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Many Meetings Strings Demo

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Since the late 70s I've been interested in synths and even built a rudimentary one with some friends at university for a project. I liked both the aspect of creating sounds never heard before and also the ability of electronics to mimic the sound of performers on conventional instruments.

One of the things which has been pretty impressive has been the mix of synth programming and sampling, particularly as disk space became cheaper and processing became faster and involved multiple CPUs. The packages these days (Vienna Symphonic Library, Spitfire Audio, East West, Symphobia, etc...) are truly enormous and have painstakingly recorded not just individual notes but also slurs/portamentos between them as well. The intent is to produce pieces that are fairly realistic for either direct use in TV or film or to use as mock-ups to allow ideas to be auditioned for directors before going to the full score and orchestral recording on a sound stage.

To test out the East West Hollywood Strings package I thought I'd produce a short piece that is also available on a CD. It's not a cover or my interpretation but rather a rendering of the original composition. I take no credit for the art whatsoever.

I chose to produce Many Meetings written by Howard Shore for the Fellowship of the Ring. A few things I learned:

- These string packs take a ton of RAM (7 GB fixed with another 10 cached) and if you use all of the volume levels and expression automation for each instrument it gives an 8 core pair of CPUs a really good workout. I'm still getting the occasional overload that stops the piece in its tracks (no pun intended).

- The effort put into recording slurs makes for a pretty satisfying string melody compared to what I've been used to. I started with Garageband strings then went to East West Symphonic Orchestra and now am impressed with Hollywood Strings.

- Tweaking these packages is a near bottomless pit of possibilities, on top of which is all of the regular audio production that everyone here does with every song. I decided to play around enough to learn what was possible but not spend so much time as to fully produce the best result that could be achieved.

- It was interesting to take apart the piece in its creation to hear how Shore creates his sound. It's interesting to me that he uses the violins in their lowest register rather often.

- The result still doesn't sound fully real, and - maybe this is a cop-out - but I'm not sure it can be refined to the degree where it sounds identical to the original recording. This doesn't bother me too much though since my rationale for buying Hollywood strings is to lend an ever more realistic sound to my own compositions (which have no recorded comparables).


PS - in case you're wondering, I'm not an East West shill. I'm sure the other products I mentioned can produce similar results. I just don't own them and so can't create a demo.

PPS - artwork is from the cover of the CD, copyright Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema
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Hits: 1997
Comments: 17
Fans: 13
Plays: 63
Downloads: 18
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Uploaded: Mar 18, 2016 - 11:01:00 PM
Last Updated: Mar 18, 2016 - 11:01:00 PM Last Played: Nov 29, 2018 - 06:28:19 AM
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Mac Pro 8 core
LP X, Hollywood Strings, EW Symphonic Choir, EW Symphony Orchestra, 8Dio Claire Solo Clarinet
DWL said 1309 days ago (March 19th, 2016)
The idea of trying something like this
is not something I would even attempt.

I don't know the original but I'm hugely impressed by what you've done.

Once again, I think I need to look at some of these libraries.


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Doug Somers said 1309 days ago (March 19th, 2016)
Need to look at some of these libraries ...
I think the warning on the product's box should say something like: "Use of this product will slow your creative and performance spirits to a crawl. Learn the patience of a Tibetan master, read the manual no less than 10 times, and may you have the best of British luck!" :)

Thanks DIck, and my hat's off to the people who make this software and of course to the master himself, Howard Shore.
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paul f. page said 1309 days ago (March 19th, 2016)
...for even giving this a go in the first place. The general "sound" of your orchestra instruments is very good, indeed, and especially the strings. I'd never have the patience to "fiddle" with all of this to get it down so meticulously. Like Dick, I don't know the original piece (or, at least, haven't studied it), but your rendition sure is awfully lush-sounding. I own various versions/editions of the Vienna Library — awesome stuff that is so daunting as to be off-putting when all I want is to write something down on a piece of paper in the first place. Ha. Ha.
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Doug Somers said 1309 days ago (March 19th, 2016)
Ahhhhh patience
My son recommended that to learn a musical package well to try to recreate another composer's work. Scotty (MidiOrleans) has clearly mastered his tools from the work he's published. What I found though was that I could have kept polishing and polishing but in the end it wasn't my work - moreover the endpoint is something I could hear in a movie or on a CD. Sooooo, I think I know a lot more about Hollywood Strings than I did before and I am keen to apply it to my next work.

I had at least one music teacher that said write things down on paper first. None of this jumping to the computer. Probably wise advice, since it clearly separates composing from orchestrating from performance from production. Thanks Paul, and good luck with VSL!
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grah3am said 1309 days ago (March 19th, 2016)
Most of this sounds like a real orchestra. It would more than do for colouring a rock song. Very impressive.
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paul f. page said 1309 days ago (March 19th, 2016)
Write it down first...Then, if you have the toys and the patience, bring them into play. I agree that it's a great idea to master one program and see how far it can take you. Too many toys is too distracting. ... Also, Scotty's work is par excellance in my book. I don't know how he gets things so precisely. Lot of patience there, I suspect.
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Doug Somers said 1309 days ago (March 20th, 2016)
Cheers Graham
Depending on how central the strings are to a piece if you are looking for a wash the EW Symphonic Orchestra would do nicely as well. They are simpler, less expensive and still sound pretty good.

Be well!
Check out my latest song called Western Stranger
Bowman said 1309 days ago (March 20th, 2016)
I love this kind of exercise Doug.
I've been tempted to try and do this with works that I know and love but have never been patient and skilled enough to do it well.

I was never a big fan of Shore's work in the original trilogy, it too often felt laden but it had its moments and this lyrical section was one of them.

What you've done here is impressive and has parts that are truly rapturous and your mock up is to my ears mostly successful.

But there were parts that I felt could be refined some. As you said it's not your own composition and weren't compelled to spend the needed time to "perfect it". Understandable. Personally I found your own recent Stopping by Woods...
a better mix were you seemed to have more control of your instruments. But they do have things in common. Certainly a subtle and beautiful use of the harp.

What I noticed most in this work were the transitions between sections. Example: at 10 seconds in, while the choir sings and strings end their statement then begin another there's a sonic space - an abrupt cutting off between that distracts. This happens intermittently. Perhaps softer transitions, maybe more legato and design where instruments drift more across the sonic space rather than being confined to their area?

I did enjoy the Hollywood strings and one day if there's a sale would be tempted to purchase them but your bass flute wasn't as pleasing and frankly sounded a bit harsh.
These are random thoughts coming from someone who is a great admirer of your talent, knowledge and dedication to improving what already is pretty awesome.
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Doug Somers said 1309 days ago (March 20th, 2016)
Well considered commentary Charlie
I hope this entry works as I'm on my iPhone waiting in an airport at the moment (iOS vagaries and all that)!

It's a bit ironic that with all of the ways that this software offers to tailor your sound, at times it feels as if one is fighting either the timing or programmed in swells. I will have a listen to the cut you mentioned when I'm finished my reply here to see if I can find what caused it. It may be that I just got lazy. For this piece I used way more string tracks than usual. I had first and second violins both divisi as well as viola and cello divisi making for a repetitive job of tweaking performance parameters. I kept finding things I was sure I had done and yet they were apparently untouched. Another area where I got lazy was in the production end particularly balance.

In any event I think I have the hang of what the package is capable of in terms of slurs, portamento, and vibrato depth control, but I haven't mastered all that with bow changes. At a certain point I think it's not too much additional work to learn to play violin :). Well maybe violin would be harder.

Some of the instruments include Hollywood brass members but I didn't use the Hollywood harp. I thought it would have been so buried in the mix that the additional controls would have been overkill. As with Tuscan Morning there are elements of the 8dio Clarinet like its tone and liveliness which are great, and yet on sustained notes it can be swelling where it's uncalled for.

All considered I think these packages are getting better all the time but at the cost of needing ever more effort into expression. Just like a real instrument you're probably thinking and that makes sense. How can you (as a music package vendor) program an instrument to sound appropriate in all musical situations?

I'm looking forward to reworking some of my past compositions with the Hollywood series and in those cases I will pay more attention to expression control and production than in this mock up. And of course there will be some new pieces too!

Thanks Charlie. I appreciate your comments always, both supportive and constructive!
Check out my latest song called Western Stranger
PeterB7858 said 1307 days ago (March 21st, 2016)
Many Meetings Strings Demo
I am a synth and strings neophyte but this is sounding pretty good to my ears. There are a couple of sections where the strings sound very real, indeed. Interesting project. Glad it was you :-) I'll just noodle on the guitar... Thanks, Doug.
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Doug Somers said 1303 days ago (March 25th, 2016)
I used to noodle on the guitar a lot, but not so much these days. There are aspects of live performance that I do miss since working with symphonic pieces as a whole tends to be very un-spontaneous to say the least. Anyway, I'm so glad that you enjoyed the project, and of course all creative kudos go to Mr. Shore. I just play his notes!

Cheers Peter!
Check out my latest song called Western Stranger
FEEL said 1306 days ago (March 23rd, 2016)
beautiful piece of music. So pro sounding.
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Doug Somers said 1303 days ago (March 25th, 2016)
I think that one of the reasons I like this piece (again, I did not write it) is that it goes from an intimate clarinet solo to an uplifting violin line that has lovely phrasing. Thanks for the kind words and for listening to the experimental project. I'm off to hear your work.
Check out my latest song called Western Stranger
Philip18 said 1303 days ago (March 25th, 2016)
Many Meetings Strings Demo
I don't see myself getting into all those packages, so I'll just have to enjoy the work of others- such as this beautiful piece of yours!
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Doug Somers said 1303 days ago (March 25th, 2016)
In this demo I can only claim learning the package and putting it through its paces. All of the artistic heavy lifting was done by Howard Shore in his score. I guess other people liked it too since it won the Oscar that year.

Glad you liked the rendering Philip! Cheers.
Check out my latest song called Western Stranger
mfwmiles said 1293 days ago (April 5th, 2016)
..a LOT of EPIC packed into a small space. I only WISH i could get sounds this good out of my "process". I play all my horns and strings on my Casio key board - I play them live and not through midi to keep it sounding as "live" as possible, but it still sounds like a machine, even with the "air" i give them.

what amazes me is that we have these tools today, so that we can approach the sound of an orchestra - in your case a very grand one indeed - in just a tiny corner of our bedroom.

it is for pieces like this that i wonder and thank the gods of technology for the digital revolution!!!
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Doug Somers said 1209 days ago (June 28th, 2016)
Digital Revolution
Thanks for your comments Michael. I fully agree that this digital revolution has been amazing. I would create synth pieces if that was all that was available for me but with the new sampling technologies it's possible to do so much more.

As for live playing, I don't have the arms to do that for pieces like this - well, sometimes I will play in individual lines if they're not too complex but I still tweak them and then throw in a humanizing element to alter timing and velocity slightly.

I finally got back at home and was able to listen to your post "The Miracle of Space and Time". Now THAT"S epic! Kudos!!!!
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Name: Doug Somers
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I make music for pleasure, usually using a computer to create soundscapes around all kinds of music. I used to jam with a local celtic group, playing bodhran and 12 string guitar, but I find that my technical and live performance skills fall short o... [see more]

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