Sax and violins - idiomatic synthesis

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Sax and violins - idiomatic synthesis

Post by TheBradster » Wed Dec 25, 2013 7:58 am

Heh. The title seemed relevant given the events of the past few days, but I do have a serious question.

Browsing through the forum I have come across certain comments - people who hate certain types of music, or even certain instruments - saxophones, banjos, accordions are the usual suspects. Which is fine. I've got a load of banjo jokes on the ready if anyone is interested.

Back in the MIDI/digisynth heyday there was a lot of effort to use synths to play "real" instruments idiomatically - think a synthetic sax, sampled strings, etc. I think this was one of the things that put a lot of people off and gave synthesis a bit of a cheesy reputation.

Here on Muffs it seems like most people are more interested in "pure" rather than imitative synthesis, but here's the Q - is there anyone here who is using their modular to imitate another instrument? And is there anyone here who is perhaps playing a "real" instrument in a non-idiomatic way?

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Post by toothless_wonder » Wed Dec 25, 2013 8:37 am

IMO emulating real instruments in the modular world is a real art and challenge , this is actually something I am interested in , a cross road where art and science meet

two books come to mind of course

Welsh's Synthesizer Cookbook: Synthesizer Programming, Sound Analysis, and Universal Patch Book vol 1 and 2

Designing Sound by Andy Farnel , an amazing book on how to design any sound from silence
the techniques are based on Pure Data ,moving the concepts from the book into the modular world is something I am looking forward in doing over the next year

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Re: Sax and violins - idiomatic synthesis

Post by mousegarden » Wed Dec 25, 2013 8:50 am

TheBradster wrote:Heh. The title seemed relevant given the events of the past few days, but I do have a serious question.

Browsing through the forum I have come across certain comments - people who hate certain types of music, or even certain instruments - saxophones, banjos, accordions are the usual suspects. Which is fine. I've got a load of banjo jokes on the ready if anyone is interested.

Back in the MIDI/digisynth heyday there was a lot of effort to use synths to play "real" instruments idiomatically - think a synthetic sax, sampled strings, etc. I think this was one of the things that put a lot of people off and gave synthesis a bit of a cheesy reputation.

Here on Muffs it seems like most people are more interested in "pure" rather than imitative synthesis, but here's the Q - is there anyone here who is using their modular to imitate another instrument? And is there anyone here who is perhaps playing a "real" instrument in a non-idiomatic way?
It's interesting how sounds that are considered cheesy at one time, can go on to become part of the language of new musical genres, these things always "reference" something from another time, or another technology, to make a point, or to just take the piss, or be ironc. I can't see how anything can be cheesy these days, it's all useful, and it all has a place, it's just a matter of context.

I'm a pianist, and love mixing electronic sounds in my pieces, I'm looking forward to processing my piano through my modular when I get it built. I love imitative sounds, I'm always making bell sounds, love them, and have patches for them on my Arturia Moog Modular, also, acoustic bass sounds, there Is something about imitative synthesis if it's done well, you listen and think "that could be a bass, or a violin, but is it? it sounds strange" I love it when that happens.
There are tons musicians out there that use electronics in combination with acoustic instruments, but I don't know any that specifically use a modular, but there must be loads I suppose. Brian Eno was doing something similar ages ago in Roxy Music, processing the band through his VCS3.

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Post by baboo » Wed Dec 25, 2013 11:02 am

I was interested in controlling my modular with a trumpet since I got into modulars.
Never really got around to do it but it is somewhere in the back of my head. Also the sound could be blended with the natural sound of the instrument.

But do we have a pitch to cv module that is accurate enough?

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Post by Nelson Baboon » Wed Dec 25, 2013 11:27 am

I try to play my violin (also mandolin and sad attempts at cello) in ways that fit in with my more 'experimental', timbral' music. It's difficult because, if you were trained, especially as a kid, I think that you learn to think in certain ways that it's hard to break out of.

But I find it much more interesting to attempt the above, than to imitate 'real' instruments with synthesis.

It seems part of the concept of the latter to make these sounds in order mainly to satisfy the roles of these instruments in the music, given the absence of these instruments and/or the ability to play them. So, this music would generally be much more conventional....

I suppose however that this isn't true by definition.

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Post by CJ Miller » Wed Dec 25, 2013 11:43 am

I am less interested in the idiom of the sound of the instruments, than the stylistic idioms of musical genres.

I am a fairly eclectic listener. One of the things which drew me to various forms techno/jungle/acid/etc was my love of drumming and percussive music of the world. So it always amazes me how when I'd be listening some recordings of straight up drumming, that usually DJs would complain that it was some quaint garbage. They were usually bored that it lacked whatever stylistic idioms they wanted from electronically produced rhythm tracks. This was something which never made much of a difference to me.

Even in electronic styles of music, I have come across some surprising barriers. When I was in Queens, I lived with and near many producers and DJs. Many of them were quite stylistically open-minded, happy to mash up hardcore tekno, hip hop, pop, noise - whatever was around. Or at least go out to hear DJs spins stuff outside of their immediate comfort zone - such as a hardtek guy going to a trance party. Our neighborhood was basically populated by 50% South Americans, and 50% Punjabis - so there was always a huge bhangra presence. And even though most of it was electronic, and rhythmically quite amazing, most of my friends had zero interest in it, would not touch it. It was in the same neighborhood, but culturally, it was in a different world. As an outsider, my perspective was different. My friends were mostly South American, but it seemed to me that dance music of the NYC underground was no more their cultural heritage than the music of Punjab was! Or reggae, for that matter, which they played a fair amount of. I guess my ears are just relentlessly syncretic. And being a bit withdrawn, I don't get so concerned about what my "scene" is.

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Post by mousegarden » Wed Dec 25, 2013 4:09 pm

CJ Miller wrote:I am less interested in the idiom of the sound of the instruments, than the stylistic idioms of musical genres.

I am a fairly eclectic listener. One of the things which drew me to various forms techno/jungle/acid/etc was my love of drumming and percussive music of the world. So it always amazes me how when I'd be listening some recordings of straight up drumming, that usually DJs would complain that it was some quaint garbage. They were usually bored that it lacked whatever stylistic idioms they wanted from electronically produced rhythm tracks. This was something which never made much of a difference to me.

Even in electronic styles of music, I have come across some surprising barriers. When I was in Queens, I lived with and near many producers and DJs. Many of them were quite stylistically open-minded, happy to mash up hardcore tekno, hip hop, pop, noise - whatever was around. Or at least go out to hear DJs spins stuff outside of their immediate comfort zone - such as a hardtek guy going to a trance party. Our neighborhood was basically populated by 50% South Americans, and 50% Punjabis - so there was always a huge bhangra presence. And even though most of it was electronic, and rhythmically quite amazing, most of my friends had zero interest in it, would not touch it. It was in the same neighborhood, but culturally, it was in a different world. As an outsider, my perspective was different. My friends were mostly South American, but it seemed to me that dance music of the NYC underground was no more their cultural heritage than the music of Punjab was! Or reggae, for that matter, which they played a fair amount of. I guess my ears are just relentlessly syncretic. And being a bit withdrawn, I don't get so concerned about what my "scene" is.
Your post is very interesting, but, I am so pissed at the moment that I am unable to focus on it. I will take it all in tomorrow.

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Post by TheBradster » Wed Dec 25, 2013 4:54 pm

Thanks for the replies and book refs, will check. My interest in imitative/idiomatic synthesis waxes and wanes. At the moment I'm just into the raw sound, and loving it.

Nelson: checked out some of your stuff and I would say you've done a good job of avoiding the idiomatic trap. Really like.

CJ, I would argue that instrumental and genre idioms are kind of the same thing, or at least part of the same continuum. Interesting how "open minded" people reject a culture literally on their doorstep, but I see that a lot. Lots of drum sounds in electronic music drive me spare - you're being out there and experimental in all different ways, you have a universe of different kinds of percussive sounds, why always go for the 808 boomchuk? I realize there are those here who might have a strong opinion about this.

Baboo, I believe the Analogue Systems RS35 does good pitch tracking, am considering getting one myself.

Mouse: one mouse's cheese is another… ah fuck it. Enjoy. :guinness: :guinness: :guinness:

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Post by mousegarden » Wed Dec 25, 2013 5:39 pm

TheBradster wrote:ou have a universe of different kinds of percussive sounds, why always go for the 808 boomchuk? I realize there are those here who might have a strong opinion about this.
Sheep, they all follow, but money reigns, and that"s the reason, make the same noises and money as someone who's sold a million records from those noises.........? Give me some of that !
Money is the bottom line. What you have to realise is that a lot of people that read forums like this, and music equipment forums don't work in the music "business" they talk, but they don't earn, it's a hobby. It"s OK for us to be high and mighty, but honestly, an 808 or a 909, or a soft synth, who cares, as long as you are earning a crust, and feeding your family.

MouseGarden,

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Post by Nelson Baboon » Wed Dec 25, 2013 5:59 pm

You assume that if you don't make money from it, it should be called a hobby.

I don't think that the 2 terms are used so mutually exclusively.

If someone tells me that, while they are not making money, they spend many hours at it, and take it very seriously, so they don't consider it a hobby, that makes perfect sense to me. I don't consider doing this a hobby at all, though I confess that I made about $20 from a bandcamp release this year.

You just lose me with this post.
mousegarden wrote:
TheBradster wrote:ou have a universe of different kinds of percussive sounds, why always go for the 808 boomchuk? I realize there are those here who might have a strong opinion about this.
Sheep, they all follow, but money reigns, and that"s the reason, make the same noises and money as someone who's sold a million records from those noises.........? Give me some of that !
Money is the bottom line. What you have to realise is that a lot of people that read forums like this, and music equipment forums don't work in the music "business" they talk, but they don't earn, it's a hobby. It"s OK for us to be high and mighty, but honestly, an 808 or a 909, or a soft synth, who cares, as long as you are earning a crust, and feeding your family.

MouseGarden,

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Post by mousegarden » Wed Dec 25, 2013 6:19 pm

Nelson Baboon wrote:You assume that if you don't make money from it, it should be called a hobby.
Well, yes, look, I'm not trying to be provocative, I'm just being realistic. I personally wrestle with the dilemmas of investing time and resources into something that doesn't support me when I'm ill and on benefit, also, I have witnessed a lot of people who think they have talent who basically don't stand a chance, and put there partners/families through a lot of grief thinking that one day they will "make it" This forum is basically a technical resource, but if we are going to talk about this sort of thing then it is important not to beat about the bush.
I have been totally screwed-up by music in my life, to the pint of loosing my business, and marriage, so I think I know what the scene is in this respect. But if you care about music this much, then you are prepared to lose everything, like me.
Whether you are Lady Ga Ga, Bjork Morton Subotinic, or whoever, we all need rewards, or more importantly, recognition, if not then we will we die, simple as that.,

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Post by Nelson Baboon » Wed Dec 25, 2013 7:14 pm

ok, but I think then that we are agreeing that there are people who are 'more than hobbyists' but not professionals. I agree that this often results in sacrifice in various ways.

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Post by strettara » Thu Dec 26, 2013 1:54 am

I used to be a photographer, and a couple of the stories I did got turned into documentary films. So for a couple of years I got paid to write, shoot and do the sound on these productions. But I wasn't in any way a professional filmmaker, that's a whole other level of commitment. I was basically semi-skilled labour in the film industry, a sort of paid hobbyist.

This year my main aim is to get a physical release out - tape or (one can dream) vynil. I put a lot of time and energy into it - almost certainly not as much as Nelson - but I wouldn't call myself anything other than a hobbyist, no matter what the result. If experimental soundscapes suddenly become all the rage at clubs and I find myself overwhelmed with bookings, then I suppose I'll start to see it differently.

As to the original post, when I started doing all this, I found that my ears automatically tried to assimilate the sounds I was making to familiar points of reference, like pianos, violins, claps, etc. I think we all do. So I tried very hard to make sounds that only the synth could make, sounds that are genuinely electronic and couldn't be anything else. It's taken quite a while to hear the sounds of the synth as just sounds, without automatically trying to match them to the sounds of other instruments.

I also play the recorder and low whistle, but I haven't found any way to integrate them with the electronics.

Probably not any help, but I thought I'd share....
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Re: Sax and violins - idiomatic synthesis

Post by strettara » Thu Dec 26, 2013 2:08 am

mousegarden wrote:There are tons musicians out there that use electronics in combination with acoustic instruments, but I don't know any that specifically use a modular, but there must be loads I suppose. Brian Eno was doing something similar ages ago in Roxy Music, processing the band through his VCS3.
Brian Labycz is a great example of somone combining modular with with acoustic musicians, although that may not be what you're meaning.
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Post by mousegarden » Fri Dec 27, 2013 4:09 am

Nelson Baboon wrote:You assume that if you don't make money from it, it should be called a hobby.

I don't think that the 2 terms are used so mutually exclusively.

If someone tells me that, while they are not making money, they spend many hours at it, and take it very seriously, so they don't consider it a hobby, that makes perfect sense to me. I don't consider doing this a hobby at all, though I confess that I made about $20 from a bandcamp release this year.

You just lose me with this post.
mousegarden wrote:
TheBradster wrote:ou have a universe of different kinds of percussive sounds, why always go for the 808 boomchuk? I realize there are those here who might have a strong opinion about this.
Sheep, they all follow, but money reigns, and that"s the reason, make the same noises and money as someone who's sold a million records from those noises.........? Give me some of that !
Money is the bottom line. What you have to realise is that a lot of people that read forums like this, and music equipment forums don't work in the music "business" they talk, but they don't earn, it's a hobby. It"s OK for us to be high and mighty, but honestly, an 808 or a 909, or a soft synth, who cares, as long as you are earning a crust, and feeding your family.

MouseGarden,
This is a touchy subject for me, if I was a mechanic earning money in a full time job, then spending all of my spare time making music would somehow, be justified, because I've payed for that spare time. It's my legitimate down-time. But seeing as I don't work, and can't work, for me, it seems inappropriate to waste tax payers money supporting me in doing something that isn't helping me to get my life back together. But the problem is that I'm in a position where I can't get my life together, if I wanted to or not, so I don't have an option but to either sit here doing nothing, stay in bed, or make some music ?
I don't want to go on about it on a public forum, but my problems are not purely physical, it's an ongoing situation which may be resolved this year, I don't really know. I have started treatment, and the result of this are major mood swings, crying, and genral emotional chaos ! If I come across as being a bit mad or insensitive here sometimes that's why.
I'll stay away from here if my mood isn't good, it's normally best for all concerned !
My interest in modular's is another attempt at me trying to take my mind off of things, but I'm beginning to wonder if the tail is wagging the dog here, maybe my lack of success in music has caused my problems, and I shouldn't underestimate the importance that music has in my life, and maybe I should have done that sooner ? ......

Ho hum.......

:party:

MouseGarden.

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Post by Ockeghem » Sat Dec 28, 2013 8:39 am

Mousegarden, I hope you get things back on an even keel again.
And get whatever :help: might be needed.
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Post by ben_hex » Sat Dec 28, 2013 1:33 pm

toothless_wonder just looking at designing sound by Andy Farnell. It uses Pure Data throughout which I have no experience with, will that be a barrier of entry do you think?

EDIT - I hadn't read the whole thread when I posted that so it seems largely insensitive to sidestep to something said earlier in the thread ... Best wishes for things this coming year Mouse Garden.
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Post by Dr. Sketch-n-Etch » Sat Dec 28, 2013 1:43 pm

Nelson Baboon wrote:I try to play my violin (also mandolin and sad attempts at cello) in ways that fit in with my more 'experimental', timbral' music. It's difficult because, if you were trained, especially as a kid, I think that you learn to think in certain ways that it's hard to break out of.
Have you ever heard Fieldhead? You would probably like the album "They Shook Hands for Hours". They have integrated violin and synth in a pretty interesting (and organic) way.
For every bullshit job, you need a bullshit education -- Brian Eno

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Post by Dr. Sketch-n-Etch » Sat Dec 28, 2013 1:46 pm

Nelson Baboon wrote:ok, but I think then that we are agreeing that there are people who are 'more than hobbyists' but not professionals. I agree that this often results in sacrifice in various ways.
We have a special word for this: "Jobby". Designing synths started out for me as a hobby, something I did just for my own enjoyment and edification. Then I started to license my designs to Intellijel, and it became a jobby. Now, at the end of 2013, I can happily say that it has become a second career.
For every bullshit job, you need a bullshit education -- Brian Eno

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Post by Nelson Baboon » Sat Dec 28, 2013 2:33 pm

Dr. Sketch-n-Etch wrote:
Nelson Baboon wrote:I try to play my violin (also mandolin and sad attempts at cello) in ways that fit in with my more 'experimental', timbral' music. It's difficult because, if you were trained, especially as a kid, I think that you learn to think in certain ways that it's hard to break out of.
Have you ever heard Fieldhead? You would probably like the album "They Shook Hands for Hours". They have integrated violin and synth in a pretty interesting (and organic) way.
I have not. I will check them out.

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Post by Nelson Baboon » Sat Dec 28, 2013 2:45 pm

I guess I think that there is a usage of professional/amateur that takes more into account than whether someone is making money. In this usage, calling someone an 'amateur' is a pejorative.

I also think that hobbyist works this way. There is one usage, like you're using below, where it just means that you're not making money with that particular endeavor. But there is another where it means that someone really doesn't take it too seriously - that they do it for a little fun, etc, maybe have a little skill, but not enough to be a 'professional'.

I don't really like this usage because often whether someone makes money or not depends on so many factors other than the dedication, thought, and skill put into it.

So, while I understand what you're saying, I'm very comfortable with NOT calling you a hobbyist, because despite our disagreements about practically everything, you obviously dedicate yourself to music, and you manifest great skill in doing so. Somehow, to me, 'hobbyist' seems wrong.
strettara wrote:I used to be a photographer, and a couple of the stories I did got turned into documentary films. So for a couple of years I got paid to write, shoot and do the sound on these productions. But I wasn't in any way a professional filmmaker, that's a whole other level of commitment. I was basically semi-skilled labour in the film industry, a sort of paid hobbyist.

This year my main aim is to get a physical release out - tape or (one can dream) vynil. I put a lot of time and energy into it - almost certainly not as much as Nelson - but I wouldn't call myself anything other than a hobbyist, no matter what the result. If experimental soundscapes suddenly become all the rage at clubs and I find myself overwhelmed with bookings, then I suppose I'll start to see it differently.

As to the original post, when I started doing all this, I found that my ears automatically tried to assimilate the sounds I was making to familiar points of reference, like pianos, violins, claps, etc. I think we all do. So I tried very hard to make sounds that only the synth could make, sounds that are genuinely electronic and couldn't be anything else. It's taken quite a while to hear the sounds of the synth as just sounds, without automatically trying to match them to the sounds of other instruments.

I also play the recorder and low whistle, but I haven't found any way to integrate them with the electronics.

Probably not any help, but I thought I'd share....

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Post by mousegarden » Sun Dec 29, 2013 4:56 am

Ockeghem wrote:Mousegarden, I hope you get things back on an even keel again.
And get whatever :help: might be needed.
Yeah, 2014 should be an interesting year, if I can get my finances sorted out, that will be great, it will enable me to do a lot of things I've only been thinking about up until now. Including my modular ! But more importantly, maybe a new business. Also, it will enable me to get my health sorted, which has been a major stumbling block so far.
It's seems surreal that at some point next year I will be in a position to maybe buy things that are only dreams now, not only music toys, but stuff for my rapidly fast deteriorating flat !

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Post by TheBradster » Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:49 am

Nelson Baboon wrote:I guess I think that there is a usage of professional/amateur that takes more into account than whether someone is making money. In this usage, calling someone an 'amateur' is a pejorative.
Agreed to some extent but I for one am very proud of being an amateur and an autodidact. It has taken me to some very interesting places.

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Post by paults » Sun Dec 29, 2013 10:42 am

a) the 'standard' of integrating synths with traditional instruments is Mannheim Steamroller's 'Fresh Aire' recordings, mainly 1-5. I used to listen to them for hours and hours. There are good versions of them at www.mog.com

b) I think that synth imitation of 'traditional' instruments is a great technical challenge that few people can do well. For one, it takes a LOT of time and effort. It also takes a good 'ear' and usually a good amount of outboard EQ to get the tonal qualities just right.

Here are some MOTM 5U examples of this sort of thing. I know many people quickly dismiss this sort of thing with a hand wave and "So what's the point?". I just grin and say "Let's see YOU try!" It's hard because the end result is well-known and not arbitrary.

Middle Eastern double reed/bass/drums (all MOTM except the voice thing, which is run through a MOTM-410 Triple Res filter). This piece was about *200 hours* of work:
http://synthtech.com/demo/d_reed.mp3

Recorder (guitar/piano is a sample):
http://synthtech.com/demo/motm_recorder.mp3

Orchestra imitations (everything is MOTM):
http://synthtech.com/demo/orch_hit.mp3

Pipe organ (probably the easiest to do):
http://synthtech.com/demo/elhardt/MOTM_ ... _Organ.mp3

Brass/drums stuff:
http://synthtech.com/demo/elhardt/MOTM_Renaissance2.mp3
http://synthtech.com/demo/motmbrass.mp3

Violins are really difficult, requires touchy EQ plus just the right touch of reverb/chorus. Cello is a bit easier: here is a real then a fake cello playing the same bits:
http://synthtech.com/demo/elhardt/Strin ... ompare.mp3

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Post by strettara » Sun Dec 29, 2013 11:14 am

Very interesting. As a recorder player, I'd say your recorder is more of a Ganassi (early baroque) than a late baroque sound, beautifully done. The cello is excellent, although I do feel the effect is a bit heavy, it creates an almost flanging effect.

I've always wanted to do the exact opposite of this, but your work is very impressive indeed. Especially the middle eastern track, which is quite amazing.
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