VERY basic answers for VERY basic questions needed!!

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Member Since: Sep 03, 2008

Dear Anyone.

I'll be candid for starters. I'm a complete and utter noob to all things technical regarding music. I've posted these questions on another site and I just got jeered at by everyone there which wasn't in the least helpful. So I'm posting them here, they're SO basic they're BELOW the starting point of most help sites, rubbing my nose in online tutorials I've not found yet (or I wouldn't be asking the questions!!) is fine/welcomed!

Right. I use a notation program, Sionsoft QSE Elite and loads of legal, free plug-in instruments (I think they're called VST's, right?) to make my music with. I've also got a paid-for copy of Sonalkiss plug-ins which are reverb, gain, EQ etc - they're WAY too advanced for me yet, I'm just mentioning them so you know I've got them. I put in all the notes with a mouse onto staves - I'm disabled, I cannot physically play a keyboard well.

Right now, I'm trying to write New Age music (flute, strings'n'pads, piano'n'strings) just to get the hang of the basic techniques. What I want is to get the main instrument sounding like it's surrounded by all the other nice sounds (like on any New Agey track you've heard in a shopping mall/elevator/you know the kind of thing I mean, right?)

At the time of writing, I've yet to achieve this. What I always end up with is a 'crowd of voices' effect - everything shouting out to be heard above everything else! I've tried, without fully understanding, loads of tips from loads of sites and never come close to getting 3 sounds sounding in harmony WITH eachother, not ATTACKING eachother!

So with that in mind, here comes the ******* questions. If I've got anything wrong here, please tell me - remarks like 'Gawd, you're so stupid, give up on music' do not help.

(1). When you mix, you're adding compression/reverb/panning etc. to sounds. Can I add these 'as I go' or do I have to record the track as a soundfile and then use some kind of mixing studio program to add the effects afterwards? (Remember, I've the Sonalkiss plug-ins which add effects, I'm just no good at using them.)

(2). If you think it's better to record the soundfile first, do I record each instrument as a SEPARATE soundfile or do I record the whole piece as a COMBINED soundfile before trying to use the different effects?

(3). This one's the BIG question that always gets me laughed at. HOW would anyone here pan piano, strings and bass (or flute, s. and b.) so they don't (a) sound like they're at opposite ends of a train tunnel, (b) sound like they're a schoolkids' party, all trying to be heard and drowning eachother out, but (c) they're sounding beautifully blended like a cathedral choir? It's (c) I'm after. It's (a) and (b) I always, eternally, end up with! (Think of an orchestra. There's a shedload of sounds going on there, you hear them in unison but they don't sound like they're trying to drown eachother out.

If I could get, for starters, the hang of making a 3 instrument piece (piano, strings and bass, for example) sound vaguely like (c) from the above list, without using effects (I'm too much of a beginner for those things yet!) THEN I'd be happy to try effects out.

If there's any tutorials, anywhere, that start off as basic as I need them, please tell me and I'll use them. All the ones I've found assume you've got beyond that point. I haven't. I'm just an idiot who can write tunes. I need to be shown the very, very basics so I can become a New Age Music Writer, which is my aspiration!

Yours hopefully

ulrichburke

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Czar of Midi
Administrator
Since: Apr 04, 2002


Jun 14, 2009 08:50 pm

Hey Chris, welcome to HRC. And sorry you had bad experience's so far. We'll try to not have that happen here, I can pretty much promise that. Looks like the twits over at CTG were more content to argue with each other then help you.

And ya, I ran across that thread by chance looking for Scionsoft which is a program I'm not hugely familiar with. But that aside, I think we can help a bit. I'm an old New Age composer, spent more time in other genres lately but still listen to that genre often.

I'm probably one of the bigger software composer's here, or synth freak if you will. One thing that might help get us started on what direction you need work in is if you have a sample of one or two of your pieces that are giving you the bigger head ache as far as the sounds not fitting.

If you go up to your My Account button above and then to the sub menu Manage My Songs you can upload some samples here of bits you are working on that aren't coming out right.

I can tell you its not real difficult working with the strings until you get to huge layered sounds, but some string samples can cause a bit of headache here and there.

If you have a bit of patience I'll pop back and try and answer a couple of the basic question's for you and see if we can't get you started heading in a good direction.


Typo Szar
Member
Since: Jul 04, 2002


Jun 15, 2009 11:36 am

1. U can add effects as u go, its usually better to leave everything uneffected incase u want to tweak them in the future, just leaving ur options open. but there r some sounds and many situations where u know wat sound u want, u know wat it needs so u can just do it right from the get go. these situations usually have to do with reverb as sometimse ppl play differently reacting to reverb and such... note though that with electronic music its great that u can record a sound with a plug in to hear the effect but u can then take out the plug-in afterwards.

2. It is the best and most usual practice to record everything seperately, again so u can tweak and do all that stuff u want to it later. This is also in terms of mixing, if u were just working with a complete song file... its not really mixing at that point

3.this is pretty much 1 and 2 together, the art of mixing is just that.. an art and it just takes trial and errror and experience to do. so just hang in there

their r great tutorials in the tips section of this site, plus millions of articles all over the internet. I found taht teh best way to approach it is just to start and then google questions as they arise, mixing all together is pretty daunting so when i first started out i would do stuff and be like.. how does this compression work? google compression... how does reverb work? google reverb and so forth

im also highly diggin on sound on sound magazine nowadays..

bace135 in the house tonight!
Member
Since: Jan 28, 2003


Jun 15, 2009 03:04 pm

1. It doesn't look like your notation software provides you a way to use effects on the fly. I could be wrong, but that's what I gathered from a quick glance at the companies webpage. With that in mind, you will want to export to a multitrack program that will allow you to add the effects you want.

2. When you export, you want to render each instrument on its own so as to have the most flexibility when putting together your mix. This will allow you to make the reverb on the piano different from the reverb on the strings. Being able to add different types and varying amounts of effects on each instrument is what will allow them to blend nicely with each being in their own place in the mix.

3. To really get that nice professionally sounding mix, I'm sorry to say, but I thing you will need to use effects. The thing is, they take some practice, but if you read up on how they work a bit, you can start to do some pretty cool things with them. I wouldn't consider you too new to try them out. You will learn a lot from experimentation. But if you insist on waiting to try the effects, here's how I might start out with panning a piano, bass and strings.

First I would split the left hand and the right hand of the piano. I would pan the left hand to the left (say about 15-25) and pan the right hand to the left also, but not as far (say 8-15). Then I would take the strings and pan them to the right at about 15-20. Finally I would let the bass be just right of center maybe about 2-5.

Now that's a starting spot. If you really want the instruments to blend or have their own spot in the mix, I would look into using effects, specifically reverb which will help differentiate between forward and back (vs pan which is left/right). And eq will also, help with instruments that may want to step on each other such as piano and strings. There are some good articles on this site that explain compression and eq and other effects. I highly reccomend the eq one especially as it paved the way for me to start to understand how to use that tool.

Member
Since: Sep 03, 2008


Jun 15, 2009 04:32 pm

Dear Coolo.

You CAN use effects 'as you go' with QSE. If you click on the BLUE sliders in the row in the bottom-right hand side of the main window, you'll get a list of everything you're using, plus little boxes marked INSERTS. It's here you use the effects plug-ins, whatever you have around, the reverb, gain, compression etc. As inserts. I've tried using them but they only ever seem to make things worse!

I'm writing a new piece, just a shorty, my pieces are never more than about 3 minutes or so long anyway, using your advice. I'm keeping it simple, piano, strings, bass, maybe an acoustic guitar, all sampled sounds (i.e. plug-ins on the computer!) I'll post it up and you can all feel free to dissect it like the coroner on C.S.I. I know I can trust you guys to not be flip and sarky so don't say 'if we don't say it's great we'll hurt his feelings' - I'll find the articles, try out all they say and maybe between us, before you get pig-sick of the track, we'll be able to make it listenable. I won't say good, that implies the track's any good to begin with. But listenable!

I hope!

Get your earplugs ready, guys.....

Yours with great respect

ulrichburke

Czar of Midi
Administrator
Since: Apr 04, 2002


Jun 15, 2009 05:29 pm

I highly doubt earplugs will be needed.

Hold 'Em Czar
Member
Since: Dec 30, 2004


Jun 15, 2009 11:57 pm

if my little computer monitor speakers are capable of 120db's i'll need new pair of underwear before i need earpluggs.

MASSIVE Mastering, LLC
Member
Since: Aug 05, 2008


Jun 16, 2009 12:04 am

Maybe if you hooked them together and wore them like headphones...?

Hold 'Em Czar
Member
Since: Dec 30, 2004


Jun 16, 2009 12:06 am

ugh, just thinkin' about that hurts! 4khz in yer face! throw on the new metallica album and watch' yer ears bleed!

Member
Since: Sep 03, 2008


Jun 17, 2009 03:37 pm

Dear Everybody.

Well, here it is, the first track I've ever submitted anywhere. I didn't know what to call it really, so I just called it 'Hope You Like It', because I hope you do. I wrote it specially to submit here.

Hokay, it was born as a piano piece, then I discovered an Oriental flute plug-in called a Dizi, so it became a flute piece with a piano in the background. That's the great thing about computer music - it morphs!

Of course you're welcome to criticise, I've done the best I can, mixing wise, with the tips you've given me but I'm happy to have another go with more advice.

Hope someone listens to it!

Yours respectfully

ulrichburke

http://www.unitedmusicians.info
Contributor
Since: Nov 11, 2007


Jun 17, 2009 04:45 pm

Sounds great! I think you might benefit from using higher quality instrument plugins. Check out what East West has to offer for quality orchestral instrument sampling, I hear they are great but I'm not 100% sure if you could use them with the software you are using.

East West Samples
www.soundsonline.com/home.php

If you're looking for a good piano VST... I use the Art Vista Virtual Grand and love it.

Art Vista Virtual Grand
www.artvista.net/Virtual_Grand_Piano.html

One thing you should look for in your editing software: velocity. Changing velocity will effect how "hard" the note is played. This will give the arrangement a more dynamic and natural feel when used properly.

Sounds really good so far!

www.TheLondonProject.ca
Member
Since: Feb 07, 2005


Jun 17, 2009 06:42 pm

Well done! If you had the right tools you would be able to make this piece killer. The only thing is there is no quick tips to get you to the next level. You need to get better plug-ins for sure. Have you looked at Reason at all? It is an awesome program but it will take a bit to learn. You can get up and running quickly though.

www.propellerheads.se/products/reason/

Czar of Midi
Administrator
Since: Apr 04, 2002


Jun 17, 2009 10:38 pm

Chris, I'll be giving it a listen tomorrow evening. I am really looking forward to this indeed.

Member
Since: Sep 03, 2008


Jun 18, 2009 02:33 am

Dear Beerhunter.

Thanks a million, you and everyone, for listening. Believe it or not, that sucka's the best piece I've ever written. So far!

Honesty time. I've GOT compression/E.Q./GAIN software. I've also got - just got the code for it - N-Track studio. IS it the samples aren't good enough, or is it just that I don't know how to handle the effects (Reverb, etc.) I've got a strong, schneaky feeling that if I was better at handling the effects, the sounds would sound better. Why? Because I've listened to LOADS of things like the Ray Hamilton Orchestra (a.k.a. Ray Hamilton and a bunch of synths - you've heard similar stuff echoing down lift shafts!!) and the basic, core sounds don't sound so much better than mine. It's just they seem to be far, far better polished up/put together. THAT'S the bit I've been batting my head against for years.

I've actually got a copy of Reason, legit, paid for, I think it's version 3 but I'll have to dig it out and check. It's just.....

I got classically trained in music. I got taught how to use notes and to play piano (as best I could - my co-ordination probs always got in the way!) When I got my comp. I bought Reason - and saw bar graphs instead of notes, acres of tiny buttons, heard loads of sounds WOULD be gorgeous if all the right things were done to them and found myself devoutly wishing Spock would beam down to help me out with it all!. I fought the thing resolutely for a couple of months, never got one decent sounding tune out of it (O.K., Vangelis I'm NOT, but you know what I mean!) and dumped the thing from my hard drive.

This notation package has got something called Rewire, which is supposed to let you link up to Reason directly, so fine. I'll dig the monster back out again and give it another go.

Most of the instruments, apart from the fluty thing, came from a package called Proteus which is a legit. free download with over 500 sounds in it. (Too many basses, in my opinion, but it might be useful for you, or others, to download - no, this is NOT a spam!) The fluty thing's a DIZI from Chinee Winds, another legit freebie. Both packages get rave reviews everywhere, that's why I think it's my lack of polishing that's the prob.

So I'll 'ave another go and post the result. Back to the housework - I've got an apartment that reaches out and shakes me warmly by the nose when I come in. That's GOTTA change!

Yours respectfully

ulrichburke

Czar of Midi
Administrator
Since: Apr 04, 2002


Jun 18, 2009 04:59 pm

OH YA!!! That was plenty cool indeed. I liked the piece to tell the truth.

To answer on the instrumentation sounds thing. That is really a two sided sword.

A little background on me. That music you hear in lift shafts? For years I was guilty of doing those for different companies. Cover's of any song from any genre done to take advantage of the General Midi format player's so many Muzak systems were integrating years ago, and still to this day. Odd's are you have heard my work in one of those things.

Back to your stuff. The song is all there and as stated above there are probably a couple of things you can do by simply writing in velocity changes and such to make it work and sound like you think it should.

I agree on the Proteus X plugin as well. Its cool but a bit limited on what they actually do give you. I own real hardware Proteus synth modules so I do know what they can really do.

I would like to ask if you could make a list of all the instrument software you have available and post it here. I think we can get you headed down the right road pretty easily.

Also, does the Scionsoft program allow you to save the piece as a .mid file? If so, you could do that, making sure you have named the correct instruments you used for each part. If you would like you can email it to me and I can do a simple edit or two on the velocity so you can look and see exactly what I am talking about.

Member
Since: Apr 26, 2006


Jun 18, 2009 09:59 pm

I cannot offer constructive opinion to this for lack of knowledge, But I can say this type of music is something that I would not have listened to in the past. But I did listen to this and I liked it. So I would say you must have done something right. Cause it worked for me.

Member
Since: Sep 03, 2008


Jun 19, 2009 04:26 am

Dear Overkill/Everybody.

I must say I've felt very cheered since coming to this site! I hadn't written anything for awhile until I came here, now I'm starting again.

Thanx for liking it, Bluesdues.

Right. What have I got. I've got Reason, Kontakt (with all the samples that came with it, nothing else), Proteus plug-in, SaFfron (yep, that capital F's not a mistype!) Soundfont Player - it only plays simple soundfonts, but it's got a nice choir sound that comes with it. I've also got True Pianos and the free ErHu and DiZi plug-ins from Chinee Winds. (I know the ErHu's a string instrument.)

I've also got N-Track Recording Studio version 6, Audacity and WavePad.

As far as Velocity goes, Overkill, as you'll know, not everything accepts its existence. A lot of the sounds on Proteus will accept the velocity I put in in QSE, there's also a bunch that flatly refuse to believe its existence. With the ones that don't believe in it, zero velocity is sound-off, velocity ANYWHERE between zero and 127 = 127. So you have to do everything with volume. With Kontakt, the velocity problem's nearly universal. About 80% of Kontakt sounds, again as you prob. know (but I'm saying this anyway just incase) won't believe velocity exists. Zero = note off, 1 onwards=127.

Volume works fine with everything, everywhere. I've got a sorta theory, based on nothing but guesswork, that it's sampled sounds that don't like velocity, generated sounds that do accept velocity. But I could be very wrong on that. That's just guesswork because all the sounds I KNOW are sampled won't take velocity. But some of the ones that ARE taking velocity could be sampled too....

Confusing one, that!

Assuming the sounds I'm talking about for the purposes of the following question DO take velocity, is there any way of changing the volume of a sound on the same stave, so you can have it louder/quieter without changing the velocity? I ask that because at the moment I have to keep the volume constant and just use velocity to make a sound louder/quieter, but sometimes if you change the velocity it changes the timbre of the note, the note sounds more muffled or sharper, suddenly. If I want to have an instrument at lots of different volumes, I have to use lots of different staves, each set to a different volume, for that instrument - you only get 16 staves and you can run out of them pretty quickly like that! (Feel free to point me to a tutorial on any of this, I know they must exist all over the internet, but all the ones I find give you a teaser then want hundreds of dollars for the rest of the article/course. I don't mind a few bucks but hundreds are outside my budget right now!)

Reason.... It's all those tiny little buttons filling the screen, the barcharts instead of notes (WHY do they ASSUME musicians can't read music???) and the real killer - if you put a note in, you can't hear it until you play the whole piece back. Which means you're constantly playing the piece just to see if one note sounds right. In QSE, you hear the note AS you're putting it in so you KNOW if it's right or not! Like I say, QSE does have Rewire so I can link it up to Reason, if you think Reason's sounds are better than any of the others I've got (and if they all respond to Velocity instead of being selective) I'll use those instead.

MIDI - sure it saves in MIDI format. I'd be very honoured for you to have a MIDI of a piece. Do you want it in Type 1 (saves all voices separately) or Type 0 (saves all voices as one lump) format? I need to know which format before I post it for you.

I'm very touched by you all. Thanks!

Yours respectfully

ulrichburke

bace135 in the house tonight!
Member
Since: Jan 28, 2003


Jun 19, 2009 07:42 am

Another thing you can do is to save the file in midi and then import the file into Reason and select the sounds from there. The one drawback to Reason in my opinion is you can't really use outside synths, but they do have quite a few nice sounds that come with the program.

I also liked the piece. When I was starting out, I was in a similar situation, though I wasn't using notation software and I was limited to only using soundfonts. The way I go about things, is I compose without really mixing (just volume) and then I take everything into a multitrack and mix there (using effects and such. I'm saying this because I'm used to being able to see the potential of a mix based on the instrument prior to hearing the mix. With that said, I think with a proper mix you would be able to get this to sound very nice. The only instrument that might still sound "cheesy" is one that comes in around at 50 secs and is panned slightly left (I can't even identify what it's supposed to be). There are better strings out there as well, but I think you could get by with the ones you have. Just my two cents.

As for a proper mix, I think several of the instruments especially the flute could benefit from some reverb or slight delay. Eq would also help some and could help the kick drum have a bit of thump. I could go into more detail, but I'm not sure you're ready to try with the effects yet. But let me know.

Czar of Midi
Administrator
Since: Apr 04, 2002


Jun 19, 2009 01:22 pm

I only have a minute here but a couple of question's for you.

Most if not all samples should be able to respond to velocity in just about all the sample players including Kontakt. I use Kontakt as well and there are really only a few that do not respond to velocity in it.

What version of Kontakt are you using? It might just be a setting. I will have a look later in mine and see if I can find it.

Member
Since: Sep 03, 2008


Jun 19, 2009 02:41 pm

Dear Overkill.

You said you wanted a piece as a MIDI file so you could try out velocity and stuff. I've not been able to find out if anything I labeled in QSE would KEEP its labeling in anything else, so I've written a new piece for you. It's a solo piano job, straight classical, theme and variations. Just piano, top'n'bottom hand, I've posted it as a sound file and as a MIDI file (that's assuming the posting part here allows you to post non-sound files - some places think MIDI files are text files, therefore potential spam, therefore velly solly no postee!)

Hope you like it.

Thanx as always

ulrichburke

Member
Since: Sep 03, 2008


Jun 19, 2009 02:54 pm

Sorry, Overkill, it won't let me post a MIDI file - it says 'only files with .MP3 extensions allowed'. So I've had to put it in my 4Shared folder, the link's here:-

www.4shared.com/file/112923738/f768c5d6/
Theme_and_Variations_MIDI_1_version.html

I'll 'ave another go at a loadsa instruments one for the next one I do (not THAT loadsa!) - at least solo piano jobs aren't as frustrating, mixing wise.

Thank you very, very much in advance.

ulrichburke


Member
Since: Sep 03, 2008


Jun 19, 2009 08:23 pm

Dear Overkill

I should have asked you this before. What string samples/software/plugin/whatever do you use when you're writing music that's going to be used in Muzak (sorry for the term!) setups? The only reason I used the strings I did were because they were the best I could find amongst the software I had installed (I don't have Kontakt/Reason currently installed but I'm rectifying that!)

Basically - this answer will get me off your back for awhile! - how do you set up a nice, warm bed of strings to put behind a piano, etc? If you tell me the name of a few strings programs you use I'll try to find them and buy them online, when I can afford them (I'm saving up for stuff all the time.)

Thanks again for all your help

ulrichburke

Czar of Midi
Administrator
Since: Apr 04, 2002


Jun 19, 2009 09:50 pm

Chris, I got the file and am giong to tranfer it over to the studio box in a bit and open it up in Sonar and a few others to make sure its working and keeps its naming and patch structure. It appears correct so far.

I'll be back to answer some more of your question's either a bit later tonight or tomorrow sometime.

And if you would like, midi files are very small you can simply email them as my email is posted with my info.

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