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  • Lara Croft Composing Challenge

    icymi I just wanted to let you know that Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL has called for another #nowscorethis composing challenge. It's about coming up with a theme for a particular Lara Croft incarnation. If you're interested here's the tweet: https://twitter.com/Junkie_XL/status/987355430543212544 

    And here's my little contribution, in case you'd like to listen to it. It's completely Vienna Instruments, not Hans Zimmer strings. :) http://www.xanderscores.com/?p=438


  • Your track sounds very professional. It grabbed my interest and held on. The most impressive instruments to me were the low brass, which sounded very realistic. Good to know that this was all VSL!

    I took the opportunity to listen to more of your compositions on SoundCloud, and I liked what I heard. Your mix technique is particularly striking. Are you using MIR Pro? Your tracks are clear and have a "movie score" quality to the sound. 

    I would really like to learn more about your process.


  • Wow, Paul, thank you very much for your kind comment. It's particularly surprising to me, because I always got the impression that I'm not at all very good at mixing and that my compositions kind of deserve better. To hear that the sound appeals to other musicians makes me very happy!

    To answer your questions: No, I don't use MIR or MIR pro. I have Vienna Ensemble Pro and Vienna Suite to work with. The only thing that I use in addition to VSL software is the Har-Bal equalizer which I found to be a very effective tool for polishing master eq. I assume that it's not the game changer here, though. I think the main ingredients of my mixes are:

    * All mixing is done within Vienna Ensemble. I have about 100 channels in there and all plug-ins are hosted by VE. I've found that CPU strain is much less than having those in Cubase. Could be I'm imagining it, but it works. I've tried pre-fader and post-fader reverb architecture; both have worked out just fine, so that's not a gamechanger either.

    * For the track above I use Vienna Suite Convolution Reverb, Teldex setting, quite subtly. Some of my older compositions have an additional algorithmic reverb on the master, no early reflections, tail only. The track above had only one convolution reverb setting for all sections, my Batman and Ladyhawke music has 4 instances of convolution reverb that only vary in detail.

    * Compression: I'm using Vienna Suite Comrpessor on everything, about 1,3 : 1, sometimes more, sometimes less. It really helps bring details to the front.

    * EQ: I have a particular EQ setting on each instrument group. Mostly based upon the default settings that Vienna EQ provides but with a "flattened curve" (50% of all dB settings).

    * I usually raise the very low and high frequencies a bit. I don't know why, but per default VSL samples seem (to me) to have very little natural low frequencies. I'm talking subtle changes here, my master EQ curve is almost a line.

    * What I think affects my mixes most: I do mixing while I compose and as long as you're working with samples only and your goal is to create the perfect mockup, I recommend "MIDI-mixing" as much as you can. I don't use Volume at all, but I use my ModWheel for expression pretty much all the time. While I record a phrase, I have the left hand on the mod wheel and I use it to place the instrument or instrument section as loud in the mix (as far as it exists) according to the needs of the composition. My standard is 100 (my keyboard shows the value which comes in handy), from there I go up and down. All the time.

    * I leave all effects on during composing. If my PC runs out of CPU I'll shut off the Compressor and the master eq, but usually it doesn't.

    * One more thing that's not so much about mixing: My compositions adapt to my tools. I know it should be the other way round, but I don't like writing music that in the end doesn't sound convincing to me. I have no orchestra to hand the score sheet to, so getting it right with samples is my ultimate goal. That's why I use only articulations and techniques that sound good with VSL or let's say, I use only what I am good at emulating. I've found that particularly string writing is very difficult to produce with VSL samples. That's something I have yet to master, on the composition/orchestration as well as the production side of things.

    I hope some of this helps. Thanks again for your kind, uplifting words!


  • Thank you for sharing your mix technique. I have been using MIR Pro, and often have a problem with the mix sounding a bit muddy. To cope with that muddiness I have been using a Low Cut filter on every instrument. I will give your method a try, as I do own the Vienna Suite.

    I have also found that a small amount of compression is very helpful. Like you, I initially would put a second reverb over the entire mix bus. In my latest effort, I used a send for every instrument group to Miracle with more send on the instruments at the back. I did this for my piece Tennessee River Portrait. See the links in my signature if interested.

    Also, I typically write in Sibelius notation program, then only begin to work with samples after the composition is completed. I tend to think in terms of notation, so this greatly helps me with composing. However, I suspect that it is a disadvantage for working with samples. 

    Having listened to everything of yours on Soundcloud, I will be looking forward to your next composition. Might I suggest taking a look at Orfium? It is very similar to Soundcloud, but double the fidelity at 320 bps. 

    Thanks so much for sharing your music. I have really enjoyed experiencing your work!


  • PaulP Paul moved this topic from Orchestration & Composition on