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I have written a score for a piece of mine in Sibelius and am now doing a mockup of it using East West's Hollywood Orchestra. I want to add some choir at a climactic point in the piece. I haven't written for choir before so I was wondering are there any particular guidelines to follow, any dos and don'ts etc. Do you generally treat the harmony in the same way as when writing for instrumental sections or instruments or is there a different approach? Thanks.  

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Thanks Dave, yes choirs sing in 8vas too. One of the most powerful examples of this is in Faures REquiem, the libera me. I sang this in the choir at college and had shvers down my spine whilst performing, a testament to the music, but also the power of a choir singing in 8vas. There are many many more examples too , it is a wonderful sound and a natural one given the difference between the sexes.

Fascinating and wonderful to know. So potentially no harmonic support at all? Say SATB in 3/4 octaves, women taking the higher (and children even higher if needs be)? I love finding out that music, or rather orchestration, is (while complex) often less complex than I assumed originally, when I thought every instrument was playing something different. Have to constantly remind myself that a single melody played by dozens of people still sounds incredible.

Mike Hewer said:

Thanks Dave, yes choirs sing in 8vas too. One of the most powerful examples of this is in Faures REquiem, the libera me. I sang this in the choir at college and had shvers down my spine whilst performing, a testament to the music, but also the power of a choir singing in 8vas. There are many many more examples too , it is a wonderful sound and a natural one given the difference between the sexes.

@Dave: In my young and ignorant days, I also assumed that every instrument in the orchestra plays an independent part.  But now, with a (tiny) bit more experience, I can say that a very large part of the art of orchestration lies in knowing how and when to have which instruments play the same line.  To those versed with this art, even the distinction between, say, a single flute playing a melody vs. 2 flutes playing the same melody in unison is a significant one, to be weighed along with all the other factors involved in orchestration.

Indeed. I had thought the strings were all divided six ways from balls, same with brass, no clue what was going on (the fact this sometime happens isn't the point). Studying scores recently has added even more useful nuggets. "There might only be four things going on at once" is as valuable to remember as "and not everyone has to be playing those four things at once."

H. S. Teoh said:

@Dave: In my young and ignorant days, I also assumed that every instrument in the orchestra plays an independent part.  But now, with a (tiny) bit more experience, I can say that a very large part of the art of orchestration lies in knowing how and when to have which instruments play the same line.  To those versed with this art, even the distinction between, say, a single flute playing a melody vs. 2 flutes playing the same melody in unison is a significant one, to be weighed along with all the other factors involved in orchestration.

Dave, thanks for clarifying earlier about that other member. I think I get it. And yes, being new it can be easy to assume that everyone else is somehow 'in the know'. 

Interesting discussion since then. Although I've many years of writing music behind me, I'm a relative beginner when it comes to orchestration. One of the main things I learned while studying composition intensely over the last few years is to think in terms of the orchestra as one unified sound, obviously with different textures etc. within it but everything supporting everything else. As opposed to my default thinking which used to be in terms of layers and lines, complimentary perhaps but not really integrated. It may sound obvious to more experienced people but this was a bit of an eye-opener for me, coming from a rock and jazz background where it was much more the other way, i.e. here's the melody/lead, here's a bass line, here's some chords etc., even in a 'big band' context. I now approach things very differently, at least I try to as best I can, i.e. what is the overall sound I am trying to achieve, how can I orchestrate the dynamics, what are the different ways to create texture etc. 

It sounds like we're on fairly similar pages, before I got interested in composing I was producing all sorts of music. But none of it's as much fun :)

It really depends on the style of orchestral composing you're thinking of. You can still often break down an orchestral piece, or the famous part of it, into a melody and supporting chords. But the chords might be spread over an entire section or more, and the melody played by the high strings whilst harmonies are on bassoons. Or something. Or you do get the orchestral music where it fuses into that one big sound, but it will still have foundations that your years of writing music will probably have made you familiar with. Music I thought was impenetrable not long ago I can now understand as, say - strings and woodwinds playing rhythm, double bass and tuba on root notes, trumpets and horns playing unison melody, harp playing accents and sound effects. The impenetrability then comes from other factors . . .

Mark DuBerry said:

Dave, thanks for clarifying earlier about that other member. I think I get it. And yes, being new it can be easy to assume that everyone else is somehow 'in the know'. 

Interesting discussion since then. Although I've many years of writing music behind me, I'm a relative beginner when it comes to orchestration. One of the main things I learned while studying composition intensely over the last few years was to think in terms of the orchestra as one unified sound, obviously with different textures etc. within it but everything supporting everything else. As opposed to my default thinking which used to be in terms of layers and lines, complimentary perhaps but not really integrated. It may sound obvious to more experienced people but this was a bit of an eye-opener for me, coming from a rock and jazz background where it was much more the other way, i.e. here's the melody/lead, here's a bass line, here's some chords etc., even in a 'big band' context. I now approach things very differently, at least I try to as best I can, i.e. what is the overall sound I am trying to achieve, how can I orchestrate the dynamics, what are the different ways to create texture etc. 

Yes you're absolutely right.. not as much fun, nor anywhere near as complex and difficult!

Analysis will always reveal the different elements and layers and they can usually be described in terms of back, middle and foreground, melody and accompaniment, resonance and texture etc. However it took me a while to appreciate that there was a meta-level where all those separate elements could be conceived of as part of one whole from the start. That eventually, fluency of craft could enable one to create something whose essence was far more than the sum of its parts. Not sure I am conveying this very well.. What really made it click for me was when my teacher would frequently emphasise the simple idea of support as opposed to layers. That simple concept opened the door to a real shift in how I approach things. Anyway, in terms of what you say at the end there I find that very exciting, i.e. that by studying the scores of music that I had previously thought to be pretty much incomprehensible I am now much more able to identify the intention behind the different elements, what the composer was trying to do and specifically how they achieved that. The next challenge being how can I apply that to my own music. Still so much to learn but so exciting..   

For anybody making choir mock-ups, there's a great new Choir in town: Oceania:

http://performancesamples.com/oceania/

Very Good: The sound. In your face, realistic (so realistic in fact, you can't believe you're not hearing actual words. I've listened very closely, and it's difficult to tell it uses only 10 syllables (but in an extremely detailed/focused way).

Very easy to use. Ridiculously easy to use. 
http://performancesamples.com/oceania/#videos

Good: Decent intro pricing ($199). Small footprint (2.1 gb total on the hard drive...from the video, it looks like 1gb in RAM covers both Men and Women).

Less Good: It's not a lush wash of vocals. You'll probably need another patch (or library) for that.

The Bad and the Ugly: Not a single durned thing (that I can see).

Enjoy! 

Now Josh, are you affiliated with this product? :)



Josh Tucker said:

For anybody making choir mock-ups, there's a great new Choir in town: Oceania:

http://performancesamples.com/oceania/

Very Good: The sound. In your face, realistic (so realistic in fact, you can't believe you're not hearing actual words. I've listened very closely, and it's difficult to tell it uses only 10 syllables (but in an extremely detailed/focused way).

Very easy to use. Ridiculously easy to use. 
http://performancesamples.com/oceania/#videos

Good: Decent intro pricing ($199). Small footprint (2.1 gb total on the hard drive...from the video, it looks like 1gb in RAM covers both Men and Women).

Less Good: It's not a lush wash of vocals. You'll probably need another patch (or library) for that.

The Bad and the Ugly: Not a single durned thing (that I can see).

Enjoy! 

"are you affiliated with this product? :)"

Nope...not even a little. My ears just fell in love with the sound. Given the price-to-sound ratio, I would say that this is a high value proposition by almost any standard.

Why am I so effusive? I love value and greatness. It's as simple (or not so simple) as that. Truth is, I don't even own it (and sure as heck don't know the developer). But certainly would like to (on both counts)!

Hmm.. must check it out. Thanks for posting Josh.

Courtesy of my friend Blakus.

https://youtu.be/seHzWNGruQQ

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