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Topic: Tip Of The Week: Brass Overlays in GPO

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  1. #1

    Tip Of The Week: Brass Overlays in GPO

    The Brass Overlays in GPO are probably the most incorrectly used "instruments" in GPO. The word "instruments" is in quotes, because the Overlays are unique in GPO in that they're the only patches which aren't actually instruments, but instead, are - well, they're sounds.

    The theory behind these Overlays is to add that brassy, metallic ringing sound characteristic of brass instruments when played at forte levels. We all know that brass samples can sound a bit dull and unconvincing, and so to help with that issue, the programmers for GPO added these very useful Overlay sounds.

    The way they're sometimes used incorrectly is when they've been inserted and used as if they're actual instruments. Once in awhile I'll see the instrument list for a project, and a brass Overlay will be listed without the associated instrument itself being used. The effect is strange and unnatural.

    Even if you insert an Overlay into ARIA and use it as an additional layer, but have it play full bore through an entire piece, the results are akin to having someone shout at the same volume non-stop for several minutes, instead of speaking with expression, or singing. Yikes.

    Instead of just describing a track properly using an Overlay, let me go through the steps of using these patches. The effect achieved will be clear from this mini-tute, and there's an MP3 example posted below. I'll use a French Horn as an example, and as usual, Sonar is my software of reference:

    1-Record your Horn's line in your project file.

    2-After editing the MIDI track to your satisfaction, duplicate that track into a new track which is connected to one of the Horn Overlay sounds in ARIA. In Sonar, you can highlight the original track, then while holding Shift+Ctrl, drag the data down to a new track. That insures that the MIDI clip(s) is in exactly the same position. Alternatively, you can Copy and Paste in the standard way.

    3-In the Piano Roll View, have the Overlay track open. Use the Eraser Tool and sweep through the CC1 (or CC11) Controller Pane, erasing all that volume data.

    4-Re-wind the project and arm the Overlay track for recording.

    5-Either have all the tracks set to play, or solo the Horn and Overlay tracks if you need to concentrate on those alone.

    6-Record the volume performance for the Overlay track, using your Mod Wheel, or whatever device you use for recording either CC1 or CC11.

    MOST OF THE TIME, you'll have the Overlay either down to zero, or at least under 30. You'll want to swoop up on the loudest notes of the Horn's line, making the instrument "ring out" the way horns do in concert.

    Here's a screenshot and MP3 example I posted in a mini-tute for someone last year:



    Overlay Demo

    That's all there is to it - the purpose and use of the Overlays. And note there are several flavors of Overlays for all of the brass in GPO, namely "f" "f AG (aggressive) and "ff."

    Randy

  2. #2

    Re: Tip Of The Week: Brass Overlays in GPO

    Excellent Tip Randy! You example and demo make things pretty clear. Thanks!
    [Music is the Rhythm, Harmony and Breath of Life]
    "Music is music, and a note's a note" - Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong

    Rich

  3. #3

    Re: Tip Of The Week: Brass Overlays in GPO

    Wonderful thread. I absolutely loved the horn samples with the overlays. It sounded so good I played it around 5 times.
    ~Rodney

  4. #4

    Re: Tip Of The Week: Brass Overlays in GPO

    Rich and Rodney - Thank you guys very much for the posts. Looks like that went over well with you, and maybe it will with other folks too.

    Using the Overlays is something I've noticed being a source of some confusion over the years I've been on the Forum, so it's been on my mind to include this in the Tips series for awhile now. Nice to have it under the Tips umbrella, and not just hidden as a response to another thread, like where I originally posted the screen cap and demo. Maybe it will inspire people to try something they haven't before, and if they do, I'm pretty confident they'll be happy with the results.

    Great - Thanks again!

    Randy

  5. #5

    Re: Tip Of The Week: Brass Overlays in GPO

    Thank you Randy.
    All we Wagnerian-in-charge are pleased to have you blowing hard into our ears.

    Fabio
    Arrigo Beyle / Milanese / Lived, wrote, loved -- Stendhal
    Being Italian is a full-time job -- B. Severgnini

  6. #6

    Re: Tip Of The Week: Brass Overlays in GPO

    Quote Originally Posted by fabiolcati View Post
    Thank you Randy.
    All we Wagnerian-in-charge are pleased to have you blowing hard into our ears.

    hehehehe, glad you like, Fab.

    Randy

  7. #7

    Re: Tip Of The Week: Brass Overlays in GPO

    Thanks for this tip, Randy! I've finished the orchestration (well, the first cut) of a new piece for large orch and am beginning to put it into my sequencer (will import the Finale MIDI file to begin). Definitely will use the brass overlays.

    John
    John Newell
    www.johnnewellmusic.com
    GPO4, Garritan World Instruments, Digital Performer 7.24, Finale 2012, Miroslav Philharmonik

  8. #8
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    Re: Tip Of The Week: Brass Overlays in GPO

    I use the overlays in Finale often. When I need an extra ounce of energy in my piece I usually define the instrument's layer two as a new instrument (i.e. Trumpet Overlay) and assign the channel to the Trumpet Overly bank I set up in Aria. Then I copy the measures I want boosted from layer 1 to layer 2 and off we go. Works great!
    Writing music for the joy of it. (with Windows 7 64bit, Intel i7 processor, 12GB memory, LOTS of disk space, Finale 2014, Garritan GPO, JABB3, COMB, Steinway, World Instruments, & Soundiron Olympus Micro Choir. And if I ever figure out how to use Sonar X2...the sky's the limit)

  9. #9

    Re: Tip Of The Week: Brass Overlays in GPO

    Speaking of brass, aside from the overlay issue, how do you go about choosing the many variations of the instruments, e.g. french horns. Do you just audition them all and choose what you like? Use a solo instrument for the 1st horn? When do you use solo vs. player versions, and what is it with the SAM versions? Do you mix and match? Are there any principles besides not using, say a Solo 1 with a Player 1. What do you guys find most effective, especially for a piece when the horns are pretty aggressive and play fast notes a lot? The opening passage is repeated ff 16th notes at a quarter = 88, for example. I chose this setup at random:

    https://www.box.com/s/yfv86nzd7svfg442m3bb

    Your ideas are appreciated. John
    John Newell
    www.johnnewellmusic.com
    GPO4, Garritan World Instruments, Digital Performer 7.24, Finale 2012, Miroslav Philharmonik

  10. #10

    Re: Tip Of The Week: Brass Overlays in GPO

    Quote Originally Posted by John Newell View Post
    Thanks for this tip, Randy! I've finished the orchestration (well, the first cut) of a new piece for large orch and am beginning to put it into my sequencer (will import the Finale MIDI file to begin). Definitely will use the brass overlays. - John
    Hi, John - Glad this "Tip" thread was helpful, thanks for letting me know. More replies to your second post below.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mitch Manthe View Post
    I use the overlays in Finale often. When I need an extra ounce of energy in my piece I usually define the instrument's layer two as a new instrument (i.e. Trumpet Overlay) and assign the channel to the Trumpet Overly bank I set up in Aria. Then I copy the measures I want boosted from layer 1 to layer 2 and off we go. Works great!
    Hi, Mitch - That's a simple, logical way to include Overlay sounds in Finale. There's something more you could try doing:

    In the tute I described how to use Overlays in a sequencer, since that's what I work in. The main thrust of the tute was to show that an Overlay can have its own independent volume performance. Quoting myself:

    "...Even if you insert an Overlay into ARIA and use it as an additional layer, but have it play full bore through an entire piece, the results are akin to having someone shout at the same volume non-stop for several minutes, instead of speaking with expression, or singing..."

    That's what would happen if an Overlay was used with one level of volume throughout.

    In the screenshot accompanying my text, "...MOST OF THE TIME, you'll have the Overlay either down to zero, or at least under 30. You'll want to swoop up on the loudest notes of the Horn's line, making the instrument "ring out" the way horns do in concert..." you'll see how the Overlay volume is swooping up as described. If there was another accompanying screen shot of the original horn line, you'd see it's volume staying more consistently at higher levels.

    It can work fairly well to just have the Overlay use the same volume data as the original instrument. At least it wouldn't be constantly blatting out. But I feel the Overlay is a spice that should be used more sparingly, and so it works best when it has its own volume data.

    The idea is to emulate the fluctuating tone quality of an instrument as played in a live performance, and the metallic, ringing sound of brass instruments at forte is heard only occasionally during a concert. The horn is especially prone to this aggressive tone as more air is pushed through the instrument's tubing and out of its bell.

    Perhaps in your Overlay track in Finale, you could use different dynamic markings, to help control how often and how much the sound is heard. It's suggested as an experiment, because my point of reference is Sonar, as pointed out above, and as we all know, things work very differently in a sequencer as compared to a notation program.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Newell View Post
    Speaking of brass, aside from the overlay issue, how do you go about choosing the many variations of the instruments, e.g. french horns. Do you just audition them all and choose what you like? Use a solo instrument for the 1st horn? When do you use solo vs. player versions, and what is it with the SAM versions? Do you mix and match? Are there any principles besides not using, say a Solo 1 with a Player 1. What do you guys find most effective, especially for a piece when the horns are pretty aggressive and play fast notes a lot? The opening passage is repeated ff 16th notes at a quarter = 88, for example. I chose this setup at random:

    https://www.box.com/s/yfv86nzd7svfg442m3bb

    Your ideas are appreciated. John
    And hello again, John - I've looked at your ARIA screenshot, and it looks like a layout that could work. The best thing is that you're using solo instruments in the lead spots. So in answer to one of your questions, I would say, Yes, you definitely want to use the solo instrument for the 1st horn, and solo instruments for the other brass instruments. Those samples are more complex and brighter than the Players.

    Note that the Players in all GPO instrument categories are only intended for filling out sections. Their tone is more dull, their sound is simpler, and, critical to something you're bringing up, John, - they have softer attacks. A personal note - I literally never use the Players.

    So, John, for your opening passage of repeated 16th notes, you would be best off if you didnt have any Players in the mix. There are 3 available horn solists in GPO. You could try those 3 with a Player, even though that would break the rule of not pairing a Player with its associated Soloist. The phasing that produces is minimized if the Player has its own MIDI track which is shifted out of time slightly.

    But there are the brass Section patches to consider. Those are SAM instruments available for all except Tuba - This is assuming we're talking only about GPO. One of the strengths of the CoMB Library is that it's full of Section patches.

    If your piece really has 4 separate horn lines (indicated by the 4 different MIDI channels), there would be some creativity involved to fill out all the voices. But with simpler scores using 1 or 2 lines, the instruments available cover it, and the Section patches would provide the fuller sound you might need.

    That brings up a perennial topic of its own: What's the best number of instruments to use? Some people are concerned about using precisely the number of instruments in their recordings/renderings as the intended number of actual instruments to be used in a live performance. So you'll see various formulae to try and squeeze 16 violins out of GPO, for instance, in order to simulate the actual size of the 1st string section. But other people, and I'm definitely in this second group, are content with only approximating the actual size of the various sections, because we're dealing with sound. Producing a pleasing sounding recording is the goal, and using one soloist coupled with a section patch not only gets the job done, but actually sounds more effective. I feel it's a mistake for people to think that a recording is going to sound more realistic if they stick to the literal number of instruments a piece is written for. Coupling a solo violin with a 1st string section patch in GPO, for instance, is very easy to set up, and sounds better than if groups of soloists were cleverly piled together.

    You asked about the SAM brass instruments - I'm not sure what you were needing to know, but I can tell you what I think about them. Users were very happy when these were added to the original GPO brass instruments, because SAM brass has a reputation of producing excellent virtual instruments. The SAM selections added to GPO did indeed bring more available power to the collection. In general they are more aggressive than GPO, already having some of that "ringing" tone that the GPO Overlays have. In the "Con" column, I find the SAM instruments more unwieldy to use. They don't respond to volume control as well as the GPO instruments. Their timbre doesn't seem to change at lower velocities like GPO, and they tend to have more tuning issues. So, as in your ARIA screenshot, I also tend to use the original GPO horn solo 1 in the lead, rather than the SAM solo horn which doesn't blend as well in a mix.

    Trying to wrap this up - I want to pass on some observations about your screenshot, John:

    I know you said you "chose this setup at random," but I don't know how much of it was actually random. I think you were only referring to the selection of instruments. I've already said I would avoid using the Players, and add Sections. It's the ARIA settings in the visible Mixer window I wanted to comment on:

    Sends - By default those are off, full left, when instruments are loaded. And by default, the Ambience level in the Effects window is at 2 o'clock, and Convolution is at 12 o'clock. The amount of reverb is determined by a combination of those default Effects levels and the settings for the Send knobs. In your screenshot, all of the Sends have been turned up to 100% wet - That may not be what you actually intend using, but if it is, you would end up with one of those dreaded "from the bottom of Grand Canyon" recordings. Leaving the settings in Effects at default, I think you'll find that having around 10 o'clock as a basic setting will get you much better results. Less for instruments intended to be closer in the 3D aural landscape, more for things towards the back.

    Pans - Just as with the volume levels, various default settings come up as you load an instrument. In general, even though the programmers attempted to come up with settings that can get a user started, I find the need to invariably change them. It looks like you've changed the pans slightly, for instance you have your first two trumpets in slightly different positions - and that's an improvement over the default. When I tested just now, I loaded those same two instruments, Sam trumpet solo KS and Trumpet 1 solo KS, and their default pannings were virtually identical - not as good. Your first two horns, in contrast, are in exactly the same position - not so good. No matter what the default settings are, you always want your instruments to be at least slightly differentiated in their pannings to get more dimension in the mix.

    And that gets into the stage position for the various sections. By default, both horns and trumpets are on the left side, horns a bit more to the left than the trumpets. That's in accordance with many orchestra seating charts - but of course those charts vary a great deal, some showing horns towards the right, for instance. Since there's such a variety of accepted seating charts, and in reality, they're actually determined by the space factors of a given venue, all that's important is that the stereo field is used to full advantage. I prefer trumpets to be more separated from the horns, so I place them just right of center. I like the way they compliment the 1st strings that way. I also always place strings 2 opposite of 1st strings, European style, because the sound is much more full that way rather than having them bunched up all on stage left.

    And so on - I'm just saying that in your screenshot, you have all of the instruments full tilt wet, and the pannings are too closely grouped, whether or not you intended those things to be part of what you were showing us.

    For a wrap up, returning to part of your post, you asked how to go about choosing instruments. Auditioning, as you said, and as decisions are made, it's always, for me, a matter of making choices that sound pleasing in a recording. And of course one of the beauties of MIDI is that as we work on a piece, we're not stuck with our initial choices. We can keep auditioning and swapping out instruments as we go - the same MIDI data will drive a newly chosen instrument, so it's an easily done process.

    Randy

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