A Little Bach

In previous posts I had mentioned wishing I could get the Garritan Stradivari and Gofriller Cello instruments, but, alas, they are discontinued. There is hope that they will be resurrected and better with the upcoming Garritan Orchestral Strings 2. But, GOS2 is an unknown distance in the future, especially with current developments in Gary Garritan’s personal life, for which we all lift our thoughts and prayers.

Several weeks ago someone offered their used Strad on the Garritan forum. I jumped at it, but missed the opportunity. So, I posted a WTB (Want To Buy) on several forums, and a user over at the KVR forum made me an offer for both the Strad and the Gofriller. The poor guy had to jump through some hoops to de-register them from Native Instruments, but the deed was done and I get them installed on my computer!

I put a number of other projects on the back burner to spend some time learning to use these instruments. I knew immediately that I wanted to try two pieces – a solo violin piece by Bach that a good friend loves to play (on a real violin), and I wanted to do something with the Gounoud Ave Maria that he wrote to go along with Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in C Major. That piece is the subject of this post.

One other Bach piece that I like a lot is the Prelude  to Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1. (Suddenly this piece is all over commercials, such as American Express) I took the feel of that piece and re-wrote the keyboard accompaniment to the Ave Maria for solo cello. I then added the violin over it playing the lead line. Here’s what it looked like after I entered the MIDI data:

The yellow lines are volume data, and the blue line is modulation (vibrato). The Strad and Gofriller are really cool in that instead of using an LFO for vibrato, they use a much more realistic (and complex and computer intensive) method of applying convolution processing to create the vibrato. They have also gone through the painstaking process of aligning all the waveforms of various volumes of each sampled note, so that when you cross-fade between them, you don’t get awkward phase issues.

Not visible in this picture is the tweaking I did to the individual notes. Each instrument comes with numerous “articulations” such as upbows, downbows, pizzicato, tremolo, and more. I just used the main patch, Automatic Mono Legato/Poly Mode for this piece. It’s not a very technically challenging line (at least, for an acoustic player – recreating that on computer is something else).

This mode will give an articulated bowing sound at the beginning of discrete notes that are harsher with higher velocities. Overlapping notes will play with varying levels of portamento that are faster with increasing velocity until you get a nice, smooth legato. Holding down the sustain pedal for a repeated note will cause the sample to switch bowing. I used all of these for this piece, especially the violin melody line.

When I first entered this MIDI data, I used all straight lines for the continuous controllers. I stumbled across a blog post recently that strongly advocates using curves for CC data, and it makes intuitive sense to me, so I tried an experiment. Since I already had all the data in with straight lines, I rendered it that way. Then I went back and made all the data curves and rendered it that way. Both renderings are presented at the end of this article.

This screenshot shows straight lines:

And here it is with curves:

Does it make a difference? You tell me.

Once everything was rendered to audio, went in and tweaked the volume of the cello line in the some places to better fit the ebb and flow of the melody. I didn’t make significant changes, but subtle ones.

Next I added effects. My go-to reverb is Reverberate LE, a convolution reverb. I like it because it takes a stereo IR and applies the left channel of the IR to the left channel of incoming audio, and the right channel of the IR to the right channel of audio. All the other free IR reverbs I’m familiar with combine the incoming audio to mono and apply that to the stereo IR.

For a piece like this with few instruments and large stereo separation, I also like to use one of those “mono” IR reverbs, using a mono omni IR of the same space as the stereo IR. Ever since I re-built my computer, though, I can’t run two convolution reverbs, and I can;t run SIR (my fav) at all!

A little brickwall limiting at the end of the signal chain and we called it done. One other interesting issue I had with this recording, I couldn’t render the Strad. For some reason Sonar ignored all my continuous controller info when rendering. It sounded terrible. And yes, I had all the boxes checked:

As a workaround, I routed the output of my audio interface into the mixer and back into the input of the interface and recorded it as a standard audio track. What a pain in the neck!

Finally, I present to you the two tracks, one with the straight line CC data and one with curved CC data. I’m not telling which is which, because I want to see if you can tell the difference. Leave your guess in the comments.

Bach A

Bach B

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5 responses to A Little Bach

  1. fullbirdmusic

    Thanks for the trackback – but where’s the audio? It looks much better – now I want to hear it!

  2. After an overwhelming number of guesses, it’s time for the big reveal!

    I kept them in order – Bach A is all straight lines, and Bach B is the curves.

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