Some Bach for Sunday evening

code is at


Ooh, I love the Well-Tempered Clavier!

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Me too! I tried running your code through some synths but it reminded me of ‘switched-on classics’ you know? So I tried the Spitfire BBC Symphony Orchestra, the basic free one that @d0lfyn’s been using (is that the one?). I used to play a bit of viola - an undervalued instrument IMO - so I used that.

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Yep, I use BBCSO Core, and upon listening to your rendition, I’m thinking about how perfect harpsichord music is for translation, because it’s a lot more forgiving in terms of dynamics.

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I obtained Garritan Personal Orchestra 5 and I tend to use that with Live.
Even the synth for harpcichord in fuild synth (used by QSynth) works pretty well on a Raspberry Pi and I often use that to play Bach harpsichord. In many pieces I have a play routine that uses a switch so that I can either route to internal synths or play externally to mid and import the output sound back into SP with live_audio. unfortunately I missed the free period to obtain BBCSO :frowning:


I have fond memories of Garritan from back when I was a teenager composing with Finale. BBCSO Discover is still free if I’m not mistaken! You just have to fill out a survey and wait for 14 days: BBC SO Discover - Spitfire Audio

I bought Pianoteq Stage so that I could access their free historical instruments, and one thing I dislike about the Stage tier is that I can’t reduce the hammer noise to get a purer sound. I sometimes use a high pass filter to get rid of that noise, but the result is very artificial.

Thanks for the Spitfire link. Filled in the questionnaire so hope I’ll get it in a fortnight!

You’re very welcome! I hope it works well for you. In case you end up liking it a lot, there’s an upgrade discount if you upgrade from the free Discover tier, although Spitfire can go on discount by as much as 40% during the holidays.

Yes that’s true. Before getting stuck into SPi, I spent a lot of time with samplers like Aria Player and Sforzando, with the free community orchestra samples out there, and my own samples. I found it a little frustrating chasing an authentic, acoustic sound for traditional instruments. Lots of great piano sample sets out there, including dynamics. But for things like trumpet not so good to my ears, and I put a lot of effort into trying to get them good - playing with dynamics and modulations.

My family were very helpful in this respect - I’d plug away at a good trumpet sound (I don’t play myself but I drum for a brass band, so have a good idea of the range of sounds and techniques) then get them to listen to it. It was always OK but… not quite!

I nearly bought Garritan myself, but didn’t in the end as it seemed to be chasing something unattainable.

I’ve stopped doing that now, and moved to synthetic sounds. The big advantage is it’s never ‘nearly but not quite’ if you get what I mean?

That said, that BBC orchestra is a step up, although I’ve got a feeling it sounds great in one mode, but always the same more or less. Real instruments have such a range of technique.

What are your thoughts on this?

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CRTs didn’t use to look bad, and to some extent, that’s been my experience with instrumentation. My music has always been more idea-oriented, but I’m aware that different ideas suit different instruments. All that said, a funny situation arises when an idea sounds better on the sonic equivalent of a CRT than on an OLED, or even seeing the real thing in person! Because I’ve always tried to make what sounds good with what I have, I’ve lived blissfully unaware of what I’m missing out on. And so, I realise now that what I had then was something of a CRT.

My earliest compositions (2011-2016) used an earlier version of Garritan. Towards the end, I became more demanding in terms of what sounded good to me, but my frustration wasn’t that the instruments didn’t sound authentic, it was that they didn’t sound good to me. Here’s a short late early compositions (it’s really quiet): 20161016 - Poem - II - Fast by d0lfyn | Free Listening on SoundCloud It’s made to look fine on a CRT as its own medium, without much regard for whether it corresponds with an authentic performance.

For three years after that, I didn’t make as much music. (I was not well, and I dropped out of university too.) It didn’t help that I uninstalled my pirated copy of Finale to switch to MuseScore and their soundfonts. Getting something to sound good with soundfonts was a challenge, but it also gave me access to electronic instruments for the first time. And I wrote stuff for those electronic instruments that sounded good to me (should probably turn down the volume): 20190512B - Reflective by d0lfyn | Free Listening on SoundCloud

Last year, I bought Ableton and finished exactly 195 pieces. In the span of that, I went from stock Ableton instruments to BBCSO Core. The thing is, the stock soundfont-esque orchestral library didn’t sound bad to me. I just wrote with what I had. The feedback I got from one Discord server was that this piece written with the stock library (plus a brushed drum sample pack and Spitfire LABS music box) sounds like an old RPG, and I think that that’s actually alright! 20200812D - ♩ = 92, In C by d0lfyn | Free Listening on SoundCloud

This year has been all Sonic Pi so far, and being able to generate music on demand has quickly gotten me used to some of the sounds of BBCSO (there are a lot of sounds I haven’t used). It’s worlds apart from anything I’ve ever used before, but would I say it’s better? Not necessarily. I do think it sounds good however. (You’ve heard this piece before, but I’ll link it for comparison.) 20210205B - Phrases (v0.1.2) by d0lfyn | Free Listening on SoundCloud

My story of progression doesn’t reflect on the libraries available (I know EastWest has been around since I was a teen), and it’s not guaranteed that future libraries will always be better. Also, despite listening to classical music since I was a teen, I can’t really scrutinise a performance at all, except to say that the professionals always sound good. (I think I might lack something that can’t be taught…) All that said, maybe something will come around that’ll make me look back and realise what I’m missing out on, because I certainly hear the difference between my earlier music and now.

I don’t come from a musical family, but my parents prefer the orchestral stuff to the synths, which my father says isn’t as musical or something. That said, I think I will get around to designing a few patches for an electronic ensemble sometime.

So to conclude, because of my lack of access to performers, for me, it’s always exactly, and never not quite.

I must add that if a piece wasn’t originally written for harpsichord(s), I think it’s difficult to replicate convincingly. Perhaps a perfect replica isn’t what we should be after! Bach’s transcriptions of Vivaldi sound really good after all. (Listening to the concerto for 4 harpsichords, BWV 1065.)

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That’s a thoughtful piece, thank you. I like your CRT analogy. On that point, I like the fact that a lot of ‘CRT sounds’ (i.e. sounds that were intended to synthesize acoustic instruments but fell short) have become popular in their own right. I’m thinking of that ubiquitous yamaha piano sound from the 80’s or the classic Roland drum machines 808 etc. which sounded nothing like real drums but appear on so many records that they are like standards. Or early games console music, bleeps and blurps that were labelled ‘bassoon’.

I have to add that I did enjoy playing with the samplers, and if the process is as important as the output, there was nothing wasted. I also looked at the earlier SoundFont technology - and there’s a million soundfonts out there to be used. The fact that I have trouble not thinking ‘meh, not like a bassoon’ when I hear them, that’s my problem.

I can’t cope with listening to an autotuned voice either, but for the youngsters thats ‘the sound of the recorded singing voice’.

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BTW @d0lfyn I can’t play your tracks, they are private on soundcloud

gasp, I thought I shared the private links! Alright, I’ve made them public. Here they are, so you don’t have to scroll through the wall of text to find them:

(2011-2016) (1 min) (very quiet audio) 20161016 - Poem - II - Fast by d0lfyn | Free Listening on SoundCloud
(2017-2019) (1 min) 20190512B - Reflective by d0lfyn | Free Listening on SoundCloud
(2020) (3 1/2 min) 20200812D - ♩ = 92, In C by d0lfyn | Free Listening on SoundCloud
(2021) (10 1/2 min) 20210205B - Phrases (v0.1.2) by d0lfyn | Free Listening on SoundCloud

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I think the instruments sound pretty good.Especially in “Phrases”


Yep, I’m young enough that the sounds of my childhood GameBoy Advance SP or DS will always have a place in my heart and evoke nostalgia. I can barely tell when a voice is autotuned, though it might be because I generally don’t listen to music with vocals.

And yep, in my take on generative music especially, the process is everything.

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Yes I do too. I like Poem II especially out of these, although it’s over in a flash. Subjective I know but that’s just on the right side of complex in the composition, for me. Very nice.

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The original idea was to tweak, so as we wouldn’t hear it, but now it’s used an effect on records. I don’t like it but it’s not aimed at me. I prefer Johnny Rotten singing out of tune - it’s a generation thing :smile:

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I’m glad you like them!

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I have a handful of earlier files similar to Poem, most of them short. Because I uninstalled Finale years ago, I can’t open my other compositions, which are more idea-oriented than good-sounding anyway

For much of my youth I looked at the culture of my own generation with disdain. I’m really glad to be out of that now :blush: I’m on the cusp of the Millennials and Gen Z, really curious what Gen Alpha will turn out like