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Update on virtual orchestra

I have contacted Versilian Studios that releases the VSCO orchestra samples as a community edition under public domain to ask if this library can be used to develop a virtual orchestra plugin. I wasn’t sure from their site if this applies also for the case if, for example,  the executable of the plugin is sold.  Versilian Studios responded that I have the freedom to do whatever I want. Many thanks for their work to provide a free sample library, and I hope they will update it in the future.

My plan is to develop the plugin, and the goal is to be easy to use and have the necessary features. Also I want it to be visual, in the sense that every instrument to have a picture and user interactions to involve these visual aspects. This will work better from the physiological and learning point of view. I’ll start purely with the user interface, because user experience is the most important here. First I’ll design in SVG the images/icons for all orchestra instruments, and for the hole orchestra. This also will give me the opportunity to learn more about orchestra instruments.

The start of the development will be after the release the current plugin I am working, a kick synthesizer. Until than maybe also new ideas about he orchestra will come.

My thoughts about virtual orchestra

Now I am working on a piece that involves almost only instruments from orchestra: violas, harp, piano, horn. I like this type of music, I like soundtrack music, that chemistry between music and film especially. Also, I like minimalist music that involves orchestra instruments and electronic sounds.

So, most of the time I need an orchestra sample library. There are some solutions for this, a soundfont library, and another is a SFZ library by VSCO. Soundfonts can be played with fluidsynth player, and there are LV2 plugins. On the other hand sfz format can be played with linuxsampler, and there is a LV2 plugin that connects a standalone separated application QSampler that manages the instruments. But anyway I meet problems with these solutions and I don’t mean with this to criticize the hard work the people are putting in these software that makes my music possible.

Soundfond library sounds good on some instruments, and not good on others. The LV2 plugins often crash or freeze, or makes Jack server not to work. You cannot control instruments parameters, in general I haven’t seen to be able to change and see effects upon changing the parameters shown. The plugins are provided in the simplest way possible. On the other hand, SFZ library (VSCO one) contains a more realistic sounds. I like very much the Upright Piano from there. Strings… they sounds different, but more realistic. The problem with linuxsampler that reads SFZ is that it crashes often, at least for me. The LV2 plugin for it creates a lot of channels for every instrument added (32 audio outputs and inputs MIDIs), so, after adding 5-6 instruments Jack servers dies. In order to add an instrument in Ardour (I am using Ardour DAW) you need to open QSampler as a separate application to add an remove instruments, change them. QSampler has its own problems and crashes too. This process of using a separate application is not productive when you compose, especially when you experiment and develop ideas.

So, at the end I feel that I need an orchestra library as LV2 plugin that is easy to use, intuitive, and to provide more features regarding the instruments. Since I have plans to compose more orchestra music, i.e to go in this direction (I don’t mean western classical music style), I have some thoughts to develop an orchestra LV2 plugin that meets my needs, of course, released as free software, i.e GPLv3. One problem with this idea is the instruments sounds. There is VSCO Community Edition sample library in WAV format that is released under the public domain license. I am thinking to make a LV2 plugin out of that library. I am investigating about this, and probably I’ll come with some updates about this.

If you have some thoughts, I’ll be glad so know them so this will help me to clarify what is to be done.

Update about Geonkick development



I have finished to connect some essential UI parts to the API and here I have tried to quickly synthesize a kick to test at this stage what can be done with it. There was involved only Oscillator 1 (sine) for the base layer, and Oscillator 2 (triangle) for the high end. The filters and any effect were not applied yet, development in progress. After doing this test there a plenty of ideas came, like modifying the oscillator phase (really necessary), oscillator overtones, and instead of a Oscillators as a logical split to be the layers that is essentially an entire kick. Probably there will be needed at least 4 layers. The API (with small modifications) supports this in principle, i.e. can create several kicks and combine. So all this for the next release. For the current release that is going to be developed, I will stick with this general configuration.Also for the UI there is some work with the envelopes to make them work with logarithmic scale, i.e. the user to have more control on the small parts of the envelope. Also to draw the kick graph in real time, i.e. to be able to see the resulted kick, and other stuff.

Here is the repository of the current development: https://gitlab.com/iurie/geonkick/

Working on a kick synthesizer

When finding free time and feeling that I can’t concentrate to compose, I am coding a free software (GPLv3) kick synthesizer – Geonkick. There are some free software plugins for kicks on GNU/Linux, but all of them are sample based, and there is no (at least from my awareness) a kick synthesizer that could synthesize kicks. There is one integrated in LMMS, but have limited functionality. The last two weeks worked on the UI interface, and I want to finish it all, and then make the connection with the kick API that that was developed earlier for this project.  Before I have synthesized some kicks with a simple “version”, but now I want to add more functionality and release a version for use. The current functionality should include:

  • Two oscillators: since, square, triangle, sawtooth, amplitude and frequency envelope, filter (low & high pass)
  • Noise: white, pink, browninan, amplitude envelope, filter (low & high pass)
  • General kick amplitude envelope and filter (low & high pass)
  • Compression and Distortion DSP effects for the kick
  • Jack support, 1 MIDI in, 2 audio out
  • Export to a lossless format like WAVE (with stereo, mono option for export)
  • Save/Open a kick preset
  • Standalone and Lv2 plugin
  • Maybe also a VST and a release for other platforms than GNU/Linux, it would be really interesting to develop the cross-platform adaptation.

I started to develop this software because I need for my Geontime Studio to synthesize kicks and compose music. 🙂

Time

Time is my new piece that I have started to compose at the beginning of this summer. I was inspired when crossing a wheat field, so the cover image is that wheat field from Melbourne, Cambridgeshire, England. The piece also contains voices by Vlatko Blazek and another one “Time” published by Tim Kahn, both from freesound.org. The main instruments are Piano, Viola and Violin.

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Upgrade of my home studio

Upgrade of Geontime Studio
Upgrade of Geontime Studio

Here is the upgrade of my Geontime Studio. So, now I have:

  • USB MIDI Keyboard with 61 keys
  • Keyboard stand
  • USB audio interface for microphone and guitar
  • Two microphones, dynamic and condenser
  • Pop filter
  • Microphone support
  • Two headphones
  • Desktop: PC and GNU/Linux (Debian) OS
  • Software: Ardour, LMMS and free software plugins, latest, built from the source by myself.
  • New table

The next I am going to get a guitar, probably a electric one. Now I am finishing to compose a piece started on laptop with LMMS. When finished I’ll mix it in Ardour.

What I’ve done since moving myself to Cambridge

When I moved to Cambridge this spring I couldn’t compose too much because the only thing I had was my laptop. Anyway I composed on it a new piece called The Fairy that was released at the end of May. Now  I have received my MIDI keyboard and the sound interface. Waiting for the table and I think to get some new tools for the studio. I hope at the end of the month to be able to setup the home studio and start to work on music more intense. Here are two photos I took at the beginning of this summer and now of the same wheat field that inspired me to write the current piece.

A wheat field, Melbourn, Cambridgeshire. License CC-BY 4.0
A wheat field, Melbourn, Cambridgeshire. License CC-BY 4.0
A wheat field, Melbourn, Cambridgeshire. License CC-BY 4.0
A wheat field, Melbourn, Cambridgeshire. License CC-BY 4.0

My last days in my home studio Geontime in Chisinau

These are my last days in my home studio in Chisinau. Establishing myself in Cambridge will take time and probably after several months I’ll receive there only the MIDI keyboard, and the sound card plus the microphone. During this time I don’t think I’ll be able to write much music. In Cambridge probably I’ll change my workflow, and also the software and the platform. I need a high quality strings sample library, good reverb, and other better quality DSP. Due to this, there is a need to change a lot, also the DAW and the platform unfortunately.

Notebook: Thoughts about harmony

Now I am working on a new piece that involves more orchestration. I use there piano, violas, violins, trubas. I’d say it is a kind of post classical style. In comparison to the previous piece here understood and succeeded how apply better ostinato and how it can be used, and how can be passed (switching) to various instruments, especially for violins, creating interesting effects, but in the frame of harmony.  Here also developed a harmony progression guiding myself by functional harmony to create a phrase with a half cadence, and an authentic cadence. First time voiced the chords in the open position, but I had to struggle too much with fixing parallel fifths and octaves, and than left them in closed position, maybe later I’ll modify them.

I thought about the form. Understood that I can create a kind of theme and its variation, but is not very strict, rather there is used melodic ideas from the first two phrases, and just passing them to different instruments, often playing them in staccato and maybe I’ll do other tricks.

What I started to think is that probably just a repeated chord progression is not the right way, probably I need to develop more varied harmonic progression using functional harmony, and develop the ideas, phrases and cadences to create form I want to create with the desired emotional impact. I am trying to study about this, and also the harmony progressions (functional harmony) in Bach Prelude 1 in C Major BWV 846 from the Well-Tempered Clavier  and Mozart – Symphony No. 40 in G minor.

Studying Bach’s piece it forces me to understand and focus more on 7th cords, and the dominant sevenths, until now I avoided these chords, but now I started to think more about them. Motzart’s  Symphony No. 40 teaches me how I can use a chord across the instruments, and how I can voice them in  different ways, I even started to use some of these kinds of construction in my current piece. But there are lot of things I don’t understand, and need to learn how to apply.

Started to use more MuseScore first to write the notes and compose, and than put them into Ardour DAW. Now I think this is important to develop the skill to write music ideas on the “paper” first… but this is relative, anyway this craft for now I am considering the most important for me – to manipulate ideas in my head, to think in terms of the form.

Recurring Dream


Here is my new piece “Recurring Dream”.  It is a kind of style I like most of all, and I would like to compose more like this. It uses various instruments: paino, violin, viola, flute, horn, clarnet, and synth. The percussion are some samples from VSCO library and the kick is from my library that I synthesized with GeonKick developed by me for my studio, but I have released it as free software.

Download

Credits & License