Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Classical iPad options

Anyone who listens to my electronic music pieces quickly finds that I am  a bit eclectic in my musical styles and creations. The same is true for my listening. Most iPad created music falls into EDM, Ambient or somewhat electronic styles since they are really the natural domain of synthesizers.

However, I also grew up listening and playing a lot of jazz and classical music (on trumpet in those dark days) and I often long to make similar creations electronically. On the desktop I have some great samplers (Kontakt, Logic and and old version of Sampletank). Jazz-wise I've invested (heavily!) in SampleModelings Saxes and Trumpets but classical-wise, I have been more restrained. I do have the full version of Sampletank's Miroslav orchestra on the desktop which is a huge set of sampled orchestral instruments done around 1998 by the famous Miroslav Vitous (of Weather Report fame).

On the iPad, the choices are somewhat more limiting and for classical music there aren't as many options. Garageband on the iPad has some excellent string instruments. Sampletank has a cut-down version of Miroslav that I purchased and Thumbjam has some excellent orchestral samples. There does exist the Crudebyte iSymphonic Orchestra as well, but I don't have that one.

I may spring for the Crudebyte someday but its a bit pricey. Since I do many of my classical pieces with MIDI sequencing and generative tools such as Noatikl, my favorite tools for classical sounds are the Sampletank Miroslav orchestra and Thumbjam. Garageband, while excellent, does not really let you feed it MIDI without significant work arounds.

As a test, I tried putting together a small string orchestral piece in Noatikl with 4 parts (Cellos, Violas, 1st Violins and 2nd Violins) which I then fed into both Sampletank Miroslav and Thumbjam. I recorded the results into Auria and added some nice convolution reverb there for a performance hall. The results were (at least to me) interesting!

For this experiment, I used IAA tracks into Auria. A few interesting notes....

Miroslave samples in Sampletank are already "positioned" by a typical orchestra. This means that the cellos are off to one side, the violins off to the other even with your "Pan" settings are central. Its important to note this when using Miroslav so you don't try to position your instruments manually and really throw them off.

Thumbjam samples, on the other hand are not panned and you would want to pan them yourself to get a nice stereo mix. Also, since I used Noatikl to generate these pieces, they are NOT identical! Noatikl will use randomization, chordal harmonies and other tricks to create the voices. It is never the same twice. Also, since Thumbjam doesn't have a pizzicato violin, I used staccato for Thumbjam in its place.

So here is what Sampletank's Miroslav samples created with Noatikl:

The Thumbjam version is here:
I think overall, I lean towards the Thumbjam version. The samples provided sound a bit more realistically performed to my ears. If enough of you are interested, I could repeat the experiment with Desktop tools (at least the ones I own).

Overall, I did find the results listenable even though the sample sizes on the iPad are a fraction of what is available on the Desktop.

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