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Topic: Getting started with orchestration... where to go?

  1. #1

    Getting started with orchestration... where to go?

    Hi guys, I just registered here (and got my copy of GPO about a week ago). Anyway, I have never done any orchestration myself before, yet would really like to get into it (mostly for film scoring).

    I have been studying music theory since I was 11 (I am 21 now), and play the guitar, piano, various percussions, and have had vocal training. I am currently a music minor at my local university and also in their Recording and music production program (brand new) and it is there that GPO was suggested. Anyway, I have been creating music using my computer for about 10 months now, but it has mostly been electronic dance music, recorded some rock, and various other "popular" genres of music.

    This is my problem right here, my background is mostly popular music. In one year, I will begin working as an assistant engineer for a music producer in LA (he won the producer of the year grammy once). He knows some of the big film scorers such as Hans Zimmer.

    So, long story short, I want to do film scoring I love listening to film scores, etc... but I have no idea where to start. I will not be able to take the relevant music classes at my university before I graduate so somehow I have to teach myself (or maybe take evening classes or something in LA once I move there).

    So, how would you suggest I proceed, are there any materials, etc... I could use to get started. I feel a bit overwelmed right now.

    I use Logic Pro and have various other sample libraries (and hardware / software more for what I have been doing so far), as well as Finale (that is what I have been using at schol so I purchased a copy).

    Anyway, any suggestions are well appreciated. I hope I will be able to achieve my dream (I knew since I was 10 I wanted to do something with music. I didn't know exactly what yet, but my interest has been leaning more and more towards film scoring).

    Right now, it seems kind of hopeless, but it isn't the first time. Every time I started some new aspect (Synth patch programming comes to mind) it always seems too much. But, if I just sacrifice my social life.. some how I manage :P


    PS, you'll probably see me around a bunch now.

  2. #2

    Re: Getting started with orchestration... where to go?

    First of all, I'd like to welcome you to this forum! This is the best place to come for help, answers, and where you really feel part of a community.

    If you are looking to learn about "orchestration" per say, you will want to read some books to learn the more technical aspects of the instruments themselves and how to write for them. See Amazon.com for plenty of them. I would highly recommend the books by Rimsky-Korsakov, Walter Piston, Adler, Forsythe, etc.

    That is the easy part.
    The hard part -
    Then you will want to sit down with your favorite orchestral music, and LISTEN. (it helps if you can obtain a copy of the score so you can really follow along and learn voicings, textures, effects, etc. I would recommebd Dover scores - they are very inexpensive and usually come from authoritative editions) Do this over and over until you are intimately aquainted with what sounds you like, how to get those sounds, etc. If you hear something that really piques your interest, listen over and over and write down.

    As far as the technical aspects of what your equipment will do, there I cannot help at all. I am quite new at this myself.

    Welcome again and I know you will find this a fun place to visit often!

    Jerry Wickham
    Last edited by Jerry W.; 07-18-2004 at 03:52 PM. Reason: spelling

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Wilton, NH

    Re: Getting started with orchestration... where to go?

    I’m just starting to play around with orchestration myself. Besides Jerry’s great suggestions, which I am trying to follow, I’ll add a couple of other things that I’m doing.

    You now have GPO, experiment. You can take some of the scores you bought to study and try to realize them with GPO. Try changing the orchestration to see what happens. Take simple melodies and try to orchestrate them in different ways.

    If you really like something try writing something in the same style or with similar orchestration. It will really help you understand why the composer chose to do it the way they did.

    Anyway, welcome to the forum and have fun with your copy of GPO.
    Trent P. McDonald

  4. #4

    Re: Getting started with orchestration... where to go?

    Listen to as much orchestral music as possible, and try to follow along with the score whenever you can. You'll pick up a lot this way.
    Dan Powers

    "It's easier to be a composer than it is to compose."
    --Ray Luke (1928-2010)

  5. #5
    Senior Member CString's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2004

    Re: Getting started with orchestration... where to go?

    Welcome Carl. Do a search on the topic. You will find quite a bit of information.

    Me fail English? That's unpossible.

  6. #6

    Re: Getting started with orchestration... where to go?

    Dear Majglow,

    I've written quite a few orchestral scores so far, reaching from arrangements up to own compositions, in all kinds of orchestral setups. My best experience was a dream that came true: writing for the Dutch Metropole Orchestra!
    There some really good books around. I'd recommend ' The study of orchestration' by Samual Adler. I think this is even better than the more known books by Piston and Berlioz/Strauss, because it also talks about how to orchestrate a musical thought or philosophy. But don't get me wrong, the Piston's and Berlioz's are very educating too! So, read them all! They all have their strenghts and weaknesses! The books can teach you the ranges of the instruments. It also teaches you which things to bear in mind when you go to the next step: studying and analyzing scores.
    Most of the time, I have a pile of scores lying on your piano, and I'm reading them all the time. Slowly, I beginning to see how composers work. And every composer is different! Get CD's and scores from your favourite composers and listen and read at the same time! That's very good for your ear training and it also helps you to pick out passages you like in particular.
    Then, when you've found your favourite passage, dig into it. (Re)Open the score, and play it on the piano, or/and read every line separately. Study every instrument individually and analyse what function it has in the score. This is really important.
    The best thing, still, is to write until your hand falls of, and get real players to play it. Even though GPO can come in handy, it won't give you the feedback real players will give you. Simply, because there's more than an instrument's range. There's their tone quality, which differs depending on the range they play. And there's instrument specific issues. GPO is great, really, but there's so many parameters to think of... It's a hell of a job to get it played by real players, but believe me, it's worth the effort!!!
    I learned a lot by trail and error. I remember conducting an orchestra, years ago, and the clarinet player spoke to me in quite a loud voice: this low note is NOT on my clarinet. Well, I think my head had never been a red as then and I was quite unhappy at that particular moment. But I learned a lot from it, because after the rehearsal, I sat down with the clarinet player, and asked him all I always wanted to ask. And then, I invited a violin player over for dinner. And she explained me all about bowing. I even had a trumpet player giving me a trumpet lesson. I was crap, but I felt a BIT how it must be like to be a trumpet player. All very educating. And I'll never write that non-existing low note on the clarinet anymore...
    My favourite composers are Mahler, Ravel, Tchaikovsky (e.g. symphony 6) and Rachmaninov (symphony 2, 3, 'the bells'). The latter is known for his piano concerto's, but his symphony's fabulous. There's so many great masters out there, really interesting! And even though I've been writing now for years, and I think that orchestrating is one of my strongest sides, I'm still learning every day, looking for new sounds, discovering new things when I open up a score or hear a new (or even old!) piece.
    It's a great thing to learn. GPO could come in very handy, but if you want to make a realistic orchestration, think as if you would write for real orchestra, and mind the balance! Don't fiddle around too much with volume.

    Hope this was a help to you. Good luck!!!



  7. #7

    Re: Getting started with orchestration... where to go?

  8. #8

    Re: Getting started with orchestration... where to go?

    I'd go with most of the above advice, but the piano roll editor is a much more realistic way of looking at a piece of music that the utterly contrived convention of formal notation. If you need to analyse a piece, get hold of a midi file and look at it in the piano roll. It's much easier to see what's going on.
    "A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules,often with the assistence of unsuspecting musicians"

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