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Part 5: And that all goes to Hell in a toboggan

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
A toboggan is much faster than a handbasket.

With MuseScore, you can use VSTs, but the default interface is to use SoundFonts. I find that the majority of SoundFonts are pretty cheesy sounding, so I tried doing VST.

If you want to use MuseScore with a VST, you need to use Jack. How does one use Jack? I haven't a clue. Setup info isn't in the FAQ. I took a look at a few video tutorials. You know it's gonna be a bumpy ride when the tutorial starts with, "If you have a 64-bit version of Windows, you're going to have to manually register the following DLLs ...."

I really don't want to have to worry about all of that. It's taking me away from making music into fiddling with software.

Another alternative is to skip worrying about using MuseScore playback. Just export the file as MIDI and import the file into a DAW (digital audio workstation), where you can define the VST setup. MuseScore actually suggests using (the free) LMMS, which was originally a Linux-only DAW, but it's been ported to Windows. So, I downloaded and installed LMMS and tried playing just a sound. It sounded like Satan was trying to escape from my speakers. A post I saw in another thread was that you essentially try all the combinations of sound card and driver that LMMS lists to find one that works. I couldn't. The best was no sound at all, rather than the shrieks from Hades.

Grrr.

Now, there are an awful lot of DAWs out there. I'm sure I could eventually find one that likes my audio card setup enough, but ... I don't know if I really want to. It might be a lot easier and effective to go and buy an external sound card and play with the included software. I also know this particular sound card works properly with LMMS. It's only another $25, but I'd also need to get "real" studio monitor speakers, which are $80 to $100. However, I might even think farther back and get a keyboard with a "lite" version of DAW software included, like the Novation, which comes with Ableton Lite.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
The above is one of the reasons that I'm having troubles with the whole wind stick way of making music.

This is absolutely no reflection on you, Peter, for I am sure that you are creating all of this content that makes perfect sense - at least to someone who knows what you are talking about. Unfortunately, I am not that someone.

My friend Jim, who loaned me his setup (minus the amp, which I provided) was as helpful as hell in setting things up, tweaking the settings for the various patches that I used. (He established clarinet, Eb clarinet, flute, bass clarinet, alto saxophone and baritone saxophone for me, refining the ones provided by the Yamaha folks.) Unfortunately, about all I could understand about the whole establishment was the basic operating systems - how to set up the "Set Up", how to switch between the various patches, and how to go to shut down and restart to get over some glitch, as well as how to operate the controller.

(The manuals from Yamaha were written in what I have always called "Japlish". It's English, but it's so warped and strangled that it's like reading about the Spanish-American War in Russian. After screwing up a number of settings trying to set things up to suit me, I wisely gave up on tweaking things myself. I have, however, replaced the reed mouthpiece with the recorder one (no lip control, since I no longer have much in the way of lip control of my own).)

All well and good, and it served me well as far as it went. However, we both agreed that the sax patches sucked, and that the clarinet wasn't of the highest quality. He tried a bit more in the tweaking end of things, but couldn't get things any better.

But, Yamaha's synth box had one great virtue - you could buy it off of the shelf and know that it would work. Can't argue with that utility, particularly when I test out a great set of patches from some symphonic source or other, only to find that they probably won't work worth a damn.

One of the great things about buying a quality horn like a Leblanc LL (they need to get mentioned once in a while, even if "Joe Selmer" has to do it) is that you can rely on mass opinion, plunk your money down, and end up with a quality product. Alas, it does not seem that this is the case with this synthesis crap. Much of it seems to have been created to enable "electronic music makers", the ones that program a score from a keyboard, then tweak the result until it gets where they want it, and then sell a recording of the resultant music.

They are "making music", no doubt about that, but in a very structured and "non-performance" way. What I want to do is make music in a performance situation, and it doesn't seem like the quality sounds are available in those situations...

...or maybe they are but I just can't figure it out from what I see written. I do know that I don't know - that's what's most frustrating.

A story:

Back in the 1970s, the US military was still wedded to multi-part, carbon paper official forms. One of these was the paperwork for an application for housing allowance. After the thirty or so boxes that had to be completed by the applicant and the person doing the renting/leasing, there was a "Notes" section at the bottom about a third of the page long.

In that notes section was the most incredible printed notice that I have ever seen. About four inches long, in very small type, was an extended discussion of all of the why's, wherefore's, and whatnot's that all parties had to adhere to. This mass of tightly packed text was written with a TLA (three letter acronym) as about every fifth word, with not one word defining any of them. Then, at the very end, there were three words that were given the full treatment, reading something like "racial discrimination prohibited". I guess that they were just making sure.

After discovering this wonder of a document (I still have the full five part form stashed somewhere), I took it around to the powers that were, trying to get some idea as to what all the TLAs meant. Despite their positions that oversaw off base housing, none of them (even the officer in command of the section) could give me a full and complete reading.

How does this apply?

Well, I'm sure that those of youse familiar with the EWI world can decode all of this just fine. But, I'm like a E6 fresh back from the wars, with a wife and three kids, really needing to get my family in a house somewhere, but faced with folks who know what they are talking about but can't explain it to this guy whose skills are more attuned to killing the bad guys than they are to complying with a HUD directive...

And, once again, I'm not aiming this at you directly Pete, it's just that I'm remote from any direct help (Jim is a day away, and all of the apparent sources of the equipment needed are just as remote from here).

We have a Guitar Center (good luck there), and something called Blue Angel Music (which claims to do it all, but which looks like a geetarr warehouse from what I have seen to date), so I'm not confident of any help coming from there. All Pro Sound (a major league player in amplification systems) doesn't have anything, at least not the last time that I visited.

In any event, I just want something that sounds like a real sax, flute, clarinet and bass clarinet (and from what I've seen, the last three are not the problems). That symphonic stuff sounds wonderful, but I'm gathering (from what little I understand here) that it won't work with a wind synth. Bummer...
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
It also goes back to what I'm trying to do vs. what you're trying to do: I'm not haulin' gear every night to do a performance. I'm just trying to mix up some good tunes that sound better than halfway decent for my own enjoyment. If I was more looking at the performance aspect of things, I'd worry about using a wind synth and breath controller data. That's just a different conclusion than what I'm trying to arrive at. It's perfectly valid. It's just not for me, at this point.

In one respect, there is a 1-1 correlation between acoustic instruments and synthetic. If you think the sound sucks, there's a lot you can do about that, up to and including replacing the thing that makes the sound. Hey, don't really like that Leblanc LL? Swap it out for a Selmer Series 10. Not much different from not liking the sound from Vienna Studios and deciding to go with M-Audio. The difference is that a clarinet is a clarinet is a clarinet (all other things being equal, of course). You replace a synthetic instrument and you might lose important things, like the ability to play marcato. That's all dependent on who built the sound patch. It's up to you to do the research -- and that amount of research can be kinda daunting.

I did buy the sound card I mentioned above ($25) and a set of Behringher MS-40 monitors on eBay (only $100; $150 list). At the absolute least, I'm going to end up with a pretty nice-sounding computer. At best, it's going to make my life easier.

Even if this experiment slams into the ground, I will have a system I can use to input scores and make transpositions. Also, I know I can get a good string section sound going, so I could say to my wife, "Oh? No strings for your music show? I can do that. Might not be expressive as a live performance, but I can make it work."
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
And therein lies much of the value of the synthesizer world. One synthesizer dude with a string score in front of him doing the arranging on the fly plus one lead violinist costs $3X for a production ('cause he really likes the work), while the ten string players to deliver the same sound plus one lead violinist costs $11X. Hard not to see the economy there.

In the "good old days", I had worked any number of professional theater jobs where the corps of strings was slowly but surely replaced by the man at the keyboard sitting next to the real piano player. And, the string sounds that you can coax out of a synth are just about as good. A little too much shimmer at times, but that can be toned down. For the rest, you just need a lead violinist who can play in tune, and there's your big cost savings.

When I go to bed at 2:30 AM or so, I usually find my wife lying there with the radio tuned to some easy listening station. Rather than shut that off, I put in my left earphone (I have to sleep on my right side due to the soft palate problems, lest I find my nasal passages suddenly blocked off solid and my mouth stuck shut with mucus) and turn on something from my iPhone. One evening, I settled on my Village People album (which holds the wonderful dance number (Everybody Is A Star) In Hollywood, a tune that should be in every party band's rep) and tried to doze off. One thing I noticed right before dropping off (which immediately kept me up to listen to the whole album again) was that the saxes and trumpets on the cuts were all real, as apparently were the strings (that's harder to tell), but the trombones were all synthetic. As this album dates back quite a ways, that surprised me.

(By the way, (Everybody Is A Star) In Hollywood is a real screamer with three bones and a bass bone. Why that tune suffers in obscurity while other stuff like In The Navy is popular beats the hell out of me.)

However, the next day we were in the car tooling over to Costco to Mobile, and my lovely wife was driving. She likes to listen to the "musical stylings" of Elvis Presley on the satellite radio, so I got a hour long dose of the King.

Guess what? On every Elvis cut that had horns on same save one with some Dixieland injected in same, there was the same arrangement - saxes, trumpets, and synthesized trombones. What the hell is that all about?

One of the reasons that I dropped back to the ten plus four vocalist setup is that the six horns and rhythm do a decent job as a pit orchestra as well. I only got to put it into play once, and for a private high school job rather than a community theater (which Houston is crawling with such establishments), so the pay was like $350 a head rather than something along the line of $600, but if I get things started up here, I'll take a similar approach.

I loved to play the fully orchestrated big band charts produced by Walt Stuart or Dick Spencer, but those extra seven players really bumped the price up, particularly when we were trying to compete with other small groups. With the six horn setup, you can pick and choose the parts to draw on from the 5444 arrangements, then piece together a six horn chart that comes "close enough for government work." It certainly was from the audience perspectives - we got two jobs from one of the larger performances that we put on.

I'm not saying I enjoyed playing the small group stuff, or even the small group reductions of the full "big band" stuff (hell, if it were up to me, I rather be playing something by Gliere in a full symphonic orchestra over any of this stuff), but combined with a front of compelling vocalists (which I had just reconstructed over there prior to moving), it was more than enough to entertain an audience (as opposed to playing for one, or performing before one.

Throw in the lighting setup that I had just completed as well, and there's your party scene. Sure, it's Blues Brothers and Aretha Franklin stuff, but it's what the demographic willing to pay for it wanted to hear.

I just wish that I could get the magic formulary to purchase the right synth stuff to work with the Yamaha stick, which seems to be the default standard (and with which, except for the thumb hook from hell, is a pretty good piece of equipment).

Sigh...
 
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