Category: Arranging

Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, Animated

Here’s the score for one of the most famous atonal pieces of all time with a cool, follow-along animation. For those not familiar with the piece it’s difficult listening, but I’ve always found it very beautiful in a weird way. And it’s a great primer in aleatoric music and unconventional scoring techniques.

Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra

Here’s an amusing, if long, video of British comedian Bill Bailey discussing the instruments of the orchestra. Along the way he talks about 70’s cop show music and plays the theremin and the alpine bells. It’s from 2008, so some of you may have already seen it, but it’s a funny and interesting watch if you’ve got an hour to kill. The orchestra is none other than the BBC Concert Orchestra, and the conductor is the multi-talented (and Oscar-winning) Anne Dudley.

Action Cue in 9 Minutes

Here’s a great tutorial from composer Michael Patti and Cinesamples, wherein Mike creates an orchestral action cue in 8:57. He doesn’t mention what sample libraries he’s using, but I can only assume they’re all from Cinesamples since they’re sponsoring the video. The video is a lot of fun and highly educational to boot.

Thanks to Film and Game, where I originally saw the video.

Edit: Patti does mention one of the libraries he’s using. The trumpets are from EastWest (I’d imagine from EastWest Symphonic Orchestra
). And for those curious about the octatonic scale (also called the diminished scale), there’s more info here.

“Stairway To Heaven” Song Analysis

Bobby Owsinski has a nice little exploration of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” in his Big Picture Production Blog. Sure, we’ve all heard the song a million times, but it’s really interesting structurally. And as Bobby points out, it has a surprisingly huge sound for such a sparse arrangement (only 7 instruments).

Being a total theory geek, I wish he’d evaluated the chords and music, but perhaps that’s something I’ll do in the near future. In the meantime, here’s Owsinski’s analysis.

Start with a Sketch

Photo courtesy Matthew Wanlin Photography

When I first started writing orchestral music, I was a bit overwhelmed. There are so many instruments! How was I supposed to know what to do with all of them? I would write for the whole orchestra at once, in my sequencer, and gradually build a complicated mess. It turns out I was making things a lot harder for myself than they needed to be. The secret? Start with a sketch.

These days when I write an orchestral piece, I always write on piano first, and create a three-line sketch. The melody goes on top (you are writing a melody, right?), and the accompaniment goes on the other two staves. Using this method, it’s much easier to tell if you’re writing good music because you’re not distracted by all of the bells and whistles of a full orchestra. Writing on piano—using just melody and accompaniment—lets you hear your music for what it really is. You can instantly tell if its good or not, and you’re not overwhelmed by choices.

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