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  • Using VSL horns in jazz rock: help needed

    Hello there, I produced sort of a jazz rock song with VSL Bb Trumpet, Tenor Trombone, Alto- Tenor- and Baritone Saxophone. A couple of days ago I posted it in another forum and was harshly critizised for the sound and the performance of the horns. Something like: "No sax player with a bit of self-respect would do a performance like that." Here is the song: Actually I don't know what I am doing wrong. To me it sounds like a regular performance.Any hint how I can improve this would be welcome. By the way: You guys from VSL Beat, Guy, Jay and Christian, who produce all this fantastic demos and tutorials. Can one of you give us a tutorial for those instruments which are not "orchestral" in the first place just like the saxophones? Please let unexperienced and helpless users like me be part of the magic of your great samples. Thank you and best regards Jochen

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    Hello Jochen

    I'm playing the saxophone as well and I can say it's an instrument which can produce so many different sounds,

    that I've found no library until today which can make me happy.

    Listen to this Video:

    The main difference to your performance is that Rollins uses for each new tone a "new articulation".

    Your performance seems to be played with the sustain or the legato articulation (mainly).

    So it sounds not much more better than a common midi-sound-version (Sorry for being so straight). This shows us

    once more. Just using samples doesn't make the race.

    As an example: Check out your version at 2:44... the Ta Ta / Tat Ta... are you using staccatos here?

    Even better would be Taaaata taaaata... (more swing-/jazz-like): Translated to articulations:

    • portato long, staccato / portatoto long, staccato...


    • sfz, stc / sfz /stc.

    This is the way to create a more interesting and real piece - just as the real saxophone player it would do as well.

    So a rule in general could be: Use different articulations as often as possible so that the music becomes more real.

    BTW: This rule is a general one for all instruments:


    The dynamic - range: The Saxophones within your piece play more or less always with the same volume.

    A real saxophone comes with a huge dynamic range. Try to use this parameter in a better way as well.

    You asked about tutorials:

    Tutorial "Music with Samples" treats the theme "How to get a style with samples" within its first Part "MIDI-TO-SAMPLE"

    The tutorial tries to simulate the baroque style. Nevertheless, it's about accents, long and short notes, interpretation etc.

    Here is an Example (mp3) with such phrases and using different samples for getting accents etc.

    Unfortunately, this tutorial isn't for free.

    All the best and a lot of success!


    - Tips & Tricks while using Samples of VSL.. see at: - Tutorial "Mixing an Orchestra":
  • Hi Beat, first I want to thank you for listening and the detailed answer. You say that you play saxophone and you are not happy with all existing libraries. I am sure that all guitar players say the same about all guitar samples and all drummers about drum libraries. Unfortunately a very few of us amateur composers have a rock band, orchestra or jazz ensemble at hand to play our music. This is why these libraries exist. And to me VSL is the best one, by the way. I watched that Sonny Rollins video, great performance of course, but I do not think that you can compare this to my song, because in the video there is always only one leading instrument at a time (sax or guitar). This gives room for ornaments and variations and many ways of individual expression. In my example the first theme (8 bars long) is played by the tenor sax. For this part I used 13 different articulations in various sequences including portamento, grace notes, sforzatos, performance repetition and sustain and legato with and without vibrato. The next 8 bars are performed by trumpet and alto sax. No portamentos and grace notes here to minimize the risk of an incorrect performance just as I would demand from players in the real world, so the two instruments appear as a unit. I don't really know how to explain my musical conviction. I believe that the individual (human or sample) has to stand back for the sake of the song. In other words, the more instruments the less room for variations (articulations) in my opinion. You mentioned the short notes at 2:44. These are both short portatos, where you suggest different articulations and lengths for the two notes.In the real world I would brief the musicians like that: 'Make the second note a clone of the first one. Support the mechanical and machine-like character of this section. All for the sake of the song.' Dynamic range: Here I use velocities around 60 for mezzopiano, around 80 for mezzoforte and around 100 for forte. The fortissimo samples (velocities higher than 104) I use rarely because I don't like the quite harsh sound that much. And there are no sections for piano or pianissimo articulations in this song, I believe. Your tutorials: I have bought both as a bundle a year or so ago. Very good and helpful. I thought I did a good job here. Obviously I was wrong (sigh). But as we say in the trade: Hope dies last. At last one technical question for this forum: How do I get linefeeds in my posts??? Best regards Jochen

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    @Another User said:

    I watched that Sonny Rollins video, great performance of course, but I do not think that you can compare this to my song,..

    The video shall show that no tone sounds like the other even if you play jazz or any other style with a saxophone. The more you can "copy" this matter the more you come closer to the reality. Oviously you used several articulations... So what is improving point?

    I've just listened to your piece once more.... The rythm section is so powerful and the saxophone seems to be the oposit: it sounds weak - compared to the rythm section.

    Maybe this disparity disturbs the listener because a Saxophon can play as crunchy and powerfull as well.

    So you could try, that your saxophones enhance the groove of the rythm a bit more and I'm sure that the piece will make a jazzy step foreward.

    Enhance the groove of the rythm?

    Unfortunately I hadn't had a lot of time this evening - but I produced a short piece which shall show what I mean with "more powerfull/more groove".

    OK, the mix and the music is "nothing special" and the sound of the VSL-saxophone isn't to my taste, you know.

    Further, it goes maybe a bit too far and the style here corresponds not quite to yours, Nevertheless....


    So use maybe more sfz, gib auch mal volle Karotte (127) für accents and so on...

    Jochen, don't be disappointed. I produced once a nice with an orgen which sounded very well to me. One day I got a very wicked mail. The writer was an organist who tried to play what he heard from my file. Obviously he hadn't enough hands and feet for playing. He was right  - it wasn't playable with one organist.

    So what should this example tell us: Show your saxophone piece to the whole world but not to any saxophone player - and you only will receive praise...[;)]

    In other words: You probably did a good job. I'm the wrong man for judging it.

    All the best


    - Tips & Tricks while using Samples of VSL.. see at: - Tutorial "Mixing an Orchestra":
  • Hi Beat, sorry for the late answer, but I am very busy at the moment (unfortunately not music related). I want to thank you for the time and energy you spent in creating this example for me. However, after thinking about your opinion ( and the ones I got in the other forum) I came to the conclusion that it will be best if I let these horns be played by real musicians. Let's hear what it sounds like with a human performance. Again thank you and best regards Jochen

  • Hi Jochen

    Because the VSL-Soxophones are more recorded the classical way (for playing classical music) you maybe need to buy anothe library for your stil of music.

    I've found a Saxophone library which could make the race. Please visit this page:

    Ok - demos are always demos, but these saxophones seem to sound very jazzy... and they are not that expensive...


    - Tips & Tricks while using Samples of VSL.. see at: - Tutorial "Mixing an Orchestra":
  •  hello Jochen,

    I listened to your original piece, and I immediately had the impression - the saxes just do not have enough attack and pitch bending and timbre changes,  etc.  In other words, they sound too tame and without much variety.  So that is probably why those guys were telling you they didn't like it.  I have not tried doing any jazz-type things with the saxes myself.  I would like to though.    However it might be possible to make them more jazzy by emphasizing the extreme in every way possible - for example, use more sforzando attack, more portamento, more hard attacks, etc.  Because a lot of what is considered jazzy is actually contained in many normal articulations like those, but used more often.   That was at least my impression.  Somehow I doubt that the VSL saxes cannot be used for jazz.

  • jazz horns practice has a lot of *gestures* that will be hard, if not impossible to fake with 'normal articulations'.

    the easier way will be to get a library that includes the appropriate articulations. WarpIV music has jazz-style horns. It's keyswitch city, but I doubt this is exactly anathema to a VSL user. sounds excellent and quite convincing. potentially you have more control with sample modeling, but it's going to be more work in general. WarpIV has a variety of sections as well.

  • Also, part of this is not technical, it is purely musical.  For example a true portamento is a purely jazz type articulation, even though it is included within "classical" sampling.   Also, if you switch to a trill - that can be extremely jazz-like, even though it is a straight classical articulation.  Also, pitch bend can work within a semitone if it is not too slow even without formants being corrected, etc.   So it depends on the exact line, and how you interpret within the articulations that are available.  And there are many in the saxophones sampled here. 

  • well, to be frank, the musician sampled in the VSL saxophones has a kind of classical embouchere in my estimation, compared to someone that doesn't do classical repertoire. the attack is just different, the attitude...

    your remark per pitch bend is spot-on.

  • I used VSL saxes and slide guitar etc in an entry for song contest as part of the Titanic April 15th thing. I wrote it in a country and western style and it would have suited Jim Reeves. It was turned down flat. I thought it was because of the sound but it was cited as refused under 'bad taste' and nothing to do with VSL at all. It's called 'There's Light at the End of the Funnel'....(as you sink to the depths below etc ect)  - and as far as I was concerned was an antidote for all things bloody Titanic.

  • If you're not just being in top form yet again Paul (with Brit humour), please post the number!

  • Hi Beat, I listened to the samplemodeling instruments. Seems pretty interesting. I also watched some youtube videos where the samples were played with the wind controller AKAI EWI. Quite convincing to me. But they also say that this wind controller has to be learned like any other "real" instrument. If I only had the time...maybe in the future. As I mentioned before: for this project I will find human players.
    Best regards

  • PaulP Paul moved this topic from Orchestration & Composition on