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Topic: Orchestration and sample tricks, tips, features, tweaks, stuff ... whatever.

  1. #1

    Orchestration and sample tricks, tips, features, tweaks, stuff ... whatever.

    Hello folks,

    i was wondering if it would be cool to get one huge big list of just hints and tricks you would like to share with the community. i think we could really get a nice and long list of stuff we use during orchestration, working with samples etc.
    in my opinion the fact is wrong, to NOT share tweaks, tricks and stuff we use while working with samples only because we are thinking someone could be a better technician, composer or "sample-orchestrator".
    so the thought of: "damn, this guy now does better sounding staccato string parts than me, he will get more jobs in the future than me" ... is simply bullsh*t

    at least everything is in the head and the IDEA of the composition is 90% of all. without the idea the samples are nothing, idea is everything because it could also be played with real orchestra.

    so, for those who don't want to share undiscovered mysteries only by themselves leave this thread alone ... for all the other guys who would like to share stuff and also learn something from this little thingy - go ahead, i will do a little start

    - STORMDRUM: try to use different samples of the same beat if you do a phrase or a pattern - it gets more realistic than just using the same sample during a phrase

    - GENERAL ORCHESTRA: if you put some soft EQ on the higher frequencies of your strings you sometimes get a nicer color and bow-sound to your ensemble

    - GENERAL ORCHESTRA: if you like to add more warmth to your brass phrases, try to support the lines or stacc parts with contrabsassoon or bassoon (depends on the key range)

    - GENERAL ORCHESTRA: don't forget to use the tuba

    ... to be continued ...

  2. #2

    Re: Orchestration and sample tricks, tips, features, tweaks, stuff ... whatever.

    This thread is going to be lots'o'fun!

    DRUMS: Please remember when programing drums that human drummers only have two arms and two feet and that the parts of the drum kit are seperated by physical space. Do not have your drummer banging on 6 different crashes while playing 32nd notes on the open-close-open hi-hats while double pedaling the kick

    GUITAR: If every single note of your guitar line DOES NOT have just a touch of pitch bend, it WILL NOT sound authentic... hehe - Everyone talks about legato mode for strings, where's the legato lead guitar? :P
    Alan Lastufka | www.BelaDMedia.com
    Producer/Artistic Design | Content Producer

    20 Things

  3. #3

    Re: Orchestration and sample tricks, tips, features, tweaks, stuff ... whatever.

    some few common ones, no order:

    - If you play a fanfare/march trumpets line, try doubling it with piccolo higher octave

    - moderately fast harp plucked notes doubled by tremolo violins or violas is one of Horner's most frequent effects.

    - higher notes of flutes or violins fast runs doubled with xylophone

    - Samples: reducing release of woods and winds samples to 150-170ms is very useful for most patches

    more come when I'll remember them (just finish lunch... )

  4. #4

    Re: Orchestration and sample tricks, tips, features, tweaks, stuff ... whatever.

    What a great idea for a thread. Here's a couple off the top of my conehead.

    - Write what you want to write but realize the 'tools' (samples/patches) you have to work with. If you really wanted a solo french horn for the melody and a flute (sample) just plain sounds better - use the flute. Don't be pig-headed about this. When the Philharmonic plays your stuff change it to solo french horn.

    -'sweeping' triple octave violin lines are even more powerful with woodwinds doubling (especially clarinets, flute, and piccolos.)

    - Cimbasso is perfect for 'mellowing brass' parts.

    - in string arrangments have the 1/2 violins play the accompaniment while the violas and cellos play the melody (my son's who plays the viola has requested this)

    -double the harp with a timps (p or pp)

    -sometimes think of your choir as a member of your percussion section.

    Can't wait to see others contributions.

    Rob Elliott Music

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    NW Illinois

    Re: Orchestration and sample tricks, tips, features, tweaks, stuff ... whatever.

    For Crescendos:

    medium - use a harp glissando and sus. cymbal roll crescendo-ing up to the target downbeat.

    large - use a timpani roll crescendo with a timpani hit and crash cymbal hit on downbeat

    hollywood - use everything but the kitchen sink


  6. #6

    Re: Orchestration and sample tricks, tips, features, tweaks, stuff ... whatever.

    Fantastic idea. Perhaps we should do this every Sunday!

    - try singing the melody line. Good melodies are often sing-able

    - double the timpani or bass pizz with piano one octave lower

    - when modulating to a new key, try changing the arrangement as well, to make things more interesting

    - use a little lfo-pitch detuning on sustained string harmonics chords for that 'The Shining' touch

    - make middle voice/harmony instruments (not melody or bass) play at half or double tempo to add texture

    - choose your focus/subject instruments and make sure that they are always clearly heard (volume, EQ)

    - try a little compression on sampled instruments that don't have an even intensity, EQ if they lack an even timbre (make them similar by subtracting or adding a common group of frequencies).

    - compare your mix with others from this forum and live players on recordings

    - when you add beats to an orchestral section, eq them a lot to make sure that they don't drown out instruments that are in the same frequency range (a drum kit covers the whole range of frequencies!)

  7. #7

    Re: Orchestration and sample tricks, tips, features, tweaks, stuff ... whatever.

    here is some more

    - a good orchestrated piece barely needs eqing, mastering or too many changes on volume levels. it just sounds good - if not, you just did some wrong orchestrations.

    - if you add other ensembles to an orchestra like a rockband or a lot of synthiestuff, compress and limit the rockband like hell to leave space and dynamic range for the orchestra.

  8. #8

    Re: Orchestration and sample tricks, tips, features, tweaks, stuff ... whatever.

    Great thread Alex. I think I tried to start one like this a year or so ago and it never got off the ground.

    Here are a few of mine, they are fairly general and some may have already been mentioned;

    - Bassoons add great warmth to orchestrations
    - Flute and harp together are great for glissando effects
    - Timpani will add punch to the brass especially in action oriented cues
    - some 40Hz of EQ on bass instruments will give you that bottom end you can feel through the speakers
    - Woodwinds are great for colouration, not just solo work. Flutes can thicken up a string melody by playing unison.
    - In the woodwind family, an octave doubling is usually more effective than unison.

    - French Horns, Cellos and Bassoons are great for those stirring "low end" melodies. Male choir blends in here nicely too.
    - Brass staccs can be accented with picc flute and xylophone
    - Cellos are great in not only playing the root of a chord but also playing unison to the violins. It gives a spread of string melody from the left to the right.

    Having said all that, I think it is great to experiment with 3 or 4 instrument combinations. You can come up with some really nice colours along the way and store them in your bags of tricks for later.

    Also, most of my tips above are VERY general. There's nothing to say you cant try the opposite of what I've said.
    - SCA - Sound Studios -

  9. #9

    Re: Orchestration and sample tricks, tips, features, tweaks, stuff ... whatever.

    For rock/ guitar oriented music;

    - Acoustic guitars sound great, or more "open" in the keys of E and G major.
    - For a tight rhythm section have the bassline follow the accents of the kick drum or vice versa.
    - For a nice stereo spread, record your rhythm guitars twice. Pan one hard left, the other hard right. It sets up a "question and answer" conversation between the two instruments.
    - For drums, stop playing hats or cymbals when doing a fill. Try to avoid doing drumrolls on the kick drum.
    - Hi hats tend to get more open and messy as the drummer approaches a fill. (They get excited that a drumroll is coming. )
    - SCA - Sound Studios -

  10. #10

    Re: Orchestration and sample tricks, tips, features, tweaks, stuff ... whatever.

    It seems obvious, but is often forgot:

    Let your musicians breath! Not only brass and wood, but also the other instruments. Phrasing is derived from breathing. Always sing your parts.

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