my music, but they almost always told me things were too busy or unnecessarily complicated. I don't know why it's so hard for me to stop doing that! I just keep hearing lines and I just write them. I guess I need to know when to stop.

I think I'll have to tattoo myself in the forehead with a big font that reads: "Keep things simpler", so I remember because I always get carried away and I really need to get into my skin that most times economy of means sounds better (and it's easier and faster to do too), especially in the sense MLC mentioned about Brahms: 'The notes I put into my works aren't as important as the notes I leave out.'

Your comments prove I'm still not doing it, so it's something I will make a conscious effort everytime I write something.

MIDI Life Crisis wrote:...At 2:28 it sounds more like an organ than an orchestra. That might be fixed by thinning out the instrumentation.

Hmmm... Maybe.
Or I can also try changing the patches. I used decrescendo without vibrato in the woodwinds thinking that would be the way real players would naturally do it, especially the flutes in that high register. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I thought it would be easier for them to play non vib instead of with vibrato in such a passage.
I'll try using a decrescendo with some vibrato patch to see if it sounds better, because the chord is not that thick.

mhschmieder wrote:The piano also sits poorly with me, both timbrally and from a sound stage perspective. It sounds a bit phasey, wiry, and "in the wrong space" compared to the other instruments (too echoic, and in a way that doesn't match the overall ambience), and also the notes sound wrong for the attack velocity. That is, the timbre doesn't match the perceived attack level.

My instrument is the Piano. Curiously, it's the one that gave me the most trouble to put into the mix, and I am not too happy with its space placement either.

The way I conceived it was like if it were a piano concerto, with the piano at the front of the stage.
What I did is I reduced its stereo field. I had to EQ it quite heavily (take out a lot of bass and mid-bass -so it didn't muddy the strings, and some high end).
I'm not sure how to fix it because I gave it the exact same reverb room (and distance) as the string section. Its reverb send has like 3-4 more dB than the strings... could that be it?

When you say that it sounds wiry and in the wrong space, what do you mean, exactly? Does it sound too far away? Do you think it's too much reverb? Or the EQ is weird? Or maybe a little of both?

I'd really appreciate a few ideas on how to make it sit right where it's supposed to be: in the front of the stage. I really want to make it belong more into that space.

Thank you jbyerly1, MLC and Schmieder for your comments! I'll use them to improve some of the things you guys mentioned. And I'll DEFINITELY keep in mind the comments about keeping things simpler for my next pieces.
Last edited by FMiguelez on Tue May 15, 2012 10:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: New Orchestral piece. Need some perspective, please.

Postby FMiguelez » Tue May 15, 2012 10:36 am

Oh, and if I can get you to tell me about the bass frequencies it would be great.

I'm a little unsure about it. Does it sound muddy in your rooms? Does it sound bass-heavy, or is it fine for you?

Thanks!
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New Orchestral piece. Need some perspective, please.

Postby MIDI Life Crisis » Tue May 15, 2012 10:46 am

I'm not necessarily talking simplicity as much as 'purity.' Parts, IMO, should work together and more than a couple of cross rhythms can be death! I know you're not as big a fan of the classical and romantic (baroque?) periods, but again, listen to how the greats such as Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart, such as... deal with it. Of course one can get great depth from simplicity as well. Such as... Satie. Or such as...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-qUK6Xd ... ata_player
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New Orchestral piece. Need some perspective, please.

Postby MIDI Life Crisis » Tue May 15, 2012 11:59 am

Be careful what you wish for!
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Re: New Orchestral piece. Need some perspective, please.

Postby stubbsonic » Tue May 15, 2012 4:56 pm

I'm on my second listen now. It's really lovely.

If it was my project to adjust it (without changing it's content, vibe, etc.), I'd scale velocities and dynamics (as has been mentioned), not just to reduce the range of the crescendoes, but also to change the shape of them. Right now they are points, and I thing they should be less often and more rounded. But overall, I'd have fewer "emotional peaks" and make more of it feel gentle.

Relative levels could be adjusted to create the space and remove some of the "thickness". "Balance" is a loaded term, because having different voices at different levels can add some 3-D depth. You could de-emphasize some of the counterlines where you think it is too busy.

I wonder if using velocity scaling along with faders might help some of the background parts to blend more nicely (i.e., lower velocities triggering the softer/warmer samples).

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Re: New Orchestral piece. Need some perspective, please.

Postby Shooshie » Tue May 15, 2012 6:57 pm

This started out as a PM between Fernando and myself, and I wasn't really aware of the thread. Now that I see others have made similar comments, I'm going to post my initial PMs to Nando for others to read, of they so desire.

—Shoo

    Performance is my strongest point, probably, so I'm going to limit my comments to that. I think you have a good composition, but the dynamics are needlessly exaggerated. We want movement in our dynamics; that's a good thing. But a musical line only varies so much at a time unless there is a subito-whatever demanding more. In performance, I developed a number system to kind of keep my dynamics in check, where 1 was the quietest and 10 was the loudest. Most lines will never change more than about 2 or 3 levels as the swell and ebb, but in your horns, especially, I'm hearing swells that zoom up to about 9 or 10, and back down to 2 or 3, all in the space of one phrase.

    The idea is to pace it so that you arrive at the high point when it is supposed to happen. That would be somewhere between 2:00 and 2:30 in your score. So, you'll swell a few levels in a phrase, and ebb back down a level... swell a few more levels, then ebb bac, down a level, working your way up until the climax really calls for horns at level 10. Remember, horn players can't even do the loudest level for very long without losing their lips.

    So, I love that you're MOVING your dynamics all the time, but I just think you're OVER-moving them. This may be in part because of whatever controller you're using to do that. If it's a fader or foot pedal, it's easy to push too far, and honestly it's quite hard to move just the few levels that are needed, then back down a level, because the slightest movement of your hand will easily push the fader too far. Same problem if you're using a modulation wheel.

    One thing that might help is to adjust the velocities manually. They more closely correspond to the numerical levels that I use as guides. For example, a lot of samples have 10 velocity layers. Well, those would be simple. Just assign the dynamic value to the velocity level. Then if there are Expression or volume controllers, they will do the job of moving the dynamics, while the velocity levels will keep the tessitura of the horns at the right range within those dynamics.

    But if you are not using velocities, it all has to be done with careful control over the Expression, Breath Control, or Volume. I could elaborate more, but I think you get the point.

    Anyway, nice piece. Just control those dynamics, and I think you'll have a much more believable performance.

Also, there was a little history in another PM, as to how I got started using a numerical dynamic system:

    … Yeah, that number system was what saved me. I found myself pushing too hard while playing. I always admired Horowitz's ability to keep his lines separate, and I studied how he did it. It turns out that they change very little until he wants a big effect. So, the louder line keeps its level, and a quieter line keeps its level, and you don't confuse the two. What I realized is that I needed something to keep my levels in check. The number system was just what I needed. When I came up with that, at first I didn't think I'd be able to use it on the fly, since it requires analyzing the volume as you go. But it turned out to be quite natural. The musical mind wants references to attach to expressive elements, so that it can make sense of it all. The number system was just what "it" wanted. After that, my lines were much more believable, and the musical peaks started sounding like they were supposed to. It's amazing how subtle these changes are, and how much difference they make. After all, that's the difference between Horowitz and a lesser pianist.

Of course… I should have added that it's ONE thing that distinguishes Horowitz, but I figured that was obvious enough that it didn't need to be said. But now that this is on the internet, I have to say those things or someone will come back with "dude… what distinguished Horowitz was…", so there it is.

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Re: New Orchestral piece. Need some perspective, please.

Postby HCMarkus » Tue May 15, 2012 8:02 pm

I like your composition FM, but have one simple suggestion that could reinforce its organic feel: use DP's "change duration" on the melodic lines notes to add a few ticks to each - your ears will tell you how many - to smooth the transition between notes and allow legato phrasings to sound more connected.

I find this techinque helps bridge the gaps that we keyboardists often introduce between notes in our "string" performances. Overdo it and it sounds synthetic, but a scosh can really make things come alive. As with all things musical, this is a context-sensitive matter.

FM, you are one of the regular contributors here at the Nation from whom I have learned much over the years. Thank you for sharing your piece with us all. :D
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Re: New Orchestral piece. Need some perspective, please.

Postby mhschmieder » Sun May 20, 2012 12:09 pm

I have to apologise for not following up on this thread -- I only last night remembered it again after logging out. I've been dealing with work crises not of my own making (I got called in as a "problem fixer"), and that will continue for another week or so.

The comments that others have made are probably more enlightened and useful than anything further I would have to add anyway, but you asked for some specific clarification on my own comments about the piano, and I guess the comments about the bass frequencies were directed my way as well.

Just to back away from that a bit first though, I'll follow up on the "organ" comment, as that is one I am hyper-sensitive to and spend the most time avoiding (unless it is an actual organ piece :-)). In the end, I use my ears, but what I tend to do is listen to any number of pairings of instruments, groupings, and the whole shebang, to fine-tune note lengths, attacks (and note start times), and relative levels within phrases. This avoids the "keyboard" appearing in the mind while listening.

I have been a bit afraid to push too hard into additional articulations and "patches" though, and am only just slowly doing that, so I can't really help on the swells etc. I'll be coming to that when I eventually return to working on my opera, but most of what I am working on at the moment does not need that sort of playing, so I eagerly await your resolution of this challenge in the horns!

In general, I sympathize with the idea of holding most of the arrangement suggestions off until the next piece, as I feel also that one's original concept should be preserved for purposes of finalizing a composition in that context. You can always revisit the themes later on or reuse them elsewhere -- I do this all the time, feeling justified by what Bach and others did in this regard. There's no shame in reusing your own thematic elements!

As I said earlier, I'm not convinced that elaborate use of counterpoint is a bad thing in itself. The irony is that I am trying to do MORE of it as I have most frequently been accused of being TOO sparse! So maybe that's why I'm not jumping on the bandwagon and agreeing to strip it down. I think working on the intra-balance through dynamics and the timing of note on/off might be the best approach.

I do this as a bassist in my jazz group -- especially while backing the solos. A bassist is always thinking as an orchestrator, being conscious of how each note, its attack and length, affect how the lead voice and the phrasing of the solos are perceived emotionally, rhythmically, and harmonically. The point is that this applies to everything, but on a grander scale. On a detailed level, I help "shape" which notes are dominant in the solo line, as well as which instrument at any given moment is perceived as the lead.

Getting back to how this applies to works that are perceived as over-orchestrated, this means constantly altering which of those elaborate backing lines is dominant at any given point of time -- perhaps switching these roles rapidly throughout the course of a phrase.

In terms of the piano and where it sits, it wasn't so much whether it is a foreground or background instrument as much as it felt like it was in a different performance hall than the other instruments. Did you say this was a recorded acoustic piano vs. a library? I didn't listen closely enough to try to tell. If using a sample library, I always go for the close mics only, to avoid clashing sense of space with other instruments in the mix. With Pianoteq, I have yet to have a mix problem of this nature (though I do realise its timbre is not always what one needs for a particular project, so I'm not pushing it as a "problem-solver" in that sense).

I tend to use LESS reverb on piano than other instruments -- even when it is accompanying an orchestra. Are you working with pre-delay times as well? I've only started using the latest Altiverb a couple of weeks ago, so haven't yet had a chance to see how it might benefit piano.

I'll have to relisten before adding more detailed comments on piano and low frequency aspects -- this is my last available day for finishing my eighteen-movement Impressionist Suite, as I made a valuable choreographer contact Friday night and need to send out my first draft mock-ups for review. I'm almost done though, so may be able to give your piece another detailed listen late tonight. I guess it will help to play it at louder volumes too.
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Re: New Orchestral piece. Need some perspective, please.

Postby mhschmieder » Sun May 20, 2012 2:02 pm

Well, a combination of guilt and also my usual problem of getting going in the early afternoon when it's quiet around me and I don't want to disturb the peace, had me going back for another couple of listens before starting my production factory for the day. :-)

I think the tonal balance is spot-on -- no mud to speak of, and only some occasional harshness in the mids that are specific to certain instruments (mostly the piano). I turned the volume up further and the tonal balance continued to scale.

This may sound weird as I'm a bassist, but I don't like music to be heavy in the bass frequencies (a completely different thing from a bass instrument like an upright or a tuba having a dominant role). So maybe a tiny bit more of the lows would still be OK with this piece, but I love it the way it is.

Getting back to the piano, let me know the sound source and other details, and maybe I have an EQ preset or two that I could send your way. Even in cases where I now use Vienna Suite, I often first create the EQ in MOTU MasterWorks EQ and then port it over to Vienna Suite. I'm also finding PSP's MixTreble plug-in (part of a small mixing suite) to be a life-saver for piano.
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Re: New Orchestral piece. Need some perspective, please.

Postby FMiguelez » Sun May 20, 2012 4:08 pm

stubbsonic wrote:I wonder if using velocity scaling along with faders might help some of the background parts to blend more nicely (i.e., lower velocities triggering the softer/warmer samples).

GREAT WORK. INSPIRING!

Depending on the patch and its number of velocity layers the timbre can change drastically. That is easier to accomplish with patches that have quite a lot of layers, so there are more "in-between" choices. The trick is to try to keep the relative volume of each layer at a realistic loudness.

Thank you for your kind words :)

HCMarkus wrote:FM, you are one of the regular contributors here at the Nation from whom I have learned much over the years. Thank you for sharing your piece with us all. :D

Thank you for your comments, HCM.
I've learnt so much from this place throughout the years too! And it never seems to stop.
mhschmieder wrote: I'll be coming to that when I eventually return to working on my opera, but most of what I am working on at the moment does not need that sort of playing, so I eagerly await your resolution of this challenge in the horns!

The other day I opened the project again and immediately realized what seemed to be the problem with the horns.
I used lots of different patches and articulations, but the exaggerated crescendos definitely come from using the crescendo patches with added expression (lots of it). So I corrected it by leaving the crescendo patches alone without the unneeded expression swells. I simply flattened this CC in those sections.
I tried to make the horns sing, but I definitely got carried away with them. The solution was quite easy, and I think they sit better in the mix and especially within the orchestral context (I'll need to upload the revised version of this. It's very subtle, but sounds better).

Thinking back, to be completely honest, I would not change a thing about the orchestration of this piece. I'd do the same thing if I had to start from scratch again. The reason is that the piece was conceived with that orchestration and counterpoint in mind from the beginning. Especially the very busy counterpoint lines in the climax... that's how I heard them in my inner ear.

But I definitely need to keep in mind not to overstate (or overshadow) things in future pieces. I LOVE interesting counterpoint lines, but they need to remain that... accompanying lines secondary to the melody. And, of course, there are melody lines that are better left "more naked" and less ornamented. Context, context, context.
mhschmieder wrote:Well, a combination of guilt and also my usual problem of getting going in the early afternoon when it's quiet around me and I don't want to disturb the peace, had me going back for another couple of listens before starting my production factory for the day.

Thank you for listening again 8)

mhschmieder wrote:I think the tonal balance is spot-on -- no mud to speak of, and only some occasional harshness in the mids that are specific to certain instruments (mostly the piano).

I'm glad to hear that, because the frequency balance was one of my main concerns. My room is less than ideal in terms of shape, size and speaker placement, so I always need to check and recheck against commercial recordings to make sure I'm not mudding things up.

mhschmieder wrote:Getting back to the piano, let me know the sound source and other details, and maybe I have an EQ preset or two that I could send your way. Even in cases where I now use Vienna Suite, I often first create the EQ in MOTU MasterWorks EQ and then port it over to Vienna Suite. I'm also finding PSP's MixTreble plug-in (part of a small mixing suite) to be a life-saver for piano.

I used VSL's Vienna Imperial.
I used the dry (close mic) setting with no ambiance. I sent this dry signal to the same reverb the strings used (Waves' IR with the Sidney Opera House Concert Hall). The reverb sent level was 2 or 3 dB more than the strings, so it resonated a bit more. That's why I'm not sure why it sounds as if it were in a different room... perhaps due to the EQ?
I EQ'd the reverb return taking into account both, the strings and piano.

I did have to heavily EQ the dry piano signal before sending it to the reverb. I cut a lot of bass frequencies using a 6 dB pole high pass filter, and also removed a lot of 250-350 freqs, otherwise it sounded too close and muddy. I also reduced the highest frequencies to put it a little further away.
My original intent was to make it sit as if it were a piano concerto relative to a listener who sits around the middle of the concert hall.

The piano placement is one of the things I'm definitely least happy about this particular piece, so I'll be more than happy to check out your EQ preset you mentioned.

I had never used a convolution reverb before this piece in an orchestral context. I found myself cutting lots of room resonances in the returns. And everytime I changed a room I found I needed to readjust whatever EQ I had quite heavily (for each section), of course. So these kind of reverbs are much more delicate in terms of room resonances and EQ settings than normal reverbs!

So, whenever you have time, please send me the piano EQ preset you mentioned. I'd love to compare it to the different ones I came up with.

Thanks for listening, MHSchmieder. And good luck with your new piece 8)
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Re: New Orchestral piece. Need some perspective, please.

Postby mhschmieder » Mon May 21, 2012 12:03 am

I was pretty sure it was VSL Vienna Imperial, but didn't want egg on my face. :-)

Given that, I understand better why I found the timbre too brash, but that's a personal thing as I have only so far used Vienna Imperial in three cues (two of which are for TV news themes that never made it past my flakey contact person), not tending to like the Bosendorfer as a solo or lead vs. accompanying instrument. In other words, I only use Vienna Imperial when I need it to be part of the orchestra as a background instrument (I prefer it to Pianoteq for this purpose).

I'm too lazy to search all my project notes for the third cue where I use it, but the two news themes/segues simply use a Vienna Suite preset for the EQ vs. a custom EQ of my own design:

Grand Piano:
Vienna Imperial: Player Position Default
VSL Equalizer: Keyboards & Mallets: Boesendorfer Imperial Close - more open & brighter
VSL PowerPan: Piano - Orchestra
Hall Reverb Aux Send: -3.0 dB

The PowerPan is my own custom setting. I centered at 20 (out of 100), with width of 20 (out of 100), and no adjustment to pre-and-post balance (i.e. leave at 50%), and 0 dB Pan Law. But this is for more of a backing context than solo context. For solo context, I set Center to 45 and width to 60%. For concerto context, I usually set to dead center with width of 30%.

For reverb, I typically range as far as -12.0 dB for my aux send, but usually range between -6.0 dB and 0.0 dB, with -6.0 dB for piano so that it is more in the foreground. It sounds like you put your piano a bit in the background via your aux send levels.

Also, I pre-pan the piano BEFORE the reverb send. I have had WAY more success with this approach since switching to it last year.

The Vienna Suite EQ preset has a -12 dB low cut at 62 Hz, a 2.6Q -4.6 dB cut at 121 Hz, a 6.91Q -5.8 dB cut at 167 Hz, a 4.78Q -4.6 dB cut at 574 Hz, a 6.76Q -4.6 dB cut at 1.7 kHz, and a 10.0Q -2.2 dB cut at 4.5 kHz. Personal tweaking did not noticeably improve this preset.

These are the two hall reverbs I have found mate well with Vienna Imperial so far (I have personally had no luck with Disney when it comes to Vienna Imperial, but use it for other stuff -- including Pianoteq):

Hall Reverb:
Altiverb: Concert Halls Large:
Filmorchester Berlin - Studio 1: Studio 1 s-s 8m (in stereo)
Low Damp: 50% at 200 Hz; Mute Direct
Vienna Convolution: MozartSaal

Note the importance of damping the low frequencies when using convolution reverb. I haven't fine-tuned my use of the damping feature -- especially since the latest Altiverb updates -- but I certainly wouldn't drop the cutoff frequency any lower than 200 Hz (and might raise it a bit when I find the time for more careful listening).

I can empathize with the desire to keep the arrangement as originally envisioned. It took me a few hours today after finishing a movement of my suite to confidently erase full or partial measures here and there of several repeating parts, to "let the light shine through" at various points so that each instrument has its turn (or two) in the lead. And I'm not done yet! But I too need perspective now, so may post it here, if I can take the time to figure out how. :-)
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