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Topic: Composers...need your advice.

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  1. #1

    Composers...need your advice.

    Hello all,

    I love these forums! Everyone here just has a wealth of knowledge and is so helpful. Anyway, here\'s my situation. I entered the music biz producing commerical rap and hiphop music before I started getting into classical scoring (even though I\'m a classically trained pianist of 15 years). For rap music, all sequencing is done on my AKAI MPC drum machine. I have tried sequencing classical scores on the MPC and it\'s very tough because of the hardware interface and the machine\'s functions obviously geared toward drum programming. So here are a few questions I\'m sure you guys know the answers to:

    1) WHat\'s a great sequencer to use in conjunction with Gigastudio? Since I am a pianist I like to do the majority of my tracks in real time..and then do a little step editing in the sequencer...I currently do tracking in Protools Digi001

    2)Even though I\'ve composed some decent classical film score type pieces..I still don\'t quite get the process. In rap or pop music..you have a constant drum section keeping rhythm for you and it\'s easy to add layers of instrmentation that confine to that. I always know when the piano comes in or goes out, etc...when I\'m adding layers and can accompany it. Plus a riff only goes a few measures before it loops so you don\'t have to compose too much. In scores, tempos run all over the place, dozens of instruments come in and out,and pieces can go for 15 mins, etc.... Let\'s say I\'m about to do a 5 minute score. What\'s a good general method of composing to get me started? There\'s no tempo grid for me to work with since scores are free flowing...Let\'s say I have a trumpet section suddenly come in a measure followed by french horns..When I\'m sequencing, how do I know the exact second that I had the trumpets come in when I\'m adding the other layers? Does this make sense? Plus, I never feel like I can play to a metronome since you fall off afer about 2 measures due to classical music being less confined to a ridgid tempo. Is it because you guys can see all the midi notes on a screen so it\'s easier than me using my hardware drum sequencer? Also, do you compose in phrases or memorize entire pieces? I find it unrealistic to score on paper an entire piece, and then play the entire 1st violin section for the whole song and then repeat for all the other instruments. Please offer any assistance you can in terms of sequencers I should get for Giga and methods of classical scoring that will help me. I highly appreciate it.

    Thanks, Vince

  2. #2

    Re: Composers...need your advice.

    1. I\'m using Logic Audio Platinum 5.5 on a PC. Others use Cubase or Sonar which are also good. They all have full fledged graphical MIDI data editing facilities. You can also record, mix, and master the audio output within these sequencers with VST/DirectX plugin support and full automation. Using these sequencers is often a visual experience; you see the parts across a time line on the same screen, you can graphically edit individual notes and CC data. It\'s all very user-friendly.

    2. I\'ve tried both \'free time\' and \'click track\' approaches. With the free time method, you basically retake as many times as you need to get the timing right. Maybe it\'s less artificial, but very hard to notate if you have to print it out at some point for real musicians to read. If you use a metronome, you can then go into the sequencer\'s Tempo editing tools and create that rubato effect afterward; seeing where you are in the piece is a little easier too, for note and CC editing. I think the more important issue is to not quantize anything; even playing to a click track there is some minor variation between note starts that lends a bit more of a human touch. Although I\'ve played classical piano a long time, I have almost no experience scoring to picture; on my first attempt, I resorted to free time piano improv to get the timing of the hits right. I\'m still learning.

    I play the parts one at a time, but I stop periodically to work on a few bars at a time at a reasonable pause in the part, even if the music is already written out on paper completely. It\'s rare for a given part to be playing continuously start to finish; you can usually find some spot to stop.

  3. #3

    Re: Composers...need your advice.

    I highly recommend purchasing some \"scoring for film\" books. I\'ve got a couple, and really enjoyed them. The one that comes to mind is Jeff Rona\'s Reel to Reel. It tends to focus on the business as much or more than the process. The other (the name escapes me) is more focussed on process.

    The process really starts with the spotting session, during which time you and the director/producer decide which segments of the film require music. The timecode of each \"cue\" is documented, and the desired mood or message is (hopefully) discussed. If you\'re scoring for Bugs Bunny, you will need to \"cartoon\" it. In other words, you need to know the frame number of every \"hit point\", and your music will need to hit these appropriately. For live action, you have to do hits more carefully, or the result can be too cartoon like.

    Given the time boundaries for your cues, you can then create a tempo map that meets your requirements and write to that. I\'ve only done a touch of amateur film work, and I find that I need to play around with melodies and ideas. After I\'ve got something, then I do the mathematic process of making the tempo map. Now you\'ve got a beat (however flowing) to work with.

    If you\'re not composing to the pictures and timecodes, you\'re not composing for film.

  4. #4

    Re: Composers...need your advice.

    Sorry, the Rona book that I own isn\'t Reel to Reel. It\'s The Reel World: Scoring for Pictures by Jeff Rona. His Reel to Reel book is about synchronization, and was published waaay back in January 1990.

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0879305916/qid=1054079008/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-3204699-6292700?v=glance&s=books

    The other book that I have is Complete Guide to Film Scoring: The Art and Business of Writing Music for Movies and TV by Richard Davis. This book is dryer than the Rona book, but was more valuable in terms of helping me to learn the basics of the craft.

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0634006363/ref=lib_dp_TFCV/104-3204699-6292700?v=glance&s=books&vi=reader#reader-link

    I recommend them both. Even in the parts that didn\'t apply to my situation, I found the content to be informative and entertaining.

  5. #5

    Re: Composers...need your advice.

    I find a tempo, even a variable one, helps speed things along, as opposed to \"freely\" scoring with out adhering to a set tempo/beat/bar line etc. There is always a \"pulse\" to an edited piece of film which can be translated to some sort of tempo map.
    Then you can relate your time code numbers, your important hit points, to a specific beat (or division thereof...)-for eg. \"door slams at 1 minute, twelve seconds, four frames which occurs at the downbeat of bar 15\".
    Once you relate real time to bars of music at a specific tempo(s) and your off to the races.
    A sequencer on a computer, definitely helps with visually aiding the process as well as all the audio/midi benefits. I use Logic, but they are all good. Those books should help.
    Good luck.

  6. #6

    Re: Composers...need your advice.

    I find a tempo, even a variable one, helps speed things along, as opposed to \"freely\" scoring with out adhering to a set tempo/beat/bar line etc. There is always a \"pulse\" to an edited piece of film which can be translated to some sort of tempo map.
    Then you can relate your time code numbers, your important hit points, to a specific beat (or division thereof...)-for eg. \"door slams at 1 minute, twelve seconds, four frames which occurs at the downbeat of bar 15\".
    Once you relate real time to bars of music at a specific tempo(s) and your off to the races.
    A sequencer on a computer, definitely helps with visually aiding the process as well as all the audio/midi benefits. I use Logic, but they are all good. Those books should help.
    Good luck.

  7. #7

    Re: Composers...need your advice.

    Thank you all kindly for your helpful replies. They are very helpful in giving me ideas on how to go about composing. I bet once I stop sequencing on a drum machine and do it in software my music will be a lot better! This has been a tough time for me and it seems that the \"computer engineering\" part of writing music has been taking a lot of time away from the actual music.

    Anyways, I\'m still trying to decide what sequencer to go with. Do any of you have experience with sequencing in Digital Performer? I think I\'m gonna decide between Logic, Digital Performer, and Cubase...Thanks!

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