Those of you that use it know that LA Scoring Strings is an incredible tool for creating realistic string mockups and recordings. But it can be a little daunting at first, especially with the A.R.C. and all of the complexity (and power) that brings. When I first started using LASS, I didn’t know how to set up keyswitches and quickly retreated to putting different articulations of a string section in different Kontakt instruments just so I could get my piece finished.
I’ve recently been mixing a piece for a fellow composer and saw that he had used exactly the same workaround that I originally had—placing each articulation on a different track in his mix. I realized there may be a lot of you out there who haven’t yet found the excellent video tutorials on the Audiobro site, so I thought I’d share those. As you can see from the video, setting up keyswitching isn’t all that complex once you understand how it’s done, but if you don’t know how to do it you’d be hard pressed to work it out on your own. The best part is, you only have to set it up once and then save your template in Kontakt. Continue reading →
Here’s a great interview with Thomas Newman on the Lemony Snicket score (one of my personal favorites of his). The link comes courtesy of Film & Game Composers, so thanks to Emmett Cooke for the original post.
The video concentrates on the orchestral recordings, not necessarily the most interesting or unusual part of a Thomas Newman score, but still fascinating and educational. He talks about the danger of overwriting, the trouble with describing characters through music, and his technique of experimenting with small ensembles and how that effects his orchestral writing. Especially instructive are his thoughts on having the director hear the music numerous times in his studio before the recording session, which allows the director to have plenty of opportunities to reject ideas while there’s still time to change them.
In this video from his blog, Bear McCreary talks about writing the music for the hit series The Walking Dead. He talks about the different stages in the process, from consulting with director Frank Darabont to working with the orchestrators and recording the cues. One of the interesting aspects of The Walking Dead in particular is that the score combines a small string section with bluegrass instruments and synths. Bear and Steve Kaplan, his engineer, talk about the difficulties of combining these sounds and making it all work together.
Bear is a master at promoting his work and sharing information with his fans, and this video is no exception. Where he finds the time in the crazy schedule of a television composer to not only write blog posts but also record videos is beyond me, but all his work has clearly paid off and his fan base just keeps growing. Check out his entire blog here.
Tired of using the same old chords in your cues? Modal interchange (also called borrowed chords) is a great technique to add variety and interest into your chord progressions. It’s an idea borrowed from jazz, but I guarantee you’ve heard it in hundreds of pop songs and film scores as well. You’ve probably even used it yourself without realizing it.
Modal interchange combines two rather simple principles. The first is the harmonized major scale. Simply put, that’s a fancy name for taking the notes of the major scale and building triads or sevenths on top of each one using notes diatonic to the scale. In C major, you end up with CMaj7, Dmin7, Emin7, FMaj7, G7, Amin7, and Bmin7b5.
I saw The Descendants a couple of weeks ago. It’s an excellent film, and much has been made about the fact that it uses no score. Instead, the soundtrack employs music by Hawaiian artists, much of it featuring existing recordings by some of the greats of Hawaiian slack-key guitar. This is entirely appropriate given the film’s subject and locale, and this strategy has been praised by Hawaiian musicians tired of Hollywood’s overuse of surf music and hula dancing to portray the islands. The music is beautiful and quite effective in the film, but I couldn’t help but notice a few of the disadvantages of creating a soundtrack using only songs.
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.
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.
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.
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.