Old 03-15-2017, 01:33 PM   #1
SymboliC
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Default Orchestration Process and Clean Workflow

Hi,

As the title suggests, I need some advices for best approaches about orchestral workflow.

I use Reaper and also some VSTi. One VSTi I prefer and use frequently is Cinematic Strings.

I have a couple of questions regarding workflow. As you know, writing, arranging and programming a complete orchestration piece can become quite messy if one is abeginner like me.

1) In the below youtube vid the narrator is in a different DAW and he is able to view current articulation of Cinematic Strings in MIDI CC lane(??). How to achieve this in reaper? Is this a DAW specific property or related to Cinematic Strings?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNVuDMHIQcA

2) For the sake of cleaniness of the workflow, I prefer to use different articulations of one instrument (ie Cellos) on different MIDI channels & tracks. Is this an ok way to do this? This way I can see where tremolo or staccato parts take place and also don't need to open the whole MIDI section to mess with key switches. Would like to know your opinions on this.

3) This is rather an orchestral arrangement question regardless of DAW and technical side of things.

When you write string sections, you see that some parts of the ranges for different instruments overlap with each other. Say, lower parts of Cello and higher parts of Bass. How do you decide which to use? or involve them both at the same time? Is there a thumb of rule for this or is it all about the stregth of the sound? I do research on sting arranging in the last few days to improve that side of me but couldn't find this particular question's answer or maybe I didn't get the overall idea.

4) When mixing down orchestral VSTi's like Cinematic Strings, LASS etc. do I have to use and involve wise EQ settings as I do so with heavy metal/rock mixes? Or is it all about expression controls, articulations and clever MIDI programming? Do they really sound strong with out-of-the-box settings or do you use serious EQ and other tricks with those VSTi especially strings and orchestration as you'd do so with EZDrummer, Amplitube and etc?


Thanks a lot in advance!!
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Old 03-15-2017, 02:37 PM   #2
Tod
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Originally Posted by SymboliC View Post
I have a couple of questions regarding workflow. As you know, writing, arranging and programming a complete orchestration piece can become quite messy if one is abeginner like me.

1) In the below youtube vid the narrator is in a different DAW and he is able to view current articulation of Cinematic Strings in MIDI CC lane(??). How to achieve this in reaper? Is this a DAW specific property or related to Cinematic Strings?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNVuDMHIQcA

Hi SymboliC, I took a look at that video and didn't see anything that would suggest he could "view current articulation of Cinematic Strings in MIDI CC lane". What he had, was Kontakt open to the right, is that what you're asking.

Quote:
2) For the sake of cleaniness of the workflow, I prefer to use different articulations of one instrument (ie Cellos) on different MIDI channels & tracks. Is this an ok way to do this? This way I can see where tremolo or staccato parts take place and also don't need to open the whole MIDI section to mess with key switches. Would like to know your opinions on this.
Yes, absolutely. Of course your articulations need to be in separate instruments with different midi channels. You can assign notes to different channels in the same midi track or even different tracks, but if all your articulations are in one instrument, I think that would be a nightmare.

Quote:
3) This is rather an orchestral arrangement question regardless of DAW and technical side of things.

When you write string sections, you see that some parts of the ranges for different instruments overlap with each other. Say, lower parts of Cello and higher parts of Bass. How do you decide which to use? or involve them both at the same time? Is there a thumb of rule for this or is it all about the stregth of the sound? I do research on sting arranging in the last few days to improve that side of me but couldn't find this particular question's answer or maybe I didn't get the overall idea.
This is something that you as a composer or arranger must decide. there are times when they might fortify each other if they are both played.

But I think more often you'll want to separate them, and usually it's quite obvious what needs to be done. I think that comes with experience.

Quote:
4) When mixing down orchestral VSTi's like Cinematic Strings, LASS etc. do I have to use and involve wise EQ settings as I do so with heavy metal/rock mixes? Or is it all about expression controls, articulations and clever MIDI programming? Do they really sound strong with out-of-the-box settings or do you use serious EQ and other tricks with those VSTi especially strings and orchestration as you'd do so with EZDrummer, Amplitube and etc?
Well that's a good question, although forget about "heavy metal/rock", it wont be anything like that.

For the most part, with quality orchestra samples like you are discussing here, you shouldn't have to do much, especially at first. However it the samples are dry, then you might want to add a little reverb right away.

Then once you get things along, you can make some better decisions on what might help, such as some EQ.

Of course, when making decisions like EQ, it can be important that you have a listening environment that will give you good judgement.
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Old 03-15-2017, 03:30 PM   #3
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See if you can find a copy of Walter Piston's "Orchestration", a 1969 book that is tremendous at breaking down each instrument family and ways of combining them, often with examples from music.
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Old 03-15-2017, 04:23 PM   #4
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@Fergler,

Thank you very much for the suggestion. I'm trying to get valuable recommendations without getting lost in the garbage called internet! =)
I'll have a look at the publishing you've suggested.

@Tod,

Thank you for the answers,

1) In the video around 2:51, you can see the part that I'm talking about where he opens the MIDI editor.

2) Thanks for the confirmation if I should call it so. I also thought that using keyswitches inside a MIDI track would be more painy for me.

3) Actually the reason for me to ask this is, ie there are some parts with runs for Cello. I team it up with Bass (practically same run with an octave lower) to make the feel and sound stronger. But, it just doens't come out this way =)... Probably this is because of my lacking knowledge on strings arranging.

Instead of trying to support Cello with the same line on the Bass parts, should I use i.e. 2-3 cello articulations within the same section, playing the same line with different articulations? Is this how it is usually done in real life orcehstras to get that FULLER sound from one instrument family?

There is another consideration for this. under that line of run of the cellos, I want to have basses doing something different to build slightly for the next passage. So actually they're already occupied with their own parts and therefor cannot play the same line with celli. Can I use 2 bass groups for this? One is playing the same line and supporting celli and the other group of basses playing their own parts? Or is this an unrealistic attempt, thinking of real orchestras?

4) Actually, the answer to this question is in a way related to the 3rd question/answer. All about getting a "tight" sound, especially with staccato and staccatissimo runs.

I used heavy metal/rock example because, in that genre, the fashion of 2000's is to be able to get thick yet punching sounds with a more digitized manner. With heavy compression and busy EQ. Would the same approach break the timbre/soul of the strings and orchestral instruments? Or is there a similar heavy processing with the modern movie soundtrack arrangements and mixes?

THANKS AGAIN! YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS ARE MUCH APPRECIATED for me to wrap things up in a better way.

Last edited by SymboliC; 03-15-2017 at 04:28 PM.
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Old 03-15-2017, 04:37 PM   #5
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Hi again SymboliC, my wife just called me for supper, but I'll come back when I'm done and answer your questions the best I can.
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Old 03-15-2017, 05:00 PM   #6
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@Fergler,
1) In the video around 2:51, you can see the part that I'm talking about where he opens the MIDI editor.
I think this is Cubases Expression Maps lane. Reaper do not have it. There is project on similar feature called "Articulation mapper" and it was present in few pre releases but was removed and will be reintroduced. To be honest this Reapers Articulation mapper was looking weak and not so simple and useful as Cubases Expr. Maps but I hope the official version will be good.
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Old 03-15-2017, 05:50 PM   #7
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Hi again SymboliC, my wife just called me for supper, but I'll come back when I'm done and answer your questions the best I can.
Waiting with full excitement!
All your contributions are welcome! Have a nice supper!
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Old 03-15-2017, 05:51 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by strachupl View Post
I think this is Cubases Expression Maps lane. Reaper do not have it. There is project on similar feature called "Articulation mapper" and it was present in few pre releases but was removed and will be reintroduced. To be honest this Reapers Articulation mapper was looking weak and not so simple and useful as Cubases Expr. Maps but I hope the official version will be good.
Thank you for the clarification strachup!
I thought it was me for not being able to find it.

Cheers,
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Old 03-15-2017, 06:08 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SymboliC View Post
1) In the video around 2:51, you can see the part that I'm talking about where he opens the MIDI editor.
Aah, okay, I didn't see that and I'm not familiar with that. I think what strachupl is talking about is an attempt to kind of do that.

Quote:
2) Thanks for the confirmation if I should call it so. I also thought that using keyswitches inside a MIDI track would be more painy for me.
If the articulations are in the same instrument, then keyswitchs is the way to go. If you create "Note Names", working with keyswitchs becomes much easier. Also there are various settings you can set up in the piano role view. Take a look at the menu "View>Show/hide note rows" in the midi editor. It won't mean to much until you create your Note Names.

Quote:
3) Actually the reason for me to ask this is, ie there are some parts with runs for Cello. I team it up with Bass (practically same run with an octave lower) to make the feel and sound stronger. But, it just doens't come out this way =)... Probably this is because of my lacking knowledge on strings arranging.
Like I said, there are times it might work quite well, but as you say, "it just doens't come out this way", That's because it doesn't always work. Both the Bass and the Cello occupy the lower range, and when you get down there, it's very easy to turn things into mush. The bottom end really needs to be articulate and tight.

Quote:
Instead of trying to support Cello with the same line on the Bass parts, should I use i.e. 2-3 cello articulations within the same section, playing the same line with different articulations? Is this how it is usually done in real life orcehstras to get that FULLER sound from one instrument family?
An orchestra will have at least one, maybe two cello sections, I think one would be more like it, although I'm not sure about that. In a big orchestra these cello sections may have 6 to 9, maybe more players.

So it would depend on how may cello players are in your sample libraries. There is a point to where too many cellos can start to sound mundane, monoish, and not have a dissident quality about them to where they no longer breath. They may even sound a little grungy.

More is not necessarily better.

Quote:
There is another consideration for this. under that line of run of the cellos, I want to have basses doing something different to build slightly for the next passage. So actually they're already occupied with their own parts and therefor cannot play the same line with celli. Can I use 2 bass groups for this? One is playing the same line and supporting celli and the other group of basses playing their own parts? Or is this an unrealistic attempt, thinking of real orchestras?
Here again it's your call. One thing to keep in mind, Lower notes like bass do not work well at certain intervals. For example, a 3rd or minor 3rd. Octaves and 5ths will work okay, but it depends on what you have going on with the rest of it. Personally I keep my basses and cellos separate, but that don't mean they wont work as you suggest.

If you hear them back and they sound good then go for it, there are no rules for sounding good.

Quote:
4) Actually, the answer to this question is in a way related to the 3rd question/answer. All about getting a "tight" sound, especially with staccato and staccatissimo runs.
Yeah, this a problem for everyone, and it's not just staccato. Actually I think my best string runs have been a little bit of stac and/or spic mixed in with what ever else I conjure up, or more importantly, have immediately at hand.

Quote:
I used heavy metal/rock example because, in that genre, the fashion of 2000's is to be able to get thick yet punching sounds with a more digitized manner. With heavy compression and busy EQ. Would the same approach break the timbre/soul of the strings and orchestral instruments? Or is there a similar heavy processing with the modern movie soundtrack arrangements and mixes?
Movie sound tracks are a whole different matter. Well unless you want to be a John Williams.

Whole libraries are being made, just to sound like the big gargantuan movie soundtracks being made today. If that's what you want then maybe those are the libraries you should be focusing on.

All in all, there are no rules or set ways to do things. There is the tried and true, which is probably a good way to go, but if you're creative, that's not going to tie you down.
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Old 03-19-2017, 04:04 PM   #10
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Like I said, there are times it might work quite well, but as you say, "it just doens't come out this way", That's because it doesn't always work. Both the Bass and the Cello occupy the lower range, and when you get down there, it's very easy to turn things into mush. The bottom end really needs to be articulate and tight.
Hi Tod,

Thank you for the answers! I appreciate it a lot!

And that "bottom end" puzzle is the thing that drives me nuts. Because with the high end part I mostly do not have a problem and they can stand out on their own. But because of its particular nature, low-end is a problematic area as it quite often is a problem in other genres, too.

For Hans Zimmer-kind-of soundtracks, subby, boomy FX'es compensate it and fill that space quite nice or at least adequetly but for arrangements like John Williams' it is really hard to achieve that chest rumbling low-end sound and that's why cellos and basses feel weak or at least that lacking low-end power makes them sound so.

Actually, that's why I asked if I should go with some experimental EQ settings instead of expecting the sample libraries to give me that powerful low-end thing out-of-the-box.

I'm speaking with assumption of having a decent arrangement at first. EQ and compression comes next for me.

As you've said it's quite easy to mess up with those low frequencies and all of a sudden, the whole track feels weak and falls short of expectations.

Any further thoughts?

Thanks!!
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Old 03-19-2017, 04:09 PM   #11
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By the way, since I'm a little more experienced with rock/metal music and know the frequency fundamentals of the components like bass guitar, kick, snare and so and having very limited number of instruments compared to a huge orchestra, I'm mostly in control of low-end power with those kind of mixes.

But I can't really sort it out with orchestration... The main concern is to lose the air and feeling of the instruments -mainly sttrings- if I go along with heavy EQ and being afraid of making them more synthetic that they're already feel so compared to live musicians and performances.

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