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edharris99

Orchestration And Midi Sequencing?

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I am a new composer, beginning last year. I have two piano works posted on the board here. I am ready to start learning orchestration and have run into a topic that I know nothing about and need some suggestions.

I live in Madison, WI. While I was able to enroll in a formal Music Theory course at the Univerity of Wisconsin last year, I am not able to take the orchestration classes as they are only open to music majors. As a result I have been looking into online orchestration training. For example, Berklee College of Music offers two courses in orchestration. When I looked at the course outline for Orchestration I, it is a mixture of the basics of orchestration that I was expecting and using MIDI sequencing software for doing orchestration. I am at a complete loss here. I use Sibelius for composition with an attached keyboard for note input. I don't even understand what MIDI orchestration even means or whether I should try to learn it. If so, how do I get started and what software should I be looking at? In doing a bit of online searching for software that does MIDI sequencing, the programs seem very complex with a steep learning curve.

Believe me, I am not a computer novice - writing computer software was my career area before I retired (I starting writing software in 1964, just to date myself a bit...).

Can someone help educate me on this? If diving into the world of MIDI sequencing software is the best way to learn how to compose for real orchestras, chamber groups, concert bands, (i.e., not writing film scores), then I am willing to do this. I just don't know what my next steps should be.

I do know that I learn best by going through actual courses rather than trying to learn on my own, which is why I am looking at options like Berklee, but there are probably many other online courses that I should be considering as well.

Thanks in advance for helping the old guy deal with the modern composition world...

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Whilst orchestration courses are good (especially at somewhere like Berklee) I honestly feel the best way to learn orchestration is from analyzing others' musical works/scores. Analyze the notation whilst listening to the music. Rip it apart whilst following the score and build it up again from the foundations.

There are plenty of books on orchestration too, here are a few good ones I can recommend:

- Instrumentation and Orchestration: Alfred Blatter

- The Study of Orchestration: Samuel Adler

- Orchestration: Walter Piston

- Principles of Orchestration: Rimsky Korsakov

- There are loads more...

Inputing notation and MIDI data into Sibelius with a keyboard is actually a form of MIDI sequencing. However, i would say software like Logic Pro, Cubase, Pro Tools etc. are usually preferred to create a more authentic 'performance'. Having said that, Sibelius is far more capable these days of pulling off a good performance than it used to.

MIDI orchestration is basically orchestrating digital instruments and plugins. As an example, here is a link to show you a MIDI orchestration within a Logic Pro session I worked on for a TV commercial:

(I produced it all digitally using high quality sample libraries; there are no live musicians in the recording).

As you are already familiar with Sibelius you wouldn't find it quite as difficult using other sequencing packages as a novice would, but yes, there would be a steep learning curve to start with.

FYI: MIDI orchestration is a whole new art form compared to orchestrating for live musicians. For example: With a computer you can automate a solo flute to sound louder than a whole orchestra playing fortissimo... whereas a live flutist within the orchestra would struggle to be heard. If you are orchestrating acoustically or digitally you have to understand the principles of texture, instrumentation, limitations and balancing etc. for each avenue.

Hope this helps to answer your queries.

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As Jon said, you must know what materials you're using in.

For midi orchestration, some "tricks" and textures work, but not in a physical context, and vice versa. So, study and try always different things. And if you can submit your work to an orchestra or ensemble, go on!

Another book may help you is:

Acoustic and MIDI Orchestration for the Contemporary Composer: A Practical Guide to Writing and Sequencing for the Studio Orchestra - Andrea Pejrolo & Richard DeRosa. Check it out!

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This post is a little old, but let me add a few things to the responses that I am in agreement with. I would not dissuade you from one on one teaching - you should do this regardless of the technology you use. But MIDI sequencers will give you immediate feedback in your compositional process, provided you have GOOD sample libraries and the requisite stuff to run it on. Your ear will be your 24/7 on-call orchestration teacher. Notation programs will leave you wanting in regards to sound and SATISFACTION. Meaning, if you had to play baseball with a plastic mitt, how motivated would you be?

 

When I went to school I got maybe four hours total orchestra time. In four years! And the players were rushed, unfocused humans playing unfamiliar material. It sucked.

 

With a MIDI sequencer you will learn instantly what is too thick, too muddy, too complex, too harsh, too weak, etc. I have just begun using Sibelius and there is no avoiding the work involved in using a MIDI sequencer and notation together.  Turning apples into oranges. That's the way things stand now - the need for both worlds.

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the scott smalley online course is 800 bucks total, and he is the best orchestrator ever. he also has two day seminars in LA for I believe 400.  #ZedClefPower

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If you've ever spent time on youtube, you've heard the phrase "the best ever ..." many MANY times. And when you click the link you get a whole lot of nothing.

I Never heard of Scott Smalley, but I'll look him up. You can get a DVD master class of Johnny Mandel from asmac.org - American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers for only $50.00, and his string arrangements are classic examples of transparency and clarity. He did some recent work with Diana Krall. I'd be wary of ANYTHING costing $800, when a serious commitment  costing only time trumps everything else.

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all you really need is this website imslp.org analyze the music, take what other composers did, and make it your own. That's all you need, and in this case, it's free! unless you want music not in the public domain, in which case, is still better than $800

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No, that's not all he needs. If you don't know anything about an instrument it is difficult to learn much from reading music. Not impossible, incredibly difficult though. That's like someone asking how to speak Spanish and telling them all they need to do is go to a library in Mexico.

 

eh...I guess, depending on what you're looking for. If you want instrumentation, he's right, you're probably gonna want to spend some time studying instruments. What I do is I just go around and ask, and in some cases, learn how to play the instrument myself. So, if you're trying to figure out how a Saxophone works, go bug a Saxophonist to death, and grab a saxophone and tell them to teach you. But if you want orchestration, then scores would be pretty helpful. So...do both...

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Meh. Ask Marius, Max, and Jem about this. I am sure they can help you about midi composition. But for now, you will need to study Harmony, counterpoint, and form!

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Smalleys (maybe not the *best* orchestrator ever.... please perspective!) course really is good, but not for novices. It's well worth the money. The Nothern Sound thing, probably will get you start better even though the audio *cough* examples are midi.

And even though Howard is a master of this, the article is a biiiit dated.

 

Do whatever you can!

Study harmony, counterpoint, etc.

Look at scores you LIKE! and analyze them anyway you can: reduce them and mock them up with samples.

What you do with scores is mostly noticing. Notice how each voice plays a part and notice why they do it.

Get a good book on orchestration and read it. Adler's is standard college text and a fine book.

 

Cheapest way to do this:

Go to your library and get a score that you've heard or heard of or even like!

Find a couple of recordings at the library and suplement with YouTube.

Score-read, score-read, score-read

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Samuel Alder's text is expensive; there are tomes that share the same expertimes. Take Piston's, for instance. Or Belioz's Treatise.  My advice still stands about the basics: Harmony, Cpt, and form is a must. For Orchestration, there are different texts and tomes today, and each and everyone shares the same scope and information that you will need to know. :) But yes, Score study music and write, write, write. :)

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Samuel Alder's text is expensive; there are tomes that share the same expertimes. Take Piston's, for instance. Or Belioz's Treatise.  My advice still stands about the basics: Harmony, Cpt, and form is a must. For Orchestration, there are different texts and tomes today, and each and everyone shares the same scope and information that you will need to know. :) But yes, Score study music and write, write, write. :)

 

Eh, Instruments have changed a bit since Berlioz, Adler is probably your best choice, but yeah, it is expensive. My suggestion, is score study, just look for how composers get the sound they want, and continually ask "why did the composer do this this way? Why not another way?" and that should help you at least a bit. 

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