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Virtual Orchestration

When a visitor comes to my studio, they inevitably ask how I go about doing what I do.

Here it is: The first step is to write the piece - I usually work out the parts at my piano. A piano simulates orchestration in an amazing way - like no other instrument. I then take this into the studio and play it into my computer. This piano part is then orchestrated to the other instruments - this is sort of like adding colors to a black and white image. If there is a rhythm section (piano, bass, drums), I do this first. If not, I usually like to do the string orchestra or whatever else represents the most foundational element of the piece. Solo instruments are then added and finally, the rest of the orchestra sections - woodwinds, brass, percussion, ethnic instruments and so on. Frequently, live musicans are added to the texture. A completely full blown production can typically involve more than 120 individual tracks.

Virtual instruments are not at all like the synths of old. They are based on what are called ‘samples.’ A sample is an actual recording of an actual musician playing an actual instrument. As such, the personality of the instrument, the performer and the recording engineer are preserved and reproduced when the virtual instrument is played from a keyboard. I have literally thousands of different vitual instruments in my studio, the last time I was able to count, there were hundreds of thousands of ‘samples.’ At the high end, each note of each instrument is recorded in a multitude of different ways (volumes, articulations, accoustic environments, mics, etc.) Some examples: I have 3 main string orchestras I use frequently - one is very classical, one is very Hollywood, one is great for pop productions. One of my solo violins is a genuine multi-million dollar Stradivari (built in 1716) - sweet! I have the drum kit Metallica used to make the Black record - I also have vintage Ludwigs, Pearls, many sets of Gretch - dozens of drums sets. My favorite pipe organ is from a French cathedral built in 1255. If I want to, I can put that organ in St. Peters or St. Johns. It is so cool what you can do.

Barry Nease Studio

The studio is a personal composing studio - even though it is on the 3rd floor, it was built from the ground up. In one room, there are 3 work spaces - one at a stack of keyboards and computers for writing, one with a bunch of great mics for recording solo musicians and making my own samples, and one that is a control room for engineering, mixing and producing. This presented considerable design issues , but the result was extremely successful. Production can be done completely inside of my G5s, completely old school with tape and analog mixing or any combination on a project by project basis. The board is a 36 input Sound Workshop, outboard gear includes high end Lexicon reverbs, tube compressors, I monitor through Tannoys and Yamaha NS10s. There is a control room window, but it looks out into the woods.