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Spotlight! The Senses

Sep 9, 2013 • With The Senses, composer Daniel Elder embraced the challenge of conveying the experience of all five senses—sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound—using the music of a full orchestral ensemble..

Frequently Asked Questions


Getting Started

Q. What does Ravel Virtual Studios do?

A. Using the best sample libraries and our expertise, we can create a recording of your piece that sounds as if a real ensemble performed it, at a fraction of the cost, time and effort of any performance alternative.

Q. How do I get started?

A. First, sign up for a free account at our client website—all you need to provide is your desired username and a valid email address.

Next, log in to the client website, which handles all transactions. Once there, create a project for your piece. You’ll be prompted to upload your notation file when you create the project.

Once you’ve confirmed that all the project details are correct, add the project to the queue. After your project has reached the top of the queue and you’ve paid for it, we’ll start working on it immediately!

Q. How long will it take?

A. It usually takes only a few business days for us to process your piece, after your project has reached the top of the queue and you’ve paid.

If there are many projects in the queue, you may need to wait before we can begin processing your piece. The queue operates on a first-come–first-served basis, so the wait depends on the number of people in the queue.

If you are in a rush—for example, you need to meet a competition deadline—you may choose to submit your piece as a “rush” project. Your project will then be processed before all other non-rush projects, but after projects that are already in progress.

If you need to meet a deadline, we strongly encourage submitting your piece as soon as possible. We cannot guarantee that your project will be completed within a fixed number of days.

Q. What kind of quality can I expect?

A. You can expect outstanding quality. Not only do we use the best sample libraries, we employ special techniques to get the finest performances out of those samples. We don’t like to brag, but the only way to surpass our quality is with a live professional orchestra. Listen to our demos of well-known pieces and judge for yourself.

Q. What if my piece doesn’t sound like I imagined it?

A. While we take great care in performing your piece as notated in the score, sometimes our interpretation may not agree with yours. In those cases, we offer you the chance to request revisions of the performance—furthermore, the first round of revisions is free of charge. You’ll need to request your free first round of revisions in a timely fashion, while your project is on the queue and has “Working” status. Once your project is off the queue and marked “Done”, you won’t be able to request a free round of revisions. And please feel free to keep in contact with us to ensure that we’re in agreement.

Sometimes, though, the sound you imagined may not have been expressed well in the score. Proper orchestration usually plays an important part in the quality of a piece. We faithfully perform what you provide.


Pricing and Payment

Q. How much does it cost for a performance?

A. This depends upon the instrumental forces required and the piece’s complexity. When you submit your piece to us, we’ll respond with an exact quote. On average, a piece will cost between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars. Learn more about our pricing policies.

If you’re unsure, send your score to us anyway via the Ravel Virtual Studios Clients website—it’s free, there’s no obligation to complete the transaction, and we’ll give you an exact price quote. We may be able to offer a lower price than expected, depending on certain aspects of your piece. Furthermore, you may be eligible for an academic discount if you’re a student.

Q. Do you charge by the length of the piece?

A. No, we don’t charge by the playing length of a piece, but it is a factor that we consider along with the instrumental forces required and the piece’s complexity.

Therefore, two 7-minute long pieces could have different prices. For example, one could be a string quartet whereas the other could be a symphony—symphonies typically have more instruments and complexity, and so would cost more than quartets.

Q. How much do revisions cost?

A. The first round of revisions is free of charge. Further rounds of revisions may be charged depending on the scope of the desired changes. You’ll need to request your free first round of revisions in a timely fashion, while your project is on the queue and has “Working” status. Once your project is off the queue and marked “Done”, you won’t be able to request a free round of revisions. Please contact us for a price quote.

Q. How much does rush service cost?

A. If you elect to have rush service, your project will be charged an additional 25%.

Q. What forms of payment do you accept?

A. We can accept Visa, MasterCard and Discover credit card payments from residents of the United States. International clients should contact us for other payment methods.


Services

Q. Can I hire you to perform my piece live?

A. No, we only offer recorded performances. We’re not a live orchestra. Instead, we use sample libraries to record your piece. Since we use the best sample libraries available, your piece will sound as if a real orchestra performed it.

Q. Can you arrange my piece for me? Can you orchestrate my piece for me?

A. Please contact us if you have questions about special services.

Q. Do you take commissions for original pieces?

A. No, we don’t offer composition services.

Q. Do you sell sample libraries or music software?

A. No, we don’t sell sample libraries or music software (yet). Instead, we offer a service to composers: Send us your score and we’ll send back a recording of your piece that sounds as if a real ensemble played it.

Q. Do you only accept classical music?

A. No, we can accept any style of music, as long as it’s music written for traditional Western orchestral instruments. Click here to see a full list of supported instruments.


Sample Libraries

Q. Do you use live musicians?

A. No, we use sampled instruments. Samples are recordings of live musicians playing individual notes or phrases in a wide variety of articulations, techniques and dynamics.

Q. What is a sample library?

A. A sample library is a collection of samples, which are recordings of live musicians playing individual notes or phrases in a wide variety of articulations, techniques and dynamics. A collection of samples for every type of orchestral instrument can be used to simulate a live orchestral performance.

Q. Which sample libraries do you use?

A. We use the best sample libraries available in the industry. Our primary sample library is the award-winning Vienna Symphonic Library. We also use a variety of other high quality sample libraries to offer you the best possible sound quality.

Q. Which instruments are available?

A. At the moment, we have almost all traditional Western orchestral instruments available. We don’t yet support “ethnic” instruments or pop music instruments (e.g. guitars and drumkits), but we hope to add them soon. See the full list of supported instruments.

Q. Are choirs or vocal soloists available?

A. Sorry, we currently don’t support choirs or vocal soloists. If you’d like, we could perform just the instrumental portion of your piece. Please contact us if you have any questions.

Q. Do you support extended techniques?

A. We support nearly all common extended techniques. Feel free to contact us if you have a specific question. Remember that we’ll examine your piece to ensure that we can perform everything that you’ve written. We’ll let you know if there is anything we cannot do.

Q. How do you make the performance sound realistic?

A. Aside from scrutinizing each individual instrument line, we’re also able to place instruments in realistic positions on a virtual stage. Using a technique called reverb, we can simulate actual recording spaces such as concert halls or recording studios.

If you’d like, you can specify the positions of the instruments and the type of hall where they’ll play. Otherwise, we’ll choose the best settings for you.

Q. Do I need to own a sample library to use Ravel Virtual Studios?

A. No, you don’t need to own a sample library. That’s part of the convenience we offer: We have everything necessary to create a high quality recording of your piece, so you don’t need to invest in any expensive software or equipment.

The only software that would be helpful is a music notation program. We accept scores in Sibelius (preferred), Finale or MusicXML format. However, if you don’t have access to a notation program, you can submit a handwritten score — we can provide copying services as a part of your project with us. Please note that this will increase your project’s turnaround time and will cost more.


Score Files

Q. What do I need to send?

A. We need your score in a Sibelius (preferred), Finale or MusicXML notation file format. Files saved by recent versions of Sibelius or Finale should work. For the best results, please format your score according to the few simple guidelines in our style guide. Generally, the more detailed the score, the closer our performance will meet your expectations.

If you are unable to convert your handwritten score to an electronic format, we can provide copying services as a part of your project with us. Please note that this will increase your project’s turnaround time and will cost more.

Q. Can I send a handwritten score?

A. Yes, but we prefer scores in Sibelius (preferred), Finale or MusicXML notation file format. Files saved by recent versions of Sibelius or Finale should work.

If you are unable to convert your handwritten score to an electronic format, we can provide copying services as a part of your project with us. Please note that this will increase your project’s turnaround time and will cost more.

Q. Can I send a PDF file instead of a notation file?

A. Yes, but we treat PDFs like handwritten scores. We prefer your score in a Sibelius (preferred), Finale or MusicXML notation file format. Files saved by recent versions of Sibelius or Finale should work.

If you are unable to convert your handwritten score to an electronic format, we can provide copying services as a part of your project with us. Please note that this will increase your project’s turnaround time and will cost more.

Q. What is a notation program?

A. A notation program is like a word processor for music. Notation programs allow you to input standard music notation—notes, rests, slurs, dynamic markings, technique text, etc.

Notation programs display neatly engraved representations of musical scores, suitable for printing. These programs also save electronic representations of musical scores, which we call notation files throughout the website. Notation files are what you send to us.

Q. What is Sibelius? What is Finale?

A. Sibelius and Finale are two popular music notation programs.

Q. Which versions of Sibelius are supported? Which versions of Finale are supported?

A. Files from Sibelius version 2 and above are supported. Files from Finale 2003 and above are supported.

Q. What is MusicXML?

A. MusicXML is a relatively new file format used to represent musical scores. Unlike Sibelius or Finale notation files, MusicXML is not tied to one particular music notation program. It’s possible to save MusicXML files from the recent versions of Sibelius or Finale, either natively or by using a plug-in.

However, if you’re using Sibelius or Finale, there’s no need to send your score in MusicXML—simply send us a Sibelius or Finale file in those cases.

MusicXML was designed to be interoperable with a wide range of music software. MusicXML encodes all the articulation and technique markings that MIDI files lack, as well as engraving details such as marking placement, page margins and typefaces. Learn more about MusicXML.

Q. What is MIDI?

A. MIDI is an acronym for “Musical Instrument Digital Interface.” MIDI is a communications protocol, not an audio encoding format as is commonly mistaken. MIDI files contain performance instructions that direct electronic musical instruments.

A selection of low-quality electronic instruments usually come pre-installed with computers—these are the sounds you hear when a MIDI file is played.

Q. Do I need to add any special markings to the score?

A. We don’t require any special markings in your Sibelius, Finale or MusicXML notation file. We read the standard music notations just like a live musician or conductor would. However, for best results, please format your score according to the few simple guidelines in our style guide.


The Queue

Q. Can I change my project’s details while it’s on the queue?

A. Sorry, but you can only edit project details when a project is not on the queue. If your project is already queued and you want to make changes, you’ll need to contact us.

Q. What if I want something changed in a performance?

A. You can request revisions to performances. The first round of revisions is free: After we’re finished with the first draft performance of your piece, you can request an unlimited number of individual changes in the first round of revisions, at no additional charge. You’ll need to request your free first round of revisions in a timely fashion, while your project is on the queue and has “Working” status. Once your project is off the queue and marked “Done”, you won’t be able to request a free round of revisions.

Additional rounds of revision may be charged depending on the scope of the desired changes.

Q. Are rush projects completed faster than normal projects?

A. No, in the sense that the processing time for a rush project is no faster than a normal project. Creating a realistic orchestral performance simply takes time, and cannot be sped up any further.

Rushing a project has two effects: First, a rush project will skip over all non-rush projects in the queue, but will be placed after rush projects already in the queue. Second, a rush project cannot be pre-empted by other projects.

Because rush projects skip over non-rush projects, they typically spend less time on the queue.


Audio Files

Q. Which audio formats are available for recording performances?

A. We’ll provide a WAV recordings of your performance by default. We can provide audio files in many other common formats, such as MP3 and AIFF. Additionally, we can ship you a custom CD of your music, for a small surcharge.

Q. What is WAV?

A. WAV is an abbreviation for “Waveform Audio Format.” WAV is a “lossless” audio encoding format. Because WAV encoding is lossless, these types of audio files have excellent sound quality and large file sizes.

Q. What is MP3?

A. MP3 is an abbreviation for “MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3.” MP3 is a “lossy” audio encoding format. Because MP3 encoding is lossy, these types of audio files have good sound quality and relatively small file sizes. However, MP3 files typically have poorer sound quality than CD audio.

Q. What is AIFF?

A. AIFF is an abbreviation for “Audio Interchange File Format.” AIFF is a “lossless” audio encoding format. Because AIFF encoding is lossless, these types of audio files have excellent sound quality and large file sizes. This format is more common on Apple Macintosh systems.

Q. How do I listen to my audio files?

A. On Windows, Windows Media Player can play most types of audio files and it comes pre-installed.

On Mac OS X, iTunes can play most types of audio files and it comes pre-installed.

Many other audio playing programs are available for both platforms—Windows Media Player and iTunes are suggested simply because they are almost always available.

Q. I’ve noticed background noise in your performances. Is this normal?

A. Yes, we add some background noise to our recordings, such as stage noise and breaths. We feel that adding background noise creates a more realistic sounding performance. However, this is just our preference; we can easily omit background noise in any recording we create for our clients.


Q. Who owns the copyright to my composition?

A. You own the copyright to your composition. We will never share or distribute your score to anyone, nor will we claim any rights over it. The score will remain in your user account, accessible only to you and us.

Q. Who owns the rights to my recording? Can I distribute my recording?

A. You keep all the rights to the recording, whether or not you’re using it for profit. Freely share your work with family, friends and colleagues.

If you are planning to use your recording for profit, however, please contact us, because our prices differ for commercial work.

Q. What sort of security do you use on your website?

A. All transactions on our client website are handled over a secure, high-grade 128-bit SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) connection. This means that all communications from your computer to our servers are encrypted.

To confirm that you’re connected with SSL, look for a small lock icon on your web browser. Clicking or double-clicking this icon will usually display more detailed security information.

Q. Won’t your service take work away from live musicians?

A. This is an important subject to us, as we are musicians, too! We don’t want composers to avoid live musicians by using Ravel Virtual Studios. Composers with access to live musicians should take advantage of that rewarding and irreplaceable experience. Our service primarily helps composers who can’t afford or don’t have access to live musicians.

Furthermore, our service should actually create more opportunities for orchestral musicians. Many composers avoid writing orchestral music because they know how hard it is to have such pieces performed. Realistically, hiring an orchestra is often too expensive, and getting ensembles interested in commissioning or performing new music can be difficult. Conductors rarely have time to read through new scores and they’re not fond of assessing pieces by listening to lifeless MIDI files. As a result, fewer composers are writing large scale pieces, so fewer large pieces are commissioned and performed, leading to a vicious cycle!

So, how does Ravel Virtual Studios solve this problem?

Composers who approach performers and conductors with great sounding recordings from Ravel Virtual Studios have a professional and persuasive way of promoting their music. A lot of great new music is waiting to be composed and performed. Ravel Virtual Studios is dedicated to inspiring composers to write music for ensembles of any size, without fear that the work will sit unperformed.

We’re also dedicated to helping performers discover new music that deserves to be heard. Our performances help composers give ensembles and conductors something to get excited about, hopefully leading to live performances and future commissions.

We know that our services will benefit everyone in the music community!