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My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

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My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby Ron Snijders » Tue May 21, 2013 10:41 pm

Hello all,

Having no idea if an introduction is appropriate, I'll keep it to a very short one, not to offend anyone :) I'm Ron (as my user name implies), I've been a musician for around 20 years now (started out at 7), but only got into production around half a year ago. Last weekend, I decided that it was time to stop messing around and actually finish a track, and I actually managed to do so. But now I'm obviously curious about what more experienced people think of it. As much as my ego loves the Likes and 'Nice'-posts on Facebook, those are not really going to help me get any better :)

This post is becoming way longer than I had intended, so in short: any critique is welcome, especially if it's helpful! :)

And let's not forget the actual track:

https://soundcloud.com/ron-snijders/for-no-one-in-particular
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Re: My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby Exalted Wombat » Wed May 22, 2013 9:54 am

You've fallen rather into the "constant tempo, keep repeating something, layering more stuff on top" trap. This is what sequencer programs encourage you to do. Is it really what your music demands?

Nice ideas in the opening section. Could the string line have a little more independence from the piano? And it needs to "breathe" at times - the bow never leaves the string.

What sort of music do you play?
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Re: My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby DAGGILARR » Wed May 22, 2013 1:50 pm

I kind of agree with the Exalted one, but I do like it. I recognise this trap because I spend so much time there myself. As I listened I found my self disappointed when the percussion came in I wanted it to continue to explore melodically. But I am completely with out musical training and so my comments should be taken with this in mind.
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Re: My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby Ron Snijders » Wed May 22, 2013 9:54 pm

Thanks for the comments! :)

On the layering trap: Darn! I actually tried to avoid that by starting to write on the piano, rather than behind the computer, so I'd have some actual musical content before slapping on big sounds that hide the fact that there's not much going on. But admittedly, I fell for it after writing just the piano and the cello, and wrote/played the rest after choosing a sound. Thanks for pointing that out!

And now that you mention it, the cello (and the 'extra filling' strings) do follow the piano somewhat slavish, and I never even thought about my poor cello player, desperately waiting for a breather.

DAGGILARR: by the disappointment, do you mean the part with the percussion lacked the impact it needed to keep you interested, or that the first part was interesting enough to want to hear more?

As for the question on what music I play: quite differing styles, actually. On piano (which I've only been playing for a few months, though I used to play keyboards 15 years ago) it's mostly light classical pieces (Ludovico Einaudi and such). I've been lead guitarist in a progressive metalband, played jazz guitar, blues and funk on the bass, like to have a hand at electronic dance music and in singing it's mostly pop/rock stuff. Listening is just as varied, though I've been leaning towards classical and film scores for a while now.
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Re: My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby Exalted Wombat » Thu May 23, 2013 1:01 am

Well, it was a great first attempt!
Just stop letting the computer control you. Is that the music you would have written for your real band - all that pattern-based repetition? Would you have just switched on a drum machine, or expected the drummer to contribute in a more musical way?
I look forward to hearing the next one. Tomorrow night? That should be long enough.
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Re: My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby DAGGILARR » Thu May 23, 2013 9:55 am

Ron Snijders wrote:Thanks for the comments! :)

DAGGILARR: by the disappointment, do you mean the part with the percussion lacked the impact it needed to keep you interested, or that the first part was interesting enough to want to hear more?


Well the latter, it may not have been interesting enough to continue without introducing some form of change or development. The percussion did have impact, but I felt misplaced. It is as if you lacked faith in your piece and needed to shore it up. I think you could have discovered more by seeking a more harmonic/melodic variation. I wish I could give more learned feedback
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Re: My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby Exalted Wombat » Thu May 23, 2013 11:06 am

In real music you have to compose every bar. It's far too easy on a computer to just press the Repeat key.
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Re: My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby DAGGILARR » Thu May 23, 2013 12:38 pm

It is easy as you say, but for me the computer, the DAW, midi and samples have given me access to explore musical ideas that would not otherwise have been open to me. I am very grateful for this. I am sure this is true for many, however, I can see how this may not be a good thing.
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Re: My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby Exalted Wombat » Thu May 23, 2013 3:11 pm

DAGGILARR wrote:It is easy as you say, but for me the computer, the DAW, midi and samples have given me access to explore musical ideas that would not otherwise have been open to me. I am very grateful for this. I am sure this is true for many, however, I can see how this may not be a good thing.

That's precisely my point! Explore your ideas - rather than just constructing a short one, repeating it ad nauseam and adding a pre-packaged drum beat. You have the huge advantage of being a musician. Many people who come to use a DAW aren't. Hence the high crap ratio.
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Re: My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby Ron Snijders » Fri May 24, 2013 2:07 pm

That might just sum up where I went in the wrong direction. I did copy/paste a bit, and the percussion is indeed two pre-packaged loops layered (Heavyocity Damage, yay, I love it, but I guess I shouldn't use it in this way...). I've been reading up on composition technique a bit (and I actually have book about it that I haven't read yet...), so the next attempt should be better.

So, for personal reflection (and for other readers of this thread who don't like going through my endless word-diarrhoea) a quick summation:

- Explore ideas rather than copy-/pasting them.
- Be aware of how an instrument is actually played.
- Make sure parts actually add to the composition, even if they're just supporting.
- (Learn to write proper percussion, I suck at that).

Did I miss any key points?
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Re: My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby Exalted Wombat » Fri May 24, 2013 2:42 pm

Ron Snijders wrote:
- Make sure parts actually add to the composition, even if they're just supporting.

I like that one! Look at a real orchestral score. Everyone, except perhaps the strings, has acres of white space. Constant colour is no colour. A sequencer tempts you to add layers until everything is playing, then LEAVE everything playing!
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Re: My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby DAGGILARR » Fri May 24, 2013 5:00 pm

I have recently discovered this, it was as if my default setting was 'what do I need to ADD to this to improve it', when all along the approach that worked was 'what do I need to REMOVE to improve it'.

And now I have re-listened to some of my stuff I realise I still have a long way to go, I am, however, quite pleased with THIS

There are several other tunes of varying styles on this Sound Cloud Page some odd, some simple, have a listen if you have time
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Re: My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby tacitus » Fri May 24, 2013 5:24 pm

I'm an old-fashioned note-by-note composer though I do use Sibelius nowadays. It is easy to copy and paste to build up pieces without much thought to structure, development and differentiation and I've fallen into that trap, too. It comes out slightly different in a notation package, and improvement through reduction rather than augmentation is always appealing to me. But since I'm writing for players, ultimately I have that acid test when they sit down and play it. Comments are usually frank and forthright, so I have to believe in what I'm doing to be able to convince them it's worth doing. A limitation in one sense, but a useful reality check otherwise.

I did 'assemble' a piece from one small phrase in about 5 minutes, using Sibelius' notation tools to do inversions, mirrors and so on. It sounded much as you might expect and so I pretentiously labelled it 'Patterns' and got my sax quintet (me and 4 girls) to play it. They didn't kick sand in my face, so for the next rehearsal I reversed the whole piece and called it 'patterns II', at which point the girls made it quite clear that good will would only take me so far ...
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Re: My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby Joe Sum One » Wed May 29, 2013 1:17 pm

I like the initial idea, but the chord at 0:36 sounds startling. Either because of some voice leading problems, or because you transposed/copied and pasted a part instead of recording it again. It sounds as if some of the voices make a leap that could be avoided. Also, I don't much like the orchestration. Unfortunately, when using sampling libraries, all these skills are all the more necessary.

I am not saying it's bad, though. It's a good idea. Also the fact that the piece ends with the theme it started with, gives it more coherence. :)
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Re: My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby Ron Snijders » Thu May 30, 2013 9:46 pm

Thanks for the feedback. The chord at 0:36 was an intentional break from the scale, meant to be resolved by the next bit.

By not liking the orchestration, do you mean the actual lines, or the samples I used/the way I used them? Or both, of course :)

(Trying to learn as much as possible so my next track will be much better!)
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Re: My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby Joe Sum One » Fri May 31, 2013 10:42 am

The samples are fine. I was referring to how the individual parts interact with each other. The chord at 0:36 does sounds like a break, but it sounds too startling, if I were you I would check if I can hold notes in common with the chord it precedes and if the voices of the chords make unnecessary leaps.
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Re: My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby Ron Snijders » Fri May 31, 2013 11:49 pm

OK, clear! I think I have a lot to learn on proper orchestration, probably starting with ditching the 'String Ensemble' patches and writing actual part for the individual instruments. I guess that will force me to think more consciously about what the different parts are adding as well :)
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Re: My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby Joe Sum One » Sat Jun 01, 2013 11:15 am

forget about patches, samples and all that stuff, it doesn't mean jack.

They are actually the last thing you should worry about.

That's the problem with all this technology, people think that they just need to get a DAW and to splash out on a sampling library and they can turn themselves into Jerry Goldsmith and write orchestral music. Well, think again, you need a lot more than that. Orchestral music requires very specific skills like harmony, composition and orchestration and this is training that you can't get by asking for advice in a forum.

You said you have made music for 20 years. That's a long time. It's time to put some real work in it and actually learn about the the things I mentioned. Forget about samples. Forget about the computer. Forget about all that crap. You shouldn't worry even about production, what I mentioned will already more than fill up your schedule for the next few years. Do you want to be a producer or a composer? It's time to make decisions, 20 years have already wooshed by and we don't live forever.
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Re: My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby DAGGILARR » Sat Jun 01, 2013 1:48 pm

I think that this view is a bit harsh, its almost as if you would have us scratching away with quills by candle light. Back in the days before notation when there was only plain song and chant, phrases were memorised and utilised to realise the composers ideas, what, essentially is the difference between that and a sample library?

For me composition and music creation is about having fun, expressing myself and adding some meaning and purpose to my life, I have no pretensions to be a great composer and for me to try it your way would render it beyond reach, technology, however, changes that and thats a good thing.

My greatest regret is that I did not learn formally, Piano and theory (to busy getting high and low) but I did not ( I have great respect for those who have), so I for one am very grateful for the DAW and all that goes with it, as well as all the patient support I have had on this forum.
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Re: My first orchestral, tips very much appreciated

Postby Ron Snijders » Sat Jun 01, 2013 9:06 pm

Joe Sum One wrote:forget about patches, samples and all that stuff, it doesn't mean jack.

They are actually the last thing you should worry about.

That's the problem with all this technology, people think that they just need to get a DAW and to splash out on a sampling library and they can turn themselves into Jerry Goldsmith and write orchestral music. Well, think again, you need a lot more than that. Orchestral music requires very specific skills like harmony, composition and orchestration and this is training that you can't get by asking for advice in a forum.

You said you have made music for 20 years. That's a long time. It's time to put some real work in it and actually learn about the the things I mentioned. Forget about samples. Forget about the computer. Forget about all that crap. You shouldn't worry even about production, what I mentioned will already more than fill up your schedule for the next few years. Do you want to be a producer or a composer? It's time to make decisions, 20 years have already wooshed by and we don't live forever.

It's definitely not about the patches, maybe I should have elaborated a bit more on that.
What I meant is that when I'm writing on the 'string ensemble'-patch I mentioned, I'm not writing for individual instruments, but letting the software decide what instrument plays what. The point I was making is that I should actually write a double bass part, a cello part, some violas et cetera, so I'll be working with actual lines and thinking about the role of an instrument in the whole of the piece, rather than just playing some chords and being done with it.

And why the harsh assumptions on 'the thinking of the DAW-musician'? I've studied harmony quite extensively, I have half a dozen books on theory and composition. I'm putting in the hours, but at the same time I'm also trying out stuff and asking for feedback. I've actually been taking piano lessons purely so I can compose on the piano, without the burden of the PC. (Finding out that I actually love playing the piano helps as well :) ).

Fortunately, I'm still only 27 years old (thank you, parents, for making me play the humble recorder when I was seven!), so I'm hoping to have the time to learn more about composition before my years are over :)

So sorry if I gave a bad impression on how I intend to do stuff, I hope the extra info helps clarify that :)
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