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#1356496 - 01/23/10 05:58 PM Some questions related to composing
ABC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/05/09
Posts: 38
Hello and thanks in advance to anyone who replys.

1. What is a b.a in music really for? What can only be taught there in matters of composing?
2. How do composers learn to compose for a full orchestra?

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#1356588 - 01/23/10 07:37 PM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: ABC]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13811
Loc: Iowa City, IA
1. Depends on the school and how degree programs are designed. In practice, a BA could be an academic music degree (as opposed to a BM - performance degree), or it could simply be a generalized arts degree with an individualized emphasis.

2. Typically by learning several of the instruments, taking courses in instrumentation and orchestration, writing for and working with student ensembles, and lots of listening and score study.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
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#1356604 - 01/23/10 08:03 PM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: Kreisler]
ABC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/05/09
Posts: 38
Regarding the orchestra - Can a piano only player can compose for an orchestra?

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#1356630 - 01/23/10 08:36 PM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: ABC]
Johnny-Boy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 661
Loc: PA
If you're a pianist, having a DAW (digital workstation) with orchestra samples will give you the opportunity to orchestrate and hear your results. A lot of experimenting will help you discover what works and what doesn't work.

Power Mac, Logic Pro, and The East West Quantum Leap orchestra samples would be a great education in the direction of composing for orchestra.

There are several other DAW plateforms that work equally well. Some much cheaper with less quality sound - but just as good a learning experience.

Best, John
_________________________
Stop analyzing; just compose the damn thing!

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#1356870 - 01/24/10 06:14 AM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: Johnny-Boy]
mrenaud Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/29/02
Posts: 1315
Loc: Switzerland
Originally Posted By: Johnny-Boy
If you're a pianist, having a DAW (digital workstation) with orchestra samples will give you the opportunity to orchestrate and hear your results. A lot of experimenting will help you discover what works and what doesn't work.


I would very heavily advise against this. Computers and sample libraries allow you to do everything, real instruments don't. Imagine a bass flute solo accompanied by low brass and percussion. On a computer you can make it work, tweak the dynamic balance until it sounds as you wish. If you try it with real instruments, you'll find the brass totally swallowing the bass flute and no matter what you do, it won't be heard as clearly as a solo would require, if it's heard at all.

Sample libraries are good for what they do, that is, create virtual performances of music. But they are no learning tool. Nothing replaces listening to recordings, studying scores, doing orchestration exercises and trying them out with real instruments.
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I have an ice cream. I cannot mail it, for it will melt.

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#1356882 - 01/24/10 07:34 AM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: mrenaud]
Johnny-Boy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 661
Loc: PA
That's why I mentioned the East West Quantum Leap orchestra samples. The range of all the instruments are highlighted on the keyboard of the "player" mechanism. The EWQL won't allow you to perform notes not in the instrument's range. Great learning tool.

"Computers and sample libraries allow you to do everything, real instruments don't" - renaud This aspect could create some interesting results. Besides the term "real" is losing momentum in the modern world of music. I'd bet if Beethoven were alive today he would have a DAW - and he'd push it to the limit!

John smile



_________________________
Stop analyzing; just compose the damn thing!

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#1356884 - 01/24/10 07:34 AM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: mrenaud]
ABC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/05/09
Posts: 38
Do you really need a university degree for example to make all that?

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#1356886 - 01/24/10 07:45 AM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: ABC]
Johnny-Boy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 661
Loc: PA
Originally Posted By: ABC
Do you really need a university degree for example to make all that?


No, there are more ways to acquire knowledge than in universities. Beethoven's formal education ended on the elementary level. However, he had many private teachers for his music education (including his father).

Finding a good private teacher would be another option for gaining the knowledge needed.
_________________________
Stop analyzing; just compose the damn thing!

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#1356903 - 01/24/10 08:29 AM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: Johnny-Boy]
RogerW Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/08
Posts: 439
Originally Posted By: Johnny-Boy
If you're a pianist, having a DAW (digital workstation) with orchestra samples will give you the opportunity to orchestrate and hear your results. A lot of experimenting will help you discover what works and what doesn't work.

I'm sorry, but I must agree with mrenaud. Experimenting with a digital orchestra can only help you discover what works and what doesn't work for a digital orchestra. This has nothing to do with what works and what doesn't work for a real orchestra. I've seen too many people who have worked professionally with digital orchestras for years, and when they finally have been given a chance to write for a real orchestra the result has been rather catastrophic.

To learn orchestration, start by reading some books on the subject (Adler, Piston, Kennan, Rimsky-Korsakov...), then study a LOT of scores closely. A good online course can be found here:
http://www.northernsounds.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=77
(At least I've heard it's good, haven't studied it myself.)

But in the end, if you really want to learn orchestration, you need to hear your orchestrations performed by a real orchestra. This is the only occassion when you can get real feedback on what you have written and how well you have performed as an orchestrator.

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#1356913 - 01/24/10 08:44 AM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: RogerW]
Johnny-Boy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 661
Loc: PA
"But in the end, if you really want to learn orchestration, you need to hear your orchestrations performed by a real orchestra" - Roger

And how many people will have this learning experience opportunity? DAW's will give you a chance to hear your orchestrated results. Many of today's top composers and orchestrators use DAW's to prepare mock-ups.

Best, John smile
_________________________
Stop analyzing; just compose the damn thing!

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#1356940 - 01/24/10 09:53 AM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: Johnny-Boy]
RogerW Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/08
Posts: 439
Originally Posted By: Johnny-Boy
And how many people will have this learning experience opportunity?

How many become expert orchestrators?

I'm afraid there's nothing I can say to make you change your mind. Only if you one day use EWQLSO to create an orchestral piece and then hear the same piece performed by a real orchestra you will understand the difference I'm talking about.

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#1356971 - 01/24/10 10:38 AM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: RogerW]
Johnny-Boy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 661
Loc: PA
Originally Posted By: RogerW
Originally Posted By: Johnny-Boy
And how many people will have this learning experience opportunity?

How many become expert orchestrators?

I'm afraid there's nothing I can say to make you change your mind. Only if you one day use EWQLSO to create an orchestral piece and then hear the same piece performed by a real orchestra you will understand the difference I'm talking about.


Of course there's a difference Roger. But don't write off DAW‘s as a learning and composing tool so quickly. Besides, we're probably talking apples and oranges. I'm more into film soundtrack type orchestrations where often the "live" orchestra and DAW's merge.

If you're talking strict classical/ concert music, I'm sure your point is valid. However, if the tide was turned: how do you think your orchestrations would sound playing all the parts into a DAW (using great samples) as opposed to the intended “live” orchestra?
_________________________
Stop analyzing; just compose the damn thing!

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#1356977 - 01/24/10 10:52 AM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: Johnny-Boy]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13811
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Two quick points:

DAWs work fine for mock-ups and can be very useful. True, they are a poor substitute for live instruments, but there's a middle ground. You can learn the instruments by writing for chamber ensembles (which are easier to come by) and use DAWs to explore larger ensembles (which aren't readily available.)

Also, the function of a university goes far beyond education. A university is where you can be introduced to people and make connections that will help you out in professional situations.

Connections are a huge part of making it as a composer. Getting to know conductors and musicians who will take an interest in your work is very important, and schools are where a lot of those initial meetings take place.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1356980 - 01/24/10 11:04 AM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: Kreisler]
ABC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/05/09
Posts: 38
Kresiler has a point there. What is the chance for a person to hear what he wrote performed by a full orchestra only after lessons with a private teacher? What is the chance of being taken into consideration without a degree?

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#1356993 - 01/24/10 11:20 AM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: ABC]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
Orchestras are really a very small part of the composer's palette, and the composer is making a quite specific cultural choice when they opt to write for this medium.

One can do an awful lot as a composer without ever writing orchestral music. It's a really 19th century world view that perceives orchestras as being the repositories of musical value.

Having said that, the best way to learn about how an orchestra works is to play in one, to go to orchestral concerts as frequently as you can (and sit as close as you can to the orchestra, preferably at the side, or behind, even though this is not the best position for balance), study orchestral scores, watch televised performances of orchestral works (often there are interesting close-ups that help isolate the instrumental colours that are employed to create an effect), and of course, undertake study with someone who knows what they are doing.

The value of contacts cannot be overstated. So even if you end up not taking college-based composition study, start honing your networking skills. Who you know accounts for much more than what you know. Sad. True.
_________________________
Teacher, Composer, Writer, Speaker
Working with Hal Leonard, Alfred, Faber, and Australian Music Examination Board
Music in syllabuses by ABRSM, AMEB, Trinity Guildhall, ANZCA, NZMEB, and more
www.elissamilne.wordpress.com

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#1357018 - 01/24/10 11:58 AM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: Elissa Milne]
Johnny-Boy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 661
Loc: PA
It depends what you’re looking for in a career ABC.

Are you thinking in terms of the concert stage or as a film score composing? Learning the new technologies (such as DAW's) is essential if you're aiming for the latter. Maybe the university route fits the former ambition better.

As far as the music produced by a “live” orchestra verses the music produced through the DAW mechanism, they’re both valid in today’s music world. I’ve heard DAW orchestra arrangements that knocked my socks off. I’ve heard live orchestra arrangements that bored me to death. And vice versa.

Education comes in many ways and in many places. Embrace it where ever you meet it.

Best, John smile
_________________________
Stop analyzing; just compose the damn thing!

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#1357027 - 01/24/10 12:16 PM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: ABC]
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5362
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: ABC
Kresiler has a point there. What is the chance for a person to hear what he wrote performed by a full orchestra only after lessons with a private teacher? What is the chance of being taken into consideration without a degree?
you are, pretty much, asking us how to promote yourself fully: Your next question might be how to get paid for that performance...

It's got to do with everything: Your skills (regardless of degrees or official credentials), your academic credentials (a tiny bit), your music, your 'talent' (whatever this means), your personality, your marketing skills and maybe even your relationship with a director or two!

Going to college is almost (<-!!!) never a bad idea. You will get to learn. Samples are not a substitute for learning, but they work great (and personally I work with samples quite a lot, because I do computer game composing as a main part of making a living). Other than that learning music, composition, orchestration takes A LOT OF TIME and a lot of maturity. It's not far off, I guess, the 10k hours mentioned elsewhere in this forum regarding performance.
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#1357196 - 01/24/10 04:40 PM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: Nikolas]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13811
Loc: Iowa City, IA
There's a certain amount of "degree inflation" today, especially in the US. There are a lot of people running around with advanced degrees in music (which, quite frankly, are rather easy to get.)

As a result, there are a variety of specialty programs being invented. If you want to do film music, it's probably best to go to a school that specializes in that. If you want to work with orchestras, you need to go to a school with a fantastic orchestra that has a conductor and composition teacher that get along well and work together.

For composition, it's important to look at what a school offers, not just in the composition department, but across the board. You may find a fantastic composition teacher at Small Midwestern State College, but if that college only has 2 violin majors and no full time horn teacher, who's going to perform your music?
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1357239 - 01/24/10 05:46 PM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: Kreisler]
ABC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/05/09
Posts: 38
Just in order to complete this discussion - it is true that you do not really need a uni' degree or any other title in order to be accepted into the worldwide "composers lounge" and to be recognized in anyway?
Thanks everyone for the former replys.

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#1357264 - 01/24/10 06:21 PM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: ABC]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13811
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I have no idea what you mean by "accepted into the worldwide composers lounge."

All you really need to is to write stuff and have it performed. School is probably the easiest place to have that happen, but it isn't the only way.

Here in Iowa, there's the Iowa Composers' Forum:

http://www.iowacomposers.org/

Anyone can join, and they provide resources to help people find performers and venues. I played at their conference last October and it was a great experience!

There's also a national forum with a similar mission:

http://www.composersforum.org/

I'm not sure what's available outside the US, but I'm sure there are probably similar organizations.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#1357273 - 01/24/10 06:34 PM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: ABC]
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5362
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: ABC
Just in order to complete this discussion - it is true that you do not really need a uni' degree or any other title in order to be accepted into the worldwide "composers lounge" and to be recognized in anyway?
Around 12-15 years ago, when I decided I wanted to study composition, I knew that I had to have a portfolio. I also figured that it would be VERY useful and insightful of me to also have recordings. Remember that I was around 17 years old (so not really THAT mature), but mostly in Greece with no Internet (so no education regarding such things). My information was coming through snail mail from the universities I wanted to go to.

So I made the very simple thinking that, since I play the piano, it would be best to compose... for the piano. And thus, on my exams (for the Paris Conservatory (I failed, btw)) I present a piece for solo piano and one for solo piano and electronics. Done by myself! Next few years I learned orchestration (the basics anyways) and went to a studio, which had samples, and spent $2000 to render a 13 minute piece for huge symphonic orchestra! This got me in an MMus in London, etc.

In order to get performer you will need to find ways.
In order to enter the "composers lounge" as you call it you will need to learn to promote yourself and everything I mentioned in my above post.

And yes, schooling does help. Of course it does!
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#1357509 - 01/25/10 04:11 AM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: ABC]
RogerW Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/08
Posts: 439
Originally Posted By: ABC
Just in order to complete this discussion - it is true that you do not really need a uni' degree or any other title in order to be accepted into the worldwide "composers lounge" and to be recognized in anyway?

I think one of the most important things to get into the worldwide "composers lounge" is to get to know the right people, in particular the right musicians. It is the musicians who perform you music, possibly comission music and make your name known in general. To become a much performed orchestral composer, you need to get to know conductors, they decide what music the orchestras perform. It is most likely that you get to know these people at uni, it is less likely that you get to know them if you never study to get a degree.

Johnny-Boy, I just wanted to say that I am by no means all against DAW's. I have several sample orchestras myself, including EWQLSO, and have worked quite a lot with them (although admittedly not as much as with live orchestras).

My methods are very different depending on if I write for a real orchestra or for a digital. When writing for real orchestra I work in Sibelius with the crappiest midi sounds available. I use playback to check for typos (wrong notes) and to get a feel of the form and rhythmic structure of the piece, but never to check the balance or the orchestration. That has to be done inside my head.

I also constantly think about playability. If I write multiple stops for strings, my left hand automatically raises up in the air and I try the grips out in the air. Now, I have never played any string instrument, but I know where the notes are on the violin and how far you can reach with each finger so I can try the grips out anyway. So far I haven't written any impossible multiple stops. Only once when I wrote a solo violin piece for a friend's diploma, there was one multiple stop that she at first told me was impossible. Then I told her how to play it and she found that it wasn't very hard at all. smile If I write a complicated timpani or mallet part, I might play them in the air and figure out the order of the hands to make sure it's comfortable to play. Sometimes I look up charts with woodwind fingerings (some passages would require fingering that is impossible even for the best professionals) and so on.

When I work with a digital orchestra, I never do anything like that. On the contrary, I often even feel tempted to write everything that I couldn't write for a real orchestra. I also then use the playback to listen to how the orchestration sounds, because the piece is then meant to be performed as it is, not by real players. Because of this, I very often end up with orchestral solutions that I know wouldn't work with a real orchestra. Perhaps they could be made to work in a studio recording where you can adjust the levels of all instruments independently.

Now, about learning orchestration... Sure, you can experiment with DAW's, that was what I had done quite a lot also before I got my first opportunity to write for a real orchestra. When that opportunity finally came, I did compose my first orchestral piece using Peter Siedlazeck's advanced orchestra and then imported the midi to Sibelius to make the score. That was when I finally realised that I have to do something completely different if I really want to learn orchestration.

Practising orchestration (for real orchestras) with a digital orchestra is a bit like practising piano on a non-velocity sensitive digital piano. The digital orchestra is not sensitive to the real dynamical differences between the instruments. Now, if you imagine the situation where you have practised all your life on this non-velocity sensitive DP (and got to the point where you actually think you are a good pianist) and the first time you ever touch an acoustic piano is in concert in front of 2000 people, then you might get a picture of how I felt when I heard my first orchestral piece performed. In several places the melodies that sounded so beautiful in my DAW mockup were completely drowned and some accompanying elements that were supposed to be in the background took the lead. It sounded nothing like I had meant it to sound.

This experience taught me that I cannot rely at all on a digital orchestra to teach me the secrets of orchestration, nor to tell me how my orchestrations sound. Since then I have never used orchestral samples when writing for real players. For studying orchestration, I stopped experimenting with samples and instead started studying scores intensely. By now I have more than 50 orchestral scores in my shelf that I have studied closely and often several of them are on my desk when I'm working, so that I can look things up. Studying these scores has taught me 100 times more about orchestration than the early playing around with samples ever taught me. This is why I recommend studying scores a lot more than experimenting with samples.

Of course, if your aim is to write mainly for your digital orchestra, then it's a completely different matter. But I would still recommend studying scores of the masters. Since the old masters already have found effective solutions for most situations, there's no need to reinvent the wheel. If you want to use your DAW to study orchestration for real players, I would recommend making an accurate rendition of an orchestral piece you like. Just copying it note by note from the score. This way you get to study it very closely and you can also listen to all the sections separately in you sequencer to get a feel for how the different sections/instruments are used.

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#1357783 - 01/25/10 02:02 PM Re: Some questions related to composing [Re: RogerW]
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2777
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
I'll simply add that I heard an interview with Phillip Glass in which he described how he learned orchestration. Very simply he analyzed and studied in depth an entire Mahler symphony. Given that Mahler was a master orchestrator this makes sense, but I might add some Ravel to the mix just to gain mastery on lighter textures. Spend a few months studying Mahler 5 and Bolero and you'll at least know the fundamentals. Just be sure to have a German and French dictionary handy as well as a comprehensive music dictionary.

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