Takeaways from the E-Concert

I learned a few things from doing the E-Concert with my Xylosynth + Zynthian last month.

  1. Despite Christmas Day being the “1st day of Christmas”, it would be better to put out one song per day leading up til Christmas, rather than starting Christmas until New Years. Christmas spirit seems to sharply drop off starting on Dec. 26.
  2. If things ever work out the way I’d like them to, the idea of the live recording studio is a must. I’d really like to use any of my real instruments with mics and mixers to do these recordings, and possibly live streams. Especially since this pandemic seems to be never-ending.
  3. My sustain pedal for the Xylosynth is awful or maybe worn out. It moves around and is sometimes not responsive enough…
  4. Giving myself more time to arrange, learn, record, and edit each song would lead to less frustration…

I was not happy with the performance with my Nektar NP-1 sustain pedal. For one, it is too small. I don’t want to have to search around for my pedal when I’m playing. This is also why I prefer extended pedals on real vibraphones. I’ve also noticed that it has started being very particular about where I’m pressing. It might be already worn out. I looked a bit, but I couldn’t find any good pedals for electronic xylophones; they all seem to be designed for sit-down keyboards, so I decided to go with the 14-inch Wernick Double Foot Pedal. It is coming from England, and I have not received it yet.

I didn’t do myself any favors with the E-Concert. Originally, I was planning to play two solos at the Carol Event on Dec 13: “Silver Bells” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. I never really found any opening in the program to play the solos, so when that didn’t happen, I thought of the idea to do the E-Concert, but it was already the week of Christmas by that time. With the exception of those two songs, I had no music prepared. Therefore, every other song I recorded, I had learned the same day (or at best the day before) I played it. “Do You Hear What I Hear” and “Jingle Bell Rock” were from the same music book I’d gotten the other two songs from; but the other pieces were gathered from other sources (multiple arrangements pieced together for some) like musescore.org or around the Internet and edited myself and ad-libbed. This meant that putting this out was actually a few hours of work each day. I was determined to get it done, but in the future, I shouldn’t try to do everything so last minute. My choice to include the Super Mario Maker 2 SMB3 Snow Theme was indeed paying some homage to the DGR_Dave community. My choice to include the Pentatonix Carol of the Bells was because I wanted something challenging in terms of arranging the music and playing a fast tempo. Including a Carol of the Bells piece was also a nod to the Pensacola Bay Concert Band, which seems to have some inclusion of Carol of the Bells in every Christmas concert. “Auld Lang Syne” was an obvious inclusion.

It seems that the pandemic and the fear will not be going away any time soon, and despite all my children’s activities proceeding as usual, and my wife’s in-person jury trial cycle resuming as if there is no danger out there at all, the local music and performing arts can’t figure out how to make things work in this new world. Thus, I still don’t have my music group activities, and I honestly don’t expect that to change in 2021 either.

Should I plan for a Spring E-Concert? If I did, what should the theme be?

Here is a table of my current instrument go-to’s on my Zynthian. I’m still trying to find everything I’m looking for. I may update this list on this post later and/or include it somewhere else on the site.

Marimba Pianoteq Xylo Instrument Pack: Bass Marimba Link
     Sampled from a Bergerault 5 octave Marimba.
Used in the X-ylozynthian-mas E-Concert
Vibraphone Pianoteq Vibes Instrument Pack: V-M Link
     Sampled from a Musser Vibraphone. I'm happy with these samples, since I figured out how to adjust the motor effect.
Used in the X-ylozynthian-mas E-Concert
Xylophone Pianoteq Xylo Instrument Pack: Xylophone Link
     Sampled from a Bergerault 3.5 octave Xylophone. It is okay. Lower end sounds a little dead, so I may keep looking. Must transpose +1 or +2 octaves.
Glockenspiel Pianoteq Celeste Instrument Pack: Glockenspiel Link
     Sampled from a Bergerault GV glockenspiel. To be honest, I'm not a big fan of these, so I may keep looking. Must transpose +1 or +2 octaves. Up to C8. I'd rather it had been up to F8.
Used in the X-ylozynthian-mas E-Concert
Tubular Bells Pianoteq Bells and Carillons: Tubular Bells Link
     Sampled from Bergerault JC18 chimes. Samples are good and free. Unlike in Apple MainStage, the dampener actually works. Up to F5. I'd rather it had been up to G5.
Used in the X-ylozynthian-mas E-Concert
Crotales FluidSynth UIowa: Crotales Link
     Sampled from two octaves of Crotales.
Harp Pianoteq Harps Instrument Pack: Concert Harp Link
     Sampled from a Salvi concert grand harp. I've been asked several times to play Harp parts. Most electric harps I've heard don't sound real to me.
Used in the X-ylozynthian-mas E-Concert
Celesta Pianoteq Celeste Instrument Pack: Celesta Link
     Sampled from a "modern five-octave German brand". I've been asked a few times to play Celesta parts. I like the MainStage Celesta more, but this is fine.
Used in the X-ylozynthian-mas E-Concert
Grand Piano Pianoteq KIViR: Erard Link
     Sampled from Sébastien Erard (1922). Pianoteq has several pianos for purchase. I'm not sure what a "good" piano sounds like, but this free one sounds good to me.
Electric Piano Pianoteq KIViR: CP-80 Link
     Sampled from Yamaha CP-80 (1978).
Harpsichord Pianoteq KIViR: Blanchet Link
     Sampled from François-Etienne Blanchet (1733).
Classical Guitar FluidSynth UIowa: Guitar Link
     Sampled from Raimundo 118. On this particular SF2, one note had a timing issue, and another note is on the wrong octave.
String Bass FluidSynth UIowa: Double Bass Pizzicato Link
     Sampled from Anton Krutz (2004). Must transpose -2 or -3 octaves. Seemed like a good idea to include a non-wind instrument that is lower than the Marimba.

I have yet to find any decent timpani SoundFonts, which I think could also be useful in certain situations.

Here are some link references for the above table, although I don’t know if they’ll stay valid forever.