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
Arranging Reaper Recordings YouTube Videos

Choir Labs contest

Choir labs contest

From time to time I enter various arranging or mixing contests. Recently Spitfire Audio – a British company that makes very good sound libraries – sponsored a contest. They make available various free libraries, one of which is based on the Eric Whitacre choir. The contest was to compose and record music to fit one of 5 NASA provided videos. They ranged in length from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Here is my effort.

Thanks for reading my blog. Please feel free to comment. You can also subscribe to be kept updated on new posts.

Categories
Albums Arranging Reaper Recordings

No Time To Relax (Album Notes)

No Time To Relax

Track 9 from my album Sampler. It can be found wherever digital music is available

A melancholy piece featuring pads, light drums and vocalise melody to start with. Then the track adds in some synth leads and synth bass part. The end echos the feel of the start.

The Gravity sound library is used for the bulk of the vocalise. For the drums I used Drum Lab from Native Instruments. Also used for some rhythm elements was Grid II.

The bulk of the sound in this track comes from the instruments. There is no EQ used on any of the instrument tracks. I did use the REAPER ping-pong delay and Native Instruments RC48 reverb unit with some EQ on the reverb. Only the two vocal tracks have any reverb added to it. Although I have the delay unit on a bus, I just realized nothing is being bussed there. So, just reverb is added to this track.

For mastering purposes, I did not do anything beyond a peak limiter (just to make sure nothing peaked).

To my ears at least, this piece just “worked” with the combination instruments I chose and without having to do anything besides balance levels. That’s something to think about as you compose and record music. Get it as good as you can prior to recording to audio and the mixing and mastering process will be easy.

Please, please, if you like the album or these track notes, drop a note in the comments. Even if you don’t like it, drop me a comment. Now that I think about it, I’ve not had any comments since I moved the blog here. Maybe the comments only work for me? Anyone care to test it out?

Categories
Albums Arranging Reaper Recordings

Is Something Bad Coming (album notes)

Continuing with my series of liner notes for my album Sampler, we get to track number 8. This is a darker sounding track. It consists of 6 instruments and various effects.

You can find all of my albums anywhere digital music is available.

First up is the Bass, the Padaboom patch from the Substance library by Output.

Next is the Arp Harp Loop patch from Output’s Signal Pulse library. I believe the patch may be part of an add-on library.

Next is the After Waves patch from Output’s Exhale program. The patch is probably part of an add-on library.

It looks like most of this piece uses Output’s various libraries. The next track is Tears in Rain patch from Analog strings by Output.

The next patch is a PolyBrass 2 from Kontakt’s RetroMachines Mk2. I believe this is an emulation of a Korg PolySix patch. The PolySix was the first synthesizer I ever owned.

Finally we have Battery 4 using the Sad Flamingo Kit.

For all the instruments, I only used automation on the Battery kit and that was for some volume changes.

I must have been happy with the sounds of the instruments because I used practically no effects on anything. Only the drums (Battery 4) were processed. I sent them (-13db) to a rever bus. The reverb was the Native Instruments/Softube emulation of the RC48 using a Medium Hall preset.

I sent the reverb (0db) to a Gate buss.

On the master bus I cut out frequencies below 30hz and used the Lurseen Mastering Console from IK-Multimedia. I used the Classical (More Glue) preset. If I made any changes, it would have been to the De-esser or compressor in the chain view options (icon at top). This plugin makes a huge difference in the final sound. It isn’t just louder, but better sounding.

Any questions or comments, please let me know.

Categories
Albums Arranging Reaper Recordings

Exciting times (track notes)

Continuing my liner notes for my July 2018 album “Sampler”

Track 7, Exciting Times, was my first experiment on doing something entirely from loops. Not audio loops, but MIDI loops. The entire track was produced from MIDI loops.

I use to subscribe to a magazine that included a download link or a DVD that had various samples and loops on it. My notes don’t show which issue or magazine name, but it was from a magazine. I took loops that came from what I think was a Trance selection. The majority of the magazine content was audio loops or samples, but from time to time they include midi loops.

Here are the instruments/patches I used for this track. My notes don’t show what changes I made to presets and it would take too long to figure out. Whatever they were, they were not dramatic changes.

Battery 4 (Argon Kit) with ReaEQ highpass at 40HZ and Supercharger GT compressor with a modified drum buss preset. Automation on ReaEQ highpass frequency.

Massive with Thelonius preset (modified). ReaComp sidechained from drum track; ReaEQ with a slight boos around 300hz and a low pass cut at 1.1K. Another ReaComp with sidechain. Supercharger GT with modified Synth Bass preset. NI VC 2A compressor, modified Electric Guitar preset. ReaDelay (modified Dehuminator slower preset). Automation on the Wavetable position and cutoff in Massive as well as the Bypass on the ReaDelay.

Reaktor Razor, Centauri preset (modified); ReaComp sidechained from Drum Buss, 0ms attack; 47ms release, 4:1 ratio, 0 to 481Hz input filter; ReaEQ highpass around 60Hz. Another ReaComp sidechained with 30-225Hz input filter. 3ms attack, 100ms release, 4.1 compression. (The two compressor settings basically end up being sidechained by only the bass drum from the drum sidechain input). Automation on two Macros in Razor. Automation on high pass filter in ReaEQ.

Absynth 5, Arcadia patch (probably modified). ReaComp sidechained similar to above examples.
ReaEQ. Automation on Pan and EQ Low pass frequency

Reaktor Monark, Sakwenzer patch (probably modified). ReaComp with sidechain from Drum track 0-745HZ input filter. 0ms attach, 100 release, 4:1 ratio. ReaEQ, low pass at 8.5Khz and high pass at 100Hz. Automation on lowpass eq filter.

Reaktor Kontour, Twin top patch (modified). ReaComp sidechained similar to above examples. ReaEQ, high pass, automated. Another ReaComp sidechained similar to above. Automation on pan.

Kontakt, string ensemble symphony series, string ensemble patch. ReaComp, sidechained similar to above. ReaEQ High pass around 60Hz, automated.

Kontakt, Rise & Hit, Heavy Fuzz patch. Automation on Volume and Rev-Heavyfuzz.

Kontakt, Exhale by Output, Backwards patch.

Four tracks were sent to a ReaDelay buss that had a 4-tap ping pong delay

Four tracks were sent to a Reverb buss with NI Passive EQ in mid/side mode. Some low mid boost in middle and some low boost on the side.

I printed all the midi to audio and produced the final mix from there.  I used an IK Multimedia Quad Compressor and Quad Image to widen out the sound a bit. I used a few sidechained compressors on some of the audio channels.

Please leave a comment or question below. You can also subscribe to this blog to be notified whenever a new article is posted.

Categories
Albums Reaper Recordings

Beginning The Adventure (Album track review)

Sampler

Beginning The Adventure

(This is the first of a series of articles about the tracks in my new album Sampler)

The album is available on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon MP3

The first track is called Beginning The Adventure. As a side note, I have to say that coming up with titles for my music is probably one of the most difficult aspects of composing I have. I always start with the music first and since there are no lyrics in my music, it makes sense. The last thing I do is come up with titles. Since I needed something a bit upbeat to set the mood, this track seemed appropriate, although I did give consideration to the “trance” like track “Exciting times,” but I thought “Beginning The Adventure” was a better choice.

I probably should have included Heavyocity in the name of this song. As best as I can tell, I only used Heavyocity products on this recording.

As I do most of my recordings “in the box,” that is, in my computer the sounds come from various software sound libraries, software based instruments and in rare situations, something from a loop. Some of the sounds I used were from synthesizers or modeling software that creates the sound as you go. Some were from samples of real recordings of acoustic instruments

This piece started out as my experimenting with the Heavyocity Gravity expansion pack “Vocalise.” There are 3 tracks that utilize some of the phrase menus. They are “A Phrase MV sus” (twice) and the C minor phrase menu. As I experimented I realized it would make a good piece, even for listening (as so much music I run across these days sounds like background music to a video or game and only useful for that, not listening). I also utilized Heavyocity’s NOVO strings at the very beginning for the low filtered sound that gradually comes in and helps set the mood. I don’t keep very good notes so I don’t know which patch it is. The low bass lick that comes in just before the voices start is from Heavyocity’s Aeon Rhythmic using the Synthocity preset. Underneath the vocals is the Heavyocity Aeon Rhythmic patch Falling Filters. The rhythmic pulse throughout comes from Heavyocity’s Aeon Rhythmic

I’m not big on using hundreds or even dozens of tracks to make a piece of music. The Heavyocity material frequently has 3 channels of sounds in one preset and offers a wide choice of effects all within the software avoiding the need to do a great deal of processing in my DAW. So, I only ended up with 7 tracks. I use “Reaper” as my DAW of choice. All of the original 7 tracks were MIDI tracks. I “freezed” the tracks once I had the sound I wanted. “Freezed” (or should it be “froze”?) is the term Reaper uses, in this case, to turn a MIDI track into an audio track. It renders the midi instrument into an audio file. It’s like in the old days of recording, committing to tape the take you best liked of live performers. The nice things is that in Reaper it is very easy to “un-freeze” (no they don’t call it “thaw”) the track if you don’t like it. (You do loose the edits you’ve made to the audio file, if any, but that’s kinda the point in “un-freezing” it).

Since there were so many processing and sound sculpting options in the software instruments – and I did process the default patches – I did very little processing in Reaper. In fact I only used two effects prior to the stereo bus. One was the Native Instrument/Soft Tube emulation of the Lexicon RC48 reverb. I modified the Grainy Echoes preset using a Random Hall and setting it on effect rather than reverb. Since this was on its own bus it was 100% wet. I used the send amounts to balance how much reverb each of the 7 tracks got. You may hear other reverb sounds but those come from the individual instruments themselves. I then routed the reverb to both the stereo bus (0 db) and to a delay bus (at -23db). I used the built-in ReaDelay that comes with reaper. I modified the basic ‘5-tap ping pong’ delay. Each tap was 1/4 of an eighth note after the other, panning left/right and getting softer. That went straight to the stereo bus.

In Reaper there is always a “master mix” channel. (See photo above). Other than a hard limiter (to prevent accidental or hidden clipping) I don’t put anything on it. Instead I setup a folder, the parent folder being the final stereo mix. The 7 music channels and 2 effect bus channels feed into it. Since I was having to master my own material, I put an EQ on this channel with a high-pass filter removing unneeded low end. I then added the IK-Multimedia mastering plugin “Lurssen Mastering Console.” I started with the EDM preset and modified to get the sound I was after. For this album I opted to mix everything using the TR5 Metering plugin from IK Multimedia for an average mix of -16 LUFS (which is the level at which many online streaming services prefer tracks to be and is a broadcast industry standard).

And that’s the details on that piece.

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
Albums Arranging General Other Reaper Recordings Sibelius Website News

Variegated Plate

Wonder what this might be?

Coming soon...
Coming soon…

var·i·e·gat·ed
ˈver(ē)əˌɡādəd/
adjective
1) exhibiting different colors, especially as irregular patches or streaks.
Botany: (of a plant or foliage) having or consisting of leaves that are edged or patterned in a second color, especially white as well as green.
2) marked by variety.

Think definition number 2. Coming soon…….

Categories
Arranging General Other Reaper

Cubase DAW evaluation

It is always good advice not to switch to a different DAW if you are comfortable and familiar with another one. And, if you aren’t getting the sound you want from the DAW, spend the time learning that DAW before considering switching. Even so, sometimes it’s worth looking at other DAWs if they have a ‘really want’ feature that yours doesn’t or to get ideas of other ways to do things in your current daw.

So I got a copy of Cubase 6 LE as a ‘freebie’ with another product I bought. I know it’s not the latest version of the software nor is it as feature rich as the ‘pro’ version but the midi score editing capability was enough to get me to try it. I also wanted to see the workflow and if the visual is any better than what I’m using. I even watched some tutorial videos so I wouldn’t be completely lost.

I’m not out to start a ‘my DAW is better than yours’ war’. If you like what you use, keep using it. Unless you’re just starting out, you have too much invested to change now.

In my opinion, the workflow of Cubase is more difficult than my current daw. There were a few midi features that were better but not enough reason to switch. The midi music notation editing feature that I most wanted to see was not good. I’ll take PG Music’s Band in a Box (or RealTracks) notation editor over this any day. (For the record, I use Sibelius 7 to create scores then export to midi or play the midi into my daw).

Not that I was seriously considering changing but I will definitely be sticking to my current DAW along with Komplete Ultimate. The DAW I use is the $60 full-featured DAW that even pro-tools professionals have switched to. That is Reaper.

So, Cubase users, any reason I should go back and take another look at it? What is it that made you decide on it rather than something else? Does the latest version have a better interface and workflow than 6?

Categories
Albums Arranging Other Piano Lessons Reaper YouTube Videos

Summertime (2014)

Summertime

It’s always slow in the music world in the summer, at least for me. Everyone’s out and about and the last thing they want to do is buy sheet music. I guess most people don’t buy CD’s to begin with, but even digital music (MP3) slows down in the summer. Even my piano students like to take off and disappear for a few weeks or even months. So, I’ve not had much to talk about in the blog.

The music workshop I talked about (see earlier post) came and went. I couldn’t get very many people to attend. Apparently, after the fact, everyone who should have told me, now decides to tell me that “oh, you need to start publicity & sign up way back in April.” Thanks for the help then. Not knowing any better, I started publicity in late May. Even with so much advance time, almost 2 months, I still couldn’t get the teens to come. As to the course, everything went quite well. It being a computer music workshop, the potential for technical issues was great. We had none. There were some issues with one person not having installed one of the software titles I required, but the next day they had done so.

Latest activity since May:

All 9 of my CD albums are now available in physical format in addition to mp3 or FLACC format.

If you don’t follow me on my SoundCloud page, please do. I’ve posted quite a few short pieces in a variety of styles. And go back and listen to previous tracks.

In addition to selling sheet music on my website, I’ve also partnered with Sheet Music Plus digital to sell selected titles on their digital download site. They are my go-to site if I need printed sheet music.

My YouTube channel has a few new tutorial videos about Battery 4 & Reaper as well as an introductory look at the new SampleTank 3.

Of course, Spotify, which has an absolutely free version and lets you choose what you want to listen to (unlike Pandora, right?), all of my albums are there. I hope to have a new album or two out later this year.

If you are at all interested in piano lessons from me over the internet, please get in touch via the website, JamesGilbertMusic.com. (I also teach composition, arranging, music software tutoring, etc. on any schedule or frequency you like).  Of course, I also continue to teach lessons locally (near Gainesville & Ocala, Florida).

Any suggestions for content here or on YouTube or SoundCloud or what type of music to put on my next album(s), drop me a note.

Thanks to those that subscribe and to all that read.

 

Categories
Church Music General Kindle Organ Music Other Reaper

MIDI project

Among my regular activities as a musician, I was hired to work on special MIDI project.

I thought you might be interested to hear some of the details.

There are a number of churches that have organs but nobody to play them. Many of the organs are midi capable but the midi files they can find online are, let’s face it, not the greatest. Most them sound like they weren’t played by an organist (or for that matter anyone with any accompanying experience). Others consist of only one verse of a hymn or they don’t have introductions. Others are only on channel one. Many organs don’t use channel one as their ‘Great’ manual and this leaves out the pedals, always on a different channel. Yes, one could create their own midi files, but that’s a lot of work. They could edit the files they find off the internet, but generally speaking, they would require too much editing to make them ideal.

So, I was hired to travel to the Orlando, FL area to record some hymns on an organ with midi capability. The organ in question uses channel 12 for the great, 13 for swell and 14 for the pedals. That is not typical for organs, but this unit (an older Rodgers organ) was designed to be supplemented with an external sequencer/sound module that uses channels 1-10 for general midi sounds. The organ also used sysex codes to change the pistons and stops. I recorded one hymn at a time onto a Roland external sequencer (an RD-70).  Rather than try and set tempo on each hymn, we just recorded at the default tempo of 120. A so-called ‘free form’ recording.

We were able to capture the sysex codes to be able to use when editing sequences on a computer. In total, I recorded about 100 hymns and a few ‘service’ pieces. The client the midi files will eventually be used with is an Episcopal church so we focused on them as well as some hymns that span all denominations. The session took about 2 full days with plenty of breaks. I used my iPad where I use the app forScore to view the PDF files of the hymns.

It would have been helpful to have people singing, not so much to adjust to their singing as a good accompanist would, but rather to help me remember which verse we were on and not to forget to include an introduction. There were several titles that I forgot an introduction or I played one less or one more verse than was in the hymnal. I did some post-production on the computer to take care of those issues.

Since most organs use channels 1 for the Swell, 2 for the Great and 4 for the Pedals, it is an easy thing to edit the hymns I did so they can be played on any organ with midi capability. (Channel 3 is used for a Choir or Positiv, if present). Unfortunately, every organ manufacturer and every model within their companies use a different method for selecting stops or picking pistons (aka presets). Since different organs have different stops to choose from, it is impossible to do midi sequences of hymns that automatically select appropriate registrations unless I know the midi implementation and stop list of each organ that wants to use the sequences. However, if someone is willing to sit at the organ console and select a piston or stops just before each hymn plays, then it is quite possible and very realistic to provide high quality hymn accompaniments.

There is a great deal of discussion in some churches about how terrible it is to use the organ and how old-fashioned it is. I say nonsense. Most likely those churches have suffered at the hands of an accompanist who really doesn’t know what they are doing (even if they think they do). Or the instrument itself was the wrong instrument for the auditorium. When the church I play for recently got a new organ with a top notch speaker system – a pipe organ was out of the question for such a small facility and the musical needs the church has – I had one person tell me they never really liked the organ, until now. Now they really like it. Most people just thought it sounded much better. The point is, if you want good music in a church, you need a great accompanist and a good instrument. You’ll be surprised at how many people really do like those ‘old-fashioned’ hymns when played by someone who knows what they are doing and how much they really don’t like drums, synthesizers and guitars playing a bunch of music that stylistically is 20 years behind the times and is being attempted by a bunch of amateurs.

If you’d like to read more about how to be a good accompanist, visit the Amazon Kindle store and check out my book In the Shadows but still in the Spotlight.  It gives some good tips on how to be a better accompanist. Update: Expect to see the book available for FREE in January 2021 in the music catalog.

So, loaded with these sequences, it was time to put them to test in the real world. A small church too far away for me to play there and make it to my current church has a midi capable organ similar to the one I recorded on. The church has its 5 general pistons setup from soft congregational accompanying (1) to loud festival hymns (5). The church emails me a list of the pieces for the coming Sunday. If it is one of the ones I already recorded, I double check it to make sure it has the right number of verses, an intro and the right piston changes at the start and, if needed, between verses. If it isn’t one I’ve already recorded, I get the hymn into my computer sequencer – I use the DAW Reaper for my recording work – add piston changes and make sure all is correct. I then email the church the sequences. The person on that end copies the .mid file to a floppy. (And yes, they still make 3 1/2 inch floppy disk drives and drives). He puts it into the sequencer, hits play and that’s it. For special situations, like an upcoming patriotic choir accompaniment, I utilized the sounds on the sound module (strings, winds, drums, etc) in addition to the organ.

The results? The vicar of the church, who I know and who regularly hears me play for services, says it is just like having me there playing the organ. The breaks between verses, the breathing spots, introductions and stop changes are exactly like if I were there. I’m very pleased with those results.

For you? Even if you do contemporary music, if you have any instrument or sound module that is midi capable, it is possible for me to create a high-quality midi accompaniment sequence of your music. Just insert the disk (or usb memory stick), select the piece and hit play. For those with midi capable organs, I can provide the hymns just like described above.

That’s why I’ve not been doing much here on the blog.

I have posted a few new videos on my YouTube channel. Do check them out when you get a chance.

If you are on Spotify, here are some playlists you may want to check out:

http://open.spotify.com/user/jlg-gnv/playlist/5amPipKSeCefguofXXbtJV

http://open.spotify.com/user/jlg-gnv/playlist/4COYvc3upBFoabQy6nfwJ8

http://open.spotify.com/user/jlg-gnv/playlist/1LrdQ4tq9BRwyN8rVMJim8

http://open.spotify.com/user/jlg-gnv/playlist/64gzlDm2FIgX693FBAZG7T

http://open.spotify.com/user/jlg-gnv/playlist/0sG01jRAD22KlYO6j7PIcV

Enjoy.

(edit: removed some redundant text 6/29)

Categories
Arranging General Other Reaper YouTube Videos

Komplete Ultimate 9 – Software based music creation

Komplete Ultimate 9

Native Instruments Komplete Ultimate

FM 8
FM 8 (Photo credit: matt.searles)

For those that might be new to the world of creating music all on your computer or new to the world of synthesis and sampling, I thought a brief mention of what I use would be in order. There are many very good comparable products available from many sources, but for the cost, the unified look & feel and overall quality, I really like Native Instruments and their products. If you want everything, then Komplete Ultimate 9 is the one to get. You can spend years playing around and putting this software to use. It is pricey, but consider it a worthwhile investment, especially if you anticipate making money from your music or as an educational investment. But, if you don’t want to spend that much, individual parts are available.

The main components:

  • Kontakt – Sampler and playback. Includes a lot of ‘default’ sounds in addition to libraries mentioned below
  • Reaktor – A modular synthesizer with lots of instruments and, best of all, the ability to create your own instruments.
  • Massive – wavetable synthesizer, great for bass and leads
  • Absynth – semi-modular, great for pads and abstract sounds
  • FM8 – FM synthesizer and more
  • Battery 4 – A drum sampler, player than can be used for more than just drums
  • Guitar Rig 5 – A creative effects rack with 17 amps & cabinets, 54 effects and lots of capability

With just the above programs and their factory content, you can do more than enough to get really great sounds. Kontakt & Reaktor are the main ‘engines’ on which most of the rest of the content relies.

With Kontakt, there various libraries that come with Ultimate (or are available separately). Those include Strings & Cinematic libraries like Session Strings, Session Horn, Session Strings Pro, Damage, Evolve and Evolve Mutations 1 & 2. If you want to do anything for TV, Film, video games or just generally dramatic music, these are great. For retro sounds there is Retro Machines MK2. There are several drum packages in the Abbey Road series including Vintage, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s & modern drummer. There is also a Studio drummer. These drum packages give you drum kits, thousands of midi grooves and effects appropriate to those eras. To round out the drums, there is a West African drum collection, Balinese gongs and samples from Maschine. If that weren’t enough, there are several electric bass instruments and guitar. Finally, there are keyboard libraries. These include classic rock organ (B3), several grand pianos, upright pianos, including The Giant, electric pianos, retro keyboards, and a soul loop library.

With Reaktor, the instruments included are: Razor, a great additive synth; Reaktor Prism, a modal synth; Reaktor Spark, a dynamic subtractive synth; Skanner XT, part synth, part sampler; Monark, a new analog emulation similar to a mini-moog. Remember, these are just the added libraries that come with Reaktor. Reaktor itself has hundreds of synths, samplers, sequencers & effects including in the base package.

On top of all of that, NI includes numerous effects as plug-ins ready to be inserted into your DAW. (It should be noted that many of the above products include versions of these plug-ins as part of their implementations). These include a variety of solid state and tube emulations of compressor/limiters, EQ, reverb, gates, transient master, driver (distortion & filter effect), The Finger & The Mouth for live performance or studio manipulation of sound; and Reflektor, another reverb.

If you’re just getting started and don’t want to invest in all of these sounds just yet, I would recommend either Kontakt or Reaktor depending on your interest. If you want to design your own synths and get into the world of sound design, then go with Reaktor. If playback and maybe taking sounds you already have and making into an instrument is for you, then Kontakt. Each of these are available in a free versions with limits on what you can do with them. But, they do come with sounds that can be used in a production. Think of them as demos to get your feet wet before deciding what to do.

As to learning about them, the manuals that come with Ultimate are pretty good. There are also videos from various sources. I have some on my YouTube channel (as shown below). I also like Groove3.com for their tutorial series.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zd2VZsK6btM]
In addition to the tips you can find on my YouTube channel, I offer this. To start with, for the synths, take any piece of music you are familiar with, load it into your favorite midi sequencer or midi track of your DAW and start assigning different instruments to it. For effects, use an audio track with GuitarRig or the plugins. Mess around with the various knobs on the software and/or use automation in your DAW in order to vary the sounds. Personally, I use the Reaper DAW. Great for the price and great for what it can do.

I’ve been using Ultimate 9 since it came out and am very impressed with it. As an updater from a previous version, I think there are just enough new products included to make the upgrade worthwhile (assuming you didn’t buy any of the libraries when they came out individually over the past year or so). The effects package and Battery 4 definitely deserve a good going through.

Enjoy..

Categories
Arranging General Music Theory Reaper

Session Strings Pro Animator Revisited

Session Strings Pro Animator Revisited

Back in 2011 I did a YouTube video showing the Animator function of Session Strings Pro. It was a quick overview and not terribly detailed.

At the request of a few people, I’ve come back to the Animator to take a more detailed look. The video is intended as a starting off point for you to be able to use the Animator function yourself.

 
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sC95fzwLtsI]
Please consider subscribing to the YouTube channel and checking out our website

Categories
Arranging Church Music General Other Reaper

Miroslav Philharmonik Review

UPDATE January 2016. Miroslav Philharmonik version 2 was released in December 2015. Based on the SampleTank 3 engine, the user interface is a thousand times better than the version reviewed below. I can actually use it without having to pull out the magnifer. There are new sounds and key-switching instruments are also provided. The instruments from Philharmonik 1 are also included in this program. The product is 64-bit. The mixing tab of the interface makes it possible to mix ‘in the instrument’ rather than having to mix everything in your DAW. If time permits I may do a full review. As to the Kontakt vs. Miroslav comments below, if you are into just orchestral music and don’t need to do sampling and creating your own instruments, pick Miroslav first, then Kontakt, although some of the add-on libraries available for Kontakt offer sounds and features not found in Miroslav, especially if you are involved in film or game music.

An older product, but it sounds just fine

This product, from IK Multimedia, is an older product that has been on the market for at least 4 years. But, I’ve only just now (Nov 2012) had a chance to use it. You could call it a classic. If you’re just getting into sound libraries and doing recordings or composing on a computer, this is a good library.

What is it? It is a sound library consisting of all the instruments in a typical classical orchestra. There around 8 Gigabytes of samples. There are various articulations of the different instruments, as applicable. For example, there is flutter tongue for the flute, pizzicato for the strings, legato and stacc. for all the instruments.

There are individual sounds for all the instruments in the woodwinds, brass, string and percussion families as well as some keyboard and harp sounds, including some nice organ sounds. In addition to the single patches, it comes with numerous presets that layer various instruments from different families. If that weren’t enough, there are single patches that contain a mixture of instruments. I believe there are over 3,000 presets.

The instruments are accessed via a stand-alone program or via VST, AU and I believe a few other plugin formats that I don’t use. There are 16 channels/slots that you can load instruments into. Each slot can be assigned to any channel and panning and volume can be set. There are combination presets that can save you the time of loading instruments on each track. Use your MIDI keyboard to play it (or use the mouse and play the on-screen keyboard or some of the keys on your computer keyboard work).

I use mainly the Kontakt factory library for my orchestral needs so that’s all I have to go on for a comparison. The big difference is that there seems to be more instruments and articulations and types of instruments in the Miroslav package. Unlike Kontakt, that uses key switching to switch between, say pizz. and legato, this uses separate patches. That can take a little getting use to. I do also use Session Strings Pro. I find the Miroslav to be a better sound overall than what I can get from Kontakt, but that’s not to say Kontakt isn’t good, just Miroslav better so far as the sound & variety of orchestra instruments. If I could only choose between Kontakt and Miroslav Philharmonik, Kontakt would win, but if you’re heavy into orchestral sounds, you might make the opposite choice. .

There are quite a bit of ways to modify the individual sounds. These include LFO’s, Envelopes, filters, velocity adjustments, keyboard range, many effects and effect sends, both individually and globally.

Sibelius and Windows 7 64-bit users.

If you are using the Windows 7, 64-bit version of Sibelius, you will not be able to use the plugin, at least not with the 64-bit version of Sibelius. Fortunately, Sibelius 7 installs both the 64-bit and 32-bit versions. Go to the start menu and select the 32-bit version of Sibelius. As mentioned before, Miroslav is an older program, so it hasn’t been updated to 64-bit yet.

Reaper users.

I’ve found the product to be stable and fine for use in Reaper, Win 7 64-bit version. Just be sure to set your midi controller to the correct channel, set the Reaper input to the controller AND arm the channel for recording.

Criticism.

The interface is very hard to see. The image above was downloaded from the IK Multimedia site. That image looks better than the actual program does. I’m using a 1920×1080 display and I can barely read the text. If I use the Windows magnifier to zoom in 200% it seems obvious that the graphics are not very hi-res. This makes it hard to learn the program. However, once you get use to it, it’s not a bad interface. It would have been nice if the manual told more about the presets, like which ones make extensive use of the mod wheel, expression control or other controllers. As with most any sound library I’ve ever used, the manuals barely cover the minimum and offer little in the way of practical usage. It’s sort of a ‘here are the sounds and how to load them, now you’re on your own.’ More tutorials and tips would be most welcome. Since it is an older program, it doesn’t support WASAPI sound support. I’d like to see it updated to a 64-bit plugin and the graphics improved.

Since I’m new to it, did I miss anything or do you have any comments about it?

 

Categories
General Piano Lessons Reaper Sibelius Website News

Piano lessons and music lessons over the internet

Piano

I’m happy to announce that I’m now teaching piano lessons and general music lessons via the internet. Please pass the word on to all you know.

I mainly teach piano lessons, but I am also available to teach Composition, Music Theory, Sibelius 7, Reaper DAW and Native Instruments Komplete 8 (with the various software like Absynth, Battery 3, FM8, Guitar Rig 5, Kontkat, Massive and Reaktor). For piano I teach all levels of experience and all styles. For Composition, Music Theory and Sibelius 7, I teach all levels, from beginner to advanced. For Reaper DAW and Native Instrument software contact me for details. If you are interested in organ lessons via the internet, let me know.

All that is required of the student is the ability to hear them clearly and see their hands on the keyboard.

Being able to see the piano student’s hands and their keyboard is preferred and is almost essential for beginners. But, if a video connection is impossible on the student’s end, then audio will also work. For other non-piano lessons, audio is sufficient although being able to share our desktops with one another would be desired.

For a limited number of new students, lessons (of any type) are ABSOLUTELY FREE through the end of 2012. After that, I will charge half price through May 2013, then go to regular price.

For general information about piano lessons, either in person or via the internet, use the contact page link in the menu above.

Don’t forget, we have over 400 free sheet-music titles available on my website for FREE! All we ask is that you consider making a donation to help the effort.

Categories
Arranging General Reaper Website News YouTube Videos

New YouTube video – Fractal

Don’t forget, ALL of our sheet-music is now available at our website for FREE!

Fractals Geometric Pattern

I’ve uploaded a new video to YouTube. This is another with animated fractals. If anyone has questions about how I do the fractals, leave a comment and I’ll give the details.

The background music being used is my own composition. I wrote it specifically for this video. From other videos I’ve seen of similar content, I think what I did with the music is not what one would typically expect. I wanted something different. The music consists of a rhythm track that comes & goes in volume, two pad like tracks, one a bit eerie and finally a video game like lead/melody. I used Reaper DAW to do the mixing. I used the VST instruments Massive (2 different patches), Battery 3 and FM8. There is a lot of repetition. I welcome your comments on the music.

As a side note, if you’re looking for some music to listen to, please check out my albums on  Spotify, iTunes, Amazon These sites have all 5 albums I’ve released. GooglePlay also has singles not available elsewhere.

If you’d like to donate to help support the website and the free sheet-music available for download, please click here

Categories
Arranging General Reaper Website News

New MP3 recording available

Frozen Look

A new MP3 file is available at the website. Titled Frozen Look this recording is somewhat ambient, definitely electronic and even a bit meditative.

The inspiration for this title was a handbell arrangement I made a number of years ago of a less familiar hymn. I took that, made minor changes to it, added some percussive elements and played the notes through various synthesizers. Some of those synths were part of the Native Instruments Komplete 8 package (eg. FM8, Absynth, Reaktor, etc)

Take a listen to it here:

http://jamesgilbertmusic.com/catalog.php?sid=MP060

Enjoy

Categories
Arranging General Reaper YouTube Videos

Fractal Art – New video

Fractal Art

New video on YouTube

I’ve always liked fractal art and the seemingly infinite possibilities that one can make with them. Now with faster computers and some free software, one can make 3D animation fairly quickly and easily. So, I found some still 2-D images I liked from various formulas I tried and I rendered out some 3D animations and put them together as a video.

The music is an original composition I’ve been working on. It makes for a good background to the video.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbNprcjSXGQ?hl=en&fs=1]

I used a number of free fractal software programs to create the content. After evaluating a number of them, I’m going to stick with XaoS for 2D and Mandelbulb 3D. The 3D animation does take a very long time to do. One of the clips, I think it was the first one, took about 12 hours of rendering to create.

For the music I used several different synths and of course different sounds. These included Absynth, Reaktor (using Skanner), Table Synth and FM8. I also used some drum loops I had laying around on my computer. I’m not sure if you can tell it from listening, but the simplicity of this piece is that the original source material is an old hymn as I arranged for bells. I made few changes to the original arrangement, but the synths and various processing makes it come out the way it did.

I’m looking at a program that creates midi tracks from fractal math formulas and may use one of them for background music to another fractal video. The fractal music sounds a bit too random so I’m going to have to tweak it quite a bit if I do use it.

Please spread the word and let others know about the YouTube channel, this blog and of course the website. Check out all the links at the top and bottom of our website.

Categories
Arranging Church Music Reaper YouTube Videos

What Wondrous Love Is This

I’ve uploaded a new video to YouTube. This is a recording of the piece What Wondrous Love Is This that I arranged for orchestra. The hymn tune is from the early 1800’s in Appalachia and is found in Southern Harmony, 1835. It is still used today in many churches and instrumental versions, like this, are also used in secular schools for its historical aspect.

This recording is done via software instruments (although most of you would have thought they were real if I hadn’t said anything). I used instruments from the Native Instruments Kontakt 5 factory library as well as Session Strings Pro. I layered the string sounds so each instrument in the string section had 3 to 5 different instruments. They were mixed together to get the final sound. For the reverb I used two instances of Guitar Rig 5, one for the strings and their reverb and all other instruments.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6U-7E3cjY9A?hl=en&fs=1]

The orchestra sheet music is available for purchase at my website. The instrumentation is for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, French Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, Triangle, Violins, Violas, Cellos, Double Bass and Guitar (or Harp). See the catalog description for details about substitute instruments and keyboard reductions.

If you have any questions or comments, you can leave them on the YouTube page or here.

Categories
Arranging Reaper YouTube Videos

Reaper, MIDI, VST YouTube video

This video is now available on YouTube. In it we look at how to use the Reaper DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) along with VST software instruments and MIDI to record and produce a song.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oc1kkJQcLyQ?hl=en&fs=1]

This features VST instruments Plex2, FM8 and Massive. The piece is entirely done in MIDI. The video also looks at automation of both the VST parameters via MIDI controllers (CC) as well as Reaper’s built in automation.

A full tutorial on all of this would take several hours, but this is hopefully a good introduction to the subject. If you are interested in seeing more detailed videos on specific topics covered, comment on the video at YouTube or leave a comment here.

Categories
Arranging General Reaper YouTube Videos

Abbey Roads 70’s Drummer

Native instruments released a big update, almost like a new version, of their entire Abbey Roads Drums series. The names now add the word Drummer to them. The new versions add the mixer and grove parts of their Studio Drummer product. The entire series update includes the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and Modern drums.

I put together a quick video showcasing some of the features of the 70’s version.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62DeXE3s3As?hl=en&fs=1]

The main changes are the mixer, along with all the effects and multi-channel routing, and the thousands of midi grooves available.

Enjoy

 

Categories
Arranging General Reaper YouTube Videos

Skanner instrument demo

Not too long ago, Native Instruments released a free instrument based on their Reaktor platform. It is called Skanner.

I put together a quick demo of the instrument. The recording uses only instruments from Skanner.

Categories
Arranging Reaper Sibelius

The Cat

New Video

I’ve uploaded a new video to YouTube.

The soundtrack is an original piece originally written as a school assignment (years ago) to accompany a section of a cartoon. It has since undergone some revision. The music was written for Flutes (including Alto), Saxophones, French Horn, Trumpets, Guitar, Electric bass, drums and piano. The somewhat odd instrumentation was due to the requirement’s of the school assignment.

The music was originally written using MusicPrinter+ (anyone remember that?), Finale (97?), then converted to Sibelius 6, then Sibelius 7.

The recording of the music used the Reaper DAW for recording & mixing. I used a few Native Instruments products (Kontakt 4, Komplete 7) and built in effects in reaper.

The video part shows some still images put together to make a video of the day in the life of The Cat. The video portion is not as important as the music.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njgeW8iHrsE]
The sheet music and a full mp3 recording can be found at JamesGilbertMusic.com

Questions or comments? Drop us a note.

Categories
Arranging Reaper Sibelius Website News

New MP3 recordings at the website

Two new mp3 audio recordings have been added to the music catalog.

Chord Flavors

The first, Chord Flavors, is a recording of the original composition Chord Flavors. It is a flowing, rhythmic transition between various chords. This transition and interplay of chords ends up making for a nice melody as well. If you’ve followed any of the chord tutorial series on YouTube, this is a good example of what you can do with little more than a progression of chords.

For the recording, the G-flat Group used software based synthesizers to do the recording. The piece used only 3 instruments, a patch in Massive, a patch in Absynth and an instrument in Reaktor that was created by feeding the audio of the first two instruments into Reaktor.

Read more and listen to an audio sample.

Run Away From The Island

The second piece, Run Away From The Island is a recording by The Emotive Players. It was made from a piece written specifically for the recording. The sheet music to this title will soon be in the catalog, and may be by the time you read this. It is a high-paced, percussive piece implying action and movement. Instruments used include Massive, Evolve Mutations 2 and Studio Strings Pro. A fun little piece. See our YouTube channel where this music is used as the soundtrack to a short slideshow video.

The piece is based on a 12-tone row. The row is formed in such a way that it is not too atonal. The piece is melodic, but it is more percussive than melodic. The use of the animator feature in Studio Strings Pro gives the piece some real sense of motion. The Evolve Mutations patches add a depth to the percussive nature of the piece.

Listen to an audio sample

The recordings were mixed in Reaper. The sheet music used to generate MIDI files for some tracks was done in Sibelius 7.

We hope you enjoy these and please let your friends know about them.

 

 

 

Categories
Arranging Reaper Sibelius

Music Soundtrack Example

I’ve put together another video on YouTube. This one is focused on the music, not the video.

The music is an original composition for potential use as background music to a video — a soundtrack.

For the sounds used, I used instruments from Komplte 8 Ultimate. There are 2 Massive tracks (Blue in Grey and Found Objects). There are 2 Evolve Mutations 2 tracks (Aqueous Slammerz and Fartherest Star Menu) as well as Violins and Cellos using the animator feature of Sessions Strings Pro (pop 3 & 4) and a solo violin patch.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WVWJOeynzI]

The original composition was put together in Sibelius 7. The melodic elements are based on a 12 tone row. The percussive elements (the mutations tracks in particular) are based on rhythmic figures.

The score was transferred to Reaper DAW via MIDI. The sounds were rendered from the above mentioned instruments.

Your comments, either here or on YouTube are welcomed.