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Topic: OT: Who uses "midi-mock ups?"

  1. #1
    Senior Member Gary M. Thomas's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Myrtle Beach, SC (USA)

    OT: Who uses "midi-mock ups?"

    Hi all....I was thinking about this topic over the weekend. We all know that many of the modern film composers (Danny Elfman, James Newton Howard, Hans Zimmer, just to name a few) use samplers and \"midi-mockups\" during their initial compositions. That\'s not to say that the completed film score contains \"midi-mockups\"... I know full-well that usually full orchestras are used. But here\'s my question.... Composers like John Williams, John Barry and Jerry Goldsmith (the guy\'s who\'ve been doing this for most of their lives)... I wondered if they ever incorporate the use of samplers and/ or midi mockups in their initial music composition process. I have a great respect for film music composers who \"do it the old way\"... that is, composing at the piano with pen and paper. Do you think that these, and other \"seasoned\" composers ever use any samplers and/or midi in their composing process. (Please note: I don\'t want to be misunderstood.. as I also have a tremendous respect for midi mockup composers as well. I feel that there\'s a true talent involved in both types of music composing.) I was just wondering what ya\'ll might think about this topic. Thanks, Gary [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img]

  2. #2

    Re: OT: Who uses "midi-mock ups?"

    I doubt that they use samplers while composing. I would tend to believe a lot of orchestral composers, not just \"old school\" guys do not use samplers while composing. Why? Because they know the sound of the piano so well and how it would translate to orchestra that it\'s quicker for them.

    It\'s kind of like the mixers and their studio monitors. They know the sound of them and how it will translate to other speaker systems that they don\'t need any other monitors.

  3. #3

    Re: OT: Who uses "midi-mock ups?"

    I think the main reason for using samplers in this case is not only to hear what you are writing, but more importantly for director/producer/client to hear how it will sound before hiting the scoring stage...


  4. #4

    Re: OT: Who uses "midi-mock ups?"

    The three guys that you mention must still compose piano/ pencil to paper although I know that J.Goldsmith is actually pretty deep into technology. I believe, though, that he has the bulk of his mock ups done by others.

    Mock ups are pretty much expected by producers and directors so that they get a clear idea of the score well before the downbeat at the very expensive scoring stage. They won\'t be surprised and can request changes etc. They (most) don\'t have the ears to translate piano playing to a full orchestra. John Williams is probably among the few that doesn\'t have to do mock ups. But maybe he has then done now as well.

    Being a requirement for most, makes the pencil to sketch/score stage an extra and unnecessarily time consuming step. The orchestrator usually takes the MIDI files and handles that task.

  5. #5

    Re: OT: Who uses "midi-mock ups?"

    Well, I`m pretty sure that the late, great Michael Kamen used synths/samplers from the short conversation I had with him, although I don`t know how detailed his mock-ups were. Jerry Goldsmith is also known for using synths with orchestra so I would assume that he would also mock-up the orchestra to some extent.


  6. #6

    Re: OT: Who uses "midi-mock ups?"

    Check out Hans Zimmer home studio! He\'s so into technology! He works with samples, and even has a private collection.


    HZ - \"I always work with pretty much the same orchestra in London, so I did a deal with them, which was basically \'Let me go and sample you guys at AIR Lyndhurst sitting in the chairs you sit in whenever we do an orchestra recording, so the perspective is right.\' And the other part of the deal I made with them was that I wouldn\'t use the samples without using any real musicians — it wasn\'t to replace real musicians. \"

  7. #7

    Re: OT: Who uses "midi-mock ups?"

    For those well-known composers (and many others), \"translation\" is the key. They can use the piano to compose because they know how the music will be translated. If the directors don\'t require mockups, then this will be the best way for them (instead of dealing with 3-4 computers).

    I think the advance of sampling technology is actually hurting young composers\' orchestration skills. In the previous generation composers studied a lot of orchestral repertoire, listened to a lot of live performances. They learned by trial and error and finally they gained a lot of experiences. But nowadays, composers (those use samplers) rely on their ears to assemble midi mockups. Some can get a very \"real-sounding\" rendition of the music. But they just forget that they are playing samples (very good ones) on the keyboard. If the music is to be translated to real orchestra, then the result could be disastrous. I personally have done some orchestrations of this type, and I often encounter some passages that are very difficult if not impossible to play. Impossible timpani parts, wrong balancing technique, out of range notes, awkward fiqures etc, etc.. The music sounds fantastic only on the demo.

    Samplers are great tools but they cannot get you real orchestral experiences. Only lots of studies, live experiences and imagination can help. I have a friend that uses very ugly GM sounds to compose, but his music sounds really great on real orchestra.

    Of course, if your music is not gonna played by real orchestra, then just ignore my opinions.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    South Ken, London

    Re: OT: Who uses "midi-mock ups?"

    You are absolutely spot-on there.

  9. #9

    Re: OT: Who uses "midi-mock ups?"

    I agree with the above post... let me add to that...

    I have an artist friend and he\'ll do a mockup of his composition, then hire session musicians during the recording process.

    The session musicians will listen to his midi mockup and read the \"staff music\" generated by his sequencer and just laugh. They\'ll say \"Ok, I think I know what you\'re trying to do here... let me try it my way.\"... and the music will come out better.

    I guess, the moral of the story is there\'s no substitute for real good, live, talented musicians.

  10. #10

    Re: OT: Who uses "midi-mock ups?"

    My take is different, at least among the \"Hollywood Composers\".
    I don\'t think it is a matter of old school verses new school, but rather a distinction of style. There is the John William\'s and his like who compose more in the classical tradition and style, and generally are more pencil and paper oriented. Then there is the Zimmer/Elfman/others mixed media anything goes style that is more technological. And there is everybody else.
    Now with the advances of sampling technology, more and more producers and directors are expecting a virtual facsimile of what the composer proposes before investing in a real session. Which is why some of the top composers have a staff of interns who are technically savvy, who can produce the virtual versions. Presently, top composers like Williams and Shore are so trusted (and the budgets are so large), that they can be trusted to come up with the goods: but that will soon fade into history. Technology advances, for good or ill.

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