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JacobCadmus
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orchestration! 2013-05-05 16:59:07 Reply

orchestral (and non-orchestral) composers: what are your methods of writing? do you write detailed parts for each instrument of a section, or do you prefer quick sketches (ie. all or most of a section across the keyboard)? perhaps a little bit of both?

also, do you prefer drawing your MIDI or performing it? and again, maybe both?

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Response to orchestration! 2013-05-05 17:12:52 Reply

I only ever perform it straight into my DAW, i find it sounds th emost natural and less mechanical that way.

Troisnyx
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Response to orchestration! 2013-05-05 17:17:59 Reply

At 5/5/13 04:59 PM, JacobCadmus wrote: what are your methods of writing? do you write detailed parts for each instrument of a section, or do you prefer quick sketches (ie. all or most of a section across the keyboard)? perhaps a little bit of both?

Depends on the song, really. Because I don't have a MIDI keyboard, I have to mouse-click every single note (and its velocity) -- but the piano parts, I approximate from what I can play with the fingers. These days I've learnt to write more realistic parts for each instrument, but before, I used to have inhumanly lush orchestration... My string parts are not often detailed, since most times, I use them to back up chords.

also, do you prefer drawing your MIDI or performing it? and again, maybe both?

Usually, performing it. Again, I don't have a MIDI keyboard, so I can't 'perform' as often. If I ever perform anything, it's usually live voice or bodhran recordings (which I then transfer onto FL Studio as samples).

Step
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Response to orchestration! 2013-05-05 18:17:14 Reply

Cool thread idea.

My orchestration is always intricate and with many instruments playing different things (making it awkward to mix). The "less is more" concept doesn't work with me at all. Moreover, I do have a MIDI keyboard but because of its size and the fact that the keys aren't weighted, it's hard to play properly on it. I use it for previewing sounds and thinking of melodies, and it serves me very well for that.

Of course, it's easy to make your tracks sound artificial and computerised if you input the notes with a mouse rather than performing them yourself. However, to remedy that, I turn off the 'snap to grid' function in the piano roll so that no note I input is ever in perfect time, which is basically automatic humanisation. I also edit the note velocities afterwards, use a lot of volume automation, even if it's subtle, and throw in grace notes, performing embellishments, etc... so my orchestral tracks still sound humanised, despite me not using my MIDI keyboard to perform them.


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alternativesolution
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Response to orchestration! 2013-05-05 18:25:15 Reply

At 5/5/13 04:59 PM, JacobCadmus wrote: orchestral (and non-orchestral) composers: what are your methods of writing? do you write detailed parts for each instrument of a section, or do you prefer quick sketches (ie. all or most of a section across the keyboard)? perhaps a little bit of both?

also, do you prefer drawing your MIDI or performing it? and again, maybe both?

Hm, I guess this explains my change in creativity in the other thread on improvement.

Well, I used to write detailed parts for each section...very. I'd only dealt with a cheap MIDI program and that's pretty much the only way I could compose. Now I use a different DAW, and that lets me be more random and a bit more "free" at the cost of having a structured, well thought-out (ha, ok, just more structured) melody. Plus I used to play in my high school orchestra, so everything in my early days of digital composition was heavily influenced by classical and general orchestral music.
I haven't used my keyboard at all (only recently got around to replacing the midi cable I lost) but I plan to soon, because I really miss playing out my stuff instead of just clicking away...although while I was living in the dorms at my university I had no space to keep it anyway :D
So yeah, everything of mine starts out as quick sketches, but I do less of the whole 'writing out a detailed melody' thing now. Guess I got bored of it, but I always end up coming back to my old methods sooner or later..


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KatMaestro
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Response to orchestration! 2013-05-05 20:56:30 Reply

At 5/5/13 04:59 PM, JacobCadmus wrote: orchestral (and non-orchestral) composers: what are your methods of writing? do you write detailed parts for each instrument of a section, or do you prefer quick sketches (ie. all or most of a section across the keyboard)? perhaps a little bit of both?

I always write detail parts for each instrument, orchestra or not. There is this orchestra/classical song that I put so much detailed work for each brass instrument, up to the point I have spent more time for brass and flute sections, than any other ones. Now I fear this song so much...

also, do you prefer drawing your MIDI or performing it? and again, maybe both?

Both. Performing can cover things that MIDI can be missed out, and also, it saves a lot of time. However, MIDI sequencing/tracking can fix detailed patterns because I can't play it precisely right all the time. Both has its pro and con.

frootza
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Response to orchestration! 2013-05-05 22:58:31 Reply

At 5/5/13 06:17 PM, Step wrote:

.... to remedy that, I turn off the 'snap to grid' function in the piano roll so that no note I input is ever in perfect time, which is basically automatic humanization.

That is an awesome idea, I hadn't thought to approach it this way. I tried taking my orchestral pieces to FL recently, and the mechanical quality seemed to be weighing my pieces down. I definitely have to try that out.

conorstrejcek
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Response to orchestration! 2013-05-06 00:20:01 Reply

what are your methods of writing? do you write detailed parts for each instrument of a section, or do you prefer quick sketches (ie. all or most of a section across the keyboard)? perhaps a little bit of both?

This really is dependent upon what type of sound I'm going for. What I usually do is sketch out the basic idea for my chord progression and melody in the string section (as it is all a pretty uniform timbre, preventing any bias for or against certain sounds), then I listen to it. As I listen, I think of which parts I feel could be better expressed in other instruments, and what parts I feel like the piece needs in addition to the already written string part.

This sometimes can end up creating a piece with very uniformly spread parts without any unique embellishments, and sometimes creates a piece with very unique and individual sounds. However, I've found that this technique almost always gives me the sound I am imagining, so it works for me.

also, do you prefer drawing your MIDI or performing it? and again, maybe both?

I always draw in my MIDI data. I've gotten pretty fast with the mouse and keyboard, and I like having everything be right in time. I find that playing things in gives me imperfection rather than organic sounding parts.

If I need to humanize the piece, or add some organic flavor, I edit velocities and mess with the tempo automation to give some rubato effects.

skiz33
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Response to orchestration! 2013-05-06 00:35:38 Reply

Depends on the result I'm looking for. I always use a piano-roll since I couldn't play keyboard to save my life.
I usually create a rhythmic base first with a chord progression and think out a melody afterwards, sometimes it's the opposite. As for instrumentation, I tend to keep it interesting, and explore ways in wich different sections contrast or complement each other. And in almost every case, every instrument or at least instrument type is a separate track, sometimes more. I only use a patch for the whole section with strings so I have to deal with as few pitch range issues as possible. I used to create a separate track for basses and cellos, but I've stopped doing that.
It also helps to have different samples for things like staccato, ff, pp, and so on, it defines articulation greatly, specially with things like brass. Also, listen to Step's part about velocities, automation and embellishments. Especially volume automation, wich allows some notes notes to die out gracefully instead of just stopping, wich can sound horrible, for example on a piccolo.

MetalRenard
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Response to orchestration! 2013-05-06 07:31:49 Reply

Some interesting ideas here. Step has an interesting approach to humanising but I don't feel it would work for me.
Personally I input everything in with a mouse usually starting with a piano. I then explode that idea into other tracks using chords I built in the strings/brass and then adding or taking away parts as I see fit. My final step is to humanise everything using REAPER's "humanise" feature. I then go through every single midi item manually to improve expression and to keep it coherent while making it sound more "human" and less random.

I don't use a MIDI keyboard because right now I don't have the space for one. I do own an old Yamaha though and plan on incorporating it into my work flow when I have more space. I can't play piano but I can improvise melodies and chords.


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JacobCadmus
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Response to orchestration! 2013-05-06 12:53:03 Reply

oh wow, I didn't expect so many replies! a lot of interesting and diverse methods explained here (which is what I was hoping for, of course). I might as well share my methods too =P

I used to write for independent instruments, but lately, I've stopped giving a f*ck about the details like realistic divisi and imaging certain tones, for the sake of meeting deadlines. so now I write all of my chord voicings and staccatos with ensemble libraries (makes it much easier to mix as well!). HOWEVER, for melodies/leads, I still use independent instruments.

I typically perform everything I write on my MIDI keyboard, (except for super fast scale runs), because that way it feels kind of like a thrill ride having to commit to the tempos and such. and then I'll edit and quantize (if need be) from there.

keep em coming! ^_^

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Response to orchestration! 2013-05-06 15:28:55 Reply

All of the above.

Set these kind of goals when beginning a piece. You dont need to write one way.

TheBenjerman
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Response to orchestration! 2013-05-06 18:39:50 Reply

It all depends on the project! I usually start off with some conceptual ideas and thematic material using paper and pencil or on the computer, then I create a mockup on the computer. If I'm using a live orchestra or band I iike to re-orchestrate everything before I go into Sibelius, so I'll often shrink my mockup into 4-6 staves and then expand it back into the ensemble I'm writing for when I make the score. This helps me wrap my head around the effect I'm going for, and helps me write more idiomatically for the instruments rather than my synths.

if I'm short on time, I cut out steps, starting with the re-orchestration. When I really have to meet deadlines I write straight into a template on Cubase, and if it has to be live I have the template set up in such a way that I can export a midi file and it will line up in score order when I switch programs.


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Response to orchestration! 2013-05-07 05:48:10 Reply

I work differently depending on the track type. However the first thing for me is hearing a theme in my mind. It's then a matter of recreating that theme onto the midi track. Which personally I do too by clicking in the piano roll.

I start off by loading the suitable template which I've created. I have a selection of Strings and Brass (which I tend to use for hybrid orchestration). Strings, Brass and woodwinds (for a base point with alternative percussion) or Strings, Brass, woodwinds and orchestral percussion (for a more classical setup). These are big templates, and can take me a day or so each just to set them up by time i separate them into their midi's, groups, their automation velocities and effects channel. But it means when I feel inspired, or I hear that theme I load up the relative template to the type of composition.

Loading up Kontakt predetermined samples as most of us know load much quicker than reloading them all one by one. Waiting 5mins for a complete setup is worth the days work imo. These templates get worked everytime I get some new which I consider better for the template. Which tends to be every 6 months to a year and I'm due to sit and make a new setup coming this FLStudio 64 bit upgrade as bridging wont be needed.

The orchestration is then a matter of putting what I have in the piano roll, adjusting the velocities and (only now) automating the instruments one by one for the best possible sound. Previously Automation wasn't possible as it would stutter my PC causing it not to work (due to the crap hardware). My head is actually the best weapon I have, hearing what I want before it's even created means that I'll strive to get the closest thing possible. I find electric/synths etc really hard as those things can sound amazing in my mind, yet so hard to create to the sound I want. Settling most of the time or losing track and opting for another, whereas I find orchestral instruments more predictable. I know what they should sound like, and I know what I should strive for.

To me a theme has to be present in my orchestrations, whether this be literal or through a genre either I find works. I do have an Keystation es61 keyboard. I very rarely touch it though out of laziness and lack of keyboard skills which I lost of the last 15years.

I'm looking for midi controllers though to help automate instruments so I can assign CC's to them instead of clicking and dragging every little dot. Ive seen some small ones, anyone got anything like that?


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