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Author   Topic : "Digi Musicians in the house(Lunatique?) I need advice.."
Jimmyjimjim
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 10:45 pm     Reply with quote
Hey-

I started a thread on this a while ago, but it appears it was one of those lost in the server crash a year or two ago.

Now that I'm out of school and in need of hobbies beyond painting for a change, I'm really interested in getting involved in doing my own composing.

I have slightly more than a layman's experience with music (choir and band in HS). Ideally, I'd like to be able to sequence an orchestra straight from my computer without a synth. Worst case, I could get a small MIDI keyboard. I play a little piano, but wouldn't mind learning more.

I'm looking at Steinberg HALion Symphonic Orchestra, as it looks like it does what I want. Problem is, I'm unsure of everything I'd need. What would be a good package to get started? Keep in mind, I'm not interested in starting a music studio, just producing something like a film score occasionally straight from the computer. Is this possible? How does it work?

Thanks in advance.
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[Shizo]
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 22, 2008 4:25 am     Reply with quote
Fruity Loops.
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Lunatique
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Joined: 27 Jan 2001
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Location: Lincoln, California

PostPosted: Sun Nov 23, 2008 7:16 pm     Reply with quote
If you never used pattern/loop based sequencers, I would not recommend something like FL Studio or Orion platinum--you'll probably find linear sequencers a lot more familiar and comfortable as they fit the traditional way of thinking better. Today you have so many options that it's insane--including very capable free softwares and plugins. I highly recommend you check out kvraudio.com if you haven't--it will open up your eyes in terms of what's out there and just how many amazing free tools you can download. In fact, you can put together a 100% free virtual studio, including using free soundfonts for orchestral samples, although I would recommend you at least buy a decent orchestral package as it'll make you life that much easier, instead of trying to find good free soundfonts (which can be a real chore and the quality would be inconsistent, and no product support).

In your situation, having some piano/keyboard experience helps so much, and I would steer you towards a MIDI keyboard controller instead of inputting your notes with a mouse--it's just not very intuitive (much like trying to paint and draw with a mouse instead of a Wacom tablet). People who compose with a mouse argue about it but IMO there is just no debate--just as there's no debate that a Wacom tablet is far more intuitive to use, even if you''ve never used one before.

If your main interest is orchestral compositions, I would highly recommend you get an 88-key MIDI keyboard controller, because the collective range of the orchestra is so vast, and most half-way decent orchestral libraries make extensive use of keyswitching--something you'd have a really tough time dealing with if you don't have a keyboard that covers the whole range. For example, a violin patch that uses the lowest octave for keyswitches, and you're trying to play a melody on the highest octave--it's just not possible without an 88-key keyboard, or maybe two keyboards--one controlling the lowest octave for keyswitches and one playing the melody. Unfortunately 88-key controllers are typically not cheap, but there is one product that is quite cheap and that is the M-Audio Keystation 88es. It is semi-weighted, so you can also use it to play parts like drums/percussion, fast synth lines...etc, but it won't feel like a real piano since its action is not weighted, and it doesn't have aftertouch AFAIK, although that may not be an issue for you unless you choose an orchestral library that uses aftertouch in its programming extensively (this is usually more common in synth patches). If you really prefer a weighted keybed, you'd have to pay a little more for the weighted models. I highly recommend you search sites like musiciansfriend.com, guitarcenter.com, zzsounds.com, sweetwater.com...etc for 88-key MIDI keyboard controllers and read reviews online about them. I myself almost went for either a CME UF-8 or a Studiologic, but I ended up getting a Kurzweil PC2X since I found one on ebay, and it comes with built-in breath and ribbon controller inputs.

For sequencer, if you want to save money you can try Reaper (shareware), Tracktion, or the cheaper home versions of Logic (if you're using Mac), Sonar (if you're using PC). There are other ones like Ableton Live, Digital Performer, Cubase...etc. Many have demo's for test driving, but not all have the cheaper home versions. I personally have been using Sonar Producer Edition for years and love it. The truth is, just about all modern sequencers will do the job, even the loop/pattern based ones, with the real difference being workflow or really advanced features.

For soundcard/audio interface, you can choose between firewire or usb2.0. If you won't be doing a lot of multi-track live recording (recording multiple instruments at once), you can save money with USB2.0 audio interfaces, otherwise firewire is a little better but more expensive. I have a Line6 Toneport UX2 and it's decent, and I mostly got it for the included Gearbox software since I play guitar and bass and also sing as well. The mic preamps on these interfaces are usually decent, but they will not match the better standalone preamps that cost many times more.

For your orchestral library, it's a much tougher choice to make, as cost, features, support, quality, ease of use...etc all contribute to your decision. I personally feel that the Kirk Hunter Emerald library is an amazing bang for the buck compared to other libraries. But now Vienna Symphonic Library also has a Special Edition that contains the entire orchestra and has a superior interface. The Halion library may not compete well against the VSL Special Edition. I'm not sure if the limited velocity layers of the VSL will be an issue--many don't find it a problem. Whatever you do, don't fall for the hype of the Garritan Personal Orchestra--it is NOT all that and a bag of chips as their marketing department would have you believe. Spend a little more on the Halion, Kirk Hunter, or VSL Special Edition. There are other options like the East west Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra Silver Edition, and with its new Play Engine implemented, it may be a strong contender against the VSL Special Edition, as the Play Engine is trying to do something similar in terms of intuitive use. I highly recommend you go read up at V.I. Control forums--that's where the seasoned MIDI orchestral composers hangout to discuss sample libraries, sequencing techniques...etc.

So let's review:

you need...

-Audio Interface
-Sequencer
-Orchestral library
-88-Key MIDI controller keyboard

Hope that helps. You're about to embark on a very addictive and vastly rewarding hobby/passion! It was only just a decade or two ago that what we can now do with a computer would be considered science fiction, so it's an amazing time right now for us musicians and composers!
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Ian Jones
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2008 5:53 pm     Reply with quote
I've just been playing with Logic a little recently and can recommend it. Lunatique is right though, these days it does not matter that much which sequencer you choose because they all do similar things in slightly different ways.
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Petri.J
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Joined: 04 Dec 2003
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Location: Helsinki, Finland

PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 7:33 pm     Reply with quote
Lunatique wrote:

So let's review:

you need...

-Audio Interface
-Sequencer
-Orchestral library
-88-Key MIDI controller keyboard


Making music has been my dream for many years, playing drums as one and making movie music(as hobby) as second.
After buying Rock Band, the feeling became stronger and now I'm thinking exactly the same thing as Jimmy.
So I did some googling and I ended up with:

- Vienna Symphonic Library special edition
- CME UF 80

I think I can first get the keyboard without the library, and learn the basics of playing first.
Did I understand right that the software(Vienna Ensemble 3) that comes with VSL does about the same thing as Sonar?
Atleast in the software tutorial you can compile seperate tracks and stuff.

I've been googling a lot for a good and affordable electric drumset, but haven't found anything that is better option than others.
Although I've played on expert level in the Rock Band only with the first five easiest songs, so I have no rush with buying drums just yet. Very Happy
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Lunatique
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 8:22 pm     Reply with quote
Vienna Ensemble is a host, not a sequencer. Think of it as a dedicated mixer for Vienna's sample libraries. It does not have recording or editing functions, so you still need a sequencer.

Sonar Producer Edition now comes with Dimension Pro, which contains samples from Garritan's Personal Orchestra, but it is fairly basic and if you want to do more sophisticated orchestration, you'll need a dedicated orchestral sample library. Besides the Vienna Special Edition, you can also check out East West Quantum Leap's Symphonic Orchestra. It's widely considered the easiest to use and most complete out of the box, and with the updated PLAY edition, it's even better than before. The Vienna's sample player is probably more advanced though, but you do have to deal with setting up proper reverb and panning settings for maximum realism (which is as much science as it is art--especially if you want your orchestral pieces to sound dynamic and with depth). The EWQL libraries are recorded with hall ambiance so you have proper placement and hall reverb already built-in. You should also check out Kirk Hunter's offerings--it's a lot of bang for the buck and his programming is one of the most detailed in terms of expressive control. There are other options--too many actually at this point (this is an incredible time for aspiring composers--you used to need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get a fraction of the power and quality that we have now).

As for drums--does your Rock Band drum controller allow you to trigger individual drum sounds? If so, you can do a lot of practicing on it, although I doubt the pedals are anywhere near the proper response of real bass pedals. An entry level Roland drum it like the HD-1 is pretty affordable, and there are even cheaper kits from Alesis, Yamaha, Hart Dynamics...etc. I do recommend that you get something that you could expand instead of a closed-off system. You may want to upgrade the brain unit or add additional triggers, or change the pedals in the future as you get better. The sooner you get on a decent kit, the sooner you can start developing the proper muscle memory that is ESSENTIAL for good drumming (such as the leg muscles for speed and control on the pedal--it's one of the hardest things to master in drumming). Also, you need a proper surface that rebounds correctly for practicing your rudiments (google drum rudiments). You can buy a practice pad for now (I recommend a double sided with two different surfaces--soft and hard) and a pair of real drum sticks (the game controller ones are like toys and you do not want to develop your muscle memory on those toy sticks). I recommend you get a couple of different pairs--one lighter and one heavier. My favorite sticks in the world right now are the white Buddy Rich sticks--they are by far the most responsive sticks I have. You can also start practicing limb independence right away by just tapping your feet and slapping your knees/chest. Being able to play different patterns with your limbs is essential for any drummer, and it takes a long time to get it--especially for complex patterns.

The UF80 used to have a lot of driver issues, but I think CME has ironed them out by now. I've tried it before and it feels similar to Kurzweil keybeds, and that's a good thing. The UF series also have breath controller inputs. I'm not sure if it's got ribbon controller input though (I personally like ribbons a lot). If the UF80 will be your only MIDI controller, you might find it inappropriate for inputting certain instruments or styles of music--for example drumming on it, or playing fast organ solos's, or general fast synth lines. The hammer action is great for expressiveness but not great for speed. If you only get one controller, you might be better off with a synth or semi-weighted keybed, as you can play anything on it.

Also keep in mind that the UF-80 is only controller--it does not contain onboard sounds AFAIK. Bu that's not a big deal since there are so many freeware sound modules you can download these days and many are excellent.
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Petri.J
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Location: Helsinki, Finland

PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 7:08 pm     Reply with quote
Thanks for your help again. I ended up with
M-Audio Keystation 88ES and EWQLSOs Play editions Silver library.
Should arrive in couple days.
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