Classical Cue Return - advice needed

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AlanHall
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Classical Cue Return - advice needed

Post by AlanHall » Mon Feb 10, 2020 8:47 pm

I should be heartened by a critique that tells me "almost good enough" for the client. Sigh.

Here's the text of the listing: S200117CL
Genre: Instrumental
INSTRUMENTAL COVERS of WELL-KNOWN CLASSICAL PIECES are needed by a successful Los Angeles-based Production Music Library!
They’re looking for Instrumental Covers in All Tempos in the stylistic range of the references they gave us below:

"Moonlight Sonata" by Beethoven
"Russian Dance from Nutcracker Suite" by Tchaikovsky
"Clair de Lune" by Debussy
"Canon in D" by Pachelbel

Please submit Instrumental Covers of well-known Classical pieces that are well-played from start to finish. Solo instrumentals, small ensembles, or full Orchestral renditions are all fair game for this request!
Please stick to the original melodies so that your Covers are familiar to listeners. Be sure your performances have solid musicianship and a great sense of articulation, emotion, and tonality. When using virtual plugins, please make sure they sound like the real deal! Anything stiff or MIDI-driven (or overly quantized) won’t work for this request.
Your submissions should be between 1-2 minutes in length. Non-faded endings will work best. Broadcast quality is needed.
TAXI #S200117CL


Here's the critique:
Feedback for "Gymnopedie number 1 - classical cue" S200117CL

What I like most about this song
it is both soothing yet slightly lamenting. I think you could improve this song by raising the overall level of sonic quality..Either though a new mix, more up to date plugins or combo of the two.

I returned this song because while it is performed at a very high level it still is not quite sonically at the level the client requires.

Additional things I noticed... Recording and Production
Song instrument sounds or samples sound dated or of a lower quality.
Recording/Mix needs improvement.


Listen to the cue on my artist page (link below). It is Gymnopedie 1 - classical cue Then help me understand first how my mix can be improved. This is not the first return with that comment flagged.

Also, sound libraries. As a new member just beginning to gear up, I chose Miroslav Philharmonic 2 for a number of reasons:
1. my very first VI library
2. fairly inexpensive (OK, call it cheap!)
3. likely the only library that will run on my aging Mac Pro 1,1 with OSX 10.7.5
At this point I'm resistant to the idea that throwing a few thousand dollars (new computer, stellar library) at the problem will simply 'make it go away'. I'm more of the mind that There's some amount of hard work in my future, skills to learn. Can you point me at some resources that will help?

with gratitude,
Alan

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Re: Classical Cue Return - advice needed

Post by RPaul » Thu Feb 13, 2020 12:27 am

You may want to listen to the pieces that got forwarded (at https://blog.taxi.com/forward/021020/) for some more perspective. I'm not a classical guy, but, just listening to your mix to get an initial idea, then also to a few of the pieces that got forwarded, I suspect the main issue on the mix front is ambience. Your mix sounds pretty dry, not like it is in a real space. Most classical stuff I've heard has been more ambient

As for the sample library quality thing, it's interesting that you mention using Miroslav Philharmonik 2, as I just got the same sample library comment on another listing where I'd used that for strings (actually blended with Cakewalk SI-String Section, so it wasn't just using that -- it is on "Les mots que l'on ne sait pas dire" on my TAXI member page). That wasn't the main reason for the rejection (vocal performance wasn't jazzy enough on the tone and delivery). While I wasn't positive what the dated/lower quality comment referred to in my case, my best guess was that I was just playing a string section on keyboard, with full section sounds for Philharmonik 2, rather than doing individual section parts, paying attention to articulations, etc. (I simply ran out of time for the deadline to try to finesse that sort of thing, but I'm also not terribly sophisticated on the articulations front.) However, it could also be conceivable that they were referring to the actual sample library (or not to the strings at all). I know I'd also done another, somewhat more classical, piece for an earlier pitch ("Treasured Moments", which is also on my member page) where I'd use Philharmonik 2 and not gotten any adverse comments on sound quality (reason for rejection on that the vibe and tone didn't work for the spot, but the reviewer complimented the arrangement and said it was marketable). However, I just checked back to see what I used in that one, and, though the oboe was indeed just Philharmonik 2, I'd blended both the strings and French horns with other libraries (NI Session Strings 2 and a horns sample from VSL that was included in a Kontakt factory library, respectively), and the flute was just from a Kontakt factory library (piano was from Arturia).

In your case, I was initially feeling like the strings didn't sound all that authentic until a point later in the song where there is a more legato thing going, and that the oboe was feeling more like a keyboard-played oboe patch than a wind instrument. While that would have obviously been the case in the second piece I mentioned above, it could be that the blending of libraries on some parts, and having less exposed parts in some cases like the oboe, might have helped. Or it could be that it was just a different reviewer on that one (it was 309 for the second piece and 374 for the French song). In your case, it could also be that ambience might have made enough difference, too, since how dry things were might have made the samples sound less believable since they weren't in an environment where you might expect to hear them (or at least they didn't sound that way to me).

Rick

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Re: Classical Cue Return - advice needed

Post by mwb2 » Thu Feb 13, 2020 7:57 am

Hi Alan,

I don't know much about that specific library, but I would imagine there's lots you could do with it, especially with articulations (as already mentioned). Right away it sounded MIDI to my ears because every articulation sounded the same. It wasn't the quality of the sample that jumped out but the fact that it didn't sounded played on a keyboard. The sustain of the oboe also didn't sound natural to me, which could be the library but also could be the lack of a dynamic shape.

I'm guessing you may be familiar with the Debussy orchestration of the same piece? He arranged it differently than you of course but the oboe is a good reference point.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUlZylqILKI

Cheers,
Mike
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Re: Classical Cue Return - advice needed

Post by AlanHall » Thu Feb 13, 2020 8:17 am

Rick, thanks for listening. Your comments are much appreciated!
I did see the forwards blog and listen to some of the forwarded cues. I agree that I may be a little "ambience shy" as many of the forwards gave me the impression of being drenched in reverb. Covers the warts, I guess?
Also - after submitting the classical cue - I discovered the 'expression' controller number for MP2. CC12, whereas the slider on my keyboard defaulted to CC11. Keyboard remapped, and playing the expression makes a world of difference! I will revisit this piece with expression, articulation, and reverb in mind. But not right away, there are more cues to write...
Very much enjoy the songs on your member page :thumbs up:

Mike, I just saw your reply. Thank you as well.
Yes, I agree that articulations, phrasing, and other motion at the local scale will help breathe life into the library samples. I'm learning! :D
...and I though it was Ravel instead of Debussy, but in the distant past I have heard the orchestrated version. That did inform my color decisions in the first 16 bars or so.

The takeaway for me is that better effort on my part will bring returns. It's a pleasure to be on this wild ride with you.
Alan

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Re: Classical Cue Return - advice needed

Post by RPaul » Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:23 am

AlanHall wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 8:17 am
Rick, thanks for listening. Your comments are much appreciated!
I did see the forwards blog and listen to some of the forwarded cues. I agree that I may be a little "ambience shy" as many of the forwards gave me the impression of being drenched in reverb. Covers the warts, I guess?
Also - after submitting the classical cue - I discovered the 'expression' controller number for MP2. CC12, whereas the slider on my keyboard defaulted to CC11. Keyboard remapped, and playing the expression makes a world of difference! I will revisit this piece with expression, articulation, and reverb in mind. But not right away, there are more cues to write...
Very much enjoy the songs on your member page :thumbs up:
Thanks, Alan.

FWIW, I didn't listen to many of the pieces on the forwards page, nor to much of the ones I did listen to. I was just trying to get a little perspective of what the reviewer put forward to compare to my initial instincts. I wouldn't think "drenched in reverb" would be optimal. However, some classical venues (e.g. concert halls, cathedrals) would tend to have some fairly long reverb times. My thinking for classical and traditional jazz would be to try to make it sound like it is in a natural environment for the type of ensemble. So, for example, for a very large ensemble, maybe a concert hall, whereas a smaller one might be a more intimate venue. But this is just my theoretical thoughts -- it's not like I have any significant successes (or even any significant experience -- just a small number of dabbles) with either genre.

The controllers thing could definitely explain my impressions on the strings and oboe in your piece. I only used Philharmonik 2 a small number of times to date (I only got it a few months back when IK was having a really deep discount sale, and I was able to add some of the bonus points from past purchases to get it at a real steal of a price). Definitely haven't yet gotten into the fine control points with it, but I've also mostly been blending it with other libraries.

Rick

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Re: Classical Cue Return - advice needed

Post by AlanHall » Thu Feb 13, 2020 10:19 am

RPaul wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:23 am
I wouldn't think "drenched in reverb" would be optimal.
A few years ago, when 'space rock' was all the rage - OK, maybe more than a few years ago - I loved the long, roomy reverb and delays. Then as tastes changed, I found myself struggling with being able to create the ambiences that are almost imperceptible. I became sensitized to the point where if any reverb was obvious to me, my first response was that it's 'too much'. Hence the comment 'drenched in reverb'. Of course, as you point out, each style and more importantly each venue, requires a treatment appropriate to the expected ambience. Right on.
RPaul wrote: The controllers thing could definitely explain my impressions on the strings and oboe in your piece. I only used Philharmonik 2 a small number of times to date (I only got it a few months back when IK was having a really deep discount sale, and I was able to add some of the bonus points from past purchases to get it at a real steal of a price). Definitely haven't yet gotten into the fine control points with it, but I've also mostly been blending it with other libraries.
This piece was my very first attempt with MP2. So far I'm not onto the steep part of the learning curve, so I have hope for future progress.

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