I want to propose an exercise to learn different styles of composition of Soundtracks and Orchestration.
The idea, when studying a new subject, is that the exercises are affordable. No matter how much we want to have assimilated all the knowledge: compose and orchestrate our own works with a certain duration; we have to assume where we are: maintaining coherence and orchestrating an original composition of a certain duration may be difficult for us. I’m really talking about myself, but I think many are in a similar situation.
The exercise aims to:
That the process becomes fun and fluid. That is why we will look for fragments that we genuinely like and short: between 5 seconds and 30. The latter can be confusing. The duration is not as important as the coherence of the phrase or passage chosen. If bpm goes too fast, maybe in 5 seconds we will find a coherent snippet. On the contrary, if it does not have a defined bpm because it is an «atmospheres roll» piece, then perhaps the fragment to make sense should even last a little more than 30 seconds. The important thing is that we do not catch a fragment with a lot of material so as not to block ourselves.
That we learn many Styles of Soundtracks. That is why we will try not to pigeonhole ourselves in a style. And this will be so because the exercises are going to be fun and they are going to be fluid.
Step 1: Choose Fragment
We catch the piece in mp3 or wav and we will cut the fragment that suits us best. It can be from the beginning, the middle or the end.
Step 2: Do ear reduction
This is also one of the reasons why short snippets are best. Finding orchestral scores for Soundtracks is not easy. Nor will «everything» we like. So we will have to use the ear most of the time and of course… if the fragment is long, the exercise will no longer be fun and fluid.
His thing is to make a reduction without figuration in the accompaniment, unless it is very interesting. I mean, if what we have is a melody accompanied with arpeggio chords, we will write the melody, but we will put the chords with long notes. The exception would be if those chords have a characteristic rhythm. A lot happens in John Williams, as in the Indiana Jones theme. Use common sense.
How to make the reduction? My recommendation is that it be a sheet music. I think four staves is enough. Two for different melodies and two for different accompaniments. If you do not know or find it difficult, you can do it in your sequencer in several tracks with a simple piano. But I insist, a reduction of a few bars is easy, and it is better in score. We can also write down more things, in addition to notes.
In order to learn to orchestrate, do not write down essentially the instruments used for each element (melodies, accompaniments, effects…). It is better to write adjectives about the character. For example, Superman’s melody: noble, heroic, brilliant…; The Lord of the Rings chords: dense, warm and deep … In this way we are relating adjectives and emotions to certain instruments and ways of orchestrating them. It must be borne in mind that when we try to compose we do not think essentially about instruments, but about adjectives and emotions that we want to honor.
Optional intermediate step: Orchestral Dictation
If we had the original score of the supposed fragment to imitate, we can add one more step. We would orchestrate the reduction we have made, trying to figure out what the original orchestration is. Once the exercise is finished, compare it with the original and draw conclusions.
This intermediate step is especially important if you don’t have a lot of orchestration skills. It is a great exercise to learn from the greats.
Step 3: Compose something similar
The aspects to imitate would be:
- The Harmony
- The Rhythm or Metric
- The melody
- Instrumentation and Orchestration
- The Texture (accompanied melody, counterpoint to two voices …)
- The character
I think that if we still don’t know how to orchestrate, this is the aspect in which we have less creativity and we copy the orchestration of the original almost the same. For the rest, we must try to modify some of the aspects a bit. As we learn, we will modify more and more in depth.
The best thing is that we make a reduced composition (without orchestration) with the same method of reducing the fragment. Likewise, it is best to use a score for everything described above, but if not, then a piano with several tracks
Step 4: Orchestrate
Well that. Trying to imitate the orchestration of the original fragment, we will orchestrate the new fragment. If you orchestrate it in score, better than better. I have a reduced orchestral template of three staves per section (Woodwinds, Brass, Percussion and Strings). The other option is to jump into the sequencer directly.
Step 5: Do Orchestral Simulation
For those who have done it in sheet music or those who have done it in the sequencer but without being fussy about nuances and articulations, now is the time to try to make it sound as real as possible with our libraries.
Step 6: Publish and comment on it together
To learn we need other points of view. It would be good if we brought out our most critical part and we are not afraid to do or receive them.
In order not to lose fluidity, you have to try to make them faster and faster. You have to take the time that is necessary, but do not press everything too much. Keep the balance between «thinking» and «not thinking.» It should be FLUID and FUN, let’s not forget it. The medium / long-term goal is to do all five steps in one day, or better yet, in one afternoon.
This exercise is part of some classes in Orchestration and Music for Film that I am receiving. So it is tested. I propose that we all do it.
Here’s an example: [soundcloud url = »https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/119189783 ″ width =» 100% »height =» 166 ″ iframe = »true» /]
Original article published in Hispasonic here.