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Cutting brass section from a keyboard: how?


erik_nie

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I've been playing in a all round top-100 band doing all types of songs from disco to traditional, dance, 80's, 90's, top-40 party,...

 

For me this is very nice as I have to play all kinds of parts on my boards. Strings, piano, hammond, clav, FM-piano, brass, sax, heavy-dance-stuff, old-synth stuff.

 

My setup is a Kurzweil PC3 on the bottom, and PC3K6 (with Kore64) on top.

 

My question is about the brass sounds.

 

My main section for stabs, and brass lines is a sample set from Apple's Garageband that i converted to the Kurzweil format. I've added/layered some trumpets/saxes from the Kore64 board.

 

Although this sounds not that bad, i'm always into better sounds.

 

What do you use? Things that come to mind:

- what type of reverb (plate?)

- Different sounds played with the lefthand and right hand

- Just a synth sound (no samples) to mimic the brass (Like on some 80's productions

- Some sample sets that are available?

- which sounds to layer?

- Is the way you play more important than the sound?

- ...

 

Hope to get some great tips!

 

 

 

 

 

Nord Stage 3, Nord Wave 2
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Very little reverb, if any, is necessary. Do not judge sounds alone: judge them in c text. My brass patches sound terrible alone, but great in a band.

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On my Yamaha I layer a trumpet duo, a sax section, and 2 of the sfortzando brass section. The sax and one of the brass sections are an octave under the trumpets and the other brass section.

Live: Korg Kronos 2 88, Nord Electro 5d Nord Lead A1

Toys: Roland FA08, Novation Ultranova, Moog LP, Roland SP-404SX, Roland JX10,Emu MK6

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I don't think the volume pedal is as important as your articulation of the notes.

Live: Korg Kronos 2 88, Nord Electro 5d Nord Lead A1

Toys: Roland FA08, Novation Ultranova, Moog LP, Roland SP-404SX, Roland JX10,Emu MK6

www.bksband.com

www.echoesrocks.com

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What do you use?
Primarily jazz fusion sounds, so the brass is not emulative of any particular song or horn section. It just functions for stabs, swells, layers and lines: Analog synth sounds layered with samples.

- Different sounds played with the lefthand and right hand
Absolutely. I like to modulate pulse width by keyboard note for the "analog" part. Or crossfade two samples by midi note. This makes your runs up and down the keyboard more organic. For layering: Attack phase of samples is good, but can get tiresome. Velocity sensitive "burp" on attack can create variety (fast lfo modulation of pitch, just for the attack) . Vibrato on aftertouch (different lfo speeds for different layers) also reduces ear fatigue. IF you plan to do swells, which I recommend, then a pedal is useful and single cycle waveforms (primarily narrow pulse and saw/ multi-saw) give you more overtones to play with. Open and close the filter a bit with the same pedal. A slight increase in filter resonance when the pedal opens. Let your subtlety and taste guide you with the sound design. You are trying to communicate musical ideas, not show off the synth technique. Practice till the ideas are in your body, not just in your mind.

- Is the way you play more important than the sound?
Always. :thu:
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I don't think the volume pedal is as important as your articulation of the notes.

 

I like to use an expression pedal to modulate volume (moderately) and filter cutoff (slightly). Helps with the sustained notes.

 

Cheers, Mike.

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Very little reverb, if any, is necessary. Do not judge sounds alone: judge them in c text. My brass patches sound terrible alone, but great in a band.

 

Yeah, this x100.

 

I'm started to learn what is going to sound good in context and not feel so bad about how they sound when I'm at home alone programming them.

 

I'm building something now that I was so sure sounded cheesy and awful, but with a trumpet, two french horns, and a trombone playing along, it sounded like a full brass section.

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I'm building something now that I was so sure sounded cheesy and awful, but with a trumpet, two french horns, and a trombone playing along, it sounded like a full brass section.

Interesting. French horns never would have occurred to me.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

-Mark Twain

 

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I'm building something now that I was so sure sounded cheesy and awful, but with a trumpet, two french horns, and a trombone playing along, it sounded like a full brass section.

Interesting. French horns never would have occurred to me.

 

Ah, to clarify: I am playing my patches along with those live instruments in a semi-orchestral setting, and together we all sound pretty full.

 

But, since you mention it, I find that french horn patches are often the best sounding low-end brass sounds, if you don't need the 'blat' of a tuba or trombone. My go-to patch on the RD700-GX as my "it calls for brass, I'll fine tune my choice later but this'll do for now" is the 'noble horn' patch.

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Thanks. I might try adding a French horn layer to the intro patch on Jason Derulo's Talk Dirty.

 

The thread title interested me in what was meant by cutting. If the context is in how to cut through a stage mix then it has been my experience brass patches do this well, sometimes too well. The trick has often been making sure they don't cut the audience's head off. It isn't the SPL it is the frequency where they sit at. That is why I think french horn may be a really nice idea!

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

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I sometimes layer a darker mellow brass sound with a musher attack with a bright snappy brass ensemble with swell pedal assigned to it. This seems to work really well...pedal at zero and it just kind of blends, full throttle and it's snappy and really cuts through. I can ride it to make it sound right within the context of what's going on with the song.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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Brass patches, to me, are like modern keyboard stands-I hate them all, but you gotta use them. Things I have utilized:

Nice bright early reflection/ verb

Mix up instruments, like the aforementioned Fr.Hrns

Saxes more up front, for a more "I feel good" sound, or mellow big-band sound

Sneak in a brass sound tuned a fifth up from the main sound

No chorusing !!

Different LFO speeds and pitch bend ranges in layers of a "section"

Formerly âChiefDanGâ - nobody calls me chief anymore.
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For me, getting accurate brass stabs is about articulations and voicings. Layering the sounds is more of a season on your steak kind of thing. However you can spot fake brass immediately if they articulations are not right or the instrument is not voiced correctly in the chord. As an example, if you are doing TOP What is hip, you need to have that popping bari sax articulation. That is a very abrupt sound. Additionally that bari is an octave below the tenor. You cannot voice to a third away or in a close harmony and think it is going to sound right. If it Trumpets mixed with altos, then close voicing work just fine. However throw in a trombone, tenor, or bari, and you need to open up your voicings a bit.
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I sometimes achieve something similar using overlapping zones so that the left hand may be playing different instruments than the right with some instruments covering both and at different octaves. A lot of tricks you can okay with that - especially invoking the swell pedal as I mentioned before to change the balance.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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I have a patch using 4 elements - tenor and alto sax, trumpet, and trombone. One articulation I programmed is a pedal pitch bend downward by varying amounts around a half step.

 

The tuning is deliberately loose at the bottom of the bend, and tightens up as they slide into the final pitch. Real horn sections do this kind of thing by changing their embouchure (that's lip pressure to you non horn players.)

Moe

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The tuning is deliberately loose at the bottom of the bend, and tightens up as they slide into the final pitch. Real horn sections do this kind of thing by changing their embouchure

 

Nice trick. I'm stealing that. :P

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Hope to get some great tips!

Seek out actual horn players. :idea:

 

They could use the money, your band will sound much better, and it'll free you up to focus on actual keyboard instrument parts. You're welcome. :cool:

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Maybe gettting a little OT, but when I used to do Love Shack, it had those brass falls in it. Bending doesn't sound right and since they all fall differently, I rolled my own fall. I put together a sequence with different brass instruments and saxes, and sequenced an appropriate amount of bending accompanied by glissandos at different rates for each instrument on it's own track. I played my sequence, recorded it, and stored it as a single sample assigned to 1 key in the middle of my brass patch. So I could play the brass patch normally and then hit that key for the fall. Sounded better than any other band I've ever heard do that song.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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Hope to get some great tips!

Seek out actual horn players. :idea:

 

They could use the money, your band will sound much better, and it'll free you up to focus on actual keyboard instrument parts. You're welcome. :cool:

 

They could use the money, but unfortunately, I myself don't play in a single situation where I can afford to give it to them....

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I stopped playing keyboards during my college years and for a few years after and was playing trombone primarily.

 

So now when I play horn parts on my keys, my mindset is to think like a horn player instead of a keyboardist when layering patches and playing lines.

 

It's not easy, but helps in the long run.

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I guess I'm just too old school. I hate keyboard brass. Hate it. The only time I do it is when I'm playing with at least one real horn player usually a sax. THEN keyboard parts can sound very good because people's ears are focused on the real player.

 

You can tell fake brass when you don't see any horn players on the stage. In those cases I cover horn parts with organ. To me that's much better than trying to fake a horn section. TOP with keyboard parts? Got nothing to say to that except...I need an emoticon showing someone barfing in the corner.

 

Bob

Hammond SK1, Mojo 61, Kurzweil PC3, Korg Pa3x, Roland FA06, Band in a Box, Real Band, Studio One, too much stuff...
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I've never thought key's brass sounds bad at all - as long as you "throw every finger at it , in the right place , in the RIGHT song".

The worst key brass sound I've heard in my life - that sounds awful and pitiful, is the "riff" the BBC worldwide radio service uses around the globe (hand on forehead).

 

Brett

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I think a lot of it depends on the context of the music. In Jazz, surely I wouldn't cover brass parts. In a Chicago Tribute bant, hell no. Playing some pop song that uses keyboard brass in the original, why not? Of course there's always a grey area.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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I wouldn't want to do it all night, in that case I would want the real deal. But I play in a couple bands that do maybe 4-5 tunes a night with brass parts, stuff like vehicle etc. In that case it's really not worth it to hire real players, and the "cringe factor" of fake brass is only a small portion of the evening....
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Let me take this opportunity to write that Joe Zawinul ("Birdland") and Russell Ferrante ("Foreign Correspondent") played some of the most wicked "fake" brass parts imaginable. :thu::cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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The R&B/blues band I'm in uses the real deal whenever we can - we're making peanuts like most "bar bands" in our neck of the woods but I'm still happy to share what little we make to have them. Some places we play are just too small for the extra couple of pieces, and there I'll lay in the the signature lines and we get away with it fine. but I NEVER try to pretend to be a sax/horn on a solo. That's the ultimate cringe factor.

If music is soul food, man am I hungry!

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