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Best board for horn sections? #2999065 07/18/19 01:42 AM
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cphollis Offline OP
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Hey, folks, I just landed a new band gig with lots of 60's motown, funk, etc. Lotsa horn section parts. Like, 60% of the material.

My Nord horn capabilities are very thin, to say the least. There's a few samples that can sound reasonable for a song or two, and then it gets really B-O-R-I-N-G. Like, shoot me already, please? I have many nice things to say about Nords, horn section capabilities is not on that list.

I could go shopping for more Nord horn section samples, but I'd also like more expressive control when I play. My suspicion is that there may be other brands do this horn section thing a whole lot better.

Time to go shopping. I could do many hours of internet research, or just maybe ask all the super smart folks here, right?

In a nutshell, looking for 61-key board that can do many different styles of classic 60s/70s horn parts that have a chance of still being interesting by the end of the night.

Not looking for the utmost in sonic accuracy (this is bar band stuff, after all) just reasonable sounding and something that sits well in the mix, with enough variety and expression that it's fun. Need lots of useful presets, no time to build sounds from scratch. I'd probably control it via the "extern" section on my Stage 3, so keybed feel is not an issue either. As far as modulating the sound, I've already got velocity, aftertouch, pitch bend, mod wheel, control pedal etc.

Just nice horn sounds please that don't bore me to death during the night.

No real budget, but I would prefer to avoid spending stoopid money yet again.

Used would be fine, new is OK if it really fits the bill. Any major brand will do.

Not interested in soft instruments at this time. A hardware module could work though.

Many, many thanks in advance?

-- Chuck


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Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999066 07/18/19 01:49 AM
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Delaware Dave Offline
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Gemini module. Horns are outstanding. Can connect it midi to your nord. When the gig dies ( they all do), sell the module. Bonus, you get VB3-2, and all of the electromechanicals to go with it.


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Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: Delaware Dave] #2999070 07/18/19 01:56 AM
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waygetter Offline
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None. Try playing the horn parts with a keys sound instead, like organ or piano. Playing horns from a keyboard is a soul sucking exercise that will lead you straight into the pits of a banal, bland yellow hellish existence from which there may be no return.


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Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999071 07/18/19 02:02 AM
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Kurzweil PC3 or similar.


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Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999073 07/18/19 02:04 AM
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Moonglow Offline
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I’m in a similar situation with a band I recently joined. I found a few stock “Combi” patches of brass/horn sections in my Kronos (e.g., “Havana Nights”) that sort of got me in the ballpark, but had to add some analog brass to fatten them up as well as some individual trumpets, saxes, bones, etc., often in varying octaves. The stock programs may very well meet your needs, but if you don’t want to do any programming, your best bet may be to find an axe for which third-party programs have been developed. Most of the flagship boards from the “Big 3” probably fall in this category, but that scenario may work against budgetary issues.


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Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999074 07/18/19 02:06 AM
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bourniplus Offline
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Well... like waygetter, I also just hate it and try to avoid it like the plague.

The only times I've seen it sound "ok" was when the keyboard player used a breath controller. If it fits in your budget, a board that has this capability might be an option?


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Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999076 07/18/19 02:11 AM
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Moonglow Offline
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A convincing brass section is one of the most difficult things to accomplish on a synth. Recently ran across this on another forum. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a brass section as good as this one, and the OP was kind enough to share his samples with everyone. Haven’t installed it yet, but definitely on my to-do list.



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Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999077 07/18/19 02:18 AM
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I like the Roland brass expansion sounds found in the SRX-10 board made for Fantom synths/modules, also available as a free software download for current JunoDS and FA series synths. You could consider adding on an Integra-7 module which has the SRX-10 Brass among all the other SRX expansions.

Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999079 07/18/19 02:26 AM
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AnotherScott Offline
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In current boards, I'd say the cheapest good choice would be the Roland DS61 with the Brass Collection expansion (which, if you want in a module, is also built into the Integra 7). You could also look for a used XV-something module (as small/cheap as an XV-2020) with an SRX-10 expansion board to get essentially the same horn sound set.

The "classic" choice is probably the Yamaha Motif series horns... MODX6 would be the current model, but a used MOX6 or MOXF6 could do just fine. Maybe even an MX49, but it doesn't have the complete Motif XS sound set as those others do, and more limited effects (one insert effect per sound rather than two), so I suspect it may not have the full horn potential of the others.

The unxpected dark horse... I really like the horns in my recently acquired Korg PA1000, and for your purposes, all the same horn sounds are in the cheaper PA700. For a just plug-it-in-and-get-the-sound scenario, it might be my favorite.

You're right to pass on looking for better samples for Nord... they won't approach any of the above, Nord's non-piano sample architecture just doesn't support all the tricks the others do, like velocity-switched samples or alternate articulations.


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Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999089 07/18/19 04:13 AM
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Bobadeath Offline
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I have a performance that I made on my Motif XS that does the job really nicely. When I got my Montage I rebuilt the exact same patch because it worked so well. Of course it's not as good as real horns, but in the mix out front it's beyond passable. This performance is a big stack of big band saxes and some bone/trumpet big band patch for the top end. It works great for tunes where the horn section is a combo of strong reeds and brass. Tunes with big horn sections like September, Conga, Crazy In Love, Uptown Funk, Let's Dance, Workin Day and Night, KC and the Sunshine band crap, etc. all sound great.

There are certain songs for which the keyboard horns are a much poorer job. When the brass is more mellow and flugely, tunes like 'What You Won't Do For Love' and 'I'm Coming Out', I have a different performance, and frankly it's not as good. If it's PURE Flugel or French horn, my board does a pretty good job with a double french horn patch or flugel layered patch.

Of course my preference is to have real horns which we often have on the gig. Sometimes the budget doesn't allow that.


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Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999090 07/18/19 04:25 AM
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harmonizer Offline
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One thing the Roland XV, Fantom, FA, and Integra-7 do is incredibly good split functions. 16 parts per Studio Set (called a "Performance" on the older XV), and you can set the lower and upper key range, and their transpositions, for all 16 parts independently - even as little as a 1 key range for a part. So I can press one key with one finger (or my foot on a PK-5a MIDI footpedal controller) and get a chord of trumpet, trombone, and sax. I do this while I am playing the sax, which is either occupying 1 or both hands. You can even do crazy stuff like shift one key within a part by a half step so that you effectively get more than 16 parts (when you do crazy stuff like I do).

Caveat: you've gotta want it real bad to take to time to set up these types of splits. When doing the crazy splits like the ones I set up, that Studio Set is really for one song. I have done this for 25 or 6 to 4, The Letter (piano chords fired via PK5a during the bridges), I WIsh (for the brass attacks during the choruses), Heart of Rock and Roll, and I couple others that I don't use any more.

Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: waygetter] #2999091 07/18/19 04:30 AM
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El Lobo Offline
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Originally Posted by waygetter
None. Try playing the horn parts with a keys sound instead, like organ or piano. Playing horns from a keyboard is a soul sucking exercise that will lead you straight into the pits of a banal, bland yellow hellish existence from which there may be no return.
As a horn player, I agree with this. Play the horn parts on organ and it will sound much more ... organic. Pardon the word. But it will be more expressive and sound more natural. I've never heard synthesized horns that didn't make my teeth hurt, my skin crawl, and my face wince.

Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999092 07/18/19 04:58 AM
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gg22 Offline
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Yamaha does horns very well, any Motif series (but not the MX).

Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999093 07/18/19 05:06 AM
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Tom Williams Offline
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Former brass player -- and arranger -- here. I strongly disagree with the "don't try it" crowd. No, there's nothing quite like a real horn section, but I can replace that last noun clause with "piano", "Hammond", "String section", and damned near anything else.

My current primary squeeze is the Kurzweil PC3(61), which has fine small-ensemble brasses (loosely defined to include saxes). I have also recently pleased my band with the sax/trumpet section on, of all things, a Roland AX-Edge keytar, which is not exactly known for having an ultra-detailed sample set.

My take on it is to play idiomatically: Listen carefully to the voicings of chords and passages. If you play a horn section using the same sounds as you would use on an organ -- particularly, simple triad block chords -- it will sound like an organist playing brass samples. But if you stretch the chord voicing -- say, E above middle C, C above that, and G above that instead of C-E-G -- it will begin to sound more like a real brass section. Or play a counter melody line in legato octaves (which you would not normally do on an organ).

A tool I used in the mid 1970s -- you over there, stop joking, and get off my lawn -- was a collection of mini-scores of Chicago tunes, including note-by-note transcriptions of the wind instruments. I believe a version of that is still in print, and is worth its weight in gold.

Last edited by Tom Williams; 07/18/19 05:08 AM. Reason: Speling Correckshun

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Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: gg22] #2999094 07/18/19 05:10 AM
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Originally Posted by gg22
Yamaha does horns very well, any Motif series (but not the MX).


As an aside, the best brass I've had on a board was the Yamaha S90XS - loved em.

Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: nursers] #2999098 07/18/19 09:36 AM
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PianoMan51 Offline
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Nobody’s suggested a breath controller?

Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999100 07/18/19 09:58 AM
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I use a korg microstation (discontinued), mostly for horn section sounds. Has mini keys, but are quite playable IMO, especially for non-piano sounds. Just the stock soundset, has excellent combination and single voice horn section programs. I play in a 60s/70s/some 80s /R & B/Soul/Motown band.

Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999105 07/18/19 11:17 AM
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Darcity Offline
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So no one is gonna mention the Korg Kronos 2?! To my ears it has some of the beefiest brass out there!


Yamaha MODX8, Korg Kronos 2 61, Hammond B3, Novation 61SL MKII, Impulse 61, Roland D-550, Proteus 2000, etc......to name a few.
Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999108 07/18/19 11:53 AM
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As someone that does this a lot it's not just the sound it's the way you play them. Remember you are creating an Illusion. A Hammond organ won't sound like horns it will sound like a Hammond organ. I hate when people do that actually. The X90 XS had some great horns when I used it. My Kurzwiel Forte has some nice ones also.


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Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: Tom Williams] #2999111 07/18/19 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Tom Williams
Former brass player -- and arranger -- here. I strongly disagree with the "don't try it" crowd. No, there's nothing quite like a real horn section, but I can replace that last noun clause with "piano", "Hammond", "String section", and damned near anything else.


Exactly!
There is a lot of space between trying to emulate every fart on an instrument on one side, or being overcreative in replacing real instruments part with something more "organic". More than on the sample quality, it depends how you play the brass sounds. And there are good samples in most contemporary keyboards, including the Nord!

Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: Darcity] #2999113 07/18/19 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Darcity
So no one is gonna mention the Korg Kronos 2?! To my ears it has some of the beefiest brass out there!


Many of the ensemble sections are very good. I use Kronos horn parts on many of my originals. They record nicely.
Korg does a good job making them ' accessible '.

even so, the individual saxes and trumpets are ok, or ' basic ' at best. 3rd party samples can overcome this.

I enjoy Sound of Planet's sax sounds- he does a great job on bringing all sax types to a high standard.

All that said, I admire these same instruments on MODX. MODX trumpets are very good IMO.
My Roland FA also does a good job on brass sounds.

Using horns or ensembles assumes that they player understands how to articulate the instruments.

Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999116 07/18/19 01:35 PM
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Music Bird Offline
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Analog or FM is what I use for brass. Maybe you could use that? I like synth horns above real ones, so maybe that’s me. Maybe you could get a Roland JU-06 (used) or Yamaha Reface DX?

Last edited by Music Bird; 07/18/19 01:37 PM.

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Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999117 07/18/19 01:37 PM
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I'll second the Kudos for Yamaha horns. I was always happy with the Motif brass. I'll also second the less is more approach for keyboardists trying to create the impression of a horn section - which you can do - rather than an exact replication - which you can't do. Octaves, stabs, smears, well placed Bari honks and blats and lots of space in between.


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Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: PianoMan51] #2999118 07/18/19 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by PianoMan51
Nobody’s suggested a breath controller?


Great tool, especially for expressive single instruments and exposed dynamic lines.

But when you're playing live and covering mostly punchy pop horn lines with one hand, playing a piano or rhodes patch with your other hand, and maybe trying to look cool on stage, the breath controller is actually more of a liability than an asset.


Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section
https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native
Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999120 07/18/19 01:42 PM
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I think for realistic horn parts Yamaha is good. I don’t mind the horns on my MX49 though. I like the Big Synth preset and the velocity falls patches.

So, I’ll third Yamaha.

Last edited by Music Bird; 07/18/19 01:42 PM.

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Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999122 07/18/19 01:44 PM
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Also for modules I’d say XV-5080 with SRX Brass is good.
Even Sound Canvas brass isn’t that bad.
Both aren’t made anymore so you’ll have to buy used.


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: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999124 07/18/19 01:59 PM
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I like the brass on my SP6, I had to install a few of the PC3 series sounds. But it works well for me. I'm not do anything complicated, mostly just stuff like "Knock On Wood","Low Rider", "Turn the Page" etc.


Boards: Kurzweil SP-6, Roland FA-08, VR-09, DeepMind 12
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Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999127 07/18/19 02:33 PM
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I echo the Motif suggestions... I've found pretty workable horn sections and stabs on my S90ES (which has the Motif sound set). Again, echoing a previous comment, I think a key aspect is pre-gig setup of splits. The Motif series has horns sampled with various articulations-- stabs and falls and such-- so you have to figure out ahead of time which songs use which and get everything set up on keyboard splits to you can hit what's needed for that particular song.

I've also heard pretty good brass coming form the Kurzweils-- no first hand experience with them though.

Also agree with the suggestion about not bothering with a breath controller. I have one and use one-- for solo brass lines where you want subtle articulation. When doing punchy stabs-- Motown stuff like the OP described-- I find it much less useful.

As for whether to even attempt this in the first place-- I agree with those who said you absolutely should. As long as your expectations are realistic-- don't expect to do Tower of Power, Chicago, etc. where the horns are front and center in the song-- but for doing background stabs and fills I think it can work. Musicians (with their higher standards) may cringe at times, but your audience is probably going to love it.

Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999133 07/18/19 03:07 PM
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Hi Chuck -

I'm an ex-Nord player/owner. I feel that my Kurzweil Forte is a huge upgrade in horns and usable for my needs. I also think the Roland FA is a noticeable upgrade and improvement.

I'm not saying these are a complete substitute for a real horn section, but in a band context, I am satisfied with my role on the typical Stevie Wonder, Chicago or Lenny Kravitz tune that has a signature horn section sound.

Not so much as a solo instrument, but I think you get the idea. Check out Kurzweil Forte horns on Youtube and let me know if you agree.

Jeff


Yamaha U1 Upright, Kurzweil Forte 7, Viscount Legend Live, Roland FA-07, Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 Mk2, Arturia V Collection 6, Komplete 12, Lots of iPad Stuff, Pair of QSC K10 Speakers
Re: Best board for horn sections? [Re: cphollis] #2999136 07/18/19 03:21 PM
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Yeah, I agree Nord horns ain’t it.

I like the horns in the CP4 which I understand are from the Motif.

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