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Ulysses - based on the poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson

The long day fades,
the slow moon rises,
voices call me from the deep.

My ship will sail beyond the sunset
across the endless sea.

I will drink life to the lees
Through the scutting drifts vexed by the Hyades

Far away, far apart
Always roaming with a hungry heart

Weak by time and fate,
but back in the old days
we could move heaven and earth
Now we are old and grey

Come my friends,
It's not to late to seek the new world.
To strive, to seek, to find,
and not yield.



The Band
Bass: RealTracks ~700:Bass, Electric, PopHalfNotesPush Ev 085
Piano: RealTracks 892:Piano, Acoustic, Solo-Accompaniment PopLiverpool Ev 065 (A-simple)
Acoustic Guitar 1: RealTracks 3906:Guitar, Acoustic, Rhythm SongwriterSlow16DADGAD Ev16 060
Acoustic Guitar 1:RealTracks ~1676:Guitar, Acoustic, Fingerpicking CountryBrent Ev 065
Drums: RealDrums [NashvilleEven16^3-a:Sidestick, HiHat , b:Snare, HiHat Open
12 String Guitar: Strummed Acoustic 2
Percussion: UJam One
Strings: Orchestral Tools LA Sessions (Studio Strings)
Oboe: 8dio 8diOboe
Trumpet: Embertone Chapman Trumpet
Lead Vocal: SynthesizerV (Anri AI)
Backing Vocal: SynthesizerV (Eleanor Forte AI)

The Processing Chain
Master Buss: Greg Wells MixCentric (GW Party Started), Lurssen Mastering Console (Americana Loose (Less Glue))
Main Vocal: Greg Wells VoiceCentric (GQ Lead Vocal), LX40 Essentials (Plate)
Backing Vocal: Real ADT (Subtle Vocal ADT), GW VoiceCentric (GW Backing Vocal)
Drums: EZMix (Drum Buss), EZMix (Drum Room 2), ReaEQ
Percussion: Vulf Compressor (Master Hump)
Bass: EZMix (Bass Control), ReaEQ
Guitar 1: EZMix (Guitar 3)
Guitar 2: EZMix (Acoustic Guitar with Reverb)
Piano: EZMix (Piano2), EZMix (Studio B), ReaEQ
Oboe: Raum (Grounded)
Strings: Raum (Grounded)

The Story
The song started with the JBALLAD.STY. I decided to try something different and use a fairly simple chord progression.

Once I brought the backing tracks into my DAW, I realized that it was too long and repetitive. Normally, I'd go back into BiaB and fix it there, but I started slicing and dicing and moving things around, all the while hoping that I wasn't going to have to change the key of the song, or I might end up with a lot of lost work.

Spoiler: Of course I ended up having to change the key.

Once I had the form to something shorter (perhaps a bit too short), I imported it into Synthesizer V to work on the melody. Once that was done, I tried simplifying things, but old habits die hard.

Then I started working on the lyrics, but... nothing.

I had a vague idea of a ship on the sea, but wasn't sure if it would be literal or metaphorical. I remembered my Dad used to have a poster in his office of a boat sailing, with a portion of the poem Ulysses by Lord Alfred Tennyson:

      How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
      To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!


Ironically, these key lines didn't make it into the final edit of the song.

Since it was written in 1833, the poem is in the Public Domain. I consider using poems a bit of a cheat, but only because I'm trying to learn songwriting. But it had been a couple of days, and I wasn't making any real progress on the lyrics.

I decided to keep as much of the original language as I could. There are a few words that are completely archaic, and I may decide to go back and replace them. Specifically:

      I will drink life to the lees
      Through the scutting drifts vexed by the Hyades


Once all the words were worked out, it was obvious that I'd picked a terrible key for the singer. I'd used the new Anri voice, although I really envisioned this as something more suited for the Cangqiong voicebank, which I unfortunately don't have yet. I'm not terribly unhappy with the results, but I would have liked to have a voice with a bit more oooph to it.

So I pitched it down to somewhere that sounded better, and regenerated the backing tracks. Fortunately, all the edits stayed in place, and the instruments that carried the melody were all MIDI, so it was much less painful than it might have been.

I worked on the string parts next. Since I keep bugging Shigeki that he should use trills and stuff, I figured it would be hypocritical not to do that myself. wink The parts are simple, but I think they turned out nicely.

I'd been intended to use an English Horn in one of my songs for a while, and had just bought a bunch of sampled double reeds. Ironically, I ended up using the 8diOboe instead - an instrument that I was deeply disappointed with when I got it, but it seemed to fit better than my shiny new sample libraries. Go figure.

I then went back and worked on the articulation. There's currently a bug in SynthesizerV, so there's some EQ to minimize that.

My son then went in and did some polishing. There's not really a whole lot going on in the arrangement - most of the interesting things are happening in the string section.

Any and all comments welcome! laugh


-- David Cuny
My virtual singer development blog

Vocal control, you say. Never heard of it. Is that some kind of ProTools thing?
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For me, this is the best I've heard since you started working with synth voices. But it isn't just the voices that is good about this. The arrangement gets equal billing. The lyrical source was brilliant, too, IMHO. If I have to search for something critical, I would say the harmonies (slightly) reveal the synth nature of the voices more than the lead vocal by itself does (to my ears).

Way to go, this is really a triumph!


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The opening vocal has a different quality, is that the new kid? A chompier attack, more vibrato, more energy. Closer to human.

Excellent production, but of course, of a solid composition.

I hope you don’t really think of these pieces as mere demos because the singing is synthetic! No, it is not human singing, but it is what it is and you are VERY good at making it happen. You are building a set of compositional techniques with this software analogous to what a particular singer masters when developing their individual physical body and understanding of how to drive it. The better the software gets, the more distinctive your singer will be, so, lean it to it, I say. Your singers need not look down and drag their toes in the dirt when a human walks past.

PS – It is good, I think, not to overly focus on the synth aspect by posting the bot specs in the title. One actually has to read through your post quite a ways before one gets that, oh, this will feature an other-than-human singer, and I like that. Music and words, that's what we have here, who or whatever sings them.

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Alfred, Lord Tennyson would be pleased.
I REALLY like the backing and the melody but was/am a little disappointed by the synthvocal on this one. Some clever work but it doesn't carry the Voctorian man with them.


Cheers
rayc
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Really good, David!

I haven't heard all of the music you have created using the synth vocals, but of the ones I've heard, this one is a stand out for me. Not perfect, but getting closer.

The song itself is wonderful, you had me hooked right from that melodic intro, and I really like the arrangement too.

Listened twice, liked it even more the second time. Well done!

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Wow, David. First of all, I really like the explanation of how the tune developed into this wonderful song. Man, that oboe is a great opening. I tried using it once, but switched it out for a soprano sax. The trumpet worked out marvelously too. Those synth voices work really well, and it's a really good melody, too.


Enjoy whatever happens!
marty

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Beautiful production... I'm amazed by the tech, & talent. I love it.


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Originally Posted By: TuneMonger
For me, this is the best I've heard since you started working with synth voices. But it isn't just the voices that is good about this. The arrangement gets equal billing. The lyrical source was brilliant, too, IMHO.

Thanks!

Quote:
If I have to search for something critical, I would say the harmonies (slightly) reveal the synth nature of the voices more than the lead vocal by itself does (to my ears).

You're right about that. There are a couple places that I went back and reworked, but it still retains a very auto-tuned sound. I removed the "doubling" effect on the harmony vocal that was adding, but only help a small amount.

Quote:
Way to go, this is really a triumph!

I'm making a note here: "Huge success". wink (Sorry, couldn't resist)

Thanks again!


-- David Cuny
My virtual singer development blog

Vocal control, you say. Never heard of it. Is that some kind of ProTools thing?
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Originally Posted By: Mark Hayes
The opening vocal has a different quality, is that the new kid? A chompier attack, more vibrato, more energy. Closer to human.

It's the Anri voice. I think it's got a voice which is a bit more youthful than Eleanor Forte, and probably not the best match for the lyric. There's another voice that's available (now that the Japanese and Chinese voices support cross-lingual synthesis) that I'd trying to get a hold of that I think would work better.

But you use what you've got, right?

Quote:
Excellent production, but of course, of a solid composition.

Thanks! It wasn't until the final polishing of the song that things started falling into place. Halfway through the lyric, I would have sworn it would never work.

Goes to show what I know! wink

Quote:
I hope you don’t really think of these pieces as mere demos because the singing is synthetic!

Well... yes, that's exactly why I think of them as demos. They give a good performance, as do the string samples. But given my druthers, I'd prefer a slightly more nuanced version.

Most of the improvements are on the side of the software, not in my own skills. But I also think that "writing to the instrument" is also part of it. Things that the voice can't do at all will get thrown out in the compositional process, and things that work well I'll lean into - like being able to write cool harmonies.

Quote:
PS – It is good, I think, not to overly focus on the synth aspect by posting the bot specs in the title. One actually has to read through your post quite a ways before one gets that, oh, this will feature an other-than-human singer, and I like that.

Yeah, dropping that was intentional. Most people on the forum who listen to my songs already know I'm using robots.

And.. .well, one actually has to read through my post quite a ways to get to anything, don't they? laugh

Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


-- David Cuny
My virtual singer development blog

Vocal control, you say. Never heard of it. Is that some kind of ProTools thing?
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Lots of things to enjoy in this song: nice lyrics - growing old but positively, the chord progression, vocals sound very natural and clear together with nice harmonies and smooth slides, lovely oboe melodies (really sets the sails of the mood), great work with the strings.

Janne


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This is very nice!

You obviously have put a lot of work into all aspects of this song.

The virtual voices are quite good, I think. Much better than any i have heard before.


If I may , I would like to make a small suggestion:

When the singer is holding a note, the singer should sing through the note in a dynamic fashion.
A real singer usually would not hold a note at the exact same dynamic throughout a note, but would vary the dynamic slightly as the note progresses. i know it could mean a lot of work for you, but i think would add to the realism a little.


You've really done a great job! i'm really impressed with the quality of your virtual vocalists.

-rob

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Originally Posted By: rayc
Alfred, Lord Tennyson would be pleased.

Heh. I don't actually know much about the man. smile

There were a lot of ideas that were left out of the poem, because there was very little space for lyrics. So it's just a very superficial reading.

But from that perspective, it was a good exercise in refining the lyrics down to a single idea.

Quote:
I REALLY like the backing and the melody but was/am a little disappointed by the synth vocal on this one. Some clever work but it doesn't carry the Victorian man with them.
Yeah, I really wish I had a male voice that was a better match. That's one place where SynthV is behind. And all the planned male English vocals are youthful.

But that's just something that I had to shrug about and move on, unfortunately.

Thanks for the comments!


-- David Cuny
My virtual singer development blog

Vocal control, you say. Never heard of it. Is that some kind of ProTools thing?
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Originally Posted By: BlueAttitude
Really good, David!

Thanks, Dave! smile

Quote:
I haven't heard all of the music you have created using the synth vocals, but of the ones I've heard, this one is a stand out for me. Not perfect, but getting closer.

Good to hear! I actually didn't spend as much time finessing the vocals. But it's a new iteration of the voices, so I didn't have to.

Some things, like the release of some consonants, are handled better in this version. And I - rather belatedly - found a better range for the vocal, which I think helped.

Quote:
The song itself is wonderful, you had me hooked right from that melodic intro, and I really like the arrangement too.

Thanks! laugh

I think it's structurally a good write. The bookending of the lyric, the bridge - I think these help the song "work" a bit more.

Plus, there are more melody instruments, so the vocals don't have to do all the heavy lifting and there's a bit more variety in the arrangement.


Quote:
Listened twice, liked it even more the second time. Well done!

Glad to hear it! I appreciate you stopping by to comment. smile


-- David Cuny
My virtual singer development blog

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Originally Posted By: BabuMusic
First of all, I really like the explanation of how the tune developed into this wonderful song

Thanks, Marty!

Quote:
Man, that oboe is a great opening. I tried using it once, but switched it out for a soprano sax.

I the double reeds, but in a lot of cases, there's not that much difference between an oboe and a soprano sax... Which is also a wonderful instrument.

Quote:
The trumpet worked out marvelously too. Those synth voices work really well, and it's a really good melody, too.

Good to know. The Chapman trumpet really nails that "Last Post" sort of sound, so it's always nice to find a place where it can be used.

Thanks for the nice comments! smile


-- David Cuny
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Vocal control, you say. Never heard of it. Is that some kind of ProTools thing?
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Originally Posted By: bloc-head
Beautiful production... I'm amazed by the tech, & talent. I love it.
Thanks - I'm glad you enjoyed it! smile


-- David Cuny
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Originally Posted By: jannesan
Lots of things to enjoy in this song: nice lyrics - growing old but positively, the chord progression, vocals sound very natural and clear together with nice harmonies and smooth slides, lovely oboe melodies (really sets the sails of the mood), great work with the strings.

Thanks, Janne.

The 8diOboe is a pain to work with - it requires a lot of fiddling with note position to get the attacks to work correctly - but has a raw, rustic sound. The intro was longer than I'd have liked, but it gave me a chance to use it, so... smile

I've said before that songwriting is sometimes just an excuse to use all these lovely sounds I've collected and actually use them. And I got to use a bunch of them in this song!

Thanks for the nice words!


-- David Cuny
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Originally Posted By: robsmusic
This is very nice!

Hi, Rob.

Thanks! smile

Quote:
When the singer is holding a note, the singer should sing through the note in a dynamic fashion.

Yes, you're 100% right about that.

I need to go back and work on some of the arcs. I know how to do it with the "Standard" voices, but the new "AI" voices aren't quite as responsive. But that's no excuse - there aren't that many notes to edit, and the song would be better for it.

Thanks for the feedback - it encourages me to work harder!


-- David Cuny
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Amazing stuff, David.

Vic

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David,

Killer opening. The mix there is exceptional. LOVE the drum sound - especially the snare. And the oboe (?) is stunning.

The bass is SO good - both its sound and its line.
The strings are VERY nicely supportive.

A beautiful song. Nice job on both lyric and melody.

I like this singer. Especially when combined with the harmony (The harmony is outstanding, too). In both voices there is a hint of Judy Collins (her high voice and her low voice). I suppose it helps that this sounds like a song Judy Collins would have recorded.

A superb mix. Really clear. With a perfectly subtle "punch".

fj

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Loved that intro! That bass is outstanding. Loved the trumpet.

But that synth vocal took it over the top for me. You are the synth vocal master for sure.

Fantastic piece of work.


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