New jazz piece!

edited January 2018 in User demos
This started out as a low-key showcase for the Clarinet that I got for Christmas. Things kind of escalated though...

Listen to "Laid-Back and Untroubled" on SoundCloud.



  • Wow! Fantastic! Great tune, great arrangement, great playing, and great mix/production. Are you using an EWI or Breath Controller? I hope someday to make my Sample Modeling instruments sound as real as yours. Any playing / recording tips you might have would be really appreciated. Thanks for sharing. Very impressive work.
  • edited 6:23AM
    Thank you sir! I'm certainly no expert - I'm still learning how to make the most of these instruments, while also challenging myself to compose music that I'd actually want to listen to. :-)

    I use a keyboard with a TEC Breath & Bite Controller 2 (BBC2). The BBC2 makes a huge difference in terms of expressive playing. And that's pretty much all I used for the clarinet part, with just a few editor tweaks of note velocity to control the portamento speed between a couple of notes.

    For the saxophone, I still struggle to get exactly the sound I want in real time. I think it's because a real saxophone is such a complex instrument with so much nuance to its sound. The SWAM engine is capable of mimicking a lot of that nuance, but there are many different inputs that go into it, and I'm not yet coordinated enough to supply all the right signals in real time. So I'll do as much as I can with the BBC2 and keyboard, but then I spend a lot of time tweaking controllers in the editor after the fact.

    I think an EWI would probably be a better controller for more realistic playing overall, and I've heard some great examples from others on this forum (see for one great example). But I've never learned to play a wind instrument, so I work with what I know. :-)

    I have not yet taken advantage of the BBC2's additional head tilt sensors. These could be really useful for pitch bend or other subtle controller changes that would keep my hands free to focus on the keys.

    I also haven't really explored some of the other controller values that shape the overall sound, like Formant (CC26), Harmonic Structure (CC24), Subharmonics (CC20). I suspect that varying these throughout a performance might add subtle touches that increase the realism. Anyone else on this forum have any thoughts about these?

    For me, one of the telltale signs of a "fake" instrument is when consecutive notes sound too identical to one another, where you can basically tell that the exact same sample is being used.

    Another sign (which contributes to identical-sounding notes) is lack of sufficient variation in dynamics - a real wind instrument is not played with constant breath pressure. There are subtle (and not-so-subtle) changes all the time, not only from note to note but often within a single note as well. Again, a breath controller is great for this but, I still sometimes manipulate the controller data after the fact, to make some of the changes in breath pressure a bit more pronounced than when I actually played it.

    Likewise with pitch. I think saxophones are very sensitive when it comes to precise pitch control, and this can be overlooked in a virtual performance. Listen closely to a real jazz recording and notice how often the saxophonist makes subtle "pitch bends" during the attack or release of a note. I'm trying more and more to incorporate that into my playing. I think the BBC2's head tilt sensors might help with that (or maybe I'll just injure my neck - haha).

    The "growl" effect (CC21) is neat, but I find it works best when used sparingly. I prefer to use it in short bursts, to add a bit of "scratchiness", often when bending into higher notes.

    For the Trumpet, I find it important to vary the attack intensity from note to note (non-legato), or else you get that "identical sample" effect. I also like to vary the transition flutter (CC22), so some of the legato transitions sound more or less "fluttery" than others. I try to imagine the frame of mind of the Trumpeter in the moment: If the passage sounds like it should be played with wild abandon, I will increase the transition flutter. If it calls for more precise, laser focus, I will reduce the flutter.

    For all the wind instruments, I also like to occasionally inject little pauses into longer legato phrases, where the player might take a quick breath, adjust fingering, or otherwise just emphasize a particular note.

    Anwyay, like I said, I'm no expert, and cerainly no authority on how the real instruments are played. These are just the things I notice in my own recordings, and ways in which I try to maximize the realism as I perceive it. It's nice to get some positive feedback, though, so thanks for that!

    I will happily take any criticism as well, if it will help me improve these tracks and get the best overall sound I can.


  • Thanks JL for the in-depth reply! You've given me a lot of things to experiment and try with respect to the Sample Modeling wind and brass instruments. I was surprised to read that you're not a wind instrument player originally. I was sure after listening to this piece by you that you must have had some kind of wind or brass background. My hat is off to you! My own background is a little different. I played alto sax (and a little tenor) on and off for quite a few years before having to give it up due to repetitive strain injuries in my wrists and hands (mainly from playing piano). To continue playing music but to save my hands, I learned how to play chromatic harmonica (a la Toots Theilemans). I got good enough on that to gig regularly but the RSI problems eventually ended that too (the octave shift button was enough to cause me physical problems). Later on I got an EWI-USB and, depending on how my hands are doing, I can play that occasionally, though not enough so to practice and improve my technique. I continue to play one-handed keyboard enough to compose and record (though often at a slower tempo than the final product). I used the first version of the TEC Breath Controller for a little over a year, and recently just got the second version (the bite sensor on the first version stopped working). From my own experience, using an EWI allows for more realistic and natural phrases than using a keyboard breath controller setup. But obviously as you've demonstrated on this piece, the latter setup can produce very realistic results. Concerning the Sample Modeling instruments specifically, I find that they are light years ahead of everything else available and are fun to play; but after having had them for almost a year now, I find it difficult to produce as realistic sounds as I hear some others, such as yourself, are capable of producing. Thanks again for all the information and advice you presented above. I'm sure all of it, with a lot of trial and error on my part (ha ha ha), will help me improve my recordings.
  • edited 6:23AM
    Really nice piece! Great work.
  • edited 6:23AM
    Thanks Larry! I'm very impressed with your own offerings on Sound Cloud. Great stuff.
  • edited 6:23AM
    HonorableBedlamite wrote:
    Thanks JL for the in-depth reply! You've given me a lot of things to experiment and try with respect to the Sample Modeling wind and brass instruments. ....
    Me too! :shock:

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