Synthesised computer orchestra with added recorded vocals. Frequent use of strings, piano and guitar, some of other instruments (mainly acoustic/orchestral ones). All original songs, typically between 2 & 4 minutes each, although they have been getting longer and more of them have been instrumental as time has gone on.

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2 commended entries in 2010 UK songwriting contest. CD Beach sounds is available from LastFM: Next CD Abstracts is being written and recorded now; working versions of some tracks may be available at

Who are the VPO?

If you were expecting lots of musicians in suits and bowties, sorry to disappoint you. The VPO are figments of a computer's imagination. They exist in the mind of the computer as the music is being synthesised. Or if you want it in gobbledygook, they are patches of the Music Creator synthesiser software.

Does the VPO performance live?

Er... LOL... let's go through this again. Pay attention at the back there, no talking, thankyou. The VPO is a VIRTUAL orchestra. It doesn't actually exist as people and instruments. So no, it can't do live performances.

In theory musicians with keyboard synthesisers could probably duplicate it, but it's hard to see them being as accurate as a computer. Real musicians could probably play a lot of it, but that could cost a lot of money. It could be argued that I could play accoustic versions of them live, but though I have a guitar, I can't play it. For me to perform just as a singer might be odd given that it probably isn't my greatest strength at present. So I can't see the VPO performing live - it looks to me like purely a studio enterprise. Sorry.

How does the VPO record?

In two parts - orchestration sessions and vocal recording sessions.

Orchestration sessions consist of editing the instrument tracks one at a time, one note at a time.

At first I did this on a piano roll editing view. The bars appeared across the top, while the notes went bottom to top. This gave a grid which I wrote in with a virtual pencil. Wherever I wrote, it played that note at that point in the track.

The most obvious snag with this was that the resulting backing wasn't in any particular key, which made forming the chords more difficult. Midlife was written entirely on a piano roll edit and not in any particular key, but after it I started picking a key, and then picking the notes on the stave view, thus ensuring they were all in that key. I do still edit the timing of the notes using a piano roll edit if they don't fall naturally into place from the stave.

I tend to noodle away at this sort of thing in front of the television. A complete backing usually takes three or four sessions over a week or so to put together, although obstinate ones have been known to take several weeks..

Vocal recording sessions take an hour and a half for the vocal for one track, followed by about another hour and a half editing (mostly to improve the timing). I used to use a headset to record onto an audio track in the software, but after Egypt I started recording using a studio condenser mic for a better recording quality.

The lyrics appear on the staff view of the vocal guide track, a bit like a kareoke machine or the old bouncing ball. These days I often record the verses one at a time, followed by the choruses one at a time, so it can take dozens of takes to get the whole thing. I can assemble a composite in theory from as many different takes as I want.

This whole process got faster as I got more experienced. At the very beginning with Audacity it was taking two or three weeks to do a track. By the end of the Egypt album I was doing complete tracks from nothing in three days. Later with Midlife I was more painstaking. For a time near the end I was writing and recording them at the rate of one a week, although having recorded all of them I then spent some time on seemingly endless rounds of editing.

I should also add that the Midlife songs were all checked by a vocal coach to make sure that the vocals were OK.

Who is Michael R?

Er, that would be me... LOL. I write the songs the VPO plays, orchestrate them, program the synthesiser software and sing the vocals.

I've been doing this since late January 2006, during which time the VPO has in consequence completed recording of what I probably ought to call a demo album (Egypt) containing 16 tracks, which plays for around 43 minutes. Prior to that, I had no musical experience to speak of.

I should stress that I use a computer software synthesiser, not a keyboard. As I can't actually play instruments as such, computer software is the only way I can record. The vocals are recorded with a headset, directly into the software.

How do you write the songs?

I started by writing the backing first, then putting lyrics to it, The first CD Egypt was written this way. However by the time I started Midlife I was writing the lyric first, then writing the vocal guide (the tune the words will be sung to) and then orchestrating the backing around the vocal guide. This did actually make more sense, as then the backing could then be tailored specifically to that lyric - "Me back's not so good" (from Midlife) being a good example.

Recently I have been experimenting with still writing the lyric first, but then starting with the rhythm ie a drum track, writing the vocal guide to the rhythm track and then orchestrating around that.

Who are your main influences?

Madonna's Ray of Light, The Primitives, early Katrina and the Waves, ELO, Frank Sinatra, Beethoven. And no, there isn't some weird band there you haven't heard of, I mean the dead deaf guy who wrote the symphonies. Really. LOL.

The Primitives did great intros and the backings were very simple and repetitive but very effective. They knew how to put songs together and I just felt listening to the best of them that they had it figured out.

ELO like everyone else my age I liked at school. I remember Rockaria being on top of the pops and not quite knowing what to make of it. ELO appear to have been the first band to use an orchestra and specifically strings to play rock and roll (as opposed to just wafting around in the background). They were immediately likeable. I also remember Mr Blue Sky being sort of irresistably happy.

Frank Sinatra when he wasn't showing off, was as good a singer as there was. You could hear him work with a lyric, sort of shape and craft every word in it, and it's almost an education just to listen to his songs.

Beethoven worked with short snatches of rhythm and melody. He'd work them around every way he could think of, very ingeniously, round and round. Take the opening movement of the 5th symphony for instance. "Thus fate knocks at the door," said Beethoven. Two groups of 3 notes, the second being just the first lower down. So basically just 3 notes twice. But he made a whole movement out of it.

Any connection with...?

The VPO has no connection with any of the following:
The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
The Virtual Symphonic Orchestra
The Boston Pops Orchestra
The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO)

What are you working on now?

Currently editing Mortality, which will be a CD playing for around 74 minutes revolving around getting older and an awareness of the finite nature of life. Excerpts from this are on Number One Music now. The completed CD will be uploaded to Last FM, probably somewhere around late March / early April.

  • Member Since: 2006


This Artist has 4 Albums


Am now editing Mortality. Excerpts from this have been posted on another music site Number One Music. New material is now being posted there rather than here.

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