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Topic: Trying to get Hollywood-type sound.. Not enough bass!

  1. #1

    Trying to get Hollywood-type sound.. Not enough bass!

    I'm having some issues with a short film score I'm working on.. the introduction in particular, which is a heavy action cue with lots of horns, drums, strings with sharp attacks, etc..

    I'm learning orchestration from a private orchestration teacher and he taught me not to go below an E on the double bass becuase for anything lower an extension is needed.

    Unfortunately I had already written the main title theme in C major.. and when I raise my double bass an octave so it is playing in unison with the cellos as opposed to when I first wrote it and I had it an octave below, the nice big hollywood-ish bass disappears and the piece doesn't have enough power in the bass.

    I've tried adding bass trombone, contrabassoon, etc to get a bit more stuff going on low down, but unfortunately, those don't have the nice quick attack that I can get out of the VSL Giga double bass staccato patch, so I end up losing that nice powerful but sharp bass sound I was happy with before.

    So do I move the double bass back down an octave or do I leave it where it is?? If I leave it where it is, what else could I put down lower to add some powerful low bass?

    The other option would be to transpose the opening titles to some other key but then I'll have to adjust the keys of other tracks to compensate so they are still in related keys to give uniformity..

    Any suggestions?

  2. #2

    Re: Trying to get Hollywood-type sound.. Not enough bass!

    Imv, one of the problems with the traditional orchestra is the bass range during louder passages. When th bass drum plays loud the fundamental seems to disappear and the double basses have tremendous overtones I find render it a little muddy and growlish. The only instruments that I can think of that would get a more hollywoodish bass sound, that is to say, a more smooth dark bass, would be organ, a synth, or cimbasso. sometimes when you are really low having a note or the right note doesn't even matter. Maybe use a low non-pitched percussion instrument. Anyway just some thoughts I am also just learning the ins and outs of orchestration.



  3. #3

    Re: Trying to get Hollywood-type sound.. Not enough bass!

    Left hand piano, perhaps?

  4. #4

    Re: Trying to get Hollywood-type sound.. Not enough bass!

    Sometimes a closely recorded piano is used for low hits and tones. You can use prepared piano for tones, instead of traditional hammered strings when you don't want hits.

    [Edit: It must have been obvious, because we both posted in the same minute. ]

  5. #5

    Re: Trying to get Hollywood-type sound.. Not enough bass!

    Quote Originally Posted by Prince of Music
    I would put it back down the octive...
    Agree. Better to start off on a new piece for practice, than manipulate something which is created with other emphasis than direct playability.

    This is something to remember, however. Sometimes you're required to change the key of a piece to adapt to circumstances other than how it sounds. This is something to keep in mind while arranging it for a musical setting; keep it simle and flexible and you will have minimal problems.

    The Hollywood sound, and how it is portrayed, is not simple and flexible. In fact it's very fragile to change. Often one find this music loose lots of it's core with 'just' 4 french horns playing the hero fanfare - compared to the 28 french horns (plus overdubbed analogue synth horns and 8 daisy-chained Lexicon 480 plates) that were on the film/album.

    After all, music is much more than only how it sounds.
    Kid: When I become an adult I wanna be a musician.
    Parent: Son, you cannot become both.

  6. #6

    Re: Trying to get Hollywood-type sound.. Not enough bass!

    If you are writing for samples, just assume they are samples of the best-funded hugest orchestra in the world, where all the basses have the extension.


    !DISCLAIMER! The following has nothing to do with "Hollywood-type sound", it's just my random babbling and ranting.

    Some other can't-live-without-it bass goodies:

    Low piano. This is great for adding either staccatos, long single hits, or making rapid running or melodic bass lines much louder and clearer. The piano is probably the fastest bass instrument available to the orchestra. Don't leave home without it!

    Contrabass Clarinet. I have no idea why the contrabassoon is standard but this is not. In my opinion the CB Clarinet is a much more flexible instrument with a much more solid bass tone. It is also quite agile with a good instrument (rare) and a good player (rare). It's dynamic range is also superior. It can effect a very nice crescendo that does from a smooth demonic round tone to a reedy fart blast. Of course it doesn't have the gnarly rad staccato of the contrabassoon. I wish they were both standard but if I had to pick one, it would be the CB clarinet. Arranging some pieces for a wind ensemble featuring a great CB clarinet player was a real treat.


    Some orchestration advice that is obvious once you think about it, yet contrary to almost all traditional orchestration, which is all about filling gaps "just because you can": If you really want a clear and heavy deep bass energy, avoid doubling it an octave higher. This might mean leaving out the celli, the bassoons, etc, or using them in their much higher registers on a different voice. The temptation is that the more you octave double, the louder it will supposedly be. But it doesn't always work out that way psychoacoustically. Sometimes the bass seems louder and clearer by simply leaving a healthy space for it. It definetely sounds lower in pitch when you omit the upper octave doublings. It's not just because the octave doubling reinforces certain overtones, it's because they are not always perfectly in tune, and it muddies the actual bass pitch.

    Orchestras have far too few bass toys. You go to a live performance, and the only bass you get are occasional bass drum rolls or the rare low tuba sustain. Fooey! Unfortunately, since orchestras have relegated themselves to the stone age by playing the same old warhorses to please a dying audience, the chances that all the huge potential modern improvements will be standardized is almost nil. To think that "music" used to just be "music" instead of this phony label "classical", and the orchestra was a living breathing evolving thing, with new instrument introductions and improvements all the time. It's very sad. Eh... I'm going to go bash my head into the wall repeatedly now and drown my sorrows in cough syrup. Good luck, keep fighting the good fight, music will never die, etc etc.

  7. #7

    Re: Trying to get Hollywood-type sound.. Not enough bass!

    Quote Originally Posted by Prince of Music
    You could also double with cimbasso Iman I love Cimbasso!) or even a synth sound. The synth sound really wouldn't detract from the orchestral feel much and lots of film scores use synth with orchestra anyway.
    Wasn't it Stokowski who doubled the bass section with a synth in live performance? Where did I read that?

  8. #8

    Re: Trying to get Hollywood-type sound.. Not enough bass!

    I've read that many Hollywood scores use a sub-harmonic synth, which isn't anything fancy. Just play a sine-wave synth an octave below your lowest part. Mix it softly and use a slow enough attack and decay so that it's not really noticeable to the conscious mind. It's just there to fatten things up and add some rumble.

    And, no, you wouldn't find that in your typical orchestra, nor taught by a traditional orchestrator. But for a bigger than life film...

  9. #9

    Re: Trying to get Hollywood-type sound.. Not enough bass!

    The bass clarinet surprisingly can be added to make a solid bass sound. It's one of the many secret weapons.

  10. #10

    Re: Trying to get Hollywood-type sound.. Not enough bass!

    Quote Originally Posted by stmiller
    The bass clarinet surprisingly can be added to make a solid bass sound. It's one of the many secret weapons.
    And contra bass clarinet.
    Composer, Logic Certified Trainer, Level 2,
    author of "Going Pro with Logic Pro 9."


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