Jade

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Rainmak3r
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Jade

Post by Rainmak3r »

Hi all,

last weekend I decided to get back to one of the many tracks I had on hold, and I finally managed to complete it:

https://soundcloud.com/lminiero/jade

It's an attempt to write some typical traditional Chinese music with the usual soundtrack "paint" over it. I started working on it last year, when the main theme came to mind: I liked how it used the traditional Chinese pentatonic scale, and how melancholic and yet graceful it sounded in my mind, so I decided to try and use traditional instruments to play it. The middle section came in a different moment: the way it appeared in my mind, it always sounded a bit like the Last Samurai soundtrack (yep I know, wrong country :mrgreen: ), so I tried to arrange it like that, with the slow and sad string section building up to the theme reprise. All in all, there aren't many audio tracks, and I like that it sounds more sober than my usual compositions: even in the finale, where more instruments join together, I tried not to overdo it, so I hope I managed to keep it interesting anyway.

Coming to the technical part, as usual I wrote most parts in MuseScore, and then exported a MIDI I could import in Ardour 5. There I used a few different sources for the instruments I wanted to render, and for the first time I used LinVST natively in Ardour which was quite a surprise: it was quite nice to see I could automate properties of those VSTs myself! About the instruments themselves:
  • The pad that you can hear in the background is the "Multi Rushes" preset in Yoshimi: I like how subdued and yet effective it is!
  • All flutes are rendered using a free Windows VST, called "Mini DiZi": in the track you can hear 4 different flute presets, even though the main ones are a Dizi (the tenor flute playing the main theme for the first time) and the Xiao (the bass flute doubling the strings in the middle part, and the theme in the finale). I think that sound-wise they sound incredible, for being a free VST: I had to automate a bit the attacks to try and make them sound less synth-y, which I don't think I managed to 100% do, but I feel they're believable enough.
  • The Erhu is rendered using a free Windows VST by the same author, called "Mini Erhu". I'm less satisfied with how this one came out... it sounds quite nice, but it is also much more obviously fake. Initially I wanted a lot of bends to be used, as they're typical of Erhu playing: unfortunately, writing them in MuseScore is a pain, and when you import them in Ardour they don't work as they use different ranges. Then I tried writing them manually in Ardour, and soon gave up too. Eventually I used one of the presets of the VST itself, which has a "full tone bend up" setting: that's what you hear in the track from time to time. Unfortunately changing patch was problematic too: it seemed fine when previewing the playback, but would be messed up when exporting the track, so I decided to simply render the MIDI+VST audio to an audio track. It kinda worked, even though you can still hear a couple of glitches initially... Hopefully they're not too bad!
  • The Pipa and Guzheng are rendered using a free soundfont called "DSK Asian DreamZ": up to a few days ago I only knew the VST version of it, so I was quite happy to see it available as an SF2 too. While it does includes a couple of flutes and an erhu too, they sound considerably worse than the Mini VST ones, so I stuck to the plucked instruments instead.
  • The strings section is 5 different parts, panned as in a real orchestra, and all played via the KBH Strings soundfont I've used often in the past. This soundfont is actually more tailored for slow violas/cellos, but I decided to use it for all the strings, since that was the range I wanted to "pop" anyway, and I think it sounds really cool: incredible how that soundfont is just 19MB!
  • For the brief percussions part, I actually "cheated" a bit... I couldn't find any decent Chinese percussions soundfont anywhere, so I used an amazing Japanese Taiko drums SFZ I found some time ago, called "SCC Taiko Drums". I've wanted to use them since the first time I heard them, but never had the chance: at the end of the day, I think they fit the part nicely, especially considering I tried to keep them more generic than the gorgeous and bombastic Taiko sound we're familiar with (and considering I'm an Italian guy attempting to write Chinese music :lol: )
  • As usual, the amazing Dragonfly Reverb was used pretty much everywhere.
I hope you'll enjoy this, and I'll be looking forward to your feedback!

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crownbird
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Re: Jade

Post by crownbird »

Nicely done, as usual!

I can't critique much due to a lack of experience with this music, but I liked the string ensemble for sure. I remember in a previous song you posted, you mentioned the KBH Ultima strings as well; I think you make them sound really natural! I liked the Erhu bends when they were used. But yeah, having to render them that way certainly sounds bothersome if you'd have to make changes.

And non-diatonic scales can be really fun. Anyway, great job!
I make music, released at https://royalgloom.bandcamp.com/

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Rainmak3r
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Re: Jade

Post by Rainmak3r »

crownbird wrote:
Wed Oct 28, 2020 3:46 am
Nicely done, as usual!
Thanks for listening!
crownbird wrote:
Wed Oct 28, 2020 3:46 am
I can't critique much due to a lack of experience with this music, but I liked the string ensemble for sure. I remember in a previous song you posted, you mentioned the KBH Ultima strings as well; I think you make them sound really natural! I liked the Erhu bends when they were used. But yeah, having to render them that way certainly sounds bothersome if you'd have to make changes.
Yep, KBH Ultima Strings are really nice, I love how they sound. They can really only be used for sections like this, though, meaning you couldn't use them for faster passages or if violins were more important, but it doesn't really matter. On Erhu, yeah, it's such a dynamic and "bendy" instrument by itself that it's probably one of the hardest to get right if you're not really playing one... too bad that scripting bends programmatically is still such a pain: in Ardour in particular it's very hard to draw a smooth curve, so it always sounded very fake and I gave up almost immediately.
crownbird wrote:
Wed Oct 28, 2020 3:46 am
And non-diatonic scales can be really fun. Anyway, great job!
Really fun, I agree! I probably take many more liberties with those than I should, but as long as it sounds nice... :lol:

uns4ph3
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Re: Jade

Post by uns4ph3 »

Well done. I love the refrain coming back across the instruments as the tune goes on. The pitch bends didn't sound super synthetic to me - i am really impressed at how natural that sounds for being a vst

sunrat
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Re: Jade

Post by sunrat »

I really like this, played it a few times already. Nice work. 8)

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Rainmak3r
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Re: Jade

Post by Rainmak3r »

uns4ph3 wrote:
Sat Oct 31, 2020 3:05 am
Well done. I love the refrain coming back across the instruments as the tune goes on. The pitch bends didn't sound super synthetic to me - i am really impressed at how natural that sounds for being a vst
Thanks for listening, and I'm glad you liked it! The Mini ErHu VST is indeed quite cool, and the bend is actually one of the patches they provide: you can hear it in this preview of the VST on YouTube, where patch 6 is the bend up, while patch 7 is bend down. I think I used patch 1 for everything else, even though maybe the 4th may have been more appropriate (more sustain, less vibrato).

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Rainmak3r
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Re: Jade

Post by Rainmak3r »

sunrat wrote:
Sat Oct 31, 2020 8:29 am
I really like this, played it a few times already. Nice work. 8)
Thanks, this is really appreciated, and there's no greater joy than knowing someone listened to what you wrote more than once! :D

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davephillips
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Re: Jade

Post by davephillips »

Gave it another listen today. Fine work throughout. After reading your notes I'd say you achieved your goals.

Sometime in the 70s I heard a touring Chinese group perform at the Cleveland Museum Of Art. I never forgot the experience. Some of the sounds were somewhat familiar but the overall timbre space was very new to me. I specifically recall the performances on the pi-pa, the erhu, and the sheng. The pi-pa player was awesome, with a right-hand tremolo technique that any classical guitarist would envy. They were all top players, IIRC they were here on a short and tightly controlled tour.

You're right, the VST instruments sound very good. And btw, your mix is about perfect. Things are where they should be when they should be there and out of the way otherwise. :)

Best regards,

dp

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Rainmak3r
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Re: Jade

Post by Rainmak3r »

davephillips wrote:
Sun Nov 01, 2020 2:34 pm
Gave it another listen today. Fine work throughout. After reading your notes I'd say you achieved your goals.
Thanks, I'm glad you liked it!
davephillips wrote:
Sun Nov 01, 2020 2:34 pm
Sometime in the 70s I heard a touring Chinese group perform at the Cleveland Museum Of Art. I never forgot the experience. Some of the sounds were somewhat familiar but the overall timbre space was very new to me. I specifically recall the performances on the pi-pa, the erhu, and the sheng. The pi-pa player was awesome, with a right-hand tremolo technique that any classical guitarist would envy. They were all top players, IIRC they were here on a short and tightly controlled tour.
That must have been an incredible performance indeed, that I would have loved to watch! I've seen a Taiko group performing live here a few times these past years, and they left me with a similar feeling: they're drums, and so should indeed feel familiar, and yet they aren't, just as the way they're played isn't either. Experiences like those definitely help widening the perspective, and changing the expectations we might have about what music should sound like.
davephillips wrote:
Sun Nov 01, 2020 2:34 pm
You're right, the VST instruments sound very good. And btw, your mix is about perfect. Things are where they should be when they should be there and out of the way otherwise. :)

Best regards,

dp
That's an a amazing compliment, thanks again!

sunrat
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Re: Jade

Post by sunrat »

Could you please tell me how you set up Mini DiZi? I tried it with LinVST and in Carla where it seemed to scan OK but didn't appear in options to load it, same in Qtractor. Same problem with that DSK VST although the SF2 pack they have looks great for $25. I've successfully used LinVST for a couple of Win effects but not instruments before. Maybe I'm not set up for 32 bit ones? Still learning...

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Rainmak3r
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Re: Jade

Post by Rainmak3r »

sunrat wrote:
Mon Nov 02, 2020 1:02 pm
Could you please tell me how you set up Mini DiZi? I tried it with LinVST and in Carla where it seemed to scan OK but didn't appear in options to load it, same in Qtractor. Same problem with that DSK VST although the SF2 pack they have looks great for $25. I've successfully used LinVST for a couple of Win effects but not instruments before. Maybe I'm not set up for 32 bit ones? Still learning...
I can't help with Carla, as I'm not familiar with it, but what I did for Ardour was the following:
  1. I extracted the Mini DiZi VST to a folder in my home (~/vst), which should give you the Mini_DiZi.dll file and a Mini_DiZi subfolder;
  2. I launched linvstconvert, picked the linvst.so file and the ~/vst folder, and then started the convertion, which basically added a new Mini_DiZi.so file for the DLL I had there;
  3. I configured Ardour to look for VSTs in ~/vst (IIRC it's in the list by default already), which should make it appear in the list of track plugins (a rescan may be needed if Ardour was open already);
  4. At this point, I just added the Mini DiZi plugin on my MIDI track in Ardour and I was done.
I just noticed (looking at the archive) that the Mini DiZi package I downloaded also comes with an SF2 file (CWS_DiZi_Free.sf2), but I didn't try it so I'm not sure if it's comparable in quality. Not sure why I didn't notice it before, I guess I just assumed the VST was the only option since I had it on my disk for about a year.

sunrat
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Re: Jade

Post by sunrat »

Thanks for the quick reply. That's pretty much exactly what I did but with Qtractor and Carla instead of Ardour. Will investigate more tomorrow.

Edit: Just tried the MiniDiZi soundfont, it seems quite nice.

Edit2: My LinVST problem is definitely with multiarch setup for wine.

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Re: Jade

Post by folderol »

This really lovely. Nothing more I can say really :D

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Re: Jade

Post by Basslint »

Very good Lorenzo, creative and eclectic as usual. Reminds me of Kitaro (who is Japanese but makes music inspired by China sometimes). I think you are ready to compose soundtracks! :D
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Rainmak3r
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Re: Jade

Post by Rainmak3r »

folderol wrote:
Mon Nov 02, 2020 8:49 pm
This really lovely. Nothing more I can say really :D
Thanks! :mrgreen:

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