Tweaked and expanded theme from SJ.
- Using separate reverb sends (to the same unit though) from each channel, in order to simulate brass being further back, violins more to the front etc
- Not using extreme left/right pan to leave room for the reverb
- Using the entire orchestra, even woodwinds…
- Using slight compression on the drums and in mastering (yeah I know, it’s classical music but I figure people expect this from videogames)
- Using staccato patches where necessary (makes a large difference)
- Blending solo instruments into the sections for thickening
- Not going full tilt on the strings all the time
- Using an envelope in Reaper to vary the tempo on the master track
I think I’m getting better at orchestration, too. I avoid clogging up frequencies too much.
What I want to try in the future: Fader automation and tweaking the MIDI velocity and expression even more. For the most part, velocity is already varied on every single note, but possibly not enough.
Plugins I use are still Variety of Sound. I’m most impressed by the EpicVerb and the Density stereo bus compressor, which is very subtle. The simple-to-use Thrillseeker LA compressor is also excellent, it’s what I used on the drums. His EQs and exciters don’t really do it for me though. He has a delay unit that’s very cool but I can’t really find a place for that yet.
New free stuff
I learned recently that there are two new free orchestral sample packages. One is the Virtual Playing Orchestra, which is based on the excellent Sonatina, and the other is a community package from a commercial maker, Versil Studios. Both are available in the free sfz format, so use the rgc:audio sfz player or Plogue Sforzando to get them into Reaper (or Logic or whatever else MIDI software you use).
Obviously I downloaded both and compared them to my trusty Sonatina. I feel the VPO package is very polished and useable, but the samples often seem overprocessed compared to Sonatina’s, which sound more natural and restrained to my ear. Especially the trombones, I thought, sounded almost like a synth. Other samples are possibly better than the Sonatina ones (flutes come to mind). All in all, a mixed bag. When I want EQs and harmonic distortion on my instruments, I prefer to do it myself; that’s why I prefer more natural sounding samples.
The Versil package was slightly disappointing; it sounded good but not orchestral. Horns and brass in Sonatina, for example, have the ability to go “full tilt” depending on MIDI velocity – the Versil ones appeared *too* restrained for my liking. The strings were adequate but I thought there were too many unwanted noises in the loud notes. I get the impression that they wanted to create a chamber orchestra, though, so maybe that’s why it sounds pretty tame. They have some very nice vibrato patches and somesuch, though.
It’s crazy times we live in, isn’t it. Making orchestral music is now basically free. High quality reverb plugins cost less than food. How strange is that.
I’ve also begun to work on atmospheric background tracks. Those are a lot more restrained and droney than the themes. The themes are basically collections of snippets and motifs that can later be picked and used as appropriate.