To Heroes and Hope - Symphonic Rondo in Eb for BBCSO Core...

(... with a fair bit of heavy lifting from the Fabfilter Essentials bundle).

Hi all

This is a Rondo I've been tinkering with for about a month and a half, and may have mentioned one or two (or ten: ) times on the forum. Hope you like it! As per the title - this was done entirely using BBCSO Core - quite happy with how I have got the band sounding - although I think I have deployed all the tricks I know on this one so if any of you guys can bring your golden ears to bear and suggest ways to improve the production I'd be most grateful!

Best wishes and thanks for listening!


PS. I know, technically, a Rondo should be ABACA with all the A's in the tonic, and my second A is in the sub-dominant, but I saw no reason why it couldn't be...


  • Oh, this is GREAT! I simply don't care about the naming so much, while it would be wise to just avoid any potentially misleading naming. But Rondo doesn't seem far off enough to cause dismay. ๐Ÿ˜„

    Right off the bet, I can tell you, that the extra reverb drowns the beautiful staccatos, holding D#. It's a wonderful idea, though, with the staccatos. I know, I know, Core is already quite deeply set in a hall. For any additional reverb, you have to be super careful, trying to get it out of the way as much as possible, probably best going very wide with it and ensure that it won't wash into the actual instruments so much and quite possibly see what's the shortest tail that would still help with the room you wish to create.

    In terms of composition this is absolutely lovely. It's very catchy, making wonderful use of simplicity, while still feeling sophisticated and intelligent. Wonderful choices!

    Orchestration continues to create a few troublesome traits, probably mostly due to the reverb, but it soon starts to pile up in the lows, making instruments not just indistinguishable, but just sort of producing a heavy wash in its body. This may really be mostly caused by the effects, which is why I'd love to hear a version without the extra reverb and find out, if it's actually an orchestration issue, too.

    Love the exhilaration crescendo around 1 min, despite the peculiar washout of lows. Which is a real shame, almost making me say:" You know, I'll wait for a version without reverb", because I really want to enjoy your composition. What happens next makes this all the more dramatic, because like oil in water, things start to separate, when you know they want to be together, like the trumpets that clearly fulfill their purpose, but their clarity makes them pop out of the swamp of lows.

    The horns that appear to be holding D# start to feel like someone died on his steering wheel, leaning on the horn, haha. Or a vicious car alarm. Especially when they're playing thirds. I wonder, if you could let them break into staccatissimos, too, for a few bars?

    But again, none of this matters as long as the reverb hides all the beauty down there.

    Boy, oh, boy, I love the wonderful passion in the composition, though. It's so intense and expressive. Following sections only intensify that impression.

    You sort of become a little stoic with the flute/piccolo licks that repeat a bit too identical, clearly representing a flourish, a background element, but start to stick out when they should lean back a bit more, I find.

    As we go over the 3min mark and it all steers into the great ocean, it continues to paint such a beautiful masterpiece, despite a few bold choices in the accompanying violin runs, but they seem to suggest turmoil in the smaller ripples of the ocean, which is kind of brilliant, too. Maybe a little bold at times, possibly could use a bit of help to ensure it's not accidental...possibly some sort of echo of the wilder flourishes in other groups to establish deliberation?

    But, yeah, I could go on about the destructive reverb. I won't!

    The big trouble with posting this on youtube is, that you can't "update" it. That's the nice thing about having a pro account on Soundcloud. I would really love, love, love to hear a "clean" version of it. It's such a gorgeous composition with so much narrative, fantastical content, depth and inspiring musical choices from harmonic progression to voicing (which is a little hard to judge, but I said I won't continue bashing the reverb, didn't I?) only takes a little fantasy to remove ones mind from the impression of having snuck into the concert hall, hiding in the hallway to listen to the rehearsal, hahahaha...THAT'S IT, that's what it sounds like! It's like:" DANG, I can't wait to sit on a proper seat at the premier!!!".๐Ÿ˜ƒ

    No matter what, again, the utterly impressive composition and the intrinsic beauty of Core's sounds, too, make it already a feast and the imagination of a cleaned up version creates massive expectations for me! Truly, I can't wait!

    THANK YOU for sharing this, @Retroblueman , sincerely! ๐Ÿค—

  • Hi @Taron - So "not sh*t, but too much reverb" then - I will take that delightedly and with sincere gratitude! - Thanks so much for listening and am so pleased you liked it (or at least what you could make out of it; )

    For you, nothing is too small an ask: herewith a de-reverbed "Sahara" mix as requested:

    (knew I'd find a use for that soundcloud account one day). I've left on the other "treatments" (EQ etc) as they were fairly modest anyway (hat tip to Core on that front). I suspect I like the splosh because it gives me something to hide behind (still quite new at this production/orchestration game). That being said, quite a significant proportion of my live orchestral listening has been done off the back of Proms season tickets and at the back of the Royal Albert Hall (lived in Fulham for 12 years) so I'm kind of inured to the "Monet" approach to mixing an orchestra (I swear that place is made out of the same stuff they use to make plate reverbs).

    Best wishes - hope you still like it without the splosh!

    Rob (to my friends, old and new)

  • Very inspiring Rob!!

  • First of all: YAY! Thanks for posting this! ๐Ÿ‘๏ธ

    Instantly the opening is much more "readable" and things audibly make sense perfectly.

    Then, the moment things go lower (0:26), it becomes more transparent to question orchestration at that moment. Was it really necessary to put Celli and Bass into action already? Maybe Viola might've done it already with even tighter spiccatos? Any other alternative? Anyway, definitely an interesting question.

    At 0:38 it seems proper to let the lows lose as you do. We now know the Bassoon already and there's no acoustic question about it's clarity anymore, allowing the addition of more low instruments at the same frequency range. A good idea to keep the impending crescendo in mind, possibly really intensifying the curve into the first splash by keeping it yet a bit more quiet with the lows through this passage and then ever so maniacally holding it back to swoop far more aggressively into the glorious first splash at 0:55. Currently it goes in there way too flat and could use a more pronounce ramp into it, I think.

    I can already promise you, this sounds 100x better than with the extra reverb. MUCH, much nicer, much clearer and more of your beautiful creation comes through. But also, as you suspected, also the stuff that reveals funny- but easy to fix- flaws. For example, frequently you have clear repetitions in there, and I mean obviously repeated patterns. I would make sure not to loop the pattern/note and instead explode them so you can edit velocities and possibly a few timing fluctuations for liveliness. Sometimes you can very much get away by automating the modulation CC, which will lead to alternate picks from the sample pool, too, which is where you need to be careful, but it can add a great deal of deliberate complexity, ensuring it doesn't sound like repeated sequencer patterns.

    Fantastic news are: Musically the choices are absolutely wonderful! I love it!

    I also love the almost subtle tempo changes you have in there. Without the added reverb, they can become a little dangerous, I understand, making sure they won't sound like stumbles, but that's exactly what you should control in your composition and not hide behind smudge, hehehe.

    Also, regarding the repetitions, maybe you can think of alternating ways to express the effect you felt like achieving with the straight repetitions you have in there, if you know what I mean. Instead of TATOTITUTOTA-TATOTITUTOTA have TATOTITUTOTA- TITOTITUDOTA ...expresses the same sense, but ensures it won't sound like a loop.

    As it goes on, it's literally like a different level of greatness compares to the smoosh from before. But it also brings out another point: Don't be shy with more dynamics! You tend to stay on one level of strength for any length of time, but you can totally work the CC1 and velocities with greater sense of waves, send parts into the darkness and determine when they rise up to the light again, worry not about playback levels, but about musical clarity/communication. There are parts when I know for sure they want to be quiet, carried with more ominous qualities that should eventually boil upward again.

    Ahm... I think, I shouldn't pile it all on you in one massive message, hahaha, so... I'll leave it at that for a moment. But when I resume playing this, I can't hold back...dang it.

    I'm in the second minute now and compassion overcomes me for the poor flutist, hahahaha. You should show them a little more empathy, give them at least a little something to relax temporarily and then engage again. Even if they were to play the same notes again and again, again dynamics might help a great deal. I would consider handing over the lines to some other groups for a few repetitions or so... let it make the rounds?!

    Oh heck, okay, nope, I'm going to take a break and let you read all this first! ๐Ÿ˜‹

  • Hi again @Taron - I said it last time you commented on my music and I will say it again - wowsers - thanks so much for the detailed feedback! You are in danger of getting something dedicated to you! Sorry this is a bit brief but I just had to go pick my tiddler up from nursery - she's been sent home with a stomach bug for two days so I may be otherwise engaged for a bit - will digest this in detail and at length when I can though - feel very free to keep going if your time and generosity permit - good to have early objective reactions before the music starts to embed.

    Best wishes and sincerest thanks again!


  • Many thanks Keith - glad you liked it! Wondering about whether this may end up being the finale to a symphony - going to have to learn sonata form for the first movement though (that Olwen's Lullaby piece could work as a slow movement I think...).



  • Themed, layered and well performed. Sounds like a complete orchestra. I am very impressed. Takes an organized mind to co-ordinate all these instruments and have them musical and cohesive like this. Actually, the reverb helps cause it separates the instruments and distances sections more. Excellent work.

  • Hello @JJ_Hunter_50

    Thank you very much for your kind words in relation to my piece. I am not sure I would describe my my mind as organised - I think perhaps "in control" is closer to the mark: )

    It is very nice to have some re-assurance on the reverb - I have agonised perhaps more than I should have over @Taron's thoughtful (and I think well and properly observed) feedback. I am "unfond" of the dry version of the piece and I think it is perhaps because it lacks the sense of a large volume of air being moved in one's direction, which is the overall feeling I love about the first mix - been trying to dial the 'verb back but it doesn't have to be dialled down too much before the "air" disappears. I think I shall leave for now and revisit when I have 6 or so more months of mixing experience under my belt.

    I see elsewhere that you are unhappy with the Hans piano and you have my sympathies. Is it just the case that F, G# and A are flat in the mids or do its faults run deeper? I only ask because life has rarely been kind enough to make available to me perfectly tuned and voiced Steinway grand pianos and I have often had to make do. Sometimes, in so making do I have found the "heart" of whichever poor little piano is sat before me (and indeed, in the context of the room in which I have found it) and had some of my nicest moments. I recently downloaded Soundpaint's 1928 vintage Steinway (free on their website, needs tweaking to get its best, but worth a look) and it is quite far from being in tune, but I have already sketched the exposition of a Sonata (maybe a symphony??) on it (and perhaps because of it).

    Can I offer a suggestion on this. I would attempt, insofar as possible, to spend a week of your life giving as little thought to the matter as possible and then revisit the piano for one hour. I would try then to create something beautiful with it and, at the end of that hour, reconsider your position. It may of course be that at the end of the hour nothing has changed and you are where you are now (and it may well be the case that you are righteously in that position) but I find that life, particularly a life blessed and afflicted by great passion, is best exploited by double checking that passion is not blinding you to your opportunities.

    Incidentally, welcome to the community - I think your passion has a valuable place here but remember, we artists are fragile souls, and, whilst we love passion in art, we can be a little intimidated by it when encountered directly and in it's unattenuated form.

    My very best wishes


  • JJ_Hunter_50
    edited April 2022

    I was delighted to receive your message and your wise advice. I will also remember to temper my wording so as not to offend. Part of being in the law and advertising profession for many years leaks through at times and I get frustrated at companies who don't stand by their product or misrepresent them by using famous people.

    I have indeed spent some time with the HZP and have determined that it is not suitable musically. I was hoping it would be the missing link, but sadly it was far from expectation. I have played Steinways. No, I have no other bones to pick with Spitfire. I think they have some great libraries. Just not this one. I have ordered the Niore piano library from Native Instruments. That library has been properly tuned prior to recording and sounds better to me. Can't beat German perfection.

    Thank you for the welcome. Very kind. As far as passion and shooting straight goes, I appreciate honesty and not blowing smoke. Spitfire only did that with HZ labeled products. I am not able to abide deception but I'm going to move on and not waste my time talking to Spitfire when they simply won't engage. You take care my friend. Keep up the great work.

  • I will just say that I have "dabbled" in law and I actually found that it quite effective at taming the beasts within (I found arguing for a living took the fun out of doing it in my spare time; )

    I once had the supreme privilege of having access to the (at the time) two Steinway Ds in a concert hall during weekday mornings on a Summer break from University (some strings were pulled). What was remarkable was how different their characters were - one was a big brilliant beast of a thing with a hard action meant for Rach concertos and the like and the other more of a chamber piano with a feather light action. I fear that a quest for a sampled piano that matches up is a search for a unicorn (in the main because no sample will ever be able to put 9 foot of wood and metal and one tonne of horsepower in front of you: ). I am in love with playing "at the edge of silence" on the Soundpaint piano though (I also hear very good things about Simple Sam's Signature Grand).

    You take care too - I hope in time to hear more of your music!

  • Thanks Retro. Appreciated your post. Funny first sentence. Actually, the runner up grands to date is the Niore and Keyscape. The most accurate is the Pianotec. Incredible!

    Here's some links to my Youtube posts. Can I hear your more of your stuff??

  • Yes sure - it's all on the YouTube channel (link below). I tinkered with Sibelius on and off from about 2000-2010 but never liked the sounds that came out of it and assumed it was because orchestration was not for me. About a year ago (nearly to the day) I decided to start trying to finish (and produce) music and invested in a midi controller keyboard. Early efforts (up to about September) were all EDM/Electronica because I didn't think I could make "orchestral" sounds from a box room (to which I was banished during my wife's maternity leave: )

    Then round about last August I discovered Spitfire via Christian's YT channel, got an amazingly good deal on BBCSO Core and fell promptly in love with it. You will start to see my experiments in orchestration emerge from about then (look for the #oneorchestra hashtag). My New Year's resolution was to move away from composing in harmonic "loops" and try larger scale forms - this rondo is the first finished effort on that front but there is lots more under construction.

    Look forward to hearing your stuff - promised my wife I'd take the little one for a few hours this evening so am only dipping in for now.

  • Oh, snap, I've made you "agonize" over my feedback?! ๐Ÿ˜ณ

    Well, you sorta have to pick your poison sometimes, when it comes to reverb. Thing is, above all should be the clarity of the music, and you must figure out what can preserve it best. One amazing thing can be subtle stuff like dimension expanders, which almost just give a tight early reflection that lifts things off the speakers. The other thing is with real impulse solutions like AltiVerb, when you use their positioning feature, which can do wonders with the right impulse that just gives space and little to no tail. Last but not least, you could go through each instrument and apply individual instances of things like Auburn Sounds Panagement with their surprisingly nice reverb, dialed up wisely, and this can truly breathe air into it all. But, again, you just should avoid creating a muddy wash that makes instruments vanish or just clutter up important parts of the composition.

    It takes some time to really figure this out and get a feel for it, but it's time well, well, well worth spent! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Hey @Taron - worry not - I started this piece on a Sunday morning and most of the notes you hear were written by Tuesday evening - I then spent the next month and a half agonizing over every note, over the placement, length, velocity, dynamics and expression of every note in the context of the performance and the piece and then twiddling FX endlessly. In the end I changed a lot of the performance and balance, but only maybe 1% of the actual notes from the initial draft, but the other 99% were heavily scrutinised before being allowed to stay- I am just the agonizing type I guess (and I wouldn't have agonized if your thoughts weren't well observed: ) I think the intro up to the first big "splash"/tutti in the YT version is what I was looking for mix-wise, but it's at that splash and through the loud bit where the reverb causes a "tightness" that I think is problematic (plus the muddiness in the bass). I've been wondering about riding the reverb so that it backs off in the loud bits...

    Always deeply grateful for any and all feedback and tips I get from you (but do stop encouraging me to spend more money: )!

    Best wishes


    BTW - meant to say last time - I used to play piccolo to semi-pro standard and have no sympathy for flautists - they had to do what I had to do but half as loud, half as exposed and down the octave; )

  • Hi Retro :)

    Awesome work! Love the Sahara mix! It's tighter and resonant than the first version, and feels more alive.

    It's def. going on my listen while writing list. Well done :)

    Best regards


  • Thanks Flagfarm (aka Flemming)! Really happy you like it!

    I suppose the world will keep turning if I leave both mixes on the internet (imagine if that wasn't the case... oopsy!: )

    Most of the actual work went into the Sahara mix to be fair - the other one (which I guess I should call the "Atlantis" mix) is just the Sahara mix with the stems going through a Fabfilter Pro-R set up as a send fx.

    Best wishes

    Rob (aka Retro)

  • Oh yes this is fab. I really like the melodies and the arrangement.. Easy to forget your not listening to a real band. ๐Ÿ‘Œ

  • Thanks very much @jamesnic7 ! Glad you enjoyed! You've reminded me that at some point I was planning to revisit the reverb on this in the hopes of finding a middle ground between the YT and Soundcloud versions above... I feel like the SC one is a bit flat and the YT one far more moving, but as Taron astutely pointed out, the YT one does sound a bit like you are stood outside the concert hall: )