Categories
General Music Software

Komplete 13 Ultimate Collector’s Edition

My story of ordering it and installing it (and a few comments about the software).

I routinely update, or is it upgrade (?) Komplete from Native Instruments. I almost immediately went to the website to pre-order it as soon as it was announced.

The product page said nothing about the possibility that some libraries/programs would not be included on the hard drive. In fact, the ultimate edition page says “If you choose a physical copy of KOMPLETE 13, instruments, effects, and additional content comes on an HDD. Choose a download version, and your software becomes available right away via Native Access – your one-stop hub for easy product installation, registration, and updates.” Nowhere does it say that some products won’t be on the HD.

After the fact I did find a page, buried on the website that says “Certain products may require additional free downloads.” But that hardly means that entire programs or libraries will require full downloads. But back to ordering.

The order page had two pull-down menus, one for delivery – shipped or download only – and another for what type of product – upgrade, update and first time purchase. I definitely wanted it shipped to me as I have a very slow internet connection. I made sure to choose the shipped product option first. Then I selected the “upgrade” option.

The website then displayed a message under my choice saying I was eligible for the “update” option. Are you confused yet? I chose the “update” as it was cheaper. Without noticing it, the website changed my delivery option to download only – something I did not want.

As I went to the next page it probably said download only, but with so many companies I deal with providing physical copies and download at the same time, I didn’t notice the change on the next page or two. Yes, it was my fault for ordering the wrong delivery option, but the website should not have changed my choice in the first place.

When the product was released (October 1, 2020) I got email saying that Komplete 13 Ultimate Collector’s edition was available to download. Again, so many companies allow you download your order even when they are shipping it to you. (PG Music, makers of Band in a Box is one that comes to mind). So, I ran Native Access and saw about 30 new products that weren’t installed. When I saw the huge download size of some of the files I was glad I would be getting a hard drive with them on it.

After getting some of the small libraries I tried downloading a few of the larger (under 8Gb) files. I had to start them at 11pm and hope that the download didn’t fail overnight. Some did fail, some didn’t. I’d often had to retry a failed download in the morning. Once I start doing things that require using the internet during the day – like teaching piano lessons – I have to stop the downloads. After about two weeks I got the bulk of the files I was willing to put up with the nonsense of baby-sitting downloads.

I was surprised not to get any email telling me the HD had shipped. NI is good at providing tracking info.

I contacted support and they said that I had only ordered the download version. Since I had already started downloading products they were unable, due to their activation system, to ship me a product. I find that hard to believe and told them so. I mentioned my mistake in a tweet. The online NI Support person offered to give me direct links that should be faster than using Native Instruments. I also had the possibility of someone with a 100Mbps connection downloading the titles. Problem is they live 100 miles away. (My internet speed is never faster than 3Mbps).

I would think a company would be nice to the customer and realize they made a mistake and ship them the product. After all, it is the same content and price for either. Why they were so reluctant to fix my mistake I found to be a poor example of customer support.

I did send the person the links, but one was wrong. They sent me a thumb drive with all the titles I had yet to download. Even at that speed it took them about 4 hours to download. I got the thumb drive on October 23.

After a few weeks of their messages never getting to me – I think AT&T has way too aggressive a spam filter in place – I got a message saying that the issue was considered solved. It was not, in my opinion, solved. Apparently they had offered to send me a HD but I never got that message. I replied stating some of my issues and that I would take the HD offer.

So, 29 days later I finally get the HD I thought I had ordered in the first place. All is good, right? You would think so, but no, not for me.

Remember earlier I said the website said nothing about entire libraries or programs not being shipped on the HD? They only said that “Certain products may require additional free downloads.” That’s a far cry for me from having entire libraries or programs not on the HD.

Some of the major libraries not included are:
Cremona Quartet (4 string instruments, each about 27Gb in size)
Arkhis
Guitar Rig Pro 6
Super 8
Butch Vig Drums.

There may be more, but those are the ones I could easily determine weren’t on the HD.

I have spent days, no weeks of on and off again downloading to get the 30 products that were new to me in this version. I still have the Viola to download. I’m looking at 30+ hours so at least two days, if not three just for one instrument!

I like Pharlight, Straylight, Arkhis, Mysteria and even the Butch Vig Drums. I don’t do much cinematic, but the first four products listed are great for that. At first I didn’t think I’d need another drum library, but the Butch Vig drums have a good sound and the interface and ease of use is good. I forget if it was Straylight or Pharlight, but when using it in my DAW (Reaper) and automating the X/Y parameters, I got a fair amount of glitching on some patches. If I used the mouse to do the same exact movements, no glitching. That’s the only odd thing I’ve noticed so far and it was only on certain snapshots.

The Cremona Quartet instruments are extremely nice. For anyone doing any classical music or anything that demands solo strings, I do recommend it (although to be fair I’ve yet to download the viola or try the cello).

If I had known that the shipped version did not include so many libraries and programs I would not have ordered it. And I certainly would never have ordered a download only version.

For people like me in rural areas, the internet providers, particularly AT&T, have ignored us completely. The technology here has not changed since 2003. I’m stuck on DSL which has never been faster than about 3Mbps and the upload is barely 500kbps. What is ironic is that the entire neighborhood has fiber optics at the street. Unfortunately what I think is our switching office, or at least the DSL equipment is a box buried in the ground about 2 miles away. Why they can’t upgrade to fiber I don’t fully understand. Please comment below if you do (besides that it would hurt their profit margin). I pay about the same for 3Mbps as someone who has 100Mbps via a cable modem.

I would like to think that maybe the Space X Starlink satellite based internet will be nice if it ever becomes available in Florida. But, the nearly $100 a month and $500 up front costs that current beta testers (Oct 2020) have to pay may be out of the price range of the typical rural user. Supposedly by Fall of 2021 we might see service available here. Maybe the cost will go down. (Ha-ha).

I think music software library companies are spoiled by high speed connections at work and don’t realize that not everyone has a high-speed connection. I would love to see companies like Native Instruments offer their products, all of them, on physical medium. I’d be happy if they put the content on a thumb drive and mailed it to me in 1st class envelope (properly padded – 4 sheets of letter size paper folded works just nice). I’d even return the thumb drive if they wanted me to.

Anyhow, if you are thinking about buying a shipped version of Komplete 13 Ultimate Collector’s Edition, be aware that you’ll spend a lot of time downloading products.

Categories
General Reaper Recordings

Mixing in Mono – my recent experiences

Update: Be very careful where you put your metering plugins when mixing. It turns out I had Insight one step before the final mix. As a result, my mono mixes are now about -2 to -2.5db softer than the stereo sounds, not the same as the article below says. This is acceptable, though not ideal. The sections about compression and maximizing are still good things to do in your tracks, particularly if, as in my case, the instruments are overall not loud but do have extremely high peaks from time to time. Any advice on how to get mono and stereo mixes to exactly the same level would be appreciated. Above all, this post is to emphasize the need to make sure your mono mix sounds as good as your stereo mix, even if it isn’t always as loud.

Whether you are new to audio mixing or a veteran you’ve hopefully heard people say that you should always check your mix in mono. How come we need to do this? I discovered that a Zoom meeting I was providing music for was only setup for mono audio and even if the meeting is in stereo, all recordings of Zoom meetings are in mono. There are also many venues that only play music in mono including restaurants and clubs. Expect also that some of your listeners will be hearing their music on phones or tablets that only have one speaker or poor at best stereo playback.

Listening to your mix in mono can also point out weaknesses in your overall mix. In some cases a mono mix will result in instruments getting lost or buried in the mix, sometimes due to phase cancellation. Variations in phase, like when you take two sine waves and shift one 180 degrees so you don’t hear anything, as you go from 0 to 180 you will still hear a tone, but it will get softer and softer. Examination of your master track with various metering plugins (there are many free ones) can show if you are suffering from phase cancellation. Some areas to look for are phase variances between snare mixes above and below the snare; overdubbing of the same part with different settings or effects; stereo wideners and synthesizer type instruments that have a lot of processing applied.

My problem was that the mono version (as I found out from the recording) was 3db to 4db softer than the stereo version and softer than voices on the recording. As some people will point out, it is not unusual at all for the mono to be a bit softer than the stereo, but 3db is noticeable and more importantly the mono mix wasn’t as good as the stereo. The recording I was working on was a one instrument stereo track, a virtual software instrument piano, with various processing on it in the instrument software.

The solution I came up with was to get rid of any processing I didn’t really need in the instrument (like a stereo widener), put a compressor (Native Instrument’s LA-2A emulation) on the track aiming for about 4db in reduction, then a maximizer (I used Ozone 9) to aim for -15LUFS which seems to work best for me in Zoom. Each recording, whether with one instrument or many, will require adjustment to the compressor and maximizer settings as no one setting works for all situations. Right away this made a positive difference.

I frequently “freeze” my midi based tracks to audio so I can work only in audio and also so I’m not tempted to spend forever tweaking the midi parts. Next I found that cutting off some of the really low frequencies (below 60Hz) with a gradual (around 12 db/octave) slope as the first thing in the audio processing helps. Exact frequencies for the HPF and the “Q” will depend on the instrument. Excluding these lower frequencies helps the compressor to focus on musical elements rather than low frequency rumble. Don’t use a HPF at 60HZ on an organ, kick or electric bass, instead aim for below 40 or 50Hz, if at all. As to the compressor I used for one of my recordings, since the NI LA-2A emulation has no attack/release or ratio settings and its own HPF, I used the Peak Reduction to set the compression and didn’t use an EQ HPF prior to the compressor. While I like the LA-2A emulation, I also used the built-in ReaComp compressor in Reaper (my DAW of choice) with a 4:1 ratio and 300ms release with everything else being pretty close to the default. I found that it worked pretty good too, but I do have to say the LA-2A emulation requires less thinking and tweaking.

(See opening paragraph for corrections to this paragraph). For the final check before rendering to the stereo file that will be used for the Zoom meeting I listened to everything in mono and stereo along with an LUFS metering plugin (I think the free Insight plugin from iZotope). Exact LUFS levels happened between stereo and mono in some recordings and those mono mixes that didn’t were only about 0.2db softer than the stereo. I hope this helps or is at least interesting. I would double check everything I said before taking it as gospel. If you have any corrections, suggestions or other methods for making sure mixes are good in both mono and stereo, please comment below.

Categories
General Other Website News

Musicians and the Pandemic

Musicians Need Help too

Our hearts go out to anyone suffering from the current virus worldwide. Virus or not, there are always people worse off than any group of people I might mention. Right now musicians are already suffering.

You can help out by listening to their music via streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music (iTunes), and Amazon Music. Big name groups probably don’t need help. Instead, try to listen to people who you have not heard before. The artists make money for every song played. Also consider purchasing a track or album. If an artist has a donate button on their website, consider making a donation. Links to get you started are listed below.

If the pandemic continues very long, the economic impact to everyone could be severe. Musicians, at least the lesser known musicians, the truly independent musicians, whether teachers, church musicians, local performers or composers/arrangers are already suffering.

As a church musician, I no longer have a congregation to play for. (We do not have the financial resources or equipment to try and do live services over the internet). It is still up in the air whether I will continue to be paid. If not, nearly 50% of my annual income is gone.

Few musicians perform entirely by themselves. Even a concert pianist has support personnel. Currently there are practically no music performances for live audiences and only the big name performers, who probably don’t need any help can manage concerts via the internet. Most performing and teaching musicians will be unable to effectively do things over the internet.

Teachers can’t teach as effectively via the internet as in live settings. Recording studios, even home studios are no longer operating. And there are many more things negatively impacting musicians.

In my situation thanks to a terrible ISP (AT&T) I have a very, very slow DSL internet connection (never more than 3Mbps!) so what I hear and see is never ideal quality. *BUT IT WORKS* So, while the idea of doing things over the internet is a great ideal, the infrastructure, at least in rural America simply does not exist so far as anything of high quality is concerned.

Here are some links to get you started:
Spotify (Listen for free)

Apple Music (iTunes)

Amazon Music

And of course I can be helped with every piece of sheet music you buy or by taking music lessons over the internet.

Everyone stay safe. Wash your hands often, avoid crowds, don’t go anywhere unless you have to. If you are sick, think you are sick or someone in your household is the same, stay home.

Categories
General Music Theory Piano Lessons

Slurs, ties and phrases

Let’s talk about slurs, phrases and ties. As a long time piano teacher, I find many students, even advanced players get confused.

Slurs – curved line over/under two or more *different* notes.
Tie – curved line connecting the *same* note(s) immediately next to one another.
Phrase – a musical idea, often indicated with a slur line over/under many notes or more often, many measures.

Slurs mean to play the notes legato, or to put it into English – play the notes smoothly, connected or without any silence between the notes. How this is done depends on your instrument. On piano, do not lift the finger of the first note until you go to play the 2nd note. In bowed strings, like violin, it typically means to keep the bow going in the same direction. Wind/brass instruments it often means that you don’t tongue between notes. Check with your teacher on the best way to do a slur. You do have a teacher, right? Please tell me you aren’t trying to do this without anyone checking your work to see if it is correct – just because it sounds fine to you doesn’t mean it’s correct.

Example of slurs
An example of slurs

In the entire example above, all the curved lines over/above the notes are slurs, *except* for the D notes in the right hand and the E notes in the left hand in measures 7-8 & 15-16 (3rd beat tied to 1st beat). Those are ties. In all other cases, even measure 5 going into measure 6, the curve line is over/under at least 2 different notes. That’s all there is to slurs. Note that in this piano music example, there are some passages with both stem up and stem down notes at the same time. We call the different directions “voices.” In those cases, the position of the slur makes a difference. For example, the slur in measures 7 & 8 over the high (stems up) voices in the right hand part are under the influence of the slur, but not the low voices.

At the end of a slur it is common to “take a breath” before going to the next note. At measure 22 below in the right hand, a pianist might shorten the length of the  off-beat 8th notes (& of 1, & of 2, etc) ever so slightly. A violinist would change bow directions resulting in a break in the sound. How much breath one takes, if any, is subjective.

Phrase example
An example of phrases

In the above example starting at measure 26, the curved line over the right hand part is more properly called a phrase. A phrase being a musical idea implies that all the notes in the phrase are all part of one musical idea. Whether to play all the notes legato (smooth) as a slur would indicate is more of a performance choice than a requirement. In fact, in this example it is impossible to play the entire phrase connected. Can you spot why not? In measure 27 there are two repeated “G”‘s in the right hand. By definition, repeated notes cannot be played smoothly connected. One has to lift their fingers (or change bow direction, etc.) in order to play a repeated note. That causes a silence between the notes and thus they are no longer connected or smooth.

Ties. In measures 40 to 41 and 41 to 42 are examples of ties. The top note, B on the 3rd beat is tied into the 1st beat. That means play the note on beat 3 and hold the note down until the end of the tied note, in this case the end of beat 1. The F in measure 41, beat one is tied to beat 2. The C on beat 2 is tied into beat 3 *and* into the dotted half note on beat one of measure 42. All the while, there is a phrase/slur line over measures 39 to 42. Both notes in the left hand of measure 41, beat 2 tie into the next measure. In the case of the ties, all the curved lines connect the *same* note(s) to the same note with no other notes between them. Don’t be confused by the slur in measure 34 and 35. The first and last notes are both G in the right hand. Are the two G’s tied? Of course not. Because there are several notes between them it can only mean the curved line is a slur.

I hope this helps. Please comment below.

Categories
General YouTube Videos

Kontakt Player Intro

Kontakt Player
Kontakt Player

In my latest YouTube video I am taking a quick look at Native Instrument’s Kontakt Player. This is a free product that comes with a respectable amount of instruments. It is ideal for anyone getting started with sampling or interested in getting into music technology. I made the video for some of my piano students who have expressed an interest.

The video does show the full version of Kontakt, but the player version is essentially the same. The only major difference is you can’t created your own instruments from samples or edit the existing instruments and a few other restrictions.

Please leave comments here and let me know what future tutorial videos you’d like to see.

Categories
Albums General

New Album

New Album

Album cover

It’s been nearly 3 years since I released an album so I thought it was about time to release a new one. This one is a sampler of various styles of music I compose, arrange or record. Some of it is available in sheet music from my website.

Look for it June 1, 2018 on iTunes, Amazon MP3, YouTube Music, Spotify and more.

I plan to post some details in the upcoming weeks about various tracks.  Please consider buying a copy of the whole album or individual tracks or stream it on Spotify.

Many of the titles are available in sheet music form at his website. Those that aren’t rely too much on specific computer sound libraries to be played by acoustic instruments. Three titles are based on brass quintet arrangements, but of course added to for the recording. One piece is based entirely on the results of fractal math formulas. Another one, the all percussion piece, Very Confused, uses a Beethoven piano sonata as the source rhythm but then highly manipulated. Another piece is based on a 12-tone instrumental ensemble piece. Yet another piece is more like modern trance music, but with James’ own twist. A couple came about as a result of experimenting with various sound libraries. Waiting and watching found its origins from music written on an iPad using NotateMe while in a doctor’s waiting room! While every title might not be for everybody, there is something here that you will like.

Categories
Albums Arranging General Organ Music Piano Lessons Reaper Recordings Sibelius Website News YouTube Videos

May 2018 update

Current news

I’m always looking for subjects to write about here or tutorial to do on YouTube. Please use the comments section to give me some ideas.

I’ve not shown a map of where people are buying and performing my sheet music for some time, so here’s the latest (as of Mar 31, 2018)

I’m making some changes to the music catalog. Rather than offer individual keyboard arrangements, I’m only selling collections. I have 8 piano solo collections available. As time permits I will remove organ solos from the catalog and only offer collections. It is easier to manage collections.

I have no plans for anything on YouTube at the present time. This is for two reasons: 1) Nobody who watches my videos on YouTube has bothered to let me know what they want to see and 2) YouTube no longer allows me to monetize my channel and nobody who watches my videos has donated anything to keep it going.

As always, check the sheet music catalog for new titles. At least once a month, sometimes more often there are new titles.

After 15 custom arrangements for a single client I must be doing something right. If you have a beginner/intermediate instrumental group or a church orchestra in need of arrangements, let me know so I can write it for you.

I’m always “playing around” with my various sound libraries and live instruments in my home studio. Look for at least one new album out this summer, if not two.

I continue to teach piano lessons locally and over the internet. So, no matter where you are in the world I can teach you. I can also tutor on composing, arranging, music theory and more. Drop me a note if you are interested.

Categories
General Sibelius YouTube Videos

Sibelius Sound Set Editor Introduction

Sibelius Sound Set Editor

I put together a brief video showing an introduction to the Sound Set Editor and how you can use it to support virtual instruments

Categories
Arranging General Recordings

Results of my contest entry

Did they even listen to my entry?

So, a few posts ago I mentioned that Spitfire Audio was having  a contest that I had entered. The one and half minute video was provided by them. Contestants had to write music to fit the video. It didn’t matter what sound libraries we used, it was “the composition that mattered.” Given the winning entry, which isn’t a bad musical competition, I wonder if my entry made it to them?

Nobody has ever called me a bad looser, but in this case, I just don’t get it. Were they more interested in the mixing/mastering than the music matching the video or what? The whole contest was a bit odd. The entry method was emailing the final audio (a large sized file) which could have easily ended up in their spam folder or deleted. It’s never safe to email something so big. We also had to send a link to our music synced to their video. I did that. They never confirmed whether they got my entry nor did I ever see it (or any other entries) posted on their SoundCloud site as the rules said they would. They also did not announce the winner on their website, but instead at the following Facebook page. Not everyone uses facebook. Here’s the winner:

https://www.facebook.com/SpitfireAudio/videos/10155715880575412/

The problems I have are:

The composition is little more than a 1:15 tension builder. It doesn’t resolve the tension. When I’m looking to buy a sound library, this music doesn’t do it for me.

The music doesn’t fit the video. It in no way enhances or supports the visuals we see. (Some comments on their facebook page agree with me here).

It is so repetitive to the point of almost being boring.

When it switches from graphics to the control room, why no change to draw the viewer, who may have turned away while watching on their phone, tablet or PC, to the change?

When we see a large horn section, I have trouble hearing any horns. The only thing in the video are horns yet there are no obvious horns in the music.

The same thing when we see flutes, trumpets and a timpani player feverlishly bangs on the timpani, we don’t hear flutes, trumpets or timpani. Why not? It would be an excellent way to showcase the product and its multiple capabilities instead of hearing essentially the same thing we’ve heard from the beginning.

When the woman is showed at her computer using Albion, why not give us something electronic? Movie soundtracks aren’t all symphonic orchestra are they?

The biggest thing that bothers me is when she plays a C on her keyboard (after seeing that she has a string sound loaded up) we don’t hear a C, not even a note in the C chord, nor are strings featured. What happened to matching the music to enhance the visuals?

Any how, here is my entry. I know it isn’t perfect. The mixing and mastering need some work and it probably would have helped to layer in some more sounds to what is there. I would really like some comments as to why my attempt was not as good as the winner.

Categories
Church Music General Other YouTube Videos

Concert Band Arrangements

Sorry it’s been since March (nearly 6 months) since I’ve last posted. As mentioned in the last post, I’ve been doing custom arrangements for a client that’s reached about 10 titles. Plus I’ve been working on series called “Any Size Church Orchestra series” of arrangements for church groups that never know from week to week who will be there. These arrangements, now available at my website, are playable by a wide combination of instruments.

But, today I want to feature my Concert Band arrangements. I will let the demo videos speak for themselves. (Please remember, these are demos from computer software and not mixed. I have neither the time to mix them nor money to hire a real band).

PS. If you’re in the Gainesville, Ocala area on October 16, 2016 I’m giving a solo piano concert featuring TV & Film music. It is at 2pm at the Church of the Mediator in Micanopy, FL.

The following YouTube video is a playlist of demos of all the titles I have.