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How to achieve Feeling in your music.


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Howdy. Man it's been a while since I've posted here with something.

My music is improving and I'm still slowly getting better with larger samples, but I still have much to learn about getting sample/synth based music to feel like it has some real FEELING in it. I still worry most of my stuff sounds too stiff and doesn't move correctly as other recorded music does.

Most of what I'm looking at trying to improve on is focused in background and accompaniment. I'm trying to learn how music gives a certain SOMETHING to it so it sounds like it has some weight to it without drowning it in chord and rhythmic accompaniment. I'm trying to learn how to simplify my tracks down but then they still sound empty and insignificant. Are there any relatively simplified guides to how music accompaniment can produce a sense of feeling to the listener? Just something to start with there would be good.

Additionally, I'd been experimenting with volume automation with EWQLSO and I feel like I've gotten ok results with the simple stuff, but now I'd like to learn more about what volume automation I need to do with strings and pads and instruments in the background to make it more fluid sounding and much less mechanical, not to mention dramatic swellings for new music parts and dropping them out. What I'm looking for are numbers - how much should make the strings flow in and out in the background when no one is paying attention to it, how much % variation should put repeating lines in their velocities.

Certainly there are rules to this kind of stuff that professionals and people who know what they're doing follow - I'd like some perspective and some insight to what they might be. I'm not looking for perfection or overnight success, I just want to know what everyone else seems to know that I don't.

tl;dr version (if I spelled that right): You know those fancy-sounding MP3 demos of sample/synth products that sound like the real thing without any external mixing/mastering? Yeah, I want to know how they do that with these samples because I sure can't figure it out on my own.

Thank you!

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I can answer your tl;dr version, but not the real thing. (it's not really a tl;dr version because they're not asking the same thing)

They're trained to perform the samples really flawlessly. They learn the samples inside and out and push themselves to get it right because they're paid to. As far as humanization goes, a MIDI keyboard is probably what they're using to help with that.

As for the long paragraphs of other question, I don't think that's an easy answer for anyone.

Music is a mathematical language but there is no mathematical approach to emotion. And feeling, which is what you're asking about, counts more in what the instrument is playing rather than its dynamics. Dynamics are very important, but since you're the composer, you decide the dynamics.

There are more general things I could tell you, like loud tremolos in string instruments after a quieter previous section give the listener a bit of unease,(but again, depends on what it's playing. I haven't heard much tango but I'm pretty sure it starts off switching between loud and soft rapidly and that's what sparks your fire to dance, like adrenaline), while loud tremolos after a similarly loud previous section won't invoke the jumping as much. Is that the kind of thing you're looking for?

There's no formula for this kind of thing without copying straight off of what you hear in what you describe as more professional works.

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I can answer your tl;dr version, but not the real thing. (it's not really a tl;dr version because they're not asking the same thing)

That's fine, I don't know what the hell tl;dr is anyway.

They're trained to perform the samples really flawlessly. They learn the samples inside and out and push themselves to get it right because they're paid to. As far as humanization goes, a MIDI keyboard is probably what they're using to help with that.

The MIDI keyboard I figured, but they are still trained in something to achieve that sound, they still know how much automation and velocity go in to make it realistic and how much is too little or too much. I want to know what that is so I can train into it myself if possible.

Music is a mathematical language but there is no mathematical approach to emotion. And feeling, which is what you're asking about, counts more in what the instrument is playing rather than its dynamics. Dynamics are very important, but since you're the composer, you decide the dynamics.

Well I still need some examples and hard information on dynamics to improve there too, but I hadn't really considered it would be the instrument itself. Tell me more.

There are more general things I could tell you, like loud tremolos in string instruments after a quieter previous section give the listener a bit of unease,(but again, depends on what it's playing. I haven't heard much tango but I'm pretty sure it starts off switching between loud and soft rapidly and that's what sparks your fire to dance, like adrenaline), while loud tremolos after a similarly loud previous section won't invoke the jumping as much. Is that the kind of thing you're looking for?

Actually yeah, thats a good start. What I get frustrated with is that advice that goes like this is assuming I understand exactly how to produce that effect, I just never thought of it before. Some of the best advice I got from written tutorials where Zircon's because he actually tells you not to go past certain numbers because it doesn't sound realistic. I know others have this kind of advice - thats what I'd like to find if at all possible.

Good stuff Neblix, thanks.

There's no formula for this kind of thing without copying straight off of what you hear in what you describe as more professional works.

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I still worry most of my stuff sounds too stiff and doesn't move correctly as other recorded music does.

you won't get the same level of performance out of samples, period. even the really, really good demos aren't convincing, imo.

we just can't emulate the sound of a performer + instrument + space well enough yet, though you can get close with products like SampleModelling and a wind controller. but even then, it just won't sound "right"

you can do things to help, though:

For me, the most common problem with unrealistic sequencing is actually the way you are orchestrating parts.

If it is counter-intuitive to real-life playing, it will sound wrong just because, well, it IS wrong and real people couldn't play it, but your vst can.

to fix this, check out orchestration books to learn exactly what you can and can't do with instruments. I recommend this book, it's as standard as it gets:

http://www.amazon.com/Principles-Orchestration-Nikolay-Rimsky-Korsakov/dp/0486212661/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311728570&sr=1-1

you can also use something more directly pointed at the problem of using samples:

http://www.amazon.com/Guide-MIDI-Orchestration-4e/dp/0240814134/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311728570&sr=1-7

but, it's an uphill battle anyway you look at it - don't get discouraged and just keep playing around with samples; your ear will develop no matter the outcome of a project.

also, if it sounds good, it is good, no matter how weird the process is to get there. you'll probably end up doing some crazy things. :-D

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Feeling can be subjective though it's kinda hard to infer feeling. I'm a beginner but typically my friends infer feelings similar to mine on music I've written, however if I show the piece to other they don't derive something similar. Expression IMO might be critical as that's what distinguishes notes from on another that and effects of course. Certain tracks based on their role in your music should either have reverb and whatnot. But you probably already knew that >_<

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For understanding how dynamics in strings (and other orchestra instruments) work, I'd recommend listening to actual recordings of orchestra music rather than to other people's sampled orchestra tracks since imitating a real orchestra is the ultimate goal. Strings can be as dynamic as you want them to be. Ridiculous ppp to fff crescendos aren't out of the question, and usually in the sampled strings I've heard, the problem tends to be more that there's not enough dynamic variation rather than there being too much. Obviously, the style of music is a factor in this -- Barber's Adagio for Strings is going to have more dynamic nuance than the string backing for a piano ballad.

General stuff about strings:

The sound's attack can vary from a slow crescendo with an imperceptible beginning to an extremely sharp immediate onset. One of the problems I hear all the freaking time in people's use of string samples is that the attacks on the strings' notes don't line up with the attacks in other instruments. Usually the strings' attacks are too slow because the samples have a slow attack on them, and the string line lags behind everything else. If your string samples have a slow attack and there's nothing you can do about it on the sampler or keyswitch level, then bump the notes to the left in the sequencer until you hear that the strings are lining up with the rest of the instruments.

It's usually a good practice to taper the ends of sustained notes at least a little, by which I mean a slight decrescendo at the end of the note if the line ends there and there's a rest before subsequent notes. More broadly, try to develop an ear for phrasing in general. One of the typical ways to shape a melodic line is to have it rise and then fall back down, with the dynamic level increasing as the notes go up and then decreasing as the notes fall.

One other problem that is inherent to samples is that they sound -- for lack of a better description -- too solid. The note is on or off, it's in perfect tune, and it had no musical context when it was recorded. It's hard to get delicacy out of samples, especially string samples, unless they're really good samples. Something that I do to try to combat this fact is to intentionally put things slightly out of tune. I record dynamics with the tilt sensors on a Wii controller (a fishing rod casting motion controls loudness/expression), and I map the side-to-side roll on the controller to pitch bend. Since I can't hold the controller absolutely straight when I record, small pitch inconsistencies get introduced, and this (in my view) makes the results sound more realistic. (If you want to hear how uncanny it sounds for everything to be in perfect tune, listen to the demos for 70 DVZ Strings, a high-end library that splits the strings up into a bunch of small, individually-recorded sections, each of which is tuned more perfectly than it would be if they were all recorded together as a full section. It sounds like a very good library, but you'd have to be really careful about tuning to make it sound real. Compare those demos to the relative messiness of a real orchestra.)

Speaking of the Wii controller, you should decide how you're going to input dynamics. I started using a Wii controller (after flirting with an Xbox controller) because I couldn't get what I felt were acceptable results from the wheels/pots/faders that you get on MIDI keyboards (using wheels/pots/faders is musically unintuitive to me, and I wanted something that felt more like a conducting gesture). The input method you choose will affect your results.

It might be more trouble than it's worth for you, but I also link a movable low-pass filter to my expression/volume automation (VSL, which I use, has one of these built into the sampler -- I'm not sure how easy this would be with EWQL). This makes really soft notes sound less bright than loud notes. It takes a lot of tweaking to set up properly, though.

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you won't get the same level of performance out of samples, period. even the really, really good demos aren't convincing, imo.

I don't need to get the exact same level, just a better one than what I have now. I know these sound people do something to make it reasonably convincing and I know they've worked for years at it - I just want to know what it IS.

That MIDI orchestration is probably the book I need to study, but I'll have to have a library special order it because I am not spending $65 on a book that only MIGHT help me. I haven't had much luck with books as teachers.

More broadly, try to develop an ear for phrasing in general.

Don't you think I've already been trying to do this? If I could just get it by listening to it, I would've gotten it at some point over the last 7 years. Maybe other musicians can just study stuff by ear and figure it all out, but my body and my ears don't do that (or they would've by now).

I don't mean to be rude, Moseph, but that kind of advice just frustrates me. I need visual stuff, examples, and the rules (if any) of how that stuff works in a DAW like Fl Studio. I know this stuff exists somewhere and can be reasonably condensed down into a more specific how-to, I just have yet to find it for a variety of reasons.

I'm not asking for everything, just some starting places I could go to from there. I'm a visual/example learner and I know this stuff is out there somewhere.

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Don't you think I've already been trying to do this? If I could just get it by listening to it, I would've gotten it at some point over the last 7 years. Maybe other musicians can just study stuff by ear and figure it all out, but my body and my ears don't do that (or they would've by now).

I don't mean to be rude, Moseph, but that kind of advice just frustrates me. I need visual stuff, examples, and the rules (if any) of how that stuff works in a DAW like Fl Studio. I know this stuff exists somewhere and can be reasonably condensed down into a more specific how-to, I just have yet to find it for a variety of reasons.

I'm not asking for everything, just some starting places I could go to from there. I'm a visual/example learner and I know this stuff is out there somewhere.

Point taken. I have some ideas about how possibly to approach this, although it may be tomorrow night or later before I have the time to post again, especially if I decide to try to include examples.

Do you take or have you ever taken lessons for an instrument? I ask, because the sort of performance considerations that you're interested in are things that are usually taught in performance lessons and not so much in other areas of music study, which may be why you're having trouble finding information about them.

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Point taken. I have some ideas about how possibly to approach this, although it may be tomorrow night or later before I have the time to post again, especially if I decide to try to include examples.

Do you take or have you ever taken lessons for an instrument? I ask, because the sort of performance considerations that you're interested in are things that are usually taught in performance lessons and not so much in other areas of music study, which may be why you're having trouble finding information about them.

I wasted $2,000 on piano lessons over the course of like 3 years. The best I got of that was composing Sagetellah from my album on it. I have no physical capacity to perform.

As you may already be aware (because there was a time on here where I couldn't shut up about it), I have certain and inconsistent physical and intellectual disabilities that, while not hampering abilities to function overall, create obstacles due to nerve impairment and possible brain damage where I don't have the finer abilities to perform or understand performance by ear training (I am also nearly tone-deaf). This is not an excuse I'm providing to cover a lack of discipline, this is a real disability that causes me to get lost in a Wal-Mart I've gone to for 15 years, draw up a diagram for how to get out of a crowded table at Pizza Hut and walk by a flaming toaster twice before I figure out something's wrong there.

I'm not trying to give you a sob story, I'm just trying to illustrate once and for all that I cannot learn through these conventional methods. I require something different. Everything I learned about composition I learned through watching MIDI data in Fl Studio and now composition is my strongest point in this racket. Certainly there must be stuff like that for some orchestration somehow.

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The most important factor in my own artistic growth has simply been a combination of critical thinking about music each and every time I listen to anything. When you hear a musical phrase develop, piece it together by its own basic elementary parts and realize how each sound and change will contribute to the whole at any given moment. You can really aid this process by learning principles of orchestration. For symphonic instruments, this amounts to studying each and every instrument in the orchestral section and knowing exactly what they can do on their own as well as with each other. If you write a handful of solo pieces for every orchestral instrument, you will come away with a much better understanding of how and when to articulate your phrases. After that you should try to learn how to carry melody within the families, ie, strings, brass, woodwings, percussion. Same for establishing harmony.

Sorry to say there's no easy way out, you do need to study and practice the techniques on your own. I recommend Peter Alexander's Professional Orchestration series for some reading material.

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Sorry to say there's no easy way out, you do need to study and practice the techniques on your own.

Rexx, I can only assume you didn't read much of anything I typed already. I'm not looking for an easy way out, I'm looking for different methods of learning the techniques because I can't piece things together like that from the sound alone. If I could do that, I would've figured it out by now.

Also, I'm not looking to learn strictly for orchestral purposes, I'm just looking for ways to get samples to sound convincing enough in many other genres too.

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tl dr. Yeah I guess my musical problems are that my music is mostly good but one thing always throws it off, that I can't quite figure out what. i don't know how to word it exactly, but yeah. a chart of milleseconds of frequencies that produce human emotions based on sequences would be nice.

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a chart of milleseconds of frequencies that produce human emotions based on sequences would be nice.

lolwhut?

David Sonnenschein has a couple of emotion tables in his book Sound Design, but these don't have anything to do with frequencies or any other numbers. Emotion has less to do with the frequencies and timings and more to do with the overarching dynamics and harmonies.

Or would you say 440Hz (a period of 2.273ms) inherently has an emotional state attached to it, regardless of its context?

More useful: look up modes and scales.

Yeah, this doesn't answer Meteo's question, I know. My solution? Make music where it doesn't matter. Works for me. :D

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You guys are asking for things that don't really exist. Context is everything, and there's too many variables to make a frequency chart of human emotion for every context.

A simpler example is that a major chord will sound happy by itself but sad if used in another chord progression. You may argue that it always sounds happy regardless of context, but that's subjective.

Emotion is subjective, and you're asking for a concrete mathematical approach to it. Your best bet, Meteo, is to just copy what you hear in other music that you like to capture the feeling without being too obvious about it. That's the answer I gave you before about the string tremolos. I literally copied it down into English from something I heard before because that's what worked.

There's no big chart of this stuff. The chart is whatever music you can find. All of us copy from other music, it's impossible not to.

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You guys are asking for things that don't really exist. Context is everything, and there's too many variables to make a frequency chart of human emotion for every context.

I'm not asking for a damn frequency flow chart, I'm just asking for rules of thumb and just some simplified techniques, preferrably represented by pictures or videos, for how to make my samples and background sound more realistic. Things that YOU do to achieve certain results. I know this stuff exists because I've already seen it but don't have access to it in further depth or just have any access to it at all.

If I knew it was going to be this much to ask for, I wouldn't have tried to waste everyone's time just to come to the conclusion "It's magic, you either got it or you don't hurr"

Your best bet, Meteo, is to just copy what you hear in other music that you like to capture the feeling without being too obvious about it. That's the answer I gave you before about the string tremolos. I literally copied it down into English from something I heard before because that's what worked.

Yeah, this is something I have to terms with. I hate doing that on principle, but then again that really is what everyone else does. Thats how I learned composition was studying and copying stuff from MIDIs, but you can't learn production from MIDI alone and I can't learn through imitation alone. There are techniques, I just want to know what they ARE so I can find it and study and practice it myself.

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Rexx, I can only assume you didn't read much of anything I typed already. I'm not looking for an easy way out, I'm looking for different methods of learning the techniques because I can't piece things together like that from the sound alone. If I could do that, I would've figured it out by now.

Also, I'm not looking to learn strictly for orchestral purposes, I'm just looking for ways to get samples to sound convincing enough in many other genres too.

You assume wrong, I've read your entire post. To me, it seems as if you are looking for at least an "easier" way out (ie, to learn convincing, heartfelt orchestration -- and yes, not just with traditional orchestral instruments) than what is currently available. If I misunderstood, I'm sorry.

Everything I posted applies for any kind of musical instrument you can imagine. The concepts are not limited to one or two things. If you gave some serious study a chance and put in the work to create deliberate compositions which will expand your skills, you can only walk away with improvement.

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Everything I posted applies for any kind of musical instrument you can imagine. The concepts are not limited to one or two things. If you gave some serious study a chance and put in the work to create deliberate compositions which will expand your skills, you can only walk away with improvement.

Rexxz, I'm trying not to be frustrated here, but I find this idea that I'm just not studying seriously very insulting. The method is the issue, not the effort. I'm looking for new methods and new sources of information and I've explained why already. I shouldn't have to be arguing about this because its just that simple.

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lolwhut?

David Sonnenschein has a couple of emotion tables in his book Sound Design, but these don't have anything to do with frequencies or any other numbers. Emotion has less to do with the frequencies and timings and more to do with the overarching dynamics and harmonies.

Or would you say 440Hz (a period of 2.273ms) inherently has an emotional state attached to it, regardless of its context?

More useful: look up modes and scales.

Yeah, this doesn't answer Meteo's question, I know. My solution? Make music where it doesn't matter. Works for me. :D

i mean like flashing pictures. different flash rates will produce different alpha waves n stuff. or if the flash rates are irregular it can produce even more emotions. now how do u apply this stuff to music

also me and my cousin downloaded a frequency producer one day. we discovered certain frequency intervals that were extremely calming and others that were jarring. so this involves the timbre of an instrument, except the instrument we were using was basically a simple beep (i think you could make it sine or something.) so even though u may have two instruments playing the same note, you can still drastically alter the mood by changing the instruments frequency.

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