Shostakovich Waltz No. 2 with the Crowded Quartet

Premiere SS with Crowded Quartet My woodwind quintet’s first foray into virtual ensemble playing! It definitely posed some new challenges but this is a wonderful group of humans who were happy to tackle this project!

First, I made a click track with prep beats and midi instruments playing all the parts. I thought the midi was important to give us something to be in tune with. The addition of the metronome clicks help me to be more accurate with where I place beats that are harder to hear. Listening to the end result, I think we would have had more cohesive style in articulations and phrasing if we had had the opportunity to actually hear each other. We may try recording one instrument at a time with a click track and building the ensemble voices from the first recording. Especially, because some of the more traditional repertoire isn’t available as an easy MIDI download on MuseScore! Our next project is “The Nightmare Before Christmas” for which I’ve already made a click track with MIDI again. It’s a long piece (about 6 minutes), so that will be a challenge in itself.

The next step is to export the MIDI with clicks as an audio file, then I drop it into a video in Adobe Premiere with some text instructions on the screen, including visual prep beats. Here is the unlisted YouTube video accompaniment if you’re interested. The music is an arrangement I found on MuseScore. Once the video is on YouTube, everyone can start recording their own parts and sharing them with me. I edited the video in Adobe Premiere including adding reverb to each sound file. I’ve seen other people pull each file into an audio editor like Adobe Audition but for this case that seemed unnecessary. As you can see in the screenshot I color coded video and audio lines so I could keep them straight. This was painful on a small laptop screen, not to mention the laptop kept lagging, freezing, and closing the program. This video was a major catalyst in my new computer project, which is now built and everything I dreamed it could be… (follow my mind down the tangents). I did go in detail with dynamics and balance, trying my best to please all the excellent ears in the quintet. It’s a difficult task with 5 different recording levels, acoustics, and opinions. We went through a couple revisions, I would upload unlisted drafts to YouTube and open it up for discussion. In the end I think we were all pretty happy with the results.

I’ve had some questions recently from music educator friends who are looking at putting together virtual ensemble videos for their students who won’t be in person this Fall. My process is definitely not the ONLY way but I could put together a tutorial video and post if I get some feedback that that would be helpful. (I’ve now used “had had” and “that that”).

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