Saturday, August 13, 2011

Violin Synth that Sounds More Real

How do you tell whether the music is using real violin or "fake" violin created on a synthesizer? This hint-- for any program -- will make it harder for listeners to know if you didn't use a skilled violinist for your music.

Recording programs... even basic ones like GarageBand, do a great job of giving you realistic violin sound. After studying violinists and comparing their sounds to synth violin, I found this main difference: The ending note of a violinist wavers as it fades. The ending note of a synthesizer has a nice but steady fadeout.

Easy solution for long ending violin notes: Use your Track Volume control and a lot of volume automation points. But really, only 7 pounts give a nice fade.
1. Highlight the violin track and open the piano roll. If needed, extend your final note.
2. In your track area, extend the zoom slider to make the note you'll be changing very long. (I slide to about 2/3 the zoom line in GarageBand.)
3. Click on the track name area's triangle to open the Track Volume line.
4. In GarageBand this is important (not so much perhaps in other programs): Adjust the overall volume of the track WITH the other music of the entire project to be what you want. Once you add points on the Track Volume line in GB, it's hard to change the overall volume.
5. Right after the long final violin note begins, add 7 evenly spaced automation points -- just click along the volume line. You can use more, you can use less....
6. The first point stays at the overall volume, unchanged. Raise the 2nd point above the line, the 3rd point below, the 4th point above, and etc. How much? It's up to you. In the example "Desperate Prayer" ( -- free downloadable example), I used these 7 points: 0.4 db (my main volume level), 2.7, minus 2.2, 2.7, minus 3.4, 1.2, ending at 0.4 so that the volume is set for the next region.

You won't hear much of a difference except when really listening... as musicians often do when they 'play the game' of trying to figure out if your music has live musicians or just a keyboard's great synth instrument. Just this touch adds a bit of professionalism.... and perhaps your great music will attract a violinist to ask you, "Hey, can I record live violin for you?"
Great joy in music to you! ©2018, 2011 DianaDee Osborne

An updated version published  13 February 2018