This just came in from Gary Garritan Hope you enjoy!
Jeremy Soule composer ("Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone", Video Game, Warner Bros./EA)
Jeremy Soule is a composer for Film, Television and Interactive productions. Jeremy''s work has been enjoyed and appreciated by millions of people around the world. His music has been described by the Boston Globe as having "the dramatic intensity of John Williams and the melodic inventiveness of Erich Korngold."
Q. "What exactly is your mind-set when you compose? What are you thinking in tone and feel? What\'s your inspiration? Thanks! God Speed”. submitted by A_Sapp
A. I try to get a feel for what I\'m looking at visually and then couple that with the goals of the director or designer. I always compose from feelings or instincts. There’s never a formula or rule for any project. It\'s a bit like what an artist might do in a character study or what an actor goes through in method acting. The most practical step I take is to spend as much time with the picture and script as possible. After dedicating enough time in this process, things start to jump out at me. These feelings are the basic building blocks of my compositions.
Q. What is the length (15 minutes, 30 minutes) of music you compose for a particular project and what is the time frame you are given? How and where do you begin? Is it all built around a melody line you happen to stubble on, or? Thank you for the opportunity” Submitted by Francis Belardino
A. The amount of time I spend varies wildly from project to project. As an example, for 60 minutes of music, I like to have a month to work things out. This doesn\'t always happen, but there have been times, like with my score for Icewind Dale, where I had to write the bulk of the music in several days.
Q. What types and/or specific pieces of music influence your writing? What types and/or specific pieces of music, other than your own, capture your attention? Differently put, what music would sustain you if you were stranded on a deserted island? (Treat these as variations on Question 1, as I assume the music you love would have some influence on your writing.) Do you have an extensive record collection? What do find yourself listening to these days? Do you collect scores (orchestral, chamber, solo instruments, film, etc.)? If so, how many do you have? And how often do you consult them?” Submitted by PatS
A. Well, these are good questions. I have always loved the hypothetical"desert island" question. My Seattle friend and personality George Shangrow tends to say Haydn would be his island composer of choice--if I remember correctly. For me, I just love beautiful music. It doesn't matter if the tune is an old warhorse like the "William Tell Overture" or something more exotic in composition such as Lux Aeterna by Ligeti which everyone also knows. I've got many, many anthologies and various individual scores I occasionally reference. My main purpose for study now is conducting. I feel that my skills as a composer are fairly solid now. So, I'm hoping to move further into the performance arena and perhaps have more of my things heard in the concert hall.
Q. I sometimes find myself composing this beautiful melody, and I\'m really digging in, BUT, all of a sudden, I start to think about what I\'m doing, besides feeling the music. How do you prevent doubt, distraction, worry, hopelessness from interferring with your composition and outlook on future compositions? Thanks,” Submitted by A_Sapp
A. Drink hopeless amounts of alcohol like Mussorgsky! Just kidding. My biggest distraction is probably the telephone. Many people don\'t understand why I'm not available often and some even take it personally. Outside of practical obstacles, the main thing is to have faith in your ability and trust your gift. So many people could be far better composers if they'd just trust the skills given to them. I often think of J.S. Bach and how he'd write something to the extent of "God Help Me" on the first page of his blank scores. After he was finished with a piece, he'd write a little thank you note at the end "To God be the glory." In my opinion, Bach is one of the greatest composers to ever live and even he had insecurities about his ability to finish his work. I tend to take the path Ernest Hemmingway did and tell myself, "You've written before, you can do it again" and just approach every day one at a time. This leads me to my next point - J.S. Bach advised young composers to write every day. This is good advice. Whether or not you feel inspired, it is important to exercise everything that is required to write music. Eventually, you'll get something that shines.
Q1) When you make orchestral mockups, with which instruments or groups to you typically start? Do you have a general piano track for jotting down musical ideas (sketch track)? Q2) Do you have system or a set of "principles" for getting individual instruments within a proper level range? There are so many variables, like velocity, expression, volume that affect the final loudness of an instrument (samples) in the mix. Q3) Do you compare levels and settings like eq, reverb with "real recordings? Or has this become an internalized reference? Thanks in advance”, Submitted by PeterRoos in The Netherlands
A. Thanks Peter, I'm always comparing my synth setup to a real orchestra. In fact, when I write, I try to imagine the monitors as merely windows into an orchestra hall rather than speakers connected to an amp. I always try to think about what the instruments should sound like at various levels. It's far too easy to play samples out of perspective. I think it is important to watch perspective just as much as the notes and rhythms.
Q. Could you walk through the typical process you go through when laying strings down. Not so much the compositional process, but the technical process of getting the 'sound' you get from GOS. Things like layering (any other string libraries used?), expression control (CC11), EQ'ing, reverbs, compression, limiting, etc.Thanks for your time.Submitted by jubal
A. Well, I've got a fairly conventional template I use that is in score order. For those that don't know what this is (bear with me all of you PhDs), it is merely the order of the instruments as they would appear on a conductor's chart. There are no other strings being used at Artistry Entertainment now. Everything you hear is GOS. I've got the strings split out on a D8B right now across "violins", "viola", "celli" and "basses" so it is a pretty simple setup. My strings tend to be heavier in verb than what you hear in real life. This is a stylistic thing that I do and it helps blend the different types of attacks. I use a Lexicon 300 pretty extensively along with a 960L in some cases. I also have darkened down the violins with a gentle British EQ roll-off. Something like 3.9 db starting in the mid ranges extending upwards. GOS tends to be bright so I took this into account in matching the sound of my ideal synth orchestra with the sound of a live orchestra. I also sometimes add a soft knee compressor to the basses and celli. This helps to focus the sound a bit. Panning is also a piece of cake. My firsts are gently nudged a bit more left than they come out of the box. I also nudge my celli to the right and brightened the celli on a lot of my mixes. Last but not least, I use lots and lots of expression control. Volume, foot, breath, mod...you name it. It's all there. You need all of these things to keep the tone articulation and phrasing musical. I use my lungs, hands and feet simultaneously. It's seems a bit like smoking and riding a motorcycle at the same time--it looks cool but it's easy to crash.
Q. I would be interested in your workflow. For example, one well-known composer works on eight bars at a time to a finished state before moving on. I would like even more detail.” Submitted by dwdonehoo (That guy in the yeller shirt at GDC)
A.Hello Mr. Yeller shirt! Glad you were able to make it to GDC! I don't really have any hard, set rules other than the need to really know the piece in my head before I get started. I transcribe more than I compose. What I mean by this is that I just sort of tune into the music in my head and write it down. I've got control over what I hear so I can "conduct" the orchestra, so to speak, mentally. I find that the mind is a billion times faster and a better synthesizer than anything we could probably ever build. So, the majority of my work gets done there. I also have trouble tying my shoes, too!
Q. How do you ORGANIZE (not your musical brain) but the whole setup in your seq.comp. and within GIGA? Do you have specific instruments on specific channels and ports, with steady instr.numbers (for programchanges), and (if) how are these related to banks and score-layout in your music program. Do you have an AUTO-song with empty pre-structured sheets etc....THANKS!” Submitted by sten oerting
A. This is really easy. I just assign different machines to different instrument types. Typically, I'll have four ports on any given machine. I've got GOS split across 4 machines now. It works really well this way. I've been using Logic ver. 4.7.3--God Bless It. It's buggy but it generally gets the job done. However, I really need a multi-processor sequencer. Does anyone know of one? Email me at email@example.com if you do. My template is also pretty big--over 195 lines of stuff. I at least group the strings together just as I do everything else--roughly in score order.
Q. Do you notate your scores before you begin sequencing? Thanks” Submitted by Steve Fawcett
A. Sometimes, I'll sketch things out by hand if I'm not near a computer. Good old pencil and paper is faster by far for me--no boot times or crashes. However, the key to the work I do is in creating synth mock-ups or final synth product that everyone can hear. So, until they get the brain-to-audio converter, I just keep my pencils sharp and the computers constantly turned on.
Q. My biggest questions are: 1) On your Garritan string demo's, how are you implementing the rest of the orchestra? Are you using any particular off the shelf libraries for your brass, ww and percussion; or, are you using custom recorded samples? A combination of both? Or is it live recording? 2) For mastering work, any special techniques? 3) At this point, do you still utilize Euro-discount orchestras for your work? Or is your gigarig enough? The demos seem to indicate that you hardly need it (if it was totally sampled).” Submitted by composer22
A. Thank you! I work hard to create sample libraries. Gary and I both share kindred spirits in that department. Artistry has invested a fortune in recording sessions, editing and proprietary tools to streamline the process. A couple of years ago I was using off- the-shelf material until our libraries were ready to use. I really know the shortcomings of the libraries out there. Essentially, the GOS library is the best string library in the world as far as I'm concerned.
Q. Howz about a studio equipment list? Software and hardware used? Submitted by dwdonehoo (Doyle)
A. We have everything here from a Roland Variphrase processor to a VL-1 keyboard to a VDrum kit and everything in between. I collect gear. Gigastudio is my main tool of choice though. We currently have a couple dozen P4 systems and will be expanding to a 48 machine setup in a few months. We're using just about every audio card in existence as well. They all work--sort of.
Q. Your approach illustrates how important skillful utilization of sample libraries is; you use Gary's library with great effect. Would you tell me what particular articulations you are using on Artic Caverns at 1:58 to 2:08. including chord structure (inversions?, etc.) and the specific voices used. Thanks. (Love the mystical Debussy-like passage in Sub-River at 1:20 - well done! Submitted by gungnir
A. Thanks! Well, if my memory serves me correctly, I’m mainly using the marcatos in combination with various long bows such as trems. It's all in the controller manipulation!
Q. I only have one major question and seeing that there are SO many questions now I don't want to overwhelm yah Jeremy. So I'd jsut like to ask Since you do alot of live orchestra Recordings and MIDI mock ups of the recordings. What do you find "missing" in the MIDI mockups? I mean, what sounds different in terms of the mix? Is it less full in some areas and too full in other areas? Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions from us, and keep up the good work. Been a fan since Secret of Evermore.” Submitted by KingIdiot
A. Variation is the key thing a real orchestra has over a virtual one. That's one of the reasons why GOS is so big yet so GOOD. All of those samples take up a lot of space. The Orchestra is a living and breathing instrument--literally. That's why it's such a treat for me to work with live orchestras. I always learn new things which I apply to my virtual orchestra.
Q. At the GDC, it was generally agreed that room ambience was more important and played a larger role than postproduction processing. Do you agree? In your samples, how much of a roll does room ambience play? (This is related to The Manifesto, and many of you should be interested in this answer.) How many velocity layers do you use typically per instrument. How much of a sample are you using? Are you using all of the decay? Composers like Hans Zimmer use assistance to do transition work. Do you do the same, or is it all you?” Submitted by dwdonehoo
A. I perform everything you hear in my synth works. I don't have anyone helping me with transitions. I just have someone else track the material--usually a good idea when I'm tired. All my instruments generally use up the entire capability of Gigastudio. How they are set up depends on the instrument. I've got more samples in a single trumpet than most entire commercial orchestra libraries. My sounds also have built- in room ambience.
Q. How did you get such nice depth and sound placement in your GOS demos? Did you use plugins like Soundstage or Acoustic Mirror and place the instruments accordingly? Did you use different reverb techniques for strings, brass, woods? Any tips would be appreciated. Thanks”, Submitted by Damon
A. I've used acoustic mirror--it's cool, but it doesn't beat the real thing. But for electronic reverb, it's hard to beat Lexicon.
Q. Jeremy, thanks for taking the time here. 1. Would you discuss the whole issue of ambience with some detail. I feel you have mastered it, you have captured the air in a very tasteful and professional manner." Submitted by gungnir
A. Thank you! A few reviewers have said I use too much reverb... I do have a reason for going heavier in the verb and that is to cover the seams generally produced by Gigastudio and low-resolution midi that we've all been stuck with for far too long (I HOPE the MMA reads this). Gigastudio could be powered with a firewire cable connected to Mac or PC running some sequencer if a few people would get together and talk. We don't need to modify entire assembly lines at Roland, Yamaha and whatever else to adopt a new standard now. It's just a little software and off-the-shelf hardware as far as Gigastudio is concerned. This resolution would make it possible for me to use less ambience as I'd have greater control over the instruments.
Some live classical mixes I've heard have an astounding amount of verb on them. I believe that for the most part, the room is like another instrument. My percussion is often sampled as far back as 40 feet from the source. There\'s simply no other way to get this sound. I can't tell you how many tympani samples I've heard that sound like the mic is being used as the mallet!
Q. Thanks for taking the time to answer some of our questions. I see that others have asked all but one of my questions, so here is mine: It begins with the fact that it sounds like your reverb returns for each individual track are in mono. Are they? Thanks”,Submitted by Rick
A. My sends and returns have been in panned mono setups as I have been playing around with this for a while. It allows me to punch up verb on the opposite channel of the instrument which also happens in real life. A lot of the problem I have with artificial verb is that the amplitude characteristics of an orchestra in a room are completely glossed over. If my trumpet is on the right, I want the sound of the wall on the left to really show itself. It's hard to get this effect without manually manipulating it. I'm still toying with this technique.
Q. First of all i would like to say how much i (as many others also feel) am gratefull for your time answering these questions). Do you have any helpful information to anyone tryig to get to where you are now? and could you tell us what equipment you use?” Submitted by ninriggs (-=Riggs=-)
A. I know this sounds generic, but just always try to offer a solution to your clients. Make art a science as much as possible and be flexible. Also, remember to thank the people you work with and the people that support you. My whole experience as a composer is brought to a higher level by the people around me. Julian Soule, my brother, has been responsible for programming and creating the sounds I use to compose. I also have dedicated software support from people like Gary Garritan and Emagic.
Q. I would like to know what kind of musical education you had. Did you study composition? - Is it often that you are asked to play piano arrangements of your music for producers? - Which commercial librairies do you mostly use in your music? Thanks!” Submitted by MartinL
A. I was an abused child, my parents made me practice 50 hours a day--just kidding. Actually, I started university studies at around 13 years of age or so and completed coursework into my masters equivalency sometime before I graduated from High School. From there, I went right to work for a company called Squaresoft at around 19 years of age.
Q. Jeremy, what is you favourite food? And if you go for fastfood, do you prefer Burger King or McDonalds?” Submitted by Simon Ravn
A. McDonalds by far. It is the ultimate power food at 10:30 at night when you've got four more minutes of music to write. I also somehow feel more connected to pop culture in my writing when I'm fueled by McDonalds! (laughing out loud) And yes, fancy ketchup beats Heinz in our company taste test.