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How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? #2992163 06/01/19 11:48 PM
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psionic11 Offline OP
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So I like to try to get my combis sounding as accurate as possible to the original recordings. Not because I have to, because the drunks and dancers in the crowd are going to notice, but because that's what I aspire to as an artist.

So how do you pro's play the country sounds in recent country hits?

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Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: psionic11] #2992165 06/02/19 12:18 AM
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I guess I should add that I've learned and practiced a little about banjo rolls. I've got some solo violins I use to try to fake the fiddles, but without realistic bends and double stops it sounds, well, fake.

I did hear decent steel guitars coming from a fellow Kronos owner, so at least that's a possibility if I can just figure out how he did it.

Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: psionic11] #2992168 06/02/19 12:39 AM
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No you can't accurately emulate pedal steel but I think Steve posted some recent software that is getting better. To understand the pedal steel issues you need to understand Copedents. Example I play a relatively modest MSA D10 8+5. Two 10 string necks with 8 pedals and 5 knee levers. Some knees levers have triple stops means they can be set for 3 different raises or lowers on multiple strings. The pedals also can change multiple strings and you can set the interval of the pulls to be different degrees. Then you combine all that with bars movement including slants. I think pedal steel is the hardest of the three to emulate.

I have some Motif fiddles I've used with moderate results when I haven't worked with a fiddler. But usually I change the arrangement to have no fiddle. I play pedal steel and banjo. Banjo on new Country is causing me aggravation because more and more of it is fake 6 string banjotar crap. It doesn't always transfer smoothly to 5 string Scruggs style.

Last edited by CEB; 06/02/19 12:46 AM.

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Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: CEB] #2992170 06/02/19 01:08 AM
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Never was successful at emulating fiddles, even with samples. It's really hard to emulate all the expressive tricks - double stops, aggressive sawing, portamento (you have to emulate the resonance/rosin noise too), and LFO vibrato does not cut it.

Al Kooper used to brag of a keyboard he used that was great at pedal steel.

Banjo is easy to emulate if you know the picking technique.

Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: The Real MC] #2992173 06/02/19 02:16 AM
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We’ve got a fiddle player, so I haven’t tried or can think of how one could get that right.

There’s a decent banjo sound for the NE. I had to tweak it a bit to get some resonance and it sounds okay in a mix. There is a spot near the end of “Mud On the Tires” where it is kind of “naked” but the guys in the band like it. The key, as someone pointed out, is to emulate the finger picking arpeggios.

I use an 888 on the NE Hammond to add a sort of steel sound on “Neon Moon” in a few spots. It’s an A6 chord and I add one note at at time A-F#-E-D—>C#. Hold all the notes except the D and end up with an A6 chord.

Does that make sense? It’d be a lot easier to show you than describe.

Would I try to replicate a steel guitar solo? No.


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Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: misterdregs] #2992176 06/02/19 03:37 AM
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Had to do a country set last month and had to learn a bunch of tunes that have banjo and fiddle parts.

Banjo on 'Country Girl' and 'Save a Horse Ride A Cowboy' and fiddle on 'Wagon Wheel'.

I thought it was gonna be lame but I dialed in my best banjo and fiddle on the Montage. I had to stack a couple to get the right vibe for each. But when it came time to play the tunes, it was decent enough when layered in with the rest of the real band (bass drums and one guitar player) that it did the trick.

My only advice would be play them like the real instruments work. You need to know a little about double stops and open strings on the violin and common picking patterns on the banjo.


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Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: Bobadohshe] #2992179 06/02/19 06:23 AM
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I regularly emulate fiddles, pedal steel, and some banjo. I've been working on playing them idiomatically for decades, so here's a partial data dump for ya:

Fiddle
Find a solo violin voice with a strong attack and no vibrato. Play mostly melodies / obbligatos. Play no chords with more than two voices, generally between a minor third and a minor sixth; fourths and fifths sound more "fiddly."

Steel Guitar
Obviously, start with bending by good old whole steps; For example, if going from G7 to C Major, you could play D and F notes above middle C, and then bend up a whole step to resolve with the rest of the band.

I know nothing about Kronos, so the remainder of my steel advice is in the "If this works for you" category.

Steel guitars, unlike most other polyphonic instruments, can simultaneously bend multiple notes by different amounts. That's what all those pedals are for....

If you can bend subsets of notes, work on that. Many synths, after you press the sustain pedal, will bend only the notes whose keys are held down, while leaving pedal-held notes unbent. Some Roland synths can be set to bend only the last-pressed key.

Here's a trick I've been able to set up on Kurzweil VAST (specifically, PC3), but I have no idea if it works on other synth architectures: I was able to modify the steel guitar voice so that I could use a single pedal to bend the top note of any chord up by a half step, while bending the bottom note (same chord) up by a whole step, and leaving any intermediate notes alone.

This allows me to do a couple of riffs associated with Steel Guitar (and as far as I know, no other instrument): If I play, e.g., Middle C and the E above it, then the magic bend moves the major third up to D and F, a minor third. Another usage of this magic bend is to start with D-G-B above middle C, press the pedal, and the chord changes to E-G-C -- changing the spread from a Major sixth to a Minor sixth, avery steely move indeed.

Banjo
This is the hardest of the three for me to do in real-time, but if I have to fake it I generally try to randomly arpeggiate a lot, picking a "drone" note to hit more often than others.

Concluding thoughts
In all cases, once you've found a song, listen to what the original instrument did, whatever instrument you're working on, even to the point of transcribing the part note-for-note; that will help you to think more like a Whatever-ist.


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Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: Tom Williams] #2992194 06/02/19 11:17 AM
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5-string banjo tuning is an open G chord, and some people don't realize, unlike all other stringed instruments I'm aware of, the top string is the highest pitch-- G (above middle C). Tuning from top string down is:

G (above middle C)
D (below)
G (below)
B (below)
D (above)

The top string G is the characteristic banjo "drone" note which is usually not fretted during playing, so try to keep playing that no matter what other notes you play. To play in other keys, banjos are commonly capo'd, so adjust the drone note accordingly.

Banjo rolls aren't too hard to get the hang of using two hands. Here's a common one (LH is below middle C, RH above): (LH) G B (RH) G D (LH) D B (RH) G D

Then "fret" to a C chord:

(LH) G C (RH) G E (LH) E C (RH) G E

Good luck!

Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: dongna] #2992198 06/02/19 12:09 PM
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psionic11 Offline OP
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Thanks all, some great info here.

Country Girl, Save a Horse, Wagon Wheel, and Here for the Party are the songs with the parts I need to work on. Wagon Wheel's fiddle has that drone, maybe I can set something up on another channel that doesn't change notes, just volume. Solo violin with aggressive attack and convincing legato are what I focused on first.

Some banjo rolls are wider than an octave and hard to do one-handed. The samples usually are shallow and don't have as muc of the resonance from the banjo body. I guess I could arpeggiate or just get close enough and trust it to hide in the mix. I haven't looked at my new Nord Stage 2 samples yet, I'll see what's in there.

I didn't know a pedal steel had all those pedals and knee levers. Like the fiddle, it's all that bending that gives that signature sound away. I think I can set something up in the Kronos with whole and half note bends.

Thanks again, I'll be coming back to this thread for the tips.

Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: misterdregs] #2992201 06/02/19 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted By: misterdregs

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Fixed


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Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: Delaware Dave] #2992212 06/02/19 04:10 PM
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Something I think would be hard to do is to mimick a lot of Scruggs style rolls where you hammer-on notes that are repeated on other strings also. Common in G is licks that hammer D on the B string followed by the open D. Hamer on rolls are common vernacular. Not sure how to approach it on keys. I just use a Banjo.

The saving grace now is that a lot of banjo on new recordings are not banjos.

Last edited by CEB; 06/02/19 04:13 PM.

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Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: Delaware Dave] #2992214 06/02/19 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted By: Delaware Dave
Originally Posted By: misterdregs

Nord Electro 5D 73
Yamaha P105
Kurzweil PC3LE 7376
Motion Sound KP200S
Schimmel 6-10

Fixed


LOL. I hadn’t noticed I had this up there wrong.

The model is actually just called a PC3LE7.

I should have said mine has three busted keys. ;-)

Last edited by misterdregs; 06/02/19 04:32 PM.

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Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: CEB] #2992216 06/02/19 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted By: CEB

The saving grace now is that a lot of banjo on new recordings are not banjos.


Given the limitations discussed here, what DO they use?


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Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: misterdregs] #2992222 06/02/19 05:53 PM
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6 string banjotars. They are all over Keith Urban's stuff. You don't hear the drone string because there isn't one. I hate the ones I've tried. The scale length is too short and they just feel wrong. A lot of guys are using Variax to cover banjo also.


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Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: CEB] #2992224 06/02/19 06:22 PM
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For what it's worth, here is the E9 copedent I have on my two steels except my ShoBud does not have the Left vertical knee lever. It's probably the closest thing to a standard setup.

https://b0b.com/wp/copedents/buddy-emmons-e9th/


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Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: CEB] #2992227 06/02/19 06:47 PM
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I use Wavelore Pedal Steel for Konatakt.
While it’s never going to have separate strings being bent, it does have the sound and various neck positions that were well recorded.

I used it forTeach Your Children well by CSN&Y and it works well enough where people notice and comment on it.

No way PedalSteel will ever be emulated unless MPE and MIDI can do old Ensoniq PAT non global bends and many of them. I’d love it though.

Been a Pedal Steel fanatic since childhood. Went to Scotty’s Music in St Louis every year for competitions.
Some bad ass Jazz Players.
Even the old band PoCo had a guy using a PSteel and a Leslie.
Awesome stuff, even though he wasn’t a top shelf player, he did fine and that sound with a Leslie was glorious.


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Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: psionic11] #2992228 06/02/19 07:13 PM
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imagine how great new country would sound if instead of trying to figure out how to make a keyboard sound like a banjo or fiddle, they just used a real banjo or fiddle played by a real banjo or fiddle player...

Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: Paughrock] #2992229 06/02/19 07:39 PM
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I think for banjo, I’d use a lot of rolled arpeggios and slow down a recording of a banjo riff in a song to figure what notes they’re playing.
For fiddle/violin and pedal steel, remember since they are string instruments, they can bend just one note out of 2 on a double stopper violin riff, which is an essential part of country fiddle riffs (and Celtic fiddle riffs too). Pedal steel can be hard to emulate, but I read that the Rhodes Chroma and Kurzweil K2000 can bend notes in unusual ways which helps in playing steel guitar parts.
If I was doing a country gig, I’d definitely use a quick violin patch with no vibrato too.
I’d also use mod wheel to add vibrato instead.
You also have to do a lot of downward pitch bends when you play fiddle when you hit the note you pitch bend and take your hand off the pitch wheel immediately to get that country/Celtic fiddle sound.
I agree about the 6 string banjotar. It isn’t an authentic banjo to me like the Scruggs style 5 string.
Also, a lot of country songs these days also use keyboard fiddle and banjo, even from stuff like Casio’s and Sound Canvas.


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Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: Tom Williams] #2992242 06/02/19 11:58 PM
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Originally Posted By: Tom Williams
"fiddly"

Word of the Day

Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: psionic11] #2992243 06/03/19 12:08 AM
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I could offer some software suggestions, but on a hardware board....I have no idea.


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Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: Paughrock] #2992244 06/03/19 12:13 AM
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Originally Posted By: Paughrock
imagine how great new country would sound if instead of trying to figure out how to make a keyboard sound like a banjo or fiddle, they just used a real banjo or fiddle played by a real banjo or fiddle player...
That's pretty much what I have to do around here -- imagine it. Besides which, learning to play idiomatically to imitate other instruments is a major part of my musicianship as a synthesist.


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Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: Steve Nathan] #2992247 06/03/19 01:08 AM
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Originally Posted By: Steve Nathan
I could offer some software suggestions, but on a hardware board....I have no idea.


I, for one, would be totally interested in your software suggestions and opinions Steve if the OP wouldn't mind the slight derail.

Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: Tom Williams] #2992255 06/03/19 02:01 AM
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Pedal steel has always been the most difficult for me to pull off, especially using any patch that is named as such. And technique-wise, it's the instrument I feel most deficient in imitating. I recall using a Kurzweil preset from the late 90's that had some halfway convincing independent note bends, but the tone still left a lot to be desired. Oddly enough, what has sometimes worked for simple, single-note steel lines (especially descending), is a Rhodes sample with liberal use of the sustain pedal - EQ flat, reverb to taste.

I've done a little banjo picking on keys. As mentioned above, drone notes help with authenticity. Also, there is an interlocking hand technique I was shown (a kind of finger dovetailing - alternating chord tones between 'overlayed' hands), that makes acoustic guitar parts, banjo rolls and alternating picking patterns sound more authentic - closer to how a fretboard works (versus a keyboard). Before that, my guitar and banjo parts sounded closer to a harpsichord than a fretted instrument.

Violin on keys has been the most straightforward for me, though the playing technique is often still a challenge. Especially in a band mix, the stock Motif violin Voice can work wonders; and up until 2011 that was my go-to for country gigs. Shortly after, I started using a Jupiter-50; the SN violin Programs go much further - with the behavior modeling characteristics that are part of the technology.


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Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: allan_evett] #2992311 06/03/19 01:26 PM
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Hi all, 1st time poster here, long-time (18 years!) lurker. I have interacted with some of you on HC.

January '97 issue of Keyboard has a tutorial on sequencing and playing bluegrass fiddle and banjo parts from a keyboard. It has several useful transcription examples, including one of the signature "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" opening lick.

The article was helpful and informative, but I had a leg up from accompanying an accomplished banjo player friend while in high school, also transcribed one of his arrangements for a stringed instrument contest that required that- it was meant to be more for "legit" music.

In passing, who may have got the ball rolling on synthesized banjo was the 90's country disco hit cover of "Cotton Eye Joe" by the Swedish group Rednex.


Last edited by pinkfloydcramer; 06/03/19 05:24 PM. Reason: to correct Foggy Mountain Breakdown not being mentioned by name in the article
Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: pinkfloydcramer] #2992318 06/03/19 01:48 PM
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From my experience, with string instruments , you can do some of the basics on a keyboard (Kronos etc].

Next, you will need grasp the ' attitude ' or personality of the instrument. For example, I have played some guitar, and have a fair grasp what's involved.

For example, I know i cannot suddenly become a banjo player just because my keyboard has a decent banjo sound.

Finally, I think the keyboard is a limitation for getting all around realism of a string instrument. You can do the basics but will find some expressiveness is missing. I am hoping a ROLI keyboard will cover some of the gap of acoustic instrument expressiveness.

Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: GregC] #2992332 06/03/19 02:15 PM
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In most cases other than a simple acoustic guitar arpeggio I wouldn't do it. I would record the banjo lick on a sampler and call it when I need it. It wouldn't work so well on a heavy banjo song. But most people just hear the fills. So you could sample the fills on Lap Steel for instance and just call the lick at the appropriate time by pressing a pad. It helps when you have one integrated into the Keyboard (FA-08/06).

Last edited by Toano88; 06/03/19 02:16 PM.

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Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: midinut] #2992334 06/03/19 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted By: midinut
Originally Posted By: Steve Nathan
I could offer some software suggestions, but on a hardware board....I have no idea.


I, for one, would be totally interested in your software suggestions and opinions Steve if the OP wouldn't mind the slight derail.


No problems here, one day I plan to go the software route as well.

Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: psionic11] #2992356 06/03/19 04:02 PM
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Fun to see this topic come up, as I just happened to dust off my XP-80 last night to sub in for a group doing a reunion set in a couple months. I haven't played country music since the late 90s, early 2000s! I was working on reprogramming some of my sounds from my JV-90 to my XP-80.

For violin, I use a patch off of the Orchestral expansion board, SR-JV80-02. I try to use it sparingly to cover signature parts, as many have said making a violin sound accurate is difficult to pull off. Nevertheless, "Solo Vln 2" gives me a decent full-bodied and convincing sound. I don't bother trying to pitch-bend it very often, I just use lots of volume control. I'll have to give the mod stick a go to try and add vibrato. I'd be curious to hear any programming tips anyone has about vibrato.

I totally spaced having a banjo in my arsenal until I saw this post. I believe I blended 3 different patches into a performance for my sound. This was another sparingly used sound, as I can only recall playing rhythmic arpeggiated parts... thinking towards the end of the song Take It Easy by the Eagles.

For pedal steel, I blend 4 patches from the Country Collection board (SR-JV80-17) into a performance, using PdlStl 1, 2, and 3 + St. Steel (blended to taste). Again, it's not super-accurate with respect to pitch-bending, but very convincing to the average listener. I found there's a small handful of chords that can be pitch-bent that will still sound normal, for example, the C chord of G-E bent to C-E. I usually had the best results with 3rds and 6ths. Another trick is to bend down about a half-step prior to playing a chord, and then ease the pitch back to neutral, usually for the last note in a phrase.

As far as soft synths/VSTs, there's Orange Tree and Wavelore, but I simply didn't care for their tone in their online samples. Omnisphere also has some decent lap steel sounds, but still not as thick and full-bodied for my taste. The one I do use occasionally in Omnisphere is velocity-sensitive so that it bends-up into the notes you play if you hit them hard.

I would to hear from someone on the forum who has a ROLI and plays pedal steel. This guy in this video makes it sound decent, but I have no idea what software he's using...

[youtube]https://youtu.be/o7nStpdhjUY[/youtube]






Last edited by hatricklov; 06/03/19 04:05 PM.

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Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: hatricklov] #2992358 06/03/19 04:20 PM
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I was listening to some Indonesian and Filipino country songs recently. They do this a lot.
Usually they use Yamaha PSR s-970, Korg Karma, or Korg PA4X. Of those Karma is a highly usable model.
The Yamaha PSR series have super articulation voices, which includes a pedal steel with note bending via aftertouch.
I have a Yamaha MX49, Casio CT-X3000 and Casio WK-7600, and they have good patches for country, but the Yamaha has not so great fiddle patches unless you program it to remove the vibrato, and the Casio’s are the better ones, even if they are more so arrangers. They all have good banjo patches and the Yamaha has a pedal steel patch on it. With pedal steel you generally use pitch and mod wheels.


Yamaha MX49, Casio SK1/WK-7600, Korg Minilogue, Alesis SR-16, Casio CT-X3000, FL Studio, many VSTs, percussion, woodwinds, strings, and sound effects.
Re: How to emulate country fiddle, banjo, and steel guitar? [Re: Music Bird] #2993239 06/08/19 03:27 AM
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psionic11 Offline OP
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Back in the day, I used to rewind rewind rewind a cassette tape to learn lick by lick. Nowadays on YouTube at 75% or even 50% speed learning is super easy.

For Save a Horse, Solo Violin 2 on the Kronos stacked with itself, but with the 2nd voice pitch locked at E with an envelope to simulate a fiddle drone E. Hitting SW2 momentarily drops the drone E to A for the 2nd part of the first phrase.

I've worked out the fiddle solo note by note if anyone's interested. Pitch bend is key to realism here.

When I was a kid, we learned to square dance. I'm also familiar with bagpipe mentality. Somehow both of those came to play in the fiddle solo. E drone with pitch bends mostly at the top of the phrase and all of a sudden you've got a convincing fiddle solo.

The banjotar parts are not traditional, like CEB mentioned. But they still cop that banjo feel. Trickiest part is playing the bass line at the same time as the banjotar.

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