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Topic: I'm in a mess: How to orchestrate a "hymn"...

  1. #1

    I'm in a mess: How to orchestrate a "hymn"...

    HI folks,

    I am new in here and I don't know if this is the right place to post this. Please forgive me, but I am suffering of a certain problem and do need some help:

    I am quite familiar with MIDI stuff and have been playing piano, organ, synths and all key-stuff for nearly 20 years. I am quite addicted to orchestral music; classical one but also modern one like movie scores or "pop-meets-classic"-stuff.
    Second, I am a quite active member within a local sports federation and was asked to compose some kind of hymn or anthemn for a huge international sports event in november 2007.

    Now here is my problem. Time is short and I am quite new to GPO (got the DVD yesterday). I decided to buy this one, because I was rather impressed by the sounds and features, but I have never before "worked" with an orchestra. I already have a clear idea concerning the melody and structure of the tune, but how to convert it into a good sounding score. I need some kind of an "initial ignition" and thought maybe anyone of you can assist me a little bit with my start-up. I don't want to deliver something middle-class, I want it to be stunning! Something like a John Williams or Hans Zimmer theme or like VSOP did it in the 90's.

    Please give me a hand and guide me a little bit. I have already started to go though Garritan's tutorials, but I wantalso some feedback from active users.

    Thanks for your patience!


  2. #2

    Question Re: I'm in a mess: How to orchestrate a "hymn"...

    To reach the results you are expecting, people spend years of study.
    (Mr. Williams and Mr. Zimmer did it too...

    Anyway to let you understand what we are talking about, the nice "Principle of Orchestration" tutorial in the site is a very good interactive and ready-to-use tool.

    Another suggestion may be to reduce the technical target: instead of a real orchestral score, you may use pre-made sections (strings, brass, winds...) from your synth and libraries, for the "tutti" effects, and use the excellent Garritans solos (flute, oboe, clarinet, horn etc.) for refinement and melodic lines.

    Somebody else in our forum may teach you real orchestration (but I suspect you don't have too much time...).

    Good luck...

  3. #3

    Re: I'm in a mess: How to orchestrate a "hymn"...

    Quote Originally Posted by Fabio
    To reach the results you are expecting, people spend years of study.
    (Mr. Williams and Mr. Zimmer did it too...
    Well, I am quite aware, that these two guys are woth every million bug they earn with their art... It's just to show the direction I want to go...

    Well, let's see what future brings..

  4. #4

    Re: I'm in a mess: How to orchestrate a "hymn"...

    Hello, Ray

    I imagine a moderator will re-direct your post to a more appropriate page on the Forums, but don't worry if that happens--it will be only for keeping things tidy, it won't be a reflection on what you're asking.

    Fabio already responded very well to "...I don't want to deliver something middle-class, I want it to be stunning! Something like a John Williams or Hans Zimmer..."

    Naturally you want what you present to be as good as possible, but you are working with computer tools, including GPO, which aren't instant "plug-n-play" programs that can yield immediately breathtaking results. I imagine you understand that to meet your deadline with a recording which could be mistaken for a John Williams track is impossible. But if you roll up your sleeves and dig in, you Will be able to give them something which they'll be very happy with.

    The tutorials Fabio pointed out are full of in-depth material, and there are Forums in the Garritan pages which you'll find that deal with common problems of orchestration etc.

    All of that is a lot to wade through, however. I doubt you'll have time to get a very big chunk of theory under your belt and still have time to do the actual work.

    So let me offer this---You've worked with MIDI for a long time, and are a keyboard player. That gives you a huge advantage over a lot of new GPO users who have no background at all.

    I understand that you are writing this anthem--(I'm choosing that descriptor over "hymn"--seems an anthem would be more appropriate for a sporting event)--So the first question is if you've written it? If not--first priority is to actually write the anthem and arrange it well for solo piano.

    At the point when you have your anthem solidly worked out on piano, you've worked out the structure and harmonies et al--Start "exploding" the piano arrangement, breaking up its components and making logical orchestral assignments to those various parts.

    Hopefully you're using a good recording software program like Sonar in conjunction with GPO--you didn't mention what you're using. A Notation program would be OK, but would very possibly make for slower work.

    Assuming you have an audio/MIDI program like Sonar--The top track is your piano arrangement. Below that, insert MIDI tracks for all the instruments you want to use. Full orchestra? Then start with Piccolo and start working your way down the traditional layout of a conductor's score.

    Start working with the low register instruments first. Begin with literally copying and pasting only the lower left hand notes of the piano into the Cellos track. On playback, it won't sound right--you'll need a good amount of editing. But the raw material for the Cellos will be in that track. Remove note repetitions where appropriate, changing them to sustained notes. Simplify any parts that are too Pianistic--Rely on your ears.

    Go to your melody next. Copy and paste the melody line into a generic Strings track. This will be the rudimentary beginning for the Strings. Eventually you'll want to divide the track up into more tracks--1st and 2nd Strings, Violas etc.

    Start copying and pasting the chords for the anthem in the way they exist in your piano track. It may be helpful to record a simpler version of the arranged anthem, so that the chords are more obviously blocked out. These sections will become the raw material to spread out amongst your woodwinds and brass.

    In voicing a chord for brass, for example, it can work to paste the entire chord into each of the brass tracks, then to erase notes according to the range of the instrument. In other words--the chords are pasted in my 1st Trumpet track. I use the eraser to take out all but the highest notes of the chords. Being able to simultaneously display the note data in these tracks makes it fairly easy to make sure all the notes of the chords are spread out and covered by the various instruments to which they've been assigned.

    None of these pasted note tracks will sound musical without much editing--I need to emphasize that. Once you've used your musical sense to make each track more characteristic of the instrument it's playing, you may very well want to learn the part you've constructed with this editing, and then record it fresh from your keyboard, to make the smoothest, most natural track you can from that arrangement of notes.

    Use the traditional doubling of voices to start with. Once you have the 1st strings, for instance, copy that entire track and place it in the 2nd strings track and then shift that entire track down an octave. That won't be the way you'll leave it, but it's a starting point. You'll go through, shift some sections up an octave, work on harmonization in various sections etc.

    Copy the entire Cellos track, paste it into the Basses track and shift it down an octave. Go through the Bass track and shift notes and sections back up an octave which are sounding too low and thick.

    ANd so on. I hope you understand what I'm suggesting--Basically, I'm talking about building a full orchestration from a piano arrangement, and using software tools which give you the advantage of immediate feedback--you can hear at all times the results of the pasting and editing that you're doing, and in the Staff View of a DAW program (Sonar, Cubase etc) you can see your piece the way it would be printed.

    Take a deep breath--and begin.

    Randy B.

  5. #5

    Lightbulb Re: I'm in a mess: How to orchestrate a "hymn"...

    Greetings Ray and welcome to the forum.

    As is standard, Randy has given some excellent, spot on advice. If you listen to his work you will find he delivers great substance and emotion with his work.

    Now you will get an, ahem, less experienced point of view.

    First and foremost, there are two stages to creating a polished work. The first is arranging, the second is audio. Arranging is just that. Get the arrangement done and don't worry about if the instruments sound real or not. Focus on the notes. Once you have the notes all in place you can start working on making the piece sound musical. Attacks, releases, dynamics, tempo, etc. is stage one of the audio process. Mixing is the second stage. (Mixing includes adding reverb, instrument balance and placement.) The reason I recommend you splitting your workload this way is because arranging and audio are two completely different worlds. If you worry about getting the violins to sound `right' when arranging you'll get bogged down and lose your train of thought for the arrangement. So what if it sounds like an elementary school concert when arranging? What matters is the final product. Also, this keeps you from having to deal with learning GPO while arranging. (How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!)

    Create the arrangement using one instrument per part. Keep it simple. You can build the ensemble later. Post your work in progress here on the forum for input. There is a wealth of talent here that will be more than glad to help you!

    It is important that we know what software you are working with as our advice will change depending on what you are using. Sonar? Cubase? Digital Performer? Sibelius? Finale?

    Last of all, go to the listening room and listen to what people have done. If you find a piece that sounds like what you want to do, ask how they got that sound. There are no secrets here!

    Best of luck with your project! I'll look forward to hearing how you progress and will help out as I can.

    We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams …
    24" 2.4 Ghz iMac, OSX 10.4.10, MOTU 828 MKII, 2 Glyph 250 Gig external drives, Logic 9, Finale 2008 GPO, JABB, Strad, Gro, Reason 4, EWQL Storm Drum, Adrenaline, Symphonic Choirs, SO Gold,All Arturia Synths, Many NI Synths, Spectrasonics Synths, KH Strings, VEPro on a Windows 7 4x 2.8 Ghz 12 gig of RAM

  6. #6

    Re: I'm in a mess: How to orchestrate a "hymn"...

    Welcome to the forum, Ray!

    There's plenty of good advice above. I'll add just one thing:

    Trust your ears.

    Good speed!



  7. #7

    Re: I'm in a mess: How to orchestrate a "hymn"...

    Quote Originally Posted by etLux
    Trust your ears.
    I've once trusted my eyes, but I quit. Too much visual rubbish around. Now let's try ears... ;-)

    WOW! Thanx folks, that was fast and overwhelming. If you ever come to south Germany, make sure you give me a call. I owe you a beer!

    I can't wait to start up the basic works you mentioned. It's more or less the way I would have approached the whole thing, too. It's got to get confirmation.

    Concerning equipment: I am using a KORG Triton TR as mastercontroller, Cubase SX as Midi and Audio Sequencer and large resources of Espresso.

    Any further correspondence is highly appreciated.

    Thanks again!


  8. #8

    Re: I'm in a mess: How to orchestrate a "hymn"...

    Quote Originally Posted by RayWindsor
    Any further correspondence is highly appreciated.
    Well, if you want some advice from an amateur ... for a rousing hymn for a large crowd, you would have an organ playing the basic tune, so everyone in the crowd knows what notes they're supposed to sing. Then strings blocking in the harmony and adding warmth. Some dramatic percussion leading in to the start of each verse, and all the way through the final verse ... a brass section doing the same thing ... and then in the last verse, all the above goes full blast, and you add a countermelody in the woodwinds. Hope this helps!

  9. #9

    Re: I'm in a mess: How to orchestrate a "hymn"...

    Quote Originally Posted by diligamus
    for a rousing hymn for a large crowd, you would have an organ playing the basic tune, so everyone in the crowd knows what notes they're supposed to sing.
    HI, thanks, nice input, but it is not supposed to get any text. At least I hope people will listen instead of singing...I want it for supporting the opening ceremony..a kind of "Walk of the Athletes"..

    Anyway, thanks for your post! Maybe my next project is sonething singable ;-)


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