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.

Instrument Prog # App Description
Vibraphone 0: F3-F6
1: Motor On
Pianoteq Vibes Instrument Pack: V-M Link
     Modeled from a Musser Vibraphone. I can adjust the motor effect inside Pianoteq.
Marimba 2: C2-F4
3: F2-F5
4: F3-F6
5: F4-C7
Pianoteq Xylo Instrument Pack: Bass Marimba Link
     Modeled from a Bergerault 5 octave Marimba.
Xylophone 6: F4-F7
7: F5-C8
Pianoteq Xylo Instrument Pack: Xylophone Link
     Modeled from a Bergerault 3.5 octave Xylophone. Lower end sounds a little dead.
Glockenspiel 8: F5-C8 Pianoteq Celeste Instrument Pack: Glockenspiel Link
     Modeled from a Bergerault GV glockenspiel. Only goes up to C8, but goes to lower range.
Crotales 9: C6-C8 FluidSynth UIowa: Crotales Link
     Sampled from two octaves of Crotales.
Tubular Bells 10: Ext Pianoteq Bells and Carillons: Tubular Bells Link
     Modeled from Bergerault JC18 chimes. Dampener actually works.
Celesta 11: F3-F6 Pianoteq Celeste Instrument Pack: Celesta Link
     Modeled from a "modern five-octave German brand". I've been asked a few times to play Celesta parts.
Harp 12: F3-F6 Pianoteq Harps Instrument Pack: Concert Harp Link
     Modeled from a Salvi concert grand harp. I've been asked several times to play Harp parts.
Grand Piano 13: F3-F6 Pianoteq KIViR: Erard Link
     Modeled from Sébastien Erard (1922).
Electric Piano 14: F3-F6 Pianoteq KIViR: CP-80 Link
     Modeled from Yamaha CP-80 (1978).
Harpsichord 15: F3-F6 Pianoteq KIViR: Blanchet Link
     Modeled from François-Etienne Blanchet (1733).
Classical Guitar 16: F2-F6 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 17: F1-F4 FluidSynth UIowa: Double Bass Pizzicato Link
     Sampled from Anton Krutz (2004). One note is wrong on this SF2.
Steel Drum 18: F3-F6 Pianoteq Steelpans Instrument Pack: Steel Drum Link
     E3 is also in this instrument out of range.

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.