By Alan Belkin
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Orchestral simulation Recent advances in computer technology have made possible fairly realistic simulation of the orchestra. Such simulation is very common in film music, and can be used as a valuable pedagogical tool, since rarely does a student have sufficient access to real ensembles as needed, to try out every idea. Also, simulation permits learning from mistakes more easily than with a real ensemble, where the sheer work of regenerating and printing corrected parts makes the immediate tryout of alternative versions impossible.
Vocal simulation is not currently satisfactory. My own experience is that while a good orchestra is always more exciting than a good simulation, a good simulation often sounds better than a poor orchestra. While there is no point in recommending specific machines for simulation here (they still are changing too rapidly), some advice on getting realistic results with each orchestral family may be of use. * Strings: Use different sounds for each section, and not just a generic string patch. For each section, at a minimum there is a need for one patchwith a fast attack, and another with a slower attack.
Orchestral simulation is easier than chamber or solo simulation, since the individual instruments are heard less often alone, and defects in the sounds are less noticeable. * Where budget permits, simulation can be much improved by recording a few of the main parts with real instruments, and using synthetic sounds to fill in the rest. * Vocal simulation is not currently satisfactory. My own experience is that while a good orchestra is always more exciting than a good simulation, a good simulation often sounds better than a poor orchestra.
Artistic orchestration by Alan Belkin