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Part 4: Sounds ...

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
There are lots of good, free virtual instruments out there. Finding exactly what you want is a lot more difficult. These are collectively called, "VSTis." That's Virtual Studio Technology Instruments." There won't be a test, but if you're looking for terms to Google, there ya go. I'm also not going to talk about VST effects, right now. There are also a bazillion of these.

I first got Kontakt Player. It looks like it's one of the more "standard" VSTs out there and there are tons of instruments built specifically for it. It even comes with a smattering of instruments:

Classic Bass
Clavinet
E-Piano
Funk Bass
Funk Kit
Jazz Guitar
Jazz Organ
Muted Trumpet
Pop Kit
Ragtime Piano
Rock Guitar
Street Knowledge Kit
Upright bass

Cross-platform, too.

I had two problems installing it. First, I had no audio. That was because I have multiple audio devices -- my internal sound card and an HDMI connection to my TV -- and the sound card wasn't set as the default. That's a four-click solution in Windows 8.1: right-click the speaker icon in the system tray (that's where the clock is), click Playback Devices, click on the device you want as default, and click "Set Default." Viola. Sound!

The second problem I had was that I kept on hearing a piano sound mixed in when I was playing with Kontakt's internal virtual keyboard. I eventually figured it out, which is good because I Googled and found some hits for, "Kontakt player keeps playing piano," but the solutions were for people that had keyboards connected. Mine wasn't. Solution: click the Options button in Kontakt, choose MIDI, choose Outputs. Set the Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth to OFF.

So, let's hunt for a clarinet and violin that sound good. It was surprisingly difficult to find a solo violin. Everybody seems to think that you need a string section. I ended up with this one. Clarinet was easier. I got this one. The violin set also has built-in pizzicato, which is used a few times in the Milhaud piece.

I haven't had a chance to do more than try out the sounds: finding good ones was no small feat and I'm working on a project for Helen, right as I type!

I give you linkies for free stuff:
http://www.native-instruments.com/en/community/user-libraries. Native Instruments' user-created sound libraries. They're the folks that make Kontakt.
https://www.applied-acoustics.com/swatches/overview. Mostly synth.
http://bigcatinstruments.blogspot.com. A little bit of everything.
http://www.buzzmachines.com. More synths and sound effects.
http://sso.mattiaswestlund.net. Orchestral samples for SFZ Player.
http://www.soundsonline.com. Commercial, but have free VSTs, occasionally. I think I got a free piano ....
http://www.vstplanet.com. A lot of everything. Generally has some stripped-down commercial products available for free.
http://www.dskmusic.com/category/vsti-all. Speaking of stripped-down commercial products, this is DSK Music's free section.
https://www.dubstepforum.com/forum. The Dubstep Forum. There are a bunch of folks that build and post VSTs for you to play with.
http://www.creative.com/emu/proteusvx. E-Mu Proteus VX Sampler VST. Also has some very nice sounds.
https://steamcommunity.com/app/222710/discussions/1/846965611318081705. A Steam forum that branched into VSTs and VST players. Quite a lot of stuff.
https://web.archive.org/web/20140208055725/http://freemusicsoftware.org. The Archive.Org page for FreeMusicSoftware.org. It is what it says on the tin. Closed in 2014.
http://bedroomproducersblog.com. Reviews and lots of freebies.
http://www.ivyaudio.com. A very nice piano and an interesting vocal sample.
http://www.kvraudio.com/plugins/newest. A bazillion VSTs and other audio plugins.
http://www.anthonydeaton.com/philharmonic.html. Small selection.
https://splice.com/plugins/free_plugins. Mostly effects, but some VSTis.
http://vis.versilstudios.net/products.html. Small selection of VSTs.
http://earmonk.com/free-sample-libraries. A link-list of sample libraries. Note that some of these are just samples, so you'd have to record them with a sampler to get them to work as a VST.
http://www.vi-control.net/forum/index.php?h=0&pf=0&c=15. Virtual Instruments Composers Forum. This is the direct link to the Virtual Instruments & Sample Libraries section of their forum.

Commercial Orchestral VSTi:
http://vsl.co.at/en/Products. Vienna Symphonic Library. Extremely high-quality orchestral instrument VSTs.
http://www.soundsonline.com/Classical-and-Orchestral. EastWest virtual instruments. Also very high quality.
http://www.spitfireaudio.com/albion. Spitfire Albion. Decent strings; I feel their trumpets are a tad synthetic-sounding.
http://www.cinematicstrings.com. CinematicStrings. Find out what you're good at and keep doing it. They're really good at strings.
http://audiobro.com. Audiobro LASS. Also a very competent string VST.
https://cinesamples.com. Lots of orchestral instruments. They also collaborate with Abbey Road Studios.
https://www.projectsam.com. Symphobia has some really nice orchestral groups. They also have a lot more demo content than some of the others on this list.
http://soundiron.com. They have vocal samples, too.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
I do like the Vienna Symphonic collection, except for the way that they are scattered around between the libraries/collections whatever. While I'd like their clarinet/bass clarinet/saxophone patches, I don't relish paying that much for them.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
It's only 1400 Euros. C'mon, man! :D

One of the disadvantages of the "free everything" approach is that you really do have to hunt. For me, that can be fun. I like doing research. For others, they might say, "It's not worth it to me to spend 2+ hours doing research. Just get me the best and I'll go from there!"
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
Well, the money isn't that big of an issue for me at this point, and if I am guaranteed that a particular selection of patches will work for me with the equipment chosen. At this point, it is trending towards the Yamaha stick, the Yamaha synth, and some sort of foot switch that will enable "tonguing with my toes" (since my tongue is barely functional at this point, I need to be able to interrupt the connection with the amp so as to enable "tonguing" faster than I can perform with breath control alone, which I can rely on for quarters, but not reliably for eighths or greater).

If the orchestral stuff in that collection will work under those parameters, then they are worth the price. I am, of course, concerned that the samples provided are in some way enhanced, the sort of thing that many "electronic" music folks like to do, but which is impossible in "here and now" synth playing.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
> If the orchestral stuff in that collection will work under those parameters, then they are worth the price. I am, of course, concerned that the samples provided are in some way enhanced, the sort of thing that many "electronic" music folks like to do, but which is impossible in "here and now" synth playing.
I know that some of the samples/synths/etc. above will not do anything with breath controller data: you hit a key and notes will play, but you have no dynamics or articulation. Generally, if the product supports breath controller data, it'll mention it. I know I asked one of those commercial companies and they said, "Nope."

A couple of the commercial companies listed above specifcally say on their demos, "This was recorded ONLY with our product(s)." IIRC, Soundiron was one. However, I'd say that most VSts can do equalization and effects and you can save those as patches for later performance. You can also fiddle with the settings during a performance, but that's a bit difficult if you're using a wind controller :).
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
Well, that sort of frosts it. With the Yamaha box (don't know the model at this remove, but it's probably different now in any case), I had the breath control, the lip (if I wanted it; that ship has unfortunately sailed at this point), as well as all of the fancy stuff like the bend with the switch, and the ability to play two tones at once and stuff like that there.

Unfortunately, even with the sensitive adjustments performed by Jim Brugman (who is really a wonder on two feet - excellent musician at all levels (and mostly self taught in the bargain, although his father is just as phenomenal as he is), and a superb engineer who can think his way around any problem (and do most of the fabrication in the bargain) - he've never worked much with his hands, but you can't be a whiz at everything), the data present in the module leaves a lot to be desired. The bass clarinet is reasonable (I'd settle for it, especially as I know the listener isn't as sensitive to the sounds as we are), and the clarinet somewhat less so (but, again, I could learn to live with that).

The baritone, on the other hand, sounds like some overblown kazoo. Nothing that Jim could do (and he worked long and hard on it, and may still be tweaking things these days as he promised to do - we've not talked in six months) made a dime's worth of difference in the sound that emminated from the speakers.

You would think that, if they could get the thunder clap patch to sound so good, they could get the saxes right. But nooooo....

With the baritone patch, I'd not be that worried about the articulation. With the clarinet or bass clarinet, I would be. But, the bass clarinet is more about accompanying vocalists rather than playing the trippy little runs that the demo patches are so fond of displaying.

We'll see...
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Oddly -- and I'll try to find it again -- I found that there's a decent bass sax patch out there that sounds OK as a "bari" replacement. Still not as good as a real horn. I've also heard a bunch of soprano sax patched that were OK. And by "OK," I mean that a casual listener probably couldn't tell the difference, unless your articulation was really bad. FWIW, that's actually a problem: a lot of the demos out there are using keyboards and that doesn't work as well as a wind controller or a stand-alone breath controller (Yamaha used to have one awhile ago. Googling. Ah. Here.)

EDIT: Linkies.
http://www.ueberschall.com/product/165/Bass-Saxophone
http://www.samplemodeling.com/en/swam_saxophones.php
http://www.linplug.com/saxlab.html
https://www.vsl.co.at/en/Additional_Winds_Bundle/Saxophones

While I was a little disappointed with the Vienna Symphonic Library saxophones, I was able to find instruments available separately from their "combo packs," which are the 265-490 Euro packs. The tenor is 60 Euros -115 Euros, the bass is 55 Euros - 95 Euros, etc. I *think* the difference in price is because the higher priced ones include more articulation samples. Another reason I like VSL is because they demo music that you've heard and know what it's supposed to sound like, like the tenor demo is the Pink Panther Theme and the alto demo is Parker's Mood. I think that SampleModeling is the only other company brave enough to do this, with a tenor demo of Nature Boy and a clarinet demo with the beginning of Rhapsody in Blue. Ueberschall is the least expensive for a single instrument at 39 Euros.
 
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pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Well, you need to HEAR the sounds, too. I bought a very nice studio monitor set called a Behringer MS40. They sell for $150 on Amazon. I got mine on eBay for $100.

They sound good. Really good.

The idea behind a studio monitor is to hear as clean a sound as possible, whereas regular speakers do stuff to the sound to make it sound as good as possible. Hey, as good as possible isn't bad, but you'll only be able to reproduce that goodness if someone else has the exact same speakers and audio source (say, an iPhone) that you have. So, in a sense, if you sound really good on studio monitors, you'll sound better on someone's $6000 home audio system.

You don't need to get studio monitors. For me and for this project, I'm doing stuff mostly for my own benefit, so I could use either my computer's speakers (JBL Creature) or my headphones.

Speaking of, while "real" studios aren't supposed to use headphones, you see an awful lot of folks use them. A couple years ago, I lucked out and got some really nice headphones: JVC HA-RX700. They're all of $40. The hidden trick: they're a copy of Audio Technica M30 headphones (some folks say they're a copy of the much more expensive Audio Technica M50). A very good copy. They're optimized a bit more toward listening to music, so they do add a little somethin'-somethin' to the sound, so they're not as "pure" as a studio monitor. But they sound really nice. The reason I mention them: the MS40 sounds almost as good as the headphones. It'll probably sound even better with the little external sound card I bought.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Almost forgot.

I said that I'm doing all this cheap. This means, for inexpensive audio adapters and studio monitors, that you're probably going to have RCA connectors, rather than balanced 1/4" connectors. What's the difference? Well, sound quality. Also, a decent audio adapter and monitor will cost almost twice as much, if not more.
 
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