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How and Why I Created My Sibelius 7 - EWQLSO Manual Sound Set Templates

In autumn 2008, I was presented with a problem which I’m sure you’ve come across yourself: I encountered a situation in which I needed to create a “realistic” audio mock-up of some of my existing scores, but found Sibelius Sounds to be too unrealistic to achieve this. For me, the solution was to purchase a third-party sample library; but I quickly found, to my horror, that connecting my score to my samples was more difficult than a simple plug-and-play solution.

I spent a few months learning about how to assemble a basic manual sound set, which I used to marry patches from PeterSiedlaczek’s Complete Classical Collection to my existing scores – ruining the transposition settings, spacing, etc. in the process. Shortly after finishing my project, I discovered EastWest-QuantumLeap Symphonic Orchestra (EWQLSO), which I purchased right away, and set about toying with and learning about.

A major problem came out of my Demo CD project though. As I listened to my carefully-prepared tracks (I have combined the samples with recordings of live musicians playing on a click-track), I noticed problems in the orchestral balance – melodies and textures which had sounded fine using Sibelius Sounds were less defined, even muddy, in live performance. The orchestral balance was off, and part of the problem was that I had fallen for the common mistake of young composers: “writing for the sounds” – the act of modifying a computerized score until it sounds right with the notation software’s pre-packaged sounds, in turn creating a score which sounds imbalanced in real life.

While I launched myself into books on orchestration, I also realized that I needed a set of sounds in Sibelius which might better represent a real orchestral performance. I knew how to build a manual sound set, and I had been learning about EWQLSO for some time; it only made sense to combine that knowledge and put together an EWQLSO Manual Sound Set! After several small experiments on a mediocre computer system, I was having difficulty accessing the full spectrum of available articulations in the library using only a SoundID-based manual approach. I eventually had a breakthrough though, in the form of my “Key-Switching Staves” idea, which takes advantage of Sibelius’ Panorama function to treat Sibelius more like a sequencer to play the patches with more intimately personal control. As 2010 drew to a close, the possibility of a comprehensive EWQLSO Manual Sound Set was becoming much more realistic!

In early 2011, I decided to invest in a better computer system which could handle all the Master KSW Patches being played simultaneously. Once the computer had been assembled, a few weeks’ work created my first draft of the full system. The release of Sibelius 7 in August of that year, with 64-bit processing, enabled me to finally load all the patches I needed, without concern for RAM limitations. The result was the October 25th release of the system’s first complete realization of an existing score: an abridged version of Tchaikovsky’s Scene from the Swan Lake Suite. The sound set would not be finished though, until I could accommodate every key-switch on every pitched instrument; and combine this with all ‘common’ percussion instruments in a single ‘Master’ template. The task took until January 2012 to plan and implement, and required a challenging re-think of the Key-Switching Staff model to include all available key-switches.

Several months later, as I continued to receive positive feedback from viewers of the Swan Lake mock-up, I started to consider the possibility of making the whole system available to other users. The ensuing effort took months of brainstorming and experimentation to bring to market a template which is as user-friendly as possible, while addressing both the needs of sound quality and the creation of beautiful-looking orchestral scores.

I will be releasing my templates on 31 January 2013, in the hopes that other users will enjoy them and their unique approach to mock-up work. They will be available on my website, here.

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