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Bicycles and Music

Johnny Random screenshot

June is bike month in Colorado. While MakeMusic will participate in Bike to Work Day on June 24, bikes are a significant part of our world every other day, too. Moderate weather, ample bike paths, and encouragement from our upstairs neighbors at TrainingPeaks all contribute to making our office bike-friendly all year round.

That said, when bikes and musicians meet, magic can happen. Check out the video above to hear what composer Johnnyrandom can create using only the sounds of the bicycle. As he says:

“Through music, I want to change the way that people perceive their surroundings, and I hope this will inspire others to look at everyday objects with more curiosity and wonder.”

If, like me, you’re intrigued, here’s another well-done video about the found objects aspect of Johnnyrandom’s music, created at the Belgium Brewery in nearby Fort Collins.

Of course, no blog post on bicycles and music would be complete without mentioning Frank Zappa’s 1963 appearance on the Steve Allen Show.

Enjoy and ride safe.

Exploring Velocity Curves in the CFX Concert Grand

VC Image_700crop4

The Garritan Abbey Road CFX Concert Grand has been getting some wonderful reviews and now has a list price of $199.95. As a result, we’re hearing from more and more people who are using the virtual piano to great effect, and as a result we plan to offer some tips on using the CFX in upcoming blog posts.

Today’s topic is the Velocity Curve feature from the Advanced menu in the CFX plug-in interface.

Adjusting the CFX’s velocity curve allows you to:

  1. Compliment your playing style (perhaps you’d like to play with a lighter touch),
  2. Match your hardware (compensating, for example, for a un-weighted controller), and
  3. Enjoy creative control over the tonal color of any project.

To view the Velocity Curve feature, open your CFX Plug-in interface and click Advanced. Under Velocity Curve, you can control how the MIDI information from your MIDI Keyboard is interpreted by the CFX plugin.

The CFX’s default curve is linear and will provide you with the opportunity to play the full MIDI note velocity values of 0 to 127. If you prefer to use your MIDI Keyboard’s built-in velocity curve, you can leave the Velocity Curve menu at its default setting.

Otherwise, various CFX presets offer different curves, and you can select from a range of preset curves from the Velocity Curve menu – from Super Lite options to Heavy – as seen above.

For full control, you can also manually drag the four points of the curve graphic yourself:

  • The x-axis (horizontal) represents the MIDI note velocity sent by your MIDI controller to the CFX.
  • The y-axis (vertical) represents the MIDI note velocity generated by the velocity curve editor. This velocity is used to determine the dynamic of the piano.

In the example seen above, even softly played notes from your MIDI controller will result in a louder sound. This kind of curve might be used to make it easier for you to generate louder dynamics with your controller, or to give you more control over the louder notes.

The Dynamic Range knob (obscured my the menu above) determines the difference in volume between the loudest possible note and the softest possible note.  Use this in combination with the Velocity Curve to find the best way to express your performances with the CFX.

Here’s one last tip: Should you find yourself previewing CFX sounds away from a controller, you can still hear the results of different velocity keystrokes when clicking with your mouse on the virtual keyboard seen above. The secret lies in where on the key you click. To produce higher velocity sounds click toward the front of the key (the end closest to the performer), and for a lighter velocity move towards the back of the key (closer to the soundboard).

Keyboard Call-outs2

Have any questions about velocity curves, the CFX, or anything else Garritan? Please let us know by clicking the Comments link below.

Alexandre Desplat on his Imitation Game Score

Are you done thinking about the Academy Awards until next year?

I thought I was until a coworker shared this fantastic podcast, from Song Exploder, featuring Alexandre Desplat. In it the composer describes the orchestration of the main theme from his Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated “The Imitation Game” score, both in terms of orchestration as well as the emotional responses he sought to invoke.

Check out Episode #29 here.

I often find inspiration from hearing music creators describe their work; perhaps you do as well. Song Exploder is described as “a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made.”  This is clearly an intriguing project worth checking out.

I hope you enjoy it.

MakeMusic and NAMM 2015

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Do you know the feeling of putting everything you’ve got into preparations for a recital or concert? That’s what the NAMM Show is to folks who make musical instruments, software, and accessories. Each January around 100,000 people from around the world wind up in a convention center in Anaheim, California to be the first to see the latest products and services created for musicians.

This year the show runs January 22- 25, and we’ll be there sharing the latest in Garritan and other MakeMusic news.

If you plan to attend, please stop by and say hello at the MakeMusic booth, #6210. If you’re not attending, we’ll share some highlights with you via Facebook and Twitter.

Have a guitar manufacturer you’d like me to check out? Let me know by clicking on “Comments” below.

Using Garritan Keyswitches

Musicians know there is more than one way to produce sound out of any instrument. When studying orchestration and arranging, we learn the idiosyncrasies of each individual instrument and how to best leverage them.

Garritan libraries have a number of instruments that use multiple techniques – a violin can bow or pluck, a cello section might play con sordino, and brass instruments often are called to play a variety of different mutes – so how can a musician easily switch to these instrument-specific performance techniques when using the Garritan sounds?

Many Garritan libraries include instruments with keyswitches. These instruments contain multiple sets of samples for each pitch, offering access to different articulations and techniques that you can easily switch between without needing to load a new patch or send any program change messages. This is very useful while playing a Garritan instrument live, or when writing for a larger ensemble.

When selecting a Garritan patch, you can easily identify those that contain keyswitches by a “KS” at the end of their names. Once you’ve selected such a patch, the specific Keyswitches can visually be identified on the left side of the ARIA Player’s on-screen keyboard player in pink.  The currently selected keyswitch is a light peach color.

Aria Player screenshot 625

When performing live you can access these keyswitches by playing both the pitch you want the instrument to perform AND the associated keyswitch (often far below the range of the given instrument) to produce the desired technique.

When using a notation program you will want to use the notation patches, which also have keyswitches, but are coded and intended for notation software.  They will be the patches that start with “n-“. The notation programs will use MIDI to trigger them through their playback controls. In a notation program such as Finale or Sibelius, most keyswitches are automatically triggered through the use of an expression or technique text, respectively. The notation interprets your text expression and executes the keyswitch seamlessly.

Wondering how to create your own keyswitches in Finale? Want to hear more about other Garritan tools to help you on the fly? Have any other questions? Please leave a comment for us below.

Share the 11th Annual Garritan Community Christmas CD


The holidays are upon us once again. I am very pleased to announce that the members of the Garritan Community have come together to produce the 11th annual Garritan Community Christmas album!

Download and share the music today!

As always, it is a pleasure to work with such wonderful, talented and passionate musicians that create the annual Christmas album, participate in the Garritan Weekend Challenges and support the Garritan products. I wish all of you a very happy holiday season and a wonderful new year!

Carol Spenillo

CFX Concert Grand Contemporary Perspective


To complement the woody, organic and nuanced detail of the “Classic” perspective, the team wanted to provide contrasting mic perspectives that gave the piano a bright, modern sound capable of a wide dynamic range with plenty of bite. For this “Contemporary” perspective, members of the engineering team at Abbey Road, known for particularly for their specialization in contemporary recording styles such as Rock, Pop and so forth, selected and placed mics as they would for such a session. Once again this also meant the “secret sauce” of the Abbey Road signal path, including rare pre-amps, custom EQs and Studio One’s Neve 88R mixing console. The “Close” and “Ambient” mic selections were chosen particularly to emphasize the power and clarity of the piano.

  • Close: The “Close” mics pick up the intimate detail of the piano itself.
  • Ambient: The “Ambient” mics get more of the piano interacting with the space, in this case – the space of Studio One at Abbey Road Studios.

Each perspective has independently controllable Close and Ambient mic levels in the CFX ARIA player. In this article, we are going to focus on the Contemporary perspective.

The Contemporary Perspective

The Contemporary perspective creates a piano sound that is bright and hard with lots of attack from the hammers. However, we also needed to retain the expressive detail of the CFX, and careful consideration was also given to maintaining the piano’s warmth and intimate ambience. The presets are particularly good at showcasing the crisp clarity of the Contemporary perspective. “Brighton Rock” has a punchy and lively feel to it. The lower intervals speak out and it has an overall clarity and raw power that’s unrivaled. On the other end of the spectrum, “Soft and Moody” has a warm and delicate feel to it without being muddy or tonally cluttered.

Contemporary Microphones

For the Close mic setting, two AKG C12’s and one AKG D19 microphones were used.

  • The AKG C12 is a highly regarded, bright sounding tube condenser microphone with bite and some nice tube warmth.
  • The AKG D19 is a mono microphone with a long history at Abbey Road. It was placed in the center over the hammers and run through a REDD47 preamp adding central focus and “poke” to the close sound of this set-up.

For the Ambient mic setting, two Schoeps MK 2H microphones were used.

  • The Schoeps MK 2H is an omnidirectional condenser mic with a very wide frequency response. These microphones were used in a close position. They are able to bring the sound of the room to the mix, without losing too much definition of the piano’s attack.

Now’s a great time to order the library and try the Contemporary perspective out for yourself. As you familiarize yourself with the CFX piano, let us know what you would like us to explore further right here on the blog by leaving a comment below or sending us a tweet @Garritan

MakeMusic joins Peaksware

MakeMusic joins Peaksware

Today MakeMusic announced that it will join Peaksware, the umbrella company owned by LaunchEquity Partners, the investment company that took MakeMusic private in 2013. You can learn more about Peaksware and view the press release at

Peaksware is also the home of TrainingPeaks, a complete web, mobile and desktop solution for enabling smart and effective endurance training.  What do they have in common with MakeMusic? It’s a company run by people who are passionate users of their products, just as MakeMusic employees are passionate users of Finale, SmartMusic, Garritan and MusicXML. What’s more, like MakeMusic, TrainingPeaks is committed to providing software solutions that empower people to do the things they love – really well – at the very highest level.

This announcement today comes with the additional reassurance that Garritan products will continue to be sold through MakeMusic and it’s current reseller partners. Additionally, this announcement does not affect any product development currently underway. Gary Garritan continues to lead the Garritan development team to innovate and produce high-quality virtual instrument software. In other words, it’s business as usual on the Garritan front.

We’re excited to have been given the opportunity to expand our resources. If you have additional questions about the press release, let us know by leaving a comment below.

CFX Concert Grand microphone perspectives: Classic

Recording Mic Perspectives at Abbey Road Studios

Recording the mic Perspectives at Abbey Road Studios.

One of the goals in developing the CFX Concert Grand was to create not only a beautiful sounding virtual piano, but also to produce a functional and flexible musical tool to suit as many settings and styles as possible. To this end, we tapped into the engineering talent of the Abbey Road Studios team to not only select good Mics from their “closet,” but to create specific mic combinations or “perspectives” as they would for real-world recording sessions. This also meant the “secret sauce” of their signal path, including an unrivaled collection of vintage pre-amps such as the EMI REDD.47 and the fabulously warm EQs on Studio One’s analogue monster, the Neve 88R mixing console. The mic selections and configurations were divided into “Close” and “Ambient” groups.

  • Close: The “Close” mics pick up the intimate detail of the piano itself.
  • Ambient: The “Ambient” mics get more of the piano interacting with the space, in this case – the space of Studio One at Abbey Road Studios.

With this approach to the project, we ended up with three discrete perspectives: Classic, Contemporary, and Player. Each of these perspectives have independently controllable Close and Ambient mic levels in the CFX ARIA player. In this article, we are going to focus on the Classic perspective.

The Classic Perspective

The “Classic” perspective most faithfully captures the natural tonal character, clarity and nuance of the instrument. Whilst the mic selection and setup reflects a configuration used for recording a piano in a classical, film or a solo setting, the emphasis on clarity, warmth and detail make it perfect a perspective for many stylistic situations. This mic configuration gives really detailed and warm sound that feels “woody” and organic. Mixing between the “Close” and “Ambient” mics in the user interface gives additional tonal flexibility.

Classic Microphones

For the Close mic setting, two Neumann M49 and two Neumann KM184 microphones were used.

  • The M49 is a large diaphragm tube condenser mic. It was a workhorse mic in the 1960s, but is now a rare classic. It has an incredibly rich and warm tone.
  • The KM184 is a more modern “pencil” condenser microphone known for its ability to record in critical detail.

As every piano, recording venue, repertoire and pianist are different, the M49 and KM184 are used to capture a close detailed sound, which the engineer notes: “is especially good for chamber music.”

For the Ambient mic setting, two DPA 4006 and two Neumann TLM50 microphones were used.

  • The DPA 4006 is an omnidirectional condenser mic with a very flat frequency response and high sensitivity. These microphones were placed at each end of the piano create a wider and more spacious sound picture. 
  • The TLM50 is a capacitor microphone with a delicate high-end lift for detailed high frequency sensitivity. These microphones were placed 2.0m away from the instrument and at 2.6m in height. This captures the overall complex frequency response and dynamic range of a grand piano.

If you haven’t yet purchased the Garritan Abbey Road Studios CFX Concert Grand, Garritan is running a Free Shipping special that will expire on July 31, 2014. Use code FREESHIP during checkout in the MakeMusic store. Now’s a great time to order the library and try the Classic perspective out for yourself. As you familiarize yourself with the CFX piano, let us know what you would like us to explore further right here on the blog by leaving a comment below or sending us a tweet @Garritan

Garritan Weekend Challenge – Twelve Tone Serialism

This Weekend Challenge is truly challenging. During our Weekend Challenge – Piano I included a little trivia about the Fibonacci Sequence and it’s relationship to the piano. Riding that wave of nerdy bliss, I’m motivated this week to challenge you to compose twelve tone music. Don’t roll your eyes just yet. This can actually be a really fun puzzle to solve.

If you haven’t yet watched Vi Hart compose twelve tone music, this video is a must see:

Let’s review the rules of creating a twelve tone melody:

  • You have to use all 12 chromatic pitches in an order of your choosing.
  • No limitations on rhythm or octave.
  • You may repeat a note more than once before moving onto the next note.
  • You may go back and forth between two notes.
  • You can’t go back to the note two or more pitches earlier (because you’ve already used it, and it’s not a repeated note or a back-and-forth situation).
  • Loop it (hence the term “serialism”).

If composing twelve tone music isn’t your thing, chances are the last time you were challenged to try composing it was your junior year of college from that pesky music composition professor. This will be good for ya. If you teach music, I’d love for you to share the weekend challenges with your students. Composers of all levels are welcome.

Happy composing!

You may remember how our challenges work if you are a regular to the Garritan Weekend Challenge. If you’re new to the Garritan Weekend Challenge, welcome! This is simply a chance for you to practice composing and using Garritan sounds so when your next big composing gig hits, you’re well rehearsed. You can share your music in the comments section below or publish your tune on SoundCloud. It is a great opportunity to have other composers review your work. Most of all, it’s fun.

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