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Is it me or do synthesizers not mimic real acoustic instruments convincingly?

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  • Is it me or do synthesizers not mimic real acoustic instruments convincingly?

    Finding good music on a microbudget is difficult. For my projects, I prefer music that is very acoustic sounding. Kind of like stuff that Lalo Schifrin, Bernard Hermann, and Ennio Morricone. Acoustic instruments.

    But since I cannot afford an orchestra, I have to rely on composers with synthesizers. But I do not by the acoustic violin and horn sounds. They say sound kind of synthetic, especially the horns more so. But I was told by a composer friend of mine that is sounds totally convincing and I only think that because I know the instruments are on synthesizers and computer programs... and that it's all in my head.

    What do you think? Am I being too picky and it's all in my head?

  • #2
    I think he was giving you an excuse and you are not being to picky

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    • #3
      Okay thanks. Is it possible to get real sounding brass instruments on a soundtrack, and real classical sounding viols, at all?

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      • #4
        Originally posted by ironpony View Post
        Okay thanks. Is it possible to get real sounding brass instruments on a soundtrack, and real classical sounding viols, at all?
        Yea if you know someone, or if you want to pay. I know that there are some royalty free sounds out there that have real brass

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        • #5
          Hmm okay, perhaps the composers I have done business with before just had more synthesized sounds. How come when you watch 80s movies none of the instruments sound. Was it stylistic choice, or were the recordings of the instruments just not good enough to use?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by ironpony View Post
            Okay thanks. Is it possible to get real sounding brass instruments on a soundtrack, and real classical sounding viols, at all?
            Check out http://www.soundsonline.com/Symphonic-Orchestra. Very expensive and realistic!
            -AF

            sigpic

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            • #7
              You don't need an orchestra to have real musicians. The soundtrack on my feature did have a fair number of people playing, but I've also used a single flutist (flautist?) on one short, and a pianist and a cellist in another for little or no money, just credit & experience.
              Screenwriter and script consultant: www.maralesemann.com

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              • #8
                Sounds like this guy had cheap-o sample libraries.

                The good ones (and definitely more expensive ones) can't sound fake because they are actual recordings of actual musicians
                playing actual instruments.

                That being said, even with top-tier sample libraries at a composer's disposal, he will only be able to be about 98% convincing. There is something about a live orchestra that just can't be captured inside of a library.

                Keep in mind, however, that Hollywood's elite composers frequently use sample libraries in their finished scores. Whether it's to replace the live orchestra for a cleaner sound, or to sweeten the track.

                This also brings to light (and I know, it sounds harsh) that there are 'composers' out there who need to continue working on their craft. If this guy's music didn't sound real, it could be for a number of reasons. As I mentioned above, it could be that he uses poor quality libraries. It could be that his orchestrations are bad... let me give you an example.

                In creating orchestral music on a computer, it isn't as easy as playing a keyboard. Stick with me for a moment, I'll get to my point :)

                Let's say that your composer has a sample patch loaded in with 12 violins (which is common). If he is playing the violins like he would on a keyboard, with 5-6-7 notes at a time, he's producing the sound of 60-80 violins. In real life, you're (nearly) never going to have 60-80 violins in your orchestra. This will make your recording sound fake. These are things that quality, educated, and trained composers know and think about.

                Even with the best sample libraries, a composer must be orchestrator as well.. He needs to know how instruments work in the real world in order to re-create them on the virtual side. Some instruments don't sound good together. Some sound like sweet, melted butter.

                To say that all orchestral music created on a computer sounds fake is a stretch. While a real orchestra is always best, a virtual orchestra can sound almost-nearly equal - it will still carry the emotion you need in the score - and you can get it at a tiny fraction of the cost.

                My suggestion would be to do thorough research on potential composers for your next project. Do they have any formal music education? Do their samples and demo reels sound authentic and convincing? Is there emotion in their music? Do they or can they write in the style you're envisioning for your film? Do they have photos of their studio for you to see? These are important questions to sort through the guys out there with a keyboard and laptop vs. the genuine musicians who've invested in themselves, their craft, and their career enough to be taken seriously.

                Don't let one bad experience with a sub-par composer ruin your taste for good music. There are lots of great composers. Find us. Grill us. Make us prove why we're the best person to collaborate with. After all... it's YOUR project. Your baby. It deserves the best.
                "The fine art of storytelling through music"..
                www.PatrickAThompson.com for demos

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                • #9
                  Okay thanks. I will keep that in mind when looking for the next one. I will go with a real orchestra if I can afford one that is good enough, and if not, look for a composer who is good with synthesizers. I just don't like that obvious synth sound. I don't want to nitpick but good music can make or break a movie really, it seems.

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                  • #10
                    Just echoing what Patrick said, as he was spot on. It seems like you had a bad experience with a poor composer...

                    Most sample libraries nowadays sound very realistic in my opinion, as they're so in demand, a lot of money gets ploughed into their development, top players, top recording studios etc.
                    As well as being a good orchestrator as Patrick mentioned, you need to be very good at Midi orchestration too. That's being able to get the instruments to play back realistically, not to mention, being good at mixing as well.

                    Another factor is budget; can you afford the composer fees as well as a creative fee the composer can use to record some live musicians? If no, you'll have to check out potential composers demo reels/tracks to see if they're up to par. If yes, you can use a great service called 'remote recording'. For example you might have a scene where you want an emotional cello line but the composers mockup isn't capturing that emotion... The composer can then send the sheet music and backing track to a virtual session musician, and they record it in their home studio and send over the audio file. The going session rate can be anywhere between 50-100 depending on their experience and equipment, but you can record anything from live drums to live brass ensembles.

                    Some food for thought.

                    Hope that helped!

                    Very best,

                    Mitchell.
                    www.mitchell-gibbs.com
                    Composer for Media

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                    • #11
                      Absolutely!! Something to note, and it's pure semantics..

                      Synthesizers are computerized software (or hardware) that makes its music by altering aspects of a particular sound.

                      Like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJ2c2isw124 -- giving you something that generally sounds very electronic. This was a huge style in pop music in the 80's and 90's... and to some effect, today.

                      Sample libraries, on the other hand, are actual recordings of real instruments. When a composer uses sample libraries, he's basically arranging thousands of these individual recordings into a piece of music...

                      Like this sample library for an orchestral cello section: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkCoFJKHwwo

                      For your own sanity, be sure not to interchange these words. If you tell your composer that you want a synthesized orchestra, you very well could get one. Simply explain that you want a realistic-sounding orchestra.

                      Mind you, a good composer will most likely double check your term 'synthesizer' before starting with the score. Good composers understand that most film directors and producers don't speak 'music-ese'. We need to speak with you to make sure we understand what you MEAN versus what you SAY.

                      All of that to say to be careful when telling a composer you want him to use a synthesier on the score or you could end up with that fake\electronic sound you don't like. Stress 'realism' and you'll be very clear about the sound you're wanting.
                      "The fine art of storytelling through music"..
                      www.PatrickAThompson.com for demos

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                      • #12
                        I think that it really depends upon two important factors. One, is that a lot of the better sounding libraries are very expensive. I have found that a great full orchestra can cost you in the range of two thousand, just for strings, horns and winds. Two, I think that programming is very much overlooked by composers who create on software. The subtleties of an orchestra are very difficult to re-create in a synthetic environment, so if a composer does not know how to program well, the results will not be realistic, even with the best software. Although I will say that you can achieve some amazing results with software, you still miss the living factor of having those instruments performed by actual musicians, and a lot of the little elements of a score can be funneled down to the minor things.

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