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My Soprano with Strings from Sibelius

rhysonsax

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I have just bought a book of tunes by Michael Nyman for soprano sax with piano and am going to play one or two of them with a pianist friend. One that took my ear was "If" from the film The Diary of Anne Frank and I used Sibelius to make a backing track for me to practice with.

Jess Gillam has recorded it with strings so I used some string sounds from Sibelius and put it in her key.

IF - Nyman - Rhys soprano V1.mp3 - Box

Although the notes shouldn't be hard it is difficult to get the sound and intonation decent and to balance with the strings.

Rhys
 

MikeMorrell

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Hi @rhysonsax, I hadn't heard this tune until you mentioned it but it's absolutely beautiful. I'm sure your duet with your pianist friend will be too. It's a wonderful choice.

I was truly impressed by the stability and quality of your tone on sop sax, your timing and your expression. I have no doubt that this matches the melody and tonal qualities of "If" perfectly.

The only thing I had trouble with was with the 'density' (and volume) of your strings backing track. I have no experience with Sibelius but if you can do a piano version, I'd go for that. I found the video below in YouTube and listened to your sop solo (while trying to ignore your 'strings backing') and imagined you were playing your sop solo with something like this piano version. It's going to be magical!

I really hope you'll record the duo version and post it here. I really would love to hear it.

There are tunes and there are tunes, many fun, many entertaining, many that put me into a certain mood, many cleverly put together, etc.. Just very occasionally, there are ones that just cut right through all this superfluous stuff and through their purity and simplicity just bring tears to my eyes without understanding why. This - for me - is one of them.

 
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jbtsax

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My only observation is that the accompaniment seems to overpower the melody somewhat in the opening section since the top string parts are in the same tessitura as the soprano sax melody. This doesn't seem to be the case later on in the arrangement. Is there any way some of the accompaniment can be taken down an octave at the first?

The arrangement I did of Gabriel's Oboe using string parts in Finale seemed to work well because the string accompaniment stayed in the low range which allowed the soprano sax to soar above the harmony in the strings.
 
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rhysonsax

rhysonsax

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Thanks @MikeMorrell and @jbtsax for those kind words and thoughtful observations. I am definitely still learning with recording and mixing and did find it hard to make the soprano sound separate but in the same room as the backings. I played around with panning the backings a bit but know that is not enough. Maybe I will make a backing that is mainly piano. I expect that string samples from other sources and with different treatments might work better.

The other thing I found on recording the soprano was that some parts of its range sound quite shrill and I don't know whether that is due to:
  • How I really sound
  • Resonant frequencies in the room where I am recording
  • The frequency response of the microphone I am using
  • Some undesired effects of the software reverb effect I use
Here is the same song done properly !




Maybe I will record it live with my pianist friend - we just need to make time to work on it and get together.

Rhys
 

jbtsax

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Your soprano playing is beautiful. The tone is so well controlled and in tune. The "timbre" of the sound is always a concern for me when I play classical soprano or alto. When mixing I sometimes reduce the treble and boost the bass on the solo track to get the quality I am after.

It goes without saying, the brand of saxophone and the choice of mouthpiece also affects the sound. It is a fact of acoustics that all of the upper harmonics bypass the open toneholes and are emitted straight out the bell. Placing the mic directly in front of the bell picks these frequencies up more than if the mic is slightly off to the side.

If you don't mind my saying so but I think using vibrato would warm up the sound quite a bit. That and ( I know it sounds trite) playing with "warm air". That helps to open the back of the mouth and throat and has an effect upon the "timbre" of the sound.

I don't know if you heard, but Bob Wilbur passed away recently. You were the one who introduced me to both him and Kenny Davern when you asked me to do the clarinet part on your transcription of On the Sunny Side of the Street. I have fond memories of working on that tune with you plus I got a new adjustable clarinet thumb rest with a ring for a neckstrap and a new mouthpiece out of the deal which took my clarinet playing to a higher level. So thank you again for asking me to participate.
 

MikeMorrell

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As always, @jbtsax's comment are very perceptive. More than mine (which were not "kind" but honest!). Personally, I still prefer the piano backing to this song above the strings. Reading @jbtsax's comments and listening to Jess Gillam's version I get it. It's not so much the string backing that I found overwhelmed your solo but especially the intro and start of your solo. Jess's backing was minimal (density and volume) when she was playing. These swelled during her breaks.

If you could emulate this in Sibelius, I think your solo would stand out more during the first part of your solo. But again, I personally prefer the piano backing.

Above all, please go through with this! Jess Gillam is a talented and award-winning sax player but you play plenty good enough for this too!

Mike
 
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rhysonsax

rhysonsax

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As an experiment, I kept my soprano recording, deleted the Sibelius strings and replaced them with a piano audio file that was exported from Sibelius. I find the Sibelius sampled piano sounds a bit aggressive, but with it panned to the left and the sop panned to the right, I think the instruments don't get on top of each other as much as with the strings arranged as they were.

IF - Nyman - Rhys soprano V2 with piano.mp3 - Box

But now that reveals some places where I rush or fall behind. Hmm, lots to work on.

Rhys
 

MikeMorrell

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@rhysonsax - one more thing: many thanks for introducing me to Hilary Summers, Iestyn Davies and Jess Gillam! One of the wonderful things about the cafe is that I discover music and musicians that I would otherwise never of heard about. This is a good example.



Thanks @MikeMorrell and @jbtsax for those kind words and thoughtful observations. I am definitely still learning with recording and mixing and did find it hard to make the soprano sound separate but in the same room as the backings. I played around with panning the backings a bit but know that is not enough. Maybe I will make a backing that is mainly piano. I expect that string samples from other sources and with different treatments might work better.

The other thing I found on recording the soprano was that some parts of its range sound quite shrill and I don't know whether that is due to:
  • How I really sound
  • Resonant frequencies in the room where I am recording
  • The frequency response of the microphone I am using
  • Some undesired effects of the software reverb effect I use
Here is the same song done properly !
(Media)

Maybe I will record it live with my pianist friend - we just need to make time to work on it and get together.

Rhys
 

MikeMorrell

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This is just my personal, humble opinion but I think that this piano backing gives you much more 'presence' as a solo player (which you deserve) than the previous strings backing. I would go even further in recommending that your sax solo is slightly stronger in 'the mix'. Without the initial 'strings' background, the quality of your solo is (to me) much clearer and much more 'present'. On this this track there's no doubt that you are the solist.

Having heard the instrumental backings to vocalists and Jess, I do appreciate them. But for an instr. solo, I still like the simple piano backing.

Mike




As an experiment, I kept my soprano recording, deleted the Sibelius strings and replaced them with a piano audio file that was exported from Sibelius. I find the Sibelius sampled piano sounds a bit aggressive, but with it panned to the left and the sop panned to the right, I think the instruments don't get on top of each other as much as with the strings arranged as they were.

IF - Nyman - Rhys soprano V2 with piano.mp3 - Box

But now that reveals some places where I rush or fall behind. Hmm, lots to work on.

Rhys
It's just m,u
 

nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
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As an experiment, I kept my soprano recording, deleted the Sibelius strings and replaced them with a piano audio file that was exported from Sibelius. I find the Sibelius sampled piano sounds a bit aggressive, but with it panned to the left and the sop panned to the right, I think the instruments don't get on top of each other as much as with the strings arranged as they were.

IF - Nyman - Rhys soprano V2 with piano.mp3 - Box

But now that reveals some places where I rush or fall behind. Hmm, lots to work on.

Rhys
What a lovely piece of music! And well played! :clapping:

I also think the piano version works best.

Like @MikeMorrell I think that the saxophone could be more prominent in the balance. And I wonder if a bit more reverb for the saxophone would help.
 

TheScenario

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UK
Great Effort.

Playing simple slow melodies on soprano is not easy and deceptively simple. Your tone is really quite nice.

There was a slight tendency to rush in places. I think overall you just need to relax and go with the music. If you relax, the timing will be better and you’ll bite less hard so the little micro warbles will also disappear. Easier said than done I know!

Well played.

Definitely better with the piano.
 
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