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Topic: Orchestral Sampling: It's Only A Tool

  1. #1

    Orchestral Sampling: It's Only A Tool

    Today I came to a realization: I must stop spending hours perfecting my orchestral mockups! Composing and orchestration is challenging but trying to make the music sound great in a midi studio, is tough. It always takes hours to produce something good and it always sounds synthetic no matter how much time you spend producing your track. As well, the rules of orchestration don't really apply. The orchestral mock-up should only be a tool to help directors and producers to understand our music, not a replacement for a real orchestra. It's the actual printed score that counts!
    Thanks for reading this article and look forward to your replies.

  2. #2

    Re: Orchestral Sampling: It's Only A Tool


    while I agree with your general notion in this (extremly small article), still I have to comment on a couple of issues.

    first of:
    Quote Originally Posted by akane
    As well, the rules of orchestration don't really apply.
    I will have to dissagee with this. Of course it depends on what rules of orchestration you're talking about, but if you (for example) try to make a flute in the low register sound through all the brass playing f (which could be somehow accomplished if you add an extra +15 db to the flute channel) it will certainly sound unrealistic.

    I strongly believe that knowing orchestration is what makes mock-ups a bit more realistic.

    The other thing we need to consider is that there are 2 different groups of people using samples.

    The one, as you say, needs a mock-up to show the director so he can agree and then take it to the live orchestra, etc. Fine there.
    The other though, is that person with the smaller budget, that won't work with a live orchestra, so the final product will be, in fact, made with samples. There the realism of the mock-up plays primary part.

    But it is as you put it: It's only a tool. Just that I consider orchestration, and counterpoint and composition techniques, tools as well (as well as Finale, and whatever else I use). They are ALL tools, to the end of realising my music.

  3. #3

    Re: Orchestral Sampling: It's Only A Tool

    I agree with Nikolas - there are many different purposes and many different objectives. For some it is the composition, encompassing orchestration etc and for others it is the rendering.

    In any case, I see no real difference between the live orchestra and the synthetic one - both are in fact tools. For some, they are directly analogous in that they are both performing the music composition - producing the sounds. But for others, the tool of the synthetic orchestra is merely, as you state, for producing a demo.

    To each his own use of the various tools available to him.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Steve_Karl's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Pittsburgh, PA 15206 USA

    Re: Orchestral Sampling: It's Only A Tool

    Alan ... I agree.
    Both are tools and both can also be considered instruments for the composer.

    I don't mind working to get my midi work to the best possible performace that I can get it to, but I don't see anything wrong with not feeling the same way.

    Personally, I just enjoy it, and look at it as not only educational but also practicing my instrument.

  5. #5

    Re: Orchestral Sampling: It's Only A Tool

    Everyone has their own opinion and level of sensitivity when using/listening to samples. I'd still like to think that once I calibrate my templates with the correct EQs and reverbs, that my digital orchestrations will be quite close to the real thing. I really think that today's technology is right on the verge, almost to that line that separates the real thing from the synth.

    I also appreciate the fact that I don't need to follow the rules with a fake orchestra. If I want 237 string players playing at once, I can make it happen! And I'll probably never know what a 32 player horn ensemble sounds like, so at least I can experiment with it in the studio

    But when I'm going for that "authentic sound", it always takes an ungodly amount of work to reach for it.

    There are more than a few unbelievable mockups out there- these always keep me motivated, especially when I'm tearing my hair out trying to coax my sound in the right direction. I think that many "A list" film composers are already working orchestral mockups seamlessly into the score, but we don't necessarily hear about it because it is downright embarassing that a 100-million dollar film cheaped out from hiring a proper orchestra to do the job. Anyway, Maarten Spruijt, Jay Bacal, Guy Bacos, are just a few role models for me... They've taught me through their examples about how to fake a great orchestral sound.

    I know this is often discussed, but I've only realized lately what a huge difference it makes just to throw a few live players into the mix. For us low budget warriors, it's the best way to keep things relatively organic.

  6. #6

    Re: Orchestral Sampling: It's Only A Tool

    A lot of it depends on what you are trying to do. Of course a real orchestra will always sound better, but do most projects have the budget for this in the real world?

    As a mockup it is always a great tool for the director/producers to hear what they are paying for before spending a boatload of money on an orchestra/musicians. However if you as the composer know going into it that there is no budget to record, then your mockup has to sound as good as possible. Here is where the rules of orchestration can be suspended, and you have to write towards the strength of your samples... the director won't care what the real instruments can or can't do, they just need their score to sound good and thats your job.

    In a perfect world we'd all have real orchestras play our music, but in this one we often have to make do with samples and thats an art in and of itself.

  7. #7

    Re: Orchestral Sampling: It's Only A Tool

    Like a hammer is to a caprenter, sample libraries are great tools in our work. There was a day,when I would get a scoring job or a Jingle with demo cues recorded on a cassette recorder with a simple but well defined thematic piano track! We have let technology make us work harder then ever!!!!

    Let's not loose perspective. Doing a mock-up orchestral score should be great, but one should keep in mind that its real purpose is to hear our vision or just to get the gig.

  8. #8

    Re: Orchestral Sampling: It's Only A Tool

    It always takes hours to produce something good
    I don't do orchestral mock ups at all, but any pro production worth it's salt takes hours upon hours upon hours of work. IMHO instant gratification is overrated....

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Budleigh Salterton

    Re: Orchestral Sampling: It's Only A Tool

    Quote Originally Posted by akane
    Today I came to a realization: The rules of orchestration don't really apply. Allan
    Very interesting. Of course you're right and they don't apply when dealing with sample libraries and the finished 'sample music'. There are many schools of thought regarding all of this.
    The purists will tell you, you have to balance your instruments within a midi mockup as closely as possible to what a 'real' orchestra would sound like. This of course, when using the midi piece you've just created as say, for a soundtrack or tv score, is pretty meaningless, because if it sounds good and works well - who cares if this is not what a real and balanced orchestra would sound like.

    On the other hand - if you're going to use the mockup as a guide for a director that is then going to be recorded using live players, it's probably more important to get as close as possible, although not life threatening if you don't, because things happen in live recordings anyway.

    One of the greats, Bernard Herrmann, didn't give a ~~~~ about what was meant to sound real way before computers. He would mix things that couldn't possibly sound that way in a live performance.

    Also, orchestration. There is some confusion already in this thread about what orchestration actually means. It does not necessarily mean 'balance' of instrumentation within a live orchestra. It is more to do with colouring. Therefore, when it's a midi mockup for final usage, I would suggest you orchestrate and colour it anyway you wish.

  10. #10

    Re: Orchestral Sampling: It's Only A Tool

    My main use for mockups is to simulate concert orchestral works. So I do plenty of things that sound bad with samples, knowing how they will work with the real thing.

    The worst problem is when I use advanced playing techniques... the samples for them simply do not exist. In that case I either have to fake it or leave that whole part out entirely. Since my own works are filled with this kind of thing, sample mockups are a constant frustration.

    At the end of the day, I do the sketch with piano, pencil and paper. This keeps annoying sample limitations out of my head so I can write to the real instruments. Then I can try methodically force the samples to recreate what's on the page.

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