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  • Sampled orchestras LIVE

    Any experiences with VSL or any other sample library in a live enviroment? I need to come up with a way how to perform live with a good-sounding orchestral library, having 2-3 keyboardists. The share would most probably go something like strings for one guy and brass for the other and all the rest for the possible 3rd person, but is this possible? It is more than obvious that one person can simply not play all the string instruments at the same time, but for this I think I need to either stack different instruments on top of each other and compromise on the lines.

    I've been composing with the Opus bundle and Epic Horns, but there's no way that those can be adopted live properly. I got my first VI's, Brass I a while ago, but after fooling around for a day and being a bit bewildered by the different thinking routine needed, I put it aside for later as I'm on a tight deadline here. It appears, that the VI's COULD possibly be used for live playing quite nicely, but then again, PC's on the road isn't quite the most appealing thing in the world.

    EWSO can be used togheter with Muse Receptor which with a quick glance looks much more reliable and roadworthy, but I have no experience on either EWSO or the Receptor.

    There's no way in the world, that keyswitching between staccato's, sustains and other articulations would be possible in a live situation, but "the universal mode" in the VI demos looks like something that could be of help here.

    Also, how to put reverb on these is quite a problem. Blasting out a convoluted large hall through a big venue PA might not be the best move.

    Any experiences, ideas, suggestions?


  • "There's no way in the world, that keyswitching between staccato's, sustains and other articulations would be possible in a live situation...."

    Actually, at conventions and such, VI is usually demoed live using keyswitches. I wouldn't rule it out.

    I don't think you'd be able to perform more than 4 to 5 orchestral instruments at any given moment with only 2 to 3 keyboardists. These kind of performances are usually played with a sequenced accompaniment. The "soloists" perform the featured material -- which is one of the few ways the audience can tell who's playing what.

    Otherwise, without a sequencer, I can't imagine a full orchestra played by so few people without some serious sonic compromises, like those "string orchestra" loads that homogenize the whole of the string family into one patch. Maybe you could fudge the brass the same way. But how do you allocate a full chord to standard 2/2/2/2 winds?

    Then you're dealing with the limitations of a pianist's hand. No doubt you've seen what a piano reduction of a score looks like, and which notes of necessity need to be omitted.

    I think you're going to face essentially the same issues no matter what library you use. Perf-universal speed will help, but eventually, you'll be choosing articulations either by keyswitch, modwheel, pedal, velocity, or some controller. I consider those easiest to set-up in VI of all the samplers I know.

    Just my .02. I'm sure it'd be a rewarding and informative pursuit.

  • Ciao, 3 years ago, when sampled instruments were prehitoric I set up 2 PC loaded with giga 2.53 and a lot of Garritan and others sampled library. We had 6 keyboard players playng on 8 MIDI keyboards (3 where splitted) plus me playing with the mouse some Bells, Timpani and other percussions directly from one of the 2 PCs. So we could count on 12 different sampled instruments at once
    The result was quite good and impressive because they were played live giving "life" to the music, for an Opera by Donizzetti (singers and choirs where real singers) and some classical orchestral pieces. We played in a church, a medium sized theater and in a Church Closter.
    I know have giggastudio 3 and Viennainstruments and new larger MIDI keyboards so next year I will try again.
    The PC where set up by myself and I never had the minimum problem with tem

    I think it is not only possible but even a good experience but you need more players than 3.


  • Thanks for your thoughts.

    Well, the idea is not directly to feature a full-orchestra live setup - it's more as an additional element on top of other band instruments as drums, guitars etc. It will not of course be possible to play a full orchestral score in this way with so few players, but I'm sure it can be compromised on by having clearly a more synthesizer/keyboard approach, stacking instruments etc. to achieve still a orchestral flavour.

    It's also possible to have stuff that can't be played simultaneously on backing tracks and have the players only play the "lead" lines.

    In case we'd use a sequencer instead of audio backing tracks, wouldn't it be possible to have all the midi programchanges, keyswitches etc. coming from the sequencer, which would automatically change between performances and the player would just need to play pretty much? Even if you make a mistake or slightly out of time, the midi data would still keep the piece together. I thought about making preprogrammed matrixes as in the Performance Tool alternation, but with that you're totally screwed if you make one mistake and the pattern goes wrong. I think sequencing the midi data, letting that be taken care of automatically and just playing on top might really be a winner. With the VI this should be even easier, as I've understood, every instrument is on a single midi track and there would be no need for midichannel change automation.


  • Rae,

    I was part of a production that did exactly what you describe about 6 years ago. I was part of a pit orchestra that used two keyboardists (me being one of them) each playing a maxed-out Kurzweil 2500. We doubled a few live winds, brass, and strings and rhythm and the result was excellent.

    What we ended up doing was stepping through about 300 setups for a 2 hour show. Often the keyboards were split 4 different ways; one patch would have pizz strings on the bottom octave with horns in the middle and glockenspiel on top, stepping to the next patch would have flutes in the L.H. and something else in the right, etc.

    All this stuff would be octave displaced for each split so that we could squeeze the most out of every setup. Everything was notated in the score as it would be seen on the keyboard, NOT by how it would sound to the ear. In addition, each patch change would be notated in the score because every 8 to 16 bars there would be another patch change.

    Because we had everything in RAM (or in ROM), response to patch changes was instant so one could just hit the footswitch while playing, making the whole thing totally seamless.

    We didn't even use a sequence, and the FOH guy did a great job blending us all together; it sounded very natural.


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    @Rae said:

    In case we'd use a sequencer instead of audio backing tracks, wouldn't it be possible to have all the midi programchanges, keyswitches etc. coming from the sequencer

    If some of the backing tracks would be played back, I'd personally record those to audio and play back the audio files. That would be MUCH more predictable and safe. The only reason I can see for playing back MIDI sequences would be if tempos were being adjusted live in some manner.

    You certainly could record patch changes, etc. and have the sequencer play them back, but the more of this you do, the riskier it's going to be. Remember, too, that loading up some of these huge instruments takes a fair amount of time.

    Generally, the more complex you make things, the better the chance that something is going to burp and throw things off (controller info doesn't get set or reset correctly, etc., etc., etc.). In my experience of productions where multiple keyboards were used in productions, it seems to be preferable for each keyboardist's set-up to be independent. That way, the whole show doesn't come crashing down if a common system fails, and action can be taken to restore things without affecting everyone else.

    Sure, in theory, you could set up a real rocket scientist rig that would be doing all kinds of stuff. The question is: Will it work reliably?

    In the production you're considering, how much of an embarrassment/disaster would it be if things went kerflooey? To a large extent, the answer to that question is going to have a big impact on the system you design (including the need for redundancy).

    Another thing to consider: When most multiple keyboard shows are assembled, things are usually configured so that they can be played with minimal technical involvement by good keyboard players who can read well. In other words, keyboard set-ups will be configured and chained so that they can be advanced by a footswitch. Players are used to that sort of thing. Rapid keyswitching, however, is a somewhat different story, and is still not widely incorporated by legit players as a standard keyboard performance technique. If complicated and rapid keyboard switching is required to realize parts, expect some griping from players.

    Lee Blaske

  • Thanks again for your comments. Yes I agree with you Lee, to me all this seems like a big chance of messing up things, that's why I asked if anyone really has good experience in the field. The orchestral stuff isn't really the only/main thing, so simply using backing tracks for it all would certainly be the easiest and least risky option. Then again, that doesn't quite seem right.

    Okay, so there is a number of VI-related aspects to think trough and learn, but what about the system in general?

    What would you recommend as the setup? PC/ Mac Laptops?

    As far as I understand, the Muse receptor doesn't support Vienna (or vice verca). Any other computers in this more roadworthy and userfriendly style out there?

    Anybody familiar with these babies? Open Labs Neko