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Love letter to Hollywood Strings

Discussion in 'Critique & Feedback' started by Matthias Calis, May 15, 2019.

  1. Hello friends,

    This is something of a love letter to my favorite library: Hollywood Strings. It's been my main string library since I started on this journey as a hobbyist composer. Heck, at the time I got the gold version my computer could barely run it... I've since upgraded to diamond and used the library for years on end, and it honestly wasn't until after several years that I felt I completely knew and understood every part of the library. It is still a force to be reckoned with, in my view, and it never fails to cure me of GAS whenever new fancy string library X comes out.

    There's something about HWS that I just love, the fact that it's such a classic perhaps, or that (I think) people underestimate the library or give up on it after a while because it is not easy to get the hang of...

    So I thought I'd write a piece using only HWS, taking everything I've learned so far about harmony, orchestration, mixing, everything and see how good I could get it. This is the result:

    Please feel free to butcher everything about this because while I feel I've taken a few steps forward, I'm keenly aware the road yet ahead of me is long, if not endless, and there's only one way to get better!
  2. Nice.
    Good job.
  3. Hi @Matthias Calis I enjoyed listening. The sound seems good to me. Real strings are so very versatile that it is always difficult to match them. But modern libraries like HWS and others are so good that the available libraries are not what holds us back any longer. With all that being said, the main thing that troubles me about HWS is the release samples. Sometimes I hear an artifact like a sucking effect associated with the releases. Perhaps it is just me. While almost all of the primary string libraries are great, none of them are without flaws. Currently I am using VSL Synchron Strings mixed 50/50 with Spitfire Symphonic Strings. Also not perfect, but I can live with the flaws.

    Your composition is very attractive but too short. It was not long enough to give you a chance to develop your ideas. The track is very expressive with several attractive gestures. The low string writing is particularly strong in my view. Harmonies are all good, nothing sticks out as being out of place. It would have been nice to hear a little more adventuresome use of harmony, but it is fine as is.

    My favorite piece of yours is the one linked below, although it also is a bit short. But the orchestration, sound, and expression are brilliant.

  4. #4 Matthias Calis, May 17, 2019
    Last edited: May 17, 2019
    Thank you for your detailed comments Paul, I wholeheartedly agree that the piece is too short and was thinking of pulling this thread, extending the composition and then putting it back up. I think I still will extend it because you're quite right in saying it's too short for any chance of development which is an area I need much practice in.

    The piece you linked is a composition by Mikola Leontovych, though the orchestration is all mine. The original was written for choir and I believe it is a song about a bird harkening the beginning of spring. I mention this because the common connotation of the piece is with Christmas, in no short amount thanks to Williams who adapted the piece for children's choir as part of the score to home alone (Carol of the bells). I seem to recall it was adapted into a Christmas tune before Williams but I'm not entirely sure. For completeness' sake I must add I don't feel in the least but offended that you chose this piece because I entirely recognise that the compositional skill and craft of someone like Leontovych is lightyears ahead of my own, plus I should probably label the track to be from Leontovych, although I'm already using the original title by which it's fairly well known in Eastern Europe.

    You're not the first to comment on my orchestration in a positive manner and I'm starting to believe it is one area at least that I have some grasp on. Now I've just got to exercise development, modulation, and continue to expand my harmonic vocabulary which is still somewhat limited at this point.

    I think I will return to this piece and extend it. If anyone desires to comment in the meantime they are welcome to do so, though I imagine most would be in the same vein as Paul's and so perhaps they would be more valuable if given on the extended version.
  5. Absolutely.
    Nice job.
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  6. That's interesting. I never could put my finger on what that was. I'm trying to layer HWS with a patch of Spitfire's SCS now to add a bit more texture on top, hoping this will help. It's annoying that a library as expensive as SCS doesn't go Niente.
    How do you like VSL? I was always intimidated at the price, and the amount of engineering needed to get it sounding like a real orchestra (although I understand the dry samples to be highly desirable).

    @Matthias Calis Enjoyed the piece, although I would agree it should be extended -- it ended just as my interest was piquing. I too have a hard time getting away from HWS. It's an annoying library to get to know, but once you do, it's fairly easy to use. I just can't really think of many alternatives, especially at the price.
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  7. Could you recommend videos/tutorials to know/master HWS library?
  8. Maybe I am wrong, but I prefer yours.
    Good job.
    Could you talk about tools,.. you used?
  9. Goodness, I wish. Mike's "Template Balancing" video is really useful (because it's what he uses). Unfortunately just reading the manual and experimenting, for the most part. Some aspects of the manual are outdated and they didn't bother updating it, i.e. the patches not in the "Long Powerful System" folder control vibrato with CC1 unless otherwise stated (i.e. unless it's NV VB MV or similar).
    Manuel Cervera likes this.
  10. VSL Synchron Strings are wet. They were recorded in Synchron Stage, which is a large recording stage, usually intended for movie soundtracks, and is very similar in room tone to Teldex. The SyS are very crisp, you can get a lot of bow noise with them (which can be good with the right passage) but the legato is not that great. That is why I team them with Spitfire, which has a lovely legato and can be very expressive. I find the SSS a bit clumsy for short notes, but together I like SSS and SyS combo.
  11. I'll have to look them up, never heard them before.

    Spitfire's legato is always lush, but SSS seems to lack aggression and shorts, so that seems like a good combo.
    Paul T McGraw likes this.
  12. Not sure if I´ll be able to wait until next sale time.
    This and The Business one was in my list.
    I wanted to stay because I bought 12 last sale and 8 of them are still waiting for watching.
    But maybe Template Balancing......
  13. Template Balancing is incredibly useful. I've been spending an awful lot more time at my guitar and piano, as well as notating, than I have been doing MIDI stuff, but it's absolutely indispensable for properly balancing virtual instrument performances.

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