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.

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.

Today contributed with a crash fix for Calf plugins

Sine I have made an upgrade of my Geontime Studio with a more powerful computer, I started to install all the configuration and software that I need for composing music in GNU/Linux (Debian). I want to reach a stable configuration for my workflow for at least the 6 next months, when to concentrate only on music. I have compiled Ardour from the repository and the rest of the basing plugins I use, and other software. But not everything goes well from the beginning, and something is crashing here and there. The last week I made a crash fix for Yoshimi synth and today for Calf plugin, and they were merged into the master. Now probably I am closer to my stable workflow, and can continue the mix for the piece I am working.

Just contributed to Yoshimi synthesizer with a bug fix

Yoshimi is a software synthesizer, and since it has also a LV2 plugin I started to use it now in Ardour. Ardour warned me once that I need to increase the maximum locked memory, but I ignored this. Working on my new piece, and adding new tracks with Yoshimi as an instrument, the Ardour started to crash. Studying a little the crash with GDB I found that it comes from Yoshimi. Cloned the Yoshimi repository, and fixed the crash and made a commit to the project. At least Yoshimi will not crash Ardour if there is not enough memory to lock.

Now I’ve seen that my contribution was accepted. I am happy twice. 🙂 The work on the piece can continue, and soon I will start the mixing phase.

This is how you are becoming addicted by GNU/Linux

This is how you are becoming addicted by GNU/Linux and free software. You want a viola in a track, qsample crashes when you want to load SF2 instruments… you download the latest code of qsample, and it doesn’t compile… than you comment some lines of C++ code in qsample that gives errors, but you don’t think this will affect sf2… so you compile, run, load the instrument… and your track is playing the viola… and you are happy! That’s a real composition. #music #freesoftware

Changing my Workflow: Ardour MIDI Editing

Until now my workflow was LMMS->Ardour. Than I updated Debian and LMMS (repo version) started to crash. I thought It was due to some plugins, but not. I have compiled the new version of LMMS, but it doesn’t compile the ZynAddSubFx plugin. Anyway I had plans to move completely to Ardour.

Now I succeeded to compile Yoshimi as a LV2 plugin, so, I have started to work on a new idea purely in Ardour.

Here are my main thoughts about Ardour MIDI editing:

  • Sometimes the first note of a region is not played.
  • Transition, for example, from one chord to another often the previous chord is still played and clashes with the current cord (it may be from the synthesizer, but I don know).
  • Note dynamics (velocity) is visible only by color nuances. That is not so practical. Not event saying that there are a lot of people with dichromacy.
  • I think piano roll is the right thing, and there are other issues regarding  MIDI, but I’ll see if my experience will change after some pieces created.