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Interview

AN INTERVIEW WITH ARNAUD SICARD, FOUNDER OF ACOUSTICSAMPLES

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2018 01 12 0004
AN INTERVIEW WITH ARNAUD SICARD, FOUNDER OF ACOUSTICSAMPLES
by Thorsten Meyer

Arnaud from Acousticsamples did take the time out off his busy schedule to provide some insights and background information about Acousticsamples and the virtual instruments which help some many to write inspiring great music.

Thorsten: Arnaud, first of all, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. Would you be so kind and tell us a bit about yourself and how you started out in the business?

It started in 2008 when I was a computer science engineer who did not like his job. I had been sampling instruments for my own compositions since I was probably 15 years old plus I had been studying at the Ircam (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique, or Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music. Arno has an Masters degree called ATIAM), so I decided to give that a shot. I created a small (and bad looking) website and started selling a few things and it worked 😉
How do you position Acousticsamples to the market?
Acousticsamples takes a different approach to sampling compared to the other brands. We really focus on recreating every mechanical aspect of how the original instrument works. This might come from the time when I almost decided to become a luthier 😉
Out of the many libraries you offer, which one are the best selling ones?
Probably the Sunbird and the B-5 Organ, especially since the V2 came out.
Which ones are the hidden champions that are worth a closer look?
Our Clavi D9 could do better, it’s not doing bad though, but it might have to do with the instrument itself, the Clavinet is not easiest keyboard to play nor the most used.
What is your main instrument when it comes to writing music?
I’m a drummer and a bass player; I’ve been playing since I was 4 years old 😉
Could you let us in on your favorite and most used tools in your studio, both analog and digital?
We work mostly in Logic Pro, in terms of recording gear, we use a prysm orpheus that sounds incredible and the microphones that we find in the different studios that we use. Lately we have been using DIY kits from microphone-parts.com. These are the best microphones I have ever heard and used, and by far. Everyone we have lent them to thinks the same, the clarity is insane and the signal to noise ration, is off the charts which is exactly what we need for sampling.
You put much effort in the design of your sample library’s GUI. What is the story behind all those great interfaces?
There is no secret 😉 Just a lot of time and work spent on sketching and improving until we’re happy with the result.
Which sampled library was the most complex so far?
Clearly the B-5, it’s really a new approach as it’s not just sampling. The B-5 uses the usual synthesis techniques as it really copies how the sound is generated in the original Hammond organs (which by the way is fascinating), and every aspect of the electrical chain has been modeled.
We worked on it for 2 years, 1 year for the V1 which was good, but not good enough and another year on the V2, so yes, it’s by far the most complex instrument 😉
What is your experience basing many instrument libraries on UVI’s player?
It’s the perfect tool to create sample libraries that are more complex than just a stack of samples. We have been using other samplers and none of them come close to UVI when it comes to the scripting. Today what matters to users is how the virtual instruments “feel alive” and the scripting is the only way to make that happen by making sure all of the little quirks and particularities of the original instruments are modeled.
Could you share some insights about your next project you’re most excited about?
I’m sorry, that’s classified 😉 We cannot comment on future products or what we work on until it is ready to be announced.
Thank you for your time.


 

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Interview

Charles Phillips – StrongMocha Interview

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StrongMocha: Charles, Tell us a little bit about your history in the movie business.

Well, being only 20 years old, my history is short, but I’ve had my fair share of vivid experiences, especially in film. I first picked up a video camera as a sophomore in high school, and I’ve been infatuated since. Throughout high school, I made a few extremely amateurish short films, but I made a name for myself in the community.

By my senior year, I produced a feature length documentary about my graduating class. Although it was shot and edited using consumer grade tools, it sold 250 copies and was a hit. Instead of pursuing film, I attended Purdue University the following year, and intended to major in engineering.

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Charles Phillips – StrongMocha Interview

Purdue was great, but engineering didn’t fly. My sophomore year in college I attended Columbia College in Chicago for film & video and totally enjoyed it. However, film school is inherently expensive, and I’ve opted this upcoming year to stay closer to home and go to a less costly university.

For the past year and half, I’ve worked alongside my partner Michael Gebben from Gebbs Wedding Films (gebbsweddingfilms.com), producing wedding cinematography and commercial films. In my free time, I love taking pictures and learning kinesthetically.

StrongMocha: We love your recent video “Inferno Flow” , tell us more about the video?
Essentially, my friend John called me one day explaining that he was trying to get into some kind of theme group.

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He’s into the electronic music/rave/poi scene, and to get into the group, he had to demonstrate some type of skill. So, poi and fire eating being his skills, he figured a video would be the best way to go about demonstrating them. I’ve dabbled in poi a bit myself, and I knew the pictures always looked great, but video cameras could barely keep up.

With the Canon 5D Mark II newly introduced to me, I knew that fire spinning/eating was worth testing its limits. Basically, I went to his house one night and filmed for about 2 hours. I had an idea as to what I wanted the video to look like, and I knew that I had the tools to pull it off…I just needed to make it work. I filmed John performing several times, directing him a little, but mostly letting him work his magic.

Taking from my skills in wedding cinematography, I did everything on the fly, but that’s how I’m used to working. Getting a variety of angles, movements, and camera settings, I made sure that I had plenty to work with- I knew that the fast paced editing would need it. I then picked the song based on its composition and relation to my footage.

John wanted something “chill,” but I knew that the act of fire spinning required a higher energy music selection due to the nature of its intense motion. Edit, the composer of the song, is part of a group called The Glitch Mob, who I had listened to in the past.

I was recently listening to some of their beats in preparation for another video, and when I came across LTLP, I knew it was perfect. The slow lulls mixed with the crazy sampling and scratching fundamentally meshed great with the footage. I suppose the rest is history.

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StrongMocha: Who is the brain behind it?
I am the brain behind it, I’m just glad that John approached me for the video, otherwise I doubt I would have made the connection that fire + Canon 5D Mark II= awesomeness.

StrongMocha: Tell us more about John Klockenkemper, who is fire breathing & dancing in your video.

I’ve known John since high school, and truthfully, he’s the equivalent of a mad scientist, except that he works with computers. He’s a smart fella, and we share the like of fast computers, sick electronic music, and fire, with often all three being in close proximity.

I think John has been playing with fire for a year or two now, in the hobbyist since of the term. The last time we spun fire together, he was only a little better than me and hadn’t attempted fire eating, but he’s clearly gotten much better since then.

StrongMocha: Can John be hired for a Fire breathing & dancing performance?
I’m sure John would loves to perform, but I think he considers it more of just a fun, relaxing thing to do. I know he has performed in front of large groups of people, but so far, not for money. He has the skill to do it, I just don’t think he has ever actively pursued selling it. I would hire him though.

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StrongMocha: Can you tell our reader a little bit more about “Lying Still”?
Lying Still is a film about perceived reality. The film was entered into the Purdue Digital Cinema Contest and won Best Documentary as well as Best Actress. In my opinion, it was a complex idea that was executed in a simple, yet extremely effective manner.

StrongMocha: For what reason did you make “Lying Still”?
Before I say anything, if anyone is reading this and hasn’t watched it, definitely do so now (Video below). Otherwise, I’ll ruin it for you. If you have seen it though, it basically stemmed from the simple, yet powerful idea of falsifying something that everybody takes for granted.

In film, home videos should ring a bell. Why would anybody ever fake a low production value/nearly worthless home video? With that in mind, I had to come up with an extraordinary event to “catch” on film.

A girl confessing that she was a victim to rape was a plausible idea for the time limit that I had, which was seven minutes. It was powerful, and more importantly, a touchy subject. Presenting it alone, even without the idea of falsifying it, would be moving. But, at the close of the film, the viewer learns that everything was made up.

In my mind, a majority of the population watches supposedly “real” events, such as the news or nonfiction documentaries, and takes them to be true. Home videos also fall under that category, but if someone were to fake a supposedly “real” event, more people might question the “reality” of the world that is presented to them. I optimistically question nearly everything around me, and I guess the main reason I made this film is so that other folks will follow suit.

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StrongMocha: Let’s dive into the technology and software you used for Inferno Flow. You shoot it with the Canon 5D Mark II, which lenses did you use?
As far as lenses go on this particular film, I used the Canon L-series 16-35mm 2.8 and an older manual Nikon 50mm 1.4 with a Canon adapter ring. I also used a shoulder mount for the static shots and a Glidecam 2000 for all of the moving shots.

StrongMocha: While you did shoot the footage did you learn anything you want to share with our reader?
Fire is hot. It doesn’t mix well with cameras, especially expensive ones. I was singed a few times, so be careful when you shoot poi. Aside from that, trying different shutter speeds with moving objects, fire in particular, produces very different effects.

It looks great with both low and fast speeds, and depending on your preference, both can work. On slower shutter speeds, however, I did encounter a bit of ghosting. Also, using the 50 prime was definitely advantageous for me- it performed awesomely in the low light coupled with the Canon 5D Mark II and gave me some breathing room with testing different exposures.

StrongMocha: Tell us more about your editing approach and the software you use?
I normally preach preplanning and preproduction, but with a great deal of event videography, things change on the fly. If you think about it, the concept for my video was extremely simple; it was just well executed. I knew going into shooting that I needed lots of variety within my footage, so I just left it at that.

The editing for this piece was more of just experimentation along the way. I wanted very beat driven movements (because that’s kind of what poi is based upon), so I rough cut about 40 minutes of footage down to maybe 20 minutes of good stuff.

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From there I just played around. If something looked good and flowed well, I kept it in. I kept the pacing of the video as close as I could to the pacing of the song, since I wanted to make the connection very apparent. Everything clicked really well, and I think that the combination of being at the right place with the right tools, filming the right person, and using the right music made the editing a no-brainer. Getting all those things right was the hard part.

I used Sony Vegas 9. I only applied speed changes and mild color correcting as far as technical stuff goes.

StrongMocha: We here at StrongMocha started to use compression code to speed our work up dramaticly, tell us about your tricks in your daily editing work?
I use Cineform’s standalone compression software to tame the beastly .h264 files. Converting everything to .avi makes editing a breeze.

For daily editing, knowing shortcuts is huge for me. I’m constantly refining my workflow, doing whatever it takes to be more effective and ultimately faster, while maintaining quality. I try to control the tools and not let the tools control me- knowing the ins and outs of the software will only make you better.

StrongMocha: What can we expect from your next film?
I have a simple concept that, although time consuming, if done right, will be effectively extraordinary and something never attempted on the magnitude that I plan to achieve.

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It will involve timelapsing, a living statue, some absolutely nasty beats, and a deep concentration on motion at its fundamental level. It’s in the works right now, and I’m pretty flippin’ excited.

StrongMocha: You also work on wedding films one of your recent one is “Sonal & Saidul-HENNA PARTY”. How did you start in the Wedding Film business?

I opened up the phone book and persistently asked for an interview. Basically, my partner and I really hit it off in the beginning, we were both passionate, and we were both driven.

Wedding films are being totally revamped, and our company is at the frontend of the wave. By all means, check out our films, I can safely guarantee that they are unlike (and better) than any wedding film you will ever see. Imagine Inferno Flow translated into a wedding film. Yeah. It’s cool, and we love what we do. We’re open for destinations worldwide! gebbsweddingfilms.co

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Interview

AN INTERVIEW WITH DOUGLAS MORTON (PRESIDENT & FOUNDER) OF Q UP ARTS by Thorsten Meyer

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Bob Michael Faz

AN INTERVIEW WITH DOUGLAS MORTON (PRESIDENT & FOUNDER) OF Q UP ARTS
by Thorsten Meyer

Douglas Morton from Q Up Arts did take the time out off his busy schedule to provide some insights and background information about Q Up Arts and their world-class sound collections for computer companies, professional music producers, Film/TV composers and recording artists.

Thorsten Meyer: Doug, first of all, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule. Would you be so kind and tell us a bit about yourself and how Q Up Arts started out in the business back in 1993?

Thorsten! many thanks for taking the time to speak with me! I’m excited to share my experiences and hopefully inspire and enrich your readers.

I started playing organ and piano at 7 years old, played in bands through my teen years in Cupertino, California and British Columbia, Canada. I later migrated back to Santa Cruz, in northern California, a hotbed of digital audio. in the early 1980s, E-Mu Systems had set up shop in Santa Cruz in a house on Broadway and Ocean. I’d met some of the muons and quickly became enamored with this new sampling technology. Next thing you know, I’m sampling drums for the Drumulator. My first customer was to Christopher Franke of Tangerine Dream. I kept sampling as I worked in the test department, then marketing before moving over to Optical Media International (OMI) down the coast in the hills of Aptos, California, then to Los Gatos in Silicon Valley.

OMI had developed the first desktop cd.rom publishing, Topix. The Universe of Sounds was the first sample cd.rom published, was for E-Mu’s Emulator II. the OMI CDS3 cd.rom drive connected to the EII via rs422 finally enabling users to escape the drudgery of the floppy disc and load from cd.rom providing access to hundreds of sounds at the press of a button. I produced and managed the development of the Universe of Sounds which was released to a vast audience of customers including Pink Floyd, The Cure, Stevie Wonder and many other A-list film/tv composers and producers. OMI continued publishing samples for Emax I/II, EIIIX, EIV, Akai, Roland, Ensoniq and more as well as implementing connectivity between most hardware samplers on the market. This connectivity provided access for users and thus heralding the beginning of the sample market. In 1993 I left OMI and created Q Up Arts, leaving Silicon Valley and heading back to the beach near Santa Cruz. after 24 years, Q Up Arts is creating content, developing and licensing samples and loops for a variety of customers and companies across the globe.

Let’s talk about California Keys collection of keyboard instruments including California Grand, Wurly, V-Organ, R-EPiano, H-Organ, Clav, F-Organ. What makes this collection so special besides the number of included instruments?

I was originally approached by Guitar Center’s Private Brands to produce content for the Williams Digital Piano line, a consumer platform of hardware digital pianos. Our goal was to capture the most important sounds from each of the instruments. Sounds that have been proven to work in a multitude of musical situations and applications. My first instinct was to find the greatest sounding instruments I could find. We had 2 Fazioli Grands to choose from, the 9ft and the 10ft. After we all played and listened to both, it was unanimous, the 10ft was the most beautiful instrument we’d ever laid our hands on.

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It’s truly the Stradivarius of pianos. There were also so many C7s sampled out there. I was after a piano that you could play very softly, the main element that is missing in most sampled grands.

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Next up were the organs and keyboards. We enlisted the services of master keyboard curator Arlan Schierbaum in Topanga, Southern California. Arlan had the most keyboards I’d ever seen in one place, so we had a lot of choices available. His instruments were very well maintained with help from renowned keyboard restoration expert Ken Rich of Los Angeles.

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A long answer to your question, but what makes these instruments special is the quality of the instruments and the care we took in capturing the true character. We also care deeply about the playability and expressivity of the final instruments no matter what platform or engine they play from.

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There are many piano libraries available these days. How does the California Grand differ from other available pianos?

There are some great sampled pianos out there, however, the Fazioli 10 ft. grand, as I mentioned earlier, is the finest instrument I’ve ever played. It’s a rich instrument with power, sonority, singing quality and perfect harmonic effects. The subtlety that’s available to the player is something I’d never experienced before.

The challenge of course, was to create virtual instruments out of this source material that contained as much of this expressivity as the architecture would allow, in this case, Williams and Kontakt. We went for the softest hits we could get, that’s where the beauty lies in most instruments, in my opinion.

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Another stand out feature is how the piano was recorded. It’s recorded in true surround. Matched stereo pairs of room mics were placed in front of and behind the player. U87 was placed under the piano, a classic ORTF config was to the right of the player with close mics directly above the hammers as well. In Kontakt, these mics can be sent to the surround matrix for 5.1 and 7.1 and beyond. The surround capability is very flexible for many configurations. Everything was recorded with utmost care @192khz 24bit.

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Which of the included instruments has been the most fun to sample?

They’re all fun!! Challenging is fun for me. The piano was the most inspiring and challenging.

When recording the California Keys collection, who did perform the instruments and helped to record them?

I hired a Rachmaninoff pianist named Candace Winterton, she was the perfect candidate for this project. The pianist must have a deep knowledge of dynamics and a personality and nature to sit very still while hitting note after note after note. Any movement after striking a note can render the sample useless.

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On the production and engineering side, Jim Norman of Guitar Center, Q Up Arts programmer Michael Scott and recording engineer Robert Abeyta completed the team. Arlan Schierbaum played and tweaked the keyboards and organs. An excellent team indeed!

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What are the challenges when producing California Keys collection?

To properly capture and convert the emotional quality and playability from the organic world into our digital playback world.

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How long did it take to collect and process all the sounds and samples for OMI UNIVERSE OF SOUNDS?

The first volume was a mixture of swap parties of EII users, some factory sounds. At that time there really wasn’t a sample for sale industry. Users traded sounds and Kevin Monahan from E-Mu developed some of the early sounds. Volume 2 was produced by me, David Hannibal and Steve Bodekker at OMI. We spent around 2 years developing volume 2.

Tell us more about the MASTER STUDIO COLLECTION and let us understand how it differs from OMI UNIVERSE OF SOUNDS?

The Master Studio Collection is a part of the Universe of Sounds. We originally created this for the Emulator III/X and moved it into Akai S1000 and several other platforms.

You have quite a large collection of Apple Logic EXS24 Collections, many composer however do use Kontakt these days. You migrated some EXS24 libraries to Kontakt. Can we expect more of the remaining EXS24 libraries to be migrated to Kontakt?

Absolutely! We have a vast back catalogue of sounds to port over to Kontakt and other platforms as well. We’ve just started developing for the Korg Kronos as well.

Is there a sound or style that you see lately as an upcoming trend?

I’m not that hip really 😉 I tend to go after sounds that I find interesting and haven’t been done before or done well. When I produced Voices of Native America, I did this out of respect and curiosity about Native American people and their musical history. I didn’t really think or care that anyone would purchase it, it then went on to be one of the best-selling titles in the history of sampled sounds.

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I also like to encourage users to become better keyboard players. I love loops but, let’s play some keyboards!

Would you be so kind and share your experience on what to look for when recording your own samples, be it pianos or other instruments?

I look for unique and great sounding in tune instruments and the people that play them.

Any microphone on a budget you would recommend for close and wider recoding?

I like the Neuman mics, Audix, Earthworks, B&K. For field recording, the zoom F8 is fantastic with the mics that they offer.

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How do you manage the recording and samples to sound like a real instrument?

I do lots of play testing of all the instruments. I also send them to my colleagues who are great keyboardists. You can have great sounding samples with deep layers but it’s got to be playable. This is one of the most overlooked aspects of virtual instrument design. I have a lot of respect for the sound designers at Korg, Yamaha, Nord etc for the attention to playability they offer.

Could you let us in on your favorite and most used tools in your studio, both analog and digital?

I use Myriad by AUDIOFILE ENGINEERING for batching. Izotope RX Advanced for SRC, denoising and batch conversions. Logic ProX for sequencing. Apogee I/O and Adam A77X for monitoring, Mac Pro with a giant screen.

Could you share some insights about your next project you’re most excited about?

I just completed the production of sample content for Guitar Center’s Simmons Drum Kits. We re-designed the entire kits from OS to sounds to surface. Kudos to Jim Norman at GC for a miraculous makeover.

Which advise would you give to composers who still want to incorporate the charm of a live orchestra into their productions?

Absolutely!! Go for it! There’s still nothing like the real thing.

 How do you typically go about creating a new track? 

I get most of my ideas playing the Fazioli sampled grand these days. I usually start there. Sometime I start with a groove. The sounds really drive my inspirations.

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What is your main instrument when it comes to writing music?

Grand piano and keyboards hooked up to Logic ProX

Could you share your secret weapon when it comes to composing?

Hiking, skiing surfing and getting outside I find very inspirational.

Would you share some of your tricks to achieve an epic, cinematic sound?

I like to double and triple parts with different sounds. Explode chordal melodies into separate parts. I experiment with different tempi.

Are there incredible talents you worked with that you would like to point out?

I recorded bassist Benny Reitveld a few years back, an amazing player. Working with Arlan Schierbaum was a real treat seeing how he approached keyboard playing. Too many to mention really.

Thank you for your time.

Thorsten, many thanks for this interview. This always makes me think more deeply about what I’m doing and why. My biggest motivation is to inspire musicians to create beautiful music and enrich them with my work.

All the Best, Doug

Connect with Doug 

www.douglasmortonmusic.com

Q Up Arts  www.quparts.com

Doug’s SoundCloud

Q Up Arts on Youtube

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Interview

AN INTERVIEW WITH ULI BARONOWSKY (FOUNDER AND PRODUCER)AND STEPHAN LEMBKE (CO-PRODUCER) OF GALAXY INSTRUMENTS

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AN INTERVIEW WITH ULI BARONOWSKY (FOUNDER AND PRODUCER)AND STEPHAN LEMBKE (CO-PRODUCER) OF GALAXY INSTRUMENTS
by Thorsten Meyer

Uli Baronowsky and Stephan Lembke from Galaxy Instruments did take the time out off his busy schedule to provide some insights and background information about Galaxy Instruments and their virtual instruments which help some many to write inspiring cinematic music.

Thorsten Meyer: Stephan and Uli, first of all, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule. Would you be so kind and tell us a bit about yourself and how Galaxy Instruments started out in the business?

Uli got into the whole sample production business as a freelance recording engineer, where he was doing sound for Best Service’s “Artist Drums” drum library. Since the recordings took place at Galaxy Studios in Belgium, the in-house Steinway D grand piano was the next project, where Uli got more involved with sample library creation and this became the first Galaxy Piano product, the Galaxy Steinway. Stephan has a sound engineering background as well and started out in the world of sampling by assisting Uli in the post-production process of earlier sample projects. After the Galaxy Steinway II piano collection and the Vintage D, a sound design tool based on fx-convolution was released, called Galaxy “X”. That was when the name changed from Galaxy Pianos to Galaxy Instruments and the company got more diverse.

Tell us a little more about the team behind Galaxy Instruments?

Galaxy Instruments is a small company, consisting of Uli, the main producer and founder. Over the years Stephan has become more involved, starting out as an assistant for the early 5.1 projects (Galaxy Steinway 5.1 and Artist Drums 5.1 in cooperation with Best Service), “The Giant” and “Rise & Hit” and became a co-producer with The Definitive Piano Collection project. Since 2016, Achim Reinhardt is supporting the team in all kinds of tasks and is especially skilled with programming and multimedia solutions. The Kontakt scripting is carried out by Klaus Baetz and Ingo Hermes takes care of the graphics (be it the Galaxy Instruments website or the Kontakt GUI) and is also assisting on various occasions.

Many considered Una Corda as one the leading custom-made contemporary pianos. How was the feedback that you received after releasing Una Corda?

Well, the feedback was great. We all know the sound of upright pianos and various brands of grand pianos, but the Una Corda is something new and exciting. Especially with the additional features we’ve included like the felt or cotton preparation Una Corda has a distinctive sound. It’s just fun to play with. And for us, it’s the most exciting of our libraries to play with from time to time.

Una Corda is based on a specifically developed and hand built Klavins Una Corda 88’ modern upright piano. Some may not know Una Corda, could you talk about what makes the Una Corda so special?

Una Corda is an Italian term, describing the function of a grand piano, where the hammers are moved aside (via a fourth pedal), so they would only hit a single piano string to generate a tone for each key. The result is a very clear and distinctive tone without the “beats” or movement of the frequencies, when more than one string is hit. The Klavins Una Corda 88 does not have this pedal, but instead just uses a single string for each key permanently. Also, the Una Corda includes a mounting fixture to place materials between the hammers and the strings in a manner, that is inspired by Nils Frahm’s use of the upright piano. By losing the usual wooden enclosure of an upright, the Una Corda weighs around 100 kilos and is thereby a (rather) portable version of an upright piano. However, transporting it up and down the stairs in our studio a couple of times, we still need a professional piano mover to feel safe handling it.

Some months ago the Una Corda was listed for sale on Ebay. Where is the Una Corda these days?

Yes, that’s right. David Klavins set up shop in Hungary after moving down there for a different project and closing his “Piano Manufaktur” in Balingen, Germany. He wanted to sell it in order to found his new operation, but in the end eBay was not the right place to do so. Now, the Una Corda is still in our studio (you can see the instrument standing in the back of the vocal booth in the making-of part of the walkthrough video for Thrill) and we have bought it from David to help him out.

Una Corda has been released in late 2015 and many tracks have been written with it, could you share your Top 5 tracks that use Una Corda?

Actually, we haven’t closely followed the releases of music, that are based around the Una Corda. But we heard from many (pop) music producers, that they use Una Corda in many of their tracks as a special “texture” sound. So you don’t identify it as being the unique sound of Una Corda, but it helps to support the arrangement a lot.

You offer a large range of different pianos, all together nine pianos including Una Corda, The Giant, The Grandeur, The Maverick, The Gentleman, Vintage D, Bösendorfer Imperial 290 grand, Steinway Model D 270, and Blüthner Model 150.

 

How do your pianos differ from each other and when would use one over the other?

Wow, that’s a big question with more than one short answer, but let us try to answer it.

Like stated before, the Una Corda is very unique in its sound by having a clearer tone and rather guitar-like attack. The cotton and felt preparations give this instrument an distinctive edge and encourage creativity. In comparison, The Gentleman, an old but all original Bechstein Upright has a very warm, soft and full tone with the usual upright characteristics. It features special grand-like mechanics and that’s why it has a very wide dynamic range. The Maverick is a smaller grand piano with a rather uneven tonal distribution, or you could say that every key has its own character. The resulting sound of playing The Maverick is very inspirational and it caught our ears in the shop, when we were looking for something completely different. But that’s how it often goes.

Comparing our virtual pianos based on Steinway & Sons D series grand pianos, The Grandeur has a more open and uniform sound than the Vintage D, that’s why it fits a modern, compressed piano sound in most cases. The Vintage D gets much love for its characterful, intimate, singing and warm tone and very inspirational sound. It’s at home in many styles, including jazz, pop and especially solo piano performances. The Galaxy Steinway D is kind of in between The Grandeur and Vintage D. It was recorded at the high-end Galaxy Studios in Belgium and is also available in a beautiful 5.1 surround version.

The Giant is a one-of-a kind instrument, also created by visionary piano builder David Klavins. He envisioned a huge upright to be a rather perfect version of a large grand piano and that’s why he created this instrument. Its bass is unbelievable and the sheer power of the tone developing from the huge soundboard makes it a very special instrument. With this one, we also created a cinematic version, that includes various piano fx by “mistreating” the instrument a little bit.

The Vienna Grand (based on a Bösendorfer 290) offers a low octave going down to C0 and is a very powerful and deep instrument. The dynamic range is impressive and it adds a different flavor to the arsenal compared to a Steinway D for example. The German Baby Grand, being based on a Blüthner Model 150, is a very nice vintage sounding mini grand. It sounds smooth and intimate, which is perfect for ballads and solo performance, that do not need the power of a nine foot grand. It’s very different compared to our other piano models

Many are not so advanced when it comes to sampling pianos for virtual instruments. Which of the earlier pianos was the most challenging one to sample?

The most challenging was The Giant, since it has a gallery, which divides the soundboard in two large areas. The area where the players sits, seems like a rather normal upright piano in size, but the bass strings extend below the gallery. We had to position a couple of similar microphones at different locations of the soundboard in order to get a realistic image of the sound without being to far away from the whole instrument.

After the Una Corda and eight other pianos in your arsenal which piano would be instrument you would love to add?

There are always many interesting instruments on our minds, but we can’t reveal too much about it. Fazioli and Yamaha make great grand pianos we haven’t touched so far. Also, The Gentleman is our only upright piano and there are so many characterful options out there, it’s crazy. But we don’t have a concrete project lined up at the moment.

You partnered with Native Instruments on Una Corda, Rise & Hit, THE GIANT, The Definitive Piano Collection, and now your newest product Thrill. Which project was the most challenging one?

Well, the piano library productions were pretty straight forward for us, even with all the improvements and tweaks we made over the years. The Giant Cinematic and Una Corda got additional features, but these libraries are still based on physical instruments. With Rise & Hit we got more into the realm of hybrid sound design and orchestral content, but the direction of the instrument (creating timed tension) was still pretty clear. Thrill turned out to be a real challenge, since there were so many factors to consider and features to create. The production time of Thrill was also way longer, than we expected and it exceeded all the previous libraries.

Let’s focus on your newest instruments Thrill. How many Instruments and sound sources did you include?

GI Thrill Score

The heart of Thrill is divided into two categories. There are orchestral recordings on the one hand and hybrid sounds on the other. We recorded a 80 piece symphony orchestra divided in its sections, so there are low and high strings, brass and woodwinds. We also did a session with a double string quintet and a very diverse orchestral percussion session with various instruments. The orchestral content features all kinds of special playing techniques resulting in orchestral effects, diverse clusters and dynamic ambiences.

 

GI Thrill High Strings 01

For the hybrid sound design content we recorded all kinds of musical instruments, ranging from a Zitter over bowed and beaten Guitars to various percussion instruments.

GI Thrill Orchestral Percussion Gran Cassa

We also recorded special sound fx to mangle them into “thrilling” atmospheres. Therefore we used all kinds of metal objects and other materials, that resonate nicely and have lots of overtones. We also included indoor and outdoor field recordings, modular synthesizers and custom made instruments, that were specifically recorded and designed in a very dynamic way, so that they work as an atmosphere within Thrill.

GI Thrill Fieldrecording Scrapyard

 

How and where do you capture and record the included instruments?

The orchestral recordings were produced in Bratislava, Slovakia. The studio was Studio 1 of the Slovak National Radio, a beautiful recording space with a nice and controlled reverb tail.

GI Thrill High Frequency Microphones

As far as recording setups go, we used two decca tree setups and various close and room microphones. In Thrill there are three mixes available, the main mix (mainly decca tree with some portions of the other positions), a close and an ambient mix. The source sounds for the hybrid sound design were captured in various studios in the Cologne area, as well as out in the “field” and in all kinds of weird places like factories and abandoned buildings. So there’s a lot of vibe in the sample themselves.

GI Thrill Fieldrecording Scrapyard

When recording the Thrill, who did perform the instruments and helped to record them?

The orchestra was the 80 piece Bratislava Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Hernando Rico, Martin Roller was the recording engineer. The scores were developed and orchestrated by Stefan Behrisch, in close coordination with us.

GI Thrill Low Strings 01

How long did it take to collect and process all the sounds and samples needed for Thrill?

That’s a tough question, because we’ve been collecting sounds for a long time. But all in all the content creation might have taken about nine months, without counting all the preparations for the orchestral recordings we did in August 2016.

GI Thrill Dry Ice 02

For how long did your team overall work on Thrill?

From the first demo to the finished installer it was roughly one and a half years.

What are the challenges when producing Thrill?

There were many challenges concerning the various aspects of the development process. One important aspect was to get all the dynamic blend curves right. Since there are so many stages, which influence the behavior of the overall dynamic and volume, this took a really long time to implement.

Thrill seems to be less a musical instrument and more of a performance effect engine, which is based on real instruments and additional sounds. What was the thinking behind your approach?

The main idea was to combine orchestral effects with designed hybrid atmospheres and create an instrument, that let’s the user perform the sound dynamically.

GI Thrill Orchestral Percussion Springs

I found that the XY-pad is great to blend between the instruments played. It makes it so easy to use and gives you great results.

Yeah, that’s the main control of Thrill and you will always get unique results, since you perform your atmosphere or cluster sound in real-time.

We used TouchOSC and the Leap Motion controller to blend between the Thrill sounds. I got some questions from other readers if non-iOS devices (for example Android or Surface) would be supported as well?

Yes, of course they are. Thrill (to be exact Thrill running within Kontakt) is using the midi control changes to control the X- and Y-axis of the XY-pad. These two parameter are freely mapable on the master page. So basically every midi-controller, that can send out midiCCs is compatible with Thrill. TouchOSC has an Android version, I’m not sure about midi controller apps for Surface though.

Why would you position the tone cluster generator as the most powerful to be found in a virtual instrument?

Yes, absolutely. The Cluster Designer is capable of creating clusters consisting of nine tones within a range of 14 halftones. Every note can be individually edited in volume, panorama and tuning. Also, there are three modes, that behave very differently: In “Glide” mode all tones start unison and glide (or glissandi or portamento) to their respective value tuning-wise. “Add-on” starts with one tone and adds all the others in, when the sound gets more intense (the Y-axis increases). In “Parallel” mode all tones start with their values and increase in intensity (and usually also volume). This way many different flavors of cluster sounds can be created.

GI Thrill High Strings 02

Anything we did not cover on Thrill?

As you said, it’s just great to use the XY-pad for blending the sounds and instantly creating a dramatic and very dynamic atmosphere. There are lots of features to show and try, but it’ll take a whole manual to explain, so better have a detailed look at our walkthrough video on Youtube.

Is there a sound or style that you did see lately as an upcoming trend?

Sound gets very diverse nowadays. There are so many possibilities with software instruments and sample libraries, so that even small productions can make use of a wide variety of sounds and styles. Often it’s the mixture of hybrid sound design and music composition (in a band or a classical sense). And everybody is looking for something new and unique to combine the traditional techniques with.

You recorded your virtual instruments in many different studios and locations like Saal 3 in Berlin, Galaxy Studios, Belgium or Hansahaus Studios in Bonn. Is there any recording studio you would love to use for one of your next planned instruments?

There are so many beautiful recording studios out there, but we’re quite set at the moment and don’t have special plans. Since Galaxy Studios are built so perfectly in terms of keeping the noise outside, it would be great to go back there at some point.

Would you be so kind and share your experience on what to look for when recording your own samples, be it pianos or other instruments?

There’s no easy and short answer to this question. The quality of the source (the instrument) must be good to start with. There shouldn’t be any noise to clutter the desired “pure” sound of the source. It’s best to have a professional musician, who knows the sound of the instrument assisting in the selection process. Also, when it comes to the recording, the recording space needs to be quiet, so there are no distracting external noises.

Where do you place the microphones?

We usually have many different setups in closer and further distance, so we have many options to choose from in the mixing process. However, in most cases we would record the instruments exactly the way, that we would record it within a music recording. Additional microphone options are mainly used to amplify the details of an instrument, which is usually impossible in a common music recording.

GI Thrill Double Dekka Tree

If someone wants to record for his own private library and uses only one microphone, where would you place it?

Try to find a good balance between the close and controlled sound of the most important aspect of the instrument and the rather natural distant sound of the instrument in the recording space. Also, you can capture some great “character” sounds with a single microphone, this can be a very creative and interesting approach.

Any microphone on a budget you would recommend for close and wider recoding?

When sampling, it’s also important to keep the self-noise level of a microphone in mind. There are large diaphragm budget microphones from Røde, that have similar noise characteristics compared to higher priced Neumanns. That’s a good start.

Could you recommend a microphone on a semi professional level?

The self-noise is still relevant here as well, but with the higher budget there are more options and different sound flavors to choose from. Large diaphragm microphones come from all kinds of good manufacturers, but if small diaphragm condensers are desired, the Sennheiser MKH series would be the way to go noise-wise. However, they’re not really on a semi professional budget.

When sampling at the loud level pianos and other instruments can sound very synthetic. How do you manage the recording and samples to sound like a real instrument?

That’s mainly done through the selection of the samples after recording them. We record way more dynamic layers, than we would need to create an instrument. For example, the Una Corda features 18 velocity layers per key, but we’ve recorded around sixty samples for most of the keys. This way we can select a nearly perfect dynamic behavior of the instrument later on, after mixing and editing. If it gets to harsh or unnatural, the sample is just not usable and so we would leave that out.

How many round robins would you recommend, does it vary by articulation or used instrument?

This aspect absolutely varies. The faster the musician would typically play repetitions on the instrument during a musical performance (like it is the case with drum rolls), the more round robins you need. However, the least would be three versions of a sample to make a performance feel more natural. With drums, this would easily go up to five sample versions for a snare drum. The users of virtual instruments are more sensitive to this issue nowadays, so the instruments have to keep up. Pianos however, are rarely performed playing a repetitive dynamic on the same key, so we don’t feel that there is such a need to do round robins. When you look at your midi piano performance, you won’t find two identically note-on events.

How can a boomy low-end or too top end sound be prevented?

It all starts with the recording of the instrument. If this sounds great in the recording space and the microphone/preamps combination works for the desired sound image, you shouldn’t have to worry about these issues. With a boomy low-end, you could always cut a bit of the low-mids or lows if necessary, but this depends in the sound you’ve recorded.

When the sound is captured which tools, software and hardware are part your post production process?

This depends on the nature of the project. With the pianos, there’s hardly any processing. Most of the mix comes from a combination of the various microphones we’ve recorded. To keep the phase intact and avoid comb filtering, we use very short delays on some of the signals. The most used tools there is the sample delay plug-in from Pro Tools or the new Eventide Precision Time Align. Then there’s a limiter, which is solely used to normalize the level and it is set so it doesn’t do any gain reduction. With Una Corda we did a little more processing for the felt and cotton version and we added a Chandler Curve Bender equalizer for those duties.

With libraries like Rise&Hit or Thrill, there are so many creative tools involved in the sound design process. Zynaptiq’s Adaptiverb is a great resource for special artificial reverb, so is Eventide’s Blackhole. Soundtoys are also great for creative fx and we use Waves, McDSP and UAD for the “bread & butter” duties. So we have tons of plug-in options to choose from. Hardware wise we use some tools to process sound before they get into Pro Tools. For example, most of the modular synth sounds for Thrill went through a chain of the API 2500 bus compressor, a Thermionic Culture Vulture saturation fx and a Pendulum Audio PL-2 limiter. But, that’s just one example of all the options, that can sound great.

Could you let us in on your favorite and most used tools in your studio, both analog and digital?

We are running Pro Tools HD systems with lots of plug-ins. One of the most important digital tools for a sample production would be iZotope’s RX noise reduction, so the samples can be optimized and in some cases even repaired. We mainly use analogue tools as a front end when recording, which comes down to many microphone and preamp options. There we have two Chandler REDD.47s, eight channels of GML, two Neve 4081s, an API 3124+, Focusrite, Millennia and many more. So there’s always a little shoot out involved before starting a recording session.

GI Thrill Analog Processing

Would you be so kind and share your number one tip to create the custom sounds like you did create for Thrill?

Get creative and try something new. Don’t think that a recording has to be made in a multi-million dollar studio like Galaxy, but just record something and see how far it will take you. Number-one tip: Manipulate the speed of the recording before further processing.

Could you share some insights about your next project you’re most excited about?

We hope that this project will involve orchestral recording and hybrid sound design in a way that Thrill did. However, it will have a different focus and we’ll have to get deeper into a single category of sound sources. We can’t say more at the moment and that’s also due to the fact, that we’re still exploring different concepts. We’ll see where this will take us. 

Thank you for your time.

 

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