Dan Tranh VSTi Released!

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We are pleased to announce the release of our latest virtual instrument, a deep-sampled Dan Tranh. As far as we know, we are one of the first people in the world to sample this instrument, and the very first to really explore it fully including live tremolo, live vibrato, round robin on pretty much everything, and tons of awesome effects. Feel free to check out the product here for more information.

Upcoming Projects

We are pleased to announce not one but TWO upcoming products!

The first one has been advertised on the site for a few months, the Dan Tranh- a vietnamese zither. This is really deep sampled and has tons of unique features like an entire set of effects, tremolo, recorded vibrato, and more. Keep an eye out this coming weekend for the release- we will be running the same sort of deal as with the Xylophone!

The second product is a deep-sampled timpani including Round Robin, rolls, two mics, and a lot of velocity layers. Like the Tubular Bells, we aimed to create a DYNAMIC instrument that will respond very differently under different velocities. This will be both a Kontakt and standard release. We’re aiming to release this late September, but it may end up earlier or later depending on how things go.

After that, we’ll be working on a mix of ethnic/unusual instruments and Orchestral Percussion, so keep an eye out!

-Sam Gossner, Versilian Studios

New VSTi: Tubular Bells

Hey everyone!

I’m pleased to present my latest (and also first commercial) VSTi: some deep-sampled tubular bells! 5 velocity layers, 2x Round Robin, and some good samples. Feel free to check out this page for more information, or watch the video below, which as a demo by Nimble and a demo by me.

A Warm Welcome!

Recently I invited two great Newgrounders and fellow composers to join the ranks of Versilian Studios, Skye Wintrest and Nimble (Jose), and they agreed to come onboard! This is a huge turning point for this little company and I hope to bring more people in as time goes by so it can function more as a collaborative organ than a lone floating cell. As part of this, I also (AGAIN) redesigned the site to get rid of the dark medieval feel and replace it with a bit more art noveau/art deco feel (I get them mixed up all the time for some reason), mainly because I’ve been playing lots of that glorious thing called Civilization V lately…

Skye specializes in ambient/electronic music and sound effect synthesis.

Jose is a fellow Finale user and specializes in all sorts of modern musical craziness from jazz to post-tonal.

Be on the look out for their music and links to their stuff showing up on the site soon, and also for possibly more people joining the team!

As always, Keep compos(ed/ing)!

-Samulis

P.S. Did you download my zither yet?

Commentary on Work

Increasingly I see professional and well-off composers talking out against working for little or no profit. While this trend and argument sounds to be both very sound and reasoned, such people do not understand how the internet works as a whole and do not understand the origins of their craft, or how the ladder into the industry is shifting due to technology.

What they fail to see is that they are not alone. The experienced, professional, 20-years+ of industry experience and has toured the country with famous rock stars and written the score to 20 games class is NOT the only class of artists, composers, and creators. There are novices and students. There are poor people, who use an old piano and actual notation paper or free software they find online. These people can’t afford the $1,000 plugins and keyboards and DAWs that the professional class can, yet this class expects these people to produce the same quality and charge the same rate!

The pizza the student composer sells is not the same pizza as that made by the industry veteran of 30 years. It does not deserve the same price.

The second issue is the belief that such “cheap” or free composers are somehow getting conned by the people they work for. In such industries as Flash and Mobile development, most developers are normal middle class people. They can’t afford professional rates, so they need to rely on cheaper composers, who will, understandably, charge lower rates. A flash game brings in pennies compared to a full scale game. Ad revenue? $20 bucks. Sponsorship? You’re lucky if it’s more than a few hundred for a decent game. The developer can only afford to pay you a few hundred dollars at best. Remember the three-sided triangle of which you may only pick two sides: Speed, Price, and Quality. If the developer wants a low price, they must pick either low speed or low quality.

As each of us start off in the world of music composition, we must begin somewhere. For most of us, that is downloading a free program or getting our hands on some sort of instrument or piano and perhaps (but not always) some textbooks or lessons. For many this also means going to college or further training with a professional… an apprenticeship or so on.

Let us take for example the first instance, in which an average middle-class individual might find a free program online and start experimenting with composing. After a few months, they might move up to another program, perhaps a full DAW if they have the money. All this time, they continue to write music and practice.

What happens with the music they write? Where does it go? Many times, it is put up online to be shared on various sites across the web, such as the Newgrounds Audio Portal, Soundcloud, or Bandcamp or forums like YoungComposers or even VIControl. In these places, it can receive critique and advice from composers who have different prospective and experiences, sometimes far more experience. Alternately, it might be shared with friends, family, or even a teacher or close fellow composer who might give feedback. As the music spreads across the internet, people begin to listen to it. Next thing you know, you get the e-mail from John Doe who does Let’s Plays on youtube and wants to use your song as background music in one of his videos. John is, perhaps, 20 years old and in college. Should you demand licensing fees and registration and royalties?

This is where what I call consumer-grade music/score comes into play. It is the produce of a developing artist. It is not worth or as good as professional work. It is created to be used by a rapidly expanding consumer base of low/no funding projects. This type of music is abundant and varied. It is the heart and soul of the developing artist… and often has more emotion and spirit to it than many professional works.

I think the best example of free consumer-grade music being done right is the work of Kevin MacLeod and others like  him. If you haven’t heard of his music, you have not been on the internet enough. It is everywhere- youtube, games, animations, everything. You don’t see big high-priced composers with their music all over youtube or in games or animations that the general population is regularly exposed to, and here I see his name roll in the credits or description of half the youtube videos I see! This is consumer-grade music in action. Music for the common man. A professional composer can rant and rave all they want about how it is wrong that music might be free, or how the Creative Commons system allows blah blah, etc. In truth, consumer-grade music is an astounding success. By that I mean that people KNOW, for example, who Kevin MacLeod is and creators credit him- people outstandingly practice attribution across the internet regardless of the source of the content. People are more than glad to have intermediate or novice composers score their flash games. They don’t NEED, WANT, or have any ability to AFFORD a professional industry-level composer, with the exception of the very highest games, which may be ported to other platforms or are developed by developers who are not your average Joe!

It is entertaining from the mid-lower class of the world of composers to look up and see a handful of greater composers launch rhetoric wars condemning the actions of those trying to climb up the ladders below them in this sense. Many of those composers climbed up there years ago when the normal path was far far different and supply was far lesser than demand. These composers tell us the ship is sinking and it is the composer who uses his free program he downloaded to write music as a hobby and charges a few bucks a hour to flash game composers. They tell us it is the uneducated composer who they forgot to let know what the going rate was in such a competitive and cutthroat world because they just want to watch the novice fail and quit. They sit there with their expensive plugins and insatiable want for more technology, more samples, more resources, demanding for a pay rise and complaining it is too low. Perhaps they are all instead just living too highly. Perhaps it is time for the modern world to remember something really important:

Being a professional creative of any type has NEVER been a standard career until just this last century, especially being a professional composer. Some of the greatest composers (as well as artists, musicians, writers, and thinkers) in history were shopkeepers, priests, cooks, soldiers, and even servants and thought of themselves as such! The only individuals who have ever been able to fully support themselves on their work alone are prodigies, those in direct service of the elite (royals or just very rich), or those who spend every moment of their waking lives practicing and working on their skill until they gained skills similar to such. Even then, it is not an easy path. To think that composition is a fully sustainable career is a modern idea born from the rise of film scoring and large grants/endowments when a composer could do a few films or projects a year and make a tidy profit, and it should not be taken for granted as some people do.

Remember that music was sustained through the Dark Ages and Middle Ages predominantly by monks. They sure as hell didn’t get paid to write the hymns and chants (although they were given a bed and modest clothes). They wrote music because of the one thing music can create that is infinitely more valuable, infinitely more finite, and infinitely more intangible- emotion and a feeling of something greater. For this same reason, the transcendentalists abandoned luxury, Diogenes lived in a barrel, and the cultures and religions of civilizations around the world flourished. Their works were indeed not to make money, but to attempt at understanding and touching more than one normally can in their materialistic human existence. This doesn’t mean you should do the same, but it shows that there is more than just money that can be found in music. If you do what you do and enjoy it, then why worry about money as long as you can support yourself? After all, what is the joke often said about one majoring in composition- that they are dual-majoring in house painting as well. So if you get into a trance-like state of wonder when you write or feel a great pull on your heart with every melody you add, there is no reason to demand more than enough to cover what you truly need. You have the rest all set.

As an after-note, I should remark that on situations of corporate bodies taking advantage of composers or musicians, or of fully qualified and educated composers charging next to nothing for exclusive services, I do agree that these things are detrimental. However, these things are a fault of a system in which there is no standardization and publication of knowledge on prices that is accessible to the NEW class of composers. There exists an old system based on records, CDs, and concerts. In the future, that is all going to continue to shrink as the web expands to fulfill more spots in peoples’ lives. Information needs to be accessible via just a search in the wide open, edited, plain and simple, authoritative, on the web for all to see- not hidden in old dusty books, not hidden in lengthy forum arguments, but out in the open where the novice can go and see it. This is the cornerstone philosophy behind my new project- a Guide to the Orchestra, a digital orchestration manual for all levels of composers. People shouldn’t have to spend years and thousands of dollars finding out the basics of a flooded, dynamic industry. They should have it at their fingertips without charge and without any hassle.

Guide to the Orchestra- Dev. Blog 4

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Recently, I’ve been working with an artist on some art for the history section of the site, as well as some consulting for the design of the site. He gave me some great feedback and made some stunning header pieces, parts of which will be incorporated around the site. Above is one character he drew for the site.

The site is really starting to shape up! With the audio side of things figured out (thanks to Flash), everything is starting to fall in place. I also had a great new idea for the range diagrams to save space and give a more modern feel- a frame at the bottom of the page with tabs to see the various instruments’ ranges and other information. I ordered some books on orchestration and reference materials which I will be studying in order to get some more content and better explanations.

I have also been interviewing a variety of composers from around Newgrounds and the greater internet. There’s a whole wealth of knowledge and advice, and I can’t wait to share all this! 😀

In other news, I am still looking for anyone interested in helping out with the site. Get in contact with me (samulis@live.com/contact@versilstudios.net) if you are willing to write, draw, play, synthesize, or research!

Guide to the Orchestra- Dev. Blog 3

So much is going on… First off, the website got a bit of redecorating, and I rebuilt the menu bar from scratch so it’s a lot cleaner and nicer looking (see image below).

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The big thing I got figured out was the playback of audio on mouse-overs on the instrument pages. I ended up using Flash to do this- mouse over the little eighth notes before a word and you get to hear the audio streamed live in full quality!

Lastly, I plugged away and wrote a considerable amount of tutorials on game scoring and also sent off some e-mails to people for interviews.

Guide to the Orchestra- Dev. Blog 2

So I figure now is a good time to explain exactly WHAT this site is… A Guide to the Orchestra is exactly what it sounds like it is (for the most part). The site has several sections- Reference, Instruments, History, Forms & Styles, and Composers.

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  • Reference– Articles and tutorials for Composers, Game Developers, and “Beginners” that go through everything from selecting the right music to score your game to counterpoint to when to concert etiquette. Much of this section is planned to be supplemented by outside sources with tutorials from people who know more than me about subject matters (like industry-experienced developers and composers).
  • Instruments– Every instrument in the standard orchestra has its own page that goes in depth on what the instrument is, how it sounds (with audio examples that will, if I can do it right, play on mouse-over), its history, general use in orchestration, and etymology (a little something inspired by Kevin Macleod). All this is researched carefully by me… so it’s REALLY slow work! (if you, o’ random person perusing the internet, are interested in helping, by all means! Comment or e-mail me (samulis@live.com).
  • History– A general overview of each era (not going to kill myself on this part) and the evolution of the orchestra.
  • Forms & Styles– Various mainstream forms and styles explained here, partially inspired by the forms section on Kevin Macleod’s site.
  • Composers– Short (3-5 sentence) bios of major composers in chronological order. Links will probably lead to Wikipedia pages.

Yeah… and it’s mostly a one-man project at this point; also note that I have no formal training aside from two semesters of basic Music Theory and what I have learned from various books and the internet. Hence my openness to anyone interested in helping stepping in.

I’m aiming to have this done in a few weeks/months. I already have half the woodwinds section done, the harp page done (it’s about as large as the instrument is… well, maybe not THAT big, but it’s longer than flute and clarinet combined, I’d say), as well as several of the reference pages and so on completed.

Guide to the Orchestra- Dev Blog 1

Just a quick update on the progress of my web project ‘A Guide to the Orchestra’!

I recently added a neat new feature- buttons on most pages that bring up a synopsis and also a ‘learn more’ button with links to helpful things to check out for more information on the instrument. This will make the site more accessible to those who aren’t interested in all the information and fluff and just want a simple run-down.

Synopsis of the entry on flutes

The synopsis of the entry on flutes.

In addition, I’ve added some more reference material to help people out and redid the organization of the reference material.

Next up:

  • Audio playback
  • Finish Woodwinds and move on to Strings!