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Working with MIDI files... (Samples)


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Alright, so here's the deal,

In a string arrangement that I did 2 times through, the first run through my samples it seemed to sound very midi-ish. This is all strings.

The 2nd time through, I was very satisfied with how it sounded. The difference was that I copied another song completely, trying to re-create it's warmness, and then used that exact accompaniment in my song.

Using other songs as a template, I always seem to get the full potential out of my samples, even if they aren't the best of the best.

I'll find myself using very unconventional techniques. James Newton Howard had a webpage that demonstrated his use of MIDI samples to re-create an orchestral score in these kinds of unconventional ways. This was when he was working on the movie Dinosaur, so there was no such thing as EWQL, SAM, or VSL. He could have just been using the Roland SRX Expansions for all I know...The sound was almost identical to the real orchestra.

He talked about using unconventional MIDI techniques, like, for example, putting a low Pizzicato on orchestral hits. He also talked about how you should not look at samples names, but how they sound instead. A Horn might work as a flute, though I doubt with the samples (that most composers/producers seem to have that are serious about orchestral works) these days, it would be relevant.

I'm wondering if people have certain guidelines, like these, they like to follow when running samples through a midi file. I know that a lot of people are very serious about their craft, here, so I know that a lot of you have big orchestral libraries, but I'd still assume that they are samples, and they won't make a mix sound warm by themselves, especially if you're working with a client that has provided you with a midi file to mix down into those samples.

Just off of the top of my head, the first thing I usually focus on when working with a midi file, is accompaniment, dynamics, and then expression/volume. Regardless, it doesn't always turn out that great.

Thank you very much, and please don't waist your time, like me, writing a gazzilion pages of information. =)

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Using VSL SE Plus:

I layer different articulations for a given instrument when I need to simulate both the first and second player playing unison. VSL actually has sample packs that give you the true second player, but I can't afford 'em. An analog amp sim can make things sound a little warmer.

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In a string arrangement that I did 2 times through, the first run through my samples it seemed to sound very midi-ish. This is all strings.

MIDI does not make sound; the General MIDI soundset makes sound ;-)

Using other songs as a template, I always seem to get the full potential out of my samples, even if they aren't the best of the best.

If the professional samples have more velocities sampled that may cause a pretty big difference. Even then, a sample is still a single sample; if a violin ensemble plays a single note, you may have 20 (first and second violins) sounds playing at the same time; if they playing a chord, 7 for the root, 6 for the third, 7 for the fifth. Playing a sample of an ensemble completely messes this up.

but I'd still assume that they are samples, and they won't make a mix sound warm by themselves

EQing, mixing and proper use of reverb makes things sound "warm", not so much the samples.

He talked about using unconventional MIDI techniques, like, for example, putting a low Pizzicato on orchestral hits.

That's not that unconventional; only if you're looking at it from the point of view of dozens-of-gigabytes libraries we have nowadays with scripting, keyswitching and glissandos and whatnot. Before software hit the scene, most composers had a stack of dozens of hardware samplers, fully maxed out and loaded, each responsible for a single instrument.

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