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New To Sound Libraries And Applying For College


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Hello all,

 

So I'm very new to sound libraries and music technology in general. I do however own Sibelius 6 and a midi keyboard. For my composition portfolio for college I intend on writing an orchestral piece, a wind symphony piece, a choir piece, a big band piece and a multi-percussion solo which is almost done. Considering it's difficult to hire an orchestra and other large groups to play my pieces I'm turning to sound libraries. You might ask why all of the big ensemble stuff? Well because from emailing the professors at the schools I'm interested in they recommended large ensemble pieces that are of significant length. I'm working a lot this summer as well as composing, practicing, studying for the SAT and trying to get my Eagle Scout squared away. Lots to get done, but I figured with all that I'm working I'd be able to make about $2100 this summer and maybe into the school year. 

 

I don't know where else I'd put this topic now that I think about it. Oh well.

 

Anyways, I was wondering if anyone of you could recommend some good music tech that would make my midis sound as real as possible. I've considered the Complete Composers Collection from Eastwest/Quantum Leap for my orchestral, wind symphony and choir pieces, and Garritan Big Band for my big band piece. I couldn't find a good jazz sound library from Eastwest, but perhaps I need to look again. I'm going to record myself live playing my percussion solo btw. Is there anything else you'd recommend? Do I need Pro Tools or something like that? I would really like these large ensemble pieces to be very realistic considering getting together a large orchestra would cost a lot more than I'm able to make. Then there's application fees and actually paying for school, but I'll figure out how to pay for that later.

 

Any other advice about college composition portfolios would be much appreciated. Thanks a bunch!

 

-RM

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In all honesty, i'd be very surprised if a university cared so much about a high quality synthesised piece, unless if it was a for a film/media music course. Universities tend to be much more interested in scores than in audio files, so unless they actually asked for recordings of large orchestral pieces, I would invest more effort into making the scores as beautiful and correct as possible!

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They did say it would boost my chances if I included large ensemble works of significant length and if I can't get professional groups to play my pieces then midi realizations are the next best thing. And I would like these midis to sound nice. Believe me, I'm putting in a lot of effort towards making these pieces beautiful from a musical standpoint technology aside. 

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That sounds like the Indiana application page, which I read the other day, and thought, who the heck has those skills/access to those resources as a high school student?!  Yeesh!  I went to a REALLY good high school, but I'm pretty sure we didn't have any composition or theory classes.  

 

Do the best you can to put forth the strongest application you can, but don't stress too much over what you can't do.  My dad used to be a teenie-weenie deanie in a college admissions department.  They don't really care what your SAT scores are too much, unless your SATs say you're a smart kid and your grades say you aren't trying.  They would rather that you took all AP classes and got a few Cs than that you had the chance to take AP level, and chose not to, and got all As.  They care that you are showing an interest and ability to tackle hard work.  They want to know that you take the initiative and that when opportunities come up to try something hard, you take them.  Because mom and dad aren't going to be there in college to make sure you do your homework.  And because college level work is hard, and you may get some Cs.  

 

If you have easy access to professional groups to record your pieces and you aren't taking advantage, they will look at you funny.  If you just don't have access, you don't have access.  They'd probably rather have the decent violinist who practiced their fingers off for the school string orchestra, but never had the opportunity to take private lessons, than the slightly better violinist who had 12 years of private lessons, but clearly didn't make as much of them as they could.  Because, imagine what the first violinist will do when they get to college and have regular access to a private instructor given what they have already accomplished!  Whoa!  

 

But... that means they need to know your situation.  Be sure it is clear from your application what was available to you and how you took advantage of it.  Work that into your essay.  Discuss it in your interview.  Make it clear that you are working hard with what you have available.  That's what they need to know.  They need to know that what you accomplished so far is a result of your interest and continuing push to improve.  Because that's what will make you a good student at their school and a good composer out in the world.  

 

And of course, it has to sound good, because these are human beings who will be judging you, and they are likely to be influenced by the beautiful sound of someone else's great recording quality.  We all like pretty packaging.  If you can't get pretty packaging, call their attention to the fact, politely, to remind them to put their biases aside.  

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The sounds within FInale and Sibelius are good enough for most people, as long as you pay some attention to them. You can ask your band/orchestra teacher if the could have the group read through your piece, that's what I did. You'll be glad you asked.

 

Now, for your audition, don't worry about having too many large pieces. If that's something you want to show off, go for it, but if you don't know what to do with it, it can show some weaknesses too. Try to have a varied profile: solo, large group, chamber or vocal. The jazz might be nice for variety, but then again some schools look down on jazz as pop music.

 

Remember that most of the other applicants are in a situation like you, and make the most of it. Ask your friends and teachers for help, and you'll get it. Good luck!

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