Fighting with Symphonic Choirs

This has been a tough call.

The music sounds much better with words. Even if they are a little muddled. So I’ve been inspired to fight with Symphonic Choirs to get the Word Builder software to work.

The software has two fundamental problems.

  • It crashes if you have more than one copy of Word Builder running,
  • It cannot handle tempo changes.

The first problem means that you can’t do real four-part harmonies in real time with words. You have to load up, say, your sopranos, then record the soprano line to a WAV file. Then you set up your altos and record them. And so forth, until you have all your parts recorded. When you’re done, you can mix the WAV files.

This is a normal practice anyway, depending on how much horsepower your computer has. Put in too much crap and you get dropouts. That’s expected.

What isn’t expected is for the Cuebase application to crash completely. There’s a bug — a bad one — in the Word Builder, and I can see it in the crash dump: a race condition between multiple threads using shared memory. I’ve submitted it as a bug, but I’ve yet to see an update that fixes it. So I work around this by never trying to use more than one Word Builder track, and I do one voice at a time.

The second problem is the really nasty one. I have no idea how a tempo change can affect a VST instrument, but it certainly does. The results are completely bizarre. Sometimes it will pronounce an “H” or “Th” sound for several seconds. Sometimes it will lose dynamics. Sometimes every note will get stuck ON (that’s a mess). Sometimes the software crashes.

The only thing that makes this usable at all is the fact you can record the voice, complete with tempo change, ONCE, immediately after starting Cuebase. Once you’ve fed a tempo change into the Word Builder software, however, it’s broken — you can’t use it again without restarting Cuebase. I discovered this by painful trial and effort.

So this means that if I hit a tempo change during a passage, I have to turn off the tempo track, get all of the voices exactly the way I want them (not counting the tempo change), then turn on the tempo track and prepare to record a single voice through the tempo change. But before I can do this, I need to save the project and quit Cuebase. Then I restart Cuebase and reload the project, and I have one shot at the recording.

This is a complete pain in the tush. I don’t get a final preview until I’ve mixed all four (or five, or six) parts, which means I’ve restarted Cuebase at least that many times. If there’s a serious problem I can’t “fix in the mix,” I have to start over with the problem tracks.

For instance, I just mixed a passage (with a tempo change) and wanted to try the Forte Vibrato voices. It sounded fine in my head. The individual voices sounded fine. But when I mixed all four parts — ick. So start over.

Wait — oh, crap, I just recorded the basses singing the soprano part. Dang it, I forgot to turn the tempo track back on. Hold on — is that an extra NOTE I hear in there? Where did THAT come from?

I’ve spent hours on a six-bar, four-part passage, starting and restarting the software.