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  • Tutorials

    hi all, bought vsl special edition in february to write the music for a play. i basically just used one solo string at a time to build up my pieces (never exceeding more than 6-8 instruments on any one piece). now that that is done i'd like very much to get more deeply into vsl.... building matrices, utilizing articulations more completely, etc. the vsl tutorial videos don't seem to get it for me - maybe i'm just too slow. can anyone suggest a site(s) where i may find some basic, clearly explained explanations for the vsl/special edition program? thank you much.

  • I was in the place you describe. I still consider myself a beginner, but I was absolutely in the world of overwhelm when I first bought VSL. However, if you methodically and meticulously read the manual that came w/ Special Edition, it DOES cover the material you need. And I needed to watch the tutorial videos twice to get it. The one that help me especially was on "Patches and Matrices" - watch it again. As overwhelming as they seem, you CAN get a long way with them. BUT I DO HEAR YOU - I, TOO, WISH THERE WERE A MORE COMPREHENSIVE AND USER-FRIENDLY TURORIAL. APPARENTLY SO DO MANY MANY USERS, BECAUSE I SEE THIS SAME REQUEST (COMPLAINT?) ALL OVER THE FORUM.

  • I'm also just beginning to learn to work with the VSL SE bundle. Besides the VSL tutorials, you might check out Beat Kaufmann's on-site tutorials at Another interesting exercise I'm doing is to go through the SE demo music (the music piece by Christian Kardeis used in the VSL video demo of the Special Edition) part by part, seeing what patches are used for each instrument, what MIDI controls are used (mostly velocity crossfade), and how it all fits together. Also, for me, it's a way to learn more about Sonar Home Studio and how it displays all this stuff!. (The SE video demo music files are available on this site, see "User Area/Overview/Videos/Training Videos"). I'd been considering doing a short writeup about the above, if anyone else would be interested. I assume most folks here are far beyond that, and don't need it. -) I'm also going to try working my way through some of the other demo pieces from the Demo Zone which have provided midi files, with the same sort of analysis. It's like reading someone else's software code, to figure out how it works. -) I hope these ideas help! VSL is quite a product, a lot of fun to work with, and I'm learning a lot! Larry Samuels

  • I second Beat's Tutorials.  He's a kind man and an amazing musician.  It is not a step by step how to use Vienna products, but it will teach you a lot of other things you need to know.

    I hope I am not stepping on his toes here but Beat will be releasing in the late summer, a complete tutorial that is directly about making music with VSL products.  I have gained a lot from his tutorials so I am excited about that release.  You can also see on his site some freebies he gives (tips and tricks for VSL users).

    Other then that, what I have found to be best for me was to download Christians demo and disect his settings etc.  It helps even more if you are using the brand sequencer his demo provides.  Hell, just the demo Sound Designer settings ALONE were super valuable to me.  Cleaned some of my muddy sounding reverb up on other songs!

    Once you get some basic stuff going knowledge wise, I highly recommend you start SIMPLE.  Do not jump into a 500 instrument patch setup or you will get so over whelmed that it will probably discourage you.  Pick a simple beautiful piece with say 3-4 instruments (solo violin/cello, Piano, Bass, and perhaps an oboe or woodwind instrument).  This way you can see how the samples react, learn the difference in the patches (because most all instruments have the same patches so if you learn what rep-legato patch sounds like on oboe, you will already know when it's good to use for flutes etc. in most cases).

    Also by starting with a simple 3-4 instrument setup you can really learn to make it sing a strong melody.  I also find solo instrumenting to be easier to reverb because I can spread the 3-4 musicians across the stage, give a smidge of reverb and it's golden!  When you get an entire orchestra going, whew, it gets way more complicated.  Remember to start simple, even if you think your brains saying go all out and do an entire symphony.  Once you learn realism and other tricks, you can apply that knowledge to all your instruments.  I always find myself getting better results with LESS instruments.  The more you add, the stronger of a player/sampler you need to be knowledge wise (EQ'ing, Reverb, Panning etc).  And as you will soon find, getting sections of strings to sound real is hard as hell for us beginners.  Solo's aren't hard at all, add 20 more violins to that equation, 14 more violas, 8 cellos and 6 basses and then mixing them becomes very difficult.  I cannot wait for the new Vienna Suite to come out with the reverb etc because I am hoping that VSL will be able to give me more guidance knowing I am using ALL vienna products from start to finish (minus Logic Studio).  They will be giving lots of presets as well which will grow over time.  I am hoping for my sake this will save me time and energy and increase my productivity and motivation.

    One last note.  I also downloaded EVERY tutorial video the site has into a folder I take with me on my laptop.  I swear every time I watch them, I learn something.  There's no way to get all the information in one day.  You're in this for the long haul so buckle down, be patient and realize that even the guys who write the best demo's on this site, spend a lot of time making that demo.  Watch the videos, load matrices and play around with things.  I prefer to play tracks in, in real time.  I am a concert pianist so that is easier for me and saves me the time of having to adjust tempos and velocities etc later.  If you are even partially skilled you might want to consider learning now, get a decent midi keyboard and learn to play in your parts.  It will sharpen you skills on many levels.  Plus if you can play in live the main theme etc and make it sound how you like it, it makes filling in the notes for the other parts much easier with a simply copy past to the other tracks.  As a side note, learning how to use the "speed controller" will help you tremendously if you're a keyboard player already.  It saves me a lot of time.

    Go slow, be patient and be ready to be discouraged sometimes.  It's normal but the results are worth it.  Stick with it and you will not only amaze yourself, but your friends and family around you how real you can make it sound.  I am not much further ahead of you, that is why I know this first hand.  Took me some time to get here but the results I am getting now made the hard road worth it.


  • I was so glad to read this thread - I thought I was rather isolated in my not-fully-understanding situation. For me, it's been really heavy-going  and still is. But since I'm basically a positive person AND I have a passion to be able to use the full nuances from VSL I'm not giving up !

    I'd be interested in any 'write-ups' you produce.

    Question: you mentioned Sound Designer for reverb ............... do you mean Space Designer in Logic ?


  • Greetings, I have the SE here since today and so far I find it pretty straight forward to use. Then again, I use Kontakt and other software from Spectrasonics as well, so I do not find it that hard to get used to the VI GUI. What bugs me is the sluggish response of the interface, but this is something which was adressed somweher else on the fora already. As for tutorials, yeah, more comprehensive stuff would always be a useful addition of course. I agree with what was said, a complex instrument such as VI needs to be mastered a step at a time, don't rush it, rather take it slow.

  • cgernaey,

    Like SeaDream, I also wanted to ask about what you wrote:

    "the demo Sound Designer settings ALONE were super valuable to me"

    Could you say more about what this is?  Possibly more a part of your sequencer than of VSL? 

    Note: when I opened up the sample Cakewalk project for the SE Demo, I found it referred to some Sonitus and Cakewalk effects, like reverb,delay, and multiband, that just weren't on my Cakewalk installation. Might "Sound Designer" be some effect?

    By the way, I'm hoping my line breaks and paragraph breaks show up in this message. -)  My last message was my first post and I didn't realize how it looked.

    Larry Samuels

  • My apologies for saying "Sound Designer" as it is in fact Space Designer.  That was a typo.  So yes I was refering to the included Reverb System that Logic provides at no additional cost.  It is pretty good.  It is not as good as Altiverb and most certainly will not be anything close to MIR but it does do a decent job.

    What I was refering to when I mentioned the "sound designer settings" (which should have said "Space Designer Settings") was this.  In Christians demo he was generous enough to pass along his own personal VSL reverb settings for Space Designer.  He included the file as part of the demo so all I had to do was drop that file into my Logic impulse responses and viola, I had exactly the same reverb setting he was using.  Given his larger experience etc he was able to get much more a realistic reverb (room) sound then I was with my settings.  So immediately it cleaned up my instruments and made them sound more realistic just by picking this room effect as compared to the other ones that Space Designer already offered and then trying to manipulate the wet/dry mix etc to get desireable results.  It's not an easy task by any means and thus why I am so geeked that they are coming out with their own reverb system.  This way, THEY will do most all the work making presets etc that already sound amazing, thus saving me (you) time so we can do more of what we want to do (music).  Until then though, the Space Designer IR he gave in the demo is my current reverb system.

    The key to making VSL products sound good is properly reverbing them and giving them each their own space.  Not only "room space" which convolution reverbs provide (Space Designer, Altiverb etc.) but also panning and spacing them out properly on the stage (mix).  EQ'ing etc also helps to super fine tune that last little bit of realism, but I don't always find it needed.  VSL Samples are very dry recordings (translation, they can tend to sound right in your face and very direct.  There is almost zero ambience to them.  This sounds good if that's the effect you're going for but is more closely matched to you standing directly a few feet from the musician).  This is actually the best option we have at the moment as it gives you total control of how much reverb you want/need or if you decide you want a brutal in your face attack sound it's there too.  This won't sound right when trying to do an orchestral mockup because for one, you're not 2 feet away from EVERY instrument in the orchestra.  Secondly, different acoustical rooms provide different acoustical responses, reflections and sounds all manipulated by time (size of room).

    Here is a slight example of the above information of how I would go about a super small layout of say 3-4 instruments to make them sound more realistic.  Remember I am no super pro at this, I just know what I've found along the way to sound good to me.

    1.  What instruments will I be using?  Once I determine this thought I ask myself the following.

    2.  What role will each of the instruments play in the mix.  Will the Cello be main melody or just be a steady base line?  Will the piano play a dreamy effect in the background or be the main theme?  (This will be affected by the genre of music and era the piece stems from).

    3.  Once I have made my determination of what role the instruments play (which is subject to change at any given time [:D]) I find it easiest for me, to then record the main theme of the track in realtime.  So if the main theme is going to be lead by the piano, I will sit down and record in realtime as much of the main theme as I can so that I have something to work with for all instruments.  For instance I started one on the weekend and I decided Cello would lead the theme.  I recorded the theme in realtime using a few simple patches (it doesn't have to be every patch yet or the perfected mix of matrices).  The most important part was getting the notes in, and the timing and some controller messages.  I can always go back later and type in, or record live controller/patch change messages and point them to different samples then what I started with to make it a more realistic recording.  By doing this, I don't have to fuss with tempo changes, note lengths etc because it is already "realistic" sounding because it's not computer generated timing, it was true fluent tempo set by my own interpretation.  You can also manually input the notes and edit them as well.  That just isn't my prefered way of doing it.  Try both, see which you like.  See which one gets the job done faster and remember the more you do the same process over and over the faster you become.  So try it, then pick a method and go with it and if it works very well for you try to adapt that method every time.

    4.  Once you have the main theme in place you now have everything you need to fill in the other instruments one at a time (or more then one if they will be playing the exact same line).  Example might be supporting instruments of brass playing the same notes, or string ensembles playing the same lines you could take the entire section by instrument type (brass, strings etc).  Right now we're only dealing with 3-4 instruments though so at this point let's pick one.  I am going with piano.  Why?  Well because it's my favorite instrument [:P] and one I feel right at home with.

    5.  So now I setup my track for piano and have it ready for recording live.  Because in step 3 I played the main theme in realtime, it becomes much easier for me to support that theme.  Because it came from within me (the tempo etc) so it's second nature at this point for me to record another instrument along side of it.  I hit the record button and my Cello starts playing, leading me into my piano intro.  I am now free to fill in sound all around this Cello.  I am pretty much able to do anything I want except steal to much attention from the main theme line that the cello is driving through my mix.  (you can also always place notes in manually and achieve the same results, just not anywhere nearly as fast).  It might take someone 1-2 days work to input the right notes and get it to sound correct, as where in realtime if you sharpen your skills, it can be done in 1-3 minutes.  As for my case, I recorded the cello live.  Took me about 5-6 times to get it how I wanted it.  I didn't edit notes, I simply played it over and over until it sounded exactly what I wanted.  That took me about 20-30 minutes but is the entire core to the song so that's not bad I don't think.  I then recorded the piano part in one take which took me about 2 minutes.  What a time saver!

    6.  After I record my second instrument (or manually put in notes) I would sit at my DAW and make sure they blend nicely and that the sections come in together nicely (I don't want to hear notes dragging or late, or coming in 1 beat to early etc).  If needed I can mock it up and clean that up before I move on to my next instrument.  I do this now because I already know I am going to record my next instrument in realtime so I want my previous instruments to be in sync.  Most of the time I get lucky and need to only fix a couple of notes.  Sometimes I get even more lucky and have to fix none.

    7.  Now in my example I now have a cello and piano part completely good to go!  This is very powerful because the piano gives me SO many options with it's notes.  In some instance I find the notes that are part of my piano recording already perfect for my last 1-2 instruments.  I can simply STEAL them from that track and place them strategically where I want them.  The only thing I have to do now is place a velocity and key switches/controller messages.  Of course I can also just load up a matrix and record it live as well.  For simple parts like Double bass I find it just as easy to steal the notes and place them and call it a day since the tempo etc is already set!

    8.  Now that I have all my instruments recorded (input manually) There is ALWAYS something that's odd about it.  What the hell could it be?  This is where experience comes in so I hope this helps (I am no pro compared to Beat, Guy, Jay, Dietz, Christian, DG etc).  First of all the mix is all wrong.  Every instrument is SMASHED together in the dead center of the mix.  This cannot be!  This is rubbish!  It's time to think sit back in your chair, stair off into your room towards your studio monitors and begin to "imagine" what the room look like that you're performing in because we need to get an imaginary perception of the room acoustics we will be up against.  Is this a small dixie band bar room?  Maybe it's a beautiful small recital stage at your local university?  Let's go with option 2!

    9.  Now I have to imagine where the instruments are going to sit on the stage (this is so important and one of the main reasons number 7 is rubbish sounding).  Once you have determined in your mind where each of the 3-4 instruments is on the stage it's time to "pan" them to that position.  Sequencers do this but I find Vienna panning is much more superior!  So do your panning in VE3 or in Vienna Suite if you have them.  If not, your sequencer will suffice.  There are "typical" room/instrument setups that people use and conductors but, you are not bound by them so dream away and do whatever the hell you want!

    10.  Now that each instrument is sitting in it's own space on the stage, it sounds much better and realistic but somethings still missing.  It's time to give the mix it's "room" space.  This is you're own taste depending on your vision.  This is the part I mentioned above that Christian's Space Designer gave me more realistic results.  Applying reverb can be very demanding on CPU etc so for me, I always "freeze" my tracks at this point (a Logic command that bounces an offline audio file of the track and plays it instead of the live sampler).  This reduces my CPU load by about 90-95% per track.

    11.  At this step I do my Mixing of volume for each instrument to blend the mix to my liking.

    12.  Now this may be backwards or late compared to what other people do but for me, this is the time I really sit down and start really listening to each instrument to be sure they are playing the patches I want them to play.  I now have a realistic room sound.  I have a realistic position on the stage, but now could I possibly increase my matrix for each instrument and manually put in some further key changes and controller messages to be sure that I am getting as close to the real performer sound?  Maybe a portamento would sound good here, and some of those notes played staccato would sound even better then legato etc.  Now I am free to play around with my samples a bit but all the while, it sounds incredibly real to me and I get an instant idea of (eww no way) or yes!  That is much better!  (to do this, you have to unfreeze your tracks obviously as once you freeze them, you cannot edit the midi data etc.  I do this one track at a time).

    13.  Now I am ready to bounce the project to an audio file for a listen on my main Stereo system and car etc to see how it sounds level wise.

    Now there is probably a few other things I do along the way but wow I didn't expect to get so in detail as I just did.  This should be a good idea of what I do though and hopefully it helps you.  If I have missed anything or what I am saying is complete BS feel free to jump in and say otherwise [:D].


  • That was  a great answer, Maestro !  I'm not functional at the moment because my external HD -containing my VSL samples has given up the ghost.

    I hope I receive a replacement quickly. Bit frustrating.  But I can spend some time re-looking at the tutorials ( have watched them many times ).  And browsing this forum - and the Logic one - is a wonderful way to gain info and experience an 'Aha' feeling when the penny suddenly drops.